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Cost of Living in Portland, OR 2021

By: Susan Finch
October 11, 2021

Despite the notoriously grey and damp winters, Portland is a sparkling gem in the Northwest with a backdrop of the Columbia and Willamette River. Portland was once known as a shipping center with proximity to the mountains and the Oregon coast.

Today, living in Portland is incredibly popular for recent graduates and millennials looking for exceptional amenities, microbreweries, a hipster vibe, and a community that celebrates its quirkiness.

But how expensive is The City of Roses and how comfortably can you live there? Before you move, here's what to know about the cost of living in Portland, Oregon.

Portland Housing Costs

Like anywhere else, housing will command the majority of your budget when moving to Portland, Oregon. You'll also find a more reasonable overall cost of living than similarly-sized cities. After a decline in Portland apartment rentals over the last year, prices are mostly steady and represent a 7.5% increase year-over-year.

Currently, a one-bedroom apartment in Portland runs $1,246. You’ll pay about $1,453 for a two-bedroom. If you live downtown near major amenities or in trendy areas like the Pearl District, expect to pay more.

You can expect to pay higher-than-average rent prices in Portland apartments with river views or luxury highrise living. Splitting the costs with a roommate or living on the city's outskirts away from significant amenities will reduce your rent.

If you're thinking about buying a place in Portland after renting for a while, you'll find reasonable prices in comparison to areas like Vancouver and San Francisco. Currently, the median price of homes for sale is $549,000 in Portland, Oregon.

Learn more about the average rent prices in Portland.

Portland Transportation

Portland thrives on being a walkable, pedestrian-friendly, and bike-friendly city with a walk score of 67, a bike score of 94, and a rider's paradise of 93.

The Portland Mass transit, TriMet, provides accessible bus, light rail, and commuter rail service across the metro area. Fares run $2.50 for a 2 1/2 hour ride on the light rail, or a $5 for a day pass.

Residents should expect to spend $4,900 per year for transportation for a single person and $10,186 for a family with two adults and one child. Thinking about a day trip? You can hop on Amtrak to travel north or south to areas like Corvallis and Eugene.

Although Portland is incredibly pedestrian and bike-friendly, you need a car to explore Mt. Hood or The Gorge areas. You can always rent a car for the day if you want to enjoy a car-free lifestyle.

Of course, gas is pricier than many areas of the country. According to GasBuddy, you'll spend at least $3.75 a gallon as of October 2021, compared to the state average of $3.14.

Keep in mind that it's illegal to pump your own gas throughout Oregon. Although tipping your gas attendant isn't mandatory, they still appreciate it. You might consider adding tips to your overall transportation expenses.

Portland Food Costs

MIT living wage estimates that single, full-time working adults should expect to spend around $3,792 on food if they cook their own meals and make their own snacks. However, residents celebrate Portland for its foodie reputation and endless restaurants and microbreweries to choose from.

If you plan to take advantage of the food scene, you'll need to plan accordingly. Expect to spend $15 for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost $67.

Food trucks are popular around Portland, which can lower your expenses for an evening out. Prices may feel steep for a food truck or kiosk, but the city’s reputation for superb food makes up for it. Some of Portland’s most popular and celebrated food comes from food trucks.

Portland Healthcare Costs

MIT collected research and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offer estimated healthcare costs for Portland locals. As a single, full-time working adult, you'll spend $2,395 per year on medical expenses. A family of three should expect to pay $8,639 per year.

Utility Costs in Portland

Essential utilities for electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 sq. ft. apartment costs an average of $192.90 a month. Adding on internet service (60 mbps or more, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) costs $67.45, and increases your utilities to $260.34 per month.

The good news is, Portland enjoys temperate weather with little snow and summers that aren’t scorching hot. You won’t need much to cool down your apartment. However, it’s damp and chilly during winter. Plan to layer with wool and budget for extra utility costs.

Fitness and Entertainment

Portland residents enjoy fresh air, biking, walking, and spending time outdoors. If you want to upgrade your fitness game, you'll pay another $40.69 for monthly membership fees. If you enjoy going to the movies, you'll pay $12.50 per seat.

Moving to Portland to take advantage of the entertainment and culture requires a bigger budget for entertainment. A visit to the Portland Art Museum, the Portland Opera, or Portland Center for Performing Arts will all require a bigger budget.

Free Things To Do in Portland

The good news is, you can reduce your costs around Portland by focusing on some of the free attractions and activities around the metro area. Biking is always a popular option, with open trails along the Springwater Corridor that stretch from Portland to Boring, Oregon. The International Rose Test Gardens features rose hybrids with incredible views of both Portland and Mt. Hood.

People watching and browsing are also popular at Powell's Books, the nation's largest independent bookstore. The seasonal Saturday Market is a great place to find international foods, samples, free music, and busker entertainment.

Other Expenses to Consider in Portland

There are other expenses to consider when living in Portland. The state of Oregon has no sales tax, making purchases a bargain compared to major cities like San Francisco and Seattle.

The lack of sales tax can feel like a big win. However, Oregon's income taxes range from 5% to 9.9%, depending on how much you earn. Capital gains in the state are also taxed at the local state income tax rate.

Portland enjoys a relatively stable job market with jobs in high-tech industries, manufacturing, athletic and outdoor apparel, and healthcare, among others.

Portland's estimated median household income during 2019 was approximately $71,005. The average income makes Portland a comfortable place to live. It also attracts transplants from expensive tech capitals like San Francisco.

If you're trying to figure out how much you need to make by the hour, consider the living wage concept. The living wage is used to determine the minimum amount of money required to live above the poverty level.

In Portland, you'll need to earn at least $18.72 per hour if you're single with no children or $33.44 per hour for a family of three. The living wage covers the basics. It won't cover expenses like eating out, going to the movies, or vacations. It also doesn't account for any savings, investments, or emergency expenses.

Consider balancing your salary against median rent prices to find an affordable place to live. For example, if your one-bedroom rent runs $1,200, your monthly wages should add up to at least $3,600 per month or $43,200 per year.

These figures follow the rule of thumb, which is that you shouldn't spend more than 30% of your monthly income on rent. If you want to enjoy more entertainment and leisure around Portland, look to increase your salary while lowering your rent by renting with roommates. That’ll make up for the gaps and still allow you to live a comfortable lifestyle.

Fortunately, there are plenty of entrepreneurial and creative-minded spirits working around Portland. Working remotely at coffee shops is the norm, as is having side hustles to balance your income.

Biggest Employers Around Portland

Portland is a historic shipping center and was once considered a sleepy little town in the Pacific Northwest. Today, major employers attract college grads and millennials to their corporate campuses. These include Intel, Nike, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Adidas.

Like Nike, some employers are located in nearby Beaverton, which is still a relatively easy commute. You can also find less expensive rents prices in Beaverton if you’re looking to live near Portland. Plus, Beaverton is one of the best cities for remote workers. So you'd be able to save money on your commute living here.

Portland is also known for its healthcare industry and providers, including Providence Health and Services, Oregon Health and Sciences University, and Legacy Health. You’ll have plenty of healthcare providers to choose from in addition to having plenty of employers to choose from.

Final Thoughts

Portland's reasonable cost of big city living, stunning backdrop, and unique vibe make it an easy choice if you're dreaming of relocating to the Pacific Northwest. If Portland seems too pricey for you, consider the cheapest places to live in Oregon!

Are you ready to pack up and see Portland for yourself? See which neighborhood. Register with Apartment List and begin apartment hunting in Portland, Oregon.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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