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Old July 6th, 2012, 07:22 PM   #1
plarent
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Cost of living in U.S.

What are the salaries in U.S.? How much do you have to earn to have a good life, like an apartment, a car, go to vacations and stuff like this? I just love the american way of living and I'm interested to know these things.
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Old July 6th, 2012, 07:37 PM   #2
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What are the salaries in U.S.? How much do you have to earn to have a good life, like an apartment, a car, go to vacations and stuff like this? I just love the american way of living and I'm interested to know these things.
It almost completely depends on where you live. It can cost several thousand dollars a month for a small apartment in the center of a few cities like New York or San Francisco, but you can live in some suburbs and small towns for 1/4 that or less.

Cars, of course, cost the same all over but you can buy a well-running used one for a few thousand dollars or a new one for whatever you are willing to pay. These days, a nice new (but not luxury) car with plenty of options is probably around $25,000 just to toss out a figure.

Vacations, of course, can vary from a camping trip to the mountains for not much more than the cost of gas (call that $3/gallon - it goes up and down like everywhere) to city vacations staying at fancy hotels for $1000/night. I typically spend around $2000 for a week in a city across the country, transportation and hotel included.

For salaries, I'd suggest playing around with this site: http://www.salary.com/
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Old July 7th, 2012, 01:33 AM   #3
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I'd say one would need to make around $60,000.00 to have a decent life. What's a vacation?
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Old July 7th, 2012, 01:53 AM   #4
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In reality the majority of Americans don't make anywhere near $60,000/year and do have decent lives. It depends on where you choose to live and how much stuff you need to be happy.

I'm a teacher in Atlanta making <$50,000 and I live a very satisfying life.

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Old July 7th, 2012, 03:42 AM   #5
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I make $45k in Richmond. After housing, utilities, gas, food,student loan, truck payment and insurance I end the month with no money set aside and a dozen or so bucks in my checking account. After I pay my bills (no credit card debt) I live off of about $80.00 a week (food and gas comes out of that). I got rid of my home phone a few years back, steal my neighbor's wireless Internet signal and haven't had any food with any nutritional value in years (ok, I do get some fresh spinach in every now and then).

I have a good job (carpenter) but I have zero benefits (no insurance, no sick days, no holiday pay, no vacation). If I wanted to take vacations, go to a dentist occasionally and buy a house I'd have to either get a roommate (hard for my 1 bedroom $680.00 a month), shack up or make more than what I do (and I already have a second job). Not only would a vacation be expensive but I have to factor in lost revenue. I can't afford to loose many work days. I had a great job before I got laid off in '09. I made about 15% more and vacation days and insurance. Life was much better then (still worked a second job so that I could afford bourbon, entertainment and nice shoes).

I'm not complaining. I have a decent life and I make a lot more than most of my neighbors (I followed low rent into my dumpy neighborhood). That said, every single purchase has me doing math in my head. If I want a coffee on Tuesday, I have to offset the cost somehow on Wednesday. Which is OK, but stressful.

To live well (physically and emotionally fit) takes quite a bit of money or a partner to share the costs.
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Old July 7th, 2012, 05:38 AM   #6
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I don't want to indulge in bitchy criticism, but "student loan" and you're a carpenter? How old's the truck (I'm guessing you bought it new so the payment's fairly steep)?

My point is just that you do seem to have some expenses that aren't typical and you are unfortunate enough to be in a job that has been hit unusually hard by the recession (construction).

Making $3750 a month and paying "only" $680 rent, those loan payments and/or truck payments must be substantial. Without them--especially without the student loan I suspect most carpenters wouldn't have--you'd be doing pretty well.

But you did make one important point with which I agree (I agree with the point, not that it's the only one). Most Americans feel they need to share some expenses these days--with a roommate until they find a love interest, with him or her after that.
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Old July 7th, 2012, 09:13 PM   #7
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I did $88K last year and my partner did $73K.
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Old July 7th, 2012, 09:50 PM   #8
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I did $88K last year and my partner did $73K.
That undoubtedly puts you in the top 15% of Americans...
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Old July 7th, 2012, 10:18 PM   #9
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I did $88K last year and my partner did $73K.
Sean, what is your field, and what is your partner's field? Cal Escapee, I sent you a MP a while back about my field and what I make.
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Old July 7th, 2012, 10:28 PM   #10
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I could live very well on my gross income!

The truck is new. It is a manual, has hand-crank windows and non power locks. Very basic and the cheapest Ford f150 available, the interest was kind if high for me and because I live paycheck to paycheck I only had about $1,000 (weekends doing side work for friends) to put down. It will be paid off in a few months and I'll drive it like the last one, until the engine falls out at 200k miles

I haven't always been a carpenter. After 7 years in the health insurance business I followed my heart and hands into construction. I don't regret the loan at all. Compared to today's rates, it was a cheap undergrad education and lead me to a free ride for graduate school.

