Cost of Living Forum

AmherstLifer @amherstlifer
Joined: 8 months ago

Cost of Living in Amherst for a Long-Time Resident

I’ve lived in Amherst for over 20 years and am pretty familiar with the costs here, but I’m curious to hear others’ perspectives. As someone who owns a modest 3-bedroom home and has a family of 4 (2 kids in elementary/middle school), what are the typical monthly expenses I should expect for:

Housing (mortgage/rent, utilities, etc.)
Food (groceries, dining out)
Transportation (car payments, gas, insurance, public transit)
Healthcare (insurance premiums, co-pays, prescriptions)
Child expenses (school, activities, childcare)
Entertainment, gym memberships, etc.

I’d also love to hear if others think Amherst is relatively affordable or expensive compared to other cities they’ve lived in. Any tips for keeping costs down are appreciated too! I earn around $65K before taxes, which is a pretty typical middle-class income here from what I understand.

Posts: 8

10 Replies

BrokeCollegeKid @brokecollegekid
Joined: 2 years ago

As a student at UMass Amherst, I can tell you the cost of living here is pretty brutal if you’re on a tight budget. Rent for even a crappy apartment is at least $600 for a room, or $1200+ for a one-bedroom. That’s pretty much my entire student loan disbursement for the semester. Food is also crazy expensive if you’re not just eating ramen every day. A meal at the dining hall is like $12 and that’s considered the “cheap” option.

I walk everywhere or take the free bus to save on transportation. Monthly car insurance for a basic used car is around $100 from what I’ve seen. Obviously healthcare isn’t a big concern for me yet, but I hear the copays around here are high.

My advice would be to stick to the bare minimum expenses if you’re a student here. It’s easy to go broke quickly with all the required fees, parking costs, etc. If you’re making decent money though, Amherst is a cute little town with lots to do. Just expect Northeast prices on pretty much everything.

Posts: 2
SoccerMomSarah @soccermomsarah
Joined: 8 months ago

I think housing is definitely the biggest expense for families in Amherst. We pay $2200 for a decent 3-bedroom apartment since we wanted to stay near the center of town. But there are more affordable rentals ($1600-1800 range) in some of the outer neighborhoods if you don’t mind a longer commute.

Groceries for a family of 4 easily runs us $800-1000 per month, but we try to eat pretty healthy meals. Dining out maybe adds another $200-300 to the food budget.

We just have one car payment around $300/month plus gas/insurance probably $150 or so. Car costs are thankfully lower with one kid still in daycare and one in elementary school – no uber/bus costs yet!

Speaking of childcare, our daycare tuition is $1400/month which is pretty standard here. Then we spend maybe $200/month on sports/activities for the older child. Healthcare is high too at $750/month for a family plan with decent benefits.

Overall I’d say a middle-class family probably needs $6-7K/month to live comfortably in Amherst, though there are ways to cut costs depending on your priorities. It’s an amazing place to raise kids with great schools and tons of family activities, but you definitely pay a premium!

Posts: 15
FrugalRetiree @frugalretiree
Joined: 9 months ago

My spouse and I are recent retirees who moved to Amherst to be closer to our grandkids and the university resources. Here’s a breakdown of our monthly costs as a childless couple:

Mortgage on our condo: $1800
Property taxes: $400
Utilities (electric, gas, cable/internet): $300
Groceries: $500
Dining out: $300
Netflix, etc: $50
Gas for one car: $100
Car insurance: $120
Healthcare premiums & co-pays: $400

Overall our core living expenses are around $4000/month, which is doable on our retirement income and social security of around $6000/month combined. We don’t go wild but can afford some luxuries like travel a couple times a year.

A few things that help keep costs down:
1) Condo means no yard maintenance fees
2) Not driving much and taking advantage of senior discounts
3) Splitting streaming services with the grandkids
4) Free UMass events and amenities

Amherst isn’t necessarily cheap, but it has a great mix of cultural attractions while still being relatively affordable for middle-class retirees compared to bigger cities. We’re happy to have landed here!

Posts: 12
MrsMoneypants @mrsmoneypants
Joined: 10 months ago

As a higher-income household, we chose to buy a larger single-family home in Amherst and it’s obviously one of our bigger expenses at around $4500/month for the mortgage. But we really wanted a nice place to host gatherings, have home offices, a yard for the dog, etc.

Utilities like electric tend to be high with heating/cooling costs averaging maybe $400/month over the year. Then another $100 or so for cable/internet. And we have 3 car loans/insurance policies totaling $1200.

