New York City for 1000 a month?
May 18, 2009 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Is is possible to live in NYC on a $1000 a month living stipend without incuring lots of debt?

Hey, my username is too close to my real name, so asking anon. It's an Americorps position with a really good org in my field and includes health care, would wipe out my student debt with the edu award at the end of the year, and I get 500 in relocation allowance.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not without some additional income, unless you have a very low cost housing option.

Of course if it wipes out your student debt, you should factor that into the income and your willingness to assume new debt to make it through the year.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:08 PM on May 18, 2009

It's hard to find a room in an apartment, even with other housemates, in a semi-convenient neighborhood for less than $750. Let's say you get lucky and find a not-too-out of the way place for $650, then that only leaves you with $350 for groceries, going out, metrocards, etc.
It would be very squeaky.

But you should weigh your student debt against the (more serious and credit-affecting) debt you might accumulate while living in NYC and see how it comes out. Having maybe 5K of credit card debt might be worth 25K of student loans, but definitely not worth 7K of student loans. YMMV.
posted by rmless at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2009

Yes, I think so, but you'll be living really bare bones.

I had a shared apartment in Harlem for $515 plus utilities two years ago. It was a new three bedroom a few blocks from the train. I think you could find a living situation, possibly even furnished, for $600 in Harlem, Inwood, or some of the outer boroughs. That leaves you $400.

Monthly unlimited metrocards are $89 now. You have $300 and change for food every month, which should be doable if you cook and pack lunches every day. Shelter, transportation, and food all covered for less than a grand, but nothing left over for anything else. Luckily in the summer there are all sorts of free things to do, and in the winter you could go to the library or something.

It won't be a luxurious existence, but I do think it's possible.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:15 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I shake my fist in Americorps general direction because it's incredibly difficult to live in NYC on $12000 a year without some other source of income or support.

It is possible however. I've had friends live in windowless rooms near the Gowanus canal for $325 a month. It's the exception rather than the rule, but it is possible to find a room for under $500 if you look very hard and are willing to live in a small windowless space. $600 - $800 is more typical.
posted by ladypants at 1:20 PM on May 18, 2009

Really depends on where in NYC. Rents in Manhattan below say, 125th Street are way out of your league. But there's a lot more to New York than Manhattan. If you can get in touch with some of your Americorps colleagues in advance and find a place together out in Queens and be really, really frugal, I'd say $1000 is doable but you'll be living a monk's life.
posted by CRM114 at 1:21 PM on May 18, 2009

Possible but very, very sad, unless you luck into a situation. I pay $450 for rent on the UWS, but I live with my SO, and we're rent stabilized.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:24 PM on May 18, 2009

If New York is Manhattan - then you are in trouble.

But New York is NOT Manhattan. South Brooklyn is one of the best parts of the city. You can make it work in Sunset Park or Bay Ridge.
posted by Flood at 1:30 PM on May 18, 2009

Very tight as the others have outlined above. If you read other threads on frugal cooking, eating, activities, it might be barely possible. But that doesn't cover travel in case of emergency, any kind of dental work, any kind of co-pays for medical, winter boots, any work clothes etc. I might try to get a part-time job, even just a night or two, or one Saturday. Even if you brought in $300 a month extra, that would be putting you from Danger!-zone into something a little more do-able. If you can cap living at $500 a month you'd be doing much better. Here is a $500 room in Flatbush - utilities are $50 a month. Maybe get photos to see what you get for $500. Just an idea!
posted by barnone at 1:31 PM on May 18, 2009

recent NY Times article
posted by spec80 at 1:34 PM on May 18, 2009

And from that article, it suggests trying TeacherSpaceNY. Good luck!
posted by spec80 at 1:36 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh Americorps and your completely unreasonable no-cost-of-living-adjustment. How silly.

