2020 Guide to the Cost of Living in Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City is the largest place in the Midwest and is known for its rich history and delicious food. But before you move cross country and be able to enjoy these aspects as a true local, you’ll need to learn all about the cost of living in Chicago. Therefore, if you’ve been asking yourself the following questions – Is it expensive to live in Chicago? and How much does it cost to live in Chicago per month? – you have come to the right place. We have the answer which will hopefully help you figure out whether the Windy City suits your budget.

Moving is always exciting, but it doesn't have to be expensive.

Where Does Chicago Rank in Terms of Cost of Living?

Moving to Chicago from a place in another state or any other new place is challenging, demanding, and time-consuming. You’ll need to plan a budget if you’re looking to hire a professional long-distance moving company and additional services such as packing or renting storage facilities. The cost of interstate moving will give you a headache, but it is also important to calculate Chicago living costs in advance.

“Jewel of the Midwest” is the third most populous city in America, but it is still more affordable than other major cities. You’ll maybe find this surprising, but this place doesn’t even hit the top 10 list of the most expensive cities in the US. According to Numbeo, the approximate monthly expenses for a single person, without rent, are around $1,050.

Compare Chicago IL Cost of Living With Other Major Cities in the US

If you are moving out for the first time, you’ll see that your current finances will be changed. We have assembled a list of the most expensive cities in the US that will help you compare utilities, housing, and healthcare expenses with the cost of living in Chicago Il.

LocationUtilitiesMedian 2-bedroom apartment rentMedian house value Doctor visitsDentist visits
Chicago $134$2,210$513,820$105$102
San Francisco $154$4,130$1,263,810$154$139
Manhattan, $200 $5,100$2,200,000$107$125
NY
Boston$173$3,380$714,900$185$107
Seattle$190$2,725$826,200$137$148
Oakland$166$2,506$851,050$151$105

What Is the Chicago, Illinois Cost of Living Index

An index compares one’s overall expenses when it comes to food, transportation, clothing, education, energy, shelter, healthcare, and entertainment in different cities. There is no official index created by the US government, but you can use websites such as BestPlaces for comparison. There you’ll see that the US average index is set at 100 points. Anything that goes below that number means that the district is a bit cheaper. Chicago’s overall index is 106.9, making it a little above the national standard, with housing being the determining factor.

Two people, a man and a woman are in the middle of a discussion about moving.
Do your research up front, and your finances will be fine.

How Taxes Affect the Costs of Living in Chicago, Illinois?

Tax rates are different in each US state, and they affect everything, from food to real estate. The current total sales tax rate combining the state, county, and city rates is 10.25%. As for the real estate tax, be aware that Illinois has one of the highest property tax rates. In terms of the entire state, the Illinois property tax rate is 2.32%, double the national standard.

A USB drive, a pan, and a couple of pieces of paper are used to depict tax planning.
Taxes are never an easy foe.

Check What Income Calculator Says

Be sure to check out this Illinois paycheck calculator if you want to see your salary income after taking federal, state, and local taxes into account. There will be some tax and fee increases this year that you can read in this Chicago Tribune article.

A pile of money.
If you compare it to the other US places, Chicago's taxes will just slightly increase in 2020.

Housing Prices Are More Affordable Than in Other US Cities

As we mentioned, if you are buying a home here, be ready for higher property taxes. However, buying a home is still not that expensive, especially if you are moving to a city alone.

Chicago’s real estate market is a lot cheaper than in San Francisco or NY. You have already seen the comparison above, but let us mention that the price per square foot for an apartment in the city center is around $460, while in NYC it’s approximately $1,500.

An artsy solar interior, plenty of small furniture.
Finding housing here is a relief.

Rent Is Still a More Affordable Option Than Buying

According to Attom Data Solutions, it’s still more affordable to rent a place here than to buy. However, they also noticed that the amount people give to their landlords grew faster than one’s monthly income. While the data is not ideal, you can be sure that the average median rent will cost you less here than in places like San Francisco or New York. If you are moving in with a partner or a friend, you will be able to split the expenses, which is perfect.

If you’re moving for the first time, you might want to read about the things you need for your first apartment and be ready to become a Chicagoan.

Apartment TypeCity CenterOutside of Center
1-bedroom apartment$1,886$1,297
3-bedroom apartment $3,580$2,233

Utilities and Other Expenses That Affect the Cost of Living in Chicago

Whether you’re a tenant or an owner, utilities affect your budget. According to Numbeo, basic utility expenses — electricity, cooling, heating, water, and garbage — for a 915 sq ft apartment are around $134 per month. If you add internet service, the prices can reach $202, which is still below the national average! However, there is one nasty thing that makes even Chicagoans roll their eyes. In 2018, a so-called “cloud tax” was introduced. It means that you have to pay extra if you are using streaming services, like Netflix.

