Amount of money needed for hobo stay in North America
March 24, 2005 1:37 PM   Subscribe

How much money would I need to bring if I'd want to spend 6 months without work in 1) New York, NY 2) Portland, OR, 3) Toronto, Canada? The amount should cover all expences, from housing and food to beer and fun.
posted by mr.marx to Work & Money (28 answers total)
Some more info needed. Would you like shared housing or your own place? Dinner out everyday or cook yourself? Have a car or need public transit? Cocktails or beer? Dancing/Clubbing on fridays or just the bar with friends? In the city the whole time or exploring the surrounding region? Give a little idea of what you like and we'll create a budget.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2005

What kind of housing situation will you have? Will you rent a room from someone or get an apartment?

In 1994 I moved to NYC with no job and lived off of my savings. I did just what you are proposing on $7000.00, but my rent was only $450 and I was eating Ramen noodles at the end. Luckily, there were at the time several bars on the UES that gave away free beer every Friday night (as in free beer).

Adjust for inflation, figure for rent, and you're set.
posted by mds35 at 1:51 PM on March 24, 2005

As always, it depends on your lifestyle, but in NYC you can't count on finding a room for under $800/month, and if you want your own place, you should be prepared to spend at least $1200/mo. That won't include gas/electric, and might be borderline in terms of location or size for you. It's easy to spend $1500 on a one-bedroom in a decent neighborhood, and it won't be anything special. On the other hand, if you're willing to take a little spot in an outer borough, and you search around a bit, you can find something for a lot less (check craig's list nyc to see what's out there at the moment).

Unlimited travel pass is $76/month. Food costs range enormously. If you have money to spend it is frighteningly easy to spend it, so if you're living on a budget, it's smart to actually write out what you plan to spend on what.
posted by mdn at 1:54 PM on March 24, 2005

In the Seattle area I budget $2,000 a month for living expenses and always seem to have a hundred or two left over that I could have spent on entertainment but didn't, and I live in a fairly sizable apartment with a lake view (half of the budget is rent), have high-speed Internet and satellite TV, eat out regularly, etc. You could probably get by on closer to $1,500 if you roomed with someone and/or economized on things I don't bother economizing on. Of course if you have to rent furnished, that'll be more expensive. In any case, Portland shouldn't be too different.
posted by kindall at 1:56 PM on March 24, 2005

You didn't say if you want to live alone or share, so I'm going to assume alone and I'm going to estimate for comfort over living economically. You can find a relatively inexpensive apartment/studio for around a thousand a month (less if you have connections)--particularly if you manage to find a sublet from someone who has been living in a rent-controlled place for a while. And the further out you're willing to go (Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx), the cheaper it gets. Add about 100. a month for gas and electricity. Food is expensive and restaurants and bars even more so. Ideally, you should plan on 500 a week to eat, drink and knock around on. Of course many, many people manage on much, much less. I lived on $10,000. my first year here in 1997 and it was very, very difficult. Lastly, if you have a car be prepared to pay for parking or tickets.
posted by idest at 1:56 PM on March 24, 2005

FWIW, I'm living on grad student income, and doing fine, but I have adapted to the grad student lifestyle. I have friends who make good solid salaries and always feel broke, so it really has a lot to do with what you consider 'necessary'...
posted by mdn at 1:57 PM on March 24, 2005

eep. I edited the reference to New York out of my post. Sorry!
posted by idest at 1:57 PM on March 24, 2005

you should plan on 500 a week to eat, drink and knock around on

a week? are you serious?
posted by mdn at 1:59 PM on March 24, 2005

Impossible to answer without a lot more information but I'll give you some ballpark numbers, all in Canadian dollars.

In Toronto, it's possible to find reasonable shared accommodation for $500 a month. This will likely be somewhat harder if you only want to stay 6 months but since most of this is room in a house stuff, you shouldn't have too much problem avoiding 1 year leases. If you want to live alone, expect to pay more like $1000 unless you get lucky or have low standards.

