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Lowest salaries for planning jobs that you've seen

Dan

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In an earlier, I described a recently advertised planning director position in the Cleveland area. They want graduate education, experience in specialized areas, and the job involves supervisory and highly technical, specialized work. The listed salary was $30,000. Not a typo; thirty thousand dollars.

Is this the lowest paid planning job in the US? Excluding planning technicians and interns, what is the lowest paid planning job you have seen advertised recently?
 

rcgplanner

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I have seen a few Planner I positions in Indiana with beginning salaries of approx. $29,000 to $31,000.

I did see a Planner I position in rural eastern NC with a beginning salary of $27,000, and a Master's was desired. Makes me wonder who ended up taking those positions.

I don't think I had seen a PD position under $40,000. $30,000 is ridiculous for a PD position, who do they think they can recruit with that salary? How much room do they have to negotiate
 

hilldweller

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Really wealthy Boston suburbs looking for The Town Planner and offering a salary in the mid-30s.:-o
 

MacheteJames

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Really wealthy Boston suburbs looking for The Town Planner and offering a salary in the mid-30s.:-o
You know, I was just going to say this. I remember checking out the Mass APA and MMA websites and seeing planning director jobs offering like $45,000. It's not a cheap area and this salary is literally half of what it ought to be given how rough it can be to work as a planner in the suburban towns around Boston. The towns are batsh!t crazy if they think they can find dedicated talent at that salary.
 

beach_bum

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I did see a Planner I position in rural eastern NC with a beginning salary of $27,000, and a Master's was desired. Makes me wonder who ended up taking those positions.
You can't even touch student loans with that!

I saw one in Florida, Planner I, 30,000-ish, wanted AICP!
 

TexanOkie

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I was offered a job in Amarillo that advertised 29,000. Sounds low, but the job I took in Austin that paid 33 was actually about equivalent, given the cost of living differences.
 
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I don't think I've ever seen a planning job (i.e. Planner 1 or higher, not Planning Assistant or Technician) advertised for less than $50k, and most start around $55k for entry. Assistants and technicians are usually around $45k.
 

wahday

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I don't think I've ever seen a planning job (i.e. Planner 1 or higher, not Planning Assistant or Technician) advertised for less than $50k, and most start around $55k for entry. Assistants and technicians are usually around $45k.
Are those Canadian $$?!

Salaries are pretty low in NM (and that's not just a planner-related problem). I saw a mid-level planner position in Santa Fe about a year ago that asked for 3 years experience, Masters preferred and offered $33k. The median home value in Santa Fe is $475k right now. So, they want experienced people to help plan a city that none of those people can afford to live in...

Generally, I have not found planning salaries to be all that comfortable in the areas I have looked. Sometimes things may look like a decent salary compared to here, but once housing and other expenses are factored in, I don't see most people in the profession socking away a lot of extra cash. Of course, I have kids and my wife works part-time, so our costs may not be the same as some. If only I had decided to become a planner in my 20s...

I suppose if you are in a municipality with income growth potential, COL raises and the possibility to graduating to higher positions, there is potential to pull a decent salary. I would be happy to be making $50k and living where I am (which is to say, my requests are modest), but I don't see a lot of opportunity for that without moving. I also have not seen that AICP really affords that much more salary-wise. As we feel the pinch more and more these days, I have been looking around more. Our belts can't get much tighter...
 

PlannerGirl

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I don't think I've ever seen a planning job (i.e. Planner 1 or higher, not Planning Assistant or Technician) advertised for less than $50k, and most start around $55k for entry. Assistants and technicians are usually around $45k.
There are quite a few here is one from the APA site
Planner I, Peoria, IL
Entry Level Position
Company / Agency: Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
Salary Range: $29,395 to $44,092, DOQ
 

nrschmid

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In 2004, I saw a few CDC positions at 26k in Chicago. I "think" they had a tuition reimbursement up to a few thousand dollars (maybe this was an Americorps job, I forgot).

I've had my doubts about staying in planning due to a low/working wage. I am pretty disgusted with the high expectations for entry level jobs (graduate degree, a few years of experience, AICP, etc.), high level of stress dealing with residents, politicians, etc, skyrocketing costs everywhere (healthcare, energy, etc.) and low compensation afforded to planners. I would like to earn a nice six figure salary in my mid-forties running a design firm (15-20 years from now). If I don't, I will probably get out of planning and landscape architecture all together, go back to school AGAIN for a JD and then practice corporate law.
 
