Cost of Living Forum

OldTownDweller @oldtowndweller
Joined: 2 months ago

Cost of Living in Alexandria – Insights from Long-Term Residents?

I’ve lived in Alexandria for over 15 years now, and I’m always curious to hear different perspectives on the cost of living here. As someone who owns a home and has raised a family in this city, I have my own experiences, but I’m sure they differ from others depending on lifestyle, family size, and income level.

I’d love to get input from fellow Alexandrians about what they typically spend on major expenses like housing, groceries, dining out, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment. What are the areas where costs seem high or reasonable compared to other places you’ve lived? How does your overall cost of living match up with your income and expectations?

Please share your thoughts and any tips you have for managing expenses in Alexandria. I’m especially interested in hearing from people in different life stages and situations than my own. Let’s have an open discussion about the pros and cons of living here from a financial standpoint!

Posts: 9

10 Replies

FrugalFoodie @frugalfoodie
Joined: 11 months ago

As a single person living in an apartment in the West End, my costs for housing and transportation are relatively manageable, but I do find grocery prices to be on the higher side, especially for fresh produce. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant will typically run you $10-15 for an entree.

To save money, I stick to budget grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl for staples and shop sales at places like MOM’s Organic Market for fruits and veggies. Cooking at home is a must for keeping food costs down. I spend maybe $300 a month on groceries by being selective.

Healthcare is where I’ve found costs to be quite high, even with insurance through my job. A basic doctor’s visit co-pay is around $30 and prescription drugs can get expensive quickly if you need anything beyond generics. Fitness is also pricey with gym memberships running $50-100/month.

Overall though, my income covers my costs here comfortably as long as I’m mindful about spending. The high salaries help offset the elevated living expenses compared to smaller towns or cities.

Posts: 1
DCSuburbanMom @dcsuburbanmom
Joined: 2 years ago

As a family of four living in a 3-bedroom rental home just outside the City Center, our biggest expense by far is housing at around $2800/month. Thankfully my husband and I both have decent incomes, otherwise the rent would be a struggle.

Groceries for our family of four run about $800-1000 per month if we want to buy organic produce, high quality meats, etc. Eating out even just once or twice a week can easily add $200+ to the monthly budget between a casual restaurant meal and takeout.

Childcare is another major cost – our two kids attend a moderately-priced daycare/preschool and we pay around $2000 per month for both of them. Once they start elementary school, those costs will drop off but then we’ll have activities, sports, tutors, etc.

We just have one car payment and policy for now, but will likely need a second vehicle soon which will add several hundred dollars monthly between car payment, gas, insurance, maintenance.

Overall, Alexandria has a relatively high cost of living for our middle-class family, but the quality of life, amenities, and proximity to DC make it worthwhile for now. As the kids get older and our housing, transportation, and activity costs increase, it may become more of a strain.

Posts: 2
AlexYuppie @alexyuppie
Joined: 2 years ago

I’m a young professional living in a luxury apartment in Old Town, and yes, the costs here are quite high compared to some other areas. My rent for a modern 1-bed is $2200 and utilities run me another $200 or so each month.

Groceries from places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods can get very expensive if you’re not careful – I probably spend around $500-600 per month on food, coffee, and the occasional drinks or dinner out (which can easily be $60-80 for one person at a trendy restaurant).

Transportation is relatively low for me at the moment since I can walk to work, the Metro, and most places I need to go day-to-day. No car payment or insurance. I do take Ubers frequently though which adds up.

Healthcare is quite pricey – I pay nearly $500 per month for a premium insurance plan, and that’s before any co-pays or costs for actual services. I also pay around $80/month for a gym membership.

At the end of the day though, I can afford this lifestyle comfortably for now on my $120K salary. The high costs are the price you pay to live in a place with incredible amenities, walkability, dining and nightlife. As I get older and priorities change, I may revisit whether Alexandria is still the best fit financially.

Posts: 24
HistoricHomebody @historichomebody
Joined: 8 months ago

My husband and I are older Alexandria residents who bought our charming 2-bedroom rowhouse in a historic neighborhood back in the 80s when it was still relatively affordable. These days, the real estate market is just crazy – similar homes on our street are selling for $900K+.

For us “original” Alexandrians though, our housing costs are quite low with just property taxes, utilities (about $300/month for gas, electric, etc.) and maintenance/repairs. We have one modest car that’s paid off, so transportation is cheap besides gas and insurance.

Where we do pay up is for healthcare, as Medicare doesn’t cover everything and supplemental insurance isn’t cheap at our age. We probably spend $500-600 per month on premiums, co-pays, and medications. Groceries and dining out also add up since we like to frequent local bakeries, farmer’s markets, and restaurants.

