In New York, kids are now required to have them starting with their first high school math class. It's infuriating for both financial and pedagogical reasons.
My then-husband and I did this to pay off his student loans while living off my grad school stipend and his VISTA volunteer stipend! It involved a tiny apartment in Indiana, a $150/ month total food budget, taking the bus, and only $20/ month each in discretionary spending. Basically the two of us lived on a bit less than my stipend and threw his entire salary at the loans, which, along with the VISTA education stipend, knocked them out in two years.
@Trilby In my area, a standard landline is $35/ month with taxes and fees; I pay less than $12 for my cell.
I can't afford one, but the sound quality of land lines is waaaaay better than any cell phone I've ever used.
Authors and musicians get royalties when they're effectively selling more copies of their original work. If painters want in on that, they can print posters.
That's about what fillings cost me WITH insurance. Go USA!
I think it’s bizarre that the letter writer doesn’t mention her own work, their financial situation, etc. No reasonable advice can be given without knowing whether they’re impoverished, doing well on her six-figure salary, living off a trust fund, etc.
My advice would be to spend the money you have in ways that are (a) necessary and (b) in line with your values. You need to spend a certain amount of money on rent, food, etc. to maintain your physical and mental health. You may find it necessary to spend some amount on entertainment for the sake of your mental health, though if you contemplate it you might decide that you're spending more than yours needing. If you don't need to spend as much as you are, and giving to charity is part of your value system, then make that switch! I'm very cautious about money so spending loan money on brunches OR charity would stress me out. I personally would live cheaply for the sake of more freedom later, but I enjoy going out much less than most people, so I wouldn't consider that to be the "right" choice.
@ECW I think the main reason for judgment is because the way it came out in the interview, he didn't decide "I really want a luxury car and it will make my life awesome," but instead his brother said "You should get a luxury car" and he said, "Oh, okay, I'll do that, even though that wasn't on my list of needs at all."
Don't forget the option of leaving New York! Among my social circle, that always made life easier.