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Richmond Jake

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West Florida Regional Planning Council

Planner I, II or III

$31,000 - $51,000 DOQ starting salary

AICP preferred
 
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Yeah--those salaries I mentioned were in Canadian dollars (once something to be shrugged aside, but now basically at par). My three summer jobs between University years paid around $22.50 hourly. My first job out of school pays $31 hourly. Unfortunately, after income taxes and benefit deductions (extended health, life insurance, short and long term disability, private pension, and who knows what else) I get to keep only 60% of what I earn gross. BC's income taxes are now the lowest in the country, though, so this is some solace at least.

Housing is expensive, so keep that in mind. In Vancouver a 1 bedroom condo can be had for about $300k. A house in the burbs starts around $550k and goes up very quickly from there. Even away from Vancouver property can be quite expensive--cities in the Interior where salaries are 25% less have housing that is only 10-15% less.

I think it might be that more Canadians have respect for the public service than Americans might, so this probably leads to better salaries and more competition. I get the impression in much of the USA that government (and employment with the government) might not quite be in vogue. Government is the #1 employer across the country here (although this probably holds true in the USA), and people have real careers, research, etc. Statistics Canada alone hires probably 50% of all stats-related grads from UWaterloo and Wilfried Laurier U.
 

graciela

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I wonder how Urban Planning keeps on ending up as one of the top ten careers in US News? Someone is making it sound much more glamorous and higher paying than it really is.

Planner II's here start at around 38,000 with no chance of advancement so if you stay on here you are a Planner II for life. I worry about my future in Planning field as I only have a BLA and most of the upper level jobs want people with graduate degrees. I need to get my AICP, I guess that will help me out a little.
 
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Wow, those are some low wages in the US especially considering that the USD and CAD are about equal. In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I see Planner I jobs go from ~55-75k a year. Planner IIs make around 60-80k so 6 figure salaries are not out of reach at all. I myself am a planning intern fresh from university with a BA in Geography and I make 50k a year.

Planning is in very high demand here in Alberta so if you want to find planning careers with great pay, come here. We could always use more planners due to the huge boom we are experiencing and the fact that there is a lack of post-secondary planning programs here.
 

Dan

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I think it might be that more Canadians have respect for the public service than Americans might, so this probably leads to better salaries and more competition. I get the impression in much of the USA that government (and employment with the government) might not quite be in vogue.
That's very true. In the US, many believe that working for government should be treated as if you're working for the Catholic Church; that government work is a vocation, not a profession, where one is expected to make some sacrifices for the common good. Also, in other parts of the country, especially the Rust Belt, it's believed that government workers are overpaid and underworked. For example, thanks to union contracts, pay for government employment in Buffalo is upside down, with unskilled laborer positions often earning more than professional positions.

One thing that is encountered everywhere in the United States is widespread opposition to halfway decent local government office facilities. New city halls and administrative buildings are often labeled "Taj Mahals" by the media and public if they offer anything better than Class C office space. There is a belief that government workers should not enjoy a work environment that is equivalent to those in the private sector, because people don't want their taxes being spent on things that are "extravagant", it's part of their sacrifice for the common good, or because they don't deserve it.
 

Veloise

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OTOH, how many vacation days do government workers typically get? I have a friend in a smaller city who gets about 15 (Good Friday, Presidents, Election, Veterans, NYEve, and of course King Day among them).

I'm in the private sector, and I get eight.
 

jsk1983

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Keep in mind that Canadian's have national health care. Hence higher taxes and higher salaries.

Some of these threads scare me a bit. I'll have 40K in debt when I graduate and it doesn't even look that easy to get a job and many don't pay too much. I'd really not want to have to move to Texas or the like (no offense to Texans), but I don't want to have to declare bankruptcy either.
 

rcgplanner

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Wow, those are some low wages in the US especially considering that the USD and CAD are about equal. In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I see Planner I jobs go from ~55-75k a year. Planner IIs make around 60-80k so 6 figure salaries are not out of reach at all. I myself am a planning intern fresh from university with a BA in Geography and I make 50k a year.

Planning is in very high demand here in Alberta so if you want to find planning careers with great pay, come here. We could always use more planners due to the huge boom we are experiencing and the fact that there is a lack of post-secondary planning programs here.
I have looked at applying for jobs in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, but it seems pretty difficult to break into the Canadian planning field w/o much experiece. I have applied for a couple positions in Alberta, but never even received a confirmation they received my application package.
 
