Cost of Living Forum

ArlingtonLifer92 @arlingtonlifer92
Joined: 2 years ago

Cost of Living in Arlington – A Long-Time Resident’s Perspective

Hi all, I’ve been living in Arlington for the past 20 years, and I’m curious to hear from others about the current cost of living situation here. As a long-time resident, I’ve seen prices fluctuate over the years, but it feels like things have been getting more expensive lately, especially for housing, groceries, and entertainment.

I’m a single parent with two kids (ages 8 and 12), and I work as a paralegal making around $65K per year. I own a modest 3-bedroom townhouse in the Ballston area, which I bought about 10 years ago. My mortgage payment is around $2,200 per month.

Can others share their experiences and thoughts on the major expenses in Arlington? I’m particularly interested in hearing about costs for housing, utilities, groceries, dining out, transportation, healthcare, childcare/education, and entertainment. What are your biggest costs and pain points? Do you feel like Arlington is becoming less affordable, or is it still manageable on a decent income? Any tips for saving money or finding good deals?

I’d love to hear a range of perspectives from people in different life situations and income levels. Let’s discuss!

Posts: 17

10 Replies

FitFoodieArl @fitfoodiearl
Joined: 11 months ago

As someone who loves eating healthy and staying active, I’ve found that some costs in Arlington can really add up. Groceries for fresh produce, lean proteins, etc. tend to be on the pricier side compared to neighboring areas. But restaurant costs are also quite high if you want to dine out at the trendier places, with entrees often $25-35+.

I belong to a nice gym that’s $90/month. Not cheap, but there are some affordable gym options around $50-60/month if you don’t need all the fancy amenities. Getting around without a car is very doable, but the metro and bus fares really start to add up if you use them regularly.

Housing is definitely the biggest monthly expense for me. I rent a modern 1-bed apartment in Clarendon for $2,200 per month (ouch!). But I could pay a bit less if I went farther out from the urban centers. Utilities around $150-200 per month.

Overall, I’d say it’s expensive but still very livable if you’re smart about cutting costs where you can and are making a decent income. There are ways to treat yourself without going overboard.

Posts: 1
TechBroDude @techbrodude
Joined: 3 months ago

Like many of the techies around here, I’m a well-paid single guy who can afford to live it up a bit in Arlington. I clear around $130K annually at my job, so the higher costs don’t strain me too badly.

My rent for a nice 2-bed 2-bath apartment in Rosslyn is $3,200 per month, which seems to be typical for that area. But the luxury amenities like a pool, gym, etc. are great to have. Utilities around $200 or so per month.

As for other costs, I probably spend $600-800 per month on groceries, household items, dining out, etc. Mealprep for the work week and cook at home a decent amount. The dining scene in Arlington is though, so I definitely treat myself to restaurants/bars on weekends which adds up quickly.

Gas currently just under $4/gallon, and I probably spend $150-200/month to keep my BMW filled up with premium. Car insurance around $120/month. Health insurance is fully covered by my employer.

Entertainment-wise, I get my money’s worth from a $115/month sports club membership and hitting the town on weekends. See movies, live music, breweries, etc.

Arlington definitely leans toward the expensive side of things in the area. But at the same time, there’s so much to do here and it’s got a great urban lifestyle if you can afford it. No problem for me currently, but could see it being a stretch for middle-income families or younger folks just starting careers.

Posts: 10
DINKingItUp @dinkingitup
Joined: 2 years ago

My husband and I are Dinks (dual income, no kids) in our early 30s, and we feel pretty comfortable with the cost of living in Arlington so far. Between both our incomes (around $220K combined), we can enjoy a decent lifestyle here while still saving a good chunk for the future.

We own a renovated 3-bed 2.5-bath townhouse in Courthouse that we bought a few years ago for $830K. Mortgage is around $3,500/month. Home costs like utilities, internet, etc. probably average another $400 per month or so.

Groceries, we spend maybe $700-800 per month stocking up at stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc. And we go out to restaurants 2-3 times per week on average, which could be anywhere from $50 at a casual place to $150+ for a fancier date night spot.

Other costs include $120/month gym membership, car payments ($600/month), insurance, occasional uber rides when we’ve been drinking, etc. We also take 2-3 vacations per year, so travel is an extra expense.

While the cost of living in Arlington is undoubtedly high, I’d say it’s very manageable for us at this stage of life without kids. Could see things getting tougher if/when we start a family with daycare costs and other kid-related expenses. But for now, we’re living comfortably!

Posts: 14
RetiredInArl @retiredinarl
Joined: 10 months ago

As a retiree who has lived in Arlington for over 30 years, I’ve definitely seen the cost of living go up significantly, especially for housing. My wife and I bought our 4-bedroom home back in 1992 for only $275K. It’s insane what similar homes go for now!

With our mortgage paid off, our biggest monthly expenses these days are utilities ($250-300), groceries ($500-600), healthcare premiums/costs ($400), and miscellaneous like dining out, entertainment, etc. ($300-500). We try to keep a decent budget, but things do add up.

