The Cost of Living in Delaware

Evelyn Long

Jul 20, 2023

cost of living in delaware - neighborhood in delaware

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As you plan for a big move, you should research many states to see which one’s right for you. Delaware is often overshadowed by the DC area, but it has its own charms and is a popular beach vacation spot for those who live in DC and beyond. The cost of living in Delaware might surprise you, as it’s more than the national average, but the beauty and originality of Delaware make up for the expenses.

What Makes Delaware Unique?

Delaware is an interesting state that has many unique things about it. The cost of living in Delaware may be offset to you because of all the cool things this state offers. It has an interesting history and is important in so many ways — while also being such a tiny state. Here are just some of the many things that make Delaware a unique place to live.

1. It’s the “First State”

The first point in Delaware’s uniqueness has to be that it’s the “first state,” meaning it was the first colony to ratify the United States Constitution. As a result, the state is given preferential treatment in being “first” for certain events, like congressional voting. It even became the state’s official nickname in 2002.

2. It Has No Sales Tax

Some people make the trek to shop in Delaware because it’s one of five states that has no sales tax. While other states may have a “no sales tax” weekend throughout the year, Delaware has that option year-round — which can make a huge difference if you like to shop!

Sales tax can affect supply and demand, often creating a lose-lose situation for a buyer, who may need to adjust their spending habits to stay within budget. In a state with no sales tax, you don’t have to worry about the extra fees tacked onto something you buy.

The other states with no sales tax are the following:

  • Alaska
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon

No sales tax may not sound like a big deal at first, but it can greatly influence a family’s desire to move somewhere. If you foresee yourself making purchases often — perhaps you have a kid who seems to outgrow clothes every other week — you might be able to use this state’s tax-free shopping.

3. It Has the Smallest Population

The population of Delaware hasn’t even hit one million. As of the 2020 census, the total population is 989,948, which is almost ten thousand short of one million people. For reference, over eight million people live in New York City alone.

Delaware also has the fewest counties per state, only having three throughout its range. New Castle County is the largest county in the state and the northernmost one, with over half of Delaware’s entire population. It’s unique to live in such a small state — it means you’re part of a place not even one million people live in!

4. Rich Native History

The Nanticoke tribe, which was made up of over 200 families on the Nanticoke River in 1608, has several resources in the state that can help you understand more about the Native Americans from Delaware. 

Nowadays, some Nanticoke people are officially recognized in various ways. The Nanticoke people are part of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, Canada, while the Nanticoke Indian Association has been officially recognized as a tribe by Delaware since the 1920s. 

A non-profit called the Nanticoke Indian Association seeks to teach people more about the culture and rich history of the tribe, which could allow you to learn more about this state’s history and the people who lived here before the United States became the United States.

Many other things make Delaware an excellent state to live in, full of trivia, fun facts and exciting opportunities for residents and tourists alike. However, before you get ready to jump into your new life in this unique state, you must understand the cost of living in Delaware.

Breaking Down the Cost of Living in Delaware

New Castle County, which is the most populous of the three counties in Delaware, has a living wage of almost $18 per hour per adult without children. However, the cost of living in Delaware can vary greatly depending on where you choose to live in the state. Wilmington is the most expensive city to live in, with the cost of living about 10% higher than the national average, while the cheapest is Dover, which is only about 4% higher than the national average.

Here’s the cost of living in Delaware, broken down by category.

Groceries

It’s not cost-effective to eat at restaurants every night, so groceries should be a major factor in your budget. Unfortunately, groceries are about 7% higher than the national average, meaning you’ll have to plan a significant portion of your budget around them. One way to adhere to your grocery budget is to plan your meals ahead of time and follow a list meticulously so you don’t spend more than you want to.

Health Care

Health care is a major component of Delaware’s cost of living. If you or any household members are older or have medical concerns, lower health care costs should be one of the defining characteristics of any place you’re considering moving to. Unfortunately, Delaware’s health care costs are about $1,000 per person more expensive than the national average.

However, that doesn’t mean you can expect to pay out of pocket for everything. Your insurance should help cover you in many situations, but even if not, Delaware’s health care system is constantly improving to help make care more affordable for everyone in the state. At the same time, Delaware also supports the repayment of student loans for health care workers, meaning it could be a great place to live if you’re struggling with repaying your loans and working in the health care field.

Housing

Housing is another category where Delaware ranks above the national average. Both for buying and renting, the price is about 6% higher than the national average — so you’ll have to plan your funds accordingly before choosing to move to the state with the smallest population. However, utilities are cheaper. As of April 2023, the median home sales price was about $421,000, so you should aim to save up a bit more than you would normally if you planned to move straight into a house in Delaware.

Transportation

Transportation can be a major factor for many people, especially those who rely on public transportation to get around a city or to workplaces. You’ll have to consider how transportation fits into your daily life to determine how much this category might influence your expenses when living in Delaware. Remember, factors like gas prices can fluctuate and won’t always stay in the range you expect them to.

Delaware’s Department of Transportation seeks to give every traveler access to its local transportation system. A one-way DART Pass can be managed through the app and only costs $2, allowing you to take a trip to any bus stop you need in the First State. Luckily, public transportation is readily available, so if you don’t have a car, you can still get around the small state. 

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous expenses can creep up over time, and it’s easy not to factor them into your moving decision if you aren’t paying attention. However, you might want to look at what applies to you — such as child care or education — to see what you may need to think about. In fact, miscellaneous expenses can vary from city to city or even within the same town, depending on what part you’re in. 

The best way to tackle this cost would be to track your monthly expenses, then look up how much they’d be in the area of Delaware you want to move to. Then, you’ll have a better idea of how much something might cost. You should factor it into your overall expenses each month, including rent, health care and any other recurring costs.

Choose Whether Delaware Is Right For You

As with anywhere, you need to determine whether Delaware is right for you. While the cost of living in Delaware might leave you feeling conflicted, you can get a proper feel for the state by visiting for a few days. Try out different towns and see where you think you’ll settle. The state’s small enough to vacation for a few days. You never know — you might just fall in love with one of its cities.


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