Strategies for survival on an entry-level salary

Most entry-level jobs do not pay enough to support someone living in a large city. This is a problem for recent grads. They imagine life in a big city as lots of entertainment, crowds of young people for fun, and a great dating scene. But it’s a hard life to fund: The cost of college, healthcare, and housing have gone up, all while real wages have gone down. This generation is facing a gap between wages and the cost of living that their parents never did.

Erica Skov moved to Boston for the opportunities a big city offers, but in the process, she gave up the low cost of living in upstate New York for the steep cost of Boston. Today, she has a job as an analyst, and she has to be careful to stretch her salary to cover both life in Boston and grad school payments.

This typical situation for young people is, on the one hand, full of the promise of an exciting, fulfilling career. But on the other hand there is an absurdly high risk of going deep into debt just to fund oneself in an entry-level job.

Here are some things to consider so that working your first full-time job does not put you further into debt.

1. Go into investment banking.
If you are equally passionate about two careers, and one pays really well and one doesn’t, choose the money. The problem is that most people are not wildly drawn to the high-paying careers. After all, if everyone wanted to do the highest paying work then it wouldn’t be so high paying after a while. But remember that you don’t have to get paid to do what you love. You love sex. Do you get paid for it? No. Impractical. So try to be practical and pick something you love that also pays well.

2. Move in with parents.
Loving what pays well is easier said than done. Which is why more than half of college grads today move back home with their parents. If you move back with your parents you have the chance not only to save money but also to search for the right career.

You don’t need to be an investment banker if you can afford to intern at an art museum. It might not feel so great when you don’t earn as much as your banking friends. But in the long run, the people who take time to figure out a custom career for themselves are the people who avoid the quarterlife crisis. Finding what you love requires lots of experimenting, and the less money you need, the more freedom you have to figure out your life.

3. Get roommates.
In each major city there are areas and/or buildings that function more like a dorm than an apartment building. This is because all the people who live in the building have never lived outside of school before, except in this place. So they recreate school in a big city. It is a cheap, few-frills life, with lots of random hookups. In fact, where you live is not nearly as important as who you are living with. So if you find people you like, it probably doesn’t matter that you are recreating college. It won’t last forever.

4. Skip haircuts and lattes.
The most popular finance advisers online today aren’t always talking about 401(k)s. JD Roth, Trent Hamm, Presh Talwalkar – they give practical advice for people who haven’t had the ability to stockpile for decades. They give advice about tracking expenses and cutting small stuff all over the place, like lattes, and haircuts. This sort of advice resonates with Skov, who says, “We have daily conversations in the office about where to get cheap manicures and haircuts.”

Skov is in no position to take financial advice about six-month CD rates. But she only gets a haircut every six months, which may be the Generation Y equivalent of money management. It adds up, and with a frugal lifestyle you can live in the city of your dreams. It’s just you probably won’t have the lifestyle of your dreams.

5. Move to a smaller city.
The dorm in a not-dorm life is okay, without haircuts, for a while, but you’ll get tired of it. You’ll see that there is a class of people in large cities that can afford to live alone, in their twenties, and you’ll notice a theme: Consulting or trust funds. This is an exaggeration, yes, but not a huge exaggeration. So what can you do? Move to a smaller city.

Minneapolis is very popular right now, and it has that magical combination of low cost of living, good schools, and varied industries. Other cities to consider: Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, Chapel Hill, N.C., Columbus, Ohio, and Madison, Wis.

6. Work while you’re in school.
Skov is studying communication management at Emerson College, and working full time. It’s not a bad idea. In fact, there are many circumstances when grad school is not worth going into debt for. A degree in creative writing, for example. You probably won’t support yourself with that degree, so start finding a career while you’re in school, and do your writing at night, after work.

Or, according to recruiting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc., if you are not at a top 10 business school, your increased earning power is so little that it is not cost-effective for you to stop working to go to school. Besides, the best way to keep your options open after graduate school is to have as little debt as possible that you have to pay back.

7. Accept that it’s normal.
It’s OK if you can’t support yourself after college. Most people can’t. Not today. The people who can do it are often high and mighty, but ignore them. Because there is no evidence that supporting yourself right after college leads to a happier, productive life. And there is good evidence that people who experiment with a lot of career choices in their twenties are more likely to find something that suits them very well.

