Author Topic: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent  (Read 5406 times)

mrnovember09

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Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« on: August 31, 2015, 01:11:40 PM »
Hello everyone,

I'm a recent college graduate (I just finished at the end of May), currently living at home in a suburb between Baltimore and D.C. I already have a job - working in publicity for a publishing company and making $30k a year. It's not a lot, but as an English grad right out of college I think it's a decent amount. I have 10k in student loans, I'm covered under my parent's health insurance for 4 more years, I spend a total of $150 a month on car insurance/phone bill, and after taxes I bring home around $1700 a month (I know that's slightly low, when tax season rolls around I'll probably get a good amount back and I can readjust my with-holdings)

My main question is what advice do you have for a recent adult trying to live the mustachian life with a small income in an expensive area. While at home I don't have to pay for room and board, but I won't be here for too long. My parents and I get along well enough, but with a long term girlfriend and parents with vastly different political and religious beliefs from me, I'm going to need to leave sooner than later. The current plan is to leave after I've paid off my student loans and saved roughly $3000.

When I move out, I'm probably going to want to move closer to work, in D.C. This will be very expensive, but I can't help it right now. I don't want to leave the area because of my relationship, and that's non-negotiable (my gf is younger and will be in college for a few more years).

I won't really be able to follow the mustachian lifestyle until I earn significantly more, but what small things can you suggest? I already try to be cognizant of my purchases and I live pretty frugally right now.

Do you have any advice for me?

Thanks!

jooles

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2015, 01:18:55 PM »

IF your goal is to graduate into a lifestyle of time freedom as early as possible then the choices you make today will either lead you toward that or lead you away from that.  You get to critically evaluate what steps you will and will not take.

IF you decide the realtionship and the geographic location are the most valuable items in your world then you maximize your choices around that.

Save every dollar you can.  Constantly reevaluate your choices.  Maximize your opportunities to reduce your expectations.  Eat differently that others.  Shop (or more appropriately don't shop at all) differently than others.  Don't follow the crowd.  Blaze your own path. 

lbmustache

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2015, 01:34:57 PM »
There are ways to have cheaper rent: perhaps move in with your girlfriend or roommate. It just might be that you'll have to adjust for your living expenses being higher and other expenses being lower: maybe the car since you'll be close to work and DC has public transportation?

mrnovember09

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2015, 01:38:55 PM »

IF your goal is to graduate into a lifestyle of time freedom as early as possible then the choices you make today will either lead you toward that or lead you away from that.  You get to critically evaluate what steps you will and will not take.

IF you decide the realtionship and the geographic location are the most valuable items in your world then you maximize your choices around that.

Save every dollar you can.  Constantly reevaluate your choices.  Maximize your opportunities to reduce your expectations.  Eat differently that others.  Shop (or more appropriately don't shop at all) differently than others.  Don't follow the crowd.  Blaze your own path.

Do you have any specifics?

There are ways to have cheaper rent: perhaps move in with your girlfriend or roommate. It just might be that you'll have to adjust for your living expenses being higher and other expenses being lower: maybe the car since you'll be close to work and DC has public transportation?

My girlfriend has to live in campus housing because of a scholarship, so I can't move in with her. The car is necessary because my work is close to DC, but not close to a metro stop.

But I am considering a roommate. I'd prefer living in a small place by myself to a larger place with a roommate, but I'm not sure what's possible here.

Britan

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2015, 02:55:44 PM »
Eh, I know someone who lives in Laurel, and yeah the rent is just so high. Moving closer to DC makes it even worse.

I'd recommend roommates. Depending on where exactly you are, there might be UMBC students looking to share a house somewhere. If you're looking further south, try in/around College Park - also plenty of students looking to split housing though that area is weirdly expensive too. Grad students tend to be more mature/respectful roommates. Depending on where your GF is, it might also put you closer to her. That might make commuting more difficult (especially if you need to touch the black hole that is 495), but it is up to you if it's "worth it".

