New job, more income and poorer than ever
August 29, 2017 3:45 AM   Subscribe

I tripled my salary this year by becoming a software engineer. I also moved to the Bay Area and sextupled my rent. I have student loans and credit card bills and frankly, I'm underwater. How can I find some hope?

I should start by saying I've never been particularly good at money or budgeting so I am pretty aware that I've made some colossally stupid decisions in the past.

I should also mention that while I am doing software in the Bay Area, my salary is low for my position because I'm in a apprenticeship program (with a higher paying job at the end, given good performance). (This is a reputable program and a reputable company.) It's currently a salary of about $100k. My rent is about $3000/mo. I live with my boyfriend. We typically split the rent according to our individual salaries; for now his salary is based on temp work and he can't help out much except paying his own bills. I get paid biweekly and I've calculated that until at least December I will be late on my rent every month, just due to the fact that biweekly paychecks don't align correctly with monthly rent and bills. My credit card & loan payments are currently about $600/mo. Some loans are in forbearance at the moment; when they resume next year I'm kind of terrified to think what will happen. I have a lot of credit card debt, about $15,000. My student loans are embarrassing to even talk about but less than $100k. I have no savings. My credit is OK but not great, mostly due to high utilization (I have perfect payment history).

Things I wish I had done:
1) not racked up so much credit card debt,
2) saved a nest egg for moving/paying rent on time,
3) found a place with cheaper rent,
4) convinced boyfriend to look for a job earlier, which he thought I was being pushy about

Things I considered but didn't do:
5) moved in with a roommate with a job for now and told my boyfriend to move in with me next year when I was on my feet.

I'm much happier that he's here (and he understands now why I was "pushy" about the job hunt) but I feel very guilty that I'm paying this massive rent that's putting me way behind.

I had a lot of sticker shock when moving here (from a much cheaper, smaller town) but I assumed it was par for the course. From what I can tell, it's not an insanely high rent, but it's not cheap either. We rented without visiting the city because we had no money for temporary housing or airfare (poor grad students).

Every two weeks when I get paid the money goes to rent and bills and then it's gone. I feel so ashamed that I'm struggling and constantly stressed about money when I make so much of it. I feel like an absolute failure and an idiot; I chose this industry to have a good paying job and dig myself out of the hole and I feel like I'm right back in it, but worse, because going back to school for it dug the pit deeper. I don't think I can afford any of the options to lessen my monthly costs (breaking lease, etc) but I could be wrong.

I know things will get better with time, when my boyfriend gets a job and can help pay rent and I can start paying down my cards and debts and not treading water. But for now it's so hard. How can I chin up and face this mess, feeling like I've ruined myself? What can I do, if anything?

tldr; I make a nice salary but I live in the Bay Area and pay a ton of rent, plus tons of credit card bills and loan payments from years of being working class and poor. My boyfriend isn't working steadily yet and I live very frugally but can barely pay all the bills each month and keep the household running. What can I do, practically or mentally so I don't feel like breaking down at least once a week? (PS: I have YNAB, but it's actually kind of baffling to me at the moment, in terms of how to use it when you're behind.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (63 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Well now you have one rent non-paying roommate. How about getting one who pays? Rent out the couch.

Or look into breaking your lease and moving into a roommate situation where you and your bf share a bedroom in an apt or house.

Please don't listen to your boyfriend if he says not to do these things. He's living off your income and adding to your debt now. You have to make decisions that won't cause you this panic every paycheck.
posted by charlielxxv at 4:18 AM on August 29, 2017 [38 favorites]

At the risk of stating the obvious, your boyfriend is living rent-free in a $3000/month apartment. No matter how well-intentioned he may be, his motivation to change the situation is probably going to be less than yours. I'm not trying to pin ill motives on your bf, but he has no skin in this game. He gets to live there regardless of how much it panics you or how little money he makes.

At the very least, can you brainstorm with him about how he might contribute to the rent? (Selling things on craigslist, getting a part-time job, etc.) That's at the least. And, yeah, you may need to look into roommate situations.
posted by veggieboy at 4:43 AM on August 29, 2017 [33 favorites]

Yes, your boyfriend needs to be paying rent- he is living there too and you can't afford it on your own. Otherwise you need to get a different roommate or cheaper apartment (which I realize is difficult). So, given the situation, the easiest and most effective thing is to have him pay up- or have him help you both move into an apartment you can BOTH afford.
posted by bquarters at 4:45 AM on August 29, 2017 [7 favorites]

convinced boyfriend to look for a job earlier, which he thought I was being pushy about

Boyfriend needs to get that job, like, yesterday - retail, coffee shops, whatever he can find. He's living rent-free in a $3k/month pad right now. The other option is to start looking into resources about breaking your lease, which I'm hoping others can provide here.

100k is good money, don't get me wrong, but it's not 3k rent money. I'm not familiar with SF but in NY you would not even qualify for a lot of 3k/month apartments with that salary as landlords typically expect you to be making at least 40 times the monthly rent, and that's minimum if you want to live pretty much paycheck to paycheck and have no debt issues.
posted by windbox at 4:46 AM on August 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't think I can afford any of the options to lessen my monthly costs (breaking lease, etc) but I could be wrong.

How much cheaper a place could you get? If it's significantly cheaper, I think it is really worth seeing if you can find a subletter to take over your lease. $3000 on $100k is a huge stretch and it's no wonder you're struggling. I have found that in these very-high-rent markets landlords can be a little more open to sublets and lease takeovers.

(Everyone else is right, of course, that your boyfriend needs to find a job. But I still think you should look to sublet if you can. It sounds like even if he finds a job he will be making much less than you are, so making this rent might still be a struggle. And subletting is something you can start looking into right now.)

I feel like an absolute failure and an idiot; I chose this industry to have a good paying job and dig myself out of the hole and I feel like I'm right back in it, but worse, because going back to school for it dug the pit deeper.