What Are the Costs of Transportation

If you have your own car and you’ve hired auto transport services, keep in mind you’ll have to purchase the Chicago’s Vehicle Sticker. Owning and driving a car in this place means that you are subject to the Wheel Tax. Expenses for a regular passenger car are $90, while they go higher for larger vehicles. The price of gas per gallon is around $3.45. On the other hand, if you don’t have a car, you can use the combination of bus and metro transportation. You can pay $105 for an unlimited monthly pass, while a one-way ticket is $2.50.

Grocery Shopping and Dining Out

Grocery shopping and dining out will be another matter your budget has to cover. Basic groceries are inexpensive—bread is approximately $3.10, milk $0.80, and twelve eggs come for $2.33.

If you like dining out, you’ll be happy to hear that some of the best restaurants in Chicago can be found on every corner. In a mid-range restaurant, you will find a three-course lunch for two for $70, while an inexpensive one can offer a meal for just $15. If you are searching for romantic things to do in Chicago, consider booking a table at some of its great restaurants.

Entertainment Does Not Lack in This Marvelous Place

Chicagoans know how to have fun! If you’re moving in the summer and enjoy alt-rock and pop music, don’t skip the legendary Lollapalooza. The ticket price for all four days was $340 last year. Night owls will be thrilled to hear that Chicago nightlife is strong. There is also the Symphony Orchestra for classical music lovers. You’ll find many family-oriented places, so there isn’t a shortage of things to do in Chicago with kids. Speaking of cinema, two movie tickets can be bought for $23.

Downtown area, plenty of neon lights, around dusk.
You'll be thrilled to find out that this area never sleeps.

The Cost of Living in Chicago Suburbs

Moving to the suburbs means you’ll enjoy a slower-paced life, while still being close to the big town amenities. Suburbs of Chicago also offer an even more affordable lifestyle. These areas will save you a lot of money on home prices and miscellaneous expenses in general. Take a look at these suburbs and decide which one suits your budget:

  • Midlothian: If you are moving from an apartment to a house to start a family, Midlothian is a Chicago’s suburb you should consider. With its small-town vibe and family-friendly environment, this place is more than affordable. If you want to buy a property, the real estate market offers a median home price of $145,600.
  • Park Forest: Among many other reasons to move, cheaper housing options are probably on top of the list. If you want to settle in a beautiful suburban area, with plenty of parks and playgrounds, and affordable housing options, think no further than Park Forest. The median house price is $80,700, and the cost of living index is 86.2.
  • Steger: This is yet another pretty affordable suburb in the area. The median value is $84,700, with an index of 77. You should buy a home here and put down your roots. Housing prices were going to get higher, so this will be a good investment.

The Cheapest Chicago’s Neighborhoods for Renters

If you’re moving from a small town to a big city, you’ll want to start with cheaper renting options until you get to know the town better and find a job that suits you. Take a look at our list of best neighborhoods in Chicago for renters and decide which one will become your home:

  • Lake View: If you are searching for the best Chicago neighborhoods for young professionals and singles, look no further than Lake View. Apart from offering plenty of parks, easy commutes, and a great view of Lake Michigan, you’ll also find that the average rent price is $1,660.
  • Edgewater: Looking for an affordable place with an amazing lake view? Edgewater neighborhood is just the thing then, with a median rent of $1,160. There’s also plenty of greenery, and this neighborhood is great if you are moving with pets.
  • Rogers Park: This low-key and peaceful neighborhood is located on the North Side, close to Loyola University. Rogers Park is a great place if you want to save money because the median renting fee is $1,200.
A beautiful view of Lake Michigan in the gathering dusk.
Suburban neighborhoods here come with breathtaking views.

What Salary Do You Need to Live in Chicago

As we mentioned, living in Chicago is quite affordable compared to how populous the place is. If you’re thinking about moving here and want to know how much money you need for a comfortable life, you’ll have to make around $84,760 as a homeowner and $94,917 as a renter.

A woman counting cash.
Count your income before moving cross country.

Useful Tips on How to Save Up Before Moving to Chicago

If you want to save up and cut some expenses when living here or in any other major town in the U.S., you can make a couple of sacrifices. Read these useful tips on how to live modestly in the Jewel of the Midwest:

  • Since transportation is part of our expenses, try to walk or bike whenever you can
  • Think about becoming a vegetarian since meat meals tend to be pretty expensive
  • Estimate the value of household goods and search for the best deals when relocating
  • Set a monthly budget and try to stick to it
  • Find a roommate to share renting and utility costs.

That’s a lot of covered data on the expenses you’ll have while living in the Jewel of the Midwest. Hopefully, this article has helped you make up an excellent plan and dive into this long distance moving adventure clear-headed and sure-footed.

Written By: Jessica Hill