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The Cost of Living Diaries: Charleston, SC

Find out what it’s like to be a local in Charleston.   

By Lindsey Hyde on July 7, 2022

South Carolina
South Carolina / Courtesy of traveler1116

Welcome to The Cost of Living Diaries. How much does it cost to live in Charleston, South Carolina? What’s an average mortgage, a cocktail, or a week’s worth of childcare? Keep reading because we asked a Charleston local to tell us all about the cost of living in this thriving city!

Charleston is an ever-growing hot spot. Steeped in history and flourishing with outdoor recreation, diverse dining and drink options (think everything from laid-back breweries to fancy wine bars), an amazing arts scene and breathtaking views where blue water touches the horizon, Charleston is a place where residents can not only make a living but enjoy a full life in the process. 

To find out more about what it’s like to live and work in the region, we sat down with Lois MacRitchie, who married a Charlestonian and moved to the area 28 years ago from Florida. Today, she owns The Boutique, a shop that’s been open since the mid-1950s that’s known for its exclusive handmade items, both locally made and imported. 

Lois MacRitchie
The Boutique

Q: How would you describe the community and its residents?
A: I think what stands out without me even telling anyone about it is just the history that’s here. The appreciation for preservation throughout the city is very obvious. That’s part of the reason I think most people stay here. There are organizations that take preservation seriously, and that’s why it looks as beautiful as it does. We don’t allow things to be torn down that have historic value. 

I love the people who I’m surrounded with. They are all lovely, well-mannered — like anywhere, they have their moments — but for the most part, they’re very polite, kind, forgiving and generous. 

Q: What do you love about living and working here? 
A: The beauty of the surroundings and the quality of the people. And in the winter, the weather’s nice. Every once in a while, we get frost, but pretty much it’s 40s to 50s in the winter and always sunny. It might be cold, but the sun is out, so you don’t get that kind of gray look that a lot of the country experiences during the winter.   

Q: Tell me how you ended up owning The Boutique?
A: I was going through a divorce at the time and just needed a part-time job to keep me busy and keep me engaged socially, so I started out as a part-timer (in 2012) — a part-time shop girl. I was a friend of the previous owner, and most of the people who worked there I already knew, so it was a very easy fold-in; they just embraced me. (I took over) eight years ago.

Q: Do you own a home? What was that process like? 
A: We own a home — I’m married, just got married in October — that’s four miles from my shop. We paid just under $1 million. What we got for what we paid for is superior in that we’ve only been here two years, but it has way appreciated. The Charleston market never goes down, ever, so any investment you make in Charleston real estate is going to go up. People are continually wanting to come here.  

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant, and about how much is dinner and drinks for two people?
A: We love The Establishment (a seafood-centric restaurant), which is downtown in the Historic District. They have an open-kitchen concept. It’s in a very old building that they’ve completely redone. There’s a beautiful bar there with a huge wall of TV screens, but what they run on it is just nature pictures of like the ocean and birds. It’s just a different vibe. It’s relaxing but its energetic all at the same time. (Dinner and drinks for two would cost) about $200. 

Q: What’s your favorite coffee shop, and how much does your go-to drink cost?
A: It’s called Christophe’s (Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Pâtissier). A large French press coffee is about $4. They also make homemade French pastries every day and handmade French chocolates. It’s really wonderful, and it’s privately owned. 

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