Author Topic: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC  (Read 9153 times)

kh

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Hi, long-time lurker here.  I'm 27, and started my first real job about 9 months ago.  I graduated with my Ph.D. in December - hence the late start.

So, I made an atrociously non-Mustachian decision: I moved to Manhattan.  Immediately, lifestyle creep has begun to, you know, creep in.  Like it does.  I feel like I worried about money way less as a grad student making $20k/yr than I do now.  My salary now is about $120k, but a bit chunk of that comes in bonuses and things, so let's just work off of my base salary of $91,200/yr

The good:
I don't own a car.  I live in a studio, so utilities are low.  No cable.  Student loans just got paid off.  No debt of any kind.  A little over $100k in savings in various places - 401k, Roth IRA, stocks, savings accounts.  Bonuses, about a quarter or so of my salary, go straight to savings.

The bad:
The job is an hour-long commute, although the fact that it's on a train means I take it as personal improvement time.  Project Gutenberg is the best, if you like pre-copyright literature, which I do.
Cell phone: $78/mo

The ugly:
Rent: $2495/mo
Food: $900/mo.  Holy. Shit.  Generally $600 for restaurants, $200 for groceries, $100 for bars.  2 people.

The whole breakdown
Income:
Net take-home pay/mo: $4038
This is after taxes (ouch) and pre-tax witholdings ($245/mo for public transit, $420/mo for 401k contribution, insurance).

Expenses, from Mint from the last 6 months, so I don't get to lie to myself:
Rent - $2495
Food - $900 ($600 restaurants, $200 groceries, $100 bars) - two people
Clothes - $150 (This is from several months ago - I just replaced my entire wardrobe, since every article of clothing I owned in grad school had holes eaten in it courtesy of the acid I used in my lab.  Not especially professional-looking, but now it's been several months since I've bought so much as socks.)
Public transit - $90 (In addition to the amount withheld from my paycheck pre-tax)
Cell phone - $78
Utilities - $67
Internet - $34
Shopping - $25 - Primarily household goods, cleaning supplies
Netflix - $8 (considering cutting)
Amazon Prime - $7
Other - $180 - Occasional large expenses: taxes, gifts, medical expenses, airline tickets home.  Not every month, but this is the average.

So, I'm functionally breaking even right now, not counting the 401k and bonuses that crop up at the end of the year.  Since food and housing cost 80% of my budget, that's the obvious first place to cut.  I live with my boyfriend, who sporadically contributes $450 towards the rent, but his income is patchy enough that I like to operate under the assumption that I won't see it, and I pay most of our food expenses.  I've been cutting back on the food expenses (yeah, that's how bad it was), but have a hard time not eating out in one of the greatest food cities in the world.  My problem especially is that I make a lot more than any of my friends, so I tend to pay more when we go out - not that they don't contribute, but since I was that broke-ass student for so long, I want to pay it forward.  Downside, I'm overextending, so need to cut that back.

Dicking around at the edges, I'm thinking of cutting Netflix (Amazon Prime is basically the same thing, and cheaper, and has free shipping).  Ordering more food and household supplies in bulk through Amazon instead of at the ridiculously expensive local grocery stores.  Shopping around for a different utility provider - most of the cost is infrastructure, since I haven't turned on heat or AC since I moved here since it's a big apartment building.  I already brown-bag it for lunch 3-4 times a week, but could improve there.  Just signed up for the new bike share, so that should cut down my subway costs.

Big changes, I could get a different job, but I work in a fairly specialized industry that is all located in high cost-of-living areas (NYC, Boston, San Francisco), so that doesn't help much.  I am, however, considering a move to New Haven, which doesn't change the commute, but cuts the commuting and housing costs basically in half.

What do you think, Mustachians?  How do you trim the fat, especially in high cost-of-living areas?

freelancerNfulltimer

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2013, 02:30:19 PM »
Why does your boyfriend only contribute $450/month to rent sporadically?

Cecil

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2013, 02:41:21 PM »
So, you're not actually spending $900 on food. You're spending about $300 on food, and $600 on "hiring people to make you food and bring it to you".