I love my job and am very good at at. Pre-recession I was doing very well. Hopefully I can get my salary up before I'm too old to carry sheets of plywood up extension ladders I was laid off in '09. My old pick up died and I had to start paying for my own insurance. My benefits check was the max available in VA at $380.00 a week. I blew through my savings to make truck and rent payments. Fortunately I found a new job after about 5 months, though it paid less and came with no benefits. I was laid off from that job too after about 8 months. I was only out of work for a week that time so I didn't fall behind. New job is stable but pays even less and again has no benefits.

The person who posed the question asked about having a car, paying rent and taking vacation. I just tried to make the case that one needs more than I make to have all that (or to share the costs). I have very wealthy and generous friends so it feels like I live better than I do. I have access to pools and cocktails and hotel points. If I ever fall out of favor with them I'll be very sad.

It's said that money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy peace of mind. I feel like with more money I could eat better, never drive on bald tires, have a dental plan and take vacations.... Thus my $60k figure.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 01:01 AM   #11
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Sean, what is your field, and what is your partner's field? Cal Escapee, I sent you a MP a while back about my field and what I make.
Yes, I found it and it looks like I was in the middle of responding and got interrupted but there's something about the private messaging system here I can't figure out.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 01:14 AM   #12
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I followed my heart and hands into construction.
And I bet both now and in the future you'll be glad. But the fact remains that most people making what you make don't have some of the expenses you do. You could, with different choices (like a slightly used truck) have a bit more for the other things.

I'm not being critical--no way I would make these choices for someone else. But I'm just saying there are options.

I'd prefer not to post the details but let's just say I make a lot more than you do. Not enough to make me a 1% type but more. Still, my car is 19 years old going on much more. It's worth so little now, in spite of still having very low milage, I doubt I'll ever sell it or trade it in as long as I have space to garage it.

I'm also fortunate--or perhaps it was foresight because what has happened IS pretty much what I expected--in that my mortgage payment in expensive San Francisco is a lot less than it would cost me to rent a similar place because I bought it 30 years ago (I've refinanced twice--don't want to own it outright for reasons not very relevant here). At this point, the apartment needs redecorating badly but I believe in what I call the "theory of incremental happiness": The value of money is the incremental happiness it can be used to obtain. I just wouldn't be that much happier with a redecorated place and I would hate the mess while it's being done. So I live in a 1980s environment.

My take-away from all this so far is that there are a lot of different "American lifestyles" and the people who make and spend more aren't necessarily the happiest. I think most people in most places can be comfortable enough on $45K for a single person. $60K would, of course, be even better.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 01:15 AM   #13
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... and haven't had any food with any nutritional value in years (ok, I do get some fresh spinach in every now and then)...
Do you have a yard or do you live in an apartment building?
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Old July 8th, 2012, 01:17 AM   #14
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What are the salaries in U.S.? How much do you have to earn to have a good life, like an apartment, a car, go to vacations and stuff like this? I just love the american way of living and I'm interested to know these things.
Question is, what do you consider the American way of living? The amount of money you require to survive depends entirely on your lifestyle.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 01:54 AM   #15
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Sean, what is your field, and what is your partner's field? Cal Escapee, I sent you a MP a while back about my field and what I make.
I'm in banking/finance...my partner is a GM of a 120 room hotel in the French Quarter.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 02:05 AM   #16
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I'm in banking/finance...my partner is a GM of a 120 room hotel in the French Quarter.
Hmm. Now I'm curious if I've stayed there (I visit NO about twice a year) . . . . Wouldn't ask you to name it, though.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 03:37 AM   #17
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OP has to be a little more descriptive. The US you know is a large place. It would cost a lot less to live a middle class lifestyle in rural Arkansas than in Midtown Manhattan naturally.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 05:23 AM   #18
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If you guys want to try to convince a foreigner that the American lifestyle that he as seen in the media and has fallen in love with can be had on a modest salary, knock yourselves out. The American dream isn't a used car and a bunch of roommates (the reality is, well it's actually much more bleak than that). If someone wants to know how much money is necessary to have nice things and vacation and you want to be constructive, come up with a figure. Don't badger the person that did. Anything that this person has seen on TV, in print media or in a movie that made him/her think " I want to live like that" can't be had on my salary, not even in a third tier city like Richmond.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 06:03 AM   #19
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If you guys want to try to convince a foreigner that the American lifestyle that he as seen in the media and has fallen in love with can be had on a modest salary, knock yourselves out.
No way if that's the criteria. Actually, it's one of my pet peeves. In the movies they show some guy who's a low level white collar cubical-jockey living in a Manhattan brownstone (all of it) or a fab loft. Makes me want to throw stuff at the screen.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 07:51 AM   #20
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After taxes, medical, etc. I barely make more than $1,800 a month. My share of the rent is $400 (includes utilities). My share of cable/internet is about $60. I spend around $600 a month on my car (payment, insurance, gas, upkeep). I spend probably $300 a month on food (groceries and eating out). I spend another $100 or so on entertainment (Netflix, movie theater, etc.) The rest goes into my savings account. I never count pennies. I buy essentially whatever I want, though I rarely want anything. I get two weeks of vacation, though this upcoming year, I get three. I plan on spending much of that time in Europe.
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