Covering the basics and some
July 15, 2009 5:29 PM   Subscribe

How much do you have to make to in order to have a "basic" living? Secondary question if you don't mind sharing: Where do you live? Bonus question: How much do you feel like you have to make in order to have a "comfortable" living and wouldn't have to worry about personal finances?

Average Household Income in California is $55K and $68K here in Los Angeles. As I do the math, it strikes me that that is probably just enough to cover basics* in LA ($1500-2000 per month easily just for rent, food is expensive, taxes are high and you pretty much have to have a car).

I recognize I can easily look up average cost of living and average income for pretty much anywhere in the world, but what I want to know is subjectively, at what level do you feel you would have the basics covered? I am a single person living in Los Angeles, no kids, and I think about $55K*

I know the answer to the bonus question will vary even more greatly (hence the quotation marks in the question) and any details you are willing to share would be appreciated! Just me: ideally, I would like to go to grad school, eventually own a house and have kids. Assuming I stagger these three big expenses somehow, I feel like doubling the $55K and making $110K a year would be enough so that one could cover basics as well as save toward these goals and have somewhat of a cushion. At $150K a year in Los Angeles, I would feel comfortable tackling two of these goals at once. If I added my significant other's income, we could probably handle all three at once (we're just talking money here, not sleep or sanity).

Not asking anyone to divulge salary / expense info, just want your opinion. If all you want to answer is $55K / Los Angeles / $110K, that would go a long way toward satisfying my curiosity. I am especially curious to see what the European mefites say -- this is a great point of debate between myself and my SO. Thanks!

*Assuming 30% tax, that's about $42K after tax. And assuming monthly rent $1500 + food/groceries $500 + utilities $200 + car/misc/other $500 = $2700 / mo x 12 = $42K / yr. Angelenos, please forgive my very rough estimate.
posted by booksandwine to Work & Money (41 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm frugal, and Canadian, so I'm not sure what kind of relevant information I can give, other than 500$ is A LOT for a single person, even where food is expensive. I spend that on myself, my husband a dog and two cats (including litter).
posted by sunshinesky at 5:42 PM on July 15, 2009

(and we eat really well, and don't buy the cheapest stuff)
posted by sunshinesky at 5:42 PM on July 15, 2009

I'm in rural Texas, and we have no state income tax. My monthly 'nut', which includes a car payment, is $1200. Half of which is rent and utilities. Many of my coworkers live comfortably on less than $50k/yr, some raise families on $30k/yr and a stay-at-home mom.
posted by SpecialK at 5:49 PM on July 15, 2009

I don't know about Los Angeles, but I get by on less than 30,000 a year in New York. No Kids, no car, and living with 3 people.

I would kill for a 55k salary, but according to my quick calculations to live reasonably well in New York I will need around 150k a year (not worrying about finances, enough money to play, and invest).

Also, ultimately it is about how you plan your finances, which I've recently begun to teach myself...I wish I did this 10 years ago. Save and invest your money well, and 55k a year should be more than enough for an individual. But a house, a kid (or two)...well, that will get expensive fast.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 5:51 PM on July 15, 2009

Have you factored in debt? Many, many people starting out/trying to figure out what it takes to live comfortably in Place X have to factor in the extra few hundred dollars a month that goes to service college loans, for example.

To live alone, in my mid-sized university city in Poland, paying your own rent for a one-bedroom place with access to transit, as well as bills, food, telecom, and other expenses, you're looking at bringing in about 5000 zł a month, after tax. That's about $1650-$1700. Housing would be the biggest part of that, about 20-30%. Education and health care are still incredibly cheap, and transit is superb and cheap as well.

Above this - the sky's the limit, really. At least one person in town drives a massive yellow Hummer H2, but you could pick up an (awesome!) beater for $200. Travel domestically on trains and buses is cheap enough. Gasoline is about $4-$5 a gallon. What insurance is almost insignificant. Eating out, drinks in a pub...again, reasonable.
posted by mdonley at 5:56 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're not carrying any significant amount of debt and you don't want to rent in elite suburbs, a single person could live very comfortably on $40K in Sydney.

