6 Tips for Living in Chicago on a Budget

Whether you’re moving to Chicago or have called it home for many years, the rising cost of living can cause a severe pinch on your wallet. You might be hesitant to cut back on your spending, but rest assured that Chicago on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of life! It’s about finding the right balance and making wise choices. 


This guide can help empower you with the knowledge to thrive in the Windy City without breaking the bank. Let’s explore a few ways to make the most of Chicago!


How to Live in Chicago on a Budget


1. Create a budget and stick to it.


Is Chicago expensive? According to Payscale.com, Chicago’s cost of living is 20% higher than the national average. Compare that to New York City, with a cost of living that’s a whopping 128% higher than the national average!


While Chicago may not be the most expensive city in the country, it’s still not objectively cheap to live there. When trying to find a new place to live or make your day-to-day easier, it’s crucial to create a budget and stick to it


Remember that we aren’t financial experts, but consider employing the 50/30/20 method. It’s a simple, popular budget framework that looks like this:


  1. Calculate your monthly income after taxes.


  1. Dedicate 50% of that to your necessities like housing, groceries, and insurance.


  1. Put 30% towards “wants,” which can vary from person to person.


  1. Allocate the remaining 20% to savings and debt repayment.


NerdWallet even has a handy calculator to help you determine those figures! Consider hiring a financial advisor to help you build and stick to your budget when in doubt.


2. Ditch the car and hop on the L!


The L trains and buses are your frugal friends, especially if you’re a chronic rideshare app user. Consider getting a monthly pass to use buses and the L to get around. If you have a car, swapping just a few weekly drives for public transit can save you money on gas and repairs. 


Plus, you can use your commute time to catch up on your reading list, study, or do any number of things that you can’t do when you’re behind the wheel. You may find that you leave the car behind more and more. At this point, you could consider selling it and saving substantially on insurance, gas, and upkeep!


3. Give the suburbs a try.


Affordable neighborhoods in Chicago may be outside of Chicago. If you find that the cost of living in the city is getting too high, consider trying suburban life. In fact, the low cost of living in Illinois, outside of Chicago, makes it the 15th most affordable state in the US!


Many Chicago suburbs, including Evanston, have a lower overall price tag than the city itself while still offering the culture, experiences, and proximity to city life you’re used to. Plus, you’ll still have access to public transportation for easily commuting in and out of Chicago without getting in the car.


4. Stick to budget-friendly activities.


Chicago has a wealth of free and low-cost activities! Embrace the city’s cultural offerings, parks, and events that make living in Chicago affordable and incredibly enriching. Consider swapping one of your regular splurges for something a little more wallet-friendly.


  • Pack a picnic and enjoy an afternoon at Millenium Park.


  • Trade a pricy spin class for a bike ride along the Lakefront Trail.


  • Take advantage of free admission days at the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, DuSable Black History Museum, and other museums in the Chicago area.


  • Enjoy the Chicago Jazz Festival, Grant Park Music Festival, and more free live music


5. Bring the party home with potlucks and movie nights.


Adhering to a budget doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with friends and family! While it can be great (and healthy!) to splurge on an expensive brunch now and then, consider bringing the party home occasionally. 


Host or organize a potluck, movie, or game night with your regular crew to reduce costs. There’s a good chance you aren’t the only one feeling the pinch, and others in your friend group will probably be grateful to change up the routine!


6. Don’t overspend on furnishing your home.


Sticking to a budget means cutting costs wherever you can. Decor and furniture are expensive and can eat into your finances quickly, especially if you try to keep up with the latest styles. Don’t overlook secondhand furniture when it comes time to buy new pieces! 


Used furniture can offer the same luxurious looks and quality you want without compromising on budget. Instead of spending your whole budget on one sofa, a used living room set could complete your space! Shopping used for must-have housewares like silverware and small appliances is also a great way to upgrade your space without breaking the bank.


CORT Furniture Outlet For Your Chicago-Area Furniture Needs

Living and working in Chicago on a budget can take time and effort to balance. Whether you’re moving for work, school, or just a change of pace, there’s a reason so many call Chicago home, and it’s possible to manage on a tight budget with the right decisions and planning.


When it comes to furnishing your Chicago home, turn to CORT Furniture Outlet. You can find up to 70% off items for every room of the house – from dream-worthy beds to unique decor and even electronics like televisions! CORT Furniture Outlet’s selection of lightly used furnishings and decor can turn your space into a cozy, comfortable home without breaking the bank. Shop online or in-store today!

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