And for those who are dealing with debt and looking around, Skov has the type of outlook that lays the groundwork for success: “I’m a well-rounded person and I could do a lot of things. You have to look at what’s out there. It’s not so much what exactly you’re doing but who you’re doing it with.”

Posted in College & grad school, Finding a career, No image
38 comments on “Strategies for survival on an entry-level salary
  1. Shefaly Y says:

    Penelope:

    I wish more people would pay heed especially to #7. To expect a king’s ransom in early roles is a case of misplaced expectations.

    That reminds me of some other ‘strategies’ we used in our early jobs:

    1. If you are working late and your firm pays dinner allowance after, say, 8 pm, work till 8 pm and get the dinner allowance. This made Citi a very popular employer in Bombay; they also gave cab fare home which was greatly more popular!

    2. If your firm offers free snacks after 7, stay and grab them. This was in my office; after 7, we had sandwiches and plenty of Pepsi on offer, so we all did not have to cook and we managed to catch up on late emails from sales guys making us immensely popular despite being from Head Office marketing.

    3. File your expenses in time. This is crucial; no matter how tired you are, DO NOT finance your employer! If you have spare cash, put it away in a deposit or a safe savings account.

    4. Find cheap hobbies such as cinema, pot-luck dinner with friends in a similar boat, or picnics, instead of expensive ones requiring lots of money and gear.

    5. At any rate, never agree to do late meals i.e. 2 am meals and booze, in 5-star restaurants with friends who you know to be earning more than you are; Blowing your month’s salary on a round of cocktails may impress them but you will be eating beans-on-toast for the rest of your month.

    Thanks.

  2. Andrew Flusche says:

    Penelope,

    Great article, as usual! Haircuts and coffee are huge money-sucks. I guess I’ve hit a fair balance: I cut my hair myself last night, but I’m sitting here with a Starbucks latte.

    My best to you!
    Andrew

  3. ME says:

    What about working multiple jobs? A teacher friend of mine worked evenings and weekends as a nanny. Small service businesses could work too: ebay selling, resume writing, dog-walking. Or part-time work at a retail store or gym, which would also give you access to heavy discounts on clothes for your full time job or free workouts. Just keep your workload and hours flexible enough to not impact your real job.

    Oh, and I don’t think skipping haircuts is a good decision, esp for women who need to look professional. Consider finding good stylists outside of high priced salons (those who rent their own booths or work from home are options), or even a reputable beauty school.

  4. Stephen says:

    What do you mean, you don’t get paid for sex?? That means that you are doing it wrong!

  5. Steve says:

    Think twice before considering moving to Austin. Yes, its a popular town. The problem is, there are no jobs that allow you to live well. The town centers around two things: the university (UT) and the govt. I was looking at the help wanted ads in yesterday’s Sunday paper. Couldn’t believe how thin it was considering Austin has “a hot job market” and is ranked “one of the best places to live in America”. Most of the jobs advertised were for the high turnover positions, mainly through agencies. Sure, Dell is here, but everyone I’ve talked to says “Dell? No, we call it Hell.” Traffic gets worse everyday, they are building houses like there is no tomorrow, and everyone thinks its still a cool place for the music scene, etc. If you think you can survive on a $9 an hour cashier job at Target or Walmart, and pay a mortgage and/or raise a family, hey, go for it. And there is no relief for apartment rents which keep going up. I hear Dallas and Houston are cheaper, and the job markets are certainly better being big cities, but again, I hear nothing good about them. If there weren’t so many college students here keeping the wages so low due to competition, it might be OK. But, again, think twice. Remember, most of the stuff you read in the positive articles on these “best cities to live in” were written by people who have never set foot anywhere near them.

    * * * * *

    I think that everyone, in every city has this complaint. For example, I lived in NYC for a while, and it is very common to hear people say that it is impossible to live in NYC on less than $100,000 a year. So, sure, there are tons of jobs in NYC, but you pay for the ability to get to them.

    I think the key to surviving in a smaller economy is to be great at what you do so that you stand out. If there are not a lot of jobs you can take, you need to make sure you’re a top candidate.