I'm not familiar with the NYC housing market other than knowing it's very expensive. But $2500/month for rent on a studio seems crazy high. Especially for one that's an hour away from your job. Would one near your work be even more expensive?
« Last Edit: May 27, 2013, 02:43:18 PM by Cecil »

lifejoy

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2013, 03:06:39 PM »
Ideas:

- If you eat out less often, eating out will feel more special. It's a hard switch, but a satisfying one.

- Is there some way to cut down on your cell bill? For me, that meant cutting voicemail, caller ID, and the data plan. I have an ipad and I'm almost always surrounded by wi-fi, so it was do-able. Also, if someone calls me and it's important, they will either a) call back or b) email or text.

- If there were some way for your boyfriend to contribute more to the rent and food costs, that would be a big help!

- My biggest financial "weakness" is generosity. I love buying gifts for people, buying coffees or meals for them, etc. It adds up! I noticed that it was the biggest drain on my finances, and now I'm trying to save those treats for special occasions. If I want to buy a gift for someone, I save it for their birthday. If I want to take a colleague out for coffee, I now sometimes write them a thank-you card or email instead. These were hard changes for me to make, but it's a nice thing to notice that people still like you for YOU and you don't need to be "buying" their affection. Obviously, we're just being nice and sharing the wealth - but it's a slippery slope, it adds up, and doing it less often will still make it just as appreciated. It'll also make sure that nobody takes advantage. Anyways, you can decide for yourself if you're willing to cut back in that area. I think it's a really personal choice.

- Your rent and your food expenses are kinda nuts. Are you willing to move? Do you have space for a roommate? If you're willing to get tough, could your bf live at home and you have a paying roommate move in? What are your options there? Also, $600 for eating out is kind of insane. Sorry to tell you, but that's what you came here for! Buy more groceries, eat less meat, less cheese. More fruits and veges! They're pretty cheap! Learn how to cook if you don't know how already. Learn to love simple snacks like carrots and hummus or peanut butter and apple slices.

You can do it!!!! And props to you for keeping your clothing expenses down. Next time you need a new wardrobe fix, consider hosting a clothing swap :) Invite all of your fashionable friends, everyone brings their own castoffs, and one person's junk is another person's treasure. If everyone brings food and/or drink, it's a real party! I've been hosting these for a year or two now, and it does wonders for my closet. I get rid of the things I'm not wearing, and have picked up a gently used Coach bag, Jacob pants, and more fun finds!

Ok sorry this was so long but I think you're doing really well and I just wanted to give you that extra little push :)

rubybeth

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2013, 03:42:57 PM »
Why does your boyfriend only contribute $450/month to rent sporadically?

I had this question, as well. If he's not working, can he at least take on meal prep so you can cut down on the eating out?

I realize that eating out is a social thing, but there are cheaper ways to do it. Like ordering small plates or splitting an appetizer and entree with someone instead or ordering two entrees. Or eat an apple before you go out to eat so you don't need the biggest thing on the menu. And order water with lemon instead of alcohol. Seriously, not 'drinking out' can save you a bundle. $100/month on bares = $1,200/year. $600/month on restaurants = $7,200/year. I'm not saying to give it up completely, but only eating out when it's your very favorite cuisine, or you get a Groupon, or it's a friend's birthday or something will make it a lot more special. DH and I have a rule that we can only eat out if it's together, for a date. That means no more fast food lunches and we only go to places we really love going to together.

I think moving may also help not only your rent but your food costs, even if your commute doesn't change. Being in a more suburban area, closer to Costco/Sam's Club or at least discount grocery stores could help a lot.

lhamo

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2013, 06:45:07 PM »
Where exactly is your office -- somewhere in Westchester?  And where do you live now?  Living in Manhattan is insane if you have to pay that much to commute somewhere else.  New Haven is overpriced and crappy (from what I've heard from people who have lived there) and if you aren't losing the commute it seems an odd choice.  I would seriously investigate your housing options.  Would Inwood/Washington Heights work for you commute wise?  Are there places in the Bronx you would consider living?  We really liked living in Queens (Jackson Heights) but that doesn't sound like an option given your commute.

You need to seriously get the food budget in check. 

BF needs to step it up on the work front.  You shouldn't be subsidizing his lifestyle, or your friends.

