From beer to barbecue to blues, Missouri has you covered when it comes to having a good time. There are so many reasons to make this scenic Midwestern state your home. For one thing, Missourans are incredibly kind and welcoming. You’ll be feeling like a local in no time.
For another, the arts, culture and history of this state are woefully overlooked. Missouri is the birthplace of famous musical styles like St. Louis Blues and Kansas City jazz. Many creative luminaries originally hail from Missouri, including the likes of Chuck Berry and Mark Twain. It’s the home of Anheuser-Busch, the biggest beer producer in the world, and is a hub for craft brewing. It’s also a foodie state, especially for the famed Kansas City barbecue. For nature lovers, Missouri’s many metropolitan cities are close to picturesque destinations like the Ozarks and the Missouri Rhineland.
All the above information would be reason enough to pack up and move to Missouri. But we haven’t even touched on the best part. Missouri is a very affordable state. Nearly all cost of living categories in Missouri falls below the national average. Some bigger cities and metro areas have higher prices, but by most “big city” standards, they’re entirely reasonable. So, whether you want to comfortably live close to nature or in a major city, Missouri could be the state for you. Here’s how the cost of living breaks down in different Missouri cities and metro areas around the state.
Missouri housing prices
Of our highlighted Missouri cities, nowhere exceeds the national average. With housing costs rising drastically around America, a state offering lower-than-average housing rates is a refreshing change of pace. There are plenty of affordable places to live around the state. Let’s zoom in and take a closer look at what you can expect to pay in average rents and home prices in some major Missouri cities, a cost of living, for sure.
Home to the University of Missouri, the mid-sized city of Columbia in central Missouri is big on the college town vibes. That also means it’s a very affordable place to live. Housing costs here are 14 percent lower than the national average.
You can find a one-bedroom apartment around town for $800, up 10 percent from last year. But, for just over $100 more, you can size up and rent a two-bedroom apartment instead. The price for two bedrooms is up just 6 percent from last year.
Housing prices here are the highest of our highlighted Missouri cities. Rising 17.6 percent from last year, homes in Columbia have a median sales price of $300,000. So, while there are many affordable aspects of living in a college town, taking out a mortgage isn’t one of them.
Kansas City in western Missouri is famously split between Missouri and neighboring Kansas City, KS. Here, you’ll have access to everything from world-class barbecue to excellent live music. However, with so much to offer residents, housing costs in this popular city are barely below the national average. The cost of housing in Kansas City is only 0.4 percent below the national average. But there are plenty of affordable Kansas City neighborhoods to choose from.
Renting a one-bedroom apartment costs an average of $1,212 per month, up 7 percent from last year. Up slightly from last year, two-bedroom apartments will set renters back $1,493.
For such a buzzy city, Kansas City’s housing market isn’t terribly high. Here, the median sales price for a house is only $278,000. This figure has risen 12.6 percent from last year. This makes it the second-highest city for home buying costs on our list.
This “Queen City of the Ozarks” in southwestern Missouri has the feel of a small town in a big city package. It’s Missouri’s third-largest city. The heart of town has great dining, shopping and museums. But just outside of town, you can explore an underground cave and go hiking or boating in local forests and lakes. Springfield has the lively feel of a larger city. But its friendly locals and a strong sense of community is one thing that screams “small town”. Another thing that screams smaller city? Attractively low rent prices.
Springfield is 25 percent below the national average for housing costs. A one-bedroom apartment costs $672 for the month, and a two-bedroom runs roughly $782. Both these rates are up 9 and 10 percent, respectively, from the previous year. So, there’s some small growth, but rates are still a steal.
Home prices are similarly appealing compared to the national average median sales price of $430,695. The median sales price for a home in Springfield is $244,000. However, this number has spiked 235.8 percent from last year. So, home prices here may not stay affordable forever.
Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, St. Louis is best known for cultural landmarks like its massive Arch. But it’s also an extremely friendly and safe city full of fun neighborhoods. Locals have access to everything from a robust craft beer scene to live sports like watching Cardinals games. As one of Missouri’s biggest and best-known cities, one would expect housing prices are up there. While they’re high by Missouri standards, they’re a steal elsewhere.
At 27.7 percent below the national average, St. Louis is actually the cheapest of our highlighted Missouri cities. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,131 per month. Renting a two-bedroom apartment jumps up to $1,384. However, with the exception of studio apartments, rental unit prices are down across the city. One-bedrooms are down 12 percent and two-bedrooms are down 8 percent.
If you want to buy a home in Missouri, St. Louis is a great place to do so. The median sales price for a house here is $213,650, which is up only 1.7 percent from 2021. So, whether you want to rent or buy, the Gateway to the West is apparently also the gateway to affordable big city prices.