When I was in the program, we had to complete 1800 hours in a year, which is like a 35 hour work week. And you could count almost anything service-related towards that 1800, like curriculum-planning time. This made it easier to have a part-time job (say, 10 hours a week) to bring in extra income. If you're set on doing your service in NYC, a part time job might give you the income you need to make it work without going into debt.
posted by ahdeeda at 1:36 PM on May 18, 2009

You can do it! I took an Americorps position in NYC two years ago and made it work. There are many good, less expensive neighborhoods outside of Manhattan. I lived in Sunset Park in Brooklyn at the time (then very affordable, now slightly less so). My share of the rent/utilities was $600 for a small, two bedroom apartment (at the time, the Americorps pay was just over $800 per month). I also applied for and received food stamps based on my meager income, which was extremely helpful. Plenty of free entertainment options in New York. Especially in the summer. Free days at the MOMA, pay-as-you-can at the National History Museum and the Met, free concerts in Prospect Park (and all around the city). The parks in NYC are really pretty great. The winters in New York on an Americorps stipend are a little harder to take, but there is still plenty to do. See if your placement would consider subsidizing a monthly metrocard, or maybe even just buying you one. My placement gave me a free metrocard every month.

I never had any significant spending money, it's true, and there were times when I would feel very pressed by financial issues, but if your healthcare is covered you will definitely survive. I was still able to go to shows, get drinks, go to movies, etc. from time to time. I'm glad I did my Americorps service in NYC. It really proved to me how little money a healthy single person needs to get by, even in one of the most expensive cities in the world. One of my co-workers right now is an Americorps volunteer in NYC and she's doing great. Also, I'm now working at the place where I did my volunteer service. If the placement is a good match for you, I'd imagine you'll get a lot out of it. Feel free to me-mail me if you have other questions.
posted by otolith at 1:43 PM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

You can do it, but it won't be easy. I know people with $500 rooms, and spending $500 a month aside from rent is certainly doable (some things in NY are in fact cheaper than in other cities---if you find a good cheap grocery store you can save a bundle, and of course you don't need a car.) One summer in college, I managed on something like $350 per month after rent and utilities:

- $100 for groceries
- $100 for various "necessities" (toiletries/cosmetics, laundry, haircuts)
- $150 for "fun" and more discretionary purchases

add in $90 for a monthly Metrocard (if you have a bike or walk to work, you can skip the monthly and pay less, but if you don't then this is as cheap as you'll get) and you have $560 to spend on rent and utilities which is definitely possible. And even fun!
posted by goingonit at 1:50 PM on May 18, 2009

When I was a wee magazine intern, I lived off minimum wage ($7.15/hr in NYC) for almost a year while living in Brooklyn's Shittiest Apartment Ever ($540 a month, utilities and vermin included). I babysat and freelanced to make ends meet, but I was generally very tired not only from my internship but also from the near-constant financial stress of making ends meet.

You can live in New York for $1000 month--it means you find a cheap, shitty, infested room for $500 in a dangerous area of a borough, or you create a strange living situation in which you share a bedroom like a first-year college student, or you live on a friend's couch. It means you do not drink and do not eat anything but the cheapest food.

Migrant workers live off far less than what you would earn. Lots of famous people have come here with only dollars in their pockets, yadda yadda yadda. Personally, 10 months of scrounging, calculating, microwaving, and listening to people in other cities romanticize my poverty as "idealistic" damn near killed me. I survived that period of post-collegiate indigence and graduated to a real job and an apartment that was not infested with rodents and bed bugs, but I wouldn't go back to that part of my life for a million bucks. I assume you'll have health insurance, which I did not. Dental would have been handy when I ground my teeth in my sleep, come to think of it.

It takes particularly resilient or desperate people to power through a very lean year in New York City--and while I'd like to think I was a hardy kid who was able to succeed when all the other interns had stipends and comped rent from their parents, I think I was just desperate to get a job in my field, and too naive to see that I was running myself into the ground, and that I deserved a better lifestyle. If you're truly dedicated to AmeriCorps and feel that if you can just get through this one year then everything will be peachy, I say go for it. But if you're feeling wishy-washy about the whole job thing and the whole not-earning-money thing, then tread with caution. Elected poverty sucks almost as much as the systematic kind.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:51 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you get a second job? Tutoring? Waiting tables on the weekend?