Groceries for the 2 of us are probably $1000 or so since we tend to buy organic/fancy stuff. We also spend quite a bit on dining out – maybe $800 a month with drinks and adult children/friends joining.

For entertainment, we pay $250 for a fancy gym, $200 for night classes/activities, and $150 or so for movies, Uber, etc. Travel is another $500-1000/month for us when you account for flights, hotels, rental cars.

I’d say our total monthly costs are likely $10-12K on the higher end. It’s a lot for sure, but we make good money and like to live comfortably. Amherst has been a great place for us to settle down while still being close to arts/culture and having an energetic college town vibe.

Posts: 6
ECOwarrior @ecowarrior
Joined: 9 months ago

Amherst is definitely on the pricier side for living expenses in my experience, especially for housing and utilities given the cold winters and need for heating. But there are ways to make it more affordable if you’re determined to reduce your environmental impact.

My tips:
– Get a small, energy efficient apartment or look at co-housing to split rent/utilities
– Ditch the car if possible and use public transit, biking, walking
– Buy secondhand and really minimize consumption of new goods
– Grow some of your own food
– Take advantage of free entertainment like parks, libraries, UMass events

My monthly costs break down to:
Rent (in co-op): $600
Utilities: $50
Groceries: $200
Phone/Internet: $50
Transportation (bus pass): $30
Entertainment/Other: $100

It’s definitely a very minimal lifestyle, but allows me to get by on just $15K per year here in Amherst while reducing my carbon footprint. The local community is very eco-conscious too which helps reinforce sustainable habits. It’s not for everyone, but an affordable way to enjoy this great little city!

Posts: 24
PartyBroJosh @partybrojosh
Joined: 10 months ago

Yo, the cost of living in Amherst is pretty high if you want to live that baller lifestyle, but it’s 1000% worth it for us young studs! Here’s a look at my monthly expenses:

Rent: $1200 (split a cool 2BR apartment)
Utilities: $100ish
Groceries: $300 (ain’t cookin’ much)
Car payment: $250
Insurance: $120
Gas: $150
Booze: $300 (gotta keep the party going)
Eating out: $500 (afters + amherst bars)
Haircuts/grooming: $100
Entertainment: $200 (shows, ubers, etc)

I mean it’s pricey at around $3500 per month after taxes, but half that is just on going out and having a good time. You’re literally paying for the Amherst experience of being walking distance to all the bars, clubs, college scene, etc. Had to take on a ton of student debt to make this possible but noragrets!

As long as you can hustle and make decent money in your 20s, Amherst is an amazing place to live that lifestyle before settling down. The connections and experiences you make here are worth every penny if you ask me!

Posts: 6
JaneTheRNSingleMom @janethernsinglemom
Joined: 3 months ago

As a nurse raising two kids on my own in Amherst, I’ll admit the costs can be pretty brutal at times. Here’s a look at my typical monthly budget:

Rent: $1500 (2BR apt)
Utilities: $250
Groceries: $600
Gas/Car: $300
Health insurance: $400
Childcare: $800 (after-school care)
Phone/Internet: $120
Subscriptions: $50
Misc: $300

So we’re looking at around $4300 per month for absolute basics with no extras like entertainment, travel, etc. My take-home pay is about $4800 after taxes/deductions so it’s very very tight.

What helps is getting a discount on UMass tuition when my older one starts college in a couple years. And I don’t pay for parking since I take the free bus to the hospital. But childcare is a huge expense even with subsidies.

There’s just no way I could afford Amherst as a single parent without taking on a second job or side gig. The costs just add up so quickly for everything here – from haircuts to grocery delivery fees. But the proximity to high-quality public schools, parks, libraries, and a lively community makes it worth it for me to make sacrifices in other areas.

Posts: 12
KarenAndStanTheBoomerBuddies @karenandstantheboomerbuddies
Joined: 2 years ago

As retirees on a fixed income, Stan and I have found Amherst to be relatively affordable so far, but costs do keep creeping up! Here’s a breakdown of our combined monthly budget:

Mortgage: $1000
Property tax: $300
Utilities: $250
Groceries: $700
Dining out: $150
Gas/Car: $250
Cable/Internet: $120
Healthcare: $800
Flix/Entertainment: $100

So we’re looking at around $3700 per month for our basic living expenses. Not cheap by any means, but we were fortunate enough to buy our little ranch home years ago and pay off the mortgage.

