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Cost of Living in Tennessee, 2021

By: Emily Kho
October 1, 2021

Tennessee is a great state with lots to offer. Whether you are interested in visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited national park in the country, or learning more about the Birthplace of Country Music, Nashville, every moment spent in Tennessee is one to enjoy.

It comes as no surprise that Tennessee is highly sought-after by visitors and those looking to relocate to a beautiful, historical, and bustling state.

With immense popularity, you might begin to wonder what the cost of living in Tennessee might look like. Luckily, we’ve done the research so you don’t have to. Start by checking out this apartment guide, then keep scrolling for all the details on building out your new budget in Tennessee.

Tennessee Housing Costs

Your monthly costs associated with housing, whether it be rent or mortgage payments, are likely to be one of your highest living expenses, regardless of your geographic location. Knowing how costly it can be, it’s crucial to build a budget around your anticipated housing costs.

Thankfully, the housing prices throughout Tennessee are affordable, even amongst the most popular cities. Compared to similarly-sized cities across the country, Tennessee’s average housing prices typically fall on the lower end of the range. For a more detailed breakdown, here is a list of average rent prices in the four top Tennessee cities, including Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

CityAverage 1-Bedroom RentAverage 2-Bedroom Rent
Nashville, TN$1,236$1,437
Knoxville, TN$1,075$1,343
Chattanooga, TN$1,043$1,247
Memphis, TN$960$1,120

The current rent trends show that Nashville rent prices have increased over the last month but are down to this time last year. Alternatively, rent prices in Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga have increased in the previous month and show a 7% increase in a year-over-year comparison.

Even though rent prices in Tennessee are relatively affordable, you can find considerable savings by opting to rent with a roommate. For example, if you rent in Knoxville and split the costs of renting a two-bedroom apartment, you can save over $350 per month.

Tennessee has rental properties in all forms, from high-rise apartment buildings in the heart of the downtown to ultra-luxurious apartment communities spread out in the suburbs. If you are willing to pay for extra amenities, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. Otherwise, for those who are more budget-conscious, there is a large assortment of options as well.

Tennessee Transportation

Getting around in Tennessee can add up, with average annual transportation costs of $5,113 for a single individual, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator. For a family of four, consisting of two working parents with two children, you can anticipate paying around $13,896 in transportation costs on an annual basis.

Every county within the state has a public transportation of sorts, with a wide range of services, including fixed-route service, demand-response service, express buses, local shuttles, and complementary paratransit per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can view an extensive list of the available public transportation options available in Tennessee through the state’s Department of Transportation Public Transit Services website.

While it is easiest to have reliable transportation of your own, public transportation is still a viable option in Tennessee. To get a better idea of the annual costs of public transportation, take a look at the costs associated with the major cities in Tennessee:

  • Nashville: $780
  • Memphis: $600
  • Knoxville: $540
  • Chattanooga: $600

The state, as a whole, continues to make strides in improving its public transportation options. For example, Nashville Mayor John Cooper just announced a $53.7 million proposal that would provide WeGo Public Transit services funding.

Tennessee Food Costs

The average single Tennessee resident spends around $3,177 annually on food or roughly $265 per month. For a family of two, with two working adults and two children, these costs nearly triple to $9,305 annually, or roughly $775 per month.

Keep in mind that these figures are associated with food that has been picked up at the local Kroger, Publix, or ALDI, and has been entirely prepared in the home. So, if you are anything short of a mastermind in the kitchen, you’ll also want to budget for other additional food costs.

With so many delicious restaurants to choose from, it is to resist a fun night out on the town. Choose from restaurants like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, or Sweet P’s BBQ, but remember to account for eating out in your budget.

To get a better idea of how to budget, here’s a look at some of the average costs for a meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant, with three courses, across Tennessee:

  • Nashville: $65
  • Memphis: $54.53
  • Knoxville: $50
  • Chattanooga: $42.50

Tennessee Healthcare Costs

Another expense that should not be overlooked when considering the move to Tennessee is healthcare. A single adult with no children will pay around $2,813 for medical care in a single year. A family of four with two working adults and two children can expect to pay $7,750.

Healthcare is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether you see your doctor on an annual basis or suffer from any chronic illnesses, it is always important to have proper health insurance. It can be especially helpful in emergency situations to ensure you can afford any treatments necessary.

If you plan on moving, you can check out the federal healthcare marketplace to see what coverage will be available in your new location. If you happen to relocate outside of an enrollment period, you can report your move to make sure you qualify for out-of-state coverage.