    –Penelope

  6. Andrew Flusche says:

    It’s funny how the “best places to live” always turn out not so good. People flock to them, flood the job market, and cause congestion. Perhaps we should strive for an “ok place to live.”

  7. Portland says:

    Portland, Oregon is a fantasic place to live. Unfortunately it’s barely affordable anymore.

  8. Aimee says:

    I second the comment about holding down a second job. Not only are you bringing in more money but you have less time to spend what you earn. The vast majority of my 20-something friends in DC work multiple jobs. I work as a personal assistant about 10 hours a week. It pays well and since I’m already in the pharmacy for my clients, I might as well pick up what I need.

    As for haircuts, look for training schools. Yeah, I have a student rather than a pro, but it allows me little luxuries on a tight budget. Women can go much longer between haircuts than men, if you let your hair grow longer and learn to style it up.

  9. lizriz says:

    I’m 36, living in Los Angeles, and trying to break into directing. I live with a roommate, and I am consistantly surprised by the number of people who still find that weird in our crazy/expensive city. I save hundreds of dollars every month, and I’ve just got better things to do with that money than pay rent. (Read: chip away at the massive credit card and school debt that got me this far.)

  10. Tiffany says:

    My boyfriend recently started cutting his own hair, and I make a better Latte than Starbuck’s anyway! It’s definitely great advice to cut back where you can. Even better is to save when you can’t afford it (unless it means you have to use credit or go into debt. Then don’t.) But if you can cut back and save that little bit, it’s one of the best habits you can set. Because if you can save now without going into debt, you’ll be ready to save when you do get a bigger paycheck.

  11. Inshock says:

    First, I don’t see any synergy in this post. Working in investment banking, moving in with parents, skipping haircuts, moving to a smaller city? Seriously? Can you skip a few haircuts when you go to a pitchbook presentation? Can you go back to your parents house at 3am in the morning after you get out of work? Do you really see a lot of IB opportunities in small towns? We’re not talking about the personal Commerce Bank center in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin.

    Second, don’t even talk about things you have no experience on (or at least, do some research for once). Clearly you did not work under an IB environment (or rather, a real job), and did not know the sacrifices needed to be in an IB position. Only if working in IB can be compared to sex we’ll all be very happy.

  12. mark stevens says:

    Recent grads do face several dilemmas and there are different roads that could be taken to overcome them.

  13. Anonymous for this one says:

    Please don’t move to Portland, OR. We are plum full thanks!

  14. JC says:

    I agree with everything except for moving in with the parent advice.

    To truly understand budgeting and being self-sufficient, you have to live away from your parents. Nothing is a better teacher than the real world. Even the most slack-ass kids will learn hard work, budgeting, finances, etc. when they're left on their own. Being hungry is a great motivator to figure out how to make money and save.

    After college, I lived away from my parents. I was even unemployed at that time. I had to get multiple part-time jobs, learn humility, live with multiple roommates, bum food off of people, and learn a lot of about money (such as investing, saving, etc.). It also helped me to learn how to live a frugal and simple lifestyle.

    Sure, you can get help (like a few extra bucks on occasion) from your parents if you're really stuck, but you should try to live all on your own. The book _Millionaire Next Door_ even talks about this. It gives examples of kids who made it on their own (and eventually became rich) compared to their peers who had parent's help.

    Yes, there are probably people who lived on their own and failed. And there are probably people who lived with their parents and did extremely well. But in my opinion, there's a great benefit to live away from your parents.

  15. Mauri says:

    A few money saving tips that can really add up.

    8. Toss out the digital and HDTV and go with the 15 buck basic package. Even better, use rabbit ears. If you want to catch up on technology, visit the apple store for your fix. Then go home and watch Jeopardy and Wheel.

    9. Down grade to the nineteen dollar Internet package instead of Fios or cable. Seriously, you can use youtube while on business at the Mariott.

    10. Ditch the blackberry, video phone, picture phone, mega text packages and the massive amount of minutes cell phone packages. If you have nice parents, see if you can jump on their package. Consider curbing the ring tone downloading. I really dont think anyone will miss out on the newest Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ring.

