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Cost of Living in Seattle, Washington 2020

By: Sania Tran
June 18, 2020

There is no city like Seattle. Surrounded by mountains and bodies of water like the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, the city offers an irresistible mix of beautiful nature, a laid-back lifestyle, and vibrant culture.

If that’s not enough to entice you, Seattle also has plenty of jobs to choose from and a historically strong job market. Seattle offers a growing tech hub teeming with career opportunities that complement the great outdoors just around the corner. Seattle also attracts transplants from all over the nation, making it a melting pot of food, art, and culture.

However, the cost of living in Seattle only rises with so much growth and cultural transformation. The good news is you’ll still find the city is still less expensive than San Francisco or New York City, for now. To help you figure out whether moving to the Emerald City is the right choice for you and your finances, we put together a guide outlining the cost of living in Seattle.

Housing Affordability

When looking at the cost of living in Seattle, the first area to tackle is your rent, as it will likely prove your greatest expense. The city’s growing tech hub has seen an influx of engineers moving from San Francisco and the Bay Area in search of an affordable alternative. Along with a new batch of highly-paid professionals comes an inevitable increase to the cost of living in Seattle.. In the past five years, Seattle residents have seen nearly a 20% increase in rents, peaking in 2017.

The good news is that local developers have been investing in new apartment construction to meet the growing demand. In fact, between 2000 and 2016, Seattle had the highest level of per-capita spending on multifamily construction out of the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas. Since the new apartment units started hitting the market in 2017, the rent prices went down.

Seattle rents are up slightly by 1.2% in comparison to the same time last year, but have seen small declines in recent months. Currently, the average rent for a one-bedroom in Seattle is $1,355. A two-bedroom apartment in Seattle costs around $1,688.

Before you start apartment hunting in Seattle, figure out how much rent you can afford.

Transportation

Seattle is a big city with scores of fun neighborhoods to explore. Therefore, transportation is likely to be one of your major expenses. As a single adult living in the Emerald City, expect to spend $4,094 on transportation annually. If you are a family of two full-time employed adults and a child, you will be paying $10,126 a year to get around the town.

The good news is you don’t need a car to get around Seattle, which will save you money. The city offers a reliable and continuously expanding system of public transportation. In fact, there are two public transit agencies serving the city of Seattle - King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit. One-way adult fares for LINK Light Rail range from $2.25 to $3.25, depending on the distance you travel and what neighborhood you start from.

Food

According to the MIT estimates, a single full-time employed adult that cooks his or her own meals (including snacks) spends approximately $3,592 a year on food. However, Seattle is also a dream city for foodies. If you want to take advantage of all the fun and quirky restaurants the Emerald City has to offer, expect to pay an average of $17.25 on a meal at an inexpensive restaurant without extras like appetizers and alcohol. Having dinner for two people at a mid-range restaurant will cost you $80. For reference, dining out in San Francisco costs about 4.35% more. So if you are moving from the Golden Gate City, you are winning both in terms of affordable housing and food options.

Healthcare

According to the MIT estimates based on the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the typical cost of medical services for a single, full-time employed adult in Seattle is approximately $1,960 a year. For a family of two full-time working adults and a child, it will add up to $5,537 a year.

Utilities

Don’t forget to factor in utilities as part of your cost of living in Seattle. According to Numbeo, a basic utility bill for a 915 sq ft apartment in Seattle will average $184.40 a month. The estimated cost includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage. If you want Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL), add another $65 a month.

Fitness and Entertainment

If you live in Seattle, nature is your gym. Instead, you can keep your cost of living in Seattle down by enjoying all the outdoor and recreational activities the city has to offer. However, if your workouts require equipment or you prefer the structure of group classes, plan to pay $64 in monthly membership fees. To compare, a gym membership in San Francisco will cost you $88 a month.

If you are looking into saving money and have some extra space in your apartment, try setting up a small home gym.

If your preferred type of entertainment is watching the latest blockbusters, going on a movie date will cost you $14 a ticket, plus drinks and popcorn. Movie theater tickets in New York are priced at $16, while in San Francisco, you’ll pay $15.

Other Expenses Adding to Your Cost of Living in Seattle

Newcomers often forget to factor in the 10.1% sales tax to their cost of living in Seattle. It's one of the highest in the country and can tack on an added expense to everything you buy. The good news is that Washington has no personal income tax, which could give more balance to your expenses. Your grocery and clothing bill may be higher, but you’ll keep more in your paycheck.

As a growing tech hub, Seattle residents also enjoy a steady increase in wages to make up for rising rents. To comfortably rent a median one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, one would have to make $53,133 a year, or $26 an hour. The recommended household income for a two-bedroom apartment is $65,800 a year, or $32 an hour.

The “living wage,” or the minimum amount of money needed to live above the poverty threshold, in Seattle is $15.26 an hour for a full-time employed individual. The living wage doesn’t include expenses on restaurants, entertainment, and vacations. Additionally, it doesn’t allow for savings or investment. The estimated median household income in Seattle at the end of 2018 was approximately $85,562.

Keep in mind Seattle’s affluence is also growing alongside its population growth. The number of Seattle families earning over $200,000 is actually greater than the number making less than $50,000. The numbers shouldn’t intimidate you from moving to Seattle. However, it probably means you’ll need to broaden your search among the best neighborhoods in Seattle and not settle on a single, dream neighborhood. You can still find options within your budget in Seattle, especially if you have roommates,, as well as areas just outside the city just a stone’s throw from the waterfront.

Now that you’re armed with information about the cost of living in Seattle, you can start your apartment hunt in the Emerald City. Start your Seattle apartment search with the quiz at the top of this page!

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