How High Is the Cost of Living in Montana?

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The cost of living index in Montana is 94, a healthy six points below the US average of 100. To live comfortably in Montana, a single adult would need to bring in $33,946 per year after taxes.
If you’ve ever harbored dreams of owning land out beneath big open skies, love cowboy lore, or are looking for some of the world’s best skiing, moving to Montana has probably crossed your mind. 
To help you calculate costs, Jerry, the super app designed to save you money on your home, auto, and renters insurance policies, has looked into the nitty-gritty details of exactly what Montana living will cost you. 
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How high is the cost of living in Montana?

First, let’s learn a little bit about the cost of living index. The average US cost of living index is an even 100. So, any state with a cost of living above 100 is considered an above-average (and more expensive) place to live, and any state below 100 is considered below average (and less expensive). 
At 94, Montana’s cost of living index squeaks out just below the national average. This means that, compared with the rest of the 49 other states, Montana is a cheaper place to live. But, let’s take a better look at how Montana ranks against its neighboring states:  
As you can see from the cost of living indexes listed above, Montana is not only in the middle geographically, but also expense-wise when compared to its surrounding states.
With help from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, we’ve put the cost of living index in terms of essential real-world expenses like food, healthcare, housing, and transportation. Here’s a general idea of what those costs shake out to be in the Treasure State. 

Food: $333 to $980 per month

To be clear, when we say “food” here, we’re talking strictly about groceries. Your late-night DoorDash splurge or “treat yourself” sushi dinner doesn’t factor into the costs below. 
In Montana, the annual cost of food varies from $3,999 all the way up to $14,321, depending on the size of your household. Naturally, food for a single-member household will cost considerably less at around $333 per month, while a family of four will spend much more, around $980 each month
To help put this into context, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found in a 2020 study that the average US household spends about $411 each month on groceries

Healthcare: $630 per month 

According to data from a 2020 report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average Montanaian spends $7,560 per year on health insurance—or $630 each month. This is a good deal higher than the US average monthly healthcare expense of $477
The cost of healthcare in Montana changes on a person-to-person basis. If you have a lot of pricey prescriptions and require specialty doctor visits, you’ll probably find healthcare in Montana to be pretty steep. On the other hand, if you’re fairly healthy and don’t necessarily go to the doctor save for routine checkups, you’ll find it much more affordable. 

Housing: $632 to $1460 per month 

Since May 2021, the typical home value in Montana jumped up 26.8% to $445,017—a comfortable $100,000 above the US average home value of $337,560. This huge change in the housing market, like so many other things, can be attributed in part to the global pandemic. As city-dwellers nationwide sought to put down their roots under Montana’s signature big open sky, demand for houses went up along with their prices. 
Here’s a look at how that works out in terms of monthly costs: 
  • Median monthly mortgage payment: $1429
  • Average studio rent: $632
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $705
  • Average two-bedroom rent: $903
  • Average three-bedroom rent: $1236
  • Average four-bedroom rent: $1460
The figures are just overall state averages. Some cities in Montana are extremely affordable while others, like the growing city of Bozeman, have one-bedroom rents of about $1700 a month. Despite how much more expensive that may seem for the state of Montana, it’s still below the US average rent of $1,904 a month. 

Transportation: $411 to $1,217 per month

Montana is a fairly spread-out state, so citizens spend between $411 to $1,217 just getting around. Like the other living expenses we listed above, transportation costs also depend on household size. Just for some context, the average two-person US household spends $818 per month on transportation
A lot of different numbers factor into the bottom line of your transportation expenses: 
  • Average annual cost of car insurance in Montana: $1,550 for liability-only coverage, $1,774 for full coverage 
  • Average cost of a gallon of gas, as of July 2022: $4.92
  • Average commute length in Montana: 17.5 minutes 
Thankfully, much of Montana’s public transportation is completely free! In Bozeman, residents can ride the Streamline Bus for free, and Missoula’s Mountain Line also operates on a zero-fare system. 

How much you need to live comfortably in Montana: $33,946 to $76,979 per year

All added up, a single adult needs to earn $33,946 each year, or $16.32 per hour to support themselves alone. On the other hand, a working adult will need to earn $76,979 each year, or $37.01 per hour, to support a family of four. 
However, Montana’s minimum wage currently sits at just $9.20 per hour, so covering all your expenses in Montana can be a bit of a stretch each month. Plus, that doesn’t even begin to account for the expenses that make life in Montana more enjoyable: 
  • Average cost of a date night: $50.40 (US average $116)
  • Average cost of a night at the movies: $12.10 (US average $10.61)
  • Average cost of a Big Mac: $4.27 (US average $3.99)
  • Cost of a season pass to Big Sky Ski Resort: $619 to $1,349 
  • Cost of a 7-day pass to Glacier National Park: $35
If these numbers are making your head spin, we have some good news for you! Montana is one of only five states nationwide that does not charge sales tax. Throughout the US, states average around 5.09% in sales tax, while sales tax in more expensive states like California goes up to a whopping 8.82%.  
Individual income tax rates, on the other hand, vary depending on how much you make. In Montana, income tax can be as little as 1% or up to 6.75%. 
Key takeaway Although some activities in Montana can be pretty costly, it’s one of the most tax-friendly states in the country! 

The Montana cities with the lowest cost of living

If you’ve got your sights set on living in Montana, but are looking to do so on the cheap, we’ve rounded up five cities with a cost of living index (COLI) not only below the national average but below Montana’s average cost of living as well. Here they are:
  1. Great Falls (COLI: 90.3): Great Falls sits right on the banks of the Missouri and Sun rivers, and its historic downtown is full of restaurants, shops, and other forms of entertainment.
  2. Butte (COLI: 80.1): Butte was first established as a mining camp in 1864 but is now Montana’s fifth-largest city. 
  3. Lewiston (COL: 78.9): If you want to be happier, move to Lewiston! This small town has the unique honor of being ranked one of the happiest places in Montana and in the entire country!
  4. Chinook (COLI: 80.3): This charming small town in northern Montana has some of the best public schools in the state and a variety of different outdoor activities for families and individuals to enjoy.
  5. Scobey (COLI: 81.1): Eastern Montana's Scobey has a friendly, small-town atmosphere and is great for those looking to spend their weekends hunting, fishing, and hiking (as opposed to trying the newest tapas restaurant or dancing the night away at a nightclub). 

Find home and auto insurance with help from Jerry

Once you decide where in Montana you want to live and all of the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, it’s time to get some new home and car insurance with a little help from Jerry. After you take less than a minute to answer some questions, Jerry will shop for the best policies across 50 plus premium insurance providers.
Swapping is just as easy! After you find a policy you like, Jerry can even assist with the paperwork and phone calls needed to cancel your old insurance. Jerry will even send you new quotes every six months, so you always have the best policy at the right price. 
Jerry was wonderful! I used it for my auto and renters policies. I trusted it so much that I signed up my homeowners insurance under Jerry as well. All of the agents are amazingly nice and knowledgeable.” —Mary Y.
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FAQ

To live comfortably in Montana, a single adult must make at least $2,828 each month.

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