Food can be bought cheap, or it can be bought expensive. I personally buy about $200-250 a month in groceries for one person, but my tastes run expensive and I'm not inclined to bother seeking out sales, nor will I shop at the cheap grocery stores like No Frills or Price Chopper; I'll buy what's on sale while I'm there, but I won't go looking for bargains if I need something and it's not on sale. I expect your grocery bills could be $100 a month for 1 person if you were more judicious than I am.

Beer is pretty dependent on what you drink and where. In bars, with tips, you could expect to pay $5-8 for a bottle of beer, depending on what beer and what bar. If you're buying beer in the liquor store, it's generally $1-$3 per, depending on how many you buy and whether it's in cans or bottles and whether it sucks or not. I believe the $1 is a government mandated minimum, so that's the cheapest it'll get.

For fun, well, who knows what you like to do.
Movies are $10 these days, though they were $14 before, so I don't know when the hell that got so much lower or whether it's temporary.
Tickets to see bands at clubs range from $10 - $30 with most in the teens, before you add ticketbastard fees, if that's where you buy them. Tickets to see bands in concert halls or arenas are quite a bit more, $50 - $100 would be typical.
Cover charges for clubs seem to range from $5 - $20, with $10 being pretty usual, but I don't actually go to clubs so that's just a rough guess from reading ads.
Tickets to see musicals or theatre in the major venues are $100, but smaller theatres can be much less. If you're under 30, both the symphony and the opera have excellent programs for getting tickets very cheaply ($10 or $20).
CDs are $15 if immensely popular and $20 if not and $25 if imported.
Restaurant meals are all over the map, but decent if not great restaurants with entrees in the $10-$15 are fairly common. Fast fod combos from places you've heard of are $5-8, but there are tons of great chinese takeaway places where lunch and a drink are $5.

A transit pass is $85 a month, while one trip on transit is $2.50. Purchasing tickets or tokens in higher quantities gets you a price somewhere in between.
Parking in the city ranges from $5 in the evenings outside of the downtown core to $25 for the night in the entertainment district on weekends. I rarely pay more than $10 to park, but sometimes only $3. I don't work in the city, but I believe it generally ranges from $12-15 during the day in the downtown core.

High speed internet is $50, assuming you're also paying $30 or so for either a phone line or cable. If you're sharing a space, though, that can be a split cost. If you need to rent a parking spot for your car at home, it could range from $50 - $150 a month in a private lot. City street parking permits are $10-$25 a month.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:15 PM on March 24, 2005

mdn: As I said, without knowing the budget I went for the ideal rather than economical living.
posted by idest at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2005

NYC == ~8000 + health insurance.
posted by jeb at 2:16 PM on March 24, 2005

You can find single bedroom apartments in Portland for $450, usually. Maybe another $30 for electricity, $30 for phone and $50 for cable internet.

Pabst is about $1.50 a pint everywhere but the fancy bars downtown, microbrews are usually about $3.

I'm guessing that $1000 a month would treat you right if you felt like living really decadently.
posted by cmonkey at 2:32 PM on March 24, 2005

Response by poster: Some more info based on the oo000oo-man's questions:
I'd prefer to live alone, but if sharing is much cheaper I'd consider it.
I'm not picky when it comes to food, I can cook if I have to, but I could easily live on a fast food/cheap sandwiches diet.
As for entertainment: I'd like to get drunk once or twice a week, I like beer more than drinks, I don't eat at fancy restaurants and I like clubs with a rock/indie type of crowd. Not the Paris Hilton stuff.
Traveling around, not so much. Basically just hanging around the place and get the feel for the native's everyday life.
posted by mr.marx at 2:34 PM on March 24, 2005

Um, you can get buy in NYC for $1000/mo, including rent. (And you can find rents a lot cheaper than $800/mo. Like cut that by a third or more. Also if you're willing to pay in cash and not sign any sort of legally binding lease you can push this further down.) I really, really wouldn't recommend it but I know lots of people who've done it in the past and are still doing it now. I've never had to do it myself but I like to think I could if it came to that. Basically, if you want it bad enough you can make it happen.
posted by nixerman at 2:58 PM on March 24, 2005