Overall though, we’re able to manage quite comfortably on our retirement income and investments. This city has become so expensive for new residents, but if you bought property here decades ago, it’s still relatively affordable. The amenities and charm make it worth it for us long-timers.

Posts: 6
NoVAWorkingClass @novaworkingclass
Joined: 8 months ago

I’ll be honest, as someone making around $50K per year, the cost of living in Alexandria can be really tough. I rent an older 2-bedroom apartment outside the City Center for $1800/month, which already puts a strain on my budget.

Groceries, utilities, car expenses, etc. seem to run me at least $800-1000 per month on top of that. I have a cheap high-deductible healthcare plan, but even minor medical bills can be crippling. Eating out, entertainment, etc. is basically out of the question if I want to pay all my bills on time.

The high rents and property values in Alexandria are being driven up by all the wealthy folks moving in, but wages aren’t keeping up for many of us service workers, first responders, etc. I spend over 50% of my net income just on housing.

I really enjoy living here and have for years, but not sure how much longer it will be sustainable. Might have to start looking into living further out in Woodbridge, Dumfries, etc. where costs are lower even if it means a longer commute. Managing in Alexandria on a working-class salary is becoming impossible.

Posts: 4
RetiredFedEmployee @retiredfedemployee
Joined: 2 years ago

My husband and I are both retired federal government workers, so our situation in Alexandria is perhaps a bit unique. We bought our 3-bedroom rambler out in Lincolnia about 20 years ago when prices were still reasonable, so our mortgage is paid off and we only have taxes, utilities ($350/month or so), etc. to worry about for housing.

Healthcare is a major monthly expense at around $600 for supplemental insurance premiums and drug costs not covered by our federal health benefits. Groceries tend to be $500-600 per month for the two of us cooking at home.

What really allows us to enjoy a comfortable retirement here is our solid pension income combined with our home being paid off. We’re able to afford occasional travel, dining out ($60-80 for a casual restaurant meal), and other entertainment expenses that would be very difficult on just Social Security or limited retirement savings.

Overall, I’d say Alexandria isn’t cheap by any means, but it can be manageable for retirees who planned ahead and have a reliable source of income beyond just Social Security. The quality of life, amenities, and proximity to DC make it worthwhile for us, even if costs for healthcare and such keep rising.

Posts: 5
StartupHustle @startuphustle
Joined: 4 months ago

I recently moved to Alexandria for a job at a tech startup in Crystal City. Coming from a lower cost-of-living area, the prices here were pretty shocking at first! I knew the D.C. area was expensive, but actually experiencing it first-hand was an adjustment.

I ended up getting a modern 1-bedroom apartment in Potomac Yard for $2100 per month, which is about as much as I was paying for a nice 2-bedroom back in my previous city. Utilities seem to run me around $150 on top of that.

Groceries are keeping me on a very tight budget. I mostly shop at the affordable chains like Giant or Safeway and probably spend $400-500 per month on food to cook at home. Eating out is a luxury I can’t really afford often with entree prices of $20-30 at a casual restaurant.

No car payment for now, as I take public transit to work. My healthcare premiums are around $350 per month though, which seems very high coming from a place with lower costs.

The tradeoff is that the salaries here are so much higher, which helps offset the crazy living expenses. If I can stick it out for a few years at this startup and things go well, I may be able to buy a home and settle down more long-term. But yeah, the costs are pretty brutal for a single young professional!

Posts: 25
FitFamOf5 @fitfamof5
Joined: 5 months ago

Wow, the cost of living in Alexandria with a larger family is no joke! We have 3 kids (ages 8, 6, and 2) and seem to always be stretched financially, despite what I’d consider a decent household income of around $180K between my husband and I.

Our 4-bedroom townhouse rental is $3800 per month, and that’s already outside the City Center. Utilities, cable/internet, etc. add another $400 or so. Groceries for our family of 5 easily run $1200-1500 each month if we want to buy decent quality food (we stick to Costco, Aldi, etc.). Eating out is extremely limited as a treat.

Childcare was a brutal $3000+ per month when our kids were in daycare and preschool. Now that two are in elementary school, we have those costs plus tons of extracurriculars – sports, music, tutors, summer camps, etc. I’d estimate we spend $800+ monthly on just kid activities.

Transportation is another major factor, with two car payments, insurance policies, gas, maintenance, etc. Probably $1000 per month easily. We’re looking at private school for at least one child soon as well, which could be $20K+ annually.

Don’t get me wrong, we love living here – Alexandria has great amenities, communities, and opportunities for families. But you definitely pay a premium, especially with larger housing needs and all the costs for multiple children. We make decent money but it’s still a stretch most months to cover everything while also trying to save.

