Author Topic: I need a second opinion on my budget  (Read 15719 times)

RedMaple

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I need a second opinion on my budget
« on: May 17, 2013, 12:23:24 PM »
I've been reading the forums for some time now, but I decided today to join the community. This is a two question post. 1. I would like to get your opinion regarding my finances. I live in NYC where rent doesn't come cheap. I am a single professional woman who at times works crazy hours. 2. My issue with the * items

These amounts are this years average (Jan - Apr)

 29.51     Internet* + Netflix
 62.31     Electric/Gas
 67.15     Cell Phone*
 70.68     Commuter pass (tax free)
 65.42     Hair
116.71     Shopping (Anything that isn't included in the broken out categories; like toiletries, pharmacy, presents, clothes, shoes, entertainment, extra ordinary expenses etc.)
259.56     Food (Grocery + Dine)
1,290.01  Rent
1,961.33  Total
 
3,185.28  Net monthly salary

Notes:

CELL PHONE:
I've been painstakingly trying to decrease my cell phone bill, but I cannot find the right solution. I am off contract with AT&T and I use their microcell (that I got for free) to have reception in my apt. I tried tmobile but I had no reception - due to different frequencies. If I leave AT&T I won't have reception in my house, so I'll also have to get a landline or VoIP**. If I were to do that, I would get a dumb emergency phone for ~10 p/m and a data plan $20 for my tablet (I am looking for another job).

INTERNET**:
My home internet price will triple in several months - I am considering canceling the internet all together and just using my phone or tablet as internet, but this would mean I wouldn't be able to have VoIP, cancel Netflix.

The other thing too that I was thinking about, is getting DSL with a landline (~65), having a dumb emergency phone (~10), data plan for tablet (~20) = $95

If I keep my internet then it would cost ~60, dumb phone ~10, data plan ~20 + VoIP ?? = at least $90.

There doesn't seem to be a way to decrease these two.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2013, 08:45:30 AM by RedMaple »

JGB

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2013, 03:03:32 PM »
The options available to you for phone and internet are going to take some mulling over on your part. You seem much more informed than I am about your area, and your reception issues certainly play a big factor here. I'm going to leave that part of the question to you or to others who know more about the NYC area.

That said, there are some other items in your monthly expenses that you could look at reducing or removing.
  • Commuter pass: In my head, NYC should be pretty friendly for biking around. Are there extreme distances that you are covering that make this untrue and thus warrant the Commuter pass cost?
  • Hair: $65 per month sounds pretty excessive. I bet that if you tried, you could cut this in half and barely notice a difference in your appearance. That probably means finding a different place to get your hair done.
  • Shopping: It's unclear how much room there is for change here. Toiletries and pharmacy are probably fixed. Entertainment is something you should keep some of, but may be a candidate for replacing with cheaper forms of entertainment. Clothes and shoes are definitely a candidate for slashing. Is your existing wardrobe in disrepair? Are you wearing all of your existing items? If you haven't read it already, check out Mrs. MM's article on this: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/14/eliminate-your-dependence-on-foreign-and-domestic-clothing/

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2013, 03:13:20 PM »
hehehe $65/mo hair budget :)

StarryC

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2013, 03:24:45 PM »
I do think the hair budget is high, but other than that this doesn't seem like a terrible budget for NYC.

I think the biggest option to save more money is to get a roommate situation.  Would that lower your rent?  Presumably, you and your roommate could split the Netflix and Internet costs and the gas/electric.

I think you could try to decrease groceries/eating out.  I know NYC is very expensive.  Would it be worth it to go out to the 'burbs every six weeks for nonperishables and a few weeks worth of meat you could freeze (and a cheaper haircut)?  I know as a single person myself there are 2 different types of eating out: lunches/dinners from fast places when I don't feel like cooking and then dinners/lunches that are meaningful social occassions with others.  It just takes a little discipline to cut out the fast, soletary lunches and dinners.  You can try to reduce some of the eating out, but for a single person in NYC my guess is this is something you don't want to eliminate entirely. 

aj_yooper

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2013, 03:54:09 PM »
So, are you saving the $1223 each month?  Do you have any debt?

If you are not paying on debt, then you are saving about 29% of your gross income (guessed at 50K), or 38% after taxes.  That is good.  Do you have any retirement options through your work?  If so, that would make your savings rate even higher. 

I would break down the food and restaurants so you know where the money is going.  NYC has many restaurant temptations, but outsourcing food is also expensive.  StarryC makes a good point:

I think you could try to decrease groceries/eating out.  I know NYC is very expensive.  Would it be worth it to go out to the 'burbs every six weeks for nonperishables and a few weeks worth of meat you could freeze (and a cheaper haircut)?  I know as a single person myself there are 2 different types of eating out: lunches/dinners from fast places when I don't feel like cooking and then dinners/lunches that are meaningful social occassions with others.  It just takes a little discipline to cut out the fast, soletary lunches and dinners.  You can try to reduce some of the eating out, but for a single person in NYC my guess is this is something you don't want to eliminate entirely. 

Is it possible to do internet tasks in free wifi spots? 

Would a new job increase your income per hour worked?  You suggested that you have longer hours at times.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2013, 09:25:11 PM »
The options available to you for phone and internet are going to take some mulling over on your part. You seem much more informed than I am about your area, and your reception issues certainly play a big factor here. I'm going to leave that part of the question to you or to others who know more about the NYC area.

That said, there are some other items in your monthly expenses that you could look at reducing or removing.
  • Commuter pass: In my head, NYC should be pretty friendly for biking around. Are there extreme distances that you are covering that make this untrue and thus warrant the Commuter pass cost?
  • Hair: $65 per month sounds pretty excessive. I bet that if you tried, you could cut this in half and barely notice a difference in your appearance. That probably means finding a different place to get your hair done.
  • Shopping: It's unclear how much room there is for change here. Toiletries and pharmacy are probably fixed. Entertainment is something you should keep some of, but may be a candidate for replacing with cheaper forms of entertainment. Clothes and shoes are definitely a candidate for slashing. Is your existing wardrobe in disrepair? Are you wearing all of your existing items? If you haven't read it already, check out Mrs. MM's article on this: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/14/eliminate-your-dependence-on-foreign-and-domestic-clothing/

Thanks for your feedback.