Don't beat yourself up over this. It's very hard to figure out in advance what is affordable on an income that's much higher than you're used to. You are making good money now (I've heard of software apprenticeship programs that pay much less than $100k) with a clear path to be making even more. And despite what people will tell you, there really are software jobs in places much cheaper than SF—maybe not too many in places with the $500 rents you were used to, but in places with $1500 or $2000 rent. Especially with a couple years of Silicon Valley experience under your belt, there are a ton of smaller coastal cities and bigger midwestern cities you'll be able to choose from where you'd have no problem finding work and could live very comfortably. Your rent pressures are temporary—your skills and career won't be.
posted by enn at 4:56 AM on August 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

Get your BF to pay rent and work on paying off your credit cards. The faster you can pay down those balances the less you're paying in interest each month. Then if you can find a cheaper place to live at some point soon, even better.
posted by thefool at 4:56 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

In this situation you have two main options: increase your income, or decrease your spending. Preferably both!

Increase income by:
- renting out any extra room you have
- having a side job or two
- getting a different job that pays you market rates now rather than at the end of the apprenticeship program (not sure if actually feasible with your current experience and the SF tech scene)

Decrease spending by:
- breaking your lease and moving to a cheaper place (factor in the cost of the lease penalty + moving to make sure this actually saves you money!)
- no frills lifestyle like making packed lunches, biking to work, etc.

To me it is completely unacceptable that your boyfriend says he can't "help" with the bills, and that seems to be the end of that discussion? He should be just as, if not even more panicked than you are, because he is literally causing damage to your financial profile by not contributing his fair share, and it has very real repercussions for you down the road.

I may be wrong, but I'm getting the feeling that you've done some calculations and figured out you're underwater, but that maybe your calculations are a bit too high-level/abstract to actually point you towards a decisive course of action. For example, your comment about falling behind on rent "just due to the fact that biweekly paychecks don't align correctly with monthly rent and bills" seems off (it's tricky but certainly doable to align biweekly payments with monthly bills without falling behind on everything), and also this comment: "I don't think I can afford any of the options to lessen my monthly costs (breaking lease, etc) but I could be wrong."

To me these two things can absolutely be calculated to the point where you can say, "My payment schedule will cause my bank balance to go negative by $200 for the last 5 days of the month; therefore boyfriend and I have ~25 days of the month to earn that missing $200 so that I can plug that hole." Or, "Breaking my lease would cost me $3000 in penalties, plus $500 in moving expenses. But if we move to a place that is $2000 a month then in four months we would have made up that outlay, and by month five we'll have $1000 'extra' to put towards bills/debt repayment rather than going to rent." If these types of figures aren't crystal clear to you now, then I think getting those figures should be your first step.
posted by tinydancer at 4:58 AM on August 29, 2017 [17 favorites]

Short term - your boyfriend needs to start helping with the rent yesterday.

Also, I strongly recommend this book to help give you a framework for understanding how to manage your money and expenses. I read it recently and it changed everything about how I think about finances. I wish I had read it at your age.

If it's not available from your local library Memail your address and I'll send you a copy via Amazon.
posted by COD at 5:03 AM on August 29, 2017 [11 favorites]

For the credit cards: call the often-MeFi-recommended Greenpath Financial Wellness and do their credit card debt management plan. I have credit card debt like you and it was the best decision I ever made. They are a legitimate non profit whose goal is to help folks like you and me get out from debt. The best part is that THEY call your creditors for you, negotiate your interest down to very low or zero, and you just pay Greenpath directly (by automatic bank draft). They charge a small nominal fee- about $30 a month in most cases- but it is a drop in the bucket compared to what you would otherwise pay in interest. If I had tried to pay my credit cards down myself over a five year period, it would have been like $40,000 with all of the interest. Instead, I am only going to end up paying about $14k over that time period. Huge difference and a huge relief. Cannot recommend them enough. And if you are worried about feeling judged, don't- their counselors are super non judgmental, compassionate and are there to help.
posted by nightrecordings at 5:04 AM on August 29, 2017 [18 favorites]

In concrete terms of how much you as an individual can afford, the NYC 40x rule means landlords will let you rent an apt for $2500 month. But that doesn't mean you can afford it if you have debt or want to save.

There are affordability metrics along the lines of the 50-30-20 rule where no more than 50 percent of your take home pay income goes to shelter, transport, utilities and food. That means one biweekly paycheck has to cover all your non debt, savings, and entertainment related expenses.

Assuming $100 utilities, $450 month food, $50 transport (for 1 person, not 2) you now can afford $1900 a month rent out of a $2500 biweekly check.

Plug in your own numbers. The shortfall is how much you need to get from your bf, a roommate, or by renting a cheaper place.
posted by charlielxxv at 5:06 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your boyfriend is a luxury item. You are paying $1,500 a month to enjoy his company. With that level of debt you cannot afford luxury items. You are jeopardizing your entire financial future and everything you worked so hard for for this man. Is it worth it? Is he serious about you? Do you have a future? He doesn't sound like life partner potential if he's not doing everything he can to make his share of rent and shoulder this burden with you.

Dump him. Give him a couple months notice to find somewhere else to live and find a paying roommate. I usually don't give this kind of sweeping, broad advice but you are in serious financial trouble and don't seem to tie any of this to your boyfriend at all. And you're walking on eggshells about pushing him to find a job? I am so angry on your behalf.
posted by unannihilated at 5:24 AM on August 29, 2017 [64 favorites]

Move to a room in Oakland and pay 10x less rent.
posted by ball00000ns at 5:42 AM on August 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

100k is good money, don't get me wrong, but it's not 3k rent money.