In that case, cmonkey's pretty much spot on for Portland, except I would add another $300 for food (eating out can get pricy) and $200 a month for scratch off tickets, because, you know, somebody has got to win those.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 2:58 PM on March 24, 2005

Also you can find really good food for cheap in NYC. No need to do the fast food thing when there's a good solid deli or bagel shop on every corner. And the indie scene gets old in my opinion, but it's thriving. And if it's during the summer, you don't even have to live in a building. I know some peeps who move out in the summer and sleep "under the stars." (More like under the bridge.) It's, uh, an option.
posted by nixerman at 3:03 PM on March 24, 2005

(And you can find rents a lot cheaper than $800/mo. Like cut that by a third or more. Also if you're willing to pay in cash and not sign any sort of legally binding lease you can push this further down.)

sure, I'm paying under half that myself at the moment - but that's because of luck/connections/etc (and it's only temporary). If you're willing to go into the outer boroughs, search around, and deal with imperfections, you can find stuff cheap. If you're picking up an "average" scenario, you'll be looking at $800 or so.

mdn: As I said, without knowing the budget I went for the ideal rather than economical living.

this is just further proof that everything depends on your lifestyle and expectations. I said before that if you have money it's easy to spend, but I am not even sure I'd know how to spend $500 every week just on food, drink & entertainment (include electronics, books, music, clothes, & maybe it wouldn't be so hard).
posted by mdn at 3:09 PM on March 24, 2005

I live comfortablly in Portland on after-tax income of around $1,200 per month, which is enough for me enough to pay off my car loan, my credit card, my student loans. I also buy about $150 per month in gas (long commute) and have various other expenses, including an expensive ($20-plus) meal per week and lots of movies. I even save money.

Roommates make a big difference. There are lots of two-bedroom places for around $600 in very nice neighborhoods (nice=hippy grocery store; pizza by the slice; indie movie theater; lots of 20 & 30 somethings; multiple chill bars; good places for brunch & dinner). With one roommate at a time, I've had rent of less than $300 per month for the past three years.

I'd say you could get by and still have cash for beer and meals out on $800 or $900 per month, if you take the bus instead of a car and get a really cheap place or a roommate. $4,800 - $5,400 for six months, plus probably another $500 to pay those pesky apartment deposit-related costs. So $6,000 to be safe.

I've got a friend who is very frugal with her getting drunk (PBR or Milwaukee's Best) and eating out (pizza or Subway, only rarely), and just watches whatever's on TV instead of renting movies or heading to films. She gets by on about $7,000 per year, after taxes, in Portland -- that's $3,500 for six months.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:18 PM on March 24, 2005

At the end of this month, not counting rent, I will have spent about $600-$700 in NYC. That's one month's electricity and gas, one month's internet, food, beers, etc... I don't get out to the indie shows too much but they are cheap.

It's also going to depend on what supplies you're bringing with you. For example your eat-at-home food bill may be higher as I came into the month with some stuff in the larder, and you won't be, I've accumulated various non-consumable neccessities, I have all my furniture. (You can get used furniture on the cheap, free on the sidewalk, or if you're lucky get a furnished room.)

On the other hand, not working, you will have much more time to cook, so you'll be eating out when you want to and not because of time constraints.

Add a little more travel cost to that, possibly up to the $76 unlimited, since I can walk to school and school leaves me little time for travelling, so my subway costs are negligible. You won't *have* to travel anywhere beyond walking distance to meet your daily needs, but you may want to and definitely should.

Beer is, in my experience, $4-$6 outside of happy hour, whether it's piss or ambrosia, plus a one dollar tip. Drink good beer. Look for "wing nights" where you get a beer at normal price and then a good-sized dinner of wings for about $1.50.

Add significantly more if you like to or feel the need to "shop" for stupid crap. I don't think I've gotten any new clothes except maybe some underwear since the new year, so that's definitely not a part of my figure.

