7 Tips to Save Money When Living in Portland, OR

Portland sometimes gets a bad rap for being expensive, but did you know that the average cost of living is lower than other major cities like Seattle or Brooklyn? For a single person, it’s around $1200 per person before rent, and for a family of four, it’s about $4200 before rent monthly. For anyone thinking of moving to Portland or already living here and looking to live more frugally, ApartmentLove is here to reassure you that Portland can actually be affordable. Read our guide of the top seven ways to save money when settling down in Portland, OR.

7. Take Public Transit

Gas prices are high right now, then there’s insurance and maintenance and… you get it; driving is expensive. Portland’s extensive public transit network is more affordable, efficient, and accessible according to locals. It’s actually one of the best systems in the whole country. The TriMet System is a combination of busses, light rail and commuter trains that connect all areas throughout the Portland Metropolitan Area and is fully wheelchair accessible. Day passes are useable on any public transport and are cheap, costing only $2.50 for youth or $5 for adults. The streetcar is another option, but it only runs within the central city.

Bike and scooter rentals are another popular way to commute in Portland. The BIKETOWN program is a partnership between the city of Portland and Nike that allows anyone to rent out a bike or scooter for just $1, plus 20 cents a minute. Finally, there is the ferry to carry you across the Willamette River, and rates vary by season. Whether you’re renting an apartment in downtown Portland, or just got a rental in the Northeast Portland district, there’s lots of quick, affordable public transit options throughout the city.

6. Take Advantage of Free Activities

Portland has SO many free activities. Many of these activities are especially great for families and kids, but can be fun for everyone. With over 200 designated parks and greenspaces, there’s lots to explore in Portland, for free. Parks like the International Rose Test Garden or Tom McCall Waterfront Park have no admission fees. They’re gorgeous places to just sit and relax, but they also host free seasonal activities like movie showings and concerts. Many of the parks in the city have hiking and biking trails too.

Use Portland’s parks and recreation guide for a full list of parks in every Portland neighborhood. First Thursdays are a great option for anyone renting an apartment in the downtown, Old Town or Pearl District Neighborhoods. On the first Thursday of every month, art galleries and some theaters are free and open late. Plus, there are a variety of street performances across the neighborhoods too. Last Thursdays is a similar event hosted in the Alberta Arts District in Northeast Portland. Hosted on the last Thursday of every month, it’s especially family friendly, since neighborhood streets are closed for the event.

First Fridays is an identical arts event in the Central East side neighborhood. Children and kids at heart can ride on vintage trains at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Finally, for anyone looking for outdoor activities to do with their little kids, the nature center at Tyron Creek offers free activities to kids aged 2 to 6 years old.

5. Treat Yourself to Cheap Eats

Portland is a city of weird, creative artisanal food. For many, it’s a major pro to living here. But, there’s a ton of cheap eats and foodie experiences too! Basilisk is one of those places that every Portlander has to visit at least once. Located in Northeast Portland and owned by internationally-recognized chef Jason Myers, Basilisk is known for their huge fried chicken sandwiches and cheap prices. Sandwich combos are no more than $11, all day every day.

Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai is a family-owned doughnut shop on Freemont Street, Northeast Portland. They make all their doughnuts in-house and offer a unique seasonal menu, alongside classic favorites like candied maple bacon or Nutella. Get a dozen doughnuts for $12 or a family-sized pack of four doughnuts and drinks for $5 every day from 8am to 4pm. For something a little more exotic, check out Por Que No, a South American-inspired quick eats joint offering combo meals for only $9.50. The best part? There are vegetarian and vegan options too!

4. Visit Farmers Markets

Have you seen grocery store prices lately? That’s why so many Portlanders choose farmers markets instead. Portland is known for its produce, so farmers markets usually guarantee higher quality, fresh, organic produce. Prices are so much lower because it comes directly from the farmers to you. The Portland Farmers Market has several locations across Southwest, Southeast and Northeast Portland. Many of these locations are open year-round and run on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Portland Saturday Market is another great option. Open March through December in the Old Town neighborhood, visitors can find affordable and artisanal food, clothes, jewelry, décor and even skincare.

3. Buy Cheap and Free Books

Whether you’re a parent looking to occupy the kids, a student looking for cheap textbooks or just a pleasure reader looking to kill time on the train, books can make a huge difference, but costs can add up quickly over time. Portland’s libraries are great, but sometimes owning a book just feels best. That’s where Powell’s Books comes in. They’re the largest independent bookstore in the world, spanning one whole city block, and housing roughly one million new and used books of all kinds! Gently used books cost as little as $8, and visitors can buy and re-sell their books, helping offset your spending. Additionally, Powell’s hosts free events where readers can meet their favorite authors. On Saturdays, they also host free kids story time readings.

2. Plan Your Childcare

Daycare and after school programs can be expensive and difficult to find, even though Portland is a great city for families with kids. That’s why it’s important to plan for your childcare ahead of time. Recently, Portland passed a Preschool For All Tax, where a portion of residents’ income tax is used to guarantee free preschool programming for all families until age four. Additionally, Portland offers a tax credit of up to $2000 per child. Many families also qualify for the Employment-Related Day Care Program which partially subsidises day care for kids under fourteen years old, helping working parents offset childcare costs beyond the first few years. Applications take about 90 days to process, so it’s recommended that they’re filled out ahead of time if you’re new to the city.

1. Find the Right Apartment

The right apartment makes all the difference. Monthly cost and proximity to amenities can really help you save money, and ApartmentLove can help with that. ApartmentLove has a wide selection of the best apartments for rent in Portland, Oregon for every need. For those on a budget, there are a many studio apartments and one-bedroom apartment rentals under $1000 per month. Downtown Portland and the Pearl District neighborhoods are the most popular locations to find these cheap apartment rentals. Apartments for rent in Southeast Portland are ideal for families. Two-bedroom apartment rentals in this area typically go for less than $2000 a month. Across Portland, three-bedroom and four-bedroom apartments for rent range between $3000 and $4000 per month, which is on par with city averages.

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Published: February 22, 2023