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You know, as long as I’m thinking about it, let’s run the numbers here, maybe y’all can point out some things I’m overlooking that would make living either more or less expensive than I’m estimating.

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>>Depending on what kind of deal I could get on my internet service, it could cost anywhere from $50-$100 a month.<<

…holy shit, I thought paying USD$80 for four people was bad. (I mean, it kind of *is* bad, I’m pretty sure we could save a couple dozen dollars a month if we hadn’t gone and locked ourselves into these guys’ email-address system. We were all young and foolish once.)

>>estimate that everybody’s car drives at least 15k miles a year<<

That’s approximately 40 miles/day on average (including weekends). Does that seem like a reasonable assessment of what a job-having!you is likely to need? It seems kind of high to me; maybe USAA is assuming a pretty long commute?

(Would it be feasible for you to pull your actual figures from when you were a call-center worker by looking at old bank records and such? My own estimates of what my family is likely to spend in the future always start with a baseline of what we actually spent in previous years. I have Google Sheets breaking down our expenses (and incomes) for each of 2016, 2017, and 2018 (updated quarterly) by category.)

>>And iirc my grandfather used to say that you should budget as much for car repairs / maintenance as you do for petrol<<

Mind you, petrol was rather cheaper in your grandfather’s day. I don’t know about you, but our car-repair cost in 2017 equalled 55% of our petrol cost.

>>Meat is fucking expensive, okay? :P<<

It occurs to me that you, too, have a generally cheaper country to the south, not so far away. Can you pull any New-York-style exploitation of cost-of-living differences in Mexico? It’d be pretty bargain-hunty, but I seem to recall you once went to a Mexican dentist to save money, so there’s some precedent. (There are extra language-barrier and border-security issues compared to Canada-to-America cost-of-living tricks, though. Not sure how big those effects are.)

For smaller-scale bargain-hunting, you can try checking around to see if there are any little butchers or anything that sell meat cheaper than your usual grocery chains. The cheapest meat seller in this county (that I know of) is a non-chain grocery store that we overlooked for ages until a friend told us about how cheap their steaks were.

Also, did you get that PM I sent you a while back about how to use Amazon credit at Safeway?

(The offer to sell you Amazon credit at 10% off is still open, if you ever want. Conversion-via-electronics is workable, but it’s a pain and it means the 10% lost goes to some random person on Craigslist. You could pay in USD and I’d deal with the currency-conversion issues myself (and maybe figure out a trick that’ll let me funnel it directly to New York trips and never pay any conversion fees at all; still working on that).)

I also keep a spreadsheet of food prices expressed in cents-per-calorie. Some of them are much cheaper than I expected, notably peanut butter (as cheap as ramen!) and bananas. Plus, even when you’re specifically looking for meat, there’s a lot of price spread between different meats. (Mom occasionally says stuff about not really being able to afford a diabetic-friendly diet, and I always tell her there’s still *relative* cheapness to be found even within medical restrictions. If she thinks she ought to spend less on food, she can replace some of her canned tuna with (non-canned) chicken (which costs half as much).) I can’t be too specific without more knowledge of your own local food prices than I have, but some things to keep in mind.

>>Do any of you know what one normally spends on this sort of thing?<<

I don’t. My expense-tracking spreadsheets work at the granularity of a transaction, which means most sundries get lumped in with groceries under “things bought at grocery stores”.

>>I am reluctant to switch too much up on that, as due to some interesting bits of luck, I am currently month-to-month rather than on a contract.<<

Is that difficult to come by in America? (And here they told me Canada had some of the worst cell plans out there, far worse than America.)

Recently I systematically went through every cell brand with coverage in this area and compared their plans (all of them had no-contract options, though they weren’t always front-and-centre), which is why I was able to find Dad a $40/month plan big enough to cover his work needs. The main thing I learned was to *never ever* buy from a flagship brand: buy from a little reseller or offshoot brand instead. (Holy shit, do the Big Three ever overcharge on their flagship-brand plans.) But, again, the Canadian cell-plan situation is famously weird, so I don’t really know what Arizona is like with that.

How much mobile data do you have? How much do you need? How much data can you offload onto non-mobile-data versions of the same thing? (…she says, as someone who carries an offline copy of Wikipedia with her at all times and has memorised the location and size of every public Wi-Fi hotspot within walking distance†.) Can you arrange to downgrade? (I know you need some mobile data for mental-health reasons, but like with Mom eating chicken instead of fish, sometimes there’s still room to do less-expensive versions of a necessary expensive thing.)

>>Laundry. Roughly $5 a week at the laundromat for one large load of laundry. This covers the amount of laundry I generate, which I know because my aunt hauls me to the laundromat every week. Still, it adds up; $260 a year for laundry, not counting detergent (which goes under Sundries). *sigh*<<

Does that mean it’s safe to assume the Hypothetical Apartment won’t come with a washing machine and dryer? I’ve always had a washing machine and dryer in my house, so I have no idea how to optimise laundromat usage. (My laundry optimisation looks like “run the machine during off-peak hours to reduce its electricity cost”.)

>>Clothes. Once again I haven’t the faintest notion how much these actually cost.<<

I haven’t bought much in the way of new clothes since I started keeping track of expenses (I haven’t finished wearing out all my clothes from before), so neither do I. When I do buy clothes these days, I generally buy from thrift stores, but I suspect you’d have a lot of trouble trying to find anything there in your size.

(Mom is somewhere around your size, and she managed to get a 50%-off birthday coupon from a Canadian plus-size clothing chain after signing up for their mailing list.)

You could really do with some housemates who don’t suck so you could get some bulk discounts happening, but if that were actionable advice you’d probably have done it already.


†And keeps being surprised and kind of horrified by how little attention her offline friends and acquaintances pay to minimising their data usage. (Do you know how many people I’ve met at Wi-Fi-blanketed Pokemon gyms who *didn’t know* they were in a Wi-Fi zone? (No wonder they’d been so surprised when I told them I was able to play Pokemon Go 1 – 2 hours/day on a 100 MB/month plan.) Do you know I once had a friend burn through her entire month’s allotment in four days, and she neither knew nor cared why?)


#reply via reblog #adventures in human capitalism #our home and cherished land #home of the brave #disordered eating?

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