Cost of Living in Washington D.C.

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    (Last Updated – 11/2021)

    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 2019 U.S. Census data, 705,749 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.

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

    Average Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.: $65,169 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 50th on the list with a cost of living index score of 154.4, beat out only by Hawaii.

    The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated the average annual personal consumption expenditure in the District of Columbia at $65,169 in 2020. Here’s how that breaks down:

    Category

    Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in Washington, D.C.

    Housing and Utilities

    $11,355

    Health Care

    $10,295

    Food and Beverages (non-restaurant)

    $5,696

    Gas and Energy Goods

    $803

    All Other Personal Expenditures

    $37,021

    Housing Costs in Washington, D.C.

    Average Housing Costs in Washington, D.C.: $1,573 to $2,569 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 2021 data from Zillow, the typical home price in the D.C. metro area is a whopping $698,219, which is almost double the median single-family existing-home sale price of $352,800 in September 2021, 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 2019:

    •  Median monthly mortgage cost: $2,569

    •  Median studio rent: $1,573

    •  Median one-bedroom rent: $1,607

    •  Median two-bedroom rent: $1,594

    •  Median three-bedroom rent: $1,655

    •  Median four-bedroom rent: $1,688

    •  Median gross rent: $1,603

    Utility Costs in Washington, D.C.

    Average Utility Costs in Washington, D.C.: $246 per month

    Even though the cost of housing is sky-high in Washington, D.C., there is good news: Once you get that roof over your head, keeping yourself in electricity, water, gas, and cable is fairly affordable.

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

    Utility

    Average Washington, D.C. Bill

    Electricity

    $89

    Gas

    $88

    Cable & Internet

    $43

    Water

    $26

    Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Sales, Revenue, and Average Price, 2021; Rentcafe.com, Average Cost of Utilities in Every U.S. State

    Groceries & Food

    Average Grocery & Food Costs in Washington, D.C.: $475 per person, per month

    If the average yearly estimated non-restaurant food and beverage expenditure in the District of Columbia is $5,696 per person, divide that by 12 to end up at $475 per person, per month.

    By that metric, you might expect to spend about $1,900 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 second-quarter 2021 Cost of Living Index, the Washington, D.C., area scores 113.8 on grocery items. For comparison, Baltimore sits at 110.1, as does nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

    Recommended: How Much Should I Spend on Groceries a Month?

    Transportation

    Average Transportation Costs in Washington, D.C.: $5,113 to $13,896 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 .

    Family Makeup

    Average Annual Transportation Cost

    One adult, no children

    $5,113

    Two working adults, no children

    $9,378

    Two working adults, two children

    $13,896

    Health Care

    Average Health Care Costs in Washington, D.C.: $10,295 per year

    Average annual health care costs in Washington, D.C., are fairly high at about $10,295, according to the 2020 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.

    Child Care

    Average Child Care Costs in the District: $1,404 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.)

    Type of Child Care

    Average Cost Per Month, Per Child

    Infant Classroom

    $2,043

    Toddler Classroom

    $2,043

    Home-based Family Child Care

    $1,404

    Taxes

    Highest Marginal Tax Rate in Washington, D.C.: 8.95%

    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 2021 , the highest marginal tax rate in Washington, D.C., is 8.95%, 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% or Hawaii’s 11%.

    Miscellaneous Costs

    We’ve covered all the basic necessities, but still, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the average District denizen spends about $37,021 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 Nov. 4, 2021).

    •  Mixologist-crafted prix-fixe tasting menu of beverages at the Columbia Room, which won the “Best American Cocktail Bar” title one year: $120, before tip (low- and no-alcohol options available).

    •  Tickets to a performance at the historic Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was shot: $36 to $93 or more, depending on the program and where tickets are acquired.

    •  One year of undergraduate tuition at Georgetown University: $59,784

    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.

    Recommended: What are the Average Monthly Expenses for One Person?

    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 50th, less expensive only than Hawaii.

    Plus, 2020 data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggests that most people spend about $65,169 to live, work, and play here — so you’ll probably want to make more than that, after taxes.


    SoFi Home Loans

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