As one of the largest cities in the United States, the thriving city of Houston has become a desirable destination for residents who want to reap the benefits of living in a modern and diverse metropolis. Attracting young professionals and families alike, the cost of living in Houston makes this southeastern Texas city an undoubted star of this booming state.
When you consider everything that Houston has to offer – including a beautiful climate, excellent job market, and a plethora of amenities – you might assume that living in Houston comes with a high price tag. But actually, Houston’s cost of living is more than 4% less than the national average and a staggering 25% lower than the average of America’s other highly-populated metropolitan areas (Great Houston Partnership). This makes Houston one of the most affordable popular cities in the U.S., a place where residents enjoy access to world-class jobs, entertainment, culture, and more without sacrificing their budget.
We’re taking a closer look at how much it costs to live in Houston, TX, breaking it down into individual categories to give you a clear idea of life in this Lone Star State major city.
Housing costs in Houston
When you compare Houston’s cost of housing to those nationwide, Houston comes in nearly 15% lower than the U.S. average. The monthly cost of renting in Houston is similarly competitive, beating out other large cities in Texas and across America.
The average rent in Houston for a one-bedroom apartment is about $1,213, which is a 0.8% decrease year over year. You’ll find varying monthly rent prices depending on the type and size of property you choose, as well as which Houston neighborhoods you’re interested in moving to. For example:
- In popular urban neighborhoods such as Uptown – Galleria, Greater Heights, and the Medical Center, the average cost of rent ranges from $2,100 to $2,500.
- Up-and-coming communities like Washington Avenue – Memorial Park and Montrose offer more affordable rent prices, hovering around $1,400.
- In the suburbs of Houston, rentals are available for $900 to $1,000 in neighborhoods such as Spring Branch West, Briarforest, and Willowbrook.
- The most affordable places to rent in Houston include Greater Inwood, Fairbanks – Northwest Crossing, and the Meyerland Area, where you can find options averaging $700/month.
Homebuyers can explore an array of single-family homes for sale averaging around $325,000, compared to $415,000 in Dallas and $580,000 in Austin.
Food costs in Houston
What about the cost of groceries in Houston? And when you feel like going out to eat, how much can you expect to spend to dine at a restaurant?
The average grocery prices in Houston are about 8% lower than the national average, so many people relocating from out of state can see a decrease in their monthly food costs. Some examples of the low price of groceries in Houston include:
- A dozen Grade A eggs: $1.42
- A pound of ground beef: $4.05
- A loaf of whole wheat bread: $3.10
- A half-gallon of milk: $1.58
If dining out is more your style, you’ll be able to choose from an incredible variety of Houston restaurants, cafes, fine dining, and other options – and you’ll be able to do so on a budget. The average cost of a restaurant meal in Houston is about $32.53, which comes in a few dollars lower than the U.S. average of $35.65.
Utility costs in Houston
When it comes to the cost of living in Houston, utilities are one of the few expenses that Houstonites can end up paying more than the national average. However, that’s largely due to the hot summer weather in Houston, which requires you to utilize the air conditioning far more than you would in a cooler climate. Keep in mind that you probably won’t need to turn the heat on as often as residents in cold, snowy cities, so you’ll at least save some money there.
Houston uses a privatized energy distribution model, which gives residents the flexibility to “shop around” for energy providers. Some companies offer incentives for new and existing customers, including a free first month or free nights and weekends. There are also options to choose between a variable-rate or fixed-rate plan, so you’re free to customize your services to suit your lifestyle and budget.
Generally, utility costs in Houston are about 15-20% higher than the national average. Of course, your actual utility bills can vary, based on how budget-conscious you choose to be.
Transportation costs in Houston
Houston is mainly a commuter city, which means that most residents rely on their personal vehicles to get around town. Luckily, gas prices in Houston tend to be among the cheapest in America, and auto maintenance is also pretty affordable here. There are toll roads throughout the city, but you can maximize value with the automatic EZ TAG toll pass. Otherwise, plan to spend between 40 cents and $1.75 per highway toll.
If you’re moving to downtown Houston, you can cut costs by making smart use of public transportation. Walking and biking is also an option, with the city receiving a middle-ground walk score of 55 and bike score of 53. You can get a Day Pass for the METRORail for about $3, pay about $1.25 per ride, or get a digital METRO Q Fare Card to get the most out of local transit.
Overall, transportation costs in Houston are a few percentage points below the national average.
Healthcare costs in Houston
In the city of Houston, healthcare has a reputation for being top-notch. Here, you can access world-class healthcare facilities, including top-rated hospitals and medical providers. Even so, the cost of Houston healthcare is 1 to 2% cheaper than America’s average.
