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What Does it Cost to Live in Downtown Chicago

By Jamie Richardson | January 16, 2019

There are tons of lively cities to choose from, but Chicago continues to be a popular option, especially in the Midwest. Home to more than 2.7 million people, residents of the Windy City love the towering skyscraper, Chicago-style pizza, and the various parks including Grant and Millennium Park.

Downtown Chicago

Standing as the third largest city in the country, it’s no surprise that Chicago can be quite expensive to live in, especially the downtown area. Keep reading to learn about the true cost of living in Chicago to see if this city is affordable for you.

Home Prices

Owning a home is part of the American dream, and if you're tired of renting, Chicago is a great city to become a homeowner. Over the last few years, home prices have rebounded to levels before the housing crisis. According to Zillow, home prices have increased by  9.8% in the last year.

The median home value in Chicago is $228,500. Chicago home values have gone up 2.1% over the past year. According to Zillow, that value is expected to rise 4.3% within the next year. The median list price per square foot in Chicago is $243, which is higher than the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin Metro average of $165.


If you’re not looking to buy a home just yet, renting is another option. You can rent a 1 bedroom apartment at N. Desplaines Street for $2,076 a month. A two bedroom apartment at the same complex starts at $2,882.

Renting in the downtown area is nice, as you aren’t locked into a home for decades. Instead, you can experience different parts of the city and experience everything that downtown Chicago has to offer.


No matter if you choose to buy or rent in downtown Chicago, you'll have to pay utilities. You may be able to find an apartment complex that wraps utility costs into the monthly rent, but this is rare in the city. You can expect to pay around $121.16 a month for heating, water, electricity, and garbage costs.

For television and internet services, add at least $40 in monthly expenses. Compared to the national average, internet and cable costs are less expensive in Chicago. To get the best deal for at home services, be sure to compare prices on the best internet providers in Chicago on You may be able to find bundle deals or other savings that reduce your overall utility costs each month.

Food & Groceries

After figuring out how much you can expect to pay on housing and utilities, the next cost to consider is food and groceries. On the nights you go out to eat, you can expect to pay at least $65.00 a night at an upscale restaurant. Meals at a less expensive venue will run around $12.

Be aware that in downtown Chicago, you'll pay an additional meals tax on top of local and state sales tax. Meal tax in the downtown area is 1.25%. Outside of downtown Chicago, the meals tax drops to 0.25%.

Eating out can be expensive, so you'll also want to factor in the costs of cooking at home. Groceries in Chicago are lower than national averages. You will pay less for various food items including:

  • Rice
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Bread
  • Potatoes

Prices in the area are much cheaper than other cities because of the additional sales tax. Unlike other cities, Chicagoans must pay a grocery items sales tax. Thankfully there are ways to reduce grocery costs by using coupons, comparing prices between stores, and only purchasing items that are on sale. This is a great way to keep more money in your wallet.


No car? Not a problem in downtown Chicago! You'll find that many Chicagoans use public transportation to get around. Bus and subway services are available in the city. You can purchase an unlimited monthly pass for just $100.

If you need a car for commuting to work or for other purposes, you'll need to get a City Vehicle Sticker. This is an annual expense that shows your car is compliant with Chicago's Wheel Tax. For a regular-sized passenger vehicle, you'll have to pay $85.97 a year. Larger vehicles such as SUVs or vans cost $136.54.


Moving to a new city is not only exciting, but it can also come with a huge sticker shock, especially if you choose to live in the downtown area. Before relocating to downtown Chicago, be sure you know exactly how much you can expect to pay on cost of living. This way you can determine if your paycheck is enough to cover these expenses or if it’d be better to live in a suburb in the area.

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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