So you’re about to be living in Washington DC as a military family. You’ve done your research. Stalked Zillow.com and GreatSchools.org. And now the movers have deposited your HHGs into the hub of military life. Welcome to the nation’s capital where the tap of military plastic dress shoes on marble floors can be heard for miles around. Here’s the real scoop on life inside the beltway:
1. Live Close. Spend More. Save Sanity.
We get it. You’ve lived apart for many months for training, deployments, and geo-separation, and now you want to live in a spot that doesn’t mean an hour long commute so you can spend time with the fam. Get out your wallet (and savings) because the BAH for DC is going to leave a hurting on your wallet for anything with a decent (less than 45 minute commute). Add in the cost of deposits and utilities, and the average military family is spending WAY more than most of us make to afford an easier commute to downtown.
2. Live Far. Save More. Lose Sanity.
There will always be a friend who feels compelled to tell you about their beautiful, big home when they lived in DC. Or the money they saved by living on Fort Belvoir and commuting in to the Pentagon. It’s a glorious picture that they paint but ask their service member spouse about the commute and it may not be all rosy. Depending on the job, family time may become commuting time but the $$$ you may save could be worth the sanity you may lose.
3. Road Rage. It’s Real.
Everyone is in a rush and they expect that you will sit one inch off of the bumper in front of you and not hesitate for one second when a light turns green. And, if you don’t get that, you will get the fan favorite finger along with some nice curse words. Add into the picture the longest lights on the face of the earth (we’re looking at you Northern Virginia) that will test your patience beyond what any human being should be tested. Move on to number 4 on this list.
4. What’s that under the windshield wiper?
Speaking of money, save some of it for the parking and speeding tickets you will get while living in our nation’s capital. From police cameras in the downtown tunnels, to the oddly facing street signs, chances are: you’re going to get a traffic or parking ticket during your stay. Budget it in.
5. Military Mothership.
My husband works at the Pentagon. Yeah, mom and dad might be impressed but not so much your neighbors. Why? Because some of them work at the White House. Or FBI HQ. Or the CIA. Or one of the major universities in the area. But, don’t worry. They give an awesome tour at the Pentagon where you can take a cool picture in front of a fake podium that you can post to Facebook. And out of town friends and family won’t have to know that life at the Pentagon is just another day at work for most people.
6. $$$. And more $$$.
Go back to number 1, number 4, and forward to number 8 and number 9 on this list. Add in kid’s activities that cost 2xs more than most any other place you’ll live and the expectation that your child will be involved in a zillion of them, plus the PTO wants you to pay for a new playground. Oh, and the food! Don’t forget the awesome food! And the gas for commuting. And the cost of those uniforms for work that they don’t normally wear… You get the picture.