Try to continue living like a grad student, even though you have a decent salary.  That's what we did when we moved to NYC.  The money we saved then became the solid foundation for what is a very, very hefty networth now, roughly 14 years later.  The words "I deserve this" need to be banished from your lips forever! 

EK

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2013, 07:16:32 PM »
I don't know how long your lease is, but $2500 is stupid high for a studio.  You should move to a less expensive neighborhood.  I am aware that rents have gone up since I moved out of New York a little less than a year ago, but a year ago my boyfriend and I were paying $1700 for a beautiful 1 bedroom with a den and eat in kitchen in Carroll gardens in Brooklyn.  I've got friends currently paying around that for a one bedroom in Washington heights.  Friends paying less for a 2 bedroom in greenpoint, etc, etc.  I've got a huge list of people paying less than you for more space that are still living on nice, safe areas.  You really should look into moving!  You could definitely get a bigger place for less! 

I subsidized my boyfriend for the first few months we were in New York.  He is now my husband, and it was worth it.  What worries me is that he is contributing "sporadically."  If he has only sporadic income he needs to learn to be very responsible with what he has so that he has extra from fat months to cover the lean months.  Maybe you could give him a few smaller bills that he has to pay every single month?  It might help him get used to budgeting and being reliable, and then as he works on getting a more reliable income stream, he could take on more of these expenses.

I really sympathize on the food.  It is really hard to live in the city and discipline yourself to eat in.  Your kitchen is probably tiny, and there are so. Many. Good. Restaurants.  And I'm sure your friends always want to go out to eat.  AND with groceries being pricier it can feel like its not worth it.  But it really is.  You just have to decide to eat at home and only go out a couple times a month. 

olivia

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2013, 08:19:34 PM »
Yikes to the rent, and to the boyfriend only paying $450 of it sporadically.  Is he in school still?  It seems nuts to pay rent that's more than half of your take home pay.  I know it's NYC, but that still seems incredibly high for a studio.     

I can't scold you too hard for the restaurants, I know the feeling.  Maybe you're just not ready to get on the road to FI.  That's understandable, you've lived on a grad school budget for years and now it probably feels like you hit the lotto.  I bet you'll get tired of it soon, though, especially since you've found MMM.

beeth_oven

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2013, 11:59:50 PM »
Where is your office? That will help with suggestions on how to cut down on rent, which appears to be the main issue.

Re: food, I feel you on this one. Try to cut down your spending by small increments each month. If you want to go hardcore, maybe try taking out a certain amount of cash to spend on food each month, so the spending seems more "real". When eating out with friends, don't split the bill evenly, only pay for your portion. Also, if you really can't quit eating out, check to see if the restaurant you're interested in is on Scoutmob, Groupon, Living Social, etc. to see if you can at least get a discount.

Like others said, boyfriend needs to contribute more. I wouldn't be OK with subsidizing someone's lifestyle like that, but to each his own, I guess.

limeandpepper

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2013, 07:43:46 AM »
Honestly if I was earning your kind of money, I'd probably be spending quite a bit on food too, it's my vice. But there are still ways to cut down on it if you want to e.g. what I try to do is eat out only at places that I really want to visit, instead of just going somewhere that is nothing special to me, just because I feel lazy. And try to cook at home more, make it fun and adventurous so that it can be as exciting as eating out.

I agree with everyone else too that rent seems really expensive, and you should cut down on subsidizing your friends and your boyfriend. It's nice to be generous every now and then but if you are doing it often and regularly it will  start to become an expectation and they will probably take it for granted, possibly even get annoyed if you stop doing it... but that's even more of a reason to rein it in now.

zhelud

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2013, 09:24:00 AM »
Your rent is too high, even for the NYC area. Do you live in Manhattan?  Do you absolutely have to live in Manhattan?  Look around in Brooklyn or Queens, I am sure you can find something. There are lots of nice neighborhoods. Or even across the river in NJ. I have had lots of friends and family living in the NYC area (current and in the last few years) and no one has ever paid that much for an apartment, certainly not for a studio.

kh

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2013, 03:08:29 PM »
Hi folks,

Wow, thanks for all the great responses!  I agree that I need to keep living like a grad student - sadly, my habits have stayed pretty much the same, but everything costs 3x (rent) to 5x (food) more than I'm used to.  So, I'm here to change habits.