There's also going to be move-in expenses, getting to the city, probably a security deposit, moving all your stuff in...

And then the biggest part, your rent. I would say to look for a short term sublet of a furnished room, basically living in someone else's apartment for the six months. Check craigslist.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:36 PM on March 24, 2005

jacquilynne pretty much has Toronto down.


You can definitely find a place in Toronto for less than $1000 dollars a month, if you're not picky. Buuut it might be a basement and might be in Little Portugal or similar instead of downtown or in the Annex, but this is a good thing.

Also, if you buy tokens in bulk (5 or 10 at a time), it's $2 a ride instead of $2.50. If you don't have, like, a commute every work day, tokens are the way to go.

If you don't need internet in your house, there's always the Public Library.

You needn't spend $10 to go the movies. Festival Cinemas is a rep theatre chain that shows mostly second run and occasionally old stuff for less than $10, but that goes down to $6 if you buy a 6-month membership, which costs less than $5.

Shows for biggish indie acts range from 10-25ish, usually in the high teens before the service fee. To give you an idea: I think I paid $10 to see Rilo Kiley this fall, $17 (or so) to see Neko Case this winter, and my Arcade Fire tickets were $20.

Also, something to think about: these prices? Are in Canadian funds. Which is currently around US$.80.
posted by SoftRain at 4:04 PM on March 24, 2005

For New York, shared accommodation is much cheaper. If you are going to live here for six months to get a feel for life, I would definitely do the shared bit: New Yorkers live very busy lives and you aren't necessarily going to meet many in six months; living with some would help on that front. To that end, I would also take something small & crappy in Brooklyn or Queens with people who are into what you are into. It gives a toehold. And as most people I know who moved here feel like it took them a year to "begin to get it" that would aid in the six-month plan.

Anyway, I live okay in New York on $1000/month after rent, but the bf definitely picks up many expenses, so it may be closer to $1500 (though that includes gym & other more permanent things). I would also recommend coming in summer, as there are many many free/cheap entertainment options.
posted by dame at 4:26 PM on March 24, 2005

Don't bring your car to NYC. If you have a bike, budget in for a $60 hardened chain-style lock from a bike shop, or $40 for a big-ass chain and an American lock from a hardware store. If you don't have a bike, the Salvation Army or Goodwill are great spots to pick one up cheap ($35).

I've lived here for 1.5 years and I think biking is a fantastic way to get to know the city, especially the outer boroughs (Manhattan can by hairy, but has a great shared use path around the perimeter). Many of the bridges in the city have biker/walker accommodations, and if you've got time to spend, biking will give you a fantastic view of NYC while alleviating subway costs.
posted by lorrer at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2005

Wow, I'm liking the word "fantastic." Must be having a fantastic day. Bah!

Oh, and to add: space is expensive in NYC. Everything else is as cheap or expensive as you want to spend. Like, $2 for a falafel sandwich, which I often use as a meal. Off to do that now, matter of fact.
posted by lorrer at 4:55 PM on March 24, 2005

In 2000 I lived in NY for six months, rent-free (no bills either). I made $400/month for about half of that time and $800/week for the rest of the time. At the end of that time I'd saved about $2,000. I ate a lot of ramen and a lot of dirt-cheap Chinese, and didn't drink or smoke.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:28 PM on March 24, 2005

Not to derail, but why on mother earth would you want to spend 6 months in Toronto ?? Seriously.
posted by repoman at 7:15 PM on March 24, 2005

Toronto's not so bad! Especially if it's summer.

Though, to be fair, coming from Europe you might have more fun in Montreal. Also, probably cheaper there.

But we're definitely better than Calgary.
posted by maledictory at 9:23 PM on March 24, 2005

A transit pass is $85 a month (Toronto)

Wrong. That is only with a yearly subscription - in your case, it will be $100 a month.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:41 AM on March 25, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everybody!
posted by mr.marx at 2:28 AM on March 28, 2005

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