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16 Things to Know Before Moving to Boston, MA

By: Susan Finch
April 12, 2021

Are you feeling the call of the Northeast? Boston is home to a rich history, culture, a booming job market, and plenty to see and do.

1. What’s it Like Living in Boston?

Boston is home to 695,926 people who call the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts their home. Boston is also the 21st most populous city in the country.

Boston is also known for its endless educational opportunities, with 54 colleges and universities to choose from. It's an attractive place for students, professors, and millennials alike. There's also plenty of room for families and retirees who are looking to make Boston their home.

Boston is among the oldest municipalities in the United States and was settled in 1630 by Puritans. The city is home to some of America's most pivotal events, including parts of the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, the siege of Boston, and Bunker Hill's Battle.

Today, living in Boston comes with a healthy job market, a thriving nightlife scene, higher education and research opportunities, desirable neighborhoods. Before packing your bags and heading to the Northeast, here's everything you need to know before moving to Boston.

2. Cost of Living in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston living doesn’t come cheap. According to Payscale, the cost of living in Boston is 48% higher, and housing is also 107% higher than the national average. Depending on your salary, the amenities and lifestyle may be worth the trade-off.

Here's an idea of how much things cost when moving to Boston, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $236.57
  • Loaf of bread: $3.52
  • Doctor's visit: $149.68
  • $2.89 for a gallon of gas

Rent will command the largest portion of your budget when moving to Boston. The average rent in Boston rose to $1,684 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,795 for a two-bedroom apartment. Rents are starting to rise steadily again after a sharp decline during the pandemic. To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Boston, you should shoot for an income of at least $50,520 a year or $25.91 an hour. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $53,850 a year or $26.93 an hour.

The median income in Boston is currently $71,115, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $81,215 in the rest of Boston.

Those median income figures are different from the basic living wage. Living above the poverty threshold in Boston requires $19.17 an hour for a full-time employed single individual. You'll need to find a well-paying job or start some side hustles to afford the nightlife, vacations, and restaurants.

3. Taxes in Boston

The Boston Tea Party was all about no taxation without representation and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The good news is, you have plenty of government representation in Boston despite some of the high taxes.

You should also factor in taxes to your budget when moving to Boston. The minimum combined 2021 sales tax rate for Boston is currently 6.25% and represents the state, county, and sales tax rates. Unlike the federal income tax, there aren't tax brackets in Massachusetts, and the income rate is 5%. There's even an option to pay more taxes to the state if you really want to!

If you're planning on homeownership in the future, be prepared for hefty property taxes. Massachusetts has some of the highest annual property tax bills of any other state in the US. The state's average effective tax rate is 1.17% higher than the national average.

4. Who’s Moving to Boston?

Boston is full of diversity, with people moving in and out from different parts of the country and world. According to Apartment List's most recent migration report, the highest percentage of people moving to Boston are from New York, Providence, or Worcester.

Renters who currently live in Boston but are considering moving are currently searching for apartments in Washington, New York, and Providence.

Learn more about what it's like moving to a new state.

5. Job Market and Economy

Boston ranks among the top five in the nation for its job market rank, according to WalletHub. Some of the most significant industries in Boston include health care, finance, and higher education. They account for 74% of all employment in the city.

Move over, San Francisco, Boston, and its sister city Cambridge are rapidly turning into contenders in the tech space. Pfizer, Google, and Novartis are just some of the tech companies in the area. The city’s tech scene is also attractive to students from MIT looking to make a splash in the tech world.

Beyond tech and education, Boston is also a major financial hub. Mutual funds got their start in Boston during the 1800s, making investing another part of the city's rich history. Fidelity Investments, Eaton Vance, and Putnam Investments are some of the financial juggernauts in the city.

6. Transportation

Boston driving is not for the faint at heart and parking is scarce and expensive. You’ll end up paying a premium to keep a car in the city. Fortunately, you can quickly get around Boston without a car and rely on public transportation instead.

Boston's MBTA transportation connects the city and suburbs conveniently and efficiently. The subway is referred to as the T and runs throughout Boston and into Cambridge. It also makes stops at major attractions, universities, and popular neighborhoods.

You can expect to pay a minimum of $90 for an unlimited traveler for one calendar month. If you live in the suburbs, you’ll need a bigger transportation budget. You could spend up to $426 a month for a monthly commuter rail pass. Before you sign your next lease, make sure to factor in your transportation costs.

Taxis are also readily available around Boston, although they'll be the priciest transportation options. You can also grab an Uber or Lyft to help get around the city a little more affordably.

Biking is becoming more popular in Boston, although the winter weather and heavy traffic can be challenging. If you don’t own a bike, rent one through a bike-share when you need one. Blue Bikes with docks on most corners. Prices are $2.50 for a single trip pass or $10 for 24-hours.

If you're a single adult with no children, you'll spend about $4,322 for transportation in Boston each year. If you live in a household with two adults with one child, you'll pay $9,889 for transportation.

7. Weather

Get ready for some bitter cold and snow because Boston has plenty of both during the winter months. Despite the weather, the majority of locals still commute to work. If you need a reprieve, there are plenty of pubs to warm up with a drink around Boston. You're also not far from skiing country, like Maine’s slopes.

