How to Rent for Less, Still Walk Outside at Night

Like I said earlier, living near the Metro will often cost a little more rent-wise but so will sitting in hours of traffic in total gas and car upkeep expenditures. When moving to the D.C. area, this is a decision many have to make: cheaper rent or convenience.

Cheap places can be found in the city, though often you’ll sacrafice any sort of yard, a washer and dryer, parking for a car and much less favorably, your safety. Living in Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda can sometimes be as expensive as the city but never underestimate the power of Craigslist.

The site will let you search Northern Virgina, Maryland and D.C. and I’ve used to to find both of my rentals in D.C.

When I first moved here, I was bound and determined to live in the city but my new roommate, who had lived in the D.C. area for over a year, explained to me how much more we could get for the money in Northern Virginia. In general, I now have to agree with her.

I’m only 4 miles from the city and without traffic, can get all the way to Dupont in a half hour. Living in Arlington, I still have access to great restaurants and bars for times when I don’t feel like going into the city but all of the city fun at my fingertips, all for only $550/month (I share a 3-bedroom house with two other roommates). How did I find this great deal? Craigslist! Give it a shot.

Being open-minded is essential to finding the right place for yourself in the D.C. area. Be willing to look at up to 10 places before deciding on one; you never know what kind of deal you might run across.

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Wanna Drink? Choose Happy Hour

Drinking in D.C. can become an expensive habit unless you drink six packs alone in your house and in that case, you may have a problem.

Anyhow, occasionally in D.C. some student with a ton of time on their hands will circulate a large Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that lists happy hour (food and drink) by neighborhood and day of the week. That might sound obscure, but it’s true…keep an eye out. In the meantime, try this site to keep abreast of all the latest deals. While DC Happy Hour isn’t an extensive as this “mystery list,” it’ll do for now.

Virtually every neighborhood in the D.C. area has a few bars that offer food and drink specials, often with extras like free pool too! When I first moved here, I didn’t realize how much of a 9 to 5 city D.C. really was until I got my first 9 to 5 and started trying to commute in during rush hour and over lunch; happy hour in D.C. isn’t any different so skip out of work a half hour early and do yourself a favor: be there by 5!

Fa, Fa, Falafel! For Less…

Falafel, those delicious little balls of fried chickpeas often thrown in a pita for a delicous sandwich, is something other than tasty: cheap. Listed on Epicurous.com’s budget site, Amsterdam Falafel is an extremely tasty, yet inexpensive treat. Adam’s Morgan boasts tons of bars and restuarants and this one will assure your wallet won’t be empty when you want a filling dinner before, or after, visting a few bars.

Amsterdam Falafel serves the simple sandwich up in wax paper but the fun is that you get to put on whatever fixin’s you wanna. Customizable sandwiches can be topped with hummos, lettuce, tomato and a variety of unique sauces. For a couple bucks more, you can get some Dutch-style fries that’ll complement the falafel nicely.

Because this great place is open till 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays visiting before or after the bar is an option. Beware: plan on waiting in a long line if you visit Amsterdam Falafel after a few drinks at night, especially on weekends. It’s a really popular late night snack in Adam’s Morgan!

Sushi for Less: Cafe Asia Happy Hour

Cafe Asia, with locations downtown and in Rosslyn, Va., has the cheapest quality sushi I’ve found in the D.C. area.

Try their happy hour Monday through Saturday, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. for $1 Nigiri sushi and $2 select draft beers. Get there as early as possible because in my experience (I’ve only been to the Rosslyn location) lines get pretty heavy after 5 p.m. because of the work crowd.

Non-happy hour menus are relatively cheap at Cafe Asia too. They’ve got a reasonable selection of delicious and unique salads that are huge; definately enough for a meal.

The Merits of the Metro

Metro
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, it’s rumored, keeps the Metro cleaner than any other public transportation in the country. I agree, yet, many people still don’t use the Metro often. When looking for places to live in the D.C. area make sure to take proximity to the Metro into consideration if you plan on saving money by using it often. In practice, this makes rents a little higher, but in the long run, using your car less saves money.

Park your car at a Metro lot and take the rail train into the city if you’re not close enough to walk to a station. This still saves you more money than if you were to drive (especially during the weekday). Parking garages in D.C. start at about $15 per day, if you’re lucky.

Use the Metro Trip Planner to figure out the quickest and cheapest way to get into the city.

Education Through Free Museums, Monuments

D.C. is great for a variety of reason but one of the biggest selling points for this city is the “free museum” access. People fly in from all over the U.S., heck, the world, to see these museums and monuments and they’re in our backyards. Take advantage! Plus, save yourself some money by touring a few museums on Saturday afternoons. Check out the full list of museums from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Here are some I’ve been to and would recommend:

Grilled Cheese for $2.50: It’s a Perfect World

YumGrilled cheese sandwiches…ah…delicious and simple. Who doesn’t love one? Who doesn’t love one for $2.50 or TWO for $5? Take part in this cheapo delicacy at Toledo Lounge in Adam’s Morgan on Wednesday nights. Swig back a $2.50 draft beer as well till 7:30 p.m. on weeknights.

Adam’s Morgan is tons of fun. The infamous 18th Street is packed with bars of every sort and a night on the town in AM can set you back quite a few if you’re not careful. Toledo Lounge is one of those places you can just go to “have a beer,” no strings attached, and grab some cheap bar food while you’re at it. It’s been called “unpretentious,” “laid-back,” and more but whatever it may be: it’s cheap!

Adam’s Morgan is accesible via Metro, sort of. Don’t be fooled: It’s a good 10-15 minute walk from the Adam’s Morgan Metro stop.

Read the Washington Post review on the Toledo Lounge.