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The Cost of Living Diaries: Columbia, SC

Get a resident's perspective on living in Columbia. 

By Lindsey Hyde on July 7, 2022

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

Headshot of Amelia Wilks, community relations coordinator for the Children’s Trust of South Carolina.

Amelia Wilks
Children’s Trust of South Carolina

A youthful, creative and friendly energy exudes from Columbia. The city is home to thriving businesses, the University of South Carolina (UofSC), welcoming communities, delicious dining options, an amazing public and performing arts scene — the list goes on and on. South Carolina’s capital city has something for everyone. 

To get a clearer view of what it’s like to live, work and play in this attractive city, we sat down with Amelia Wilks, the community relations coordinator for a nonprofit called Children’s Trust of South Carolina, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Columbia, graduated from UofSC in 2020, and now lives 10 minutes from downtown. 

Q: What has kept you in Columbia?
A: Well, I went to school here, and I stayed in state because, financially, it was the best option just for someone who lives in South Carolina, and then the pandemic, honestly, kept me here. And then my parents brought up the idea of me buying a house when rates were low, so it was kind of an easy transition for me to have a place that had a constant, standard cost of living. 

Q: What was it like buying a house in the area?
A: I really love my house. It’s a three-bedroom. I got it at the sweet spot (in 2021)…for around $150,000. I will say I live in a really good neighborhood so that I won’t take for granted, and it is close proximity to work and buying everyday necessities. 

Q: How would you describe the community and its unique vibe? 
A: I think it depends on the time of year. When school is in session, and you’re downtown, it can kind of remind you of a college town that’s integrated in a downtown area. But when they’re not here, Columbia is very millennial-heavy — it depends on the neighborhood you go to, so like the downtown area and Forest Acres area are very millennial-heavy, but if you move to the outskirts, it’s very family-based. The people are typically nice. It’s the South. 

Q: What do you like about living in Columbia?
A: I like that the cost of living is affordable. I also like that the traffic doesn’t keep me from living my everyday life — it doesn’t take me forever to get to Target or the grocery store. It’s very easy to navigate by car, which I think is convenient, and I like that our town is very centered around UofSC football because that’s something I grew up around, so it’s very familiar to me. There are a variety of restaurants, so there’s also something good to eat if you’re going out for a date night or with your friends.  

Q: What do you like about working in the city? 
A: Columbia is very tightknit. Every time you meet someone new, they probably already know someone that you know, so it makes relationship-building very easy. 

Congaree River on Memorial Day weekend Columbia, SC - Photos by South Carolina photographer

Q: What are some outdoor recreation options in the area? 
A: We have lots of parks and hiking trails. We have the (Riverbanks) Zoo, so there’s the Botanical Garden and zip lining there. And then we have the (Congaree) River, so a lot of people go canoeing, and then along the river, there are walking paths. Those are probably the biggest ones. 

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant in the area, and about how much is dinner and drinks for two people?
A: It really depends on my mood, so I really love Halls (Chophouse Columbia), but I also love Market On Main, which is a really popular one. It’s like modern American — it’s casual. There’s a really nice patio. You can get a burger or some really good pasta or really good pork belly. Dinner and drinks for two people would be at least $60. 

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