From the bright lights and big cities to the endless waving seas of agricultural fields, Illinois truly has something for everybody — which is probably why more than 12.8 million people live there. That makes it the sixth most populous state in the nation, though Chicago alone is home to some 2.71 million of those souls.
So we know it’s beautiful, diverse, and full of friendly faces and delicious food. But is Illinois affordable to live in?
What’s the Average Cost of Living in Illinois?
Average Cost of Living in Illinois: $43,981 per year
Good news, Midwesterners: According to most accounts, the answer is yes.
Illinois enjoyed the ninth lowest cost of living in the United States for the third quarter of 2021, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC ). Of its immediate neighbors, only Iowa is less expensive — and only by a single ranking spot.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates personal expenditures by state, and on average, an Illinois resident spends $43,981 per year, as per the bureau’s 2020 data.
Here’s how that figure breaks down into different basic expense categories:
Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in Illinois
Housing and Utilities
Food and Beverages (non-restaurant)
Gas and Energy Goods
All Other Personal Expenditures
Let’s take a closer look into each of these categories, as well as a few others.
Housing Costs in Illinois
Average Housing Costs in Illinois: $855 to $1,693 per month
For many Americans, housing is the single largest cost they face. Mortgage or rent payments represent a significant chunk of the monthly budget.
But housing is one of those costs that really depends on where you’re living: not only which state but also which city.
According to September 2021 data from Zillow, the typical home value in Illinois is $241,126. Refin puts the median sale price at $266,000. Those figures are significantly lower than the average U.S. existing-home sale price of $352,800 for the same month, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Furthermore, the averages are boosted by the cost of housing in major cities like Chicago. Many Illinois population centers have typical home prices that are five digits rather than six digits long, as we’ll soon see, and even Chicago homes are fairly affordable, especially for a large U.S. city.
Here are the typical home values in a variety of Illinois cities, according to September 2021 data from Zillow. (Values marked with an asterisk are current as of August 2021.)
So how does that break down on a by-month basis? Here are the median mortgage and rent prices in Illinois, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
• Median monthly mortgage cost: $1,693
• Median studio rent: $855
• Median one-bedroom rent: $894
• Median two-bedroom rent: $1,023
• Median three-bedroom rent: $1,185
• Median four-bedroom rent: $1,348
• Median gross rent: $1,020
Utility Costs in Illinois
Average Utility Costs in Illinois: $331 per month
Roof over your head? Check. Now for the electricity, water, gas, and internet connection that make it livable.
While individual utility costs vary — people use different amounts of each service, depending on their lifestyles — here are some averages to help you estimate how much you might stand to spend monthly on utilities in Illinois.
Average Illinois Bill
Cable & Internet
Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Sales, Revenue, and Average Price, 2021; Inspirecleanenergy.com; DoxoInsights, U.S. Cable & Internet Market Size and Household Spending Report 2021; and Rentcafe.com, What Is the Average Water Bill?
Groceries & Food
Average Grocery & Food Costs in Illinois: $273 per person, per month
Per the Bureau of Economic Analysis figures above, the average Illinois resident spends $3,277 per year on non-restaurant food and beverages, which works out to about $273 per person, per month. That would mean about $546 per month for a married couple, or $1,092 per month for a family of four — but do keep in mind that this average doesn’t take into account the fact that children eat less than adults, or even that some adults eat less than others!
Location also matters, though. The Council for Community and Economic Research regularly updates its cost-of-living index for major American metro areas, and includes data on grocery costs specifically. Here’s how some major Illinois cities stack up when it comes to how much you might expect to pay at the grocery store, per its second-quarter 2021 data.
Grocery Items Index
Average Transportation Costs in Illinois: $5,149 to $13,993 per year
Chicago is well known (and loved) for its fast and friendly public transportation options — but even in the big city, a lot of residents depend on private vehicles to travel, and no matter how you get around, you’ll pay for it somehow.
While a family’s specific travel costs can range widely depending on their lifestyles, MIT’s Living Wage Calculator offers some great insights into how much you might expect to pay on transportation costs each year.
Average Annual Transportation Cost
One adult, no children
Two working adults, no children
Two working adults, two children
Average Health Care Costs in Illinois: $6,873 per person, per year
Drawing on the same Bureau of Economic Analysis data used in the initial expenditure breakdown above, the average Illinois resident spends $6,873 per year on health care, or about $572.75 per month, per person.