Biking on the streets of the city in the middle of rush hour isn't safe. The sidewalks are congested with people, the streets are congested with aggressive drivers. I've seen people get hit, it's not worth it to me.

I do feel guilty about my hair. I'm a dark brunette who's pretending to a be a bleach blonde - no way can I do it myself. I'm hoping guilt will get the best of me sooner than later. (eg: I used to spent $150 p/m on cable thinking I couldn't live without it, until guilt won over. I don't even miss cable now - probably because there are so many alternatives)

Thanks for the link. My existing wardrobe is none existing. I hate shopping (I don't like most things that are available/ for some reason spending time at the mall makes me feel claustrophobic) but I need to look sharp for my job. I've been meaning to coupon, but I don't know where to get the coupons. BTW, I'm reviewing my expense and I purchased several out of the ordinary items ($107 iPod for my mom, $60 free weights, $25 shoe repair, $44 credit report)

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2013, 09:41:49 PM »
I do think the hair budget is high, but other than that this doesn't seem like a terrible budget for NYC.

I think the biggest option to save more money is to get a roommate situation.  Would that lower your rent?  Presumably, you and your roommate could split the Netflix and Internet costs and the gas/electric.

I think you could try to decrease groceries/eating out.  I know NYC is very expensive.  Would it be worth it to go out to the 'burbs every six weeks for nonperishables and a few weeks worth of meat you could freeze (and a cheaper haircut)?  I know as a single person myself there are 2 different types of eating out: lunches/dinners from fast places when I don't feel like cooking and then dinners/lunches that are meaningful social occassions with others.  It just takes a little discipline to cut out the fast, soletary lunches and dinners.  You can try to reduce some of the eating out, but for a single person in NYC my guess is this is something you don't want to eliminate entirely.

Thanks for your reply.

I don't really eat out often.... (well OK... I averaged $52 p/m... is that a lot?) Since the middle of last month I decided to start a new work lunch routine: eat 3 home cooked lunches, 1 lean cuisine and 1 eating out. Prior to this change all I ate were Lean Cuisine 3 times p/w and out 2ce. Last month I spent $164, previous months I averaged $205.

Regarding the roommate situation, I tried for a couple of years. It actually cost about the same since she didn't really turn off lights, she ate my food, we had cable and internet... but since we lived in the city I didn't have a commuter pass/I walked.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2013, 10:11:32 PM »
So, are you saving the $1223 each month?  Do you have any debt?

If you are not paying on debt, then you are saving about 29% of your gross income (guessed at 50K), or 38% after taxes.  That is good.  Do you have any retirement options through your work?  If so, that would make your savings rate even higher. 

I would break down the food and restaurants so you know where the money is going.  NYC has many restaurant temptations, but outsourcing food is also expensive.  StarryC makes a good point:

I think you could try to decrease groceries/eating out.  I know NYC is very expensive.  Would it be worth it to go out to the 'burbs every six weeks for nonperishables and a few weeks worth of meat you could freeze (and a cheaper haircut)?  I know as a single person myself there are 2 different types of eating out: lunches/dinners from fast places when I don't feel like cooking and then dinners/lunches that are meaningful social occassions with others.  It just takes a little discipline to cut out the fast, soletary lunches and dinners.  You can try to reduce some of the eating out, but for a single person in NYC my guess is this is something you don't want to eliminate entirely. 

Is it possible to do internet tasks in free wifi spots? 

Would a new job increase your income per hour worked?  You suggested that you have longer hours at times.

Thanks for your feed back.

I'm actually averaging $1,087. I'm not entirely sure if my math is correct - meaning if I take the average expense of everything, would that equal my salary? I set up my excel sheet to have each category have a summary expense per month. 

I don't have any debt, but I am saving up for Grad School... I'm hoping to get into an Ivy League (I doubt it, but I will try). My plan is to go part time and pay cash for everything.

Regarding retirement, I haven't put anything because I want to have as much cash on hand as possible - so that I could pay for school/have an emergency fund if I get fired or decide to go to school full time. Although my work gives me ~10% of my annual salary (+ bonus) for retirement.

Honestly, I don't know much about retirement... in the sense that what if lets say I have 6 months of expenses saved (and for simplicity take out my college plans). And I have a net of $100k "extra" in my savings, should the entire amount get invested? How should my portfolio be allocated? Can you recommend a book or a blog that goes into this structure?

There is no wifi where I live, I would most likely just stay at my job to use the internet. What does one do at home when they don't have the internet..? I think I may be addicted to the internet.

When I get a new job I will probably work more hours; it's part of the industry; Probably a similar salary (since my job contributes to my retirement even though I'm not and we have a free gym) but I'm looking for other opportunities because I outgrew my role and there is no movement within my company.

ToughMother

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2013, 03:40:16 AM »
Hi.  This reply is a bit off topic since you're focused on your CURRENT budget, but here's a little info for your FUTURE budget.

 You mentioned a goal of attending an Ivy league grad dept. I got my PhD at an Ivy so here's the scoop.  Part time isn't an option.  That said, if you have a TA  or RA position, tuition is waived and you get a stipend.  The stipend amount is very modest (and varies as a function of your area of study where the more science-y it is, the higher it is). If you kick academic/research ass, you might get nominated for a fellowship and then get an even higher stipend (and all sorts of fancy pants bragging rights for your CV). 

Anyway, I left without a dime of debt, just lost earnings and I had a blast during those 3.5 years, so it was worth it.  Practice modest living now and you'll be awesome at grad school living especially if you go the Ivy route.

little_owl

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2013, 05:14:19 AM »
RedMaple, I bet you're a beautiful brunette - cut that damn $65 / month, that is insane!!

