Since the public learned about the Calvin Klein Octagon House, Ernest Hemingway’s Spanish colonial home, and the story of Bogey and Bacall in the movie Key Largo, the desire to move to the coral island of Florida, Key West has spread among Americans.
Who does not dream to move to one of the most fascinating places? Florida has got a distinct soul, but the Florida Keys is every American’s dream. You can spot so many coral reefs here!
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Keys is home to many celebrities. Millions of tourists every year visit the Keys to enjoy the relaxed vibe for a few days because the truth is only 10% of the rich population can afford to live in the Florida Keys.
No matter how much you save, how many tips you follow, and how much good–research you’ve done, if you’re an average income earner, you cannot afford to live here. Inexpensive Florida Keys is a myth.
It’s a paradise that can cost you a fortune. It doesn’t come cheap! I was able to make a home connection with Keys for only one year. Later, I decided to move out!
So, if you belong to the good average income group and planning to move to the Keys, I recommend first reading the pros and cons of living in the Florida Keys.
You need to know the advantages and disadvantages of living in the Florida Keys first. Because, most affordable places, cheap, and inexpensive are a little different in meaning here!
However, yes, there are some affordable places to live in the Florida Keys and some best places to live in the Keys. But, truly, it’s not that “affordable” as you think! So, let’s visit.
Table of Contents
Things to Know Before Moving to the Florida Keys
If you ever dreamt of waking up to the sounds of crashing waves and having coconut water on an empty stomach and leaving behind your footprints on the beach as you walk, the Florida Keys is the perfect place to live your dream with your partner or solo. Undoubtedly, it’s peaceful!
The Florida Keys is a coral cay archipelago with many islands, you can only enjoy laid back feel with cocktails in your hand on only 1,700 islands.
It spread across 125 miles off the Southern coast of Sunshine State sitting between the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, Cuba, and Miami.
However, for year-long residents, Keys is not as shining as you think! Keys are not a single entity, there are few inhabited islands that are joined by a single road.
The Overseas Highway has its own charm. One thing I’ve felt is that the community has a very strong bond among themselves. The sense of community is very strong.
The reason is the residents know that if there is any threat they can be completely isolated with little warning and no electricity. The fear of tropical storms is very high!
You always have a shoulder to lean on, the bonding of togetherness in times of crisis is so strong that I never witnessed anywhere else.
Did you see the feature-length documentary, The Keys to Paradise? Go and see for yourself!
Okay, so talking about the Florida Keys, are divided into three major areas – Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.
Though, in my previous blog I’ve already made the list but still going to put it again for better understanding.
Steps to keep in Upper Keys
- North Key Largo
- Key Largo
Steps to keep in Middle Keys
- Key Colony Beach
- Duck Key
Steps to Keep in Lower Keys
- Key West
- Big Pine Key
- Stock Island
- Bay Point
- Bahia Honda Key
- Sugarloaf Shores
- Big Coppitt Key
- Marquesas Key
- Cudjoe Key
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Florida Keys Cost of Living
Did you know that the minimum wage in the Florida Keys is $8.56 an hour? It’s quite low considering the total cost of living here.
In terms of the US average of 100, it is 151.2. Florida’s overall index rating is only 102.8. Experts suggest that a liveable wage of $16.82 an hour is needed to cover all the expenses comfortably.
I’m precisely breaking down the cost of living in Keys in monthly terms for your better understanding.
Cost of buying a home in the Florida Keys
Owning a home in the Florida Keys costs approximately $706,601 on average whereas the average cost of a home in the USA is $284,600. Can you estimate how costlier it is?
Now, some expensive homes that offer beachfront water views with strong gated gulf communities cost $7.5 million. The expensive places are Key Largo, Islamorada, and Key Colony.
Cost of renting a home in the Florida Keys
The good news is even the people know that everyone cannot buy, so they’ve kept huge available options for renting. One-bedroom low-cost apartments in the Florida Keys in City Centre (430 ft2) cost around $2000.
A cheap 1 bedroom apartment (430 ft2) costs around $1900 whereas a three-bedroom apartment in the city center (860 ft2) around $2300.
The utility bill for one person can be around $135 whereas for a family of four can be around $2017. The internet plan is around $63.6 per month.
You cannot dispose of your garbage anywhere; you need to find a certain place to dispose of your trash.
