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Freelance journalist and podcaster: My budget and planning for the future

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I'm Misha Euceph. I am a journalist specifically focusing on podcasting and radio production and my yearly salary is approximately $60,000 a year. I have had to learn how to deal with money. I was fortunate enough to be born into a relatively well-off family and I didn't have to worry that much about money, but we were at this weird place where we were well-off enough that our needs were taken care of and we lived comfortable lives but at the same time I had to take out student loans to go to college. While I had a comfortable lifestyle, I didn't necessarily have a base of resources funding whatever it is that I wanted to do in life. And so I had to figure out how to earn money, how to spend money, how to appreciate money. In college didn't really understand how credit cards worked and I got a credit card and I started buying things on it and I got another credit card and I had good credit because I had been attached to my parents' credit cards early on in high school. That turned out really badly and I maxed out a bunch of credit cards and I'm still paying off some of that credit card debt which is really sad but also a huge life lesson. So I'm not very good at exercising restraint. So I had to build systems around myself. For example, I do not have any credit cards except for one in my wallet. That is the one that I have allowed myself to spend on. I have an automatic transfer into savings for $500 because that's $500 that I am likely to use. The $300 cushion I more often than not get right up to the edge. In that way like I'm not very good at prioritizing expenses at least intuitively, so I guess I'm good because I build systems around my own habits. And rather than trying to break habits that maybe have been ingrained for centuries from my parents' parents, I just realize that I have to work around those things. I have not always had a budget. I was more motivated to have a very specific budget as I was making the decision to freelance because I had to consider whether or not it was financially feasible, but I have been creating variations of a budget since I graduated college because I had a deep awareness of the fact that I have a large amount of student loans that I have to pay off and somewhere in the back of my mind I wanted to get to a place where I wouldn't have any more debt. So I was always trying to figure out how to kind of negotiate that so I would be able pay that off quickly. My annual salary is approximately $60,000 which means that monthly I earn about $5,000 and after taxes I lose about $1,200. So I was really surprised by that. One of the things that really helps is that I'm on my parents' healthcare until I'm 26 so I don't have to worry about a large healthcare expense. I'm also lucky that I'm young and healthy and I don't have to worry about a lot of doctors visits or costs. My take home pay after taxes is about $3,800, some of which is taken out in rent. I live with two roommates and my total rent for every month including utilities like gas and internet is $950 and we don't have a TV because we're millennials and we watch TV on our computers. I pay $123 for my phone per month which includes the cost of insurance which I think is a smarter bet in the long run because I drop my phone a bunch and things happen. Commuting expenses because I live in New York City and don't have a car, my entire expense is about $125 per month and that includes the unlimited train plan so I can use the train at any time without having to worry about how much money I'm spending. My student loan payments are approximately $77 a month. That is because I'm on an income-based repayment plan which I had to call my loan service provider for my federal loans up about and basically negotiate that down to a payment that I could afford with all of my expenses and considering the city that I live in. I have about $180 in food costs which includes groceries and food that I cook for myself and snack and stuff that I keep stocked at home. I also have a couple of random expenses like travel because my family is not from New York City. They are in LA, so from time to time I have to take a flight to go see them. My boyfriend is also a traveling touring musician which is great for him because that means he is very successful in his field but not so good for me because that means additional travel costs for me. But he also travels to see me and he lives in New York City so that works out. And then I have residual credit card costs for credit card debt that I have almost paid off which up to this point has amounted to about $300 to $330 per month. I have a pretty high entertainment and restaurant cost of around $900 a month and I don't even really drink that much. I'll have one drink every couple of weeks so if I did drink that cost would probably be double. I think that's mostly because I do like eating at nice restaurants and I go see a lot of music and those costs add up. And we've seen a bunch of plays on Broadway and so that leave me with about $890 per month. I put $500 into savings as a regular transfer per month and then I have about a $300 cushion. So some months I'll go all the way up to the limit and some months I'll have $300 more for savings. So my biggest financial goal is paying off my debt very quickly. I want to make enough money within the next year that I can pay off my debt within five to six years. Then I want to buy property, preferably in LA, which is where my family is and which is home to me. Preferably close to the beach. And then after that point I don't really have any goals. I think if I get to that level I will be happy with a reasonable amount of money. I'm not trying to make billions of dollars. But I do feel that the more successful I become in my field and the more I push my drive and the more I negotiate with every new opportunity I have, I will be on an upward trajectory and I will make more and more money over time.
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