In your cell phone notes,  you didn't mention Sprint / Virgin Mobile (Virgin Mobile has the cheapo month - to - month option that uses Sprint's network).  That's what we use (we are not in NYC clearly) and it works like a charm.

I also cut back BIG time on Netflix - going from the whole hog plan to $4.99 / month for 2 DVDs mailed to us.  It has been workout out just fine.  I've been continuously cutting back screen time in favor of reading time / outside time and that has made life better.

Overall, I think you are doing pretty darn good in NYC.  I'd be interested to hear more about your savings.

nktokyo

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2013, 07:18:53 AM »
I like to think of trivial expenses multiplied over a year to keep me grounded.

$65/mo = $780/yr (ouch)
A coffee a day = $1000/yr (ouch)

Etc.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2013, 07:33:12 AM »
Hi.  This reply is a bit off topic since you're focused on your CURRENT budget, but here's a little info for your FUTURE budget.

 You mentioned a goal of attending an Ivy league grad dept. I got my PhD at an Ivy so here's the scoop.  Part time isn't an option.  That said, if you have a TA  or RA position, tuition is waived and you get a stipend.  The stipend amount is very modest (and varies as a function of your area of study where the more science-y it is, the higher it is). If you kick academic/research ass, you might get nominated for a fellowship and then get an even higher stipend (and all sorts of fancy pants bragging rights for your CV). 

Anyway, I left without a dime of debt, just lost earnings and I had a blast during those 3.5 years, so it was worth it.  Practice modest living now and you'll be awesome at grad school living especially if you go the Ivy route.

Thanks for your feedback. That's great that you graduated without debt, most people can't say that. Regarding part time, I know several people who do that. The difference is that they don't get help from the school in terms of guidance.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2013, 07:47:34 AM »
RedMaple, I bet you're a beautiful brunette - cut that damn $65 / month, that is insane!!

In your cell phone notes,  you didn't mention Sprint / Virgin Mobile (Virgin Mobile has the cheapo month - to - month option that uses Sprint's network).  That's what we use (we are not in NYC clearly) and it works like a charm.

I also cut back BIG time on Netflix - going from the whole hog plan to $4.99 / month for 2 DVDs mailed to us.  It has been workout out just fine.  I've been continuously cutting back screen time in favor of reading time / outside time and that has made life better.

Overall, I think you are doing pretty darn good in NYC.  I'd be interested to hear more about your savings.

As I mentioned before, in the back of my mind I know will have to cut down on colouring my hair. I will likely stop by fall of 2014 - since I will be attending school and there won't be enough time to travel to get my hair done.

In order for me to get Sprint, I would have to purchase a new phone. I'm not sure if I want to invest money in a phone that might not work. Everyone I know (whether in my building or at work) has VZ.

In terms of cutting down TV time, how do you spend your days?

I'm not sure what else can I add about my savings.

olivia

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2013, 07:48:36 AM »
Why will your Internet triple? Is it a promotional deal?  Because at least with my carrier, if you call and threaten to cancel they'll continue the promotional price, usually indefinitely. The sales rep actually told me to call back in 6 months and they'll lower it again.

And I agree about the hair-could you do an ombré look as you grow it out?  I'm betting one last trip to the hairdresser could help you do this, if you like the look. I have long brown hair with blonde ombré, and since it fades so nicely from brown to blonde I can just keep growing it.  I've gotten it colored 3 times in the last 2.5 years, and I get trims every 4-6 months.  Or could you bleach/highlight your hair yourself? When I was young and punk rock I used to just slap a bunch of bleach on and get my hair super platinum.  I also highlighted it myself a couple of times with one of those kits.  It was pretty easy, but I will say my hair was short so I didn't have to worry about damage.

Otherwise I'm super impressed with how low your budget is, especially for NYC!  I need to take pointers from you!

Daley

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2013, 11:25:52 PM »
CELL PHONE:
I've been painstakingly trying to decrease my cell phone bill, but I cannot find the right solution. I am off contract with AT&T and I use their microcell (that I got for free) to have reception in my apt. I tried tmobile but I had no reception - due to different frequencies. If I leave AT&T I won't have reception in my house, so I'll also have to get a landline or VoIP**. If I were to do that, I would get a dumb emergency phone for ~10 p/m and a data plan $20 for my tablet (I am looking for another job).

This is actually pretty easy to fix without resorting to femtocells. The solution is GSM call forwarding to your home phone. *62*[destination number]# should get you fixed up on only forwarding calls when your cellphone falls off the network. One thing to be cautious of with MVNOs is that not all allow call forwarding, and those that do will count against your minutes used for the forwarded calls. Airvoice actually does allow call forwarding on their per minute plans ($10 and pay as you go), but not on their Unlimited talk and text plans. As Airvoice is an AT&T MVNO, you shouldn't even need to buy a new handset, though it'd be wise to carrier unlock it with AT&T before ordering an Airvoice SIM and porting your number over.

Don't bother with a land line for home phone service, definitely go VoIP instead and don't bundle it with your home internet. Here's a crash course on frugal VoIP shopping and setup. You should be able to get a really sweet deal on VoIP service for well under $10/month if you follow the guide. VOIPo will probably be your go-to choice.

INTERNET**:
My home internet price will triple in several months - I am considering canceling the internet all together and just using my phone or tablet as internet, but this would mean I wouldn't be able to have VoIP, cancel Netflix.

The other thing too that I was thinking about, is getting DSL with a landline (~65), having a dumb emergency phone (~10), data plan for tablet (~20) = $95

If I keep my internet then it would cost ~60, dumb phone ~10, data plan ~20 + VoIP ?? = at least $90.

