Skip to cookie consent Skip to main content

Cost of Living

Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Be prepared to spend in the first year you live here.

Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Be prepared for your first year in Boston.

An individual must have at least $35,000 a year to meet minimum income requirements. Be prepared to spend at least that much as a single person in the first year you live here:

  • Housing/apartment — $14,000–$17,000
    • Some visiting scholars live with roommates to both make friends and split housing costs
    • Average monthly for a 1 bedroom is $3,040
  • Utilities (electricity, heat, gas, telephone) — $2,000–$2,500
    • Gas and electric prices vary depending on the season — during the winter gas prices tend to go up
    • $170 a month in utility expenses for a single person living in an average size apartment.
      • Source: Zumper Cost of Living in Boston
  • Cell Phone — $720 yearly for 1 person, family plans can typically offer discounts
  • Furniture and home items — $2,500–$3,500
  • Food — $3,000–$5,000
  • Health care/general health insurance — $3,000–$5,500 (required by Massachusetts and federal laws)
  • Evacuation and repatriation insurance  — $170–$300 (Required for J-1/J-2 visas)
  • Miscellaneous (transportation, clothing, etc.) — $2,500–$3,000

To reduce these costs as much as possible:  

  • Start your housing search early, before arriving in the U.S.
  • If you have a network of friends, family, or peers in the Boston area who can give you advice or other assistance, take advantage of it
  • After arriving, open a U.S. bank account as soon as possible to avoid extra fees

Housing costs

Rent costs for apartments usually vary depending on the condition and location of the apartment:

  • Apartment with a roommate — $600 to $1,200 per month or more per person
  • Furnished bedrooms rooms, with or without cooking privileges — $800 to $1,500 per month or more
  • Studio (apartments that do not have a separate bedroom, but have an area for a bed) — $1,150 to $1,600 per month or more
  • 1-bedroom apartment — $1,500 to $2,100 per month or more
  • 2-bedroom apartment — $1,600 to $2,500 per month or more

Depending on the neighborhood it is recommended you arrive in the U.S. first and then can evaluate the area.

Utility costs

Total costs for utilities—such as heat, hot water, gas, and electricity—may range from $120 to $450 per month.

  • The average cost for landline telephone service ranges from $40 to $70 per month. Long-distance calls may be billed separately. The cost to install telephone service ranges from $40 to $90 
  • The average cost for cable television is $20 to $150 per month. Many cable companies also offer combined 
  • Monthly electricity costs vary from $40 to $130 per month, depending on building size and usage
  • The voltage used in the United States for small appliances is 110-V (60 cycles). If you bring appliances that use 220-V to 240-V, you must use an adapter

Be aware

Some apartments, utility companies, and others may base their fees on the income earned by the customer (also called a “sliding scale”), which indicates that the service is subsidized by the U.S. government. Please note that services subsidized by the U.S. government are not intended for those with a visa status. Accepting rates that were based on a sliding scale may negatively affect your future visa status.

Please note that if you have a family with children, you cannot move into a one-bedroom apartment and will need to move into an apartment with at least two bedrooms.

The City of Boston provides several tips on avoiding scams. Never, under any circumstances, send money to anyone without securing a lease and confirming the property manager has legal right to rent the property. Common scams feature an owner/landlord who is out of the country and cannot show the property. Scammers use a variety of tools and methods to post fraudulent listings on many internet listing sites so be cautious when reviewing on-line ads.