Moving to New York City after my college graduation last June has put every financial lesson I’ve learned from my parents or Money Under 30 right into perspective. That might sound like I’m brown-nosing, but it couldn’t be more true.
Every cliché I’d heard about college graduates is suddenly resonating. Being away from my friends and a familiar environment is difficult emotionally. And to say that living here has been hard on the wallet is an understatement. It should be called “the city that never saves!”
Four expenses, in particular, are on my radar right now. They’re sort of the little things that separately, would be easy to handle. But I’m getting into a bad habit of just swiping the debit card and then having a little sticker shock when I look at my bank statements.
So I’m giving myself a wake-up call. Four things are eating up my budget, and it’s teaching me a lesson in moderation.
Paying the rent
Full disclosure: My parents are helping me pay rent on my apartment now as a graduation gift. But that’s going to be changing soon, and I’ll be attempting to find an affordable but safe apartment. A few weeks ago, I went to a friend’s housewarming party. She has a really nice apartment on the Upper West Side. Inside, it looks a lot like our apartments in college. Except she’s paying about $500 more — a MONTH — than it would be in Evanston, Ill. Ugh.
Restaurants and bars
I didn’t truly know the meaning of “New York is expensive” until I was charged $4.50 for an iced tea. Just … how is that possible?! Still trying to figure that one out. I’m hesitant to go out to dinner here because every time, it’s a huge expense. But I can’t help thinking a bigger cost would be a nonexistent social life. So that’s where the moderation comes in. Sometimes I can suggest just drinks instead of dinner. Or sometimes I can just say “No.” Not all of my friends are in the same place financially, so I need to remember that and draw personal limits.
Another place I can cut back is on lunch. At first, I was buying lunch almost every day from shops around my office. It’s convenient, but I’m really trying to limit my days of spending $11 on a mediocre salad. Bringing lunch requires planning ahead, but I never regret the saved cash.
My office now is the most formal newsroom I’ve ever worked in. It’s also in Midtown, so every day on the subway I’m commuting alongside people in the finance industry. I always feel young and underdressed, and I’m trying to bridge that gap.
I told some college girlfriends in a recent email that Anne Hathaway in the “before” segment of “The Devil Wears Prada” is hitting a little too close to home. My friend Seana told me at her advertising agency in Chicago, she feels the same way. It’s hard not to feel talked-down-to when other women are literally looking down at you from five-inch heels. My solution has been to buy a few key items gradually. Instead of throwing out everything I owned (which I must say, is tempting), I’m limiting myself to one or two “investment” items every few weeks. I’ll let you know about deals and other strategies I find in an upcoming post.
Pretty soon, I’m going to have to start paying them off. I’m already brainstorming for how I’ll be able to do that the best way, without completely ruining my (already pretty modest) lifestyle. And I’m happy to share what the experience is like.
Moderation is going to be key. It’s not about completely cutting myself off from enjoying life. But it is about setting a budget and sticking to it, so I can enjoy without guilt and worry.
If I can (financially) make it here, I’ll make it anywhere.
Thanks for coming along with me on this journey! I would love to hear from you about your first jobs, and how you made it work financially.