It's what, 45% of after-tax income on rent? Way too high.
posted by thelonius at 5:43 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I say this without judgement as a fellow terrible budgeter but you are living way beyond your means. You need to cut that rent cost in half ASAP. Is it a 2 bedroom? Then boot out the freeeloading bf and get in a housemate who pays half the rest and half the bills. If it's a studio or 1 bed then break the lease and move into a shared rental where you have your own room and pay $1500 or so. This is really the only way to prevent yourself from falling deeper into debt.
posted by emd3737 at 5:43 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

To build on tinydancer's comment above... if you can get a better grasp of exactly how your bill payments are misaligned to your paychecks, you might actually be able to request a different due date (e.g. the 17th of every month instead of the 8th) for at least some of your bills.

In some cases, it's an option right there on the website -- you don't even have to talk to a real person. But even if not, a quick phone call might let you get a little more "aligned" while you explore ways to increase income and/or decrease expenses.
posted by somanyamys at 5:44 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I too was wondering how exact your calculations have been. What is your income after taxes, and then after loans, credit cards, rent, utilities, food, etc?

The reason I ask is that while there are definitely some big changes you could and probably should make (like changing your living situation), even making a few small changes now might be enough to at least give you space to breathe. (There's that famous quote from David Copperfield: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery" - meaning that even if you're only slightly in the black, that's a huge difference in stress from being even slightly underwater.)

So first, if you calculate everything, exactly by how much are you under? How much do you have left over every month after the unnegotiable expenses are paid, and how much can you cut back on the other stuff (food, internet/cable/phone bills, transportation, etc.)? How much more than what you have now would you need to be able to start paying down your credit card debt?

(Also, how much are you paying in late fees on your rent? Can your boyfriend, as an absolute absolute minimum, find a way to enable you to pay the rent on time?)
posted by trig at 5:54 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

It must feel horrible to hear all these people piling on your boyfriend ('s financial contributions). But the truth of the matter is that you cannot afford to support him at the moment. Everybody is focusing on that because that is the one single thing you can change that will have a significant effect on your overall cash flow pretty much immediately.

That is not to say you cannot also make other incremental changes that will help over time. But based on the information you provide your main problem is that your living expenses are significantly more than you can afford to pay without creating more debt.

So you have three options to fix that:

1/ Your BF finds ways of making enough money to contribute 50% of living expenses immediately. Any paying employment will do. 2nd job is acceptable.

2/ He moves out (back home/rents a couch somewhere, whatever living situation is compatible with his current income) and you get a paying flat mate contributing 50% of rent and utilities

3/ You break the lease and both of you find more affordable accommodation either alone or together. Work out a prudent budget for living expenses and stick to it. You have been pointed to many metrics to get a better idea of what level of living expenses would be more sustainable given your income. When you work out your budget factor in the debt repayments for the loans currently in forbearance.

The good news is, that this is absolutely fixable. The bad news is that you have some difficult decisions to make because you quite literally can't afford to wait and hope it'll just get better over time (e.g. because your pay will go up and/or your BF finds a more lucrative job).

Good luck.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:22 AM on August 29, 2017 [11 favorites]

There's lots of good advice already re boyfriend and your current rent situation so I won't add to that.

Your initial triage needs to be cutting areas that add to your debt load, meaning first and foremost avoiding late fees and doing what you can to minimize interest payments.

If you're living paycheck to paycheck and can't make your bills on time because of the timing, the first step is to call your billers and change the payment due date to one that aligns with your paycheck so you can avoid late fees. Probably hard for your rent, but should be a no Brainer for credit cards and potentially student loans.
posted by Karaage at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2017

Good advice above but one thing you should do right away:

Contact your loan-servicer and talk to them about deferment/forbearance. Explain your financial situation and let them know that even a few months of deferment will let you build up some savings to get ahead of your rent.

You can request a general forbearance if you are temporarily unable to make your scheduled monthly loan payments for the following reasons:

Financial difficulties
Medical expenses
Change in employment
Other reasons acceptable to your loan servicer

posted by czytm at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't know that your boyfriend needs to be contributing 50% of expenses (though I think that would be fair) but he needs to be contributing some minimum amount per month. Even if that's just $500, it would make it way easier for you to plan. You guys should talk and come up with a number that's realistic for him.

If that's not possible, you have to break the lease or get a roommate. You cannot afford $3000 a month on your salary alone, and if you can't depend on him to pay a fixed amount a month, that's what you're doing.
posted by mskyle at 6:53 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm much happier that he's here (and he understands now why I was "pushy" about the job hunt) but I feel very guilty that I'm paying this massive rent that's putting me way behind.

But you aren't way behind! You're behind, but WAY behind is a totally different thing. You have a current arrangement that is, to all appearances, only SLIGHTLY behind your ability to actually pay things. And that only until December. Is that actually the end of the world? I was late on my rent payments by a little bit several times my first couple months making real money because I'd been so broke before that, too, and now I'm basically fine. Your boyfriend should be getting a real job , but it's not like you guys are going to be homeless if he doesn't do so within the next 30 days. You've got plenty of 20/20-hindsight kind of problems right now, but don't catastrophize. The two of you will both have more income coming in shortly. You may not, after this, have a perfect payment history--but nobody's ever died of that, and having a good income will cushion the blow of that substantially.

Not that you shouldn't pursue some of the stuff talked about in other answers, but I think your #1 problem here is that you're feeling anxious about all these big changes. You are not way behind. You have not ruined anything. You are temporarily feeling pinched, and you should do what you can to mitigate that, but you are going to be totally fine. You do not have to have spotless credit to be totally fine as a software developer in 2017. Deep breaths. It's okay. This is a hiccup, not your life going completely off the rails.
posted by Sequence at 7:19 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Reading between the lines, it sounds like you asked your BF to relocate and move in with you, so now you feel partly responsible for his being underemployed and short on funds himself. But he should be an equal adult/partner in this relationship and equally share in the downside of the decisions that were made. Yet it seems like you're the only one who's taking on the major negative financial consequences of your income shortfall: late fees, more interest on debt, even dings to your credit rating due to late payments. Paying something toward his housing expenses needs to be just as high a priority as paying his other bills, same as it is for you.

