Mo’ money, Mo’ problems?

New York Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #132: I’ve never known the life of extreme poverty, but a glance in the newspaper and along the New York City streets was enough to convince me to finish a college degree and aim to at least maintain a sheltered bed and running water. I’ve thought about the essentials of life and tried to separate the material goods to live as a minimalist (as much as possible), but somehow I’ve only fallen deeper into its dependence. I feel a Fight Club monologue brewing in my mind. The scene where Tyler’s furniture and refrigerator of condiments lay strewn across the concrete just made my buttocks creep to the edge of my seat. Now in most cases, I don’t always place myself in the protagonist’s ridiculously foreshadowed plot twists, but for that moment, I imagined a normal life hovering over an open fire. I played the scene in my mind again and followed the initial burn of the corner leading to a flame completely consuming his book of life. I guess if his life were a book, it would simply be another page turner, but my imagination wanted fire, so there it was. I thought about how it must feel to reach a level of economical equilibrium and then lose it all in an instant. I wondered how important these things are to me. Does it define me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

To many, making money is a concern – actually one of the main concerns. Of course, it’s not just entertainment costs; the bulk of the money supports bills for housing, transportation to maintain the job, and food to live to the next day. The particular issue of money that concerns me is this social “status” or “image” that people think they are required to maintain by means of basically buying more shit. I know plenty of shopaholics (I’m surprised MWord passed that in their dictionary) who would need to purchase the next fashion trend, or only wear specific brands, to keep their reputation. I hope these girls know that most “down-to-earth” guys really don’t notice these things. We’ll compliment you because we think you look good, but if you scratch the surface a little harder with your fingernail, you’ll see we mostly say it because we know you love hearing it (this could go terribly off topic). Anyway, staying on topic of money, I approached this concept of money and spending in order to understand my own daily spending for my future vacation expenses.

In the case of entertainment spending, I was independent for quite some time. The money from Credit Suisse helped with food costs and paid for those fun weekends, but the consistent negative cash flow catches up very quickly. I’m surprised my bank account lasted as long as it did. Obviously, Japan drained all of those resources like a… very clean drain (…?), but it was well worth the temporary corporate sell-out.
Anyway, after Japan, I’ve been back to a life of dependence. It would have been ridiculous to find another apartment because I knew I wanted to go to Germany, so my old room was transformed back into my lair*. It is my home because there will always be people here that care about me, but I feel like I spent more time in my office at school than sleeping in my bed. I didn’t feel like I lived in my house – it felt like I was just subletting it and only came back to eat and sleep (I feel oddly sad that this may happen to the house I buy in 5 years). One of the major considerations for finances was the lack of rent and free food (YaY).
The idea of paying off bills rarely entered my mind my entire life, and now that I need to think about living expenses for 6 months, the dollar signs bubble on my skin. What did I actually need to worry about when I lived at home and how will this compare to the spending overseas? Currently, transportation costs about $211 for LIRR monthly pass and approximately $40 for the subway ticket. On expensive days, lunch usually costs $6 and dinner is approximately $10. Most days, I eat unch with James and return home for dinner, so we’ll only count 18/30 days for these prices. On weekends, alcohol consumption and nights out with friends is approximately $30 per entertainment night. There are usually more expensive dinners, midnight snacks, and overpriced bar beers. Adding up these costs gives me an approximate monthly spending of $660.

This is without the cost of rent and absolutely seems to be an excessive amount of spending. I needed to double check my math just to make sure. Like all statisticians, I’ll play manipulate some numbers to make it more relatable. By subtracting the costs for transportation, and dividing by the number of days; I’m only spending approximately $14 per day for food and miscellaneous costs. Now consider the average salary of $40k per year. After the 35% taxes, you would only be receiving $26k, which is $2166 per month. Let’s say you pay $800/month for rent and utilities, and need to pay off student loans at approximately $250/month (Living in the city may decrease transportation costs and car insurance, but your rent will definitely be higher). This means that the remaining $1,120 needs to be split in transportation, food, entertainment, and saving money. We all know that the $120/month entertainment budget I suggested earlier was a complete understatement for a City lifestyle. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that even the lower-end costs (without taking into account a girlfriend and saving money) is expensive.

These overseas “research projects” aren’t exactly subsidized with scholarships. I don’t need to pay for tuition while I’m there, but living in a dorm for 4 months and traveling in hostels for 2 months would still burn a hole in my wallet. As a broad estimate, I followed many assumptions and basically rounded-up to get at least an upper-bound.

Type Details Description Budget Net
Flights JFK to LHA ~$520
LHA to HAM ~$120
LHA to JFK
Total Flights ~$640
Railpasses Select 3 country railpass (10 days) Germany, Benenlux, Switzerland $443
Select 3 country railpass (10 days) Germany, Benenlux, Czech $443
Select 3 country railpass (10 days) Germany, Benenlux, France $443
Total Railpasses $1,329
Living Accomodations - 1st trip Hostels in London 7 nights
Hostel in Munich 5 nights
Hostel in Switzerland 5 nights
Living Accomodations - weekends Hostel in Berlin 2 nights on weekends
Hostel in Netherlands 2 nights on weekends
Hostel in Prague 2 nights on weekends
Hostel in Switzerland 2 nights on weekends
Living Accomodations - break trip Not sure? Total of 7 nights
Living Accomodations - final trip Hostel in Netherlands 7 nights
Hostel in Belgium 3 nights
Hostel in Luxembourg 2 nights
Hostel in Paris 6 nights
Hostel in Southern France 5 nights
Hostel in Ireland 3 nights
Total Living ~$50 per night, about 50 nights ~$2,500
Daily spendings Museums ~20 museums ~$5 per museum ~$100
Normal weekdays lunch and dinner - 100 days ~$25 per day $2,500
Weekend special and trips lunch and dinner - 70 days ~$50 per day $3,500
Total spending ~$35 per day ~$6300 $6,100
Misc Transportation London Underground Oyster Card - 7-day travelcard, zones 1-2 18 GBP
From London Heathrow Airport to Central London single ride 4 GBP
Switzerland local pass Swiss Travel Pass
Hamburg local pass Paid for by school
Switzerland local pass
Total Transportation ~$5 per day, about 30 days ~$150
Hamburg University Health Insurance + Semester Contribution + Dorms $2,793.45
Net 6 months of travel! ~$13,500

For comparison, my summer Japan trip was approximately $7000 for 4 months. But keep in mind that I spent about $2800 on the 14-day tour, which F.Y.I., rocked my socks off and was well worth every penny; if not just for the good company, excellent tour guide, and extremely rare adventures.

So where is this money coming from? I have a big I.O.U. post-it note on my mom’s computer monitor. I’m pretty sure they’re charging me interest. Mommy’s an accountant. I don’t think she’ll let this one slide :\.
~See Lemons Broke

*When I was younger, I wanted a cave as an underground lair, like Batman. As I grew older, I imagined my lair to be a chemistry lab with open flames, fermenting body parts in florescent colored fluids, and oddly shaped flasks. In the next phase of my lair imagination, I really just wanted Vorbis – the sarcastic AI home security system in Ironman. Now that I put some thought into it, I think I’ll just put a ping pong table in my room. My need for chemicals, spandex costumes, and home security systems can be kept in my basement (I don’t even have a basement, but if I did, that’s where the ultimate lair would go).


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