When I fly back to Utah on Tuesday, it will be exactly one year (Aug. 5, 2008-Aug. 4, 2009) since I moved to New York--a year in which I never had a job. While this sounds like it would make for an interesting social experiment, or maybe a reality show, it was never my intention to be in this situation. During this year, many people have asked me how I managed to survive, what I was living on. Well, wonder no more. Here's how I did it.
--When I began my preparations to move here, I had more money in my checking account than I ever had before. This savings was built up largely during my 6-month work assignment in New York that ended last May, where in addition to my salary I had my housing and transportation paid for and was given a per diem for food. Also, while in New York, a friend was borrowing my car (a result of an "Is there anything we can do for you?" home teaching moment that involved a little more than changing a light bulb, killing a spider or taking out the trash), was in an accident where the other driver was at fault. My car was totalled because it's old, but I friend knew a cheap repairman and I ended up making over $2000 in the transaction.
Plus, I'm not stingy, and probably not really thrifty either, but often my wants can be satisfied by something like a package of cookies rather than a new electronic gadget, so I kind of naturally do well with the money I make (which has never been very much). So I had several months' worth of savings when I left Utah, which is why I risked coming to New York without a job lined up.
--Fortunately, I qualified for Medicaid after my gall bladder surgery, or I would've been in big trouble. I'm not sure what the best health care option is out of those being bandied about currently, but I am so grateful that there are options for people who can't afford insurance.
--Oh yeah, I also sold said car before I left Utah.
--Over the past year, I certainly wasn't a hermit, but I was reasonable in the number and type of events I attended. I would've loved to go to more Knicks games, comedy shows, musicals, restaurants, etc., than I did, and to have taken dates with me, but I was relatively cautious. I also would've liked to take trips to Boston, DC, Utah, or wherever, but other than Christmas and once or twice into Jersey I never left the five boroughs.
--I got a pretty good tax refund this spring, especially considering I only worked seven months out of the previous year.
--I have had two credit cards for several years, and while I succeeded in my goal of not adding new cards, the balance on each of them is significantly higher than it was last year.
--Friends hooked me up with occasional work, stuff like babysitting, cat sitting, and most prominently selling used cell phones. I didn't make a ton of money doing these things, but every little bit helped put off the inevitable day when I was completely broke.
--And that day actually came a few weeks ago. My parents knew I wanted to be out here, and that the alternative was me moving in with them (still with no job), and so very kindly loaned me (interest free!) the money I needed for the last part of June and all of my July expenses as I made a last-ditch effort to find a way to support myself. My mom and dad are awesome.
So there you have it. I feel like I did a decent job of maximizing my resources; but I definitely would not recommend that anyone try to emulate me financially. There are much better ways to live.