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Old 06-19-2009, 03:44 PM
12 posts, read 39,182 times
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I recently accepted a job in Lexington. I am right out of college, so I would like to be closer to the city in a more lively area with restaurants and bars.

Right now I am looking in Cambridge. I would be renting. I am single with no children and no debt or car payments. Is this feasible?

Right now the apartment I am looking at is on Western Ave near the Whole Foods. I really like the Harvard square area. I do have a car to drive to work. How much do you think utilities etc will cost a month?

Thank you so much for your help!
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Old 06-19-2009, 04:11 PM
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I forgot to mention the apartment I am looking at on Western Ave will be about $1050 a month. Is that too much?
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Old 06-21-2009, 01:08 AM
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Yikes, I don't think I could move to Boston for 45k a year. Do you have other options? I'd pick a less expensive city. That said, just think of this way. You'll be spending roughly $13,000 a year on rent and I don't know what your salary will be after taxes. Also factor in the cost of broker's fees if you have to pay them for the apartment you've chosen. However, you mentioned no car payment or dependents so you can probably make it work if you budget your money and spend wisely. It just depends on the person. I knew a girl that lived in Houston and made $50,000 a year and could barely come up with $800 a month for rent. So it's all about your spending habits. I would prefer not to live in Boston on that salary, but I could make it work no doubt. Also you could get a roommate if you're having second thoughts about expenses.
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Old 06-21-2009, 07:46 AM
Location: Cambridge, MA
4,730 posts, read 10,936,243 times
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The most important determinant of utility expenses is how the place is heated. It's essential that you find out whether that's included with rent, to begin with. Many homes in Cambridge, especially older ones, rely on oil during the winter. The price of heating oil has been fluctuating a great deal in recent years, and goes up without fail by October or November annually. I have friends who set aside money from month to month and keep the thermostat turned low to stretch that dollar as far as they can. Natural gas isn't so bad b/c you can set up a budget plan with equal payments throughout the year. To give you some indication, I live in a drafty 1919 "3-decka" (just off Western Ave as a matter of fact) and now have a gas bill that's set at $132/month. This is for cooking as well as for heat and hot water. By comparison, folks who have oil heat or who haven't set up a payment plan with NStar could easily see bills that can exceed $200-300 for gas and $400 for oil
Over a grand per month may seem steep, but that's actually a steal in Cambridge. Few studios go for that little now. The city trends more and more toward a have/have-not population with each year that's passed since rent control (my means of getting in) was abolished. Western Ave is the reason $1,050 is the going rate - that utilities if not also heat are excluded can be safely assumed. Between the intersections of Howard St and Memorial Drive, the neighborhood is only slowly reclaiming its deteriorating homes. That's a section to walk through at a brisk pace after 9 PM or so. For every group of kids that's innocuously hanging out, there's another that's up to no good. The Howard/Western corner has been a drive-up drug deal destination "forever." Summertime brawls and shootings are as predictable as temperatures in the 90's. Assaults and robberies are far from uncommon, with the risk increasing the later the hour. OTOH the street where I live is tranquil and safe, and my night-owl self has only been jumped once in 21 years. All of which is to say, life in the city is what it is. Odds are you can live here for a very long time and never have anything negative transpire.
As far as getting by on $45k a year, that'd be a nice dilemma to have! I exist fairly simply for starters (no Whole Check, I mean Whole Foods, for me - it's Foodmaster and Market Basket and the Harvest Co-op all the way.) Without a vehicle and the urge to continuously purchase i-whatever's and software upgrades and "the latest" in clothes etc I'm getting by comfortably on a gross salary that's in the mid-30's. The key here is making the separation between lifestyle and life itself.
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Old 06-21-2009, 09:05 AM
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Is safety really that big of an issue? Should I be looking somewhere else???
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Old 06-21-2009, 02:25 PM
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When I was in grad school my husband and I managed fine in Cambridge on a salary of ~40K/year, and that was back in 2000 when the rental market was at a peak. We had a crappy, small 1 bdrm apt for $1100 near Central Sq. Money was tight but we shopped at Market Basket, got thrift store furniture, didn't buy fancy new stuff, and fortunately my car was completely paid off. I think you'd be fine as a single person on $45K. I never had any problems in Central and used to commute daily via T.
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Old 06-22-2009, 07:20 AM
Location: Boston
1,125 posts, read 4,011,932 times
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get a roomate. you'll be fine.
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Old 06-22-2009, 07:58 AM
Location: Brookline, MA
613 posts, read 1,966,319 times
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Plenty of people survive in Cambridge on approx 45K a year. Most first jobs pay that or less. Do you have student loans? Not having credit card debt and a car payment puts you in a better position.

$1050 for an apt in Cambridge is pretty reasonable if it includes heat and hot water. Many apartments include it and I personally wouldn't move into one that didn't because the cost is too unpredictable. Otherwise, electricity and gas for the stove shouldn't run you more than $50 or so for the month. The other utilities are up to you: cable and internet can get very expensive. Also, your car insurance may be more than you pay now. I'd also check out the parking situation. Do you have an off street spot included in your rent? If not, is parking easy in that area?

Honestly, most people right out of college have a roommate(s) to make the finances easier. The entertainment scene is lots of fun, but can get very expensive. You would probably save a couple hundred dollars a month on living expenses by having a roommate or two for at least a year, but that is ultimately up to you.
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Old 06-22-2009, 10:03 PM
Location: Cambridge, MA
4,730 posts, read 10,936,243 times
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Revisiting the safety issue: That shouldn't be a reason to rule out moving to the Western Ave area. As is true of any place, most antisocial acts are between people who have an issue with each other (and usually know each other.) Police headquarters moved from Central Square to East Cambridge earlier this year, but there is still a good presence of cops. Now that the weather's getting hotter - at least on some days, lol - they're out on foot and bicycle patrols as well as in their cars. The kids in the neighborhood are far more noisy than they're dangerous. Store owners get annoyed when a loud group of teens bursts through the door, inevitably leaving stuff scattered around and not paying for everything they take with them. But hey, I grew up in suburbia and it was just like that there.
Unless you're looking at a place in the building at 101 Western, you'll be confronted with a lack of off-street parking. One of many reasons I don't miss having a car is needing to sometimes drive around and around before a space materializes. There's also a street cleaning day every month, when one side of a street is off limits until after the sweeper's driven by. Part of life in Cambridge is being awakened by the recorded announcement that tagging and towing await those who haven't moved their vehicles. It's broadcast from a DPW pickup truck that makes repeated circuits starting at 6:30-7 AM. Those who don't hear +/or don't heed it then face another part of life in Cambridge: calling the police station to find out which far-flung yard contains their wheels, then making the trip to retrieve said wheels and paying the parking-violation fine AND the storage fees. During winter, there are also bans on parking along streets which are "designated snow emergency routes." Even with all that, though, much more often than not it's not a huge deal to stow the ride. But the matter of parking or lack thereof is the main make-or-break proposition I can come up with.
My shared-living situations were positive overall, with a lot of the less-than-positive situations providing good story-telling material. You definitely ought to consider bringing in a housemate if your potential apartment has two or more bedrooms.
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Old 06-23-2009, 10:20 AM
Location: Oakland, CA
289 posts, read 1,033,265 times
Reputation: 331
I have a friend who only recently moved away from Cambridge. She makes just a hair over $30k and survived in Cambridge without a problem. Find a roommate or two and live simply and you'll get by just fine. There are many young professionals who manage to live off of low wages in Cambridge, so you won't be alone.
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