You can do it, but yeah, it'll be tough. Check out the boroughs, and get ready for long train rides. I've heard of people getting good deals in Astoria / Bushwick (less so now), but even there I think the average is $600 / month. You could supplement your income by eating on $1 a day (like these fine people). Buy in bulk, and cook your meals at home. If it's possible, get a bike and commute so you don't have to shell out for the metrocard. You could also share a room, which would cut down your expenses considerably.

I live on about $20,000, which is still considered really low, and pay about $900 in rent (which is more than I'd like to be paying). I feel like I live like a king -- but that's because other than rent and food, I have virtually no expenses. So it's do-able, but not if you're gonna have a vibrant downtown social life. I also know people who are living on Americorps stipends, who are having a blast. There's tons of free stuff to do in the city, so you won't be sitting in a closet -- you just have to be creative, and keep a close eye on expenses.

Anyway, I'd say it's definitely worth doing 1) if it's a job you'll regret not taking, and 2) if it will pay down a substantial portion of your student debt.

I'd try to live frugally (find the CHEAPEST ROOM POSSIBLE) under whatever circumstances, before taking on more debt -- but I think it's definitely possible.
posted by puckish at 1:52 PM on May 18, 2009

This is important enough to say twice:

Don't do it if you don't LOVE the Americorps job.
posted by puckish at 1:53 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know from second hand stories that living on the stipend in NYC is tricky. Your best bet is to contact your placement site and ask about all of the resources that previous members have used to make it through the year. If they can't give you hints, that's kinda a bad sign that they won't be too supportive. Ask about whether they've supported members financially in the past. In emergencies? Rental assistance? Mass transit pass? Gift cards for groceries? Professional development/training? Legally, placement sites can support you in almost any way except with cash handouts (so, a gift card for groceries, or a payment direct to your landlord are legal.) Now, to be sure, most placement sites applied for an AmeriCorps grant precisely because they lack resources. One of my mantras was, "a site that *needs* an AmeriCorps member is not always a site that can *support* one well."

Be the member that states your needs, but also rolls with the punches and self-supports as needed. In any event, ask if you can contact current members so you can chat with them about what it's like. Heck, they might even let you take over their lease. Does your project have a team leader? Talk to them, too.

Rent is a lot more reasonable in the NYC area these days. Lengthen your commute on the subs, and add a few roommates until you can get your rent in the 500-600 dollar range (at least! It'll be a struggle even at that rate. In my part of the world, I advised Corps members to aim for 300-400 rent. If you can get rent in that range in NYC and feel safe, jump on it!). Hopefully goes without saying, but ditch your car. *Apply for food stamps* and any other benefits. If you're going into VISTA **ALWAYS** apply for food stamps before you leave for Pre-Service Orientation or get sworn in. DO NOT BE TOO PROUD. EBT exists to supplement your nutrition so you can be healthy. Just because you think you can scrape by on ramen doesn't mean you should. According to the law, everyone who qualifies for EBT receives it, so you're not stealing food benefits from someone else.

Put your student loans in forbearance as soon as you start or sooner. However, if you have subsidized federal loans, you'll be slightly better off going with low-income deferment. The ed award is taxed when you use it, as is the interest reimbursement. But if you are deferred and don't acquire interest in the first place, there's nothing to tax. Do you have any credit card debt? That's a red flag if you do.

Congress recently was considering ending taxation on the ed award. Doesn't look like it went anywhere.

The Seven Corners health care is alright. The only gotcha is that it doesn't cover preexisting conditions. It will cover meds for preexisting conditions however, but you gotta get the script on your own dime. The co-pays are beyond reasonable and all the billing errors I ever encountered with them was the fault of the provider. Had day surgery on it and it went alright. Know somebody who was diagnosed and recovered from cancer on it. Heard a lot of horror stories, too, but that's health care in the US for ya.