He shouldn't have needed "pushy partner" to convince him his #1 priority after moving was to find a job to support himself--I'm glad he seems to have come around on that point but it doesn't speak very well of him that he ever had that thought in the first place. And I suspect there needs to be more financial transparency between the two of you; if your relationship is at the level where one of you is expected to support the other, you also need to have all the numbers out on the table so that any financial belt-tightening or penalties for income shortfalls are felt equally.
posted by drlith at 7:19 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Risking a derail, but I'd like to gently suggest to respondents that "cut rent costs" is not easy to do in the Bay Area, and depending on where the OP's job is located, may be somewhere between impossible and leading to a multi-hour commute. There are a lot of factors here and opportunities for OP to take action but $3K rent in this area is actually not a bad deal at all for a place that can fit two people.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:22 AM on August 29, 2017 [29 favorites]

Seconding Tomorrowful. My first thought when reading that the OP's rent is $3,000/month was, "That's it? Not bad!"
posted by jesourie at 7:25 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with the comments that say it sounds like you don't even really have a handle on where you are with your finances, which is understandable because financial stress is not conducive to thinking analytically and it can cause like a stress-spiral where I am too stressed to deal, so I don't, so the situation gets worse which causes me stress, etc.


(PS: I have YNAB, but it's actually kind of baffling to me at the moment, in terms of how to use it when you're behind.)

You already have one of the most powerful tools for getting back on top of your finances to minimize late payments. It is MADE for people who feel like they are already behind every month! You don't say if you are using the older desktop version or the new webapp version - if it is the desktop version, work through these 4 steps again and make sure you understand exactly where your money from this paycheck needs to go first, and where your money is actually going, or watch the old workshops if you are a visual learner. If you are using the new YNAB webapp, there are a few FREE online classes (which you can take live or watch on youtube) that are immediately relevant: "Break the Paycheck to Paycheck cycle" or "Budgeting when Broke".

If you want more one-on-one help with YNAB, I am absolutely willing to like email or skype with you to help you get it running. I am more familiar with the new YNAB than the older one, but I have used the older one too.

One final point: it is not pushy to ask your boyfriend to contribute to the household finances. You say he doesn't have any money left over after paying his own bills - what bills is he dealing with and can he cut back at all?
posted by muddgirl at 7:26 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

I apologize in advance if you are doing this. But plenty of smart people don't learn real budget consuming skills and the Bay Area is an especially bad influence. Make sure you are buying cheap, filling food like beans as staple and buying all your food at the cheapest places, for example. If you're shopping at Safeway's and Trader Joe's is your 'budget' place that's probably a sign you can scrimp more there. Cut out essentially all eating out. Meet friends for hikes and bike rides and not for meals. Google for budget grocery stores in the bay area, there are options I've literally never heard anyone at my workplaces talk about, even the ones with lots of kids trying to save.

The thing to keep in mind is it will get a lot better. It sounds like you're looking at a raise next year, your boyfriend will start paying rent, you can move to a cheaper place, and get a roommate. I remember my first couple years working in the Bay Area, I wasn't in your dire straits exactly but I remember it feeling like I could never save, then in a few years I was really building up savings. You are set up for things to only get better.

There are a lot of factors here and opportunities for OP to take action but $3K rent in this area is actually not a bad deal at all for a place that can fit two people.

It's not a bad deal, but as OP says there are definitely cheaper places available. In a situation where things are this tight you want one of those places even if it's more crowded (or the same place plus a roommate, if it's a two bedroom.)
posted by mark k at 7:31 AM on August 29, 2017

Regarding Bay Area specifically, piling on to say $3k in rent is a good deal.

You say your salary is 3x what it was and that you have a "nice" salary. It may be useful to reframe your thinking about your income. $100,000 sounds like a nice salary when you're coming "from a much cheaper, smaller town," but it is probably equivalent to, or even less than, what your salary was before. This may be too much stating the obvious, but $1 does not equal $1. Especially in the Bay Area.

What I'm trying to say is, you may need to adjust your expectations about what you can achieve at this time with that salary. Give yourself a little slack regarding saving/paying down debt until you can increase your salary (which it sounds like you're on track to do).
posted by slipthought at 7:33 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

[Actually want to amend my above statement to say biking is not cheap socializing in the Bay Area, you'll probably fall in with a crowd that thinks you need expensive gear.]
posted by mark k at 7:36 AM on August 29, 2017

3k may be normal rent for 2 people in the Bay Area, but 2 people aren't contributing. It's not a good deal if you can't afford it.

Once the bf has his own $100k job they'll be sitting pretty with that rent. That time is not now.
posted by charlielxxv at 8:01 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Financial Planner here.

1) It sounds like you're on a good career path. If you're happy with where you are, I would avoid making changes that give you more money now in exchange for less opportunity later. Do your job, do it well. Don't take on freelance or side gigs that put your main income at risk.

2) Guilt and shame are very common feelings people have about money and debt. You are not alone. A lot of the cultural practice around debt has hung around from times when you borrowed money from other individuals in your community. But you've borrowed relatively small amounts of money (for them) from huge institutions. Your debt is just another database entry for them. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about what you've done.

3) Your solution will be to work the problem. It appears that you've done one of the most difficult parts already in that you have projected out your cash flows for the next several months. This is a great start. Keep a spreadsheet with what you owe, when you owe it up to date. It is essential that you have an accurate picture of the issue.