Food cost in the Florida Keys
How can you skip grocery shopping? Also, coconut is relatively cheap. I used to buy it for $1.50, and also it’s good for my health too. Check the list and it’s cost –
- 1 L milk cost $1.53
- 1 loaf of white bread cost $4.25
- 12 eggs cost $3.02
- 2.2 lb. apples cost $8.92
- 2.2 lb. banana cost $2.14
- 2.2 lb. tomato cost $4.12
- 2.2 lb. potato cost $4.3
- 1 pound of chicken cost $ 4.65
- 0.5 Litter of Domestic beer coat $1.5
- 1 L water cost $1.57
If you’re going out you need around $130- $150 for casual dining of three –four.
Entertainment cost in the Florida Keys
Entertainment expenses depend on what type of activities you choose. However, here is a sneak peek of some –
- A cinema ticket for one person is around $12
- Doctor visit costs may be around $100 – $120
- Gym membership is around $58 – $108
Education cost in the Florida Keys
Education is very expensive here. On average only the school tuition fee is around $9,000 per year. Price may vary from school to school but it’s high!
Tuition alone in colleges will cost $3,500. However, if you attend community college in the Florida Keys then the price might be a little budget-friendly. Low-cost of living in the Florida Keys is really hard to state!
Further Reading on – Great Places to Live in Florida:
- 10 Best Places to Live on The Gulf Coast of Florida
- 12 Best Places to Live in Florida
- Best Places to Live in Miami For New Residents
Cheapest Places to Live in the Florida Keys
I’m listing a list of inexpensive Florida Keys locations in terms of the cost of living index. Here it goes –
1. Stock Island
- Population: 4,906
- Cost of Living Index: 126.1 (USA average of 100)
- Unemployment Rate: 2.1%
Stock Island sits 15-minute drive north of Key West, just separated by the narrow Cow Keys, where you can enjoy the vintage vibe of Florida Keys.
This beautiful island in Monroe County has waterfront properties, cottages, shipyards for shrimpers, and a lot of fishermen, lobstermen, and multigenerational families residing.
As Key West changes its color with time, Stock Island holds the same “old Key West” charm alive making it one of the best places to live in the Keys.
If you have ever thought to witness hot pink Key West sunset with boats dotting the horizon, clear sightline, and roaring Atlantic Ocean, Stock Island is the place.
Cost of living in Stock Island
According to 247wallst.com, a single adult expense including housing, food, health care, transportation, taxes, and other necessities is around $46,025 annually.
A median home value is around $295,000 whereas renting can cost you around $1,363 a month. On average health care of a single adult is around $6,594 annually.
As per EPI estimation, taking into account the price of gas, a single person spends $10,269 annually on transportation.
On food, you’ll spend a minimum of $4,194 annually eating healthy and following a nutritionally adequate diet. Relatively, Stock Island is the cheapest Florida Keys place to live on.
Things to do in Stock Island
- Have food at Rusty Anchor
- Boat ride in its theme park
- Experience thrilling The New Zealand boat ride
- Party at Hogfish Bar and Grill
- Shop fresh seafood from Fishbusterz
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2. Big Pine Key
- Population: 4,752
- Cost of Living Index: 131.6 (USA average of 100)
- Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
Living life outside human powdered fun is all about Big Pine Key. You’ve to cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge to enter this magic site in the Lower Florida Keys.
It is also called Natural Keys because you’ll only encounter natural attractions- the crystal blue water of the Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf, and breathe the freshness of the Caribbean.
Just about an hour before sunset, I recommend coming to Mallory Square to take part in the sunset celebration. It is also considered as one of the desirable honeymoon destinations in the USA.
Cost of living in Big Pine Key
On average an adult in Big Pine Key spend $46,025 annually on housing, food, transportation, healthcare, taxes, and other necessities.
A median home cost starts from $367,200 which is indeed greater than the national median home value of $204,900. The expenses are quite similar to Stock Island.
Moreover, in Big Pine, a median household income is around $75,996 annually which is comparatively high from the rest of the USA.
So, with that income, Big Pine Key is the cheapest place to live in the Florida Keys.
Things to do in Big Pine Island
- Visit Mangrove Islands to witness avian sanctuaries
- Kick some adrenaline rush while hiking and spotting endangered species of deer on the trail of the National Key Deer Refuge
- Schedule a Big Pine Key snorkeling trip at Looe Key Marine
- Have local food and camp at night at Bahia Honda or Cudjoe Key
- Explore the place at your own pace, walking, purchasing things, and watching out! Key West is rated as the best walkable beach town in Florida.