The key to internet shopping is to understand you don't need much more than 3Mbps down service, and they'll soak you on the modem rental if they can... and given you mentioned you're not using DSL currently means you're using cable. I'm guessing that since you're in NYC, depending on the borough, it's either Comcast or TWC IIRC. Check the superguide post on internet service, as well as this blog post. That should get you started, help you understand what you need, and hopefully hack that pending $60/month internet bill down to around $40 either going through Earthlink or knowing which unadvertised data package to ask for directly. If you're in a Verizon landline area and your copper hasn't been pulled up for FIOS, you might be able to get even cheaper than $40/month dryloop service through DSLExtreme at $25/month with a one year contract. The great thing about dryloop is you don't need phone service, but you can only do that with third party DSL providers and Verizon. AT&T has dryloop service, but you can only get it from them directly, and guess what their undiscounted 3Mbps service runs at? If you said around $40, good guess! You're better off with cable.

Also, you deserve a facepunch for considering a data plan for your tablet, especially if you've gone without up until this point. You're in one of the densest populated cities in North America, and there's like a McDonald's or a Starbucks or some other business with free WiFi service on every blessed corner. I'm not a big fan of FreedomPop and have doubts about their long-term viability, but maybe consider it or a NetZero hotspot if you insist on having dedicated private portable internet access for your tablet. There are plans available under that $20 price point.

So... Internet (~$40) + Netflix ($8) + Airvoice $10 Plan + VOIPo ($7.71) = roughly $66/month (or less!)

It's doable, you've just gotta be smarter than the average bear.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 11:39:21 PM by I.P. Daley »

naners

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2013, 06:10:17 AM »
IP Daley is the expert on the cell phone stuff, but I thought I'd clarify that there are companies (called MVNOs) that resell cell phone service from the big carriers. So what you need if you have good ATT service in your apartment is an ATT MVNO, such as Airvoice, which IPD recommends.

WRT internet, I've long thought about asking a neighbor if they want to share service. Depends on your neighbor I guess, but if you decide you don't want to do it any more you can just stop giving them a check every month.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2013, 08:43:10 AM »
Why will your Internet triple? Is it a promotional deal?  Because at least with my carrier, if you call and threaten to cancel they'll continue the promotional price, usually indefinitely. The sales rep actually told me to call back in 6 months and they'll lower it again.

And I agree about the hair-could you do an ombré look as you grow it out?  I'm betting one last trip to the hairdresser could help you do this, if you like the look. I have long brown hair with blonde ombré, and since it fades so nicely from brown to blonde I can just keep growing it.  I've gotten it colored 3 times in the last 2.5 years, and I get trims every 4-6 months.  Or could you bleach/highlight your hair yourself? When I was young and punk rock I used to just slap a bunch of bleach on and get my hair super platinum.  I also highlighted it myself a couple of times with one of those kits.  It was pretty easy, but I will say my hair was short so I didn't have to worry about damage.

Otherwise I'm super impressed with how low your budget is, especially for NYC!  I need to take pointers from you!

I am using a promotion with my ISP. They actually no longer offer the plan anymore (it's $10 higher). They have a monopoly and they take advantage of it. It's funny how much they piss me off - I called a few weeks ago to get general information; and I was really aggravated by the end of the conversation. I've had to cancel the service before because they wouldn't budge. I will attempt to get my frustrations out on their facebook/twitter page and see what will happen.

I am in a professional environment. No way can I have multicoloured hair; but I never heard of ombré. Would you be able to recommend a website that lists different colouring techniques? 

I don't spend money because I have no life. I rarely go out anymore. A part of it has to do with me getting my life in order. I've been decluttering my apartment during the weekends, purchasing/cooking new food, researching ways to get a higher interest with my money (cash back credit cards, high yield interest etc.) I want everything to be in order before I go back to school.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2013, 10:30:15 AM »
CELL PHONE:
I've been painstakingly trying to decrease my cell phone bill, but I cannot find the right solution. I am off contract with AT&T and I use their microcell (that I got for free) to have reception in my apt. I tried tmobile but I had no reception - due to different frequencies. If I leave AT&T I won't have reception in my house, so I'll also have to get a landline or VoIP**. If I were to do that, I would get a dumb emergency phone for ~10 p/m and a data plan $20 for my tablet (I am looking for another job).

This is actually pretty easy to fix without resorting to femtocells. The solution is GSM call forwarding to your home phone. *62*[destination number]# should get you fixed up on only forwarding calls when your cellphone falls off the network. One thing to be cautious of with MVNOs is that not all allow call forwarding, and those that do will count against your minutes used for the forwarded calls. Airvoice actually does allow call forwarding on their per minute plans ($10 and pay as you go), but not on their Unlimited talk and text plans. As Airvoice is an AT&T MVNO, you shouldn't even need to buy a new handset, though it'd be wise to carrier unlock it with AT&T before ordering an Airvoice SIM and porting your number over.

Don't bother with a land line for home phone service, definitely go VoIP instead and don't bundle it with your home internet. Here's a crash course on frugal VoIP shopping and setup. You should be able to get a really sweet deal on VoIP service for well under $10/month if you follow the guide. VOIPo will probably be your go-to choice.

INTERNET**:
My home internet price will triple in several months - I am considering canceling the internet all together and just using my phone or tablet as internet, but this would mean I wouldn't be able to have VoIP, cancel Netflix.

The other thing too that I was thinking about, is getting DSL with a landline (~65), having a dumb emergency phone (~10), data plan for tablet (~20) = $95

If I keep my internet then it would cost ~60, dumb phone ~10, data plan ~20 + VoIP ?? = at least $90.

The key to internet shopping is to understand you don't need much more than 3Mbps down service, and they'll soak you on the modem rental if they can... and given you mentioned you're not using DSL currently means you're using cable. I'm guessing that since you're in NYC, depending on the borough, it's either Comcast or TWC IIRC. Check the superguide post on internet service, as well as this blog post. That should get you started, help you understand what you need, and hopefully hack that pending $60/month internet bill down to around $40 either going through Earthlink or knowing which unadvertised data package to ask for directly. If you're in a Verizon landline area and your copper hasn't been pulled up for FIOS, you might be able to get even cheaper than $40/month dryloop service through DSLExtreme at $25/month with a one year contract. The great thing about dryloop is you don't need phone service, but you can only do that with third party DSL providers and Verizon. AT&T has dryloop service, but you can only get it from them directly, and guess what their undiscounted 3Mbps service runs at? If you said around $40, good guess! You're better off with cable.

