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The Cost of Living in Denver, Colorado 2020

By: Sania Tran
June 18, 2020

There are lots of reasons to move to Denver like a booming job market, beautiful landscapes, and an outdoorsy lifestyle. About to purchase a one-way ticket to the Mile High City? Get ready for scenic hikes, hot springs, and weekends conquering the slopes of Colorado mountains.

Moving to a new city and starting a new chapter in your life is a thrilling adventure. But before you pack up, learn more about the cost of living in Denver to determine what you can afford and what kind of monthly budget to set. Here’s where to get started.

Housing Affordability

Housing is almost always your biggest expense when moving to any city. Denver is an emerging tech hub attracting an influx of engineers looking for an alternative to the San Francisco Bay Area. Of course, the surge of highly-paid workers drives up housing prices in the area. As a result, in the past five years, Denver rents grew by about 18% over the last five years but have declined slightly over the past twelve months.

To get a better idea of the cost of living in Denver, a two-bedroom in Denver will typically cost you $1,351, which is above the national average of $1,194. The good news is, Denver is getting a little more affordable over the last year alone. Denver rent prices have slightly decreased by .4% compared to a .8% rise in nationwide rents.

Not sure how much to spend on an apartment in Denver? Do some math and figure out how much you can spend on rent.


Transportation is another important category to consider when calculating the cost of living in Denver. If you are an adult living in Denver, expect to spend at least $4,094 a year on transportation. Families with two working adults and one child can expect to pay $11,564 a year on transportation. And if you decide to use public transit, be ready to pay $114 a month for a monthly pass to get around Denver, or $3 per one-way ride.


According to the MIT living wage estimates, a single adult that cooks his or her meals (including snacks) at home will spend around $3,592 a year on food. If your cooking skills leave much to be desired, take advantage of Denver’s fantastic restaurants fit for a foodie for an average of $15 per meal at an inexpensive restaurant without appetizers, alcohol, and dessert. A three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant will add up to $70.


Healthcare should also factor in your monthly budget to figure out the cost of living in Denver. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MIT estimated the typical health expenditure for a single full-time working adult in Denver runs up to $2,299 a year. For a family of two adults and a child it will increase up to $6,678 a year.


Denver’s reasonable climate keeps utility bills in check, but is still a factor to the cost of living in Denver. According to the Energy Resource Center, the average residential electric bill in Denver is around $78 a month. It is below the national average of $107 a month. A basic utility bill that includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 sq ft apartment will average around $145 a month. If you include Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) it will increase the total monthly cost of utilities by around $63 on average, totaling $208 a month.

Fitness and Entertainment

Denver’s wealth of hiking and biking trails, walkable streets, and outdoor recreation make it a beautiful place to get fit. City Park is the perfect place to spend the day exploring 330 landscaped acres, playing golf, or visiting the Denver Zoo. However, you can still join a gym at an average of $46 in monthly membership fees.

When it comes to entertainment, watching that new blockbuster movie will cost you at least $13 per ticket, excluding popcorn and drinks. Fortunately, Denver is home to several free, world-class attractions. Embrace your frugal side and visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, City Park Summer Jazz Series, and the Red Rocks Amphitheater, in addition to special free days at attractions like the Denver Botanic Gardens.

After a surge in Denver rents over the last five years, apartment hunters are enjoying a reprieve with slightly decreasing rents. You need to earn about $54,000 a year, or $26 an hour to comfortably rent a median one-bedroom apartment in Denver. This factors in the idea you will still want some money to splurge and save and not spend it all on rent.

You should also consider the living wage when calculating the cost of living in Denver. The living wage is the minimum amount of money needed to live above the poverty threshold. In Denver, it is around $14 an hour for a full-time employed individual, as per MIT calculations. It doesn’t include expenses on entertainment, vacations, and restaurants. It also doesn’t make room for savings. The estimated median household income at the end of 2018 was around $63,793, providing Denverites with some breathing room.

Other Expenses Adding to Your Cost of Living in Denver

The cost of living in Denver also has a few surprises. The city sales tax is reasonably low at 4.75%, but there's also a state sales tax of 2.9%, and a Regional Transportation (RTD) tax of 1%. Recreational marijuana use is also legal in Denver, but there's a combination of steep excise taxes and sales tax to consider. You should expect to pay about 33% tax on recreational marijuana in Denver.

Final Thoughts

In comparison to metropolitan cities, the cost of living in Denver is still pretty reasonable with room for newcomers. Now that you know all about the cost of living in Denver, you can start your apartment hunt in Mile High City. Get started with the quiz at the top of this page!

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