Another cost of living in Missouri is food. Missouri comes in 12th place for the lowest food costs of all 50 states. Locals here spend between $2,400 and $2,800 per person annually for food. That comes out to between $200 and $233 per month. This ranks toward the low end of grocery spending around America. That means you’ll be paying even less for those delicious Missouri specialties like barbecue and St. Louis-style pizza.
On a city-by-city basis, the cost of food falls below the national average. Here’s how food spending in each city compares to the national average:
- Kansas City is 7.8 percent below the national average
- Springfield is 3.5 percent below the national average
- St. Louis is 3.3 percent below the national average
- Columbia is 2.3 percent below the national average
Out of these four major Missouri cities, Kansas City is where you’ll be paying the least for your grocery bill. But specific food costs can still vary by city. Even if one city has an overall lower rate for food, some items are more expensive. For example, in Kansas City, the price for a dozen eggs is $1.70. This is the highest of the four cities. The lowest price for a dozen eggs are found in Columbia at $1.36. As another example, a half-gallon of milk in Springfield will set you back $2.44. For this particular food item, that’s the highest you’ll pay in these four cities. The lowest is $1.89 in Springfield.
Food costs also come into play when dining out. St. Louis and Kansas City, in particular, are major foodie cities. Going out for date night to a nice sit-down restaurant for a three-course meal is higher in both St. Louis and Kansas City than in other cities around the state. You’ll be paying around $70 in Kansas City and $60 in St. Louis. In Springfield and Columbia, the same meal would only cost $50.
The biggest parts of a monthly utility budget go to electricity, water and internet, costs of living in Missouri. One downside of living in Missouri is that 74 percent of its electricity comes from coal-powered plants. However, renewable energy is on the rise, specifically wind power. So, more eco-friendly utilities may soon be more widely available around the state. But, it’s also hard to complain when utility costs are cheaper and below the national average. Here’s how the cost of utilities in different Missouri cities compares to the national average:
- Springfield is 13.2 percent below the national average
- St. Louis is 4.4 percent below the national average
- Columbia is 2.9 percent below the national average
- Kansas City is 2.6 percent above the national average
Kansas City is the most expensive city for utility costs. Here, you’ll be paying $178.88 for total energy costs compared to $130.64 in Springfield. For internet, you’ll pay the most in Springfield, though. Getting 60 megabits per second comes with a price tag of $74.12. But in St. Louis, internet only costs $58.50. Utility costs can vary widely by city.
In keeping with its trademark-friendly and helpful image, Missouri offers public transportation throughout the state. Major cities and metro areas have extensive systems, and even rural communities have access to some form of mass transit. Missouri only notes that for rural areas, service may have limited hours and availability. So, no matter where you live in the state, there are ways to get around that don’t require a car.
Another benefit is that the cost of living in Missouri for transportation overall is lower than the national average. It’s a great way to save more money on gas, car insurance, vehicle repairs and other expenses related to owning a car. Of these four Missouri cities, St. Louis has the lowest transportation costs:
- St. Louis is 16.5 percent below the national average
- Kansas City is 13.4 percent below the national average
- Springfield is 7.5 percent below the national average
- Columbia is 4.2 percent below the national average
Let’s look into how three of Missouri’s most extensive public transportation systems operate and what they cost.
Sangamon Mass Transit District in Springfield
Servicing Springfield and the greater Springfield area in Sangamon County, the SMTD operates 17 fixed bus routes. A single adult fare is $1.25, with free transfers included when you request a transfer ticket. The price for a day pass is $3.00. Instead of a flat monthly pass, you can get 20 rides for $20.
Using public transit or having a car is important for getting around Springfield with ease. The city’s walk score is 44, and its bike score is 57. Outside of the downtown and city center areas, it’s not the most walkable small city.
Metro in St. Louis
Consisting of bus routes and light rail, Metro in St. Louis provides service to the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Riders have 77 different bus routes to choose from, as well as two light rail lines. Respectively, the MetroBus and MetroLink.
Starting fare for a single ride is $1 for the bus and $2.50 for rail. Purchasing a monthly pass with access to the entire system is $78.
Even though Metro provides an affordable and efficient way to get around town, there are many places you can get to in St. Louis on foot or by bike. With a walk score of 60 and a bike score of 52, there are plenty of areas you can navigate without needing a car.
RideKC in Kansas City
Kansas City gets its public transit through RideKC, which provides a blend of bus and street car transportation. What is the cost to use this service? Zero. Through 2023, RideKC buses and the street car have zero fares. So, if you’re looking to save on commuting or getting around town, this is the place to do so.
However, Kansas City’s public transportation only has a transit score of 37. Its walk and bike scores are similarly low at 48 and 43, respectively. Even though certain areas of Kansas City are walkable or bikeable, a car is necessary to get around town.
It’s easy to look at the lower-than-national-average cost of living figures for MIssouri and get excited about the potential savings. But, there’s one cost of living category that comes with a huge asterisk. Healthcare is a very difficult category to quantify because it varies so widely. Particular regions or states may have more expensive healthcare due to environmental factors like air quality.