Honestly, I was more financially solvent in Portland, Oregon as a Corps member than I am with my half-time job right now, but you have to be smart about it. If you're a VISTA you can't have a second job, but AmeriCorps State/National (also usually just called "AmeriCorps," which leads me to believe that's you) you can have a second job and the hours flexibility often makes that doable.

There's a million free entertainment opps in NYC, so hang out with your fellow Corps members and bring your entertainment budget down to zero. Eat out rarely, and choose wisely. You can eat well and hella cheap in NYC, but you can get burned too, so don't let non-Corps friends drag you to the wrong places. Board games are popular. Apples to Apples is something of a tradition in my circles. Upright Citizens Brigade theater is a good time for free.

People will tell you that it's not possible to live on the stipend. That may or may not be true, but you're not going to get nearly as good of tips off Metafilter as you'll get from Corps members who successfully completed their year. I might be able to dig up some NYC contacts for you. I was a VISTA Leader/recruiter in Portland, OR. But start by calling your project and asking them the tough questions and asking for contact information for their current members. AmeriCorps is a very patchy world and the difference between loving AmeriCorps and hating it really, truly comes down a) your attitude and self-sufficiency and b) whether or not your placement site is a good one. Check my profile for my email address or MeMail me for more. Good luck! AmeriCorps has changed who I am in so many ways and I've been lucky to be able to sit back and watch it happen to my team members, too.
posted by Skwirl at 1:57 PM on May 18, 2009

You can live in New York for $1000 month--it means you find a cheap, shitty, infested room for $500 in a dangerous area of a borough, or you create a strange living situation in which you share a bedroom like a first-year college student, or you live on a friend's couch. It means you do not drink and do not eat anything but the cheapest food.

This is just REALLY incorrect. I just gave up a $450 room in Bay Ridge last year that was vermin free. Tiny, but it had a window, was very clean, in a great area. My roommates were cool artist types.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:59 PM on May 18, 2009

Also, it seems like there are a number of different ways to live life in New York. Things that will help if you live on the cheap:

- Having roommates. There are good 4-bedroom apartments for $2000. (by "good", I mean in a safe and fun Brooklyn/Queens neighborhood; not particularly critter-infested; some natural light; decent kitchen; but very small). There are no good studio apartments for $500.

- Not living in Manhattan. Not only is rent cheaper, so is everything else. And (generalizing here) the lifestyle of the people in your neighborhood will be more conducive to your spending less money---the people you meet will be less likely to go out for drinks every night. Which brings me to...

- Not going out to bars/restaurants that often. It sucks, but as mentioned above there are lots of fun things to do in NY other than going out to bars or restaurants. And this will be the difference between making it on $1000 and not. You'll have to cook---being vegetarian or mostly-vegetarian will help--and you'll have to be able to turn people down if they ask you to go out with them.

- Having friends living a similar lifestyle to you. An extension of the last one. If everyone you know is spending $5000/month, you'll feel dirt poor and awful about yourself. If everyone you know is also spending $1000/month, you'll find things to do that don't cost anything but are still fun. You'll go to each others' apartments and hang out, instead of going to a restaurant.
posted by goingonit at 2:06 PM on May 18, 2009

A couple of years ago, I shared an apartment-loft in East Williamsburg/Bushwick for $325, which was totally awesome. I also did the freegan thing, and dined on an unlimited amount of fresh fruit and vegetables and for free. Not to mention the veritable cornucopia of free curbside books and furniture (picture of my pad here). And no, I never saw a bedbug in my life.

If you're unconventional, New York City is the BEST place to live on limited means. With all the universities and museums around, there's so much to do in this city it's ridiculous. Free concerts at Julliard, anyone? New York Public Library lectures? FilmForum double features? Weekly Meetups on every subject under the sun? The great glory known as Central Park? You'll live like a king and have the time of your life for next to nothing.

