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Cost of Living in Denver, CO 2021

By: Sania Tran
May 24, 2021

There are plenty of reasons to move to Denver, including its booming job market, 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 the Colorado mountains.

Moving to Denver 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 in Denver

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. Because of this, Denver is also turning into remote-worker city. In fact, Denver ranked #8 in our best cities for remote workers. 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 though have declined slightly over the past twelve months.

To get a better idea of the cost of living in Denver costs $2,288 on average, which is above the national average of $1,101. The good news is, Denver is a little more affordable since last year. Denver rent prices have decreased by 2.08% 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.

Learn about the best neighborhoods to live in Denver.

Denver Transportation

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 $4,900 per year on transportation. Families with two working adults and one child can expect to pay $11,186 per year on transportation. If you decide to use public transit, be ready to pay $114 per month for a monthly pass to get around Denver or $3 per one-way ride.

Food in Denver

According to the MIT living wage estimates, a single adult that cooks his or her meals (including snacks) at home will spend around $3,792 per year on food. If your cooking skills leave much to be desired, take advantage of Denver’s fantastic restaurants for an average of $15.50 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 $66.57 on average.

Denver Healthcare

Healthcare should also factor into your monthly budget when figuring 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 is $2,810 per year. For a family of two adults and a child, it will increase up to $8,135 per year.

Denver Utilities

Denver’s reasonable climate keeps utility bills in check, but is still a factor in the cost of living in Denver. According to the Energy Resource Center, the average residential electric bill in Denver is around $78 per month, well below the national average of $107 per month. A basic utility bill that includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 sq ft apartment will average around $133.40 per month. If you include Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) it will increase the total monthly cost of utilities by around $63.76 on average, totaling $197.16 per month.

Denver 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 $44.68 in monthly membership fees.

When it comes to entertainment, watching that new blockbuster movie will cost you at least $12.50 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 $60,156 per year, or $28.92 per 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 $17.40 per hour for a full-time employed individual, as per MIT calculations. It doesn’t include expenses on entertainment, vacations, and restaurants, or make room for savings. The estimated median household income at the end of 2019 was around $68,592, 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 15% tax on recreational marijuana in Denver.

Final Thoughts - Should I Move to Denver?

In comparison to metropolitan cities, the cost of living in Denver is still pretty reasonable with room for newcomers.

If you're interested, compare the Colorado cities using the blogs below:

Boulder

Colorado Springs

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 this quiz today.

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AUTHOR
Sania is a content manager and contributing author at Apartment List. Sania previously worked in marketing at Habitat for Humanity and Samsung Electronics. Read More
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