Of course, parts of Baltimore are probably cheapest - I lived at $28k/year fairly comfortably there for awhile, splitting a house for $500/month, all utilities included. You can live in Mt. Vernon, near Penn station and take the MARC/Metro/Bus into DC, and split rent with MICA, Hopkins, or UMB students. It sounds like you're work is not near a metro stop, though, and those all inclusive passes do cost a pretty penny - so much so that it might make more sense to drive.

Also $1700/month at your yearly salary is really low. At 30k in Maryland, you should be pulling in a little over 2k per month. Ask your employer if you can check your W-4 form to see how many exemptions you have claimed. They are likely withholding WAY too much. (Though if you pay taxes to DC, maybe the rates are slightly different?) Still worth checking.

eliza

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 07:42:38 PM »
If, as other posters have mentioned, the relationship and therefore the geography are non-negotiable, then you'll need to make other sacrifices to maintain a mustachian lifestyle.   Which means continuing to live with parents or taking on multiple roommates, truly evaluating whether there is ANY way to go car free (I don't know where, exactly, your work is, but MANY areas of DMV are doable without a car), lowering phone bill, and living a relatively spartan lifestyle.

As a former spendypants -  if you can't find a way to save some money on 30,000 per year, you probably won't be able to when you start getting raises.  I thought I can't save money because I don't make enough when I first started work @ $48,000/year.   Five years later, making around $80,000 I still wasn't saving money because I had become accustomed to spending all I made and more.  Don't be me!

Also, I recently relocated to DC and had a thread about finding cheap housing which was very helpful.  Don't have the link, but search for Building a Mustachian Life in DC.  I ended up in a 4 bedroom shared house in Arlington (walkable to Pentagon City and Crystal City metros) for $535/month + utilities.  So it can be done, but takes time and persistence to follow up on a number of dead end leads before finding something workable.


mrnovember09

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2015, 12:48:46 PM »
Eh, I know someone who lives in Laurel, and yeah the rent is just so high. Moving closer to DC makes it even worse.

I'd recommend roommates. Depending on where exactly you are, there might be UMBC students looking to share a house somewhere. If you're looking further south, try in/around College Park - also plenty of students looking to split housing though that area is weirdly expensive too. Grad students tend to be more mature/respectful roommates. Depending on where your GF is, it might also put you closer to her. That might make commuting more difficult (especially if you need to touch the black hole that is 495), but it is up to you if it's "worth it".

Of course, parts of Baltimore are probably cheapest - I lived at $28k/year fairly comfortably there for awhile, splitting a house for $500/month, all utilities included. You can live in Mt. Vernon, near Penn station and take the MARC/Metro/Bus into DC, and split rent with MICA, Hopkins, or UMB students. It sounds like you're work is not near a metro stop, though, and those all inclusive passes do cost a pretty penny - so much so that it might make more sense to drive.

Also $1700/month at your yearly salary is really low. At 30k in Maryland, you should be pulling in a little over 2k per month. Ask your employer if you can check your W-4 form to see how many exemptions you have claimed. They are likely withholding WAY too much. (Though if you pay taxes to DC, maybe the rates are slightly different?) Still worth checking.

Actually college park would be ideal - 15 minute drive from work, right by my gf, close to metro for DC stuff. The only problem is so many college students want to live there, and I'd prefer living in a tiny apartment by myself than a bigger place with rowdy college students. I just want peace and quiet. But if roommates are necessary than I'll do it.

If, as other posters have mentioned, the relationship and therefore the geography are non-negotiable, then you'll need to make other sacrifices to maintain a mustachian lifestyle.   Which means continuing to live with parents or taking on multiple roommates, truly evaluating whether there is ANY way to go car free (I don't know where, exactly, your work is, but MANY areas of DMV are doable without a car), lowering phone bill, and living a relatively spartan lifestyle.

