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The Cost of Living Diaries: Boise, ID

How much does it cost to live in Boise? We got a local to tell us all the details.

By Sarah Von Bargen on August 28, 2019

Boise is consistently one of the most popular cities featured on Livability. A beautiful, welcoming, rapidly growing city that was recently named #1 on our Top 100 Best Places to Live in America, there are tons of reasons why so many people want to know more about living in Boise. So, how much does it really cost to live there? We asked a local to give us the scoop on everything from rent to lattes to childcare.

Name: Brooke 
Age:  27 
City: Boise, Idaho

How long have you lived in Boise?

My husband and I have lived in Boise just over a year and a half. We moved in January 2018 from Minnesota to be closer to the mountains. We love camping and hiking.

What’s your rent/mortgage in Boise?

We live in a new two-bedroom apartment and pay about $1450 plus utilities. Housing prices have spiked the last few years because of population growth and strong economy, so house-hunting isn’t an option for us right now. 

Who are the main employers in Boise? Are jobs relatively easy to find?

The top employers in Boise are the hospitals: St. Lukes and Saint Alphonsus. Boise has a large tech scene including Micron and HP, as well as some smaller tech companies. Boise State University is located near downtown and is responsible for a lot of jobs. 

How’s the access to grocery stores and food in Boise? Are you going to be able to find things like quinoa and gluten-free pizzas at your local grocery store?

There are plenty of grocery stores, with our main one, Albertsons, being headquartered in Boise. Some of the newer Albertsons are incredible – huge selection, plenty of beer and wine aisles, home decor, great bakery and cheese departments and restaurants inside it. I could live there. 

Plus, there is the Boise Co-op, Whole Foods, and farmers’ markets. You can definitely find plenty of gluten/dairy-free foods or vegan items in most grocery stores. 

8 Reasons to Move to Boise Right Now

There are also some really great restaurants in Boise, most of them featuring patio and sidewalk seating. Because we have a mild climate, patio season is April through October. 

Obviously living up to the potato reputation we have The Boise Fry Company where you can pick your potato and style of fry, along with a whole row of different fry sauces. There are some fun restaurants along the Boise River too, you can ride your bike on the Greenbelt and then stop for dinner or a drink.

What’s it like to be a child-free adult in Boise? 

Boise is awesome for child-free adults! We have a pretty small downtown but it has lots of great bars, breweries and restaurants. The downtown also features a cool alleyway named Freak Alley where artists have painted the backs of buildings. 

Boise hosts a lot of festivals throughout the year including Tree Fort Music Festival and concerts at Bogus Basin Ski Resort. There are plenty of outdoor activities too, including floating the river or hiking in the foothills.

Boise ID
Boise / Courtesy of Allison Mickel under a CC 2.0 license.

You’re not retirement age, but do you have any insights into how elder or handicapped-friendly Boise is?

I would say Boise is a great place to retire to, you still get four seasons but winter is mild. I hear about a lot of older parents whose kids moved out here and they eventually followed when they’ve retired. 

How walkable is Boise? Is there a good public transit system?

Boise has a 26-mile Greenbelt along both sides of Boise River. It spans the entire city so it’s perfect for walking or biking. We have a lot of bike lanes as well so it’s a great option for commuting. We have an inexpensive bus system and lots of those new scooters throughout the city.

What does a nice date night cost in Boise?

For a fancy date night, we’d go to Barbacoa. They’re known for their open-fire grilled steaks, which you can continue to cook at your table. They have fun cocktails too, usually including a huckleberry mojito or mule. Idaho loves its huckleberries! For drinks, two dinners and either an appetizer or dessert, it would probably cost $150 after tip.

If we want a fancy date night for a little less, we go to Caffe Luciano’s for wine and flatbreads, which would run us about $50. It’s right on the river, so it’s a beautiful view and fun to sit out on the patio and people watch. Plus, they have really good cheese plates!

Boise ID
Boise / Courtesy of Allison Mickel under a CC 2.0 license.

How diverse – ethnically, politically, religiously, economically – is Boise?

Idaho is mostly Caucasian and conservative but there is a little more diversity within Boise. We actually have a large Basque population from the Basque area in France and Spain, and there’s a whole block downtown dedicated to their restaurants and history. Boise also is a welcoming city for refugees.

To give us an idea of the overall cost of living – how much does a nice, fancy cup of coffee cost? A nice cocktail?

I usually grab a latte from Flying M, an eclectic coffee shop and staple of downtown Boise, and it costs me $4.50. Going out for drinks, we head to Barbacoa where a cocktail will be $10-$12. 

What are your absolute favorite things about Boise? 

There are so many outdoor activities to choose from! You can go biking on the Boise Greenbelt, head over to Quinn’s Pond to go paddleboarding, or try river surfing at the River Park. You can head up to Bogus Basin to go skiing in the winter or mountain biking in the summer, explore the foothills or go hiking on great trails close to the city.

Why Boise, Idaho Is a Top 100 Best Place to Live

Plus, there’s rafting, rock-climbing and fly-fishing. We moved here because of all these outdoor adventure opportunities and we love it. It’s easy to get some friends together and go hiking!

Most cities have a ‘catch’ – San Francisco has a ridiculous cost of living, LA has terrible traffic, NYC has garbage bags lining the sidewalk. What’s the ‘catch’ with Boise? 

The cost of housing in Boise is rough right now; house prices skyrocketing way beyond value. If you find something you have to act fast. And if you move here, just be prepared to tell Boise-natives that you’re not from California!

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