Friday, January 12, 2007

Making it on a budget

Making it on a budget
Making it on a budget,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
My experience may be more or less similar to that of other staffers during this session. This came to mind today while the House discussed the issue of salary caps. If you are making the cap, you may live fairly well in Austin. You'd have enough to rent a decent apartment and maybe even go out to eat. Chances are that if you are earning less than the cap, it's much less than the cap. Chances are that you are either making the max or are not even close to it. That's human nature; and the Reps are human.

If you are in the latter, you can't afford to eat out. In fact, you can't afford to eat at the Capitol Grill either. Let me do the numbers for you. If you spend $6 per meal, that means your cost for lunch and dinner is $12 per day. Let's assume you skip breakfast. You will spend $48 a week working 4 days a week. $60 per week in a 5 day week. That's $240 per month, not including weekends.

Housing in Austin should cost roughly $500 per month. Utilities another $200, maybe. We are up to $940 per month. If you have a car, without payments, you can expect to pay about $80/mo on insurance. If you have car payments, may God bless you, because you still have to eat on weekends. Cell phone? $60/month or more.

We are up to roughly $1200 per month. Let's eat on the weekends and skip breakfast. That's $144. We are up to $1344. Gas? $1424.

We are talking basic survival. There is no shopping for clothes. There is no going out for a few drinks. Haircuts are not included. Toiletries are not included. If you think you'll walk away from this job in better shape than you started, you are kidding yourself. After this session, you'll be broke. The ONLY place you can cut corners is in eating. Shop at HEB and find out where all the receptions are that welcome staff. Whatever you do, do NOT get caught up in the illusion that you are all powerful. The almighty laws of Economics will kick your ass. Make your own lunch. Buy food you make for yourself. Do your best to walk away from this experience making a profit. You should have money left over at the end of the month. That's profit.

1 comment:

David A. Diaz said...

Shane, Shane, Shane,

I thought I gave you good advice on how to survive financially during the regular session. If any of those people are keeping you out of their receptions, that's news to every other Valley legislative staff member in Austin. Jeeze, Louise, Shane, your boss just became an even more influential part of the House leadership, so push your political weight around there. The free lunches/receptions should last through mid-March, and then it will get a bit tougher, but don't let that discourage you, either.

You want to get a lot of stroke up there? Tell Aaron to let you handle his schedule at the Capitol, and you will see how fast people will take you out for lunch. My God, those lobbyists hanging around your office make $500 a day just to sit on their fat patooties in the Big House. They have big bank accounts. Of course, never put the squeeze on constituents for free lunch and entertainment, but as for the rest of those fat cats, put them to work for you and your fellow staff members! (Just remember, if they blow $50 or more per day on your lunch, they have to report it to the Texas Ethics Committee).

As for the high cost of living in Austin, yes, that is a drag. Didn't Aaron have a $12,000 budget carryover into this year's operating account? He can fork over some more money. Let's see how his campaign account stands up in a few days, when his latest reports are revealed online. He can supplement your salary from there, as well.'

Finally, since Austin isn't your permanent residence (at least not yet), remember, you can write off your monthly rent, gasoline, groceries, land telephone, long distance calls, and a bunch of other expenses that you incur as a result of your employment (don't forget travel to and from Austin). Unfortunately, that doesn't go into effect until April 2008, but that should get you a great tax write-off then. Don't lose that tax break.

I know, it is tough to make it up there, but keep your chin up and your nose to the grindstone. The things you are about to learn at the Capitol, and that means going to every committee meeting you can stomach, is going to make you wealthy both in wisdom, and hopefully, in your career in the months and years to come.

So, up and at 'em, Soldier! Never forget that in your veins flows the blood of an Aztec warrior!


David A. Diaz