Cost of City Living

by Dual Income No Kids on September 10, 2009 · 0 comments

Michael’s post yesterday inspired me to write about our own experiences in the realities of the cost of living in DC. James & I are both originally from Oregon and go back a couple of times a year to visit family.

Given how much I travel internationally, I find it crazy that the differences in prices between Oregon and Washington, DC are akin to traveling to another country. Certainly there are some chain places where prices stay consistent, but even these there can be a difference from time to time.

Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, so that also adds to the bliss of cheaper shopping. We can go to an outlet mall in Oregon and get a whole wardrobe of Brooke’s Brothers for the same price as an outfit on Connecticut in DC. I’ve learned that I don’t even both shopping for James in DC, it is rare to find a deal worth it.

Eating out is also crazy cheap out West. You can get a full fabulous sit down meal for the price of eating out at a “cheap” sandwich joint near to the office.

Unfortunately Oregon also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, but for those going back for a visit, it can be good times. Portland rocks as a city, so consider it for a nice weekend away as well! Catch it now as fall comes in, before the rains set in.

On the flip side – DC is simply expensive. About the only thing you don’t have to pay for in DC is breathing, though you do pay the price in terms of poor air quality in the long term.

Stop into Whole Foods (or whole paycheck) for a quick couple of things and you’ll be lucky to get out of there for less than $20 for a lunch bag worth of goods. Go actual grocery shopping, even at more reasonable stores such as Safeway, Giant, or Harris Teeter, and you’ll have spent $100 and you only have two full bags to carry home. It can be pretty incredible to see how spendy it really is. Saving money is essential when prices run so high.

However, given how expensive it is in the city, I still think one is better off right in the District than out in the burbs. First, you don’t need a car. Second, you can get your exercise walking. Third, the price you put into metro and car can go straight into your mortgage or rent. Really the only advantage of the burbs is more space, which then just leads to more stuff.

I will say that while our real estate is expensive, it could be much worse. Back at the height of the bomb we took a trip to San Francisco and Hawaii, both of which are much more expensive to live. That made us feel better about coming back to DC!

It might be more expensive living in DC, but we also have careers that would be impossible to have elsewhere. I’ll take my 600 sq ft condo over a place in the burbs any day. I know for those who live in American super sized places, I bet it is hard to even imagine, but it works for us DINKs!



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