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I have looked at applying for jobs in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, but it seems pretty difficult to break into the Canadian planning field w/o much experiece. I have applied for a couple positions in Alberta, but never even received a confirmation they received my application package.
It can be difficult, yes. It helps to be a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners. Experience is important, just as anywhere, and US planners do routinely get hired (certainly not uncommon). As for confirmations of receiving your application, the world has changed--people are so busy this tends to not occur anymore. Automated email responses are the best you can expect, if anything. The City of White Rock in the Vancouver area sends out a wonderfully pleasant and informative email confirmation (though they didn't interview me, haha).

As for health care expenses, I'm fairly certain that the taxes we pay toward health care probably amount to less than what private insurance would cost. *shrug* And our health care dollars come out of gross salary, not net (though some provinces have added, mandatory extended medical insurance premiums... about $1200 a year for a family of 4, if I recall).
 

jmello

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Really wealthy Boston suburbs looking for The Town Planner and offering a salary in the mid-30s.:-o
I was just going to say that! To add a little bit more vitriol: single-family homes anywhere near these same towns START at $400,000. Riduculous. The town planner gets to live in mommy's basement off Route 9 in Natick with his wife and two kids. Or he gets to drive 1.5 hours to work everyday from his 1200SF tract house in Oxford. All the while protecting the high property values, low tax rate and 1-acre lots of his wealthy employers.
 

bflo

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There is constant turnover at the regional planing agency in Rochester, NY (GFLRPC) that is constantly advertising entry level positons around $32,000, which for a masters degreed professional is low, even in comparison to true municipal planners in NYS. So it's no wonder that they advertise for the joba bout every 6 months when the newest recruit cuts and runs for more money.

Sadly, planning is one of the lowest paid white collar jobs going and often have major responsibilities within their community that most fail to recognize. It's a profession by and large where planners and the APA have done a poor job working for better wages.

Luckily, I work in the private sector, where I can work hard, get promoted and get raises above some standard raise schedule.
 

paiste13

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I saw a job in Crosslake Minnesota that paid $28,000.

It's a vacation-town that is filled with million-dollar summer homes on numerous lakes. Population goes from 1200 in the winder to 25,000 in the summer.
 

rcgplanner

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It all makes sense now why Crosslake is always looking for planners. 28k is an insult anywhere, especially in Minnesota. :-c
 
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I have looked at applying for jobs in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, but it seems pretty difficult to break into the Canadian planning field w/o much experiece. I have applied for a couple positions in Alberta, but never even received a confirmation they received my application package.
Keep on trying. Alberta is hiring a lot of planners since we don't have our own planning schools here! I know that the City of Edmonton is hiring a lot of planners. If you have ACIP or MCIP then it shouldn't be a problem for you to be hired although they will still hire planners without those credentials on the condition that you get a provisional membership with the relevant provincial chapter of the CIP.

Check out the Alberta Association, Canadian Institute of Planners' website for some career opportunities. Better yet, check out each individual municipality's website for even more job listings (since the AACIP charges for job listings).
http://www.aacip.com/public/employment.htm
 

becca12

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Can't believe it

I look at some of these numbers and can't believe they are in cities. I'm in a very rural area but make more than some of these. However, I do two positions for the price of one...unfortunatly. But looking at these numbers make me feel better.
 

Dan

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I don't think I had seen a PD position under $40,000. $30,000 is ridiculous for a PD position, who do they think they can recruit with that salary? How much room do they have to negotiate
It's a predominantly African-American community. Granted, that's no excuse for offering such a low salary. I'm guessing, though, that they see the PD position as a job with a community development-based focus rather than something with the broader aspect of generalist current/comprehensive/transportation planning. African-American planners self-segregate into the much lower-paying community development field more so than white planners (see previous threads about the racial divide in the planning field in the US).

I'm thinking the community doesn't see a problem whatsoever with $30K; they probably see it as something that will attract an idealistic African-American CD planner who thinks that's pretty good money.

You know, I was just going to say this. I remember checking out the Mass APA and MMA websites and seeing planning director jobs offering like $45,000. It's not a cheap area and this salary is literally half of what it ought to be given how rough it can be to work as a planner in the suburban towns around Boston. The towns are batsh!t crazy if they think they can find dedicated talent at that salary.
I saw a job in Crosslake Minnesota that paid $28,000.