I would say I go out to eat a couple of times every weekend, generally cook for myself during the week, and brown bag the leftovers for lunch.  My dilemma is that I rarely get out of a meal having spent less than $50-75, which adds up very, very quickly.  (Except in Chinatown.  Chinatown is wonderful.)  Back in Texas, parties with big groups of people generally happened at someone's house, and were potlucks.  Now I live in a tiny studio, so they happen at bars, and are expensive.  I also have a lot more people visit when they come through as well, which generally means a full weekend of taking people out.  Not good.  Cutting out the lazy takeout has helped get the spending down a little - Seamless is wonderful, but may be the death of me.  But yes, food, and buying when I go out with friends, is my vice, for sure.  Loving the suggestions for keeping expenses during meals down, and happy to hear more.  My trick in Texas was to mostly eat at obscure hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants - if I know how to make it at home, I consider it a waste of time to go out, but as you might imagine this kind of place was less popular with the Texas crowd, which kept prices lower.  So far, New York has mostly figured out my trick, and the Ethiopian/Vietnamese/Indian/Thai places I go are no less expensive than anything else.  Anyway, my goal to start is to make it so that at least when I dick this up, I dick it up less offensively.

I like the idea of a clothes swap.  Building a professional wardrobe from scratch is expensive, even leaning heavily on H&M/thrift stores.  Am investigating cell phone options, because my Sprint service in NYC has been noticeably more terrible, so I either need to pay less for it or switch to something non-terrible.  I'm a heavy data user with that hour-each-way train ride, though, and most of the options I've seen to cut bills do so by cutting data.  Do high data/low voice/low text plans exist?

Rent.  Yeah.  $2500 is for a studio in a non-trendy Manhattan neighborhood convenient to transit (Murray Hill).  I saw as low as $2200, but didn't feel like I could cook for myself very well with only a dorm fridge and no freezer.  Like I said, I'm considering a move.  I'm tied to the train lines for my job in Stamford, CT.  Stamford, annoyingly, is a major financial center, so its rents are way higher than they have a right to be, and there are very few options smaller/cheaper than 1-bedrooms.  I could spend $2000-2200 for a 1 bedroom within walking/biking distance of work there, instead of $2500 in Manhattan, but I'd probably need a car as well instead of relying exclusively on public transit, so I figure it's about a wash.  Also Stamford is...terrible.  Personal opinion, no offense meant if anyone lives there.  Live much further out, and my commute is just as bad as it is now, except in a car (my coworkers routinely tell me of 3-4 hour commutes to Westchester in bad weather).  New Haven would easily get me to paying half what I am now, both for rent and transit, and would definitely drop my food costs as well.  Also the beau will be starting at UConn, which is a haul east of New Haven.  I would love love love to live in Brooklyn or Queens, because all of my friends live there, but when that commute time started creeping up towards 1.5-2 hours, I bagged that idea.  I also looked at the Upper East Side and Harlem, where the rents are at least a little lower - chalk that up to a beginner's mistake.  Harlem is as far north as I can go and still stay on the express trains - locals add more than 20 minutes to the commute.

Boyfriend is a poet, starting grad school soon for his lit Ph.D.  We split everything evenly when he was a teacher and I was in school, but now he makes ~$20k and is trying to pay off student loans from his master's.  So, he chips in when he can, but realistically I'm the breadwinner for the time being.  I've been trying to get him to take over more of the cooking, since his "weekend" is during the week, but with limited success.  Since the subsidizing is recent, I've been reasonably tolerant, but that tolerance will not be infinite.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2013, 04:10:11 PM by kh »

SpendyMcSpend

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2013, 05:48:47 PM »
Stamford is much cheaper than Manhattan honestly.  If your boyfriend can't pay rent, why don't you take on a roommate in a 2 bedroom instead.  Trying to support TWO People in Manhattan on that salary is nuts.

huadpe

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2013, 08:08:52 PM »
Have you looked at car commuting from places around Stamford?  From some quick research, you can get a 1br apartment in Port Chester NY for about 2/5 of what you pay now:

http://www.trulia.com/rental/3115842254-42-Smith-St-4-Port-Chester-NY-10573#photo-1

The commute from there to the UBS headquarters in Stamford (I just picked a really big company at random) is 8.9 miles, which is probably outside of ideal mustachean guidelines, but seems much more optimized than 2 hrs on the train every day and a $30,000/yr rental expense.