As a former spendypants -  if you can't find a way to save some money on 30,000 per year, you probably won't be able to when you start getting raises.  I thought I can't save money because I don't make enough when I first started work @ $48,000/year.   Five years later, making around $80,000 I still wasn't saving money because I had become accustomed to spending all I made and more.  Don't be me!

Also, I recently relocated to DC and had a thread about finding cheap housing which was very helpful.  Don't have the link, but search for Building a Mustachian Life in DC.  I ended up in a 4 bedroom shared house in Arlington (walkable to Pentagon City and Crystal City metros) for $535/month + utilities.  So it can be done, but takes time and persistence to follow up on a number of dead end leads before finding something workable.

Yeah, I work in Lanham, and there's no real metro stop near the office.

Also though, being mustachian isn't possible for everyone, and with all of these constraints, I don't think it's really possible. Living at home would be the most mustachian, but it's not best for me as a person. A few years down the road, if I'm still in this relationship we can probably move in and offset the costs that way, and if I'm not then I'll have nothing to tie me down to the area and I move out on my own to be mustachian.

It's ridiculously hard to be car free in America. Especially where I live.

jooles

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2015, 01:01:24 PM »
Ask good questions -

What is the cheapest way that I CAN live right now? 

Knowing the data helps you to see which option best suits you. 

What does it cost to live independently where I can get to the job and people I need to get to?
What does it cost to live in a room-mate situation?
What does it cost to just rent a room in someone else's house?
Is there any possibility to house sit in my geography?
(Don't forget to count the cost of utilities and renters insurance and transportation based on location)
What does it cost me to live with the parental units?
(If you get meals for free, and don't pay utilities etc. this is likely the best deal dollar for dollar)

What CAN I do to reduce my expenses?
Do you eat out?  Restaurant and take out food is a good place to reap some savings.  Cut out the pre-made food and you instantly save $$.
Start with - Can I get through today spending zero dollars?
If you are headed toward a purchase - ask Can I get by without this?  Can I delay this purchase?  Can I substitute a less expensive item that will have the same utility?

Ask better questions, get better answers.

JPinDC

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2015, 02:02:08 PM »
Hey mrnovember09! I live in the DC metro area too, and it's definitely one of the more expensive places to be starting your career. That said, there are also a lot of opportunities. There are pretty good roommate-housing situations to be had (I found all my roommates on Craigslist and it worked out great), there's lots of free entertainment, and there are lots of job opportunities.

I would start with setting up a Craigslist alert (or just searching frequently) to get an idea of what's a reasonable expectation for housing where you're looking. That'll be your biggest expense, and it's OK to prioritize the location and living situation. That being said, you may find a really great roommate situation, so I wouldn't eliminate that from possibilities. I don't know much about the Lanham area specifically, but generally the closer you are to work, the better your daily commute and life. When I first moved to the area, I stayed with family and then spent the first few weekends checking out different areas to live and finding a community I really liked and a neighborhood that was super-walkable AND bike-commutable. Take your time!

It's great that you've found a job you're enjoying, but definitely don't stop there. Look for some freelance work in your field or pick up a part-time job for extra income if you need to. Just a few hundred dollars a month would make a big difference in your savings/debt-paydown timeline, and should be pretty doable. That experience will also help you get a nice increase when you're ready to leave this job. Good luck!

eliza

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2015, 05:08:25 PM »

Yeah, I work in Lanham, and there's no real metro stop near the office.

Also though, being mustachian isn't possible for everyone, and with all of these constraints, I don't think it's really possible. Living at home would be the most mustachian, but it's not best for me as a person. A few years down the road, if I'm still in this relationship we can probably move in and offset the costs that way, and if I'm not then I'll have nothing to tie me down to the area and I move out on my own to be mustachian.

It's ridiculously hard to be car free in America. Especially where I live.

I would argue that being mustachian is possible for everyone....but that doesn't mean everyone should be mustachian.  It's not for everyone.  And it isn't inherently better than other lifestyles.   It's all about priorities....and that is based on individual preferences...not moral absolutes.