    11. Coupon clip.

    12. Do lunch with friends instead of a night out. I can get the same Sushi combination for 12 dollars at lunch that I would normally get for 22 dollars at dinner.

    13. Netflix…netflix…netflix….netflix

    14. Evaluate every subscription you have. They really add up.

    15. Take up some outdoor activities. You can combine exercise (gym membership) and entertainment.

    16. Ditch the friends that like to spend money.

    * * * * * *
    Thanks for the tips, Mauri. I think a lot of people will read the last tip as extreme. I dont’ think it is. Our perception of how much money we have is directly related to how much our friends have.

    –Penelope

  16. JC says:

    Here are some more (extreme) money saving tips:

    1) You can just ditch your TV altogether. After a week, you won’t miss it.

    2) You can even ditch your internet service ($40-60/month), if you use internet at work.

    3) Cook at home a lot. You’ll be surprise how expensive restaurant foods are. Heck, even frozen dinners are a rip-off compared to home-cooked foods.

    4) “Pre-game” in your cars or homes before going out to clubs. Figure out how to get into clubs for free.

    5) Besides outdoor activities, take up other cheaper hobbies such as meeting people, reading, writing, etc.,

    6) Choose between cell phone or land line. Land line is usually cheaper.

    7) Try buying used stuff all the time.

    * * * * * *
    The pre-game advice: Hilarious. And so true.

  17. Brian Johnson says:

    One alternative living arrangement that gets surprising little PR is purchasing a duplex to living in one half while renting out the other. You have to do your homework (like any real estate transaction) but the rental income and tax breaks can really reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. To double the effectiveness of this strategy, go in with a friend. Be sure to put together at least a semi-official agreement/contract that spells out the exit strategies and make sure you share philosophies with your business partner/roomate. But this can be a very effective alternative to renting and moving back home. Not only does it make cash flow easier, but you’re also building equity to leverage into a single-family when the time comes. If you’re struggling for a downpayment, consider asking the parents for a low-interest loan as an alternative to you shacking up with them again.

    I think it’s wise to strongly consider your employment plan before moving to a smaller city. A vast majority of the people in Minneapolis and Madison do NOT view these markets as “affordable”. Affordable housing is 100% relative to the job supporting those housing payments. Traditional employers (ie. Fortune 500) are a lot fewer and farther between in the smaller cities. But if you’re entrepreneurial (like Penelope) it can be a great setup.

    * * * * * *
    This is such a great point, that was actually shocking to me when I moved to Madison. If you grew up outside of Madison and Milwaukee, in a small town in Wisconsin, then these are the big, expensive cities. And I’m sure this is true for everywhere. Not just Wisconsin.

    Penelope

  18. Don B. says:

    Haircuts are only ten dollars in Maine. For the young and restless consider undiscovered midwestern mid size cities like Des Moines, Iowa and Columbia, Missouri you will be surprised. Have theater and many other diversions. Costs still low and good jobs available.

  19. Joselle says:

    JC, most of my friends (and me) still live at home. We’re all well into our twenties, working career jobs, paying bills, and it’s nearly impossible to pay rent where we live on entry-level salaries. Having a roommate is very smart but if you can live with your family, why not? I contribute to the household expenses so I’m hardly freeloading. And when I was about to blow over $20,000 on a new car, my mother offered me hers to buy. I saved way more than 50% and sure, it’s not brand new, but it works just fine. And while it was an amazing bargain, I didn’t get it for free. I work for what I have and contribute to my family as the “child.”

    Also, culturally, it’s as taboo to get the boot at the age of 18 as it is for some people to stick around. One of my close friends is from Pakistan and all of her siblings still live at home. They all take care of each other. This idea that fending for yourself is the norm is actually not the case for most of the world and it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Living in our own little box so we can prove we can “make it” on our own is contributing to mass alienation and craziness. Also, I recently heard that a lot of our environmental demise can be traced to living on our own and in far fling locations rather than in more communal, family-like settings. My few friends who are on their own struggle and tell me stay whenever I whine about wanting the kitchen to myself. And my grandfather (I grew up with my grandparents as well as my parents so this idea of living in isolation from the extended family makes no sense to me) nearly forbade me from moving out. “Save your money! Don’t rent!” he told me.

