Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Main Shocker

It has been said that the problem with the world is that the intelligent people are filled with doubt and the stupid people are filled with confidence. The problem with the world is not that intelligent people are filled with doubt and the stupid people are filled with confidence; it's that the intelligent people justify their doubt while stupid people overcome it. My father told me once that the successful people in this world are not always the smartest. And this is true. I have met a lot of people whom one could deem "successful" and yet they do not seem deserving of their success. But what I have also found to be true is that successful people, at one time or another, had to roll up their sleeves, face their fears, and overcome their self-doubt.  Sure, they may not be intelligent, they may make wrong choices, but you cannot say that they did not work for it.
I started this blog for two reasons: to keep family and friends updated on how I am doing, and to serve as a guide for current and future New York transplants. Well, if you read the last blog post, it certainly wasn't a guide for transplants. More of a personal rant. This week’s post I am hoping will service as a guide for anyone who has moved to New York and is struggling, or is struggling on whether or not they should move to New York.
When making the jump to New York, or after having landed, the main shocker for everyone is one thing: Money. You suddenly realize how few of it you have. So here is a quick and dirty guide for living in New York City on a budget:

Cozy doesnt begin to describe....

Rent: This will be your biggest expense. Unless you live in a rent controlled apartment your grandmother got for $80 bucks a month back in 1934, you will be paying anywhere from 600-1000 dollars a month to live here. The less you want to pay, the further away you will live. If you want to live on the island of Manhattan, expect to pay no less than 900 a month. But if you can a room a little further away like in Sunnyside or Prospect Heights , or Inwood;  it will cut a lot off your rent bill. It’s a simple fact: The further away you live from Manhattan, the cheaper your rent will be. Try Iowa. I rented a whole house in Dubuque for what I am paying for my “cozy” NYC apartment.

Left-overs are your friend.

Food: Get food stamps. You probably qualify. Truly, governmental programs like this were designed  to help people who hit rough patches in life or are out of work and between jobs.  While you are at it, go to this website and fill out the questionnaire and see what other stuff you qualify for. Trust me, our government was designed to help us. The politicians might do things that lead you to believe otherwise, but there are programs that exists  to help us. And seeing as you are probably a poor post college grad with tons of debt and about to get poorer, you are exactly who needs help. But once you get the food stamps, it’s not over. You still have to plan accordingly, they don’t give you tons of money. Think less than 5 dollars a meal. Buy food that you can use to make lots of lunches and dinners. Think Ramen, and PB and J. Stuff that will last a while. And avoid eating out a lot because it will add up fast, and in New York City it is a challenge to find a meal less than 12 dollars. In this city you can pay 500 dollars for 3 dots and be expected to be happy about it. Though if you do eat out, see if you can save the left overs for lunch the next day. Unless you order the dots. They won’t put that in a Styrofoam container for you.

I-Device not included.

Transportation: My brother Michael has discovered this summer that you pretty much can’t leave the apartment without spending money. If you need to travel, it’ll cost you $2.50 one way on the subway. Want to get back home? That’s another 2.50. Buying the weekly ($30) or monthly ($112) train pass helps cut back on expense if  you ride the subway a lot, but again, that’s another monthly expense you will incur. You can try biking because that cuts way back on transport cost. I do it and love it, but it’s not for everyone. You basically have to have the guts to face a New York taxi driver with nothing between you and them but a 10 pound bike and determination.
Clothes: Don’t. Avoid buying lots of new ones. Have mom buy you stuff back home and ship it if you need to update the wardrobe. Re-ware things, invent new outfits, get creative. Remember:  This is a city that sells thousand dollar coats and dresses for one season.
Phone Bill: If you are like me, and pay your own phone bill, that’ll cost you about 98 bucks a month. I choose to spend more because I like the iPhone and its features (and Angry Birds), but if you don’t need a smart phone, check out a track phone, or even a month service with low minutes and texting plans. That’ll cut back communication costs a lot. 
Utilities: Like everything else here, these will cost a lot. Thankfully you wont have to pay for water or heat, because these are required by law to be provided by the landlord, but you will have to pay for electricity and internet, If you choose to have internet. Electricity for a one bedroom apartment can run around 60 bucks a month and more depending on how many roommates you have. Cooking gas can cost you too, if you don’t have an electric oven. And don’t forget about Laundry. That will cost you about 2.50 for a wash, and a quarter for 6 minutes of drying. So each week you might be spending 5 dollars on laundry. For one person utilities can add up to 75 or more dollars. And then internet is another 45 dollars. So utilities can run you well over 100 dollars a month. But if you don’t need internet a lot, starbucks gives it out for free. And there are a plethora of ways to cut back on electric costs too from shutting the lights off, to charging your computer at work, to turning off the AC.

This is actually one of my favorites.

Vices: Everyone has one. Whether it be smoking, drinking, comics, video games, or riding a unicycle, everyone has a vice. So instead of making yourself woefully unhappy by ignoring and fighting your vices, reward yourself. I like comics and video games because they distract me and allow me to shut my brain off for a bit. Theatre is hard stuff and there is lots of thinking involved. I find it is healthy to just shut my brain off and have fun for a bit because science says so, and it makes the stress easier to manage.  So budget in for your vices because, let’s be honest, you will want them and the harder you try to ignore them the harder they will pull back at you. I set aside like 10 bucks from my weekly paycheck for games or drinks. Maybe I don’t need anything this week? That’s fine, cause next week I got 20 bucks to drink away. Plan accordingly for those necessary vices.
That’s all I got so far. I don’t know if this is me, or New York, or me becoming an adult, but I’m realizing now that I find myself worrying a lot about the problems of my life. Worrying isn’t the right word… because it doesn’t occupy my mind constantly, but I can feel the weight of my problems on my back most of the time.
I was talking with a friend recently about, of all things, waking up from midday naps. We both discovered that we experience this weird moment right after we wake up, but before we are fully awake, of blissful ignorance. We both discovered that when we wake up  we experience a confused moment of “Who am I?” and “ Where am I?”. and then after about 10 seconds we would remember and then be like “Oh yeah, that’s who I am… and those are the problems with my life.” More specifically “That’s all the money I owe.”
Here is the point I have been rambling around: New York is challenging because it makes you figure out how to make 5 dollars last 3 days, but it’s also an awesome place because it provides ways of making that work. So if you want to move here, take my advice: Do it now. Don’t wait to have enough money because trust me, you won’t. Know that if you jump, someone will catch you, and If you fall, you will be better for it. Hope to see you soon. Until Next Time.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Anne Frank

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