By Jessica Green

When I packed my bags to move to Washington D.C., I tucked $50 in the side pocket. I noted this money as “In Case of Emergency.” When I landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, I quickly realized my rainy-day bank would not get me far in this new city.

Moving from Athens, Georgia, to Washington, D.C., took adjusting in a variety of ways. It meant switching grocery stores from Kroger to Giant and from driving my car to riding the Metro. Amid all the transitions, I watched my bank account take blow after blow. I knew moving would come with a temporary financial burden, but I did not expect to change my entire lifestyle.

I came prepared with a substantial amount of savings and a loose outline of a budget. I then had to tighten my financial outlook when I realized the gap in cost of living between Georgia and the District of Columbia. According to CNN Money’s cost of living calculator, groceries are 11% more expensive in Washington, D.C., compared to Atlanta, Georgia, which is only about 60 miles from Athens. PayScale.com backs up this data stating that the cost of living is 41% higher in this region as well. I recall the warnings from colleagues over the years about the cost of living in a larger metropolitan area, but I had not expected to pay nearly double for all my purchases.

My current employment is a yearlong internship that pays $15 an hour. I accepted this role based on the standards of my home state. Georgia’s minimum wage being $7.25 altered my judgement when the time came to determine an appropriate salary for out of state living. I did my job search before moving and before realizing the impending jump in cost-of-living standards. I viewed my salary with a jaded perspective. I previously thought that this salary would allow me to live comfortably and now believe it may be necessary to find a second job.

While interning this semester, I am living on the University of Georgia’s satellite campus as a part of a study away initiative called the Washington Semester Program. This opportunity allows UGA students to intern in Washington, D.C., and take night classes with housing provided. As this program is paid for all up front, I can avoid a monthly bill and save my wages for my next living situation at the program’s end. I look forward to finding an affordable apartment near the city with my new knowledge of the area. After experiencing Washington, D.C., without the pressure of rent, I feel more capable in handling the 162.5% increase in housing prices compared to the Atlanta market. Though my dreams of finding a one bedroom or studio apartment may have to go on hold, I look forward to exploring different neighborhoods and commuter options to live comfortably.

In an effort to return to financial stability in a region that charges a fee for grocery bags, I have come up with several conventional ways to save money. For instance, I only use rideshare apps as a mode of transportation in dire emergencies. Instead, I ride the Metro, take the bus or rent a bike or scooter to reach my destinations. I also make more of an effort to stick to my budget and limit unnecessary expenses. The biggest money saver so far has been cooking at home instead of eating out. Now, three months into my move, I am finally in the green financially.

Jessica Green is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.