The minute I graduated college last year, I joined my sisters in the club Betsy founded when she first moved into an apartment that cost well over half her monthly income: the hood-rich hoes of Hollywood. That’s right, we live large despite earning small, and we are most definitely not sorry.
Aside from a few hiccups now and then, we’ve pretty much perfected the art of maintaining a high quality of life without the means to support it. For all of you out there who aren’t lawyers/bankers and who have sadly been cut off from the golden fountain of parental support, take a moment to disabuse yourself of the notion that minimum wage equals minimum fun and read my cardinal rules below, in order of importance. But first, let us begin with the greatest anthem for living beyond one’s means of all time: Still Fly by Big Tymers.
#1. Do. Not. Live. In. New. York.
I know, I know, NYC is the center of the universe. Best food, best shopping, blah blah blah blah. I get it. Let me tell you something else, though – it doesn’t take a genius to realize that your measly mons situation is going to go a hell of a lot farther in – oh, I don’t know – DC or Durham. Beezus doesn’t count because she exchanges dog walking/sitting for financial goodwill from Larry and Linda. But believe you me – it’s really not that sweet of a deal. So get over yourselves, find a job in another legit city that’s not New York, move, and observe your quality of life skyrocket and your bank account swell with delight.
#2. Get your priorities straight on your living situation.
Now, Katy is a freaking genius and moved to a place where she can live in a 750 sq ft 1 bedroom in a complex with a pool and a gym for under $800 per month (it’s okay, I puked in my mouth the first time I heard that too). But if you’re living in the rest of the world where shiz is not that awesome, you’re going to have to prioritize a few things when it comes to your living situation: location, size, roommates, shared spaces, bedroom.
From experience, I can tell you that location is your most important consideration. That means that you are in all likelihood not going to be able to afford a place to yourself – get over it. I can tell you right now that you do not want to be schlepping back and forth to your favorite bars, restaurants, people, etc. on the L train/ Green Line at 10 pm every Friday, capish? Also, no one will ever come visit you if you’re living in Carol Gardens/ Petworth because it’s depressing.
I can also tell you that having an awesome bedroom is more important than having an awesome kitchen or living room. My kitchen and living room are in a basement. They are dirty and weird and badly decorated. My appliances are from 1868. Who gives a shiz? I have the master bedroom and my own bathroom all to my damn self, and I’ve outfitted them in the tippy top drawer furnishings/ art/ tassles that Penny and Marty left to us. Once I get people up there, they forget about the hovel downstairs.
#3. Go high/low on spending
Every month, I get close to $0 in my checking account approximately 4-5 days before my next paycheck. And only sometimes does that mean I’ll have to put in a teary call to Linda. Why? Because I can run on empty for almost a week. How? Ramen noodles every night for dinner, full stamp cards from my favorite lunch spots (i.e. buy 9 salads and your 10th is free!), etc etc. That way, you can live the way you want to for the first three weeks of every month. Personally, I’d rather eat, drink, go out where I want 3/4 of the time than live like a pauper 100% of the time. Betsy’s perfected this one – she doesn’t think twice about dropping $50 on a candle because she’ll just make up the slack by eating sad office leftovers for lunch on the reg.
#4. Do not sacrifice your vacations!
If there is one thing Feinbergs believe in, it’s vacations. We learned it from Larry and Linda, who have upped their vacation/work ratio to such a high degree at this point that they are probably in Scotland more than they’re behind their desks. It’s awesome.
Since being released into the financial wilds like a baby bird being tossed from her mama bird’s nest, I have gone on two week-long vacations (Las Terrenas and LBI) and taken four completely self-financed long weekends (LA, San Fran, St. Louis, Maine), in addition to many a weekend trip to North Carolina, the Hamptons, and New York.
The first trick to this is that I space the trips out – when you’re at the bottom rung, you do not want to piss anyone off at work by jetting off to the Caribbean every damn weekend. Also, you need to allow your bank account at least a month to recover after any given jaunt. Think of it like detox for your credit score.
The second trick is maximizing the fun quotient despite a small budget. I put as many purchases on my Delta credit card as possible, and you wouldn’t believe the number of points I rack up doing it. Free airfare is HUGE when you’re poor. Vacations to places where you have friends are the best – not only do you get to see someone you probably don’t see that often, but it’s free lodging! Also, when possible, target destinations with a strong dollar – in Las Terrenas, a cuba libre costs like -2 cents. So clutch.
#5. Use birthdays/ christmas/ hannukah to your advantage
It is an undeniable fact that free shiz is the best. And presents are the very best kind of free shiz. Therefore, do NOT go out and drop 200 of your own precious dolla bills for an iPhone in November when x-makuh is only a month away! HELLO! Add it to your wish list and have a little goddamn patience. This is just common sense people.
Also, don’t forget that just because you have to buy other people gifts means that there can’t be something in it for you. Snags and I have devised a genius gift-giving system whereby we both benefit equally whenever it’s somebody’s birthday/ valentine’s day/ x-makuh. We never buy each other stuff – we buy each other meals. Like really really really top-drawer amazing delicious legit meals that we would never ever consider maxing out our credit cards for if it wasn’t a super special occasion. That way, when Snags took me to Volt in May, it was basically like it was his birthday too!
In parting, I leave you with the following mantra that I just pulled out of my ass a second ago: “Spend unwisely. Worry about it later. It’ll work out somehow.”