While the cost of living in Chicago may not be as high as other US cities such as New York and San Francisco, it's by no means a cheap place to live. In 2020, Mercer ranked Chicago as the world's 30th most expensive expat city out of 209 cities surveyed. With Chicago’s growth as a major financial and business destination in the USA, there has been a general increase in development and cost of living. New arrivals should therefore ensure that their earnings will be enough to cover life in Chicago.

Cost of accommodation in Chicago

For expats living in Chicago, accommodation is likely to be the largest expense. Ultimately, how much a person spends on rent will depend on the area or suburb they choose to live in as well as whether they opt for an apartment or freestanding house. Areas close to the city centre are pricier than outlying suburbs.

Cost of transport in Chicago

Those moving to Chicago will be glad to know that they won’t necessarily need to invest in a car. The city has a comprehensive, efficient and reasonably priced public transport network consisting mainly of buses and subway lines. To save money, it's a good idea for regular commuters to invest in a monthly pass.

Cost of education in Chicago

There are many good public schools in Chicago which can be attended free of charge. Expats who choose to send their children to a private or international school should check whether their employment relocation package includes an allowance for their children’s school fees as these can be high.

Cost of entertainment in Chicago

Entertainment and leisure pursuits in Chicago are more reasonably priced than in many other US cities. There are also plenty of activities in Chicago which cost little or nothing. For example, most museums have one day a week where there are no entrance fees. There are also lots of free music and arts festivals that take place in Chicago throughout the year, and plenty of public parks to enjoy at no cost at all.

Cost of living in Chicago chart

Prices may vary depending on area and service provider. The chart below shows average prices for February 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 3,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 2,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,800

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,200


Dozen eggs

USD 2.30

Milk (1 litre)


Rice (1 kg)

USD 4.30

Loaf of white bread


Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 10

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 15

Eating out

Big Mac Meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)



USD 4.30

Bottle of beer (local)


Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 70


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.30

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 50

Monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 120


Taxi rate/km

USD 1.70

Bus fare in the city centre 

USD 2.50

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 0.75