Greenwich is also a possibility, this listing for example is promising, walkable to the Greenwich train station for commuting, $1500 a month, with a nice kitchen for cooking in.

http://www.trulia.com/rental/3118520012-Multi-Family-Home-Greenwich-CT-06830#photo-5

And Greenwich, unlike Stamford, is really nice!  Probably gonna see some inflated food/retail costs with all the billionaires around, but that's true of Manhattan too.

Ultimately, the issue is that living in Manhattan is a lifestyle expense.  The cost of being there is so exorbitant that you have to be rich to do it.  I totally understand why you'd wanna live there; it's one of the best places in the world to live.  But because it's so awesome, people have bid up the price to where it's really unaffordable for most people.  You see a $600/month lifestyle expense from living there, but it's really more like $1500-2000/month once you take the rent differential into account.  That difference is your lifestyle inflation, not just your eating out more.

fin123

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2013, 08:26:35 PM »
Ever thought about Washington Heights? Area near Ft. Tryon park is really nice and commute to Stamford is a half-hr, with much less traffic as you're driving away from the city.  1 Bedrooms can go for 1200-1400.  You still get to live in NYC, the A/1 will get you to Midtown in 25 minutes, and you're commute to work is much better.  Would need to get a car, but still more ideal IMHO than subway/train plus will save time as well!

RedMaple

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2013, 09:17:41 PM »
$2,500 for a studio? Can you post pictures of it, I'm really interest to see what you're getting for it. I ask because I live in a big studio 10 minutes away from the city, and I'm paying $1,290.

The thing about NYC is that there will ALWAYS be something new and exciting to do or try. You need to be more choosy about how you spend your money/free time.

Moving to CT does sound like a better alternative - shorter commute, cheaper rent, lower food expense - it will solve the majority of your problems; the only concern I have is you will need a car, and how often will you go to the city/rent a hotel because it was too late to go home?

kit

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2013, 10:49:10 PM »
I understand the wanting to live in Manhattan thing, especially instead of CT. I really do. Without changing jobs, you have a few choices:

Location                                            Price                Commuting cost           Commuting time           Suck factor
Manhattan                                        high                 medium                        high                              low
Stamford                                           high                 low                               low                               high
Harlem                                              med-high         medium                        high                              low
NY or CT bedroom community           low                  high (assuming car)     medium                         med-high

I think that you're probably not going to see a huge difference in total transportation and living expense, other than a move influencing you to eat out less often. If you move somewhere and get a car you have to factor in about $500/month in car costs, and this figure is conservative. This is the figure I worked out based on having a paid-off car around Boston and driving it minimally, so just registration, gas, insurance, parking, tolls, and repairs. If you drive more or factor in the cost of acquiring said vehicle, the monthly or total amount goes up sharply. So really, you'd have to be renting for under $1500/month for this to start to make sense. There's a real benefit to living right next to an express line like you do in Murray Hill because then almost all of your commute time is usable for something else, rather than spending an hour shuffling between buses or trains.

The big changes you can make otherwise are food, random stuff, entertaining, and the boyfriend. You know what to do on food, you just have to do it. You might have to get creative with entertaining and be proactive with suggesting cheaper alternatives before someone proposes going out to eat or to a more expensive bar. The boyfriend issue is tougher. Your expenses are higher because of him and he's not bringing anything in. *If* he were low-income but low-cost, or if you were looking at a payoff in the long term (say, graduate school in STEM or professional degree) the situation would look a little more reasonable. Unless he's planning on a career change after graduation, though, you have to plan on him being pretty low-paid and struggling with student loans. TL, DR: Unless you want to be a sugar daddy forever, something about the boyfriend employment situation is going to have to change.

A big change you can make is getting a bedroom in a bigger apartment. It's a loss of privacy, but that's what made Friends and The Odd Couple into entertaining TV shows. You can knock several hundred dollars off this way.

