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The Cost of Living Battle: Washington vs. Idaho

While Seattle ranks as the fifth most expensive American city to live in, its economy declined in 2020 and is projected to continue that decline through 2021 according to the mayor’s August 10, 2020 budget memo. Seattle’s population exploded in the previous decade making the city the fastest growing in the U.S., but many of its citizens are finding it more and more hostile to the middle class.

A lot of Seattleites are looking to neighboring states in an effort to improve their standard of living without compromising their lifestyles and career opportunities. A great example is the trend to relocate to Idaho, and Boise in particular. Although Boise’s population is on the rise, it still has less than a third of Seattle’s. 

Both cities sit on nearly the same amount of land. Seattle has a land acreage of 83.8, and Boise’s land acreage is 84.7. This means there are a lot less people trying to occupy the same space in Boise.

Let’s take a look at how these two capital cities compare in other important areas.

Cost of Living Comparison 

Before you consider any move, you need to make sure it makes sense economically. 

  • A family living in Seattle with a combined income of $185,455 would only have to make $97,000 to maintain the same lifestyle in Boise.
  • It costs 66.3% more to live in Seattle than it does in Boise. (This percentage assumes homeownership and does not take child care or taxes into consideration)
  • A comparable home will cost 135% more in Seattle.
  • Groceries are 15.9% higher in Seattle.
  • Transportation costs 62.7% more in Seattle.
  • Utilities are 23.6% cheaper in Seattle.
  • Healthcare is 6.5% less expensive in Seattle.
  • Miscellaneous items like entertainment, clothing, and repairs are 22.8% more expensive in Seattle.
  • The property tax rate in Seattle is 1.01%. In Boise, you will pay an effective tax rate of 0.75%.
  • The state sales tax in Washington is 10.1%. The state sales tax in Idaho is 6%.

Real Estate Comparison 

Before you move, you need to know that you can maintain your standard of living in a new location. 

  • The median cost for a home in Seattle is $714,400. In Boise you can buy a comparable home for $303,100. That’s a difference of $411,300!
  • Boise real estate is scorching. Mortgage rates are low and the housing supply is limited. The median sale price for a new home has increased by 17.2% according to Boise Regional Realtors.
  • As of October 2020, the average for a one bedroom apartment in Seattle was $1,830 and $2,558 for a two bedroom.
  • As of February 2020, the average 881 square foot apartment in Boise rented for $1,194. That’s up 12% from the previous year.

(Cost of living data from and various other real estate websites)

Career Opportunity Comparison 

Prior to a move, you must feel confident that you will have an opportunity to advance your career in the new city.

  • According to the University of Washington, marketing management, technical writing, and software development top the list of in-demand jobs in Seattle. Software developers make a median salary of $128,200 in Washington.
  • According to, Boise ranked tenth best in the country for jobs. The city beats Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Denver. The same report ranked Boise third in the country for highest employment growth. 
  • Web development, stylist, and home health are among the top in-demand jobs in Boise according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Labor.
  • The average salary in Boise for a web developer is $75,000. Stylists make an average of $43,600, and home health aides take home around $23,900.
  • Because of the lower Idaho cost of living, you’ll probably make about 17.4% less in Boise than you would working the same job in Seattle.

Public Education Comparison 

If you have children, the quality of the public school system and the opportunities for higher education will be very important to you.

  • Seattle’s public schools are highly rated with a student to teacher ratio of 17 to 1. More than half of the student body is proficient in at least math and reading.
  • gives the Boise Independent School District an A-. It’s student to teacher ratio is 17 to 1. The average graduation rate is 81%, and the average SAT score is 1200.
  • Boise State University is ranked National Universities #298-#389 in the 2021 Best Colleges edition. The school offers 170 academic programs including the only raptor biology degree in the country. It also partners with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, which is a great microelectronics study resource. (
  • Tuition at Boise State University is currently $8,394. Tuition at Seattle University is currently $11,465. Both of these numbers reflect the cost for in-state students.

Climate Comparison 

If you enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, climate and weather conditions in a new location will be a factor in your moving decision.

  • Washington State ranks 5th in the country when it comes to winter rain and snow.
  • The average high in Seattle in January is 45°. January is also the rainiest month with an average 5.2 inches of rainfall. 
  • August is typically the warmest month in Seattle with an average temperature of 73°.
  • In Boise the average January high is 38°. July is the hottest month with an average of 91°.
  • March and May are the rainiest months in Boise. Both average 1.38 inches.

(Climate information from 


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One comment on “The Cost of Living Battle: Washington vs. Idaho”

  1. That was some sold and much appreciated information Tazz, I am going to be retiring soon and I am pretty committed to northern Idaho, from say Lewiston up to Bonners Farry (pan handle). I currently live outside of Los Angeles area about 40 miles north and commute to DTLA. My problem is I have all my garage / shop tools plus my father's things at his place to store while I'm figuring out where I will settle. I found a 3 bay storage/ shop in Tekeo, Wa. that would work perfectly, the problem is.. it's Washington.. lol it's been on the market for quite some time now at 189k.. two bays are rented out for a little income. I wonder how bad I'd get hurt buying it until I find a place or build something?

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