What really stings are the ever-increasing property taxes, healthcare costs, and utilities for heating/cooling. We actually may need to go on a tight budget and dip into savings if costs keep rising at this rate.

But overall, Amherst has been very livable so far with its reasonably-priced amenities and senior discounts. Having the university and hospitals nearby is also a major plus for this stage of life. As long as the costs don’t get too out of control, we’re happy to be planted here for our golden years!

Posts: 22
BostonTransplantSarah @bostontransplantsarah
Joined: 2 years ago

Coming from Boston, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the overall cost of living in Amherst! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still expensive, but nothing like the insane prices in eastern Mass.

My partner and I were able to buy a decent 2BR condo for $300K after leaving the city. Our mortgage is only around $1500, which is a steal compared to Boston rents.

Groceries, dining out, entertainment all seem very reasonable – probably 25-30% less than Boston area prices. We spend maybe $800 total on food/entertainment per month.

Utilities are a bit higher than I expected at $300 per month with heating costs. Our health insurance is also pretty pricey at $750 for a family plan. Not having to pay insane parking fees or commuting costs is a relief though!

Overall, our total living costs are likely $3500-4000 per month, which allows us to actually save a decent amount on our $120K household income. We could never have achieved this in Boston without living like broke college students.

I’d say Amherst is very affordable compared to the big cities, while still offering a lot of amenities and quality of life you’d expect in an expensive area. We’re really happy with our move so far!

Posts: 11
AmherstNative @amherstnative
Joined: 2 years ago

Been born and raised in Amherst, so I’ve seen the cost of living changes over the decades. Here’s my take as a long-time local:

Housing costs have just skyrocketed in recent years, both for renting and owning. My childhood home that my parents bought for $80K back in the 70s is now valued at almost $500K! Rent for a basic 2BR apartment is now $1500 at minimum.

Utilities are also crazy high now, especially heating costs in the winter that can reach $400+ per month in an older, inefficient home.

But outside of housing, other costs like groceries, dining, transportation etc. have remained relatively affordable compared to bigger cities. A decent meal out is still under $20 per person. Gas and car insurance is reasonable.

Public services like parks, libraries, community centers are high quality and very affordable. And taking advantage of all the free UMass events and amenities is a must for locals!

My biggest advice is to lock in your housing situation, whether renting or buying, as soon as you can before prices rise more. As long as you have a decent income, the overall costs in Amherst are still very manageable compared to Boston or NYC. Just prepare for sticker shock on real estate!

Posts: 8

Detailed Price Insights of Abilene, TX

  • Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant – 20.00 $
  • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course – 65.00 $
  • McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) – 8.00 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) – 5.00 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 6.00 $
  • Cappuccino (regular) – 5.00 $
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) – 2.64 $
  • Water (0.33 liter bottle) – 1.97 $
  • Milk (regular), (1 liter) – 1.07 $
  • Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g) – 3.00 $
  • Rice (white), (1kg) – 2.00 $
  • Eggs (regular) (12) – 4.99 $
  • Local Cheese (1kg) – 13.82 $
  • Chicken Fillets (1kg) – 5.00 $
  • Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) – 14.89 $
  • Apples (1kg) – 4.76 $
  • Banana (1kg) – 1.39 $
  • Oranges (1kg) – 3.54 $
  • Tomato (1kg) – 4.68 $
  • Potato (1kg) – 1.00 $
  • Onion (1kg) – 1.00 $
  • Lettuce (1 head) – 1.00 $
  • Water (1.5 liter bottle) – 1.91 $
  • Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) – 10.75 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) – 1.99 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 2.81 $
  • Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) – 10.50 $
  • One-way Ticket (Local Transport) – 2.00 $
  • Monthly Pass (Regular Price) – 28.00 $
  • Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) – 5.00 $
  • Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff) – 1.39 $
  • Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff) – 27.50 $
  • Gasoline (1 liter) – 0.93 $
  • Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car) – 30,000.00 $
  • Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car) – 27,642.24 $
  • Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment – 183.68 $
  • Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10GB+ Data – 40.00 $
  • Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) – 61.61 $
  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat – 10.75 $
  • Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child – 1,400.00 $
  • International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child – 28,000.00 $
  • 1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) – 37.50 $
  • 1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …) – 46.37 $
  • 1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range) – 82.50 $
  • 1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes – 109.00 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre – 1,766.67 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre – 1,326.67 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre – 3,566.67 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre – 3,250.00 $
  • Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) – 3,833.33 $
  • Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate – 6.23
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