I can live comfortably on less than that, but I don't have to worry about rent or a mortgage - my housing associated costs run to about $80 per week, which is about a third of the minimum someone who's renting or paying off a mortgage would be paying. I don't drive, so my travel costs are limited to public transport fares.
posted by Lolie at 5:59 PM on July 15, 2009

I've always felt that 30K was a basic living. I live in Central Vermont and there's pretty much nothing to spend money on here other than basics which for me are, monthly,

rent + internet - $750
food - $150-250
gas - $75
taxes - $150
utilities - $50

But this really varies from person to person. I don't consider cable tv a necessity, for example, or a cell phone. I bought my car when I had enough cash to do that, and it's 14 years old. I've already gone to college and grad school and I don't have or want kids.

What I DO want is to have as much control over my life as possible and that's only really possible for me if I sock away a ton of money and don't have a ton of expenses. So, I make the choices I do. I could buy a house here for 200K and it would be giant. I don't live here by accident, I live here on purpose. If I made twice that, which I sometimes do, I would feel terribly rich. Once you've been saving/investing money for a decade or more, anything you make about your expenses and savings goals just seems like gravy and then you can think about being more philanthropic or whatever. It's very very easy to get anxious about money, not having enough, wanting more, worrying about what happens when you don't have any, but to me it seems more important to be confident in your won ability to make good choices with money, choices that support your own life goals.
posted by jessamyn at 6:03 PM on July 15, 2009 [9 favorites]

When deciding how much to stash away in our emergency fund, I figured that my wife and I would need about $2250 per month (or $27k per year) for the two of us. This includes about $600/month in student/car loan payments. This is bare-bones, no eating out, no travel, no luxuries living in Houston, TX.

If I was living alone and wanted to move to a cheaper part of town, I could easily live bare-bones on 15k.

Really, after you pay for food, rent, loans and utilities, *everything* is comfort. In fact, I'd argue that as a species, we are really good at expanding our definition of comfort to whatever our income happens to be. After we make more money, suddenly things like satellite TV, eating out, and fancy electronics become "necessities".

Thus, I can't answer what "comfortable" living would be because that definition is very different for everyone.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:08 PM on July 15, 2009

I'm in Austin, and I grew up in Madison, which has a similar cost of living. I'm sure my perspective is skewed by growing up in a neighborhood full of first generation immigrants, but I'd feel pretty comfortable on about $15k a year. It helps that I have no desire to own a home, and if I ever change my mind, something like my parents' $80k home seems good enough.

My rent is about $800/month, because I'm living by myself in a huge apartment, but I could cut that down to $300/month if was willing to move into a smaller place and pick up a roommate. My groceries are about $200/month (and they're only that high because I buy fru fru organic produce), and I spend about $200/month eating out, which I wouldn't mind cutting out entirely.

My other discretionary expenses, besides travel, are just about zero. I probably spend $20 a year on library card fines, and I might destroy couple of pairs of cleats in a season, plus a pair of climbing shoes, and so on and so forth, but that can't possibly be more than a few hundred a year. Travel is a few thousand a year, 90% of which is the cost of airline tickets. It would probably be a bit more if I wasn't willing to pick up cirpo, coartem, etc. in developing countries. It would definitely be a lot more if I wanted to stay in nice hotels instead of shacking up with random people.

I just put in my notice at work, in order to head back to grad school. A coworker asked if I would miss the money, but I've made more money in four years as an engineer than both my parents made in their entire lives (and I'm pulling in substantially less than your $150k/yr figure). I'm really not sure what I'd do for myself with more money. I guess I could fly first class on overseas trips, and I might buy books instead of getting them from the library.
posted by suncoursing at 6:09 PM on July 15, 2009

My husband, daughter and I live in Manhattan and have $5500 per month rent/daycare/food/utilities expenses. Then another $1200 in retirement savings, college fund and student loan payments.

We don't own a car.

posted by gaspode at 6:10 PM on July 15, 2009

Portland Oregon

Monthly basics:
Rent $300 (I live with roommates and I have the cheap basement room)
Bills $50-$100 depending on season (includes internet electric heat cellphone etc.)
Food $200

I live much cheaper than most people do, though.

I can live comfortably on $600 a month, $8,000 a year, in practice I spend more thanks to miscellaneous computer / bicycle / music related hobby stuff and treating myself to junk food or restaurants.
posted by idiopath at 6:13 PM on July 15, 2009

I live in Manhattan and spend around $2,000 per month on rent/food/utilities. Plus another $1,000 per month on other miscellaneous expenses.

