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The Cost of Living in Chicago

Chicago Skyline

Chicago is one of the United States’ largest cities, ranking third as of the 2010 census. New York and Los Angeles are the only two cities in the US with larger populations than Chicago. However, according to expatistan.com, the cost of living for Chicago ranks 11th in the nation, while New York ranks as the most expensive in 1st place, and Los Angeles ranks 7th. Not too terrible.

On the cost of living index where, 100 is the national average, Chicago registers above that average at 112. That equates to Chicago’s cost of living being about 12% higher than the national average in the United States. Housing cost, alone, is 30% higher than the national average. Ouch!

The exact percentages vary from source to source, but a more in-depth report shows that Chicago’s cost of living is nearly 16% below that of New York. Monthly expenses, excluding rent, average $929 for a single person and $3,372 for a family of four. Despite Chicago’s cost of living being above that of the national average, the average family income is about 13% higher than that of the national average, helping to make up for the gap.

Housing and transportation are two of the most expensive factors in Chicago's cost of living when compared to the state as a whole and to other cities. Other factors to consider in the cost of living include utilities, food & groceries, home mortgage and rental prices, goods & services, transportation, entertainment, healthcare, and taxes.

Chicago Cost of Living Overview

Below are some interesting cost categories related to Chicago living:

Housing in Chicago: The median price for a 2-bedroom rental apartment is $1,500 per month. The median price for a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home is $454,905, with monthly mortgage and interest averaging $1,617 per month. (Source 6)

Utilities in Chicago: For basic utilities, including electricity, water, heating, and garbage, the average cost is $137 for a 915 square foot apartment. (Source 7) Internet services average $40. (Source 1)

Food & groceries in Chicago: A loaf of bread generally costs $2.89, a gallon of milk costs about $1.89, and a dozen eggs costs $1.64 on average. For fast food, a Grande Latte from Starbucks costs an average of $3.55, a Quarter-Pounder from McDonald’s costs $4.25, and a 12” pizza from Pizza Hut costs $9.99. (Source 6) For those looking to dine out, an inexpensive restaurant meal averages $12, and dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant costs about $65. (Source 1)

Goods & services in Chicago: A trip to the beauty salon costs, on average, $55. A bottle of shampoo averages $1. Toothpaste costs an average of $2.68. (Source 3). Private childcare for one child below the kindergarten age costs an average of $1,175 per month. One pair of mid-range Nike shoes cost an average of $76. (Source 7)

Transportation in Chicago: Gas is $2.65 per gallon and a Chicago City Vehicle Sticker, which car-owners are required to have by law, ranges from $86-$137. For those using public transportation, it costs $100 for an unlimited Chicago Transit Authority monthly pass. (Source 1)

Entertainment & leisure in Chicago: For budget-friendly entertainment, bowling costs an average of $8 per game and a movie ticket costs an average of $13. (Source 6) For larger entertainment thrills, a ticket to a Major League Baseball game averages around $113 to see the Cubs and $96 to see the White Sox. (Source 1, 2015) A typical monthly fitness membership for one adult costs $53. (Source 7)

Healthcare in Chicago: A routine doctor’s visit costs $100, and a routine dentist visit costs about $103. (Source 6)

Taxes in Chicago: There are several different taxes to consider for Chicago. Food has a 2.25% sales tax, a rare occurrence for the US. Restaurants charge a tax for their services, too. Income tax is 5% statewide in Illinois. The property tax in Chicago is the second highest rate in the nation at 2.13%


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