4) Sort out what your are doing with your variable spending. Use Mint, YNAB, or a spreadsheet to see what you're spending where. In my experience, only a small number of people are able to turn that into a budget that they actually stick to. People don't make spending decisions like businesses do. Instead, it's about building habits around spending. Figure out what habits you have that are pushing your spending too high, and then consciously retrain yourself out of them one at a time. Are you going out for meals too much? Taking cabs everywhere? Shopping for recreation instead of by need? This week, make a grocery list, buy what you need and resolve to cook. Next week, plan outings with your partner or friends that don't involve shopping. If you have a car, leave it parked for a week to see if it's possible to ditch it. Figure out transit in your area. Some of this may be uncomfortable. You're breaking habits, that is to be expected. Changes you persist with will become habits over time. The pace of these changes needs to be reasonable for you to stick with it.

5) It sounds like things will spool in the right direction in time. Your job will get better paying, your boyfriend will start making more money. You'll start to pay down some credit card debt. Get through this stretch, and you'll start to see things get better. I don't work with student debt or loans, but there may be resources for you to restructure or refinance these loans to that they are manageable for the long term.

6) To start to feel better about things, you may find it helpful to do 3 things. 1) Understand the entire scope of the problem. Write it all down. 2) Break it into pieces that you can manage. Start a financial to do list. 3.) Start by doing the easiest parts to build some quick wins and momentum. This could be calling your loan people to get an idea of what happens next year when you have to start making payments. Figure out what you will do now, rather than waiting. Or maybe it's calling your credit card companies to ask for a lower rate. Start with one step that gets you closer to having this all sorted out.
posted by thenormshow at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2017 [18 favorites]

$3K rent in this area is actually not a bad deal at all for a place that can fit two people.

I don't doubt it, but that is irrelevant if she can't afford it. Also, she doesn't need a place that fits two people. She needs a place that can fit one. The second person in this scenario needs to figure out how to take care of himself, not she how to take care of him.

OP, people will talk to you about cutting discretionary spending, but, in the end, that's mostly tinkering around the margins. Not to be despised, but not a solution to your problems (and also, in its extreme form, not really humanly sustainable). Your immediate, surface problem is your rent; your deeper problem is that you are committed to supporting a household with someone who is not committed to supporting it himself. He moves to a $3000/mo. apartment, knowing what you make, and feels no urgency about contributing to the bills, and gets upset that you do? This is not a partner. This is a child, actually a child. Are you ready to support a child on your own? Probably not, right? But this is what you are doing.

You need to run the numbers on lease break now to see if it helps, being realistic about moving costs. You also need to figure out how your budget is going to look when you get your raise next year (including the loans you're not paying on now). It may be that you can afford the apartment once your raise comes through, or it may be that even if you can't, the costs associated with breaking the lease may outweigh the money likely saved in a cheaper place (probably depends on how long remains in the lease) and thus you should wait til the lease is up to move. So the right answer to this specific question may vary with circumstances. But what isn't going to change is that your partner lacks the self-respect and sense of responsibility of an adult. That's a luxury you can't afford as long as he is, frankly, mooching off you. You'll need to more than double your salary to keep both the apartment and the live-in sponge. Your salary growth is probably not going to be fast enough to take care of that. If you can't look into your soul and ask yourself why you should have such low standards for your life as to tolerate an infant masquerading as a grown man as a partner--and I do know there's all kinds of societal conditioning that leads young women to think that for some reason they have to tolerate useless men--look into your finances and tell yourself that you absolutely can't afford him. Because you can't.

A word of warning about forbearances: interest accrues during forbearance and is capitalized at the end of any forbearance. It's not a freebie. Whatever interest you'd be paying if you were paying, it's still due, and it gets added to the bill at the end. It's not a long-term solution, and it should be well down on your list of short-term solutions, because it just makes the hole deeper.
posted by praemunire at 8:34 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

First of all, congratulations on the job!

I'm seconding nightrecordings's recommendation of a debt/credit counselor/service. My old credit union had a counselor on staff who gave free consultations and services to members. It might be worth finding out if your banks local branch offers a similar service. For those of us who grew up without money it can be really helpful two have a professional lay things out for you in a way that doesn't come second nature.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:58 AM on August 29, 2017

1. Quit beating yourself up and being embarrassed. You didn't ruin anything. Don't catastrophize. That shit takes up a ton of emotional energy, and you need that energy for other things.
2. Your boyfriend needs to get a second job now. And if he doesn't already, he also needs to take responsibility for household labor like cleaning and laundry.
3. You sound like you need a lump of cash of several hundred bucks to just get you over the hump of no reserves + paycheck timing. Do you have some stuff you can sell? Just aim to get yourself up to treading water rather than being actually late on your rent. (Also, yes, adjust bill payment dates so that they align with your paychecks where possible.)
posted by desuetude at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wow, you are being really hard on yourself. You'll get out of this; hang in there! A lot of us ended up in a similar situation briefly right after grad school.

Your biggest problem sounds like the fact that you're running late on the rent. By how much? Just focus on that problem for a bit. Can you adjust your credit card payment dates back enough to do that? Can you set aside a little more of each paycheck? Can your boyfriend come up with that amount?

It also sounds like it would help a lot to get your credit card debt consolidated, at a lower income rate, with a monthly payment you can afford. With perfect payment history and a solid income, this ought to be completely feasible.

Good luck, hang in there!
posted by salvia at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2017

Disagree with some other commenters here: even in the Bay Area, $3k is "a good deal" only if you're constraining yourself to a private 1BR for yourself and your boyfriend (and even then, I'd say "unremarkably priced" is a better description than "a good deal" -- the market has softened a bit over the last year). More importantly, the constraint of living without roommates is a luxury that it sounds like you can't afford. Join some of the Bay Area roommate / housing search groups on Facebook. Scan these and check Craigslist regularly for rooms in shared living situations that allow a couple -- you should be able to find a roomwithin a month renting for $1900-2500, depending on area and the accommodation. To give anecdotal data, the couple I live with in an gorgeously maintained flat in the Haight pays $2500 for their room, which alone is as large as some 1BR apartments I've seen in SF, and also comes with access to a beautiful kitchen and enormous backyard. This, in a lease that began at market rate two months ago. When I hear people claiming that they can't find an accommodation for sub-$3k in SF, I frankly question whether they've dug beneath the surface of widely advertised large apartment complexes / new developments. The rooms are there, and a $500-1000 monthly reduction in budget would be huge for you.
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 9:14 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is bf on the lease? If so, he doesn't get to opt to not help with the bills. He needs to be actively figuring out how to help pay his share. If that means that he needs to borrow money in order to afford his lifestyle, then so be it. It's not fair that you should be footing the bill unless you somehow bullied him into this living situation (I'm guessing you didn't).