Go for it--good luck!
posted by aquafortis at 2:07 PM on May 18, 2009

Nthing others - possible, but you'll need to live a very meager lifestyle.

Clearly rent is the main issue, but you can find a shared situation for something like $500. You won't need to live in a "dangerous" neighborhood (most of NYC is not very dangerous) but you'll end up far out and its really going to matter what school you are working at.

For example, the poster above mentioned Bay Ridge. Nice area, good rent - its also a hell of a ride by train to Harlem, up to 2 hours, depending. And assuming you are a school teacher, you are going to be going to work EARLY so not as many trains running. Anyway, long commute.

Do you know where you will be teaching yet? If so let us know and maybe we can help out more.
posted by RajahKing at 2:16 PM on May 18, 2009


You've heard the saying from the business world, "cheap, fast, and good -- choose any two." I tell people the version that applies to NYC living is "cheap, central, and quiet/peaceful -- choose any two."

Here are some examples. Let's say 500/mo is your target for rent.

Most of upper Manhattan: cheap + central. For 500/mo you can still find some rooms in most of central and east Harlem, and in the least quiet/peaceful parts of Washington Heights and Inwood. If you're close to the A or the 2/3 train, you also get very easy and surprisingly fast commutes into the rest of Manhattan. However, there is a lot of variation from neighborhood to neighborhood in these three large areas. The neighborhoods where you're most likely to still find 600/mo rooms often have horrible noise cultures (floor-shaking music at all hours, from neighbors, stores and even churches). But the subway convenience vs. price situation is unbeatable, if you don't mind the noise issues.

Parts of outer Brooklyn: cheap + relatively quiet/peaceful if you choose carefully. As you look around the fringes of the pricey neighborhoods (like Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights down through Carroll Gardens, and central Williamsburg), you'll start finding some 500/mo rooms -- some relatively quiet/peaceful areas to try include Flatbush, Windsor Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Fort Greene, and Bay Ridge. Like upper Manhattan, much of Brooklyn is more like micro-neighborhoods where the feel of one building may be very different than the feel of a building two blocks away. You just need to walk around the exact areas you're thinking about to see how they feel to you (be sure to do it both day and night).

Staten Island: very cheap + very quiet/peaceful. Full of trees, beautiful, and super-peaceful except for the few blocks right around the ferry; but long commutes to anywhere else in the city, and virtually no walkable "life" (cultural venues, etc.). On most of the island, 500/mo or even less will get you a big, beautiful room inside a nice house (or, rarely, inside an apartment). This is the borough where you can most easily have a really nice life on the cheap, if you don't mind the commutes. (The minimum commute to anywhere in Manhattan is about an hour, but admittedly, 25 mins of that is the ferry ride, the nicest public-transport experience in the city.)

In Queens and the Bronx, which I know less well overall, I can highly recommend these neighborhoods:
- Astoria in Queens (relatively quiet/peaceful and green; very easy commutes into Manhattan on the R/V and the N/W; and a beautiful mix of cultures and friendly people);
- Parkchester in the Bronx (long commute on the 6 train, but lots of good cheap housing options and a very friendly feel); and
- Forest Hills in Queens (sleepy and without much walkable culture, but some nice, very affordable rooms and still not that bad a commute on the E train).
posted by kalapierson at 2:27 PM on May 18, 2009

Nthing Inwood and "undiscovered" parts of the other boroughs.

You might manage to pick up a second part-time job for beer money? Waiting tables, walking dogs, etc.

I have to say, that to me it sounds like a great adventure -- and one that you probably won't be so willing to embark upon when you're older (somehow I'm guessing you're early 20s). Seriously -- I lived in some weird situations, on very little money, when I was that age.... I couldn't bring myself to do it NOW, but I wouldn't trade those taking-a-risk-on-something-cool, searching-the-couch-cushions-for-change days for anything.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:34 PM on May 18, 2009

Also, there ARE free ways to entertain yourself in the city. Check out Free NYC.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:39 PM on May 18, 2009

I'd really encourage you to go for it. Right now, you have an energy and resourcefulness that you won't have when you're a bit older. You can be proud of what you're doing (if your placement satisfies you) and have the irreplaceable experience of living in New York City. IT's only a year, and yet it'll be a year where you make friends, meet contacts, make decisions, gain experience, and have some strong foundations to build on when/if you transition to better paying work in that city, back to school, or elsewhere.