For anyone under the age of 26 still on their parent’s insurance plan, it is possible to maintain standing through their policy even when moving to a new state. You’ll want to check through your current provider first to see which doctors if any, fall in-network in your new location.

Tennessee Utilities

Average utility bills in Tennessee can vary, depending on your area, but fall far below the national average of $240 monthly. The average cost of monthly utilities, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 square foot apartment is broken down by the major cities in Tennessee:

  • Nashville: $158.78
  • Memphis: $164.99
  • Knoxville: $144.29
  • Chattanooga: $176.58

While these costs cover basic utilities, they do not cover additional items such as the internet. The average monthly costs of internet of 60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, or cable/ADSL in these major cities are roughly:

  • Nashville: $71.48
  • Memphis: $81.10
  • Knoxville: $66.63
  • Chattanooga: $65.54

You’ll also want to keep in mind the monthly cost of your cell phone bill, which averages $94 for the nation. In some instances, you might be able to bundle your cell phone with your internet provider to help with additional discounting. Other discounts might also be available to new customers, so always be sure to ask.

Tennessee Fitness and Entertainment

There is no shortage of fitness and entertainment opportunities for anyone throughout the state of Tennessee. Enjoy hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, explore Historical Sites or Botanic Gardens, or even check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Just don’t forget to account for some of your fitness and entertainment expenses in your budget. Thankfully, we’re here to help you by providing you with a breakdown of some of these costs before moving to Tennessee.


Depending on which region you are living in Tennessee, you may see a decent amount of snowfall in your winters, making outdoor exercise challenging at times. You might want to consider a gym membership to help maintain your fitness in some of the less temperate months of the year.

Thankfully, the average cost, per month, of a fitness club in major cities throughout Tennessee, is relatively low:

  • Nashville: $46.59
  • Memphis: $22.33
  • Knoxville: $25.36
  • Chattanooga: $27.22

You can save on costs by taking up other outdoor activities such as running, hiking, biking, and walking. Just remember that there are four very distinct seasons in Tennessee and you’ll have to account for the proper attire for each.

National and State Parks

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park and is one of the few that does not charge an entrance fee, making it a great budget-friendly fitness and entertainment option for anyone in Tennessee.

In addition to this breathtaking national park, Tennessee is also home to 56 state parks, all of which are free to enter and enjoy at your leisure. If you are looking to enjoy particular activities in the parks, there might be small fees associated with permits or reservations. Otherwise, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors are always free for any visitors.

Here is a shortlist of some of the most popular national and state parks in Tennessee:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • South Cumberland State Park
  • Burgess Falls State Park
  • Short Springs State Natural Area
  • Fall Creek Falls State Park


Summers in Tennessee can be very hot and humid, which is not ideal for outdoor activities. You can cool off by checking out one of the countless museums the state has to offer. With something to offer everyone, you can enjoy a museum solo, on a date, or with the whole family. Some of the admission prices of the most popular museums in the state include:

  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville: $24.95
  • Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville: $25.00
  • Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge: $28.00
  • The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville: $20.95
  • Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis: $13

Other Expenses to Consider in Tennessee

For those looking to move to Tennessee, the great news is that there is no income tax on salary and wages. Unfortunately, having no income tax does come at a cost. Tennessee is known for having the highest average sales tax. The state has a sales tax of 7% and allows the local governments to collect up to an additional 2.75% of sales tax, which averages at 2.546% across the state.

If you are moving out of state, there will also be additional costs to consider, including movers, storage, hotels, and transportation. Moves also require additional fees such as apartment application fees, security deposits, pet deposits, and other optional add-ons.

Once you move into your new apartment, you’ll want to do some decorating to make it feel like a home. Unfortunately, furnishing a new apartment can be expensive. Check out a few tips on how to decorate your apartment on a budget.

Your recommended salary for living in Tennessee will depend on the type of lifestyle you plan to lead. The living wage in Tennessee is $13.25 an hour, which is the basic wage needed to pay for essentials such as housing, food, and necessities for an individual adult.

The average salary index in Tennessee is $60,000 per year, which is roughly $16.37 an hour.

To determine your recommended salary, you can follow the 30% rule, which says you should not be spending more than one-third of your gross income on rent. For example, if you’re planning to rent in Nashville, the median rent for a one-bedroom will cost $1,246. According to the 30% rule, your monthly wages should be at least $3,738 a month, or an annual salary of $44,856.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to move somewhere with vibrant cities, mild weather, and a relatively low cost of living, Tennessee might be the state for you. Register with Apartment List today and start checking out the thousands of available apartments to rent in Tennessee!

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Emily is a professionally trained SEO writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Read More
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