    Staying at home isn’t for everyone, your friends can be your family commune, and sometimes my family drives me nuts but staying this long as allowed me to COMPLETELY avoid credit card debt and really think about my choices (career, car, even boyfriend and who I’ll move in) rather than just panic my way into a bad situation. I’m leaving home soon because I’m ready and I know I’m ready because I stuck around.

  20. thom singer says:

    Penelope,

    You are right on all points, but I do not know that it is harder for today’s twentysomethings than it was for past generations. My wife and I had some very lean years when we got married, and we had debts to pay. We cooked at home (no restaurants for nearly a year in 1992), lived in Austin, Texas (I was raised in Los Angeles, she was raised in the Bay Area…but the cost of living made Austin a better place to be young and financially strapped), and we drove used cars until they were held together with tape.

    My parents generation (WW2 generation, as they had me late so there is a missing generation between me and them) grew up in the depression and so they really knew about tough financial times.

    I think today people feel entitled to a cool place to live, a nice new car, etc…. Credit is easy, so they just spend spend spend. It is not harder, just so many more choices today that it seems like you are missing out if you make sacrifices.

    thom

  21. JimB says:

    Penelope

    Checkout a great series of posts just started by Marc Andreessen (http://blog.pmarca.com/2007/09/the-pmarca-gu-1.html) on career planning. Parts 1 & 2 are phenomenal and echo a lot of your points here. Key takeaway is build a ‘portfolio’ career, understand risk and when to take it, get comfortable with failure and avoid the opportunity cost of a safe path through a large corporation where there may be limited skills development. Part 2 is phenomenal and really encourages talented, amibitious people to get used to making decisions with limited or imperfect information.

    Cheers

    JimB

    * * * * * * *
    Thanks for the link, Jim. That’s a good post from Marc Andreessen.

    –Penelope

  22. Pirate Jo says:

    “If you grew up outside of Madison and Milwaukee, in a small town in Wisconsin, then these are the big, expensive cities.”

    That is so true. I grew up in the boondocks of Iowa, four miles from the nearest town, where I went to school with my graduating class of 57 students. To me, Des Moines was big and expensive, and places like NYC or San Francisco were so far outside my affordability radar, they weren’t even on the map. I moved to Des Moines after college and was poor as a churchmouse for a while, but was still able to afford a place of my own. It boiled down to the choice between a roommate or a second job, and I chose the second job. I STILL think of NYC and San Francisco as being completely outside the realm of the affordable and would never consider moving to either of those places, although I have visited NYC several times and loved it. I have a nice condo now, am down to one job, and have plenty of fun, so I don’t think I am missing out on anything.

  23. Leye says:

    It was in one of these forums I got the idea about taking up a part time job and it has worked well for me. I took up a part time position as a tutor and in the last 6 months, I have made over $500 extra a month.
    Tutoring can be quite fun as you are helping students at the same time. In the period when students are preparing for the SAT, tutors are in high demand.

  24. Melanie says:

    “most of my friends (and me) still live at home. We're all well into our twenties, working career jobs, paying bills, and it's nearly impossible to pay rent where we live on entry-level salaries” – Joselle

    This is so true. It’s getting harder and harder every year for our generation to find affordable housing. The lenders are getting more and more strict and this is something we are going to have to face.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes more of a ‘norm’ for recent grads to stay at home until they can establish their careers (or get married).

  25. Steve says:

    I don’t think tip #16 is extreme. In life there are friends you keep forever and friends you outgrow. A big spender friend is a liability.

  26. alison says:

    I’m pleased to see you mention roommates. What with all the “Move back in with parents” talk (a suggested move I still disagree with, personally), I feel like this option gets left out. I’ve made more money and lived alone, but living with roommates lets me work where I want, save a lot more, etc. Most of the people I’ve met who are really stretched (and not spending money on “extras” but genuinely struggling) are stretching to avoid their own 1-bedroom apartment.

    I’m not sure I agree with the haircut principle, though. It depends on your industry, but untrimmed hair could cost you a promotion, especially if you’re female. That’s just the world we live in.