Once you've got a place to live, $300/mo is a very generous budget for food. If you are willing to cook from scratch, you can eat quite well, and even entertain a few people, for $50/week. I do it to this day, though I eat out more thatn I did in my 20s. It does mean making your own coffee and breakfast at home, rather than buying a coffee and bagel for what seems like a paltry $4 but adds up to $80 a month or so if you do it daily. It means packing your own lunch (recommended: leftover dinner). It means planning ahead for nights out and going to places where there are extra cheap drink and food specials and no cover, often going out on wacky nights like Sunday and Tuesday because that's when the specials are.

About 12 years ago, in one of my first real jobs, I earned only $14K a year. I lived in Philadelphia, where rent was cheap, and paid about $450 plus utils for a room in a shared place with 2 others. Several of my friends there were in AmeriCorps and recieving, I think, a $9000 stipend plus a $1200 allowance of some kind. They had regular meetups and were a fun, convivial group. We were all broke, but we had a lot of good times. We ate at each other's houses a lot, having potlucks and my specialty, Soup Sundays, where I made a big pot of bean or potato soup, and people brought a bread or dessert or whatever they could contribute. We scoured the arts and culture paper for free events like nights out at museums, First Friday art gallery open houses (bonus: free crappy white wine and cheese'n'crackers), outdoor concerts, etc. Roommates and co-workers occasionally passed us free tickets to events they couldn't attend, knowing we couldn't splurge much. We went to half-price "date night" at the movies, drank wherever there was dollar beer or $2 drinks, and never turned down a party invite.

I just wanted to describe this because a lot of people will say "oh no, you're going to be miserable and living like a pauper." That's not true. It's not like you're in generational poverty, and the structure of the program guarantees you will be transitioning into more of a living wage in the future. AmeriCorps is a great resume credit, and New York is a great place to live, and being a recent graduate is a great time to do something challenging that will draw on your resources, build your empathy for working people, give you useful experience and demonstrate a serious commitment to service, and exploring all the opportunities available to someone like you in NY. It will not be easy - you can't just spend without thinking, and you won't be making clothing or music or gadget purchases during this year, but it will likely be very much worth it.
posted by Miko at 3:30 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you good at hustling deals? Not the sleazy way, but to live in a really expensive city cheaply, you have to be good at finding a good roommate situation, cheap eats, and affordable fun. It takes ingenuity, persistence, energy and chutzpah.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2009

The answer to your question depends upon the lifestyle you are looking to lead. If you are intent on living in Manhattan, no, you can't realistically survive on $1,000 per month. Doubtless someone will respond to say "but wait! I did it and so can you!" Every situation is unique but I feel pretty confident in saying that, it is extremely unlikely that you can live in Manhattan for $1,000 per month.

Other boroughs may be more doable on $1,000 per month but realize that the further away from Manhattan you go the less convenient the public transportation. Time being a cost, consider the amount of time it will take you to get from one place to another as you move away from easy access to transportation.


I would most definitely not go into this kind of situation thinking you're going to have a Woody Allen-type experience like you see in the movie Manhattan. You will not going out every night making witty repartee over drinks and dinner and a movie on $1,000 per month, no matter where you live.
posted by dfriedman at 6:01 PM on May 18, 2009

Everyone I know who did Americorps in New York had a second job. This was explicitly forbidden in the employment contract.

