On Dodging Bullets

On a whim this morning (I have weird whims while I’m having my first-thing cup of coffee) I looked at my tax returns going back to 2007, which is the first time I filled out a pdf and thus have a copy saved on my computer. It was also the first full year I was in graduate school. It turns out that from 2007 through 2012 (the last full year I was a grad student), I made anywhere between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. While single and living in New York City.

My first thought is that it’s a good thing I don’t have any really expensive bad habits, like drinking or gambling. My second is that it’s a freaking miracle I made it out with only $19,000 in student loans.

10 thoughts on “On Dodging Bullets

  1. Isabella W says:

    I would love to hear more about how you did that! What was your apt. situation?

    1. Oh man, my apartment situations. I should say that in all the time I lived there, from summer 2001-December 2012, I only made over $35K once — I freelanced for several years, and I had one really good year, which as I recall was somewhere around a $45K tax return. So that was an outlier, and my grad school salaries were more or less what I’ve lived on since college. Sheesh, I should have made better career decisions.

      Basically the answer is a combination of roommates and living in less expensive parts of town (or both.) My monthly income fluctuated over the course of any given year, but it usually worked out to an average of $1500-2000 after taxes. When I first moved to NY, I had a series of roommate situations in upper Manhattan where I paid around $650 a month in rent. (Probably impossible to find those prices now.) Later I moved to a beautiful studio in the Bronx — really, it was gorgeous — where I paid, IIRC, around $750 in rent. Later still, I had two roommate situations in Brooklyn. The first was $900 a month, and the second was $1300 a month, which was way too much for me and I shouldn’t have done it. I kind of panicked and have been regretting it ever since. (I had to borrow money from my parents to make that one work.) The last place I lived was a $400 room in a group house in the furthest reaches of Brooklyn — it took me over 2 hours to get to work by subway.

      Once you deal with your rent — I always paid way more of my monthly income than I wanted to, but I mostly kept to the low end of the price range except in that one place — the rest is just basic frugality. Public transportation is much cheaper than even a cheap car; I didn’t eat out much, and kept my entertainment expenses reasonable. I could have spent way more, obviously, but the real killer in NY is always the rent.

  2. Well looking back on that it would seem that you probably can live cheaper than you are now if need be! Granted you may enjoy some of the lifestyle inflation you have experienced since…

    1. Actually, my lifestyle has deflated, sigh. I’m making more money now, but last year it all went to paying off my loans, and this year I’m working really hard on my savings/retirement accounts. So, still living with a roommate and pinching pennies 🙂 You’re right that it’s good to know that I can manage, though.

  3. Wow! Looks like you really did dodge a bullet with only $19,000 in loans. Also, your living situations make it sound like there were some funny stories along the way.

    1. Oh man, I have a lot of stories that start “I was really broke this one time and….” My living situation stories aren’t quite as colorful as my employment situations though. Although I did live in one apartment where the toilet kept overflowing with soap bubbles because it was mis-connected to a washing machine somewhere. Seriously.

  4. Tania says:

    I think a follow up post is in order! That’s quite a feat. I can understand the lifestyle deflation. Mine’s pretty down in the mines, even after paying all my student loans.

    1. Heh, apparently by popular demand! I’ll share some NYC stories sometime soon. And deflated lifestyles are a little depressing, aren’t they? I’d like to be doing just a little more keeping up with the Joneses….

  5. Holy Moly, I cannot believe you made it through that period in NYC with $35k (max) and only $19k in loans. I think you need to delve into this topic a bit more 🙂 That sounds like magic to me!

    1. I’ll have to do some followup 🙂 But really the answer is that I didn’t take advantage of a lot of what the city has to offer, because I was pouring so much income into renting tiny bedrooms!

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