    Personally, I think a second job or stream of income is the best thing any young grad can do. During a spell of only half-expected (long story) unemployment, I wound up using my network/skills in my market to basically consult on event planning, copywriting, marketing, advertising for local businesses in my area. It’s a little bit of everything, but I bill at a really reasonable—but still higher than my salaried rate—rate as compared to agencies and such, and my clients had been fairly happy, so I just kept doing it. I take some weeks off from it altogether, to give myself a break, but when I’m consulting, I often make more on Sat and Sun than I did all week long. And it’s extra money, not originally factored into my strict budget, so it all goes to savings.

    Plus, it means I don’t worry about work as much anymore. If something terrible happens at work or to my company, I’ve still got income coming in. If my consulting goes away, I’ve still got my job. It’s lifted a lot of stress off of me, personally, having “multiple streams of income.” I’ve been in some highly competitive fields, and I used to worry whenever my numbers dipped slightly…which only made the actual work HARDER. Now, I’m way more easygoing, and it translates into better work and a better life.

    Of course, I get to the beach less, but everything’s a choice and a tradeoff, right?

  27. Regina says:

    I’ve been reading the lively – sometimes ugly – debate between the ‘move back in with family’ vs ‘live independently even if you are just scraping by’ argument going through this blog’s comments box like a recurring thread.

    So just my two cents (within the context of saving money):

    When I was living in London (one of the world’s most expensive cities), I was able to share a nice – though small – garden flat with one other young professional, pay all my bills, go out to eat once a week and STILL be able to save a couple of hundred Pound Sterling a month.

    And this was on a basic starting salary for a young graduate in marketing.

    Now that I’ve moved back to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), I’ve had to move back in with my extended family because while career progression is faster, the salaries here are kept low while inflation keeps going strong. There was no way I could have lived out on my starting salary without having to make the choice between making rent or having food to eat.

    So it’s all down to geography and the local economy… and the culture.

    And while I value my independence (and ability to live happily on low budgets in the UK as a student, then a young professional) a lot and living at home has curbed that to the extreme, it’s really the only option here in Asia and family will chain you to the family home rather than see you starve on a low salary.

    Just my two cents.

  28. Kate Hutchinson says:

    I think one thing you left out is, if you want to go to grad school, get a job at the school you want to attend and go for free. I started as an administrative assistant at a University in Boston, and they paid for my M.Ed. I got lots of “transferable skill” experience with basic management, creating a department budget, and communicating across many departments. Universities around here pay fairly well (the big ones, anyway), and the benefits (time off, health care, etc) are great. Plus a university ID will come in handy for discounts all over the place.

  29. Brent says:

    Are you certain that real wages have gone down? Most of the young people I know are just spoiled brats who have no concept of reality. If you know what you’re doing, you can make a fine salary.

  30. Christina says:

    I think you’re stereotyping a lot, Brent. I think that “most of the young people” you know today are probably not that much different than most of the young people twenty or thirty years ago. Every generation thinks that the younger generation is irresponsible and has “no concept of reality” and is “spoiled.” Yes, sometimes younger people are spoiled. Sometimes older people are spoiled. I think that a lot of older people are just as “spoiled” since a lot of older people are no longer used to struggling as much financially as they used to, or at least have different definitions of “struggling” than they used to.

    I’m not saying older people are spoiled – I don’t think they are. I’m just saying that maybe you should reexamine what your definition of “spoiled” is, think back to when you were just graduating from college, and think about whether it was as easy and the salary was as “fine” as you think it was. Its normal to struggle a little bit financially when you’re first out on your own. It will be for me; it was for my parents, and it probably was for their parents. And it probably will be for my eventual children…I just hope that I remember that and don’t jump to criticizing them for it when that day comes.

  31. Eve says:

    Dinner allowance? What is that? I know I am late in commenting to this article, but the thing that floors me is we are not expecting a “King’s ransome”. We only want what we are worth! I am paid about 11,000 less than the bottom 10% not just in the nation for my field but for the entire state I am in, which doesn’t start out typically high as it is. That is right, 11,000 less and that is with experience. Needless to say I did not haggle for a higher salary when I started and that is part of the problem. But my God, this article is about not being able to survive in a city or a large city for that matter where “young people want to live” and the sad thing is I couldn’t even get a shack on the side of the road in the country for my salary….much less start a family; something I need to do soon as I approach the age of 30.