Bigote

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2013, 01:30:59 AM »
Seamless is wonderful, but may be the death of me. 

Heh - I posted about Seamless in the Anti-Mustachian Hall of Fame.


http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/antimustachian-wall-of-shame-and-comedy/quit-packing-your-lunch!-its-making-you-too-strong!/

freelancerNfulltimer

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2013, 08:32:36 AM »
I find it bothersome that your boyfriend is a poet making less than $20,000 and is going for Lit PhD which will only inflate his student loan debt. What are his plans once he's done with this new round of school? Do you see yourself marrying him? We all have our personal preferences, and I've never been one to care much what my significant other earned as long as they could support themselves, but your boyfriend seems to not be pulling enough of his own weight. You say your tolerance for this is not infinite but I wonder if he's not in school now can he get a second part-time job to help pay the rent?

olivia

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2013, 09:02:05 AM »
I find it bothersome that your boyfriend is a poet making less than $20,000 and is going for Lit PhD which will only inflate his student loan debt. What are his plans once he's done with this new round of school? Do you see yourself marrying him? We all have our personal preferences, and I've never been one to care much what my significant other earned as long as they could support themselves, but your boyfriend seems to not be pulling enough of his own weight. You say your tolerance for this is not infinite but I wonder if he's not in school now can he get a second part-time job to help pay the rent?

Yeah, unless his PhD is fully funded with a stipend, it doesn't make any sense financially for him to go back to school.  And it seems like every article about higher ed talks about how there are NO jobs in academia and it makes no sense to pay for grad school in the humanities.

mustachecat

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2013, 09:38:36 AM »
Hey kh! Welcome to the forums!

I agree with other people here that your income just can't support a $2,500/apartment. I assume you're taking the Metro-North to Stamford. Have you considered moving to Harlem or the Bronx? Craigslist has a studio 1/2 block from the Fordham stop for $850. You could even go buck wild and get a two-bedroom for $1,200-$1,400.

Yes, eating out in NYC is amazing and world-class, but... you just have to resist. That's basically the end of it. $600/month is pretty insane. I understand the importance of socializing when you have a tiny apartment, but, you know, you could always nurse a beer/whiskey/etc., or just drink seltzer at bars.

For groceries, definitely check out Chinatown. If the stalls are intimidating, try Hong Kong Mart or New York Mart, which are more supermarket-y. We have (and frequently use) our Costco membership in the city. You could get up to the one in Harlem, or in Long Island City.

For clothes, check out Uniqlo for business-casual, or consignment shops for higher-end items. I recommend the New York City Opera Thrift Store, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Thrift Shop, and the Housing Works Thrift Shops.

You mentioned that you do a lot of Project Gutenberg reading on the train to work, but also that you use a ton of data. Are you also checking email/the news/etc.? Because otherwise, why not just predownload everything you want to read at home, where you can use wifi instead of your data plan?

Finally, I'd love to hear how you managed to save up $100K as a PhD student. That's so impressive!

kh

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2013, 05:37:26 PM »
The beau is going to a fully funded Ph.D., with stipend, so no further student loans.  Agree that the outlook for college professor style jobs looks pretty bleak, but he's also looking at community college and possibly high school level - some of those schmancy private high schools are surprisingly big fans of Ph.D. level teachers.  We'll jump off that bridge when we get to it.

Would definitely look into Harlem.  I didn't go that direction when I first moved here, because I had 2 days to find a place (last minute job offer), and didn't feel like I could get a good flavor of the neighborhood in that amount of time, having previously spent like, a day in NYC before moving here.  There are some great neighborhoods in Harlem, but still a few that are not great, so I wanted some time to sniff things out a little.

I hadn't really considered Chinatown as a grocery destination, aside from the occasional seafood or weird fruit (trying to work myself up to trying durian).  Will definitely check that out, thanks for the tip.  Haven't given Costco a shot due to lack of vehicle - I have no issue carrying my regular groceries home, but the thought of wrangling those huge flats of things through the subway doesn't appeal to me, especially with another half mile to my place at the end of it.  With a ZipCar or taxi, I think the cost savings come out to about a wash compared with Amazon, at least for the stuff I usually buy (beans, tomatoes, etc.).

