Living Expenses

Apartment Hunts, Communities of Excellence, and Living in NYC on $5,000 a Year

Startup Castle is offering single rooms at $1,750/mo and shared rooms at $1,000/mo. But the ideal applicant can’t watch more than 4 hours of TV a week, can’t have more than one tattoo, and can’t have attended more than one protest in their lifetime.


First of May, First of May, Brand-New Budget Starts Today

So now that it’s the First of May and I can finally start putting my new savings plan into action (as a quick recap, I want to put 20 percent of every freelancer payment into a “taxes” saving account, 20 percent into a “debt” savings account, 10 percent into actual savings, and keep the other 50 percent for overhead and discretionary expenses), I’ve started to think about what that might mean in practical terms.

During one of my weekly Tumblr financial roundups, for example, I calculated how those percentages would have fallen out had I put this plan into action in March:

If I had done this for March’s “total money that hit my bank account,” which ended up being $5,539.41, it would have worked out to:

20% savings: $1,108

20% debt: $1,108

10% savings: $554

Left over: $2,770

As I wrote for The Billfold earlier, I have an approximate $1,500 overhead cost (rent, food, bills, etc.), so that would leave me with $1,270 in discretionary income. If I earn less money in any given month, I still have a lot of wiggle room in this budget.

I can already see a big honking problem with this plan, though, at least for May: I have a bunch of expenses coming up at the beginning of the month, and all my big freelancing checks don’t start coming until the middle and end of the month.


13 Ways Daylight Saving Time Can Cost You Money

You get a thing of Pop-Tarts out of the vending machine (or a coffee shop muffin, if you’re working from home) at 10:30 because lattes aren’t the same as food and you’re starving and you can’t remember whether “real time” is 9:30 or 11:30, and all you know is you can’t wait another 90 minutes for lunch: $2.50


Professor Dumpster Moves Out of the Dumpster, Begins Couchsurfing

Professor Dumpster is moving out of the dumpster—and if you live in Austin, he might be coming to a couch near you.


On Saving Money with Solar Panels, Renewable Energy, and Such Like

Maybe solar was too cumbersome. Maybe the start up costs were too high. But at least one person has found workarounds and has been surprisingly satisfied by the results.


In Defense of CT (Again) & Rejecting Traditional Geographic Measures of Success

There are a lot of reasons why we find ourselves living in places. Often, it’s because we have a job or family obligations, or we just can’t afford to leave, or we don’t know where we’d go if we did leave. None of that means that the place we live is good or bad. It simply means we’re there, and for lack of other options, we have to keep living.


Paying to Belong

There’s a religious Jewish movement called Chabad, which is famous for being pretty aggressive about outreach. When my family was visiting Italy one fall, it was members of Chabad that spotted us and welcomed us, inviting us to join them for services and dinner. Their energy can also be alienating: if you so much as walk on the streets of Brooklyn on a holiday like Passover with brown hair, or hey even with hair, period, a Chabadnik will probably approach you and ask if you’re Jewish. But Chabad, unlike other more dour and insular Hasidic groups, puts an emphasis on DIY, populist joy — dancing, singing — and bringing people together. That’s one of the reasons it’s growing. The other reason? It doesn’t charge membership dues.

As their website puts it, “Most often a Chabad House does not charge membership–if you are Jewish, you are a member.”

It’s a nice idea! It’s also the kind of idea that makes most rabbis go, “Oy vey.”

Most synagogues rely on annual membership dues which, for families, are in the four-figures. Most American Jews don’t belong to synagogues. The NYT this week connected the dots and, in the process, started a much needed conversation about paying to belong


Geography Is The Mother Of History, Or, Where You Live Matters, Choose Wisely

Disability is I guess welfare for white people? The kind of social safety net even Republicans are okay with.


One Is the Loneliest Number, So Find a Cell Phone Family Plan

About a week after I graduated from college, I broke the news to my father: I was leaving the family plan. He had been paying my cell phone bill for the previous five years, after giving me my first phone at 17. Before cell phones were standard for teenagers, my father would make me empty my pockets before I went out with friends to show him I had a few quarters for a pay phone—just in case. But as soon as my first boyfriend started hanging around our house, he handed down his old phone without me even asking. Daddy’s little girl was expected to check in on the regular.