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- Population: 200
- Cost of Living Index: 137.5 (USA average of 100)
- Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
The atmosphere that epitomizes peaceful living in an untouched nature is what comes to my mind when someone says – Layton in the Florida Keys.
In Monroe County of Long Key, Layton is a unique space to live and enjoy the small rural charm. The close-knit community spirits help you to live here happily.
Cost of living in Layton
The median home cost is around $858,000 whereas renting a studio-size home is around $3,040. On the other hand, three-room size house rents around $5,220.
On average a household earns a minimum of around $57,324. However, the overall poverty rate is 9.18%. You can consider it one of the cheapest places to stay in the Florida Keys.
82.65% of the population speaks English and others are mostly Indo-European population. The public school expense per student is around $12,576 per year.
However, recent job facilities in Layton have decreased by 7.2% resulting in young professionals moving out after completing their graduation.
Things to do in Layton
- You can go for hiking, kayaking, fishing, and camping. However, be thoughtful while planning for camping equipment, inflatable tents, tent air conditioner, and water filter
- Plan a visit to explore lush forests and crystal lakes
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- Population: 1,165
- Cost of Living Index: 135.1 (USA average of 100)
- Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
The gorgeous Blue Ocean, sandy beaches, fresh beach air, and some great fishing spot make Marathon feel like paradise for retirees who prefer to live sea life.
Its location is very ideal, Seven Mile Bridge sits on the East and Tom’s Harbour Bridge sits on the west. Also, it is considered one of the safest places to live In Florida.
The spot is a paradise for tropical lovers and never witnessed frost and snow. However, life feels very slow here. You won’t find here any branded stores.
Though you can choose some other cheap beach towns in Florida, no place can match a great fishing trip like Marathon. The island is surrounded by water, so also it is a great place for water adventure activities.
Cost of living in Marathon
Marathon is one of the affordable places to stay in the Florida Keys as the housing cost is relatively sound.
Mostly the economy runs on tourism, so groceries and dining costs are a little expensive. The healthcare facilities are also above average.
The median household income is around $56,008 with the median house price is around $517,200.
However, the job market is not very secure and mostly from the hospitality sector, making it very limited for young professionals.
Things to do in Marathon
- Come to Marathon Air Museum
- Have food at Brutus Seafood Market
- Get tan at Sombrero Beach
- Marathon is home to the universe’s third-largest barrier reef, hence e go for a snorkeling tour
Read More: 9 Reasons I Regret Moving to Florida
Best Place to Stay in Key West for Families
For some manufactured cheap homes or economical housing in the Florida Keys, you should check Friendship Park in Key Largo and Little Torch Key.
As per Zillow, Poinciana’s home value is around $310,567 which is relatively one of the cheapest places to live in the Florida Keys.
Poinciana’s neighborhood like The Oaks, Estancia, Creekside Estates, Country Creek Estates, and Eagle Pointe is one of some great places to live with family. These are some inexpensive Florida Keys neighborhoods you choose from!
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Interesting facts about the Florida Keys
- The weather is mostly sunny with 63 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit
- The Florida Keys is connected by 42 bridges
- “Cheap” in terms of cost of living, or groceries in the Florida Keys is expensive – 26% and 15% higher respectively compared to the rest USA
- You’ll definitely not find the cheapest but places like Friendship Park, and Little Torch Keys are the most affordable Florida Keys to live on
- You’ll find Publix in Keys to do your shopping more at an affordable price
- Its geographical location is so isolated that starting from groceries, and food, everything needs to be shipped from mainland Florida, adding a premium to all
- Keys is one of the ninth states of Florida that has no income tax
FAQ: Cheapest Places to Live in the Florida Keys
1. Where is the best place to stay in Key West?
A. Little Torch Keys is the best place to stay in Key West. The island sits 24 miles from Key West getting its name from a native tree called torchwood. The palm trees and untouched atmosphere, white sand beaches, and closeness to Key West make it an ideal getaway for exploring. The spot has some incredible oceanfront resorts which I know that you never want to miss out on! Hence, Little Torch Keys is indeed one of the cheap places to stay in key west Florida.
2. Is the Florida Keys a good place to retire?
A. For an idyllic tropical setting and laid-back life, the Florida Keys is a good place. But if you’re retired and want to spend some good golden days then you should not choose some remote island. Rather, I recommend choosing Marathon, Big Pine Key, or Stock Island. They have a good hospital sector and a good transportation system.