By Nick Kelly
The smell of fine North End Italian cuisine filled my nostrils while I was filled with gratitude for friendship.
This August evening in Boston would be the last that my fellow Boston Globe summer interns and I would spend together. So, we decided to head to the North End to enjoy some Italian food to celebrate our hard work. I tried to enjoy the conversation as much as I could without thinking about the end of our time together. For the most part, I succeeded and nothing, I thought, could ruin this bliss.
Then the check arrived.
This evening was my third dining in the North End but my first picking up the check. My chicken parmigiana, a scrumptious combination of cheese, chicken and red sauce, cost me about $35.
The Midwesterner in me still can’t believe I dropped that much money on a meal. The most I spent on chicken parm in the Midwest ran about $15. I should have known by then, after an entire summer in Boston that it would not be anywhere near that price, but more than double the price? That I did not anticipate.
The same goes for what it cost for me to live in Boston for a summer. I had worked as an intern previously in Tampa, Minneapolis and Columbia, Missouri, and I knew Boston would be a bit more costly. I just didn’t anticipate how much more.
The summer in Boston taught me just what cost of living really meant and how much I need to factor it into my future job searches.
I went into the summer ahead in my finances. I was storing away the same weekly amount of money in my savings so that I could begin investing the moment I leave college. That was my plan. I wanted to have enough money, no matter the job, that I could invest and pay off student loans.
One Boston apartment, a few expensive meals and experiences later, and that is no longer a reality. My Boston apartment cost me four times as much per month as my apartment in Missouri. I should have known the moment I locked in my apartment that I needed to be as frugal as possible. I went from being ahead to maybe being in a similar boat to most of my friends. I had to take out a private loan I did not anticipate needing because of my spending.
Groceries cost more. Movie tickets cost more. A monthly pass for public transit also was an expense. It especially didn’t help when I had to buy two monthly passes in one month because I lost my CharlieCard while on a date. That was not a fun realization.
I’ve never been a big spender. I primarily spend on the essentials, so I had not ever budgeted much prior to my summer in Boston. I was making enough money to pay for everything I needed and have extra for occasional social adventures.
But what happens when essentials are much more expensive? That’s not ever something I thought too much about while living and working in the Midwest or in Florida, really.
A change in cost of living is no joke. I learned the hard way you just can’t ignore that it’s more expensive to live in one place than another. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Boston. I just didn’t realize how cognizant I needed to be of cost of living.
If you ever find yourself in a similar spot, moving to a place with much higher cost of living, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Track your spending. Write it down. Use cash when you can.
A credit card in a fun city for a summer can be a dangerous thing. Next time, I’ll check the difference in cost of living by using one of several online calcutors, like this one at Smart Asset.
I love Boston and I hope I can live there again someday. But before I allow myself to take a job there, I need a financial plan. Going in without one didn’t work this past summer.
I can only imagine what more than a summer would have done to my bank account.
Nick Kelly is a graduating senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in journalism.