Super boring, yeah? Totally. Finances are the most stressful part of my life and I credit New York City for that (no pun intended).
You can get a job in New York City that pays a good salary – a salary that would be enviable in your hometown – but then you get here and realize that one paycheck doesn’t even cover all of your rent. Unless you have a roommate, and then maybe it does. You’re a smart one for doing that, but I didn’t have that kind of luck (and secretly-but-not-so-secretly, I love living alone with my cat).
Then you say, it doesn’t matter how much I get paid or how much my rent is, I live in the greatest city of all time! There’s so much to do here! Who needs money when you’re surrounded by EVERYTHING!
Everything here costs money, aside from sitting in a park and people watching. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a very awesome and entertaining thing to do. You might even see a woman bring her big fluffy white cat to the park to play. Or see a man in a white tuxedo playing a flute extremely off-key. And then it gets old after about an hour.
The biggest struggle I’ve found in living in New York isn’t planning my weeks and days around the subway or managing the stress of a “real person” job (I think I’ve handled that one pretty well), it’s been managing money. I’ve done a decent job of this only because I stress out about it. A LOT.
Having worked at a bank call center right out of college (if you’re desperate for a job, do it. If you want to keep your sanity, don’t), I have kept a check register like an 80-year-old. You can knock it all you want, but I always know exactly how much money is in my account regardless of what has or hasn’t cleared. Take that, online banking.
So I’m good at not overdrawing my account. That’s definitely the worst feeling. I used to do it all the time in high school and college because obviously debit cards equaled free money, and when you get to the register and your card is denied, you’re beyond embarrassed. It happened a couple times when I was serving unpaid internships in New York as well while buying groceries. It broke my heart to put those Hint of Lime Tostitos back every time, but milk and cereal and lunch items were far more important.
Things I’m not so great at? Trying to balance spending money on having a life and doing things with friends that cost money, while also being able to pay for all my bills. Don’t worry, the bills win out every time, but what a drag to pay over a thousand dollars a month to live in a city that I can’t even take advantage of?
But if I’m paying that much for rent, shouldn’t I take advantage of my apartment? How do I get my money’s worth out of that? Stay inside whenever I can? Because I tend to do that a lot. And then because I do that, I pay for cable because what the hell else am I supposed to do while inside? I like reading, but I can’t read all day. My eyes do not do that.
One tool I’ve found that’s helpful in managing this issue is this software called You Need A Budget. You enter in all the expenses you know you’ll have for the month (rent, utilities, loan, etc) and then allot money for other areas of your life (groceries, restaurants, household goods, medical expenses), and then you add in all the purchases you’ve made that month – which I recommend doing as you go. I was doing great with this until I started going out to lunch everyday because I haven’t had time to go grocery shopping, and when I do have time I don’t have the money for it (end-of-the-month-I-have-to-pay-rent-soon woes). I plan on using it more as a way to stop myself from going out to lunch everyday, but I also kind of like getting out of the office once a day to clear my head as well as the social aspect that goes along with it. I also love bringing a homemade lunch – particularly if it’s delicious leftovers – but eating at your desk is depressing. And then I don’t end up taking a break at all.
But YOU should totally use You Need A Budget. If you do in fact need a budget.
Where’s all this ranting and rambling going? Nowhere really. Don’t worry, I’m not starting a “Bri Needs Money to Live!” Kickstarter. I’m not taking on a second job, because running basically is my second job (and the best way to clear my mind. It’s necessary for mental health). And I already got a small raise so there’s no use asking for another. If you happen to have tips and tricks of how to make it in the city that don’t include eating ramen everyday or shutting yourself in at all hours, there’s a comment section, and you should use it.