For those who live on a budget, Austin's growth can be a source of stress. It's hard to imagine living on $1,000 a month, but if I can do it, then anyone can.
While in college at Texas State University in San Marcos, I held a few jobs, ranging from unpaid intern to retail cashier to newspaper editor, none of which paid more than peanuts. From 2017-2019, I had a $9 an hour retail job, and I raked in a little less than $1,000 per month.
With a little bit of creativity and budgeting talent, here's how I would make $1,000 per month work in Austin:
When you're only working with $1,000 per month, most likely you will end up spending close to 70% of your income on rent and the rest on other necessities, with little leftover.
While I lived in San Marcos, I was able to split a two-bedroom apartment with just one other person, slashing the $850/month rent and roughly $100 utilities in half. Rent at $850 for a two-bedroom might be hard to find in Austin, so consider moving outside the Austin metro area if you have reliable transportation to the city (I'll address transportation further down). Otherwise, a breakdown of cheaper neighborhoods to apartment shop at in Austin can be found here.
Tips for low-cost living:
- Find a roommate—or two or three—to cut the cost of rent.
- Avoid rent-by-the-room leases as they tend to favor the landlord. Instead, you'll want to sign a joint-lease agreement, so rent is split 50/50.
- Try not to sign a lease during the summer—that's the busiest moving season and you're more likely to get a better deal in fall or winter.
- Don't use electricity if you're not in the room and try to keep your water usage down.
If you conserve, you preserve valuable cash. A breakdown of essential costs: water at an average of $35 per month, electricity averaging at $65-100 depending on the season, internet can be found for as cheap as $30 per month and cell phone service as cheap as $15. If you can find a living situation that will pay one or more of your utilities, like I did, it will put that much more money back in your pocket.
A car payment is simply not doable under this budget. So you'll need to make do with the car that was gifted to you or you paid off in full, especially if you're planning on living just outside the city. If you're a biker, that's also a cost-efficent way to get around—especially with Austin being a bike-friendly city. Otherwise, there's always public transportation to get you around.
I paid off my 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt when I bought it and tried to drive as little as possible to avoid having to pay for yet another tank of gas. If you choose to drive, insurance can be as low as $65 per month and a single tank of gas costs around $25.
Austin's Capital Metro offers bus and rail services from Downtown to Leander with various routes and stops. A 31-day bus pass will cost $41.25 at the most reduced rate, which equates to how much one might spend on car fuel.
With only between $35-105 left for food, you will need to maximize how you shop. Buy what is on sale and try to limit your perishables to what you can consume before they spoil. It seems self-explanatory but 30-40% of food is wasted in the U.S., which equates to about a pound per person, per day.
I buy foods I know I like so that money doesn't go to waste. I'm a firm believer in eating breakfast every day, so my mornings usually started with some tea and something light. I'm not much of a cook so quick and easy food is my go-to. I buy food that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways so I never have to get tired of them—if you keep anything in stock, make sure it is spices and sauces.
Rice is incredibly cheap, versatile, can be eaten for every meal and it isn't uncommon for me to do so. And for protein, a bag of frozen chicken thighs can be found at your local grocery store for less than $5, and it'll last you days with various ways to cook it.
Unfortunately, eating out isn't something that can be done often so when I do, I enjoy it!
Buying other essentials: clothes, furniture and more
Don't buy anything new. And that means anything. From clothes to furniture to cars to moving boxes, you can get nearly everything pre-loved. However, just because it is used doesn't mean it has to look cheap or junky; the goal is to appear as if your items are brand new without having to spend huge sums of cash.
Consignment stores, Facebook Marketplace and Goodwill are excellent locations to find discounted or sometimes even free goods. Amazon Warehouse has a section on its website that sells open-box items, though most often they are still brand new. There is simply no reason to pay full price for anything, plus it's better for the planet!
The hard reality is that when you're working with a tight budget, spending money is usually the first to go. Set up a rainy day fund for a splurge and enjoy all the free (or close to free) activities Austin has to offer. Become a Zilker Park explorer extraordinaire or tour some of the many museums around the city like The Blanton, which is free on the first Thursday of every month, or the Mexic-Arte museum, which is free on Sundays. The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is only $5 per person and never ceases to delight with its uniquely structured art. Don't neglect your wants but don't let them be the source of your monetary stress.
Now go get that coin!
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A park in the sky. That’s how Ed Muth, Gensler principal-in-charge of the Sixth and Guadalupe project, describes the outdoor deck on level 14 of the building.
It’s a gathering space that’ll be lushly landscaped and filled with various plant types. It’ll also have spaces for sitting and a small amphitheater tech space. It’s poised to be an area for Meta employees to spend time and mingle once the tech giant moves in next spring.
As downtown grows with increased residential and office space, the tech industry’s influence in the area is clear with Google’s sailboat tower plus TikTok signing a lease on Colorado. How will Sixth and Guadalupe shape Austin’s skyline?
For starters, it's poised to be the tallest tower in Austin when it is completed in 2023, standing 66 floors high. The deal with Meta, Facebook's parent company, was inked on Dec. 31, 2021 and is downtown Austin's largest lease ever, spanning across 33 floors and 589,000 square feet. It'll cater to some of the 2,000 employees that have been working in Austin. The social media giant has also said it plans on adding 400 more employees.
Key to the project, Muth told Austonia, is making sure clients get everything that they expected out of it.
Soon-to-be residents, the first of which are expected to come in the summer of next year, will occupy space from level 34 up and can expect gaming lounges, theater space, a garden on level 53 plus some pools. The one on level 66 will be the highest pool deck in Austin, Muth said.
The flashy amenities are sure to catch the attention of people vying to move in, but other major design elements were brought on by the Capitol view corridor.
“It's set out there to make sure that we don't block the views of the Capitol,” Muth said. “It kind of set the rules for where we can build, where we could position the building, how we design, the shape of the building, and how we put the square footage together in that building.”
A building of this undertaking involved a team of about 20 people at Gensler, a global architecture firm headquartered in San Francisco. They’ve been working with commercial developer Lincoln Property Company and residential developer Kairoi plus about a dozen consultants, some of whom were in Austin and others in Dallas.
The downtown tower boom has been in the works for some time. Muth said they’ve built a lot of trust working with them for the past five years, with some of their work carried out remotely during COVID-19. In the early days of the pandemic, downtown areas across the country—Austin included—saw lowered activity and both residents and workers heading to suburbs and other areas of the city.
“It really rose to its form, as we see it today, during that time, and a lot of people weren't downtown,” Muth said. “So it probably surprised some folks when they came back downtown to say, ‘Wow, where'd that come from?’”
About two weeks ago, Muth made a visit to the site, noticing restaurants and retail that hadn’t been there previously. Sixth and Guadalupe itself will include retail on the ground floor, adding to downtown’s growth even on the sidewalk level.
“Just looking out from the level 14th floor deck, I think we counted five or six, maybe seven new construction sites that are within blocks of this project. The area's rapidly changing,” Muth said.
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Two of Austin’s biggest celebrities are joining forces for a Q&A session open to the public.
Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey and former Longhorn Emmanuel Acho will meet at LBJ Auditorium, 2313 Red River St., on May 22 at 2 p.m.
The author behind New York Times bestselling book "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” Acho will be there to celebrate the recent release of his new book, “Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits.”
Acho had McConaughey on his Youtube series of the same name in June 2020.
“Two of your favorite Texans in person and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. It doesn’t happen often and may not happen again, so bring your questions, bring a friend, and prepare to be inspired and entertained," Acho said on social media.
The event is organized in partnership with BookPeople and the Moody College of Communication. Tickets are available for $45.
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