No car.
posted by dfriedman at 6:15 PM on July 15, 2009

FWIW, I live in LA and your monthly living expenses are very close to what I've been living on/budgeting out for myself as well. I'm sure there are ways to live more cheaply, but I'm doing about the same as you in terms of providing the comfortable yet ultimately bare essentials for living in LA.

I feel that I'm living comfortably on that monthly budget, but it's a small enough portion of my current paycheck that I'm able to put the rest of my paycheck in the bank. If I really scrimped I could drop that budget down by a 3-4 hundred bucks or so, but it wouldn't be comfortable. However I am renting and don't own (yet,) so that factors in.

I find that especially in LA, what people spend compared to what they make can vary wildly-- I know many unemployed people who dine at NOBU and drive BMWs and are racking up debt because they think it's what is expected of them out here, or they'll be looked down upon for living within their means. I also know a couple people who make half a million a year or more and are still living in divey apartments with three roommates in order to save as much as possible. So, it varies.
posted by np312 at 6:15 PM on July 15, 2009

I live in BFE north central Florida, own all my property and have no expenses except day to day living & taxes. I live on less than $500US a month and could easily adjust that downward (and plan to) by growing my (and my flock of parrots) own food.
posted by torquemaniac at 6:16 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I get by okay in London for somewhere between £450 and £600 a month. Which covers my (admittedly low) rent, food, bills, bills, bills, transport, and a little bit that I manage to somehow have left over in my bank account at the end of each month. I very rarely buy new things. I could unwittingly absorb any additional increase in income up to probably £1000 a month before my lifestyle changed appreciatively.
posted by Magnakai at 6:18 PM on July 15, 2009

The average household size in LA County is 2.98 (2000 Census) and probably hasn't changed that much since. Perhaps using "household income" without further refinement for household size is misleading; that 55k to 66k figure undoubtedly includes many households of more than one individual.

On a larger level, one really has to think more about what "basic" and "comfortable" and other subjective terms mean. Does it mean that you eat your lunch at a restaurant, or take-out, or brown bag it? Do you go to Starbucks or brew your coffee, drink tap water or bottled water, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

Since jessamyn has replied, I'm willing to say we're not in chatfilter. :-) Having said that, do consider that a more stringent definition of terms may help to answer this question in the most meaningful way.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:19 PM on July 15, 2009

I live in Fort Collins, CO. I currently bring home approx $2400 a month. I live in a small 1bdroom apartment right in "Old Town" (downtown). My car is paid off, so the bare minimums I need each month to pay all my bills is about $1200. (my monthly bills are: Rent $550, iPhone $90, Comcast (cable/www) $120, Food (varies depending on my frugality) around $400, and a few other minor direct withdrawals).

At the moment I am sinking every extra $$ into paying off my credit cards, so I have a goal every month of sending $1000 to them. Which means at the moment I am living as poor as (I think) I possibly can. (Ideally I could cancel my iPhone/Comcast, but I work in IT and am expected to be "on call"). Once I get my Credit Cards paid off,.. that extra money is going to go into savings (I'd like to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck for the first time in my life). I'll feel a lot more "comfortable" if I had $5k or $10k in the bank for once in my life.
posted by jmnugent at 6:23 PM on July 15, 2009

Huh... apparently the living wage in London is £7.60 per hour. In contrast the minimum wage is £5.65. Apparently only 1 in 7 Londoners make under £6.65 an hour. If that's true, I probably know most of them.
posted by Magnakai at 6:23 PM on July 15, 2009

No, I don't know 1,000,000 people. That was a joke.
posted by Magnakai at 6:25 PM on July 15, 2009

I'm in Los Angeles, and I do make about your basic living, as the sole support of 2 kids. I rent and have a car. I can pay my bills and eat out now and then, but the cushion is slim. I'd say I'm swinging by my fingernails from the bottom of the middle class.

I think your numbers are pretty accurate for basic/comfortable.
posted by Methylviolet at 6:33 PM on July 15, 2009

I live in downtown St. John's, Newfoundland. And I don't ever wanna live anywhere else.

I share a lovely one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend. We split everything: Rent is $650 a month, heat and light ranges from $80 to $300 a month (Newfoundland winters are a bitch), and phone and internet are about $80 a month. We don't have cell phones, cable, youngsters, or coke habits, so we're pretty much good with eating out once in a while and not buying tons of useless shit and racking up credit. Everything and everybody is within walking distance where we live.