Property taxes are also becoming a bigger burden at over $8,000 per year now. Plus all the miscellaneous home maintenance costs like lawn care, repairs, etc.

I’d say Arlington has definitely gotten a lot pricier over the decades, particularly for housing and property taxes. It’s getting harder for those on fixed incomes. But we also feel spoiled by the great amenities, transit options, dining scene, etc. Those perks do come at a cost!

Overall, I don’t think current retirees could afford to buy into Arlington at today’s prices. But for those already established here, it’s still very livable, albeit expensive. Lots of great resources and senior discounts help a bit too.

Posts: 17
StartupGrindMom @startupgrindmom
Joined: 2 months ago

As a married mom of 3 kids (all under 10 years old) with a moderate household income around $130K, I’ll admit that the costs in Arlington can feel like a grind sometimes! My husband and I both work at small tech startups trying to get businesses off the ground.

Our biggest expense by far is our mortgage around $3,000 per month for a pretty basic 4-bedroom home in the Douglas Park area. Childcare is our next biggest cost – we have 2 kids in full-time daycare ($2,400 per month) and 1 in elementary school (public school, so minimal fees for now).

Groceries are at least $1,000 per month to feed our whole family. We don’t eat out too frequently with such young kids, maybe 2-3x per month max. Don’t really have budgets for entertainment, new clothes, etc. very often. Just the basics!

We make it work by driving used cars, keeping subscriptions/utilities pretty minimal, not taking extravagant vacations, etc. But it does feel hard to get ahead or save much each month. We’re just plowing through this busy child-rearing phase for now and hope things get easier as we advance in our careers.

Overall, I can’t say Arlington is cheap by any means. But it does have great community resources like parks, libraries, playgrounds that help entertain the kids without spending much. Couldn’t imagine doing this in a bigger city like NYC or San Francisco!

Posts: 22
BrokeStudentArl @brokestudentarl
Joined: 4 months ago

As a grad student at Georgetown who has to live off student loans and whatever I can earn from my part-time barista job, let me tell you…the costs in Arlington are absolutely killer for someone on a tight budget like me!

I’m renting a tiny studio apartment near the Rosslyn metro for $1,600 per month. Yeah, you read that right – $1,600 for essentially just a bedroom with a kitchenette. Split among 3 roommates and it’s still over $500 each. Utilities are pretty low at least, probably $50 for my portion.

I try to keep food costs down by getting groceries at Aldi/Lidl when I can, and sticking to cheap eats around campus. But going out at all in Arlington is wildly expensive – a casual meal could easily cost $15-20 after tax/tip. Don’t even get me started on the insane markups at bars/clubs here.

My student loan payments are currently deferred, but once those kick in after graduation, I have no clue how I’ll afford to stay in Arlington unless I can land a really well-paying job straight out of school.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an amazing place to spend my 20s – tons of stuff to do, great nightlife, easy transportation without a car, etc. But those perks definitely come at a steep cost that puts a strain on students and young, broke professionals. This place will be the dream once my career and income ramp up!

Posts: 2
ConsultantRoadWarrior @consultantroadwarrior
Joined: 2 years ago

As someone who travels constantly for work and is rarely home, I have a bit of a different perspective on costs in Arlington. I’m an independent management consultant making around $180K per year, so while my income is good, I also have some unique expenses that come with my crazy travel schedule.

My 2-bed 2-bath condo in Clarendon runs me $3,400 per month, which is pretty steep for just me. But it’s nice to have a decently upscale place to come back to when I am in town. Utilities around $250/month.

Travel is where a lot of my income gets eaten up. I’m on the road at least 3 weeks per month, so there’s constant costs for flights, rental cars, hotels, client dinners, etc. that can easily run $4,000+ monthly. My company covers some of it, but a good chunk is on me as a self-employed consultant.

Don’t really have a ton of other major expenses – I eat out constantly while traveling and cook minimally at home. Have a housekeeper/cleaning service for $120 bi-weekly, garage parking for $200/month, gym membership for $75/month. Do take a nice vacation or two each year when I have downtime.

Overall, I’d say the baseline costs in Arlington are high, but very manageable at my income level. The travel is what adds up quickly, though, with Arlington basically serving as an expensive home base between gigs. Might be a bit more reasonable for me if I didn’t have those additional travel costs eating into my income.

Posts: 23
FirstHomeBuyer745 @firsthomebuyer745
Joined: 2 years ago

My wife and I are finally at the point where we can start looking at purchasing our first home in the Arlington area after years of renting! As excited as we are, the housing costs have us sweating a bit as first-time buyers.

We’ve been renting a decent 2-bed apartment in Ballston for $2,700/month. But based on our initial research, it looks like similar townhomes/condos in that area are selling for $600K-800K+. Even with our combined $160K household income, those prices seem absolutely bonkers to take on as an 80-year mortgage!

From what I’ve seen, we’d likely need to expand our search to some of the farther-out suburbs and townhome communities outside Arlington proper to find something livable in the $400K-500K range that doesn’t completely demolish our monthly budgets. But then you’re sacrificing easy walkability, driving more, higher transportation costs over time, etc.

