How much things cost

Part 1 in a series that I’ll publish every so often entitled “things I wish I knew in college.” (not that I’m in the “real world” and oh me oh my it’s so difficult. it’s not. it’s different. just things I did not previously understand…)

What do things cost in the real world? Note that this is slightly different from actually discussing finances, because that’s gauche in person, let alone on the web. I’ll just explain how much I spend on things. I hope this might help you if you’re still in college.

My apartment, in Capitol Hill, Seattle, pretty much in the epicenter of places I want to live, trendy hip and close to everything, half of a 1000 sq. ft. 2br 2ba sweet pad with a big kitchen and a hell of a sunset view: $850 + utilities (about $100) per month. Used to be $975 + utilities, until the market for everything collapsed. (this is expensive: it’s $1700 total. Most apartments around here cost $1600 or less. It’s pretty spacious, built in the 90’s, and we’ve never had any problems with water, heat, utilities, anything. Yes, maybe we could pay less… but maybe also we could frustrate ourselves trying to find a “better deal”. I’m currently not optimizing here.)

Travel: $6300. That’s 2 weeks in India, 1 week in Japan, 2 flights to Pittsburgh, 1 flight to Chicago/Cleveland for Christmas, a car trip to Hocking Hills, 2 Zipcar trips to Portland, and a trip to Burning Man. I like to think I’m pretty frugal, but trips are expensive, especially if you have to fit them into a workingman’s schedule. (for example: 1 week in Japan was maybe $1700, but $1200 of that was a plane ticket.) Nevertheless, travel is something I will always spend money on if I can afford it.

Groceries: $200/month. I shop at farmers' markets and coops. However, I also eat close to half my meals at Google, so that’s not really fair. Take this number with a grain of Portuguese fleur de sel.

Entertainment: $470/month. I don’t really economize much here either. This is my biggest expense, after housing and travel. Strange, eh? A lot of this is meals or drinks, although it also includes classes and any “extracurriculars” I do.

Bike upkeep: $185/year. Per year! You could pay that for parking in 2 months. And this is a bike I rode for about 8 miles every day. (I should have probably spent a little more; I let my chain get too worn out and it wore down my gears, so I’ll be due for a $150 hit soon enough. Still a lot cheaper than a car, though.)

A quality suit and 2 shirts and ties: $582
A nice overcoat: $100 (on a big sale)
A pair of hiking shoes: $100
The rest of my clothing expenses for the year: $181

Medicine/health/things: $172/month. Most of this is probably because, in January, I started going to a counselor for $75/week, and later found out my insurance wouldn’t cover him because he’s not in their system. Pro tip: most counselors are probably pretty good, so if you want to go to one, check and see if he/she’s in your insurance plan (if you’re lucky enough to have one) first.

Total expenses for one year of living without worrying about money at all: $31072.

Do I feel a little uneasy at this number? (Considering that many families live on less than this?) Yes. Especially the entertainment and housing costs: what kind of a hedonistic life am I leading? But total up your own numbers; I wonder if many of you aren’t paying the same. And if you are, don’t necessarily sweat it. Quality is worth it; quality of things, quality of experiences, quality of life. “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make life a lot easier” -Gramp. I don’t think I go to tremendous excesses, I save plenty, and I don’t have to worry about money, which is the end goal of having a high-paying job. If the finances could work out this well forever, I’d have no complaints at all.

Again, the point of this is not to brag or complain about my own expenses (although I do get a little kick out of telling you how little my transportation costs). It’s intended for those of you who are not in “the real world” yet, so you have some idea of how much things cost me in particular. YMMV etc. It may also interest those of you who are in “the real world”, to have a point of comparison, say if you live in another city or something.


Pete -

Travel’s a big expense. If you optimize housing and travel, you can cut a lot I think.

My expenses are on the order of $10k a year, maybe a bit less. (I pay about $400/mo for all food+rent, I live in a coop).

Just wanted to put this out there so people don’t panic, because many people’s yearly income after taxes is around $31k or even less (GOD DAMNIT WORLD PAY TEACHERS MORE).

Dan -

I agree on all counts:

About travel: yeah, it’s expensive. But if I could have combined my Japan and India trips, I probably could have saved $1000 on the plane tickets- it’s getting there and back that’s expensive. And if you don’t live across the country from all your family and old friends, well, that’ll save you maybe a grand or two every year as well.

About housing: yep. My food and housing together is about $1200/month, so I’m paying (1200-400)*12 = $9600 a year, basically to live in Seattle. (okay, probably part of that cost is me not being frugal and not living in a coop. Maybe half? Still, I could save $5000 if it weren’t so important to me to live in a big city. (but then, my job brings me to a big city, and I like cities too, so there you go.) To all those people out there who are panicking: consider living in a smaller city, or a cheaper one! Heck, in Pittsburgh you could easily rent place like mine for $500/month.

About teachers: Yes.

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