Also, you deserve a facepunch for considering a data plan for your tablet, especially if you've gone without up until this point. You're in one of the densest populated cities in North America, and there's like a McDonald's or a Starbucks or some other business with free WiFi service on every blessed corner. I'm not a big fan of FreedomPop and have doubts about their long-term viability, but maybe consider it or a NetZero hotspot if you insist on having dedicated private portable internet access for your tablet. There are plans available under that $20 price point.

So... Internet (~$40) + Netflix ($8) + Airvoice $10 Plan + VOIPo ($7.71) = roughly $66/month (or less!)

It's doable, you've just gotta be smarter than the average bear.


Holy cow, you just gave me one hell of a comprehensive answer! Thank you for taking the time to write your feedback as well as add the links. 

The most surprising thing I found from your links, is that I have other choses besides TWC and VZ. From my research, I really thought I had no other choses. Eg: VZ no longer offers dry loop (not since May’12), but I never heard of DSLExtreme, who does.

I'm still reading, just wanted to thank you.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2013, 11:51:10 AM »
Something I do to keep my hair cut/colour costs down, is visiting the hair school.  It takes 3-4 hours for a cut and colour, but I go about once every 2-3 months, and it is $65 each time, including a tip.  It costs more though, the longer your hair is; Mine is just above shoulder length.

olivia

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2013, 12:01:29 PM »
Why will your Internet triple? Is it a promotional deal?  Because at least with my carrier, if you call and threaten to cancel they'll continue the promotional price, usually indefinitely. The sales rep actually told me to call back in 6 months and they'll lower it again.

And I agree about the hair-could you do an ombré look as you grow it out?  I'm betting one last trip to the hairdresser could help you do this, if you like the look. I have long brown hair with blonde ombré, and since it fades so nicely from brown to blonde I can just keep growing it.  I've gotten it colored 3 times in the last 2.5 years, and I get trims every 4-6 months.  Or could you bleach/highlight your hair yourself? When I was young and punk rock I used to just slap a bunch of bleach on and get my hair super platinum.  I also highlighted it myself a couple of times with one of those kits.  It was pretty easy, but I will say my hair was short so I didn't have to worry about damage.

Otherwise I'm super impressed with how low your budget is, especially for NYC!  I need to take pointers from you!

I am using a promotion with my ISP. They actually no longer offer the plan anymore (it's $10 higher). They have a monopoly and they take advantage of it. It's funny how much they piss me off - I called a few weeks ago to get general information; and I was really aggravated by the end of the conversation. I've had to cancel the service before because they wouldn't budge. I will attempt to get my frustrations out on their facebook/twitter page and see what will happen.

I am in a professional environment. No way can I have multicoloured hair; but I never heard of ombré. Would you be able to recommend a website that lists different colouring techniques? 

I don't spend money because I have no life. I rarely go out anymore. A part of it has to do with me getting my life in order. I've been decluttering my apartment during the weekends, purchasing/cooking new food, researching ways to get a higher interest with my money (cash back credit cards, high yield interest etc.) I want everything to be in order before I go back to school.

I also work in a professional environment, and my hair definitely doesn't look multicolored.  Depending on what you want, ombre can be quite subtle and could be a good way to disguise that you're growing out your bleached hair.  It may not work at a super conservative office, though, so YMMV.  I don't have any particular sites, but you can always do some searching on Pinterest or just Google it.  If you're brave enough to DIY it, I'm sure there are plenty of DIY hair websites.  Here's a good example of a subtle ombre, which is close to what I have:   

nktokyo

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2013, 07:29:02 AM »
Just adding that RedMaple's avatar kicks ass.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #21 on: May 20, 2013, 09:01:17 AM »
Just adding that RedMaple's avatar kicks ass.

lol thanks

Use it up, wear it out...

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2013, 12:16:12 PM »
The biggest way to save money in your budget is, I think, the roommate route. That could even go the path of becoming someone else's roommate, so they have responsibility for the electric, etc. Lower your rent, share the internet & phone with a low-cost VOIP phone...

My wife and I even rented out our spare bedroom before we had kids, for about $500 / month. Roommate even got her own bathroom at that price!

thurston howell iv

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2013, 01:00:27 PM »
X100 on switching to Airvoice!   After reading MMM's post on it I tired it and it's been great.

I had whittled our plan to about $75 with At&T (foregoing data) and still it was too expensive... We switched to the $10 a month plan and have rarely gone over (unless I'm on hold for a really long time)

I used the free wifi at home or when I'm out and about if I "must" have data on my cel... (which is almost never)

jamccain

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2013, 02:33:22 PM »
The biggest "bang for your buck" is going to be concentrating on earning more money now. 

Everyone laid out great ways to shave a few dollars here and there (getting a roommate being a bigger one), but your budget is in good shape and you can only squeeze so much blood from a turnip...time to maximize that earning power to really sock away money now. 

beeth_oven

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2013, 11:33:06 PM »
Fellow New Yorker here (and first post!). Your budget looks somewhat similar to mine but instead of haircuts I have a thing for nice clothes. Here's how I've pared down expenses in the city:

Phone: I pay $38/month for prepaid Virgin Mobile with data. (I don't do contracts). I rarely talk on the phone, mostly text, Gchat, surf the web, and use Google Maps. Not a very heavy user at all, so maybe my plan won't work for you. Also, everyone complains that nothing has better coverage than Verizon, but I've never had service issues with Virgin Mobile at all. Obviously, I don't have the fanciest phone with this plan, but I've never cared about tech gadgets, as long as they suit my purpose.

Internet: Have Time Warner. Split this with two roommates so the total is about $40, and I pay $13. We don't have a landline, either. Service is totally fine.

GrayGhost

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2013, 03:07:37 AM »
Another New Yorker here.

Your food bill seems a bit high, so I suggest cooking cheaper and cooking from scratch. What kind of things do you make and eat these days?

