Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Just the Necessities Ma'am

So, just what are the necessities for a couple considering marriage or one that is already married? In this posting I'll deal only with living quarter expenses.

Apartment Rental: You have to have someplace to live, unless you are planning on both moving into your old room in your parents' house, an option not used today. How much will that apartment cost you to rent? That depends. If you are in the NYC area apartment rents will vary considerably. An apartment in Brooklyn can cost double or almost double what the rents are in other parts of the City. Forest Hills is more expensive than Kew Garden Hills. Central Manhattan can make even Brooklyn look good. A call to a real estate agent in Brooklyn brought these general figures: a two-bedroom apartment in Flatbush is going to run in the $1400 to $2200 range, depending on whether it is in a basement or on the fringes of the frum areas, or is in the center of the frum areas. An apartment in Borough Park costs even more.

A newly married student volunteered that he is paying $1850 per month for an "older" two-bedroom apartment in Flatbush that is only 610 square feet not including the bathroom footage. Because the apartment is in a building heat is included in the price but no other utilities are included. (Just a note: that same amount of money would get you half a two-family house in Far Rockaway and a whole house in Staten Island.)

This means that this couple must budget for gas and electricity payments every month. Summers will be more expensive then winters because of the cost of air conditioning. And if you are counting on air conditioning then you also have to include the cost of air conditioners.
That finishes the living quarters, right? Wrong. Also to be budgetted for is renter's insurance. Your possessions are not protected by the landlord for theft and damage outside of a few highly specific instances where a landlord might be liable for the damages.

You're still not finished. First, there is painting the apartment. A few landlords will do this--usually in very high end buildings, and most don't. So if the apartment needs a new coat of paint that is your expense. Something to cover the windows so that no one can see in? Your expense. Rental quarters are required to have a bulb in the ceiling in most, but not all, rooms in an apartment. For any rooms that do not have overhead fixtures, buying lighting is your responsibility. And if you don't like a bare bulb in the ceiling, then the "luxury" of buying nicer fixures is yours to pay for. Bare floors and you really want carpeting that is soft underfoot? Your expense.

Most apartments do not come furnished. That is your expense. What are the absolute necessities for starting out in your apartment? Two beds and a table to eat on. Beyond that you are edging into the luxury class. Now it could be argued that furniture to put your clothes away in is a necessity not a luxury. Okay, but what kind of furniture? Know many young frum couples who go to Ikea and buy a few knock together chests? Bedroom sets are pricey, even the cheaper ones. What, no couch, you wail? Luxury. And the size of your apartment will dictate how big your bedroom set can be and how big the couch can be. Young couples run to fill their first apartments with furniture, furniture that is going to be of limited use to them in a subsequent, larger apartment.

Bookcases would seem to be a necessity, especially where there are dozens and dozens of seforim to be housed. Again, anyone shopping at Ikea? Or K-Mart? Put the words "seforim shrank" in front of a bookcase and you are talking megabucks. But I need a china closet to put things in, you wail again. And again, that is a luxury. Will the world as you know it end if you do not display the besomim holder that your cousin Myrah bought you which you didn't like when you got it but it has to go somewhere? A computer and a desk come to mind. These items straddle the necessity/luxury divide.

Large or small, apartments and what comes with them cost a lot. Using my student above the cost of the apartment rental, gas, electricity and renter's insurance alone come out to a rounded $25,500 a year. That is not including the price of anything else discussed here. And we haven't even begun to touch on what other expenses a couple has. Notice anyone eating in this apartment?

Oh yes, you might want to ponder on this. That same apartment in Brooklyn if rented in Passaic or Teaneck would run you around $800-900 dollars a month and would most likely be somewhat larger. A much larger 2-bedroom in Staten Island would run you about $1000-1100, including utilities.

All costs mentioned here are paid for with after tax income. How much do you have to earn just to cover the expenses mentioned so far?

To Be Continued


G said...

Ah yes, living like
regular people.

the apple said...


Don't make me face reality. I love my head-in-the-sand student existence.

P.S. Or people could try NOT living in New York . . . just a thought.

Anonymous said...

My 17 year-old son dropped out of high school after the 11th grade. Got work as a masgiach/kitchen helper and then moved into an apartment with a friend on Miami Beach. Friend's well-off parents paid friends living expenses. My son was on his own. He moved back home after about four weeks. Now he is studying for his GED.

I guess he realized that food is expensive when you actually have to pay for it. :)

Scraps said...

If you're willing to go further out of town, the prices can be even lower. I know a young couple who bought a house because their mortgage payment was less than their rent used to be "in town" (and they weren't even from Brooklyn!). They also furnished their house beautifully, virtually for free, because they went on Craigslist, rented a van for a day, and drove around the city picking up people's perfectly decent discarded furniture.

I consider myself fortunate that my parents taught me about budgeting and living within my means; I didn't grow up wearing designer clothes, nor did I have a credit card until I could pay the bills myself. I also had a math teacher in high school who would occasionally take a day off from teaching geometry or trigonometry to teach us about taxes and credit cards (what to look out for in the fine print, etc.) and other money-related matters. When I first encountered a friend whose parents literally lived off of credit cards and minimum payments, but whose clothes were always far more expensive than mine, it boggled my mind--how could they live like that? It just made no sense to me.

ProfK said...

Not only does it make no sense to me, it scares me witless.

Bas~Melech said...

May I recommend some chairs to go with those two beds and the table?

ProfK said...

Chairs Bas Melech? When soda crates are free for the taking outside many grocery stores? Okay, if you insist.

ProfK said...

That has to be one of the all time most brilliant scenes to come out of television. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about the difference between luxury and necessity. All of us I guess have been guilty of saying I need something when we really should have been saying I want something. I'd also guess that parents are responsible for some of that problem. We give our kids too much maybe and they come to expect that they have to have it.

Anonymous said...

A good poiint anonymously. A lot of the problem starts with the parents who are encouraging the kids into lives they can't afford and then are bailing them out every time they get into money trouble. And then two families are in trouble. The parents find they can't afford what they promised the kids and the kids want more and more.