Miami Moving Guide: Living in Miami on a Budget

With winter temperatures that seldom dip below 60 degrees, a thriving business climate, no state income tax, and leisure activities galore, it’s easy to see why people want to move to this place, aptly nicknamed the Magic City. But how much does it cost to live in Miami? From the heated real estate market to non-stop entertainment, you may be wondering if you can afford all that sunshine and fun.  While the answer depends on your personal finances, this guide will explore Miami’s cost of living and share some of our best tips for how to save money if you choose to make this your home.

Cost of Living in Miami

If you’re looking for the cheapest place to live in Florida, Miami isn’t your best bet. You’ll find cities like Tampa or Jacksonville, as well as most other areas in the state to be more affordable. That said, the cost of living in Miami is only about 15% higher than the national average, so depending on where you’re moving from, the city may not seem out of your range. To compare costs in Miami to where you live now, check out NerdWallet’s Cost of Living Calculator

Here are a few snapshots of what to expect in your budget when you move to Miami:

  • Rent: According to RentCafé’s national study, the average rent in the United States is $1,442 per month. By comparison, average monthly rent in Miami is just over $1,700. Whether or not this feels like a huge expense will depend on where you’re moving from. Just about any other city in Florida? You’ll be feeling the jump. But if you’re moving south from an east coast city like Washington, DC, New York, or Boston, housing costs in Miami might feel like a relief.
  • Utilities: Surprisingly, utilities in Miami are a touch lower than the national average. According to Smart Asset, the average utility bill for a 915 square foot apartment will run you about $115, a little less than $40 cheaper than the national average. That bill includes basic electricity, garbage service, water, and heating.
  • Transportation: If you’re taking public transit in Miami, you should know that a one-way fare on the bus or MetroRail is $2.25 — cheaper than some larger cities. But transit is far more limited than in most other major cities (except in Florida), so most residents need a car.
  • Food: Miami’s food costs are just a bit higher than the national average, with Miamians spending about $35 more per month on groceries.

Choose Affordable Neighborhoods in Miami

Since rent will be your biggest expense while you’re living in Miami, we’ll start here. Before you even make the move to Miami, take into account that the neighborhood you choose will play a major role in determining your rent. Central parts of the city, beach areas, and business centers tend to be quite expensive, with rents soaring past $2,300 a month in hot parts of Miami. By the same token, if you’re willing to settle for a longer commute or less access to certain amenities, you can find housing for closer to $1,500 a month. You can use this interactive tool from the Miami Herald to identify specific zip codes and neighborhoods that match your housing budget for renting or buying. Here are a few of our favorite neighborhoods with a lower price point.

  • Coconut Grove: A lovely and popular neighborhood, “The Grove” is a laid-back neighborhood historically home to artists and writers. You’ll love how pedestrian-friendly Coconut Grove is, especially with the beautiful gardens and art deco residences to explore. Rent in Coconut Grove is on par with Miami’s average, but it’s possible to find apartments in this area closer to $1,600 per month.
  • Kendall: A comfortable suburb a bit removed from the wilder aspects of Miami, Kendall is a fantastic option if you’re looking to save for a mortgage or pay off loans. Bonus? It’s one of the safest neighborhoods in Miami. The community is small so an “average” rent is hard to pinpoint, but you can find a 1-bedroom apartment for around $1,500 a month.
  • Little Havana: The epicenter of Miami’s Cuban culture, Little Havana is an area full of history, where many Cuban refugees settled in Florida. Anchored by a strong community feel and residents who love their neighborhood, Little Havana is located west of the downtown area and features fantastic food and drinks. Average rents in Little Havana vary by area, but the average 1-bedroom rents for $1,400 per month.
  • Suburbs: As you might expect, the further away from the heart of the city and the beach you get, the lower your rent becomes. In addition to Kendall, areas like Hialeah, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, and Miramar all offer less accessibility, but they do offer rents in the $1,400 range. If you’re working from home or not invested in staying close to the heart of the city, you’ll still enjoy the Miami weather.

In addition to your neighborhood, here are a couple of other ways to save on rent in Miami:

Enlist the help of a realtor. If you’re on the lookout for cheap apartments in Miami, one of the best things about renting here is that you can use a realtor for free, because the owner of the building pays all fees. So, there’s really no downside! The upside, among many things, is that you’ll be working with a professional who is familiar with different parts of Miami, and who can help you find the best deal for you.

Share expenses with a roommate. If you’re really looking to save wisely, consider not living solo in Miami. Instead of being responsible for the entire cost of rent, deposits, utilities, internet and other expenses, you can split the expenses with a roommate or two. You may be able to afford a nicer home in a more desirable neighborhood, as each of you will be paying for less of the pie.

Want to live in Miami on the cheap?

Beyond your rent and basic expenses, spending opportunities abound in a city like Miami, from having a cocktail (or two) at a South Beach bar to buying new tropical wear on Miracle Mile. So how can you have fun in Miami without constantly being on the verge of going broke, or struggling to pay the bills? These tips will help you save money while still enjoying the good life in Miami.

  • Be a wise grocery shopper. All grocery stores are not created equal! Take the time during your first few weeks in Miami to get the lay of the land in the grocery aisles at various stores near you. Aldi and Costco, well-known for their affordable prices and healthy options, have several locations in the Miami area.  Figuring out who has the best deals on produce, meat, dry goods, and dairy can save you big time in the long run. The number one thing to avoid? Don’t just buy everything at the nearest upscale grocer just because it’s convenient.
  • Enjoy free and discounted entertainment. Miami is full of fantastic and interesting things to do — many of which are free or offer discounts. For instance, you’ll find free live concerts every day and evening at Marina Stage at Bayside Marketplace on Biscayne Bay. Just be sure to bring a water bottle and snacks, so you’re not too tempted to splurge at one of the restaurants or bars. On a breezy day, all you need to do is find a spot to pull over and watch the kitesurfers ride the wind and waves on Biscayne Bay.
  • For art and culture, you can’t beat the Museum Pass Program, available through the Miami-Dade Public Library System, which offers free passes to any of 14 museums and cultural attractions – including Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Deering Estate, and even the Miami Zoo! In addition, many of Miami’s museums and other cultural activities offer weekly or monthly days that are free or discounted for the public to enjoy. If you’re just into taking in the sights and sounds, you’ll find Miami is a paradise for people-watching. Top spots include Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road Mall in South Miami Beach, Wynwood Arts District, and CocoWalk in Coconut Grove.
  • Get outside. If you’re moving to Miami for the fantastic weather, take advantage of it! Instead of hitting a movie at the megaplex, pack a picnic or drink to go and take a stroll on the beach. Rather than paying each month for a pricy gym membership, take advantage of Miami’s green spaces, parks, and beach boardwalks for your run. Check out this complete guide to Miami-Dade County’s impressive array of parks and recreation activities. They even have a full list of Eco Adventures, including the Critical Eco Splash at Matheson Hammock Park, where volunteers can reserve a tandem kayak for just $5 per person and help to clean up the waterway.  
  • Choose transit or biking over driving. We’re not going to kid you. Getting around in Miami without a car isn’t easy. But depending on your neighborhood and your work location, opting to take public transportation or riding a bike may be a much more cost-effective option than choosing to endure a long commute. Test out a few options, do the math, and commit to a routine that will save you money.

Moving to Miami: It’s Possible to Live on a Budget!

Living on a budget is challenging in any city, but with Miami’s outstanding weather and free recreation and entertainment opportunities, you can make it work in the Magic City.

New to Miami or considering making the move? Check out our guides to Miami neighborhoods and finding an apartment in Miami