I make under 30 grand a year, but I just finished grad school and am getting some great work experience, so I'm content with that for now. Like you, I would also like to own a house, but I also realize that I kinda enjoyed living like a student and I can probably hack another few years of it while I get my student loan paid off (oh, and Newfoundland and Labrador just eliminated interest on the provincial portion of our student loans).
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2009

My basic costs are $1300, of which $800 is for rent on a 1 bedroom apartment in small-town Connecticut 90 minutes from Manhattan. This includes no car payment, but rather high electrical bills. That works out to around $25,000 gross income (although I doubt the taxes are 30% at that level).

(BTW, take care with your tax calculations. For 30%, divide by 0.70 rather than multiplying by 1.3. It's about a 10% difference.)
posted by smackfu at 6:58 PM on July 15, 2009

I consider myself comfortable, but making nothing over for frivolity - I guess a good a definition of 'basic' living as any (and I would like to be able to save more) - this is for Knoxville, TN, making somewhat less than $20k.

The big, recurring expenses are:
rent - $300 for a small two bedroom (no roommates)
student loans - $210/month
internet - $60/month
utilities - $50-100/month
savings - $160/month
phone - $35/month
credit card - $50/month
This leaves me enough over for food, clothes, and discretionary purchases that I don't feel pinched.
I own my car, fill the tank between 2 and 3 times a month.
posted by frobozz at 7:09 PM on July 15, 2009

Which field do you want to do graduate work and which city/town do you want to do it in?

Graduate work in the sciences come with a minimum stipend that the supervisor or university must pay. Graduate studies in the humanities/arts are more miss than hit. The minimum is based on national minimal living wages. Go to school in a tiny town in an undesirable area; you're rolling. Go to school in a big city in a desirable area; you're hosed and saddled with roomates in a crappy part of town and might even have to take out some debt. Of course, there are some grants that pay higher than the base minimum.

In Canada, for now, student grants are tax exempt, so my premium scholarship is going a lot longer than if it was a straight salary. Don't know if it applies to non-citizens.

Vancouver, BC. 30k gross back in 2000 had me a 1 bdrm apartment in a trendy part of town (albeit crappy building) and eating out lots and drinking out lots and 2009 30k net has me a 1bdrm apartment in a less trendy party of town (albeit crappy building) almost never eating out and fermenting my own ethanol. I have labmates who "get by" on 20k net, although their parents are paying for tuition (~5-6k/year) or they're taking out about 10k/year in debt.

It really depends on what your minimum standard of living is. Minimum being base cost of housing, skimping mightily on nutrition, avoiding anything but free entertainment, and the basic cost of education. I've known a couple/few people who were happy with that lifestyle, I've also known a few people who tried that lifestyle and magnificently imploded.
posted by porpoise at 7:15 PM on July 15, 2009

What happens to all of you people (who list no health or insurance expenses) if you go to the hospital, dentist, doctor?
posted by leafwoman at 8:35 PM on July 15, 2009

In my opinion, that question will differ from person to person even in the same area - it all depends on what you consider necessities.

Someone I know was considering making a career change that would result in a greatly lowered income for a while, and asked me pretty much the same question. I told them this:

-what are your basic expenses per month: rent, utilities, food etc. Right here is where the biggest variance in personal variance will show; I for example like to lspend a lot of time at home so I am willing to pay for a nice largeish apartment, so I allow somewhat more for "minimum" rent than others who have other priorities.
-what other things do you need to be happy? Do you need to eat out once a week, go to the movies once a month, have cable? Work out the approximate monthly cost of happiness necessaries.
-average amounts for things like credit card payments per month.
-multiply by 12.

That's the minimum amount you need to net to be basically comfortable. Everything over that is cake.
posted by Billegible at 8:39 PM on July 15, 2009

I live in the UK in one of the cheapest areas for housing. My family (2 adults with a baby on the way) can theoretically live on £13200 ($21500) per year (or approx £16500/$27000 for a gross pre-tax equivalent). That includes paying the mortgage and all of our other primary expenses (including car).

As it is, our household income is a healthy multiple of this so we don't really worry about household expenses and consider ourselves to be "comfortable" although admittedly a lot of the excess gets spent on eating out, new computers, first class travel, and other such trivialities "just because." I almost never do any budgeting unless I start eating into my buffer zone on my current account.