Of course, if you’ve got kids running and jumping around the playground or consider yourself a sports aficionado, you may stand to spend more than that. Conversely, if you eat well, exercise, and aren’t very accident-prone, you may spend less — all depending on your health care coverage.
Average Child Care Costs in Illinois: $1,016 to $1,182 or more per child, per month
Taking care of the kiddos: It’s some of the best work there is, but it sure is work, and when you’ve got another job to do, you usually have to pay someone else to do it.
Child care isn’t cheap anywhere, though costs do vary depending on where you are. Costofchildcare.org offers some great averages for how much you might expect to pay in Illinois (and elsewhere) depending on how many children you have and what kind of care scenario you’re after.
Illinois, unlike many other U.S. states, levies its income tax at a single rate — so all eligible earners living in Illinois pay the same rate, regardless of income level.
The good news is, per the Tax Foundation’s State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2021, that tax rate is a relatively low 4.95%. While it’s not the lowest in the country (which hovers in the 2-3% range, aside from the seven states that levy no state income tax at all), it’s much lower than neighboring Iowa’s highest marginal tax rate of 8.53% or Wisconsin’s 7.65%.
Once all the basics are taken care of, it’s time to have some fun. If Illinois residents spend an average of $25,417 on non-essential personal expenditures, where might some of that money be going? (Prices accurate as of Nov. 9, 2021.)
• Tickets to see a Chicago Cubs home game at Wrigley Field: Starting under $20, according to SeatGeek, but could cost hundreds from third-party vendors close to game time.
• Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago, a renowned museum founded by a group of artists all the way back in 1879: Start at $14 for adults who are local residents, but non-Chicago visitors will pay at least $25, barring discounts.
• A large pepperoni pan pizza from Burt’s Place, the No. 1 pizza joint on Eater Chicago’s list at the time of this writing: $22.75 before beverage, sides, or tip.
The good news is, there’s plenty of free stuff to do in Illinois. For starters, every single one of its many glorious state parks is free to enter, though there may be fees to camp. Additionally, Tours of the Lincoln Home in Springfield are free (though you may need to pay $2 to park your vehicle). And, of course, Chicago is known for its many public parks and art exhibits, including Cloud Gate, popularly known as “The Bean,” which is free to walk up to and admire in Millennium Park.
How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Illinois?
Obviously, definitions of “comfortable” vary. What might feel cushy to one person could feel like belt-tightening to another.
That said, all things considered, Illinois is one of the cheapest states to live in based on a variety of different figures. As mentioned, MERIC puts it in ninth position on its cost-of-living ranking, and while U.S. News and World Report , sets the state at 16th on its Affordability Ranking, that’s still solidly in the cheapest quarter of states.
Again, where exactly you decide to hang your hat in Illinois could make a big difference.
What City Has the Lowest Cost of Living in Illinois?
Even as a relatively affordable state overall, you can stack the odds in your favor by opting for one of the lowest-cost cities in Illinois. The Council for Community and Economic Research, which we cited above when parsing grocery costs, also ranks metro areas by overall cost of living.
Here are the three least expensive Illinois cities on its list as of the second quarter of 2021.
With a cost-of-living index of 86 (Chicago’s is 124.1, for comparison), Decatur is the largest city in Macon County, with a population of about 72,000.
Only about 45 minutes east of Springfield, Decatur offers all of its own attractions — such as the Scovill Zoo and Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum — within easy reach of the nearby capital city, and at a fraction of the price.
Coming in with a cost-of-living index score of 87.5, Champaign-Urbana is another inland Illinois city worth taking a closer look at if you’re looking for affordable living. Per September 2021 Zillow data, the typical home value here is an affordable $167,627, and its status as home to the University of Illinois means there’s always something to do here.
Tucked just over the border from Indiana, Danville has a cost-of-living index score of 88.3, and it also enjoys one of the lowest grocery index costs in the state.
With a population of just over 30,000, per 2019 census data, it’s certainly not a big city, but it packs a punch in charm: Lake Vermilion offers a lovely local waterfront, part of which is populated by a country club, and the Vermilion County Museum offers reconstructions of a 1900s school room and the interior of a coal mine.
Looking for a Home Loan?
The Illinois cost of living is on the low side, yet the Prairie State holds allure for corporate and outdoorsy types, foodies, sports fans, and architecture buffs.
Although there are many home loans on the market to choose from, SoFi offers a range of fixed-rate home mortgage loans at competitive interest rates and with as little as 5% down.
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