It's a vacation-town that is filled with million-dollar summer homes on numerous lakes. Population goes from 1200 in the winder to 25,000 in the summer.
This gets me thinking about who takes those jobs in Colorado resort communities (Vail Valley, Aspen/Pitkin County, etc) where the pay looks well on paper, but it's nowhere near enough to account for the astronomical cost of housing. I asked someone about this at an APA Colorado state conference years ago, and was told that it was expected applicants would be those who were recent college graduates with very wealthy parents. I wonder if it's the same case in the Boston area; after all, there's a lot of highly rated, very expensive universities and colleges in the area.
 

Hink

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Job in Ohio that is looking for a Master's Degree or equivalent experience. The duties include administering the City's Planning and Zoning Code, staff support to Planning/Zoning Boards, liaison to general public and business community and the pay is $25-35k depending on qualifications.

Does that mean that a planner with a Master's degree but no experience will get only 25k? Seriously?
 

rcgplanner

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Keep on trying. Alberta is hiring a lot of planners since we don't have our own planning schools here! I know that the City of Edmonton is hiring a lot of planners. If you have ACIP or MCIP then it shouldn't be a problem for you to be hired although they will still hire planners without those credentials on the condition that you get a provisional membership with the relevant provincial chapter of the CIP.

Check out the Alberta Association, Canadian Institute of Planners' website for some career opportunities. Better yet, check out each individual municipality's website for even more job listings (since the AACIP charges for job listings).
http://www.aacip.com/public/employment.htm

Thank you! I am trying to figure out how the CIP works in comparison to the APA here in the states. There seems to be some difference between the APA and the CIP in terms of membership requirements. If they are similar, would it make sense join the CIP here in the states?

Sorry, do not mean to hijack this thread.

Hink, I saw that same ad this morning. 28k for a planner with a Master's with a cap of 35k. Makes me wonder sometimes why I chose this field, but I do enjoy my job most of the time. :)
 
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Thank you! I am trying to figure out how the CIP works in comparison to the APA here in the states. There seems to be some difference between the APA and the CIP in terms of membership requirements. If they are similar, would it make sense join the CIP here in the states?
If you're going to get a job in Canada, you should join the CIP. I'm not sure about how your credentials would transfer over to Canada but if you're experienced enough, I'm sure all it takes is an exam rather than a probationary period. I would apply in Canada and just note on your resume that you will pursue membership with the CIP.
 

Dan

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Does that mean that a planner with a Master's degree but no experience will get only 25k? Seriously?
Is that the City of Zanesville position? "Pay range will be from $25,729.60 - $35,547.20 per year, depending on qualifications." I think we might have a contender for lowest planning salary in the country.

My very first planning job started off at about $20K in 1989 US dollars. Adjusted for inflation, today that's $34,633. $25,729 today is $14,580 in 1989 US dollars. That's not a salary being offered by Zanesville; it's an insult. "But the cost of housing is low" is probably the expected response. Yeah, but the cost of food, durable and soft goods, and transportation is generally the same across the continental US, plus or minus 10%. The dishwasher that costs $450 at Best Buy in Zanesville still costs $450 at the Best Buy in Mill Valley, California.
 

Jeff

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Wow!

That is lower than my Asst. Planner job right out of college (32,500)
 

rcgplanner

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In NYC entry level planner is $41K at DCP.
Wow, I saw some Planner I positions in NYC w/ a starting salary of 41k, plus you are required to live in the the city proper or the next counties out. How can you afford to live in NYC on 41k, its not an easy task to live in Central IN on 35k.
 

tsc

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I think I used to work in one of the worst places...the Southern Tier of NY....sorry Dandy...
 

jsk1983

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Wow, I saw some Planner I positions in NYC w/ a starting salary of 41k, plus you are required to live in the the city proper or the next counties out. How can you afford to live in NYC on 41k, its not an easy task to live in Central IN on 35k.
I'm sure its possible to live on $41K in NY. If your single or have a partner bringing in a reasonable salary its fine. If you have three kids, good luck. Keep in mind that its reasonable to live in NYC w/o a car which seems like it would make up for the the higher housing costs. On the other hand its a bit of an insult to be paid probably not much more than the sanitation workers. Still I'd imagine there would be high interest in the positions due to the fact that it is NYC.
 

Hink

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Is that the City of Zanesville position? "Pay range will be from $25,729.60 - $35,547.20 per year, depending on qualifications." I think we might have a contender for lowest planning salary in the country.
Yep that is the one. Pretty ridiculous I think. It isn't exactly in a prime place, so asking for a Master's is probably a stretch anyways, but to ask for a Master's and then pay so low.... who do you think you are attracting?