In my experience, however, we are very frugal with our basic expenses. I see a lot of people in the UK struggle to even contemplate how they could survive on £20k net per year, let alone our £13.2k. From a rather long time of reading the Money supplement of the Sunday Times, I'd guess the average middle class family has a household income of anywhere between £30k and £80k here ($50-115k) and rather few of them claim to be feeling "comfortable."
posted by wackybrit at 9:20 PM on July 15, 2009

I live just fine in Milwaukee on 18k a year after taxes. Rent is 600/month.
posted by Slinga at 9:32 PM on July 15, 2009

I am baffled as to where you guys live in L.A. where you pay $1500-2000 just for rent. I live alone, in a desirable neighborhood, and I pay $1300. And I'm being overcharged relative to people in my same complex. Singles in my place rent for under $900, and you can get a nice 2br in a nice part of West LA for under $1500. This is without even seeking out rent control in Santa Monica.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:58 PM on July 15, 2009

$30/DC/$80 if I were more frugal than I am.
As is (trying to practice frugality bt being weak and ahving rich unfrugal friends):
$50/DC/$100. (No kids. No or limited savings at the $50 range.)
posted by semacd at 11:02 PM on July 15, 2009

We live in Cork, Ireland, and it costs €3,000 a month to run our little world here. Which is so unluxurious and unfrivolous by western standards I can't even tell you. That covers (very low) mortgage payments; home, life and income protection insurance; taxes; retirement savings; utilities, phone and cable; groceries.

We do not own a car, we do not have private health insurance, and we do not have any children - all of which differentiate us from the majority of our peers. We carry very little debt on one credit card.

€55K is really what we need to make ends meet comfortably, be able to do a little more (like eat out and travel) and accumulate regular savings. Anything over that is gravy.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:32 PM on July 15, 2009

booksandwine... something wrong w/ your math. ($2700x12=$32,400). That leaves a residual of about 10k or $800/mo if you have a $55k gross and an aggregate tax rate of 30%.

I live a block from Jessamyn in a huge ass Victorian home in a central Vermont town. Our baseline cost here is $50/day, more or less... or about $20k, annualized. We have no debt, nor do we buy a lot of stuff, and like Jessamyn, we live here by choice. One needs a fair amount of cold weather clothing budget here, but Vermont is a 'make your own fun' kind of place, where folks love to be thrifty. ("Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without" is the informal state motto.)

No kids, a few pets, two cars. Major expenses (in order), property tax, food, property maintenance, insurance, fuel, student loans,utilities. I fix almost 100% of the stuff in my world, only choosing to outsource auto repair and certain categories of house maintenance.

Downside is that resources most everyone takes for granted aren't nearby (i.e., Home Depot, fast food, bike stores, sushi, tech retail. Everything here is 30 minutes away by car, in the summer. We stay put and freeze to death in the cold hell of winter for the other 9 months of the year!) We do have a law school 30 minutes south, and two medical schools (one of which is Dartmouth) within a 1 hour radius, so it isn't the total hinterlands, but it does qualify as rural.

So... a plush income here would be 100k; quite comfortable 50k; minimalist 25k-30k.
posted by FauxScot at 1:18 AM on July 16, 2009

I live in a middling part of the UK, with relatively cheap housing; well, it's certainly cheap compared with London. Two adults, one cat, no kids, no debt apart from mortgage. One car, fully paid for.

Our monthly outgoings: basic mortgage £772, electricity + gas £85, fixed phone £12, mobile phones about £20, buildings&contents insurance £40, council tax £90, water about £25. We overpay the mortgage as well.

So total basic cost of living in this house for a month, not counting food, is just over £1000. Our combined income is considerably more than that so we don't budget particularly; we are fairly careful with what we spend, though, and keep in mind our general goal of paying off the mortgage aggressively. We both like our jobs and are fortunate that the kind of holidays we like and our hobbies are fairly cheap. Health coverage is provided by the NHS and whatever private insurance mr alto has via work (this varies).

If one of us wanted to undertake further study we could manage comfortably on one income for a while. Similarly if kids come along.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:19 AM on July 16, 2009

Leafwoman: "What happens to all of you people (who list no health or insurance expenses) if you go to the hospital, dentist, doctor?"