I found Uniqlo a little intimidating, with all their weird mannequins on strings and neon lights and such.  Maybe I need to get over that.  When I next buy clothes, which will not be for awhile.

It's true, Project Gutenberg doesn't eat my data.  The news reading and Pandora streaming I split it with does.

As far as the savings, I was lucky enough to have only a little student loan debt, around $12K - with the loans, scholarships, plus work-study, I paid about $50K towards my education, with my folks generously picking up the rest.  I went straight into grad school, so those loans went into deferral, and I almost immediately knocked out the unsubsidized loans with a summer internship at an oil company.  Turned out to not be my thing, but put a big dent in the debt.  Otherwise, I worked as a research assistant during the summers, picked up side hustles (scientific paper editing is good flexible work for science grad students, by the way), invested in stocks and a Roth IRA, and lived fabulously cheaply.  And my grad school was fully funded, with about a $20K stipend, so no further debt there.  Then it was easy to pay off the half of my loans that were subsidized when they came out of deferral.  This is why I'm so annoyed that my monthly savings rate is functionally the same as grad school, but at 6 times the pay.

Thanks for the great advice everyone!

SnackDog

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #22 on: May 31, 2013, 05:47:23 PM »
Stamford rents are about half what you are paying: median studio is $1100.  Get the the Englishman to pay his half, $550, and you are saving like $12,000/yr right there, plus commuting costs.

lifejoy

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2013, 06:03:06 PM »
The plain fact that you are thinking about these things is a real step in the right direction :) Bravo!

Re: data plan - some people consider their phones a crucial extension of themselves, which ties them to the world's knowledge and all of their loved ones. Maybe this is the case for you, BUT if you're really looking to try some new things, consider this:

- an ereader with books on it, or books from the library, magazines from the library - all of this would give you cheaper reading material. Let me know if you need any book suggestions, I'm a librarian :)

- I believe you can load your CDs onto your iTunes and listen to them without using data. I am not tech savvy, but I'm sure you get the gist. Pandora is great, but it's a luxury. Great if you're willing to pay for it (with data).

- Making the switch to no data or less data is hard. But, there was a time when NOBODY had data on their phones, and we all got along just fine :) Imagine being more in touch with your surroundings, or the people around you (no emails interrupting friendly lunch dates). It's hard to get used to, but it can be done! And if you're heading out and absolutely need data, stop at a cafe and use their wifi. Or at the library. A little bit of effort can translate into long-term savings! I have also resorted to phoning my boyfriend and getting him to google something for me. It works.

Ok. I know that parting with data might not be realistic for you. Consider checking with your phone company to see what, if anything, you can cut.

Also, try eating vegetarian or vegan at least once a week. Meat, cheese, and other animal products can be pretty pricey!

The clothing swap thing has saved me. Unlike you, I was quite a shopper! Bi-annual swaps give me a reason to resist shopping.

Last idea: is there a reason that your boyfriend can't get a part-time job? I went to school for 6 years acquiring various degrees, and I always had a part-time job. I can't think of any reason why your bf couldn't fit that in to his life... And I've known a few phd students. If he's not willing or able to get a job, could he treat his phd like a job? (If he isn't already). If he is working on his phd 9-5 every day, then good for him. A friend of mine, her husband did this. He would even say to her, "Ok I will call you back later, I'm working right now" if he received calls during his "work hours". Great discipline, and he got his phd in three years (in history).

I don't know what's feasible for you, but you sound really nice and very savvy. Feel free to PM me :) My bf isn't a Mustachian yet, and I'm trying to lead by example. Good luck to you!