Granted, everyone is unique when it comes to their personal healthcare needs and expenses. But if you take a look at the cost of basic healthcare services in Houston, you can get a rough idea of what you’ll be spending. For example, a typical visit to a general care practitioner is around $90, a dentist visit is about $112, and an optometrist appointment runs around $120.
Goods and services costs in Houston
When you’re budgeting for miscellaneous items like clothing, entertainment, pet care, and personal care, plan to spend somewhat less than you would in other major U.S. cities. The cost of goods and services in Houston is just below the national average, but can be significantly cheaper than prices in large cities such as Miami, New York City, or Los Angeles.
Everything from your Friday night movie to your weekly dry cleaning will generally be reasonably priced. Here are a few quick examples to help you do the math:
- One movie theater ticket: $9 to 12, depending on the theater and level of service (for example, a dine-in theater vs. standard venue)
- A vet visit for your pet: $50 to $60
- Basic haircut services: $20
- Dry cleaning services: $10 to 12
- Monthly gym membership: $40
Having a comparatively low cost of goods and services comes in especially handy in Houston, because you’ll want to be able to take advantage of its mild climate and ample amenities. Of course, there are also many free things to do in Houston: explore the thousands of acres of scenic parkland, walk or jog on one of the city’s trails, or join the audience for the Miller Outdoor Theatre’s free performances.
Taxes in Houston
A major perk of living in Houston is that you won’t pay any state or local personal income tax. Come tax season, that will help you hold on to more of your hard-earned money. On the other side of the coin, Texas does have some of the highest property taxes in the country. The state average is approximately 1.690$ of your home’s assessed value, which is quite a bit higher than the national average of 1.070%.
Your exact tax rate depends on where in Houston you live. For example, the average county tax rate in Harris County is 2.030%, which equates to about $5,075 for every $250,000 in assessed home value.
But here’s something to keep in mind: if you opt to move into one of the great homes for rent in Houston, you won’t be responsible for property taxes – that’s a responsibility left to homeowners.
Houston sales tax totals 8.25%, representing the sum of state (6.25%), city (1%), and county (1%) tax rates.
In Texas, it is common for lawmakers to hold two sales tax holidays each year. This “no sales tax” day is intended to benefit both residents and businesses, spurring spending while lowering costs during high-need seasons. Typically, one Texas sales tax holiday occurs during the fall (back-to-school season) and a second one happens in the spring (general safety/emergency preparedness season).
How much do I need to earn to live in Houston?
As any financial expert will tell you, it’s wise to keep your housing expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) around 30% of your total household budget. That way, you can live comfortably, build your savings, be prepared for emergency expenses, and still enjoy a good quality of life. So, if you’re looking at one-bedroom apartments in Houston (and plan to live alone), your income would ideally be at least $48,520.
The basic living wage in Houston is $14.33 per hour. However, it’s important to understand that “living wage” is only the amount of money needed to live above the poverty threshold. It doesn’t account for any “extras,” such as entertainment or dining, and it also doesn’t include emergency or retirement savings.
Estimates for annual salaries in Houston often vary between sources, but the Census ACS 1-year survey reports that the Houston metro area has a median household income of just over $69,000. So, if your salary is near to or above the median monthly income, you’ll be able to cover your housing costs fairly well.
Living in Houston
For individuals that desire big-city amenities without an exorbitant price tag, the cost of living in Houston, TX makes it the perfect place to live. From monthly bills to everyday necessities, virtually every aspect of living in Houston is impressively affordable. Whether you’re relocating to Houston from another Texas city, U.S. state, or country, you can look forward to a high quality of life and low cost of living.
Searching for homes for rent in Houston? You’ll find an array of options to choose from, including the innovative communities crafted by Wan Bridge. Designed exclusively to serve the unique needs and preferences of tenants, our communities of houses for rent in Houston offer the ultimate in convenience, flexibility, and luxurious design. You’ll discover an easy way to enjoy all of the benefits of living in a single-family home without the unwanted responsibilities, all located in the most desirable parts of Houston.
Consider Relocating to Houston in 2022 and Moving to a Wan Bridge Community
If you’re planning a move to Houston, TX, there’s no better time than now. This Texas city has spent many years at the top of lists for the best big cities in the U.S., providing residents with the best of both worlds: a low cost of living and a fantastic qualify of life.
Wan Bridge develops and manages rental communities in Houston and across all of Texas, constructing high-quality, stylish homes designed with tenants in mind. Our master-planned communities feature amenities such as spacious parks, walking trails, pools, and many others, and each one is situated in a flourishing city or town in TX. Learn how to move to Houston in 2022 and get your dream home, all without giving up on the benefits of renting a house. Explore our Edison Park homes for rent in Houston, as well as other Wan Bridge communities to find your future home today!
Image Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock