My name is Paulie and I’ve been reading Len’s awesome blog for almost a whole year now. I’m 27 years old.
After getting my high school diploma I held a series of odd jobs before deciding three years ago that it was time to leave the rat race. So I quit my last “real” job as a Chippendales stripper and moved from Las Vegas to New York City where I now make money as a street performer. No, not as a stripper. I’m in a small band. Hey, you only live once, right?
My specialty is singing old songs by Led Zeppelin, Queen, U2 and the Clash, but with a unique twist: I’m a crooner. It’s true! If you want to make a living as an entertainer on the streets of New York you have to be unique because the competition here is incredible!
Depending on the public’s generosity, my take from the band is usually about $20 per day in small change, although we’re occasionally blessed with a kind-hearted person who will drop a fin or sawbuck into our tip jar as we’re performing — then it’s a little more.
My stupid band mates still have part-time jobs working for “the man,” so I often have to perform alone. You’d think working as a solo act would be better for my bottom line, but for some reason I always earn less. (Note to Alanis Morrisette: Now that’s ironic!)
If I had to guess, I’d say I currently make about $6000 per year.
Obviously, living on such a meager income means I have to rent — and let me tell you, in the Big Apple, you don’t get a lot for your money. I’m currently renting a 36 square-foot room at the back of a Bronx pizza restaurant for $199 per month. Actually, it’s a converted janitorial closet, but it has all the comforts of home: a nice cot, a working lightbulb, an electrical outlet, a couple of hooks for my clothes, and a small shelf to hold my iPhone and computer.
The only thing my room doesn’t have is a window, but what do you expect for $199 per month, right?
In case you’re wondering, as part of the deal, I get to use the restaurant’s public bathroom to wash up and “do my duty,” if you know what I mean.
I don’t have a car — I use the subway for everything, including visits to see my parents across the river.
Believe it or not, I don’t spend a lot of money on food. One of the perks of living in a pizza restaurant is that I get a lot of free food. Not a day goes by when at least one delivery comes back because it was a prank or because somebody didn’t have enough cash to pay for the pie! Crazy, right?
Whenever I have an especially good day on the street, I’ll often splurge and buy myself a Big Mac value meal. I know Mickey D’s is terrible for your health, but I’m a sucker for those two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions — all on a sesame seed bun! Admit it. I know you are too, right?
My cell phone plan is $35 per month. Other than that, I don’t have any utilities to pay. To stay connected, I take advantage of the free wi-fi at various Starbucks, Mickey D’s and other businesses that offer it. I will say this: My landlord tried to make me cough up an extra $10 per month for electricity — so I asked him how much juice he thinks that little light bulb and an iPhone burns. I mean, come on. He finally saw the logic in that, thank God.
I don’t worry about health insurance because I’m young and don’t plan on getting sick anytime soon — but if I do, there’s always Obamacare, right?
I don’t save money for retirement. Why should I? That’s what an inheritance is for, right? Thanks in advance, Mom and Dad!
I don’t have an emergency fund either. Okay. Truth be told, I do. It’s called The Bank of Dad. I’m not kidding!
In my free time I enjoy chatting with my friends online, playing Call of Duty, riding bicycles — assuming somebody will lend me one to ride — and eating.
Closing Tips and Thoughts
- I’m a big believer in YOLO: You only live once!
- Live below your means. Know the difference between your wants and needs.
- Figure out what you want to do early on in life, and then live the dream!
- Don’t knock dumpster diving unless you’ve tried it. I’ve discovered lots of great things in dumpsters. Last year I found a brand new pair of Air Jordans — in my size, no less. I know. I couldn’t believe it either!
- You can’t take it with you. So why bother accumulating stuff, right?
- Everybody should read Len’s article “19 Things Your Suburban Millionaire Neighbor Won’t Tell You.” It. Is. Amazing!
- Live simply; real work is for suckers. Trust me.
If you’re a household CEO who is successfully making ends meet on roughly $40,000 per year or less, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at Len@LenPenzo.com and be sure to put “$40,000” in the subject line. If I publish your story, you’ll get a $25 gift card!
Photo Credit: digitizedchaos
The Money Spot says
I am not sure if this is for real….only because of the storage closet.
Kate @ Money Propeller says
Thanks for sharing your story Paulie. I absolutely agree with you, that we should know the difference between wants and needs.
Hey Paulie. “Work is for suckers???” Grow up! Your lack of ambition is going to bite you in the behind one day. You won’t be 27 forever.
I’m surprised Len put this story up. It seems to go against the theme of a personal finance blog for responsible people. Good luck you Paulie. You are going to need it.
Grandma B. says
I was thinking that too! And I was hoping to see a real budget for NYC. It’s definitely possible as I did so myself when I was single…harder with a family.
It has to be. No one 27 years old thinks like that ( my goodness I hope not). Cheryl
Done by Forty says
I’m one of those working suckers — hope you don’t hold it against me. Hey, I love Big Macs, too.
I’m amazed by the budget you’ve been able to hack in NYC. Maybe the cheapest rent I’ve seen in any city, and barely any food budget either. Does the metrocard fall under discretionary spending?
I think this is an April Fools post. Is it just me, or are some of “Paulie’s” comments a bit over the top? He isn’t saving for retirement because he’ll get an inheritance? (Then he thanks mom and dad in advance?) Bank of Dad instead of emergency savings? There are others.
I agree. Who moves to NYC to leave the rat race? Fun read though.
Slim Shady says
Crooning songs by the Clash was a dead giveaway for me. Although I tried crooning Rock the Casbah in my head and it actually works! Now I’m confused. Maybe this is the real deal.
Take a close look at the picture.
David C. says
Is it one of those Magic Eye pictures? I can never get those to work…
Len Penzo says
No, it’s a digital creation.
I thought it was pretty clear that this was an April Fool’s post!
Len Penzo says
Yes, it was an April Fool’s post! Gotcha! (Well, at least some of you.)
Winny: Great observation. The photo is as fake as Paulie’s story.
so fake it hurts…
and where do you bathe? i don’t see anything about an available shower… don’t tell me, you take some soap from the bathroom and give yourself a quickie handwash
The Money Spot says
Paulie, that’s a good move. Hope everything turns out well in New York City!
Nick Yioves says
I was going to say what computer do you have … prolly a $1000+ MacBook pro
Having lived n NYC, the story seemed off, though the “dumpster diving” stuff is quite true. My roomies and I lived near three colleges, (NYU, Cooper Union and Parsons) and things left on the curb come spring were amazing. We kept to stuff that could be scrubbed down, and art supplies. (Roaches are an issue). We switched out our furniture when better stuff came along. We’d peer out our walk up window to see how long our old stuff would stay on the curb. Rarely more than 10 minutes. Entertainment and recycling at it’s finest.
Len Penzo says
It’s the same at my house, Olivia — and I live in a quiet neighborhood. If we put out large items for takeaway — like an old barbecue or dresser — they are usually scooped up before the hauler can pick them up. I’ve found that there are some people who just drive around all day looking for big items left on the curb for pick-up and them resell them.