Could You Come Up With $700 By Midnight?

broad city kirk steele

Without spoiling anything about this week’s Broad City—and let me say that if you aren’t watching Broad City, you are missing one of the most hilarious shows about early adulthood ever written—the plot hinges on our heroines, Abbi and Ilana, coming up with $700 by midnight.

These two characters do not have an extra $700 sitting in their bank accounts. Abbi, who is responsible for the bulk of the $700, notes that it is equivalent to her rent payment. (Does this mean her NYC two-bedroom apartment costs around $1,400, and is that realistic? You’ll have to tell me.)

Abbi works a janitorial job at a boutique gym that probably pays just above minimum wage (currently $8.75 in New York), meaning she very likely earns around $10 an hour, or $20,800 per year. suggests she would pay $2,734.95 in federal taxes and $562 in New York state taxes, including FICA and Medicare, leaving her with $17,503.05 in gross pay, or $1,459 per month. I’m not sure whether unemployment and Social Security deductions are factored into’s calculations. Let’s just say that Abbi has a take-home of $1,400 a month.

This makes Abbi’s theoretical $700 rent a whopping 50 percent of her take-home pay, and I still find a $700 rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Astoria pretty hard to believe. (It’s not extraordinarily off the mark, according to Craigslist; a real-life version of Abbi might pay closer to $900.)

The point being that of course neither Abbi nor Ilana have $700 just sitting around, so they have to spend their 22 minutes of showtime hustling for the extra cash.

What about the rest of us? Right now, I could pay $700 in cash out of my bank account if I had to, and I’d still be able to make rent and pay all of my bills. Last year, I might have had to put the $700 on a credit card and figure out how to pay it later. (It is worth noting that neither Abbi nor Ilana consider credit cards or bank lines of credit as an option. They know you can go online and get approved in minutes, right?) If I were absolutely out of options, I could call my parents or ask one of my friends for a loan.

Could you come up with $700 by midnight, if you needed to?


Who Pays Your Funeral Expenses If You Die in Debt

Here lies Mozart in a pauper's graveHere’s a fun thought. Assuming you do decide to go without life insurance and when you are abruptly taken from this Earth, you leave your heirs nothing but debts and a cat and a sad looking couch. Who pays your funeral expenses? Who covers the cost of your casket, your gravestone, your embalming? That stuff is expensive, and we don’t dump burlap-shrouded bodies in unmarked paupers’ graves sprinkled with quicklime anymore, right? So what does happen?

Presumably the burden shifts to your family; but what if you have no family and/or your family can’t pay?

Well, in jolly old England, which is running out of space to bury people anyway — in London, they’re already re-opening old graves and reusing them (!) — you can opt for cremation. It’s cheaper and the Church will now help subsidize the costs.

Also in the UK, potters’ fields are making a surprising comeback. Though the preferred terminology is “Public Health Funerals,” please.  READ MORE


On Doing Everything Right and Still Making the Wrong Decision

My husband and I are a supposedly elusive breed: the Millennial Homeowner. However, this is not something we are celebrating. Three years ago, newly engaged and living in a new area, we started looking for houses. It was a kind of mania with me, some programming that we needed the house and the big yard and the mortgage to be real adults, to be successful. We had been very careful financially.

Both of us are teachers, and we had spent years limiting our spending and living in cheap apartments, squirreling away money for the house of our dreams. My soon-to-be-husband especially was a big saver, quietly amassing over $20,000 dollars in his bank account over two years, while I was not far behind with my own savings. When we moved to a new place, a beautiful, rural area of Virginia that bordered the Chesapeake Bay, our suburbia-raised selves rejoiced. Everywhere we looked were wide-open fields, desolate beaches, roads lined with wildflowers. We went for bike rides and ate fresh seafood and thought: This. This is it. Weʼre going to stay here forever.

So, when I saw a listing for a historic farmhouse on three acres, I immediately took a drive past it. Bordered on one side by a few acres of woods, with a big backyard, perfect for those imagined future kids and pets! With the house flanked by beautiful, old trees, I was overjoyed. I came back that weekend with my fiance and my father, a real estate agent who was visiting us for the weekend. The house was less perfect once we were inside. The owner had clearly not done anything, including clean, in a long time. The floors needed refinishing, the kitchen made my stomach turn, and rooms were decorated with ancient pink carpets and deeply creepy stuffed animals. In one of the rooms, the ownerʼs dog had thrown up at some distant point in the past, and it had gone unnoticed. A dead mouse lay in the middle of another room. However, all these things added up to one thing for us: a low price.  READ MORE


Friday Estimate

lazy sundayGood morning and TGIF! Time for some weekend estimations.

I just got back from my winter getaway and am still tallying up the costs of it (which I will be posting next week), so I intend to spend as little money as possible this weekend. I’ll likely buy some groceries, do laundry, and catch up on some work. My estimate is $50.

What about you? What are your weekend estimates?


Paying Taxes on My Amazon Purchases and Clearing My Conscience

Amazon cat

I live in Chicago, Illinois, and for all the years that I’ve been shopping online Amazon has never charged state sales tax on purchases. Apparently, it is supposed to be self-reported during the filing of taxes, but I never remember seeing a line for it when I filed state taxes online through the state portal.

This year, TurboTax offered me free filing of both my federal and state taxes. I did not have to file in two places to save money, but I also could not avoid the direct question asked by TurboTax, “Did you make any online purchases in 2014?” I was reasonably certain that I could have answered “no” and been in zero trouble and never be audited. Still, I couldn’t lie.