Summers in Boston can feel unpredictable with cool fronts followed by sticky, humid days. Fall and spring are the real payoffs with stunning autumn leaves and cherry blossoms dusting the floors of Boston Common.

There’s a trick to knowing the weather in Boston. Instead of scrolling through your smartphone, you can look out the John Hancock Tower window to get the daily weather. If it's solid blue, you're up for blue skies and pleasant weather. Flashing blue means clouds are coming, solid red signals rain, and flashing red means snow is almost here. But during summer months, flashing red means the local Red Sox game is rained out.

8. Attractions

Boston is the perfect location for culture-seekers who want to soak up music, art, and exhibits. There are over 80 museums in the city, including The Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). You can also take in a live concert at TD Garden or enjoy the symphony and opera.

To make the most of what Boston has to offer, walk along the three-mile Freedom Trail to see 16 of the city's historic monuments and other sites. Follow the red bricks on the sidewalk to see the State House and the site of the Boston Massacre. You'll also see where the speeches of patriots spurred the Boston Tea Party.

9. Food Scene and Nightlife in Boston

Boston offers some of the most infamous dining destinations in the world. It's among the top cities for culinary trendsetters looking to leave their mark.

Despite Boston's reputation for baked beans, there are plenty of other iconic dishes to try. Kelly's Roast Beef sandwich, Neighborhood's Cream of Wheat, cannoli at Mike's Pastry, and sticky buns at Flour Bakery & Cafe are just some of the stops you should make on your eating tour.

Beyond the classics, Boston is known for its award-winning, fresh seafood, fusion dishes, and culinary trendsetting dishes. Locals head to Uni for late-night sushi and ramen, Oleanna for Turkish and Middle Eastern food, and Toro for atmospheric tapas.

Nightlife in Boston is hopping with something to do every night of the week. If you're not at an art opening, try your luck at A4 Arcade for 80s classics like Pacman, drinks, and comfort food. Outdoor movies are available at Citywide for free, second-run screenings. The iconic Donkey Show at Oberon is a see it to believe it experience with disco tunes and roller skates.

10. Major Annual Boston Events

Boston is home to popular annual events that draw visitors from around the world. The Boston Marathon is among the most popular and takes place on Patriot's Day. There's also a parade, Boston Pops Firework Spectacular on Independence Day, and the Boston (Caribbean) Carnival.

In between major events and festivals, there’s always something going on in Boston. Look for farmers’ markets, pop-up events, and community celebrations that make you feel like you’re part of the fabric of the city.

11. Sports in Boston

Boston is a year-round sports town with fanatics representing their home turf. Take in a Celtics or the Boston Bruins game at TD Garden, cheer for The Pats at Foxborough, or rally at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. The colleges and universities around the city also represent football, baseball, hockey, squash, tennis, and more.

During the summer months, rent kayaks and canoes during summer months along the waterfront. Sports enthusiasts also won’t find it hard to find pick-up games of basketball and soccer to show off their skills.

12. The Boston Neighborhood You Choose is a Big Deal

Unlike some cities where neighborhoods are pretty similar and getting around is easy, choosing where to live in Boston is a big deal. Beyond commute times, you should consider the unique flavor of each Boston neighborhood.

Cambridge is ideally situated for Harvard and MIT students. It’s one of the best boston metro neighborhoods for college students. Beacon Hill is a haven if you want a central location to urban amenities, history, and attractions like Boston Common. You may end up spending most of your time in your new Boston neighborhood, so choose wisely.

North End is full of rich history, like the Paul Revere House, and is also full of mouth-watering old-school pastry shops. Its proximity to downtown and the waterfront is also a major draw for renters.

13. Bostonians Are Proud

With so much rich history in Boston, it’s no wonder locals love their city. Plan to go big or go home when it comes to Boston pride. Bostonians love their city, their heritage and are ready to stand up for their pride. Whether you're running the Boston Marathon or cheering for the Red Sox, be prepared to show your pride.

14. Top Universities in Boston

Whether you’re a student, professor, or want to work in higher education, you’re in luck. Top universities and colleges are plentiful around Boston.

Harvard University, Boston College, Tufts University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts are just some of the higher education employers around the city.

Even if you don’t work in higher education or are a student, you can still enjoy the scene around Boston. Areas like Cambridge are full of college pubs, events, and cafes with some of the brightest minds chatting over coffee.

15. You Won’t Compromise on Green Space & the Outdoors

Boston may be an urban metropolis, but you don't have to compromise on green space and the great outdoors. There's an acre of the park for every 127 Boston residents. You'll never walk more than ten minutes to a greenspace when you live in Boston.

And not only can you hit the beach in Boston, but the city is also home to the nation's first public beach. Revere Beach opened on July 12, 1896, and nearly one million people come for the Revere Sand Castle Competition each year. It's still known as the beach of the people welcoming locals and visitors on blistering summer days.

16. Boston’s Nickname is Beantown for a Reason

Boston refers to Boston's popular regional dish of baked beans. It was a favorite among early settlers who slow-cooked their beans in molasses. Beantown has also evolved to reference the Boston Red Sox. You don’t have to like baked beans to enjoy living in Beantown, just use the nickname as a source of pride.

Finding Your Boston Apartment

Ready to move to Boston? Start apartment hunting with Apartment List.

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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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