Monday, November 9, 2009

Is DC Worth the Cost?

As much as I love DC, there's plenty I dislike as well, especially the high cost of living. But is DC worth the high cost? Given the state of the economy, I think many big city residents have been asking themselves this question. I thought about this today on my walk home from the Dupont Circle Farmers Market (finally got a spaghetti squash) when I passed a guy wearing a t-shirt that said, "I Can't Afford to Love NY." Funny but sadly true in many ways for a lot of people. Of course, this whole issue of cost of living has a lot to do with lifestyle. The granola-eating green living hippie is certainly not trying to get the same thing out of DC as the social climbing attorney/party promoter. But some things, like the cost of housing, have an effect on everyone. I know I've always felt hugely cheated when it comes to housing in DC. Is a tiny one-bedroom ever worth $1200? When I had a car, did it make sense to pay almost $200 a month in car insurance? If I can get a good manicure in New York for $15, why am I paying $35 in DC? And while there may be more jobs in DC, does pay really reflect the high cost of living? I don't think so. For the kind of work I do, I could be paid the same in Columbus, Ohio and be living in a palace compared to my studio apartment.
I've recently talked to friends about this, who range in occupations from a well-paid accountant to a server whose income fluctuates, and their attitudes vary. Some say they wouldn't live anywhere else while others just feel stuck. I'm definitely closer to the feeling stuck end of the scale. I came here right out of grad school for a job and haven't left since. But at this point, I'm not quite sure where to go to get what I want in a city at a lower cost. I periodically check the Forbes list of best cheap cities but usually don't see places at the top I could see myself living. Do I want to be in a city that's cheaper but requires a car, where I can't walk to almost anywhere I need to go? But do I need to be in a city with a million different trendy restaurants with mediocre food? Can I live without being able to go out and hear the kind of music I like on a regular basis? I love the proximity via train to cities on the East Coast but have I ever taken that day trip to Philly like I said I would? Maybe there is something to be said for living in a big city where you know there's always something to do even if you don't feel like doing a thing but stay home. And this blog itself is a good example. I don't think City Girl Pittsburgh would be quite the same.

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Anonymous said...

I have decided that if I am going to relocate to a city in which the cost of living is twice or three times as much as my current living expense it becomes more of a climate issue. It has to be a place where the weather is darn near perfect...mild temperatures, low humidity and lots of sunshine. Great weather makes me happy and they say you can't put a price on happiness. LOL. But after looking at the real estate prices in San Diego, maybe happiness does cost more than I can afford at this time in my life. So for now I am feeling stuck in the Midwest but with the hopes of hitting the lottery and heading out West.

City Girl DC said...

Anonymous-- climate is high on my list too. I figure if I can survive in an expensive city where you never know what the winters will be like and summers you know for sure will be hot and humid, I can always survive in another with great weather.