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The Cost of Living Diaries: Owatonna, Minnesota

We got a local to dish on how much he spends on things like rent, a cup of coffee or a night out.

By Rebecca Treon on January 19, 2023

Central Park Coffee in Owatonna, MN
Courtesy of Owatonna Partners for Economic Development

Owatonna, Minnesota, is what some may call a best-kept secret: Consistently ranked as one of the most livable small towns in the country, it’s welcoming and diverse, and it offers affordability, great schools and a thriving business community with opportunities for entrepreneurs and career gains alike.

Owatonna’s charming and historic downtown is being revitalized with new restaurants and businesses, plus there are plenty of ways to be active.

There are tons of reasons why so many people want to know more about Owatonna — but how much does it really cost to live there? We asked a local to give us the scoop on everything from rent to groceries to date night.

Name: Eli Havelka

Age: 25

City: Owatonna, Minnesota

How long have you lived in Owatonna?

I grew up in Owatonna, left and went to St. John’s University in St. Cloud, and moved back about two years ago.

What’s your rent/mortgage in Owatonna?

Right now my girlfriend and I are renting from her parents and trying to save up to buy a house of our own. But if you look at some apartments, they’re a little more – $1,300 a month. Which is a little expensive, but not out of control. We looked outside of Minneapolis and that was like $1,500 bucks a month for an apartment. Owatonna costs a little bit less.

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

I work at an accounting firm in town called CliftonLarsonAllen, and Federated Insurance is one of the larger employers in town. It was the middle of the pandemic when I moved back, so things weren’t really moving as far as jobs go, but it’s getting better. It’s a bit competitive right now, but there are jobs out there if you’re looking for one. Some people I know also live in Owatonna and commute to St. Paul. I’m also part of a young professionals group that helps with networking and does workshops and social activities.

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

We like to cook and try out different recipes and I’m always able to find whatever I need at any store here. We have the normal grocery stores — Fareway, Hy-Vee and Cash Wise Foods, but we also have an Aldi. We typically spend about $80 a week for the two of us.

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

It’s fun. I like to golf, and there’s a public golf course in town where I play a lot.

Owatonna has a couple new breweries my girlfriend and I like to go to with a bunch of friends. We hang out at Mineral Springs Brewery. It’s just a few blocks from our house and that place is awesome. They have food trucks on Friday and Saturday nights, which is really fun. If we get food and are there for a few hours — a beer is about $6 or $7 — we’ll spend about $50. There are a handful of fun little bars and restaurants all over downtown, so there’s definitely stuff to do.

Golf in Owatonna, MN
Courtesy of Owatonna Partners for Economic Development

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

I live close to my office so I can walk down there pretty easily. Owatonna has less than 30,000 people so it’s not very big. Everything’s close — I can get to my parents’ house on the far side of town in 10 minutes. We do have a bus system and it would be easier to have a car, but I know there are people that use taxis or rideshares, too.

What does a nice date night cost in Owatonna?

If we go out for a nicer place for a special occasion, we’d spend about $75 with a tip — nothing too crazy. We go to Torey’s, which is a steakhouse-type place. A steak is about $30. I like an Old Fashioned once in a while; those run about $7. There’s also a new Italian restaurant that’s about to open that we’re excited about.

For an idea of the overall cost of living, how much does a cup of coffee cost? A nice cocktail?

I usually get an iced coffee with a couple of shots of espresso at Central Park Coffee, which is about $5. For cocktails, we like to go get a margarita at our favorite places, El Tequila and Plaza Morena Campestre Grill, and the margs are about $7.

What are your favorite things about Owatonna?

I love that it’s a small town where everyone’s really friendly and you get to know everyone. People will say hi when you walk past them. It’s a slower pace than a city like Minneapolis, and I like that. It’s pretty good here.

This article was sponsored by the Owatonna Partners for Economic Development.

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