The amount of money you need to live in Miami depends on many factors, including what part of town you live in, whether you have dependents to support and what kind of lifestyle you wish to maintain. While average costs for rent, food, transportation and so forth can provide a broad picture of what it costs to live in Miami, additional confounding variables exist, such as whether you are a student, a working professional or an unemployed job-seeker.
No matter who you are, to support yourself with even a modest lifestyle, you must be able to afford rent, utilities, food and transportation costs. The following analysis breaks down these costs as they apply to people in various stages of life in Miami.
Knowing the average cost in the city for rent, utilities, food and transportation is a good place to start. Still, it provides, at best, a very rough estimate of your monthly expenditures in Miami. This city, in particular, is especially hard to pinpoint because rents vary wildly from one part of town to another. On one end, there is South Beach, Brickell and Coconut Grove, all swanky, cosmopolitan areas with sky-high rents that call to mind the oppressive prices of Manhattan and West Hollywood. The city also features areas such as Overtown and Liberty City, where rents are low but crime rates are astronomical; many prospective residents rule these neighborhoods out immediately, despite the availability of cheap rentals, because of safety concerns.
As of October 2018, the average apartment in Miami rents for $1,819 per month. This might sound scary to a new resident, but remember, averages include the exorbitant rents found in the city's wealthiest and most exclusive neighborhoods. An Internet search for Miami rentals under $1,000 per month yields pages of results, so options exist for renters on tight budgets.
Expect varying utility bills based on the time of year. Powering your South Florida home or apartment during the winter is relatively cheap; on many days you do not need air conditioning, and you almost never need to run the heat. July and August are a different story. Average daytime highs exceed 90 degrees. Besides the heat, extreme humidity and a high dew point make the moisture in the air palpable. This necessitates running your air conditioning nearly 24 hours per day and can easily push summer utility bills above $200 per month, particularly if your home is large. For a 1,000 square-foot apartment in Miami, expect an average utility bill of $150 per month; it is higher during the summer and lower during the winter.
Food costs in Miami are slightly higher than the national average. As of 2018, a gallon of milk costs $3.70, a loaf of bread is $2.66, and a pound of chicken breasts costs $4.13. For residents who cook at home and avoid eating out, maintaining a healthy, fulfilling diet for $100 per week or less is realistic in Miami.
The cost of getting around Miami depends on your mode of transportation. For drivers, the biggest cost, other than the car itself, is insurance, which is well above the national average in Miami due to bad traffic, a high crime rate and extreme weather concerns. Gas prices exceed the national average, though not substantially. Taxis are also expensive. However, as of August 2015, Uber maintains a presence in Miami. A bus ticket to downtown costs $2.25, or you can purchase a monthly unlimited bus pass for $112.50.
Living in Miami for Students
Miami is home to several large universities, including the private University of Miami and the public Florida International University. A large supply of apartments exists around both campuses, including two-bedroom units for under $2,000. The cheapest way to live in Miami as a student is to have roommates, preferably several. Most apartments allow two residents per bedroom, meaning four people can share a two-bedroom apartment. That brings $2,000 in rent down to $500 per person.
A $150 utility bill would also be split four ways, making each resident's cost less than $40. Moreover, college students are famous for eating cheaply, so keeping food costs under $400 per month should be more than feasible. Transportation is largely a non-issue as long as you rent a place within walking distance to campus.
Assuming you can make a budget, stick to it and not be lured by Miami's extravagance, it is possible to live in the city as a student on a $1,500 monthly income. Students derive that income from on-campus or off-campus jobs, student loans, parental assistance or a combination of these funds.
Living in Miami for Professionals
As a professional living in Miami, you have likely moved beyond the roommate phase of life and wish to have a place of your own. To live in an average Miami one-bedroom apartment requires $2,000 per month for rent. Living alone, you are responsible for utilities, which should average $150 on your own. Food costs can be feasibly kept to $400 per month, though that amount allows for very few meals out. While taking the bus is an option to save on transportation costs, most Miami professionals drive to work. That means, as a professional, you should factor in another $150 per month for car insurance and $100 per month for gas, and this assumes you own your vehicle free and clear and do not have a car payment.
A monthly income of $3,500 allows you to meet these expenses and cover extraneous costs as they arise, including toiletries, auto repairs and health insurance copayments. This means it takes a yearly income of approximately $42,000 to live a modest life in an average Miami one-bedroom rental.
Living in Miami for Unemployed Job-Seekers
There is no reason to mince words. Unless you have a huge nest egg, Miami is nowhere you want to live when unemployed and looking for a job. First off, Florida caps unemployment benefits at $275 per week. That amount is insufficient to sustain even a bare-bones lifestyle in Miami with roommates, no car and ramen noodles for every meal. Second, Miami's unemployment rate has trended higher than the U.S. average since the Great Recession. As of August 2015, it sits at 6%, compared to the national rate of 5.5%. Better cities exist for finding a job. Lastly, Miami's corporate base is spread all over the sprawling metro area. Even if you land a job quickly, it is difficult to discern ahead of time whether your daily commute is to Aventura, a booming suburb north of town, Coral Gables to the south or even to Broward County.
Signing a lease in one area and then landing a job clear across town results in transportation costs much higher than expected. Additionally, commuting long distances in Miami's legendary traffic wears on a person quickly.