Katnina

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Re: Battling lifestyle inflation in first grown-up job...in NYC
« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2013, 09:23:48 PM »
Hello!  I'm FI after working for 9 yrs in NYC, so it IS possible, but you really need to cut your spending drastically and here are some ways to do it:
1) i commend you for cohabitting in a studio apartment-my husband and i share a studio, and it's not for everyone but if you can cohabit in a one-room apartment, you can cohabit anywhere!  Plus, living in a small place means you have to really think before you buy anything-do you have room to store it!?  location wise, Murray hill is not the greatest, so if you definitely want to be in manhattan, a move uptown to the high upper east/Harlem would be good because you could get cheaper rent, and if you're close enough to walk to the 125th st station, you could commute just by metro north which would cut out the need for a monthly metro card-and just do pay per ride for metro cards (or nyc bikeshare!) if you do most of your around NYC exploring on the weekends. It would also free up time for you to cook more.  If you haven't seen it already, check out www.apartmenttherapy.com for great living in a teeny place inspiration.
2) to cut down on grocery costs:
 A. consider getting a CSA.  I pay $612 for 23 weeks of fresh veggies from a biodynamic farm, and $70 for 20 weeks of fruit.  I blanch and freeze the veggies we can't get through every week (some weeks we get 15lbs of produce and even eating vegan we can't get thru it) and throw them into soups and stews throughout the winter.   
B. buy your staples in bulk if you can.  It's hard to find room to store stuff in a studio, but who said you can't store canned goods or bags of rice under your bed!?  I find Fairway & Trader Joe's to be the cheapest sources of high quality groceries in the city.
C. Batch cook.  Make a giant pot of a different kind of soup every week.  Freeze individual portions of it in containers that you buy at thrift stores, label everything, and you'll have an assortment of meals for those nights when you don't feel like cooking. 
3) to cut down on eating out:
A.  Totally understand wanting to be generous with friends, but if it's impacting your long term savings goals, it's not worth it.  Instead of treating them to fancy meals, maybe make a date to check out a food truck together, and you can pay for their meal then if you so desire.  Or, find a BYOB restaurant (yep there are lots) and you bring the beer but split the bill.  Or, since it's summer meet up with friends and take advantage of some of the awesome FREE things you can do in the city:there are free concerts, outdoor movie nights, festivals, exercise classes, etc all summer long-take advantage of them!
B. there are still a ton of hole-in-the wall places where you can get a great meal for well under $20/person.  Here are some of my favorites: Theater District: Pam Real Thai, Meske Ethiopian Restaurant.  Upper west side: Terakawa Ramen, peacefood cafe, pizza by la grolla, Saravana Bhavan, taqueria y la fonda.  NYU area: Mamoun's falafel, Thelewala.  East Village: Little Meunster, Pala Pizza.  Williamsburg: Vinnie's Pizza, Urban Rustic. Jackson Heights: Himalayan Yak.
C.  There's no shame in using Groupons or living social deals!  Just make sure you actually use them before they expire!
D.  It's great to have the intention to cook but sometimes all you want is some easy food that tastes good.  That's where convenience foods at Trader Joe's-like their frozen meals and noodle bowls-come in handy.  It's obviously cheaper to cook from scratch, so that's what you should aim for most of the time, but a $3 frozen meal beats a $10 takeout meal every time.
4: To cut down on alcohol/going out expenses:
A. Pre game at home.
B. find bars that cater to college kids, because they have the best deals.  Our favorite bar is Bourbon St on the upper west side which has $1 mugs of draft bud light on Thursday nights.  This company's bars have some amazing drink specials too: http://www.nycbestbar.com/
C.  Take advantage of all of the amazing free entertainment mentioned above.
5. To reduce clothing expenses: as mentioned by others, clothing swaps can be fun, especially if your friends have similar tastes.  Shop at Housing Works, an NYC thrift store chain whose proceeds go to support people living with HIV & AIDS.  I got my Vintage Kitchenaid mixer and AMAZING enameled cast iron cookware, as well as two chairs, a plant stand, and frankly most of my wardrobe at the one on Columbus.  Beacon's Closet, Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Company, and Second Time Around all have good selections.  My husband gets all of his button down work shirts at Beacon's.  I got my wedding dress (a sundress) for $20 at Second Time Around!  The Salvation Army on W 46th street is great too-you have to pick through the racks more so than at the other places, but the prices are a lot cheaper.  My nightstand and a bookshelf came from there.

NYC can be an expensive place to live, but it doesn't have to be as pricey as everyone thinks.  You can live here quite cheaply if you are willing to put effort into always taking public transit, seeking out deals, and thinking ahead (make your own coffee, bring your lunch to work, always have a reusable water bottle, carry snacks with you, don't impulse buy).  Good luck!