Other costs like groceries, utilities, car payments/insurance, dining out, etc. seem to follow regional norms and wouldn’t necessarily spike too high inside vs outside Arlington. Though perhaps taxes would be higher within the county lines.

We’re trying to find that sweet spot between affordability while still enjoying the amenities, restaurants, trails, and conveniences that make Arlington so appealing. It’s a tough balance for sure! I have a feeling what we settle for may require some compromises compared to our wish list.

Posts: 15
SingleMomThrifter @singlemomthrifter
Joined: 2 years ago

Let me just say, trying to get by as a single mom in Arlington on a tighter income of around $55K per year is an uphill battle for sure! Every dollar gets stretched incredibly thin.

I rent a basic 2-bedroom apartment in the Westover neighborhood for $1,800 per month. Nothing fancy, but it allows my son to have his own room at least. Utilities are around $150 on average.

With a limited income, I really have to be smart about saving on other expenses. We don’t have a car, so I take public transportation (bus pass is $90/month) or walk/bike everywhere possible to avoid those costs. My son goes to public school, so no private tuition fees.

Groceries are one of my biggest line items at $500+ per month. Lots of shopping at Aldi, Lidl, shopping sales, and sticking to a pretty bare-bones monthly meal plan. We rarely dine out, with maybe one $30 restaurant meal per month as a treat. Don’t really have a budget for entertainment, travel, etc.

Healthcare is also a major concern – I get basic employer insurance but still pay around $200 per month, plus copays and other medical costs. Overall, it’s a constant juggling game trying to make it all work paycheck to paycheck.

I absolutely love living in Arlington – great community, parks, resources. But it does often feel like the costs are catered more towards higher income levels. It’s a struggle, but I’m doing my best to build a good life for me and my son here.

Posts: 5
CheapoBackpacker @cheapobackpacker
Joined: 10 months ago

As a 20-something who works odd jobs and lives an ultra-frugal, minimalist lifestyle, I can definitely share some hacks for living cheaply in Arlington! It takes some sacrifices, but it’s absolutely doable on a tight budget if you get creative.

Myrent is only $600 – I live in a basement studio apartment in the Williamsburg neighborhood. Just a small bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette. But it works for my needs and I barely spend time at home anyway.

I don’t own a car, instead getting everywhere via a $90/month regional bus pass, biking with a $30 used bike from CraigslistI, occasional $10 Uber trips, etc. Let me tell you, not having car costs is HUGE for saving money!

Food costs are low – I buy bulk dry goods and frozen veggies from stock up at the 99 Ranch market for $30 per week. Hit food pantries and use promo codes for free Uber Eats deliveries from chains when I want a treat. Speaking of free stuff, I take full advantage of community centers, libraries, parks, and events for free activities.

Healthcare is an issue, I’ll admit. Just paying a high deductible plan out of pocket for $250/month with no dental or vision for now. Will have to figure something else out long-term.

Overall, you can definitely get by for well under $1,000 per month in Arlington if you strip things down and use a ton of unconventional money-saving tactics like I do. Definitely not a forever lifestyle for most people, but works great for nomads and ultra-frugal minimalist types like me for now!

Posts: 24

Detailed Price Insights of Abilene, TX

  • Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant – 19.00 $
  • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course – 60.00 $
  • McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) – 14.00 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) – 7.00 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 9.00 $
  • Cappuccino (regular) – 4.65 $
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) – 2.44 $
  • Water (0.33 liter bottle) – 1.00 $
  • Milk (regular), (1 liter) – 1.08 $
  • Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g) – 3.59 $
  • Rice (white), (1kg) – 4.53 $
  • Eggs (regular) (12) – 3.35 $
  • Local Cheese (1kg) – 9.52 $
  • Chicken Fillets (1kg) – 8.05 $
  • Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) – 15.43 $
  • Apples (1kg) – 2.76 $
  • Banana (1kg) – 1.55 $
  • Oranges (1kg) – 3.82 $
  • Tomato (1kg) – 3.90 $
  • Potato (1kg) – 2.07 $
  • Onion (1kg) – 2.02 $
  • Lettuce (1 head) – 1.87 $
  • Water (1.5 liter bottle) – 2.25 $
  • Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) – 11.50 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) – 1.73 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 4.92 $
  • Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) – 10.00 $
  • Gasoline (1 liter) – 1.04 $
  • Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car) – 26,828.28 $
  • Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car) – 24,706.51 $
  • Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment – 140.33 $
  • Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10GB+ Data – 45.56 $
  • Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) – 40.00 $
  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat – 15.50 $
  • Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child – 921.42 $
  • 1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) – 38.00 $
  • 1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …) – 40.00 $
  • 1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range) – 72.50 $
  • 1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes – 80.00 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre – 1,300.00 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre – 1,200.00 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre – 2,200.00 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre – 2,000.00 $
  • Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) – 5,500.00 $
  • Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate – 4.85
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