I'd be willing to bet that that once he's faced with the fact that he's not going to get a free ride he'll come up with some ideas about how to get some money together, or about breaking the lease and moving. I really hope he won't act resentful toward you over it. But the way things are going you are ripe to start feeling resentment towards him, plus taken advantage of. That's not good for your relationship either.

If he's not on the lease, you need to find a paying roommate and he needs to figure out a living situation that is tenable for him.

Is he even aware of your full financial situation? Your question is about finances and not about the relationship so I doubt you are interested in any DTMFA advice or even advice about him moving. If that's the case and you both want to work on this as a team, he really does need to be aware of the full picture of what you are dealing with every month.
posted by vignettist at 9:32 AM on August 29, 2017

Do you see the cognitive dissonance in the following statements?

I'm much happier that he's here


I feel very guilty that I'm paying this massive rent that's putting me way behind
I feel so ashamed that I'm struggling and constantly stressed about money
I feel like an absolute failure and an idiot
feel like breaking down at least once a week

Why is your boyfriend getting a free pass (figuratively and literally) while you are beating yourself up like this? How is his presence making you "much happier" when you are experiencing the above feelings? I think you have to be honest with yourself and list out in a very concrete way how your boyfriend's presence is contributing to your financial distress and negative feelings about yourself. You need numbers, and it may turn out that how much he is costing you cannot be made up by how much you scrimp and save. So what is your boyfriend willing to do about this?

Stop beating yourself up. Find out if your boyfriend is a self-respecting adult or moved with you figuring he could live off your salary. Decide for yourself if the relationship is worth the sacrifice of your mental and financial wellbeing.
posted by needled at 9:38 AM on August 29, 2017 [10 favorites]

* I feel very guilty that I'm paying this massive rent that's putting me way behind.
* I feel so ashamed that I'm struggling
* I feel like an absolute failure and an idiot
* feeling like I've ruined myself

WTF is there to be guilty and ashamed about? Yeah, you picked an apartment that's a bit beyond your budget - you were moving in without knowing much about the local area. (Second the "move to Oakland" recommendation; there's several people here, incl me, whom you can contact for details on the various neighborhoods to sort out what can work for you.)

Don't do this to yourself - let yourself feel ashamed for not having jumped into Instant Financial Success after school. You are struggling; you're going to continue struggling financially for a while - ABSOLUTELY DO NOT play into the game of "women are bad with math and bad with business" by letting anyone convince you that you have "failed" at life.

(Does Boyfriend feel ashamed that he's mooching off his girlfriend and driving her deeper into debt? Or is he just annoyed that his perfect job hasn't dropped into his lap?)

Maybe wait a week (after a talk with boyfriend about finances--is he racking up debt to you, or are you just basically paying him $1500/month?) and post another ask - "I need to move out of my high-price SF apartment; where else in the Bay Area is good? Must be X close to Y transit/parking options, must have the following nearby features," etc.

You haven't failed at anything. Hold your head high - you've got a well-paying internship in a field with plenty of available jobs; you took a big jump away from home to a new area; a few months of "ugh how do I even" is not a failure.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:56 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

$3k/month still seems pretty high to me -- you could easily get a 1 bedroom for $2k or a little more within walking distance to BART in Oakland, so I dunno about people excusing the housing cost.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:09 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

It may be necessary for the OP to find a less-expensive and more sustainable living situation eventually, and since I live in Oakland I can say first-hand that it would be an excellent place to do it, but breaking a lease and moving right now will cost more money than it will save and isn't a viable short-term solution.

Finding a new apartment almost always involves an initial outlay of multiple thousands of dollars in order to pay first month, last month, and security deposit. If the OP had multiple thousands of dollars liquid and available to spend, there would be no need for this question. Also, breaking a lease is not a get-out-of-jail-free card--the tenant can still be held responsible for the remaining months of rent.

OP, I think it's time for you to have a serious talk with your boyfriend about how to divide up expenses. Even if you feel uncomfortable asking him to split the rent/utilities with you 50/50 given the difference in your current salaries, he at least needs to pay the difference between what you have and how much the bills actually cost. I'm sure he doesn't want to get evicted, and he lives in the apartment just as much as you do, so it's time for him to pay a little more.
posted by jesourie at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Where is OP's job? A commute from Oakland to San Jose every day would be really painful and not inexpensive.
posted by salvia at 10:53 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

1. If your BF isn't really working much, put him in charge of finding you guys a cheaper place to live. Having a lot of free time during the day is perfect for snatching up cheap garage apartments the second they appear on CL.

2. Move all your credit card debt to a no-interest for X months balance transfer card.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:11 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah that's fair, I was assuming SF -- but if she's on the Peninsula (which maybe is likely given all the language about Bay Area, not SF) the commute from Oakland is not feasible. But on the Peninsula there are cheaper options in Redwood City, Mountain View, parts of San Jose, etc.