According to Mint.com, in the last 6 months I have spent $750 on groceries, and I don't eat too much in terms of cheap carbs/grains. Granted, my parents sometimes buy me meat and fish from the suburbs, but let us say that that adds $200 in the past six months. I'm still averaging far less than $200 per month.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2013, 09:21:46 AM »
Another New Yorker here.

Your food bill seems a bit high, so I suggest cooking cheaper and cooking from scratch. What kind of things do you make and eat these days?

According to Mint.com, in the last 6 months I have spent $750 on groceries, and I don't eat too much in terms of cheap carbs/grains. Granted, my parents sometimes buy me meat and fish from the suburbs, but let us say that that adds $200 in the past six months. I'm still averaging far less than $200 per month.


That amount includes going out food/drinks and grocery food. I'm not much of a meat/fish eater although since I started cooking I eat meat more. For work lunch I normally ate Lean Cuisine 4 times per week (that I only get on sale ~$2 e) and 1 buying lunch. Last month I decided to eat 3 lunches prepared by me, 1 lean cuisine, 1 buying lunch. I wouldn't say the 3 lunches are cheaper - this week I ate tacos at about $4 per lunch (meat, shells, sauce, cheese, tomatoe, lettuce), the week before I ate veggies, meat, rice for over $2 per lunch. This weekend I'll try making tofu. I am always looking for new ideas though. What do you make for lunch?

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #28 on: May 23, 2013, 09:26:34 AM »
Fellow New Yorker here (and first post!). Your budget looks somewhat similar to mine but instead of haircuts I have a thing for nice clothes. Here's how I've pared down expenses in the city:

Phone: I pay $38/month for prepaid Virgin Mobile with data. (I don't do contracts). I rarely talk on the phone, mostly text, Gchat, surf the web, and use Google Maps. Not a very heavy user at all, so maybe my plan won't work for you. Also, everyone complains that nothing has better coverage than Verizon, but I've never had service issues with Virgin Mobile at all. Obviously, I don't have the fanciest phone with this plan, but I've never cared about tech gadgets, as long as they suit my purpose.

Internet: Have Time Warner. Split this with two roommates so the total is about $40, and I pay $13. We don't have a landline, either. Service is totally fine.

I have a thing for being a blonde. Curious, how much do you annually spend on clothes/shoes?

Virgin is run on VZ lines, no? Can you bring your own phone? Since you have no reception issues, where do you live?

I.P. Daley recommended Airvoice - I'm currently waiting on the SIM card to arrive. 

How many mbps do you get on TWC, are they charging you a modem fee, how long have you had the contract?

Daley

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #29 on: May 23, 2013, 09:49:20 AM »
Virgin runs on Sprint. If you're not getting AT&T or T-Mobile reception, it's likely due to your location within your building and the building itself. It's possible, but it's also doubtful that you'd get better reception with Sprint even if they have voice services available in some areas on the 800MHz band (the lower the band, the deeper the penetration into structures). If AT&T can't get through on the 850MHz band, I wouldn't hold my breath for Sprint. That said, Virgin does support call forwarding as well, but their cheapest package is $20/month for 400 minutes and texts billed at 15˘ each and $30 gets you significantly less than the same money with Airvoice, I don't believe they have rollover for unused minutes, and you'd have to buy a new phone on top of it all.

TWC shouldn't charge you a modem fee if you own your own modem.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2013, 09:52:53 AM by I.P. Daley »

beeth_oven

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #30 on: May 23, 2013, 12:04:52 PM »

I have a thing for being a blonde. Curious, how much do you annually spend on clothes/shoes?

Virgin is run on VZ lines, no? Can you bring your own phone? Since you have no reception issues, where do you live?

I.P. Daley recommended Airvoice - I'm currently waiting on the SIM card to arrive. 

How many mbps do you get on TWC, are they charging you a modem fee, how long have you had the contract?

I consistently spend about 3K on clothes/shoes a year, which is not very Mustachian of me, but I'm really picky and calculated about that stuff.

I had to buy a new Virgin Mobile phone. You can check out the plan here:
http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phone-plans/beyond-talk-plans/overview/

I live in Brooklyn and work in midtown Manhattan. Coverage map:
http://www.virginmobileusa.com/check-cell-phone-coverage
My mom lives in NH. Works fine there, too.

It's definitely not the cheapest plan, but it works for me and was pretty hassle-free to set up.

I think we get 3mbps for Internet. I watch Netflix on the regular and it's totally fine.

PS--I don't see what's wrong with your food budget, especially in NY with amazing restaurants on every corner. I think that's less than what I spend actually and I make my lunch almost every day lately.

GrayGhost

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #31 on: May 23, 2013, 10:46:13 PM »
That amount includes going out food/drinks and grocery food. I'm not much of a meat/fish eater although since I started cooking I eat meat more. For work lunch I normally ate Lean Cuisine 4 times per week (that I only get on sale ~$2 e) and 1 buying lunch. Last month I decided to eat 3 lunches prepared by me, 1 lean cuisine, 1 buying lunch. I wouldn't say the 3 lunches are cheaper - this week I ate tacos at about $4 per lunch (meat, shells, sauce, cheese, tomatoe, lettuce), the week before I ate veggies, meat, rice for over $2 per lunch. This weekend I'll try making tofu. I am always looking for new ideas though. What do you make for lunch?

If that includes eating out (I budget eating out separately), then your figures make a lot more sense. But, for your own purposes, you might want to be aware of how much you spend eating out each month. I allocate $100 a month for eating out, and as a fellow New Yorker, you too know that that can just mean two dinners at an upscale place, if that. I generally stay well under this budget, though.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2013, 10:10:28 AM »
I think your budget is pretty decent for NYC (albeit, I'm not a fan of dying hair blonde when a perfectly good brunette is underneath!). I would have a hard time not enjoying dining out in NYC. I spent many years in a culinary blackhole in upstate NY, where I would have loved to have 1 NYC-caliber meal.