If living alone is more important than retiring early, that's OK.  You are making a conscious decision based on your preferences, which is more than I can say for many US adults.

I have ridiculously unmustachian habits (travel, eating out, alcohol) - these things are more important to me than the extra time in retirement I would have by giving them up.   There's no shame in that.


SwordGuy

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2015, 06:49:17 PM »
First, congrats on paying off your student loans and building up an emergency fund in your first year of employment!  Bravo!
If you can stick it out at home for the first year, you'll be in great shape!  Make sure your girlfriend knows why you're doing it and that there's a planned end date, otherwise it might cause her to wonder about you...

Second, living in DC does NOT, repeat, NOT have to be expensive.

I rented a 1 bedroom apt with parking place two blocks north of Lincoln Park for $650 a month back in 2005.  It wasn't pretty, but it was comfortable and convenient!

The deals are out there, you just have to stop looking at the kinds of apartments that all your colleagues and former student pals look at  Since you are not in a hurry to get an apartment RIGHT NOW, TODAY! you can afford to take your time and find a deal.

FYI, I WAS in a hurry to find someplace cheap and I found one in the first day.   The property management place was, if memory serves, on 7th street one block north of Pennsylvania Ave, SE, right by the Eastern Market.


firewalker

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2015, 06:21:29 AM »
Being in this position is a great self realization program and worth exercizing. Your commitments are few, so you can experiment. You'll find what things are inconvenient, tolerable, endurable and what is truly valuable in a worst case senario. If you live like a ramen noodle eating, room renting college student for a while, you'll save money, buy time, learn bunches, and move ahead with a whole new set of opportunities.

tanzee

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2015, 06:46:56 AM »
OP, I would argue that some of your thinking on this topic falls into the black and white variety, which tends to limit one's perception of their own choices.  Earlier you stated that the ideal location for you is rife with college students who tend to be rowdy and that this likely rules out living in that region.  I would argue that with a bit of work, you would likely find someone (whether college student, grad student, or otherwise) who shares your values around living spaces.  The black and white thought is that X region = living with rowdy college students.  In reality, there are many different people in that region who each has a different personality and set of preferences.  I would recommend that you explore it a little bit, and you might find the perfect situation. 

The other black and white statement I read in your posts was along the lines of biking being incredibly difficult in the US.  While there are certainly impediments to biking, I mostly hear statements like that from non-bikers who feel scared and anxious about adopting a new behavior.  That fear is totally understandable, but it is also something that we can absolutely overcome.  While I'm not perfect about biking everywhere, I am comfortable biking in most relatively safe areas.  It's not because I'm superhuman or anything like that, it's just that I've been riding my bike to get around for many years and I'm used to it.  You can adapt your behavior and shift your comfort zone too.  It is well within your abilities.  And the benefits you will likely glean from this shift are massive.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2015, 06:49:13 AM by tanzee »

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2015, 07:00:13 AM »
Live in a van =D

Get a gym membership to lift/shower.

Crash with the girl when you can.

tanzee

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2015, 08:57:05 AM »
Live in a van =D

Get a gym membership to lift/shower.

Crash with the girl when you can.

+1

Bearded Man

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2015, 02:18:06 PM »
IMO, live with room mates and save down payment for a house or condo with a commute. Housing is the real killer where you work. Also, can your job not be done over the internet? Considering you are just starting out changing jobs will help you gain new skills and increase your income. Right now the key is to get enough money to fix your cost of living by buying. This will also help you build net worth, and living in a HCOL area then retiring to a LCOL area is a good strategy IMO. It will help you grow your wealth faster and relocating when you retire will make your money go further .

mozar

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Re: Advice for a beginner Mustachian with low income & high rent
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2015, 06:44:24 PM »
So do want to live in the suburbs, or are you more of an urban person? Do you want a really quiet place or an urban feel?


« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 01:22:03 PM by mozar »