Sunday, December 7, 2014

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch Except When You Live at Your Mom's House and/or in the Midwest


I saw a psychic of questionable legitimacy* in the fall of 2013, right before I moved back to Washington, D.C. from New Jersey. She told me a lot of things that turned out not to be true, but at the time, life in chaos, it was a conversation I found comforting. The one thing she said that I found particularly reassuring was that when it came to finances, I wasn't going to struggle as much as I feared I would. At the time, my then-boyfriend's military career had been paying for my life, & I had become fairly irresponsible with money. I was looking at a serious standard-of-living downgrade when I moved to the city & started paying $1430 a month to rent a singular room, & I was terrified I was going to end up destitute.

D.C. is expensive, to be sure, & the cost of living is one of the reasons I left after only a year - but I think calling myself "destitute" would be a biiiit of a stretch. For that, I am relieved.

Still, something I've noticed right off the bar about being on the East Coast versus being in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, is that when it comes to Midwestern living, my sense of expensiveness is severely skewed. To some extent, I already knew this. During past trips home, I was absolutely giddy to rediscover that I could get pleasantly tipsy on a mere $3. But as I readjust to real life here, I find myself constantly surprised by the cost of things - or the lack thereof, really.
  • I'm in a Facebook group for residents of my hometown, the absurdity of which I've written about in the past. Recently, a woman posted to the group saying that she was hoping to rent a three-bedroom house in town for no more than $650 a month. I had to re-hinge my jaw to my face after it slid to the floor in amazement. In D.C., you can't pay rent on a goddamn cardboard box for that price.
  • In that same group, a number of people have complained about the cost of hamburgers at BurgerFi, a new fast-casual burger joint that opened in town last weekend. Their customizable, grass-fed burgers are approximately $6. Every time I read one of these complaints, I want to type-scream, "Don't like it? Go to McDonald's, man, & let the rest of us have some nice things that aren't even that nice!"
  • My best friend & her husband were in town over Thanksgiving, & we met up at my favorite hometown restaurant. I ordered a size of mozzarella sticks & a cup of soup, like I have every time I've gone there since age 15, & then I ordered two cups of soup to go. My whole bill - for three meals - was $14, which is just a few bucks more than what I paid for lunch on a near-daily basis in Dupont Circle.
  • A new movie theater opened in town on Friday, & today I looked into a midday showing of Mockingjay. When I exclaimed to my mother, "A matinee is $6.75!" she responded, "That's crazy! That used to be the cost of a night-time movie!" Turns out, she felt $6.75 was expensive... whereas I felt it was basically free.
  • My mom was really, really excited the other day about gas being $2.54. In fairness, I have literally no idea how much gas normally costs because I haven't had a car in a year (& even when I had one, I rarely drove). Is $2.54 cheap? I think so? Cool? (I'm scared of the cost of having a car, which is a fear I need to face real soon.)
I am relearning what counts as expensive here - though to some extent, I hope I don't lose my sense of East Coast pricing, either, because I don't want to be one of those people who travels back to The Big City & gasps, "My God! I don't know how anyone manages to live here!"

Anyway, I'm saving money here, & it feels pretty good. A nice thing about living with my mom is sometimes she sometimes makes me food, which means I don't spend all of my hard-earned money on meals out. (Note: I still cannot cook & do not really try. When left to my own devices, I usually eat almonds, Craisins, & large chunks of Brie. Together. Like salad or trail mix.) This morning when I woke up, she had a plate warming on the stove for me: blueberry sausage with a sweet potato & apple hash, topped with real maple syrup. Remind me never to complain about living with her ever. (Hi, Mom.)

Moral of the story: Ohio is, like, free. I'm having a hard time readjusting to a lot of things here, but the cost of living is not one of them.



*REDUNDANT, I KNOW.

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