But I'm curious where the savings is going and what it's doing for you while it's parked and waiting for grad school. I think it's wise to look into diversified investment options. Do you know how much you'll need saved by the time you start? It might help to draw up what your budget will look like while you're in school, so you can assess how much you will need. If you are saving more than you expect to need, then I encourage you to put the excess into a Roth IRA (up to $5500) and / or invest it a little more aggressively than (what I think you said you're doing) a high-yield savings account.

Also, I highly encourage you to look into scholarship options -- within the schools you're applying to and outside of the schools. When you have your acceptance letters, also consider the value of the schools. I found that a school that was more of a fall-back for me was willing to offer me $$$ to go there. (if I hadn't met my spouse in grad school, I would regret not taking their offer, because I went to a more expensive school with less assistance instead) After you're accepted, it doesn't hurt to ask if there is assistance for you because of XYZ special factor about your career goals or personal circumstances.

rubybeth

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #33 on: May 24, 2013, 01:05:46 PM »
Warning: this post is completely about hair.

Not sure if you've looked it up yet, but I agree with the previous poster that the ombre look might be a good way to transition from blonde to brunette in a stylish way. My hair naturally does the ombre thing since it's brown but gets highlights in the summer which then grow out so my roots are darker then my ends. I think it looks cool!

Ombre is a weird thing, though. Getting the color transition correct would be important in order for you to look professional. Ask your current stylist/salon about it, you might just need one more color appointment and then never have to color again. You'd want a subtle transition between your darker roots and the very blond ends... they might need to darken the blonde and add in a few layers of color between roots and ends in order for it to look right.

Someone who has 'good' ombre, IMHO, is Lauren Conrad. Another is Rachel Bilson. One of my favorite YouTubers, Zoella, also has ombre and she has videos on how she does it herself--but she's not growing out blonde, she just adds blonde to her ends.

SnackDog

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #34 on: May 26, 2013, 07:38:55 AM »
Your net income for NYC is very low.  You need more income!  Either find a way to double your salary (career change?) or move somewhere cheaper.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #35 on: May 26, 2013, 09:30:03 AM »
Your net income for NYC is very low.  You need more income!  Either find a way to double your salary (career change?) or move somewhere cheaper.

How much do you make gross and net? What do you do?

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #36 on: May 26, 2013, 11:37:26 AM »
That amount includes going out food/drinks and grocery food. I'm not much of a meat/fish eater although since I started cooking I eat meat more. For work lunch I normally ate Lean Cuisine 4 times per week (that I only get on sale ~$2 e) and 1 buying lunch. Last month I decided to eat 3 lunches prepared by me, 1 lean cuisine, 1 buying lunch. I wouldn't say the 3 lunches are cheaper - this week I ate tacos at about $4 per lunch (meat, shells, sauce, cheese, tomatoe, lettuce), the week before I ate veggies, meat, rice for over $2 per lunch. This weekend I'll try making tofu. I am always looking for new ideas though. What do you make for lunch?

If that includes eating out (I budget eating out separately), then your figures make a lot more sense. But, for your own purposes, you might want to be aware of how much you spend eating out each month. I allocate $100 a month for eating out, and as a fellow New Yorker, you too know that that can just mean two dinners at an upscale place, if that. I generally stay well under this budget, though.

I do keep a separate budget for dining and grocery, but I'm more concerned about their net rather than their allocation. Eg: If I'm under budget by $20 in dining out, but over the same amount in my grocery. I'm okay with that.

With that said, a problem that I am still struggling to address are special occasion dinners. My parents insists that we celebrate mothers/fathers day and their birthdays. I usually drop ~$150+ with tip each time, which obviously gets me waay over budget. When that is the case, I watch my food budget along with my shopping budget. So if the 3 aren't over budget I'm satisfied. I can't figure out a better way of doing it.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #37 on: May 26, 2013, 11:57:52 AM »
I think your budget is pretty decent for NYC (albeit, I'm not a fan of dying hair blonde when a perfectly good brunette is underneath!). I would have a hard time not enjoying dining out in NYC. I spent many years in a culinary blackhole in upstate NY, where I would have loved to have 1 NYC-caliber meal.

But I'm curious where the savings is going and what it's doing for you while it's parked and waiting for grad school. I think it's wise to look into diversified investment options. Do you know how much you'll need saved by the time you start? It might help to draw up what your budget will look like while you're in school, so you can assess how much you will need. If you are saving more than you expect to need, then I encourage you to put the excess into a Roth IRA (up to $5500) and / or invest it a little more aggressively than (what I think you said you're doing) a high-yield savings account.

Also, I highly encourage you to look into scholarship options -- within the schools you're applying to and outside of the schools. When you have your acceptance letters, also consider the value of the schools. I found that a school that was more of a fall-back for me was willing to offer me $$$ to go there. (if I hadn't met my spouse in grad school, I would regret not taking their offer, because I went to a more expensive school with less assistance instead) After you're accepted, it doesn't hurt to ask if there is assistance for you because of XYZ special factor about your career goals or personal circumstances.

You bring up a very good point that hasn't been mentioned yet. I was stupid and kept my savings at a very very low interest rate. A few months ago, I opened a "high yield savings", which still gives me a crappy rate. I have been looking at AmEx who offers .85% rate, but I haven't yet moved my money, as I'm still sifting through other options. Depending on the school I go to, it will be between $16k - $80k for the degree, which I have; but since I'm going to be taking 1-2 classes max, I won't need to have the cash fully liquid. Can you please go more into detail regarding diversified investment options - I'm assuming the return is more than what AmEx is currently giving at .85%.

It is worth to note that I'm not contributing anything to my 401k. Although my company contributes ~10% annually of my base+bonus.

I really doubt I'll be given a scholarship because I did really shitty in my undergraduate. But I guess it never hurts to look into it.

RedMaple

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #38 on: May 26, 2013, 12:05:44 PM »
Warning: this post is completely about hair.

