Cost of Living in Boston: A Guide for Homebuyers


Are you considering a move to Boston? If you want to make Beantown your new home, you might want to know how the city’s cost of living compares to where you currently reside.

This guide breaks down the cost of living in Boston, from housing expenses to food and healthcare costs. We’ll provide data from the local cost of living index and comparison tools and look at how Boston ranks for livability compared to other U.S. cities.

We’ll also share a handy set of online resources to measure and compare the cost of living and expenses in other Massachusetts cities.

Yes, You Can Buy Before You Sell. Why Move Twice?

Through our Buy Before You Sell program, HomeLight can help you unlock a portion of your equity upfront to put toward your next home. You can then make a strong offer on your next home with no home sale contingency.

What makes up the ‘cost of living’ in Boston?

When you’re planning to live in a new city, the cost of living there will be a combination of expenses required to maintain your desired lifestyle. Cambridge Dictionary defines cost of living as “the amount of money people need to spend to buy basic goods or services such as food, clothes, and a place to live.”

This overall cost can vary significantly based on location, even within Massachusetts. But the living expenses you’ll pay for typically include the following categories:

  • Housing (mortgage/rent)
  • Energy (utility costs)
  • Food (groceries)
  • Transportation (vehicle or transit systems)
  • Healthcare (doctors, hospitals, dentists, etc.)

However, the costs often extend beyond these basics to cover other expenses, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Education
  • Childcare
  • Entertainment

These elements, when combined, establish the core costs associated with a particular way of living. However, the standard of living you achieve is primarily influenced by your income and debts and how the dollar amounts compare to the costs of basic needs in your location or, in this case, the Boston community where you might want to live.

Let’s take a quick look at some ways you can compare your current living cost with what you might experience if you move to Boston.

What’s a Boston cost of living index (CLI)?

A cost of living index (CLI) monitors how these basic expenses change over time in different states, cities, or regions. They provide a way to compare the price of maintaining a particular standard of living.

The CLI for a city like Boston is calculated by assessing the price of essential goods and services in different areas, such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.

A local index is typically standardized, with a base city assigned a baseline index value (usually set at 100). Other cities are then compared against this benchmark. For example, a Boston community with a CLI of 125 would signify that living there is 25% more expensive than the base location, while an index of 75 indicates it’s 25% less expensive.

A cost of living index will typically break down and score each basic expense by category. Here are separate scores for Boston from the AXIOS Boston Cost of Living Index:

  • Overall CLI score: 148
  • Housing: 227.1
  • Healthcare: 115.3
  • Transportation: 117.6
  • Misc. goods and services: 116.7
  • Grocery items: 105.9
  • Utilities: 138.5

Cost perspective

While Boston’s overall cost of living is 48 points higher than the baseline established for the average U.S. cities, it’s well below the costs to live in Honolulu (72.9% above average) and San Francisco (69.5% more).

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