  32. Minimum Wage says:

    I’m a boomer earning my state minimum wage. I have no retirement plan, no assets, and a persistent student loan balance.

    How am I supposed to survive on that?

  33. Laura says:

    I totally agree with #3, #4, and #6. I attend school at the University of WI – Milwaukee, and if my parents lived nearby, I would for sure save money and live with them.
    I have worked part-time all throughout college. By doing this I have been able to pay my rent throughout college and my utilities and not borrowing extra from financial aid and a private lender.
    Also, by living with roommates, of course it’s a bit more expensive, but then you cut your utilities down by however many people live with you. It’s great. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

  34. benjamin boyce says:

    stop telling people to come to Portland!!!! we are sick to death of you all

  35. pdxRACHAEL says:

    While I think your article touches on some very interesting facts, as a recent graduate (2008) I have to disagree with #7. Like many other people quoted in this article, I took a job right out of college, in field of study, I live in the second largest city in the state, and I am still having a rough go of it. What’s more is that as an ambitious, driven, young professional, I shouldn’t have to simply accept that I don’t have the earning potential straight of of college as the generations before me did.

    The cost of college eduacation is skyrocketing, each graduation year paying more in student debt then the year before, and that trend is sure to continue. But what’s more is while the cost of higher education is rising the wages are simply not keeping up with the cost of living.

    Rather then simply sit back, and take it on the chin, or move in with parents again (I’m sorry, but whoever does this needs to have a pretty valid excuse, if you can’t be independent at 22 or 23 years old that’s pretty pathetic. You can’t wear diapers forever.) I think a wake up call is in order to the entire employer industry. Wages ARE NOT HIGH ENOUGH, and until there is realization of this fact by companies young people with degrees are doomed to be poor. At what point do we finally say, “It’s not okay?”
    The greediness of big business, the hardly stable economy, and the cost of college which appears to be all for nothing after you graduate will surely shape my generation’s future perspective on how the US should be ran. I can only hope that with time as my genration moves into postions of power we’re able to change the face of the working environment to better it for those to come. Certainly the baby boomers who hire us all have no idea of the hardships that face twenty somethings today.

    So you’ll excuse me when I say your point on simply accepting my fate as a underpaid graduate is a bit skewed.

  36. Michael Eliades says:

    This is really a very helpful strategy. I use to share room with a college friend to cut cost and live a normal life with my entry level salary.

  37. Austinite says:

    Stop telling people to move to Austin.

    Thanks.

  38. Adam says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I really like this article. As a recent college grad (1 year out) living in Seattle, it is definitely hard balancing a low wage with an interesting life. I have a couple additional tips to share with recent grads living in big cities:

    1. Look at where you live in the city. Downtown Seattle is crazy expensive, but some surrounding more residential neighborhoods are a lot less. I live in a not-so-great part of town but it is nice enough and I have a relatively big apartment for very cheap.

    2. I second you getting a roommate. If you’re not going to live with your parents, you will save money and have more living space if you get a roommate vs living in a single. If it’s a city you’ve lived in for a while look to move in with a friend, and if you don’t know anyone use Craigslist and use due diligence.

    3. Track your spending. This is something I’ve had to learn since leaving college but will help you identify bad spending habits. If you realize you go out to eat every other day since you don’t buy groceries often this will become apparent. To control your spending you must be aware of it first. Also have a budget, monitor monthly income/expenses, etc.

    4. Love Craigslist, but shop smart. Basic appliances sell at extremely discounted prices. There is such a high supply of items like LCD tv’s, couches, toasters, and the like that you can find very good deals if you move quick and act professionally to the seller. Beware of items that you cannot test quality or authenticity, like that ‘real’ Louis Vuitton or the laptop that might have been run hard. The advantage to using Craigslist in a big city is that there are a lot more deals to be found and more niche items, so take advantage of it.

    5. Use public transportation. Big cities have great public transportation infastructure over small cities. Look at your normal week and see if you can fit any low-cost public transportation in.

    6. Make more money. Eye on the prize baby!

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