Posts: 15
MilitaryMover @militarymover
Joined: 16 days ago

My family and I are recent transplants to the Alexandria area after being stationed elsewhere previously. Coming from a relatively low cost-of-living place, the prices here have been quite an adjustment!

We knew the D.C. suburbs would be pricey, but there’s still someicker shock. We’re renting a pretty basic 3-bedroom townhouse out by Fort Belvoir for $2600 per month, and that was honestly one of the more affordable family-sized options we found. Utilities seem to run at least $300 additionally.

Grocery costs are what really get me – it’s so expensive to feed our family of 5 (3 kids under 10) healthy food. I’d estimate we spend $1000-1200 per month, sticking to stores like Aldi, Lidl, and sales at places like Harris Teeter. Dining out is a total luxury with high meal prices.

Thankfully our BAH covers a good chunk of the rent, but these other costs really eat into our budget – childcare ($700/month for our youngest), gas/car expenses ($400+), healthcare ($300 for our premium), etc. We’re definitely having to watch our spending much more carefully than our previous duty station.

The area does have great amenities and opportunities, and I know our next station could always be worse cost-wise. But Alexandria/Northern Virginia in general is just extremely expensive, especially for a middle-class military family trying to live comfortably without going broke.

Posts: 2
DinkInTheCity @dinkinthecity
Joined: 2 years ago

My wife and I are DINKS (double income, no kids) who recently moved to Alexandria and are absolutely loving it so far, despite the high cost of living. We’re both in our early 30s and working professional jobs in D.C.

We rent a gorgeous 2-bedroom apartment in Old Town for $3200 per month, which is crazy expensive but allows us to walk everywhere and have an amazing neighborhood/social scene right outside our door. Utilities, renter’s insurance, etc. add maybe another $250 on top of that.

Groceries from places like Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter run us $600-800 per month, as we try to buy quality ingredients to cook at home frequently. Dining out several times per week adds at least $500 more to the budget between casual and higher-end restaurants.

We pay around $400 each per month for very good employer health insurance plans. Working out is also pricey – I pay $100/month for my gym membership and $25/class at many of the local studios my wife frequents.

Entertainment is where some of our biggest discretionary costs come in. Between frequent bar/brewery trips, concerts/shows, sports games, recreational activities, etc. we could easily spend $500-1000 monthly if we don’t restrain ourselves.

Housing is by far our biggest single monthly expense at over 30% of our combined gross income. Is it extreme? Yes. Do we wish we could save more? Absolutely. But we value the amenities and urban lifestyle enough to splurge, at least for now while we’re young(ish) and child-free. Alexandria/D.C is costly but fun!

Posts: 5

Detailed Price Insights of Abilene, TX

  • Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant – 10.00 $
  • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course – 60.00 $
  • McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) – 10.00 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) – 5.00 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 5.00 $
  • Cappuccino (regular) – 5.51 $
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) – 1.50 $
  • Water (0.33 liter bottle) – 1.25 $
  • Milk (regular), (1 liter) – 1.07 $
  • Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g) – 3.67 $
  • Rice (white), (1kg) – 3.89 $
  • Eggs (regular) (12) – 3.23 $
  • Local Cheese (1kg) – 12.31 $
  • Chicken Fillets (1kg) – 12.40 $
  • Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) – 14.61 $
  • Apples (1kg) – 5.43 $
  • Banana (1kg) – 1.81 $
  • Oranges (1kg) – 5.78 $
  • Tomato (1kg) – 5.19 $
  • Potato (1kg) – 3.86 $
  • Onion (1kg) – 3.48 $
  • Lettuce (1 head) – 1.90 $
  • Water (1.5 liter bottle) – 1.94 $
  • Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) – 12.50 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) – 1.73 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 4.50 $
  • Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) – 10.38 $
  • Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) – 5.00 $
  • Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff) – 1.40 $
  • Gasoline (1 liter) – 0.89 $
  • Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car) – 34,332.93 $
  • Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car) – 26,105.64 $
  • Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment – 192.43 $
  • Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10GB+ Data – 51.71 $
  • Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) – 71.67 $
  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat – 14.50 $
  • Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child – 1,120.00 $
  • International Primary School, Yearly for 1 Child – 30,000.00 $
  • 1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) – 41.25 $
  • 1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …) – 50.75 $
  • 1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range) – 96.60 $
  • 1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes – 143.33 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre – 900.00 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre – 800.00 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre – 1,800.00 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre – 1,200.00 $
  • Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre – 2,131.00 $
  • Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre – 2,131.00 $
  • Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) – 1,900.00 $
  • Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate – 6.48
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