Well, the short/honest answer?... I make every effort NOT to (go to the hospital/dentist/doctor). I have no coverage of any kind, so if something were to happen, I'd be pretty screwed. I recently changed jobs (had coverage at my old job). I've been at this new job for about 1 year (well past my probationary period) so they can officially hire me and give me benefits at any time - however due to the economy being in the toilet, I doubt that will be happening anytime soon. So for the time being, I work hard and try to live safely (minimize my risks) and basically hedge my bets until I can either get coverage, or save up enough money to cover anything that might crop up. *knock on wood*
posted by jmnugent at 5:43 AM on July 16, 2009

leafwoman: the only time I have been to a hospital in the last twelve years was a mandatory visit because of an on the job injury, paid for by my employer. If something else comes up, I will end up owing the hospital a very large sum of money.
posted by idiopath at 6:19 AM on July 16, 2009

I'm a grad student living in southern Ontario, Canada (moving variously between Hamilton, Toronto and Peterborough over the last little while). I eat well (organic, fair trade, whole food, mostly vegetarian, mostly home-cooked). But I spend very little on other things (clothing, entertainment, etc.) Also, I bike and take public transportation.

Rent ranges from $380/month (living with my SO in a beautiful apartment) to $650/month (living alone in a smallish loft apartment).

Food is usually around $350/month.

Then there are the education costs: $6000 tuition, cost of books varies depending on what's available in the library on any given week.

My income is usually around $30,000/year and I'm saving a decent amount. Most of that is scholarship money, so it's tax exempt.
posted by ndicecco at 6:57 AM on July 16, 2009

$40,000 is enough to live comfortably as a single renter in Philadelphia.
I'd say $60,000 if you want to own your own home.
posted by jrichards at 7:05 AM on July 16, 2009

the frugal version:
Housing 500/month (get a roommate or 2)
Groceries & household supplies 225
Bus pass 40
Mobile Phone 50 (no land line)
Entertainment 60
Clothing 75
Health care 75
Rainy Day fund 50
Gifts 20
expenses shared w/ roommate
Electricity 25
Heat 60
Internet 20

1200/month. You'd have to earn, say, about 1333/month or 16,000/year to cover tax.

Owning, maintaining and insuring car is very expensive, at least 400/month, but pretty much required in some areas. Pets have to be fed and have vet bills. Health care cost is based on having insurance, copays, and no health care crisis. Rainy day $ is essential to me, for health care, in case of loss of job, etc.

If you have kids, you usually lose the roommate option, and all other expenses are affected.

I've lived about this frugally, and had a pleasant life. I spend more than this, and hope I don't have to go to go back to the frugal lifestyle except by choice. But that's why I have a rainy day fund.
posted by theora55 at 11:10 AM on July 16, 2009

Drjimmy: I live in a 2br in West LA so my share of the rent is actually $1000 but I have a few more expenses than the OP, so it evens out. I live a couple blocks from the beach so my rent is higher than it would be in, say Mar Vista, but it's worth it to me to live where I want to live so that is factored into my budget.

So my living expenses are:
1000 a month rent
140 for blackberry plan
100 utilities
400 groceries
250 car payment
150 insurance
80 gas
360 entertainment/going out to eat/office lunches
50 gym
40 gifts
30 pharmacy stuff

= approx $2600 a month.
posted by np312 at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2009

I moved out (into a shared townhouse) after starting my first post-university job, and I didn't feel stressed for money, but I certainly wasn't planning any European holiday, so I guess

AU$34K / Sydney, Australia / AU$60K
posted by trialex at 5:23 PM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, everyone! Billegible is right, my income is about to take a dramatic drop as I go from working full-time to a PhD program. I am grateful for the generous stipend the university will be providing, but it is still a significant lifestyle change (financially and probably more so mentally). That got me thinking about just what the basics are, and suddenly, everything seemed so expensive in LA! Those of you who responded from Manhattan, though, really gave me some perspective!

Oh, and apologies for the math error -- in addition to the $2700 / mo basic living expenses I listed, I had also tacked on $10K per year (yeah, I know, big omission!) for things some of you, health care, etc. that vary so much from person-to-person I just didn't know how to quanitfy but very roughly, so that brought me to (2700 x 12) + 10K = roughly 42K, and roughly 30% taxes brings you to 55K pretax income.

Anyway, I would mark at least 75% of these as best answers, so that defeats the purpose! But really appreciate both the numbers provided (Poland sounds like a pretty awesome place to live, mdonley, considering what you get for the money), as well as the tips for money management, budgeting, etc. My big takeaway is that LA is expensive, but it could be worse, and the only thing that seems disproportionately expensive here is food...I see a lot of ramen in my future.
posted by booksandwine at 11:51 AM on July 17, 2009

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