Not sure if you've looked it up yet, but I agree with the previous poster that the ombre look might be a good way to transition from blonde to brunette in a stylish way. My hair naturally does the ombre thing since it's brown but gets highlights in the summer which then grow out so my roots are darker then my ends. I think it looks cool!

Ombre is a weird thing, though. Getting the color transition correct would be important in order for you to look professional. Ask your current stylist/salon about it, you might just need one more color appointment and then never have to color again. You'd want a subtle transition between your darker roots and the very blond ends... they might need to darken the blonde and add in a few layers of color between roots and ends in order for it to look right.

Someone who has 'good' ombre, IMHO, is Lauren Conrad. Another is Rachel Bilson. One of my favorite YouTubers, Zoella, also has ombre and she has videos on how she does it herself--but she's not growing out blonde, she just adds blonde to her ends.

Thanks for the feedback.

From what I can remember Rachel has a similar colour to my natural hair. It doesn't look too bad... I would have to get low lights too...
http://www.ivillage.ca/sites/default/files/imagecache/node_photo_gallery_single_view/ombre-hair-rachel-bilson-768.jpg

But I don't want to end up looking like this though... (that's how blonde I am)
http://blog.gettyimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/103876507.jpg

mm1970

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #39 on: May 26, 2013, 02:43:00 PM »
Wow, this is a great thread.  And it's pretty funny that twice you said "what do people do without TV or internet?"  Because I'm almost 43, and I didn't have internet for a very long time.  But now, I can't imagine living without it either.

Anyway, I lived in DC for awhile pre-internet days.  Some ideas on "what to do":

Take classes (I got my master's at night - studying takes a lot of time)

Cook.  This is what I do now, on the weekends, to feed my family during the week. Things I make: bean burritos (freeze them - they are GREAT for cheap/ fast lunches), stir-fry, spaghetti, rice and beans, soups, chili.  If you want cheap food options, take a look at Cook for Good (google it) or The Prudent Homemaker.  Learn to bake bread.

Learn a craft.  Pre-kid, I did a lot of quilting, knitting, crocheting.  It's fun to make stuff and work with your hands.  And these types of crafts take up less space than, say, furniture building (my friend Beth's hobby).

Read

Exercise

Sightsee - go to art shows, museums, whatever might be free in your neck of the woods (ton of free stuff in DC, not so sure about NYC)

Clean your apartment

Study investing

Play games: invite friends over for monopoly, scrabble, whatever.  I miss this (kids and bedtime make it very difficult!)

Darn your socks (seriously, I have two pair just waiting...while here I waste time on the internet)

ep114

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #40 on: May 26, 2013, 11:03:11 PM »
Red Maple- I think you're doing really well on curbing your spending while living in NY (OK- there's the hair thing, but your rent is impressively low)
BUT I would really recommend considering contributing to your 401K. That's where most of my nest egg has come from and it wasn't terribly painful. Remember there is the huge tax benefit because your contributions are tax free, and there's no guarantee that the market will continue its upswing of course, but its been bonkers recently and over time the returns tend to be pretty solid and def higher than a savings account.

markstache

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #41 on: May 27, 2013, 11:48:47 AM »
But I'm curious where the savings is going and what it's doing for you while it's parked and waiting for grad school. I think it's wise to look into diversified investment options. ... I encourage you to put the excess into a Roth IRA (up to $5500) and / or invest it a little more aggressively than (what I think you said you're doing) a high-yield savings account.

Another option would be a 529 plan naming you as both the owner and beneficiary. NY state has a 529 that allows deducting up to $5000 per year on your state taxes. The Vanguard options are certainly MMM approved (ie. have low expense ratios).

Are you looking at a PhD or MS/MA? I'm in a PhD program that includes a stipend (return for teaching or research assistance), but I use the 529 to pay for books and other educational incidentals. In my experience, a Master's degree program will require you to pay your tuition, so the 529 becomes even more valuable for the tax break.

rubybeth

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #42 on: May 29, 2013, 07:13:27 AM »
Warning: this post is completely about hair.

Not sure if you've looked it up yet, but I agree with the previous poster that the ombre look might be a good way to transition from blonde to brunette in a stylish way. My hair naturally does the ombre thing since it's brown but gets highlights in the summer which then grow out so my roots are darker then my ends. I think it looks cool!

Ombre is a weird thing, though. Getting the color transition correct would be important in order for you to look professional. Ask your current stylist/salon about it, you might just need one more color appointment and then never have to color again. You'd want a subtle transition between your darker roots and the very blond ends... they might need to darken the blonde and add in a few layers of color between roots and ends in order for it to look right.

Someone who has 'good' ombre, IMHO, is Lauren Conrad. Another is Rachel Bilson. One of my favorite YouTubers, Zoella, also has ombre and she has videos on how she does it herself--but she's not growing out blonde, she just adds blonde to her ends.

Thanks for the feedback.

From what I can remember Rachel has a similar colour to my natural hair. It doesn't look too bad... I would have to get low lights too...
http://www.ivillage.ca/sites/default/files/imagecache/node_photo_gallery_single_view/ombre-hair-rachel-bilson-768.jpg

But I don't want to end up looking like this though... (that's how blonde I am)
http://blog.gettyimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/103876507.jpg

Yeah, I'd definitely err more toward Rachel's than Drew's. You could show your stylist those photos and maybe have him/her tone down the blonde or warm it up more to better blend with the darker roots, add in low-lights, etc. Honestly, I'd probably just explain that you're tired of the upkeep with the blonde but still plan to color 2-3 times per year... but you can more easily maintain the ombre look at home since you'd only be doing the ends, which you can pull to the front and see what you're doing. If you do this, I'd be curious to see a before/after (you could blur your face if you want to be anonymous)!

oldtoyota

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Re: I need a second opinion on my budget
« Reply #43 on: May 31, 2013, 08:56:32 PM »

In terms of cutting down TV time, how do you spend your days?


Reading up on books related to grad program?
Walking
Gardening
Swimming
Sitting outside and drinking cold tea
Reading books and magazines
Cooking dinners that can become my homemade lunch
Spending time with friends
Picnics