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What is the Cost Of Living in Montana?

If you have been dreaming of a more relaxed way of life, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, you’ve probably thought about moving to a place like Montana. A state with fewer people, more open space, and a casual way of life, is the cure for today’s hectic lives.

Montana certainly fits that description perfectly. It is the fourth-largest state by land area in the United States, yet the population of Montana is just over 1 million people, making it the 48th most densely populated state. There are actually more cows in Montana than people.

Cost of Living in Montana

According to MERIC Data as of the start of 2022, Montana ranks 34th in the country when assessing the cost of living. This may seem high when compared to neighboring Wyoming which ranks 21st. However, certain towns are more expensive than others, with the highest cost of living in Montana being found in Bigfork, Hamilton, and Whitefish.

Below we will give you a breakdown of the cost of living in Montana so you know what to expect when moving:

where to stay in whitefish

Montana Income and Taxes

The first thing you need to consider when looking at the cost of living in Montana is the wages and taxes. This will tell you whether moving to Montana is practical for you and your family, based on your expected bills.

The average annual salary in Montana is around $55,000 per year or about $27 per hour, before taxes. While this salary may be considered low in some other parts of the United States, in Montana it is a fairly reasonable salary, and considering the cost of housing and other expenses (we’ll cover this later), this can be a comfortable salary for a family of four.

Montana is one of the few states that does not have a state sales tax, and the state income tax is also very low, so residents in Montana bring home more pay, and don’t have to pay as much for things like food and clothing.

housing and rent in montana

Housing and Rent in Montana

For most people looking to move to a new place, housing costs are the biggest consideration. One of the things that you should consider when you are looking at moving to Montana is the availability of affordable housing.

While Montana has fewer people, this also means that there are fewer homes available, due to lower demands historically.

According to the US Census Bureau, the median home price in Montana in 2019 dollars was $230,000. And the median rent was listed at $810 per month.

Compared to other places in the United States, housing and rent costs are notedly lower. However, the housing price in Montana is higher than the United States average.

In the last few years, Montana’s larger cities have seen an influx of new residents, making affordable housing harder to find, and the stock of available homes and apartments has also decreased. For larger communities, this has pushed the home and rent prices up.

Other Expenses

We took a broad look at some of the other basic expenses that play into the cost of living in Montana. These include the cost of groceries and utilities because everyone needs to eat and lights, heat, and water are pretty nice to have too.

We found that in two categories; utilities and transportation, the average costs to consumers in Montana were substantially lower than in other parts of the US. Transportation costs include insurance rates, gas prices, and the cost of purchasing and maintaining a vehicle.

In Montana, residents pay about 25% less than other parts of the US to have and maintain a vehicle. When it comes to utilities (electric, natural gas, water, trash, and internet/phone/cable) Montana residents pay about 10% less than other states.

When it comes to buying food, Montana is pretty similar to the rest of the United States with food prices between 5% below average to about 3% above the average.

This variability has a lot to do with the fact that most food products are shipped to Montana, and with a short growing season the availability of locally grown produce is limited.

 

Affordability by City

Over the last few years, larger communities like Missoula, Billings, and Bozeman have seen spikes in housing prices that other communities aren’t experiencing.

This means that for these communities the cost of living is higher, and you’ll need to make more to live in these cities.

If you are really looking for the best combination of a quiet community and an affordable cost of living, consider one of Montana’s smaller cities or towns.

bozeman

Quick Rundown of Cost of Living in Montana

To give you a rough idea of the cost of living in Montana, we have included a comparison of Big Sky Country compared to the national state average. 

In this chart, the median is listed at 100, so anything below that number indicates a below-average cost of living. Bear in mind, that this info was last updated in 2019 with the exception of house costs which has been updated as of 2021.

Cost of Living Montana USA
Grocery 99.6 100
Housing 100.4 100
Median House Cost $353,700 $291,700
Health 100.2 100
Utilities 90.7 100
Transportation 75.2 100
Misc. 98 100

100 = The National Average

Overall Score

While your situation may vary, when calculating percentages we can calculate a rough overall score for the cost of living in Montana.

  • Housing  – 30%
  • Food and Groceries – 15%
  • Transportation – 10%
  • Utilities 7%
  • Misc. (Clothing, Entertainment, and Services) – 3.2%

From this, we get an overall score of 94, which is about 6% less than the national average. For families that are looking to move to Montana for a more affordable way of life, this is good news. However, keep in mind that the cost of living in Montana will vary depending on the city.

For a complete breakdown of various costs of items, you can find more information here.

downtown bozeman

Average Rent Costs 

If you are looking to rent in Montana, it is also important to consider the average per area. Population plays a big part in the cost of renting but depending on your reasons for looking to move, whether it be recreation, retiring, or schooling, you may find rental costs playing a factor in your decision.

Average numbers as of 2021.

City Average 1 Bedroom Rent Average 2 Bedroom Rent
Butte-Silver Bow $695 $925
Great Falls $695 $995
Billings $800 $1,095
Missoula $1,073 $1,375
Bozeman $1,788 $2,150

Final Thoughts

The cost of Living in Montana certainly makes it an interesting prospect for moving, combine this with the priceless beauty of nature throughout the area and the state holds a lot of appeal for both young couples and families.

At the same time, the one area where Montana proves to be a bit more expensive, housing, may deter some new homeowners from choosing Big Sky Country.

There is certainly a lot to consider before making any big life change, but Montana has plenty of elements that are sure to appeal to lovers of the outdoors who are concerned about budget.

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