And welcome to summer, which began here in the New York area with an absolutely glorious Memorial Day weekend. I think I have tried to write posts several times about the seasonality of spending, i.e. does one season make you spend more money than any other? Summer, for me, usually means a bit of traveling, and a fair amount of air conditioning jacking up the electric bill, but other than these, summer seems to be a time of inexpensive pleasures, such as sitting in the park, going to Coney Island, and eating lots of salads for dinner. This past weekend, I did do a little shopping for some summery clothes, but other than that, it was a blissfully peaceful and inexpensive weekend, spent relaxing in the sun, sketching and painting, reading, going for a walk, and eating lots of fruit and barbecued salmon.
Meanwhile, here's an article from the weekend NY Times that will be of interest to many financial bloggers, I'm sure:
Starting Salaries But New York Tastes
Every year around this time, tens of thousands of postcollegiate people in their 20s flood the city despite its soaring expenses. They are high on ambition, meager of budget and endlessly creative when it comes to making ends meet.
Some tactics have long been chronicled: sharing tiny apartments with strangers. Sharing those apartments with eight strangers. Eating cheap lunches and skipping dinners — not just to save money, but so that drinks pack more of a punch and fewer need be consumed.
But there are smaller measures, no less ingenious, that round out the lifestyle. These young people sneak flasks of vodka into bars, flirt their way into clubs, sublet their walk-in closets, finagle their way into open-bar parties and put off haircuts until they visit their hometowns, even if those hometowns are thousands of miles away.
What struck me most about this article is that all these young people seem to share a strong need to go out a lot. They may sneak alcohol into bars in a flask, or get a head start on their drunkenness before they go to a club, but going out seems very necessary. Which I guess is normal for your average warm-blooded single 20-something.
But I guess the going-out thing is why I read this article and felt like I never lived that life. I moved to NYC in my mid-20s to be with a partner, so I sort of went straight to the homebody stage, sharing a 2-bedroom in a quiet Manhattan neighborhood. My share of the rent was around $750-800, I think, and I was making $25,000 plus an annual bonus that could be over $10,000, which went almost entirely into savings. Money was tight for me, but it never seemed all that bad. I went out occasionally with groups of friends, but it wasn't that big an expense. I did get my hair cut outside of NYC for the first couple of years, but only because I liked the guy I went to and it was a convenient excuse to get out of my parents' house for a while! I bought decent clothes, though certainly not any designer labels. I was paying off student loans. Yes, I was a bit stressed about money, but somehow it all worked out. I didn't get into debt. I saved enough for my share of a down-payment on a co-op in Brooklyn. I paid off the student loans early. I made ends meet. (And if this sounds terribly boring, don't worry: later in my 30s when I was single again, I could have lots of fun because I was making more money by then!)
But surely my lack of frequent bar-hopping isn't the only reason I made ends meet? What else are these kids spending money on? Some of them are dealing with much more expensive rents than I did, for worse living conditions-- it is definitely true that living in Manhattan, while never cheap, is much more expensive than it was 12 years ago. But other than that, I'm not sure I get it. I wish the article had provided a more detailed expense breakdown for these young New Yorkers. And they could have checked my New York Stories series for some examples!