I personally think that $12k is not enough to live on, even in a tiny, far-out apartment with four roommates. I'd put a minimum survivable income at around $20k. To me survivable means "being able to eat noodles from a street truck occasionally."
posted by hardcore taters at 7:21 PM on May 18, 2009

Don't forget you'll get food stamps and also you might consider moving to New Jersey and commuting across, but I suppose that's more difficult for somebody who doesn't know the area as well. But you might want to look into places like Jersey City, West New York, or Fort Lee.

Just FYI, I'm an Americorps Vista member in Seattle that moved from NJ/NY. If you need any other insights, feel free to mefi mail me or whatevs.
posted by carpyful at 10:45 PM on May 18, 2009

Of course it's possible. This city is full of people living on much less (public assistance, SSI, part-time work, etc.). Is it fun? I doubt it. Can you do it? That depends a lot on your background and self-discipline. As others have mentioned, finding cheap housing will be key. You will have to live with other people, and you will probably have to have a long commute to wherever you're working (unless you're working in the same undesirable area you're living in). You will have to pinch every penny, clip coupons, shop sales, and go out very very rarely. You will probably be eligible for food stamps, which will help with food costs.
posted by Mavri at 6:17 AM on May 19, 2009

VISTAs are eligible for food stamps, and you should definitely use them. That's what they're there for, and it's one of the things that makes this possible.
posted by Miko at 7:26 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

On reflection, a lot of this depends upon your personal background and character. How are you at privation? Did you grow up with a lot of money, have a lot of money in college? Have you always worked for your spending money and know how to be conservative with spending? Are you used to thinking of cheaper things to do, being resourceful about ways to split, share, and reduce costs? Can you go without luxuries for a while? Have you ever lived in a camp situation, been a backpacker, traveled in Europe on a very little amount of money? Is there a backup plan for true emergencies? Are you tough? Do you have a good sense of humor? Are you easily embarrassed? Do you feel depressed when you can't indulge in little luxury purchases or eat out? I think some people have a much harder time with these things than others. The people who decide they can handle it are those happiest in a program like this.

I'm a little skeptical of people saying "NO, no way." Because I know that it is possible. A second job would indeed relieve the pressure, but given the restrictions, think about doing something that offers gigs for cash rather than regular hours. Babysitting (a college-educated volunteer type? You're babysitting gold), dog-walking, banquet/special event catering - that kind of thing can suit your schedule rather than the other way around.

I also wonder whether you are doing this because you want to live in NYC, or because you want to do AmeriCorps. If the former, well, you don't have to accept this job to live in NYC. There are other ways you can make that happen and live on a more comfortable margin. If you truly want to take part in the service program for its own sake, and it just happens to be in NY which is an attraction, the full steam ahead. You won't be alone - you'll be part of a community that is also experiencing this, sharing solutions, and finding ways to make it work.
posted by Miko at 7:32 AM on May 19, 2009

It's def possible, though not easy. Just find a cheap place, get a crock pot, don't go to bars or restaurants except for special occasions, don't get the unlimited pass unless you really need it, walk everywhere (or even better, get a bike,) live your life and dream your dreams.
posted by saul wright at 9:34 AM on May 20, 2009

Also in the camp of "it's possible, but difficult". If you're under age and aren't going to be going to bars, or don't drink anyway, even easier. Most of the money I spent when I lived in NYC or when I visit there is in bars. Seems like that's just what people, as least in their twenties, for fun.

Look into living way the hell out in one of the bouroughs. I spent a few years with a long commute to Manhattan, over an hour, but I was living on about a grand a month then. One time I lived with three friends in a one bedroom apartment in the Bronx. It was just for a summer, but I only spent literally about 300 bucks a month on rent. (This was in 2001, so there's probably not a whole lot of one bedrooms for that cheap anymore). I also lived in someones living room for $500 bucks on the Upper West Side for 6 months. There are all sorts of cheap living situations in NYC, you just have to have a nose for them.

I have another friend who lives in Bushwick Brooklyn presently in a loft, and they each pay under $400. Commute is probably around an hour and they actually have a pretty big place for three or four people.

I say go for it.
posted by Rocket26 at 2:16 PM on May 20, 2009

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