From person to person, healthcare costs vary widely, too. Your neighbor may pay much more for their doctor’s visits because they have a preexisting condition. Other factors that can drive up a person’s healthcare costs are prescription drug prices, insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures.
That’s why healthcare averages should always be viewed with a grain of salt. But, in general, the cost of healthcare in many Missouri cities falls under the national average:
- Kansas City is 9.7 percent below the national average
- St. Louis is 8.9 percent below the national average
- Columbia is 8.2 percent below the national average
- Springfield is 1.7 percent above the national average
Kansas City has the lowest overall percentage of the four highlighted cities. Going to the doctor’s office there for a check-up costs $89.77. But this is a perfect illustration of the fact that healthcare is so subjective. Even though Kansas City has the lowest average, some individual costs are higher. A doctor’s visit actually costs less in St. Louis at $87.28. On the flip side, a bottle of Ibuprofen in St. Louis costs $11.91 compared to $9.55 in Columbia.
Unless you have specific healthcare needs, it’s a good idea to visit your doctors and dentist at least once a year. If you neglect your health in the short term to save money, it may backfire in the long term. So, it’s always better to get regular check-ups.
Goods and services prices
Say you went out for a heaping plate of delicious Kansas City barbecue and accidentally spilled some tangy barbecue sauce on your shirt. You take it into the dry cleaners to get the stain treated and cleaned. Or, perhaps the shirt is beyond repair and you need to go get a new one. These goods and services also are a part of how much you spend each month as part of your cost of living expenses in Missouri.
Some expenditures are more important, like getting your haircut. Others are more about leisure and enjoyment, like going to the movies. Either way, they all contribute to a well-balanced, happy life. But, all these little items and services do add up, so you need to watch your spending.
Similar to most other costs of living categories in Missouri, miscellaneous goods and services fall below the national average. The only exception is Columbia, which just peeks over the top of the national average:
- St. Louis is 12.6 percent below the national average
- Springfield is 9.1 percent below the national average
- Kansas City is 8.7 percent below the national average
- Columbia is 3 percent above the national average
You may find yourself paying more or less for particular items that do or don’t reflect the city’s overall higher or lower averages. Take the dry cleaning, for example. At its most expensive rate around Missouri, going to the dry cleaners costs $15.75 in Columbia. In St. Louis, it’s $13.44. But that’s not even the cheapest it gets. The cheapest is in Springfield at $12.35. In another example, Kansas City has the highest movie ticket prices at $11.61. In Columbia, they’re $10.74.
With such friendly residents and safe cities, Missouri is a very family-friendly state. So, you may find yourself in need of childcare. This monthly expense varies widely across the state. For sending your child to a full month of private preschool or kindergarten, the most expensive city is St. Louis. There, you’ll be shelling out $1,126.33 each month. Springfield offers the cheapest childcare, at a worryingly round number of $666.67.
Taxes in Missouri
Missouri has a statewide sales tax rate of 4.225 percent. If you go out and spend $1,000 on a Kansas City barbecue or tickets to fabulous musical shows, $42.25 goes to taxes.
But, cities and counties do add their own sales tax to the statewide rate. In these cities, you’ll be paying more in sales tax:
- Columbia has a combined tax rate of 7.975 percent
- Springfield has a combined tax rate of 8.1 percent
- Kansas City has a combined tax rate of 8.85 percent
- St. Louis has a combined tax rate of 9.679 percent
While Missouri’s statewide sales tax is reasonable, those city and county taxes definitely add up. You’ll be paying the most in additional sales tax living in St. Louis. For every $1,000 you spend, $96 will go to taxes.
How much do I need to earn to live in Missouri?
To comfortably live in any given place, experts recommend that you only spend 30 percent of your gross monthly income on rent. That leaves sufficient funds left over for groceries, savings, fun activities and more. In order to only spend 30 percent of your monthly budget on housing based on Missouri’s average rent of $1,245 for a one-bedroom apartment, you should make around $49,800 annually. That breaks down to $4,150 per month.
Since Missouri’s median household income is $57,290, most people can reasonably afford to live in Missouri.
If you’re unsure which Missouri cities could fit your budget, use our handy rent calculator to find out.
Living in Missouri
From the low cost of living to beautiful landscapes and friendly neighbors, there are so many reasons to consider Missouri for your next home base. You’ll be paying below the national average in most major categories like housing and groceries. You have a wide range of types of cities to decide between, from intimate smaller cities to sprawling metropolises. All kinds of lifestyles, price ranges and living experiences are on the table in Missouri.
The Cost of Living Index comes from coli.org.
The rent information included in this summary is based on a calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Rent. as of June 2022.
Rent prices are for illustrative purposes only. This information does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.