I do think that (boyfriend aside) the rent is the biggest problem but a solvable problem -- so OP should consider her options for leaving this apartment and finding a cheaper place. The fact that she rented sight unseen probably means that she's not getting a great deal even for the immediate area that she's in.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2017

The Bay Area is serious about "drive till you qualify". The traditional way people afford housing is to have a really long commute. Like 90 minutes each way. So if you can tolerate that, you live in the far East Bay, like Livermore, and either take BART in or drive. There, you can get a plain white-bread 2 bedroom apartment for $2200 a month, get one roommate, boom, after adding in $500 of commuting cost, you're ahead of the game by about $1500 a month, even if your boyfriend stays with you. Then, when you complete your internship, you move closer. Traffic is horrible, not everyone can deal with it, but that's what most people do. $100K for a household of two living in SF is basically working poor territory, you are considered low income at that point. Obviously it's not comparable to actual poverty, but that's where you are.
posted by wnissen at 11:13 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don't have to break up with the boyfriend but you can't have a roommate who doesn't pay market value for the accommodation. That's just the reality.

You probably both need to move to cheaper places, separately. Or, if you have a lease, he needs to find a cheap place to live and you need to get a paying housemate.

Now another possibility that nobody has mentioned is that the bay is not the only place to be a software engineer. Plenty of people just cannot make the finances work here (although they tend to be folks supporting a family; only you can say whether supporting your boyfriend is such a priority.) You can set your sights on a move to Austin or Hillsboro - which are still expensive but way less than the bay, and offer a fair number of tech jobs; figure out how long you need to be in the job you're in before you can move.

Oh, and a thing I've seen couples do that has worked out great, especially when one of them is sort of underemployable, is that they apply to be onsite managers of an apartment complex. One still brings in a decent salary while the other has flexible work and together they get a giant break on rent. This could be particularly good for you if your boyfriend is handy at all.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:30 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

jesourie is right to point out the complications that come with trying to move in the midst of a lease's duration, but I think that the general assumption in this thread is that you would find a subletter to cover the rest of the lease rather than explicitly breaking the lease. As long as you're careful and cover your bases (get everything in writing, find somebody reliable, etc.), I can say from experience that this is definitely doable. In such a situation the subletter would take over the remaining obligation as well as reimburse you for the existing deposit.
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2017

If you asked him to up-end his life and move to the Bay Area, it makes sense that you would be supporting your boyfriend for a while, although it would make sense to me that, for now, he should at least contribute what he would have been paying at home if you weren't there. But you are falling into debt and it isn't working. You need to talk to your boyfriend about how he can help with this situation. Maybe he needs to be in charge of finding someone to rent out the sofa. Maybe he needs to get a part-time job. Maybe he needs to sell stuff on Craigslist. Also, you need to set a timeline for this situation. $3k is a good deal for the Bay Area, but it is a lot of money. Do you have enough space to sleep on the sofa on weekends and rent out the bedroom for $400/night for two nights? Could you rent out the sofa? Could he make a partition wall or bookcase wall so that you could create a second bedroom and rent that out? Ask him to help figure out a situation that isn't working as well as you hoped. If he's a partner, he will look at options. Maybe you need to set up as "roommates" so that he can qualify for student loans and pay you rent, if he's a student.
posted by shockpoppet at 11:54 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I married a guy who made many promises about work and money. Pay more attention to his behavior than his words. Stop paying any of his bills with the possible exception that you might pay a higher share of the rent - maybe 2/3. No going out to eat and picking up the check. No buying wine and coming home to find it's gone because he drank it. No paying his school loans. Be sweet, loving and firm. This is way too heavy a burden on you. There are jobs and SF has a better minimum wage than most places. It's an emotional drag to take a job at the sports bar down the street when you just got a degree is whatever, but that's what you do while you apply for something better. In my experience, a non-disabled man can walk into a decent job pretty easily in a healthy economy. Lots of places need employees and will train on the job.

You're doing a terrific job keeping it together as well as you have. BF doesn't sound as emotionally supportive as he maybe should be, since you are shouldering an awful lot of burdens. Work on making additional friends so that you have some support and some perspective.
posted by theora55 at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think you can budget this and that you are in a good spot to begin recovery. Your rent + debt payments is ~$3600 per month. Your take home monthly pay should be in the range of $6800. Why can you not cover your other living expenses on $3200 per month? I think if you are frugal you should be able to be putting away $1000 to $1500 a month easily, meaning that in two or three months time you will have enough to be a month ahead on rent.

Also, you can feel good about the fact that you are paying debt down rather than accumulating more. So you are becoming wealthier, even if it doesn't feel like it.
posted by 256 at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bay area rent really sucks. I just talked to a relative whose rent, on a two bedroom, is going from 3600 to 4200. They were sounding really desperate. Wages aren't typically keeping up with the zooming rents.
posted by puddledork at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2017

A lot of tech companies here are understanding about how idiotic living in the Bay Area is now. An engineer at my company recently asked to relocate and telework from afar, and without hesitation they said, "yes". I'm definitely thinking about leaving forever shortly.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2017

Your BF needs to sign up for Uber, lease a car, and start driving as much as humanly possible, like, yesterday.

You can skip the car lease if he has access to a newer 4 door vehicle. Yes, the leasing is a crap deal, but he can at least start bringing in some cash while he figures out someplace better to work.

If not Uber, then he can do Taskrabbit, Postmates, Doordash, etc etc etc. There are a ton of places he can get immediate work. There's zero excuse for him to be sitting around not earning any money.

Living rent-free in the Bay Area with you footing the bills is NOT OK.
posted by ananci at 1:30 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

TAKE OUT MORE DEBT! You need to take out enough in credit card debt so you can pay your rent on time. You don't want to fuck your rental history in the Bay Area.

You also need to go to HR and ask them to add like 30 more allowances so you can defer your taxes and get more money to play with.

Then relax and start saving money. You are fine. You are having a temporary liquidity crunch. It happens all the time.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:59 PM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

And for heaven's sake, don't move. There aren't many places in the Bay Area, you have a decent apartment that you can actually afford, and moving is expensive.

