How To

How to Be a Starving Writer in NYC (Without Starving)

I moved to one of the most expensive cities in the world to pursue one of the lowest-paying jobs in town. You could call this a pretty reckless life choice, especially at 19 years, but I had dreamed of a career in writing since I was old enough to hunt and peck at the keyboard. Nothing would stand in my way.

Two years later, I’m proud to have an apartment all to myself, a job (or two) that I love, and the freedom to follow my dream full force. It’s definitely not impossible to thrive as a young creative professional in the city, but you have to bring just as much creativity to the way you manage your bills and stock your fridge. Here are a couple tips and tricks I’ve figured out along the way.

Take the Fear Out of It

I won’t pretend I don’t worry about money. But I’ve definitely stopped being afraid of it. Stressing about your finances is exhausting, and if you’re putting 70 hours a week into perfecting your craft, there’s just no space for that.

No matter how little I have, I don’t want to live the kind of life where I’m nervously checking my bank accounts on my phone while salivating over a dessert menu. So I take a bit of time each month to figure out an allowance for myself, and then break it down day by day. Mint‘s budgeting feature helps me determine exactly how much I can spoil myself at such a granular level, so I don’t have to think about it when I’m out. Just a few minutes of planning can help you avoid   guilt and anxiety later. You should be able to enjoy the income you work so hard to earn.

Put Money Toward Your Career

Ideally, you would always get paid well for your work. Realistically, it takes a long, long time to get there. It’s unreasonable to expect that you’re always going to make money doing your favorite thing in the world. Besides, some gigs have way cooler rewards than cash – like a gem for your portfolio, or a handful of business cards you can turn into contacts.

A creative career demands some investments when you’re starting out, so I religiously maintain a career budget in Mint. Whether it goes toward website costs, notebooks and pens, or travel expenses to go cover a big event, I always make sure it’s prioritized – and always save my receipts. Many of these things can be tax-deductible if you’re freelancing or self-employed, and if it’s all accounted for in a designated budget, it’s much easier to sort through when April comes around.

Stay Scrappy

Most writing jobs are pretty unpredictable, so you should be saving like a maniac. I know coupons, ramen, and zip code envy don’t sound fun, but it’s amazing how doing things just a little bit differently can help you live like royalty in the long run.

I save a fortune from doing the silliest things, like buying men’s razors, shopping at ethnic grocery stores, and keeping cans of soup on hand so I’m less likely to splurge on snacks. On a larger scale, I now avoid living in trendy neighborhoods and seldom buy new clothes. So that I don’t get bored with what I have, I pack away half my closet into duffels and rotate them out every month. Give it a try – it genuinely feels like you’re getting new clothes all the time.

It’s not always glamorous, but getting to live your dream feels way better than trying to have it all. When it gets tough, just remember why you do what you do and forget about the material things everyone else is hoarding up. I firmly believe that if you’re strict with your money now, one day you won’t have to be.

Olivia Isenhart is an award-winning Writer and Music Journalist in NYC. By day, she suits up and writes copy on Wall Street. By night, she’s hand-stamped and ink-stained, covering events around the city. You can check out her latest work at oliviaisenhart.com and follow her on Twitter @OliviaIsenhart. (Views are her own.)