Just how much will living in D.C. set you back?


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Ah, the nation’s capital. Known for its unparalleled cultural attractions — many of which are free — along with its professional-yet-swank mid-Atlantic attitude, D.C. is a popular place to live. In fact, according to 2022 U.S. Census data, 671,803 people live there, which is a pretty big number for a relatively minute 68.34-square-mile area.

But if you’re considering moving to the District, you should be aware: It’s definitely not a cheap place to live, free museums or no.

Here’s the data about the cost of living in Washington, D.C., so you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you.

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What’s the Average Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.?

Average Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.: $78,809 per year

It’s not surprising that Washington is such an attractive place to live. It almost goes without saying.

Unfortunately, though, according to data from the Missouri Economic and Research Center (MERIC ), Washington, D.C., is low on the affordability scale. It ranks 51st on the list with a cost of living index score of 152.2, beat out only by Hawaii.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis  estimated the average annual personal consumption expenditure in the District of Columbia at $78,809 in 2021. Here’s how that breaks down:

cost of living DC

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Housing Costs in Washington, D.C.

Average Housing Costs in Washington, D.C.: $1,518 to $3,500 per month

Housing is often the highest single cost in people’s monthly budgets, and you definitely want to prepare for that expense if you’re going to live in Washington, D.C. Per February 2023 data from Zillow, the typical home price in the D.C. metro area is a whopping $615,692, which is significantly higher than the median single-family existing-home sale price of $359,000 in January 2023, the National Association of Realtors® reported.

Even for renters, the costs are pretty intense. Here’s how the cost of housing breaks down on a monthly basis, according to U.S. Census data from 2021:

  • Median monthly mortgage cost: $2,569
  • Median studio rent: $1,518
  • Median one-bedroom rent: $1,666
  • Median two-bedroom rent: $1,825
  • Median three-bedroom rent: $1,595
  • Median four-bedroom rent: $3,500
  • Median five-bedroom (or more) rent: $1,928
  • Median gross rent: $1,668

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Utility Costs in Washington, D.C.

Average Utility Costs in Washington, D.C.: $334 per month

The cost of housing is sky-high in Washington, D.C., and once you get that roof over your head, electricity, water, gas, and cable are also on the higher end.

Here’s how the average monthly utility bill breaks down.

 utilities DC

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Groceries & Food

Average Grocery & Food Costs in Washington, D.C.: $520 per person, per month

If the average yearly estimated non-restaurant food and beverage expenditure in the District of Columbia is $6,241 per person, divide that by 12 to end up at $520 per person, per month.

By that metric, you might expect to spend about $2,080 per month to feed a family of four, but keep in mind that this estimate doesn’t factor in the fact that most children tend to eat less than adults.

That’s a fairly costly food bill. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research ’s 2022 Cost of Living Index, the Washington, D.C., area scores 109.2 on grocery items. For comparison, Baltimore sits at 113.5, and nearby Bethesda, Maryland scores 109.0.

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Average Transportation Costs in Washington, D.C.: $5,477 to $15,530 per year

Once you’ve got your home all set up, you still have to get around — work, school, and other activities beckon. Although Washington, D.C., does have public transit options, fares can run up to $6 per ride during peak times, and many Washingtonians opt to keep (and pay to park) a personal vehicle.

You might expect to spend approximately the following amounts on transportation around Washington, D.C., according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator  for 2023.

transportation DC

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Health Care

Average Health Care Costs in Washington, D.C.: $12,201 per year

Average annual health care costs in Washington, D.C., are fairly high at about $12,201, according to the 2021 Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Of course, specific health care costs vary significantly depending on all sorts of things: your health insurance coverage, how often you need to seek medical attention, your family makeup, and more.

Besides, if you’re living in D.C., there’s a pretty good chance you’re working for the government, so hopefully you have good health care benefits.

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Child Care

Average Child Care Costs in the District: $1,372 to $2,043 or more per child, per month

Raising kids might be some of the most fulfilling work we can do — but it’s also pretty expensive, especially in an already costly metro area like Washington, D.C.

While your exact child care costs will depend on how many children you have, what kind of care you’re after, and more, costofchildcare.org  offers per-month, per-child care cost averages. (If you visit the website, you can even play with the toggles to see what certain extras, like bigger classrooms or better pay for caretakers, might add.)

child care DC

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Highest Marginal Tax Rate in Washington, D.C.: 10.75%

Washington, D.C., like most U.S. states, levies a District-specific income tax in addition to the federal income taxes American earners pay. Like many states, D.C.’s income tax is charged at a graduated rate: The more you earn, the more you owe.

Per the Tax Foundation’s State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2023 , the highest marginal tax rate in Washington, D.C., is 10.75%, which is pretty darn high, nationally speaking — neighboring Maryland and Virginia both cap out at 5.75%. Still, it’s a far cry from California’s sky-high 13.30%

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Miscellaneous Costs

We’ve covered all the basic necessities, but still, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the average District denizen spends about $46,579 on “other personal expenditures.”

While D.C. is well known for its plethora of free must-sees — the majority of the Smithsonian Institution properties, including the National Zoo, and self-guided tours of many major government buildings, such as the Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol, are all free of charge. Here are some ways that money might be getting spent in the city (costs accurate as of March 2023).

  • Tickets to a performance at the historic Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was shot: $36 to $72 or more, depending on the program and where tickets are acquired.
  • One year of undergraduate tuition at Georgetown University: $61,872.00

Lots of residents probably also spend a decent amount of money on the clothes, accessories, and gadgets expected of hip mid-Atlantic citizens, but again, if you’re looking for free entertainment and educational activities, the District of Columbia is pretty hard to beat.

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How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Washington, D.C.?

While everyone’s definition of “comfort” is a little different, one thing’s for certain: Of the places to live in the United States, Washington, D.C., is certainly one of the most expensive. As mentioned above, MERIC ranks it 51st, less expensive only than Hawaii.

Plus, 2021 data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggests that most people spend about $78,809 to live, work, and play here — so you’ll probably want to make more than that, after taxes.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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