I answered, “yes,” opened a new tab and logged into my account with Amazon to tally my purchases. I purchased $181.28 worth of items (mostly gifts and the occasional book). At the current 6.25% tax rate I owed $11, which was subtracted from my $125 refund.

Eleven dollars seems an amount worth paying for a guilt-free conscience.


Amanda works in banking and loves Ansel Elgort, Friday Night Lights and dessert for breakfast.

Photo: Stephen Woods


Increased Income and Decreased Generosity

Scrooge McDuckI’ve been earning a little more money lately. By “a little,” I mean “maybe $1,000 more per month than I was making last year.”

A few weeks ago, when I was doing my weekly freelancing round-up on my Tumblr, I posted that week’s income under the headline This Week in Freelancing: What Should I Do With All This Money? (The most immediate answer will probably be: 2015 estimated taxes.)

It turns out that what I’m not doing with this money is giving it to other people.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, of course I am still exchanging money for goods and services, and of course I am still tipping my Great Clips stylist 100% on a $15 tab. But I’m not donating my money right now, or giving it to Kickstarters, or adding new Patreons to my patreonage. I am not investing in other people, even though I have more income at my disposal to make those investments.

It’s that idea of “disposal” that kind of tips it. When I wrote about kids and allowances a few weeks ago, I wrote that of course I spent my 25 cents on an ice cream, because I knew that it would take way too long to save those quarters for anything that wasn’t an ice cream.

Likewise, if you’re earning “enough” and you’ve got a little bit left over, and you’re only ever going to have a little bit left over, why not share some of what you’ve got?

Now I’ve got more than a little bit left over, and I’m starting to think of my money as stackable units. (This feels like a very Minecraft thing, except I’ve never played Minecraft.) Stack enough money together and I’ve got a debt payment. Stack more money together and I could move into a bigger apartment. Start another stack for savings.



The Property Manager Who Knows Every Tenant


41 Kosciuszko Street, #320
Nearest subway: G train at Bedford-Nostrand Avenues

Nathan Rosenberg, a property manager in Bed-Stuy, knows everyone in his buildings. On Tuesday, when I went to visit a studio apartment at 41 Kosciuszko Street—the Craigslist post described the location as Bed-Stuy/East Williamsburg—he addressed all of the tenants we ran into by name, flirting with a mother and her infant child, asking how a struggling musician’s band was doing, and confirming with someone that a leak had been fixed. Rosenberg manages three buildings in the immediate area, and another on Jefferson Street that used to be a stable house. “Everything in the building is shoe horses,” Rosenberg said. “The chandeliers are shoe horses.”

Now a ninety-eight-unit residential behemoth, 41 Kosciuszko Street—or, as it is currently being styled, The Aviary—used to be a linen factory. Best-Metropolitan Towel & Linen Supply Co., Inc. sold the building to Kosciusko Rehab LLC for $9.7 million in 2008, according to Department of Finance records. Nearly a year later, Kosciusko Rehab passed the deed to New Kosciusko, another LLC located at the same address. In 2012, New Kosciusko passed the deed to Kosciusko Plaza. “It’s a rehab. We only do rehabs,” Rosenberg told me.



Stupid Smarch Weather Do 1 Thing

Wedding Dress Shopping Saks 5th AvenueThursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing. 

If all goes well, I will be in the air as you read this! First Nicole got some vacation in, and then Mike did; now it’s my turn to take a long weekend, and I’m going to Southern California, where it is sunny and pleasant all day long or your money back. I am very, very excited to escape the slushy drabness of East Coast Smarch, and to meet my two-month-old nephew for the first time, and to cheer on my friend K as she gets married in the dress I helped her pick out.

My 1 Thing is many small pre-trip tasks but primarily PACK. I also need to write a toast I think? And decide what to read on the plane? And contribute to the honeyfund? These are the best 1 things ever.

What’s your 1 thing?


On Being An OK Person In An Age of Personal Brands

Beware Artists

Last fall a Brooklyn designer I’ll call “DJ” with a roster of celebrity fans and friends stole $636 from me. She’s very talented and has an impressively well-realized personal brand on Instagram. She’s also a family friend. Our moms are buddies.

The story goes like this. My husband ordered a birthday gift for me from DJ’s online shop. It was $300, more than we could normally afford, but he had had a solid summer of work, so he splurged. A few days later while doing some online banking, I noticed that we’d been double-charged by her site. I emailed her to let her know, and she wrote back apologizing for the mistake, saying she’d refund it. Friendly, low-key, no big deal.

What does it mean to have a personal brand? Today, nearly every kind of professional is encouraged to develop one, from academics to sous-chefs to car salesmen. Members of the creative class are under the most pressure. There have always been people very skillful at narrating their lives, and this is their time. Narration is all it really is: choosing one detail over another, skipping over the boring parts so your audience stays interested. Honing your own voice until your narrative encompasses a world, a whole frame of reference that people can make sense of quickly. It’s the type of skill that’s hard to learn; you either have it or you don’t. The designer at the center of this story, she has it. She has it by the fistful. And thanks to the brand she’s built, based on her own life, using her own wits, she has a loyal following.

Once you have a well-crafted personal brand with a solid base of followers, you can start to monetize. If you’re an artist, this is when people start to want to pay for your work. If you’re a person with great personal style, this is when brands start giving you free shit. And this is where the script ends. How are you expected to behave, once you’ve started to reap the fruits of your self-branding labors? What are the rules? READ MORE