How High Is the Cost of Living in Massachusetts?

The cost of living in Massachusetts is quite a bit higher than the national average (4th highest in the country)—but there are still affordable areas.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
The cost of living in
is incredibly high—and getting higher all the time, thanks to a competitive housing market. A single adult needs at least $45,510 to live comfortably in Massachusetts
From the beautiful Atlantic coast in the east to the Berkshires in the west, Massachusetts is a beautiful and diverse place to live. You can find both blue-collar industrial towns and pearls-and-cashmere university suburbs throughout the Bay State. 
The high state average cost of living here gets a bit more interesting when broken down across multiple cities. Here to explain it all is
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How high is the cost of living in Massachusetts? 

In general, Massachusetts is very expensive to live in—but just how expensive is it? The cost of living index in Massachusetts is 127.2Massachusetts, the fourth-highest cost of living in the entire country after
New York
, and
What does this figure really mean? The U.S. national average cost of living is set at 100. This means that any figure higher than 100 means a higher-than-average cost of living. By comparison,
cost of living index is 113, while
West Virginia
are 78.1 and 121.1, respectively. 
Massachusetts is considerably more expensive than almost every other state when it comes to cost of living.
Now, let’s look at what the cost of living figure includes (hint: it does not include your daily Starbucks). Groceries, healthcare, housing, and transportation are the main categories in the cost of living calculation. Below, we share what these essential expenses currently cost in Massachusetts as compared to the national average. 

Food: $324.25 to $953.83 per month

Whether it’s clam chowdah or lobster rolls, everybody’s gotta eat! Food is the first non-negotiable part of the cost of living. It includes groceries but excludes restaurant bills and other meals that are eaten out.
Data from MIT’s
Living Wage Calculator
shows that the annual cost of food in Massachusetts ranges from $3,891 to $11,446, depending on family size, income, and location. In a household with a single adult, the food budget will be at least $324.25 per month for groceries.
 In a household with a family of four (two adults, two children), grocery bills could total $953.83 every month. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2020 that the average monthly grocery bill for US households was approximately $411.
If you regularly buy food out (like date nights or fast food), keep in mind that this figure does not account for that spending

Healthcare: $217.67 per month

Massachusetts is famous for its high-quality healthcare. Average annual healthcare costs per person in Massachusetts total $2,612, or approximately $217.67 per month. That’s significantly lower than the national average of $477 per month!
Of course, healthcare costs vary dramatically from one individual to the next so it’s difficult to generalize an average figure. If there is someone in your household who needs expensive prescriptions or other costly care, this chunk of your monthly budget will be much higher than the state average.

Housing: $1,461.67 to $2,007.83 per month

Housing is the biggest expense for most Americans, and this holds true in Massachusetts, too. The
typical home value
in the Bay State was $560,000 as of May 2022—and this figure may continue to rise until the bubble bursts. 
How does housing figure into your monthly budget? It depends on several factors, starting with the type of home you live in: 
  • Median monthly mortgage payment: $1,553.75
  • Average studio rent: $1,160.50
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,245.17
  • Average two-bedroom rent: $1,661.33
  • Average three-bedroom rent: $1,750.17
  • Average four-bedroom rent: $2,069.58
The figures above represent the overall state average. If we look at the numbers for specific cities, we’ll find a wider range of housing costs. For instance, in downtown
, the average monthly rent for a studio apartment is just under $2,900. If we look at Worcester, on the other hand, housing costs are much cheaper—a one-bedroom goes for about $1,586 per month. 
Is housing really that much more expensive in Massachusetts compared to the rest of the country? For homeowners, Massachusetts houses are quite a bit more expensive than the average national home value ($337,560). For renters, Massachusetts rental costs are a bit closer to the average national rent ($1,904 per month).

Transportation: $353.67 to $963.75 per month

Traveling from home to go to work, school, and grocery stores is another unavoidable expense. Some areas in Massachusetts have excellent public transit, allowing people to save money by avoiding private auto ownership. However, transportation costs vary widely depending on which city you live in.
Massachusetts residents pay between $353.67 and $963.75 per month for transportation. For context, the national average for a two-person household is $818 per month.
To put those big numbers in perspective, here are a few important figures: 
  • Average annual cost of car insurance in Massachusetts: $784 to $2,271(
    only vs.
    full coverage
  • Monthly LinkPass in Boston: $90
  • Average
    commute length
    in Massachusetts: 30 minutes
  • Average cost of a gallon of gas, June 2022: $4.985

How much you need to live comfortably in Massachusetts: $45,510.40 to $65,728 per year

A single adult needs to earn at least $45,510 per year (or $21.88/hour) to live in Massachusetts. For a family of four, the required minimum annual income is $65,728 or $31.60/hour. This doesn’t include any room for setting aside retirement money, travel, or holiday spending.
Taking into account Massachusetts’s minimum wage of $14.25/hour, it’s obvious that living comfortably in Massachusetts can be a serious challenge. There’s a big difference between surviving and living well, after all. What if you want to go see a movie or grab a quick meal at the drive-through after work? Here are the costs associated with some basic non-essentials in Massachusetts, alongside the national average cost: 
  • Average cost of a date: $217.51 (US average: $116) 
  • Average cost of a night at the movies: $15.22 (US average: $10.61) 
  • Average cost of a Big Mac: $4.87 (US average: $3.99) 
  • Average sales tax: 6.25%(US average: 5.09%)
Every person and every budget is unique, of course. You may be able to live comfortably on less than $45,510. However, the average person needs to earn at least $45,510 per year in Massachusetts to pay for their basic needs.

The Massachusetts cities with the lowest cost of living

While the state average cost of living in Massachusetts is quite high, there are a few cities in Massachusetts with a low cost of living
Although many major cities have a high cost of living index (COLI) here are a few Massachusetts locations that fall below the state average:
  1. Adams (COLI: 84.9): This lovely town in the Berkshires is full of fresh air, historic architecture, and tight-knit community vibes—all at a very affordable price! 
  2. Easthampton Town
    (COLI: 100.7): Located near world-class colleges and rolling farmland, Easthampton is much more affordable than cities like Boston. 
  3. New Bedford (COLI: 100.4): On Buzzard’s Bay just an hour from Boston is New Bedford, a seaside town with a whaling history. 
  4. Spencer
    (COLI: 104.25): About 20 minutes from Worcester is the small town of Spencer, with natural recreation activities and a fascinating history. 
  5. Westfield
    (COLI: 100.7): Located in the scenic Pioneer Valley, Westfield offers hiking, historic buildings, academic opportunities, and a strong community. 
If you’re looking for an affordable place to set down roots in Massachusetts, consider one of these five cities! 

How to easily find home and car insurance in Massachusetts

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A single person in Massachusetts needs about $3,792 per month to live comfortably. However, you may need to spend more if you like to eat out and if you’re trying to save money for the future.
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