Q: I’m thinking about moving into DC from the suburbs, but I’m worried it’ll be too expensive to rent an apartment and live there. Help!
A: There’s no question that DC is expensive. According to a report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition earlier this year, it’s the second most expensive area to rent in the U.S. Other articles – including this one in The Washington Post – have highlighted how some have left the area to settle in more affordable parts of the country.
To see how a move to DC would affect your finances, you’ll want to add up your current living expenses in the suburbs. You’ll want to include your rent, transportation, utilities, food/grocery, and entertainment costs as well as any other expenses you believe would be affected by a move to DC.
Next, you’ll want to estimate your living expenses in DC. If you don’t have a specific apartment in mind, estimate at least $1900/month for a studio, $2300/month for a one bedroom, and $3000/month for a two bedroom. Have a few neighborhoods in mind and estimate your transportation costs from there. Depending on your commute, you might find that transportation costs can significantly increase or decrease. If you own a car and plan on having a car while in DC, it’s likely you’ll have to pay for a parking spot and/or pay more for your car insurance premiums. Conversely, if you’re able to move into DC without a car and rely on public transportation or biking for commuting, you might find that your costs decrease considerably.
Once you have this information, you’ll be able to search for apartments that make the most sense for your budget. As with any other apartment search, you’ll want to consider the following factors as they will affect your rent: location, utilities, size of apartment, age of building, and available amenities (i.e., front desk, gym).
If you’re intent on moving to DC but the numbers don’t add up the way you would like, you can also consider other items you can eliminate from your monthly expenses. The Simple Dollar has a great guide for this. (Editor’s note: It’s also great even if you’re not moving!)
Last (but certainly not least!), don’t forget about your quality of life outside of your current financial situation. Only you can determine whether your quality of life will improve – but it’s a question that you should answer before making your decision.
Best of luck!