I think communities need to take into account their ability to attract quality employees when asking. I guess it is okay to dream... but seriously? I think it is kind of insulting.
 

MacheteJames

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I'm sure its possible to live on $41K in NY. If your single or have a partner bringing in a reasonable salary its fine. If you have three kids, good luck. Keep in mind that its reasonable to live in NYC w/o a car which seems like it would make up for the the higher housing costs. On the other hand its a bit of an insult to be paid probably not much more than the sanitation workers. Still I'd imagine there would be high interest in the positions due to the fact that it is NYC.
Very difficult to afford Manhattan on that salary, but the boroughs and suburbs are doable. I do it and don't make all that much more than that. I wouldn't dream of doing it with kids. Oh, and for a point of comparison, MTA subway station maintenance positions start at around $45k.
 

joshking2

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I have seen a few Planner I positions in Indiana with beginning salaries of approx. $29,000 to $31,000.

I did see a Planner I position in rural eastern NC with a beginning salary of $27,000, and a Master's was desired. Makes me wonder who ended up taking those positions.

I don't think I had seen a PD position under $40,000. $30,000 is ridiculous for a PD position, who do they think they can recruit with that salary? How much room do they have to negotiate
Entry Level Planner with a regional COG in Western NC. Starting salary: $36,000-
Average Household Income in the 4 counties I serve: $34,000.
Wages should ideally be a reflection of the population you serve. Except for the really low ball number Dan started this thread off with
 

CubbieBlue

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That Peoria, IL job that got posted on the first page of this thread actually got taken. By me. First full time job out of college (did part time work in a small muni for a few months), and starting as a Planner I @ 33,500, with a salary increase in six months. Everyone here has gotten promoted to Planner II w/ one year service time, which is mid-point salary at 44,500, and Planner III at third year with a mid-point salary around 50k up to around 60k.

It being my first job out of undergrad, and with a really low cost of living here...(paying $300 a month in rent), I didn't get such a raw deal, did I? Not being facetious, actually wondering what you guys think...
 

rcgplanner

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That Peoria, IL job that got posted on the first page of this thread actually got taken. By me. First full time job out of college (did part time work in a small muni for a few months), and starting as a Planner I @ 33,500, with a salary increase in six months. Everyone here has gotten promoted to Planner II w/ one year service time, which is mid-point salary at 44,500, and Planner III at third year with a mid-point salary around 50k up to around 60k.

It being my first job out of undergrad, and with a really low cost of living here...(paying $300 a month in rent), I didn't get such a raw deal, did I? Not being facetious, actually wondering what you guys think...
Congrats on the job. It's nice to see that there is room to grow with that position. Mid 30's is not terrible if the cost of living is low, $300.00 for rent is a steal, is this with a roomate? I make mid 30's in Indiana and my rent for a one bedroom is $565.00 and its not in the best neighborhood. It's all about the cost of housing and living what determines a 'low salary'.
 

paiste13

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I live in Iowa and the average household income is about $48,000. I started in August of 2007 at $38,000 and on July 1 got a boost up to $44,000. July 1 of 2009 I'll be at $48,000. While I almost meet the household average by myself now, I always feel broke (save > 20% of take-home pay every month). I can not imagine how people with children do it.
 

Victory

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I work for a land development company in los angeles and I make just under 36k. My rent is $1450, and I live one block from the beach. My utilities are included, work pays for my cell phone, I live in a great area and I don't own a car. Still...living on $900/mo is getting to be painful. The novelty of a cheap 6-pack, or two buck chuck and a date with network tv has worn off (it's all I can afford to do during the week). You may ask why I live in such an expensive place, well, I have a bid dog, and my friends and family live in the area. Nevertheless, this thread has really depressed me. I'm going to get my MUP next year, and it looks like I'll be back to the same old ways after I graduate. To bad living like a student for the rest of your life doesn't include staying young.
 

paiste13

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I don't think $900/month is terrible to live on. If that's after ALL bills are paid what could you possibly spend that on?
 

CubbieBlue

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Even if that is what he takes home after all of his bills are paid, you still have to worry about food costs, gas, day to day living expenses, emergencies, entertainment and god forbid saving any money..
 

paiste13

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Oh, I see. When I calculate my spending money that's after all my savings are accounted for. I was thinking the $900 was after savings and insurance, etc.
 

Victory

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No, $900 is what I have to cover all my expenses for the month. It's not much, I can't even afford to make my student loan payments (they are in forbearance).
 
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