This apprenticeship is super important. It's the beginning of your career. You don't need to add an insane commute or an annoying roommate.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:01 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

If (and only if) your projections are correct and you just need a temporary boost, you could shift some cash by updating your W-4 form.

Run the numbers on your taxes and withholding. You can potentially claim more allowances and increase your take-home pay now. You should only do this if you are confident that you will be able to pay all the taxes come April.

This is a super-kludgy, short-term patch (a GOTO statement, if you will). The long term solution has already been well-addressed.

Also, if you are in a large apartment complex, see if you have an option to move into a smaller, lower-cost unit without breaking the lease.
posted by metaseeker at 2:25 PM on August 29, 2017

I'm on team "work on it but don't panic." Your take-home is, what, $6000/mo? At the very worst, if your bf is able to kick in maybe $100/mo so you'll both feel like he's helping some (which even on minimum wage seems realistic) between rent and loan/cc payments you're down to $2500/mo. That, with some budgeting, should be pretty easy to live on though you're not going to do a lot of eating out and may be leaning on Netflix for entertainment while bf gets it together. Which he does need to do, but the tone of "kick the freeloader to the curb" popping up a lot here is kind of nuts to me. Being a trailing partner is not easy and by the sound of it if the OP kicks him out, he's SOL and likely to have to move away.

TL;DR: you didn't fuck up; you make more than plenty of families of two; you're treading water but not drowning; the situation is workable and you'll feel way less panicked when your bf gets a job. Oh but also maybe talk to your landlord about lining up your rent due date with your paychecks.
posted by Smearcase at 2:35 PM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

You also need to go to HR and ask them to add like 30 more allowances so you can defer your taxes and get more money to play with.

...and the taxes, which will still be due on April 15th, will be paid from what pot of money? OP, don't do this. This is a marvelous way to end up with a tax lien on top of all other problems.

Your rent + debt payments is ~$3600 per month. Your take home monthly pay should be in the range of $6800.

If I'm following you, you're assuming that only about 19% of her take-home will be going to taxes, health insurance, and other employer benefits. But if you go to Paycheck City, you'll get a lower monthly paycheck than that with taxes alone (about $5500).
posted by praemunire at 2:35 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Many landlords will accept a different monthly pay date such as the 15th instead of the 1st of each month. As long as they get paid the full amount each month they have no problem.
posted by serena15221 at 7:46 PM on August 29, 2017

We typically split the rent according to our individual salaries; for now his salary is based on temp work and he can't help out much except paying his own bills.

So I married a guy from a different country, who left his native country to be with me. He was unemployed for ages, which is to say 9 months maybe. For a time, I was supporting the two of us plus my mom, briefly, and it sucked. My husband was passive and I needed to push, a lot, to get him to apply for work. And he temped and was offered a job as a result of his temping, and he ended up, amusingly enough, as a self-taught computer programer all because of one temp gig that involved filing.

We too split bills based on the amount we made rather than 50-50. And we had a really good marriage for a really long time. So I'm just going to say that people yelling DTMF already are maybe not factoring in the emotional value and human comfort involved in being with a loved one. There are other solutions to your situation than packing his bags, opening the door, and telling him to take a hike.

I have done a miserable 2-hour each way commute, and I would not recommend it. It is utterly soul crushing. There are other choices. Apart from the dump-him advice, there's some wisdom above. I've got some experience being cash-strapped in the Bay Area if you'd like to PM me for support or more specific suggestions.

Please remember: You are not alone. A zillion people in the Bay Area are in your shoes, many of them worse off because they don't have your salary. This is not to make light of your situation, just to point out that you are actually in a good position to get clear about your financial needs and goals and to figure out how to make the progress you want.

Many of us never got a financial education or a decent one. You are not horrible, you are human in a way that's incredibly common. Be of good cheer; with focus, you can do more than cope in the Bay Area, you can thrive. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:55 PM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

The taxes will be paid from the money she saves. There is no reason to pay rent late on a 6k a month (or more) take home. Everything is actually affordable for OP but she needs to improve her cash flow. If she saves and does her taxes in January she'll have savings and 3 months of notice about her tax bill.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:50 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you do go the route of having less tax withheld, do two things. First, calculate what you will owe for the entirety of the tax you'll owe this year and how much you've paid. By now you should be getting pretty close to fully paid for the year if you did your W4 with only one exemption.

Adjust your W4 numbers such that for the remainder of the year you'll pay just enough to cover the remainder of your taxes, that will free up at least $300-$400 a month quite safely, so long as you redo it come the new year such that you aren't underpaying.

My SO has used this technique a few times in our 15 years together to help cover unexpected expenses. It just meant there was little to no overpayment, so no refund in April.
posted by wierdo at 2:28 PM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

> the emotional value and human comfort involved in being with a loved one.

Do not underestimate the emotional value and human comfort involved in being able to text your loved one to not worry about the cost and mean it when they text you from the doctor's office with the prognosis of costly medical procedures even with insurance.

It sometimes feels like young women are not sufficiently educated about the value of taking care of their financial wellbeing, while being relentlessly bombarded with messages from the media and society in general about their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of a relationship being some kind of measure of the depth of their love or their value as a person.
posted by needled at 4:17 AM on August 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

Judging from the fact that you are fresh out of grad school, I'm going to guess you are pretty young. Here's the No. 1 thing young women do to mess up their lives (in my very humble and experienced opinion): Support a man who's not really all that anxious to work as hard as you are. I hate to pile on because many others have said this already, very eloquently: Dump the guy. If a partner sees you suffering about the money situation and is not working really hard to help remedy it, he's not worth keeping around. I say this as someone who watched my stepfather, who had two master's degree (one in engineering and another in biology) drive a UPS truck to feed his family.

Get a roommate. Get two.

And finally, stop beating yourself up. You had the courage to come here and ask for advice. That's a wise woman in my book.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

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