Cost of living in Boise/Meridian vs. Livermore CA

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Ok, you’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again…California is an expensive place to live. We’ve all heard it before. The expense is one of the main reasons people have or are thinking of leaving California. More than 20 years ago a portion of my own family left the Bay Area for a new state and recently a few friends have headed there as well. 


It’s a city known as the City of Trees, has several outdoor attractions and a rich history. The area was started by fur trappers and then became a gold hotspot. Now known for great food, art, cultural events and growing attractions. What city am I talking about? If you guessed Boise Idaho you are right! 


In recent years Boise has become a destination for Californians looking to relocate out of state. One major reason is Boise is a very affordable place as far as major cities go, although this past year the prices have increase quite a bit. 


If you’re considering moving you’re probably more interested in things that will help you make that decision so let’s start by comparing the cost of groceries!


1. Groceries


If you’re a California family spending $800/mo on groceries, that’s about $9,600/year.


You can expect to your grocery bill to go down a bit…living in Boise by 8.8% and you could see a savings of $675 a year.


Winner: Boise


2. Home Purchase 


4/2 2103 sq ft | 7013 sqft lot


Livermore Home: $1,399,000

Meridian, ID Home: $550K


Winner: clearly Meridian with a home price $849K less.


3. Property Taxes


So, how much are property taxes in Idaho? Well, I couldn’t find any clear answers or exact numbers. I will admit I was happy to come across an article title: Inside Idaho’s complicated property tax system because apparently I’m not the only one who has struggled to understand it. But I did find this statement on smartasset.com “Taxes on real estate in Idaho are relatively low in comparison with the rest of the country.” So, I’m just going to take their word for it and guess it’s less than California property tax… certainly should be when the price of the house is so much less, but percentage wise I can’t say for sure. I did find there is a lot of information on the county website. 


Winner: Idaho… maybe? Probably… 


4. Home Insurance


Home insurance quote for the Livermore home = $68/mo

Home insurance quote for the Meridian Idaho home = $50/mo.

Homeowners insurance will cost you less in Meridian ID. 


Winner: Meridian $50/mo


5. State Income Tax


Idaho state income tax rates range from 1-6%. According to tax.idaho.gov website Idaho taxes higher earnings at a higher rate. Sort of like sliding fee for state income tax.


If you are retired or close to retiring you’ll be interested to know that according to smartasset.com Social Security income is not subject to income tax for Idaho residents, but other forms of retirement income such as 401K or IRA withdrawals are taxed.


With a sliding tax rate maxed out at 6% Idaho income tax will cost you less than California income tax.


Winner: Idaho


6. Medical Insurance


According to ehealthinsurance.com Idaho health insurance premiums start at $74 per month. In California the premiums start at $187. Now, I don’t know anyone in California who only pays $187 per month for health insurance. It’s a lot more than that to get any kind of decent coverage, but Just comparing these starting premiums it’s clear health insurance is more affordable in Idaho.


Winner: Idaho


7. Gas Prices


According to gas buddy.com the price for a gallon of gas at the time I recorded this video was  $4.25/gal in Livermore CA and $3.59/gal in Meridian Idaho.

I have to admit, I thought it would be much cheaper in Idaho. It is more affordable, just big of a difference as I was expecting.


Winner: Idaho


8. Car Registration


How much will it cost to register your car in Idaho? Well, according to the Idaho DMV website a basic annual registration will cost you just $69 for a vehicle 1-2 years old and the older your car is the cheaper the registration will cost. However… if you drive an electric vehicle it’s going to cost you $140 more. Now…I know from personal experience registration for my 2021 vehicle was about $600-700. So even with the electric vehicle sur-charge in Idaho car registration is a bargain!


9. Sales Tax


How does sales tax compare between Livermore California and Meridian Idaho?

I don’t think it will surprise anyone that The Bay Area has higher sales tax.


Sales tax in Livermore  is currently 10.25% while Meridian ID is at 6%


Winner: Idaho


10. Average cost to rent an apartment


So how much does the cost of housing compare if you’re a renter? The average rent in Livermore for an average apartment is $2,137/mo. Compared to the average rent of a similar sized apartment in Meridian at just $1,352/mo. 


So if you’re renting you living in Meridian will save you about $9,400 a year.


Winner: Meridian


So it’s pretty clear that living in Meridian Idaho vs. Livermore CA will save you money on your cost of living, but what if you don’t make the same wage?


Let’s compare the median income.


So let’s take a median income into consideration and re-evaluate…


According to datause.io  the Median household income in Livermore, CA is $127,452  a year vs. just $71,389 in Meridian ID.


That’s a difference of $56,076! 


Everyone’s financial situation is going to be different. If you’re moving to retire, then the median income probably doesn’t matter as much to you as it would to someone who has 10 or 20 more years to work until they retire. This is the piece of the decision making process I think a lot of people leave to chance. Hoping it will just work out and I want to encourage you to not do that.


If you have a decade or more left of income earning years I strongly suggest you do the research and find out how much your income might decrease if you were to move. And don’t forget to also find out how much demand there is for someone in your line of work. Is there just one job opportunity? If you don’t like it or it doesn’t work out for whatever reason you want to be sure there are other opportunities for employment. If there’s not… It won’t matter how much less the cost of living is if you have no income or a significantly reduced income.

I have see it happen to many people. They move thinking they will keep the job they have and work from home, but within a couple of years that arrangement is no longer working. I know some who have had to fly back and forth across a few states each week going back to the area they moved out of just to keep income flowing in. I admire the determination to make it work and do whatever they had to do for their family, but I know having that kind of commute can’t be easy. So make sure you crunch the numbers and have a plan B just in case.