Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

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Ama
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Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

Hello all! After a year of reading posts I decided to make my first comment. ERE Journals has been my favorite place to lurk while at work (I read all of bigato's in a month before it was erased!) and so I decided to start here.

I'm 31, currently living outside of Detroit with my boyfriend and three rescued street cats (they are all fat now). I've been frugal my whole adult life - my mom lost her job in the '08 crash my first year of college in Philly, and I coped by learning to live off of as little as possible for the rest of my college life ($4,000 in loans plus very part time hours at a pizza shop / year - I recently found a note with my '09 monthly budget - $300 rent, $40 groceries, $20 beer, $10 thrift store lol). My undergrad took longer than expected, and when I finally graduated I move to the west coast for love (huge mistake). Not long after I moved to a subburb outside of Detroit (for a better love).

My 5 years in the Midwest have been the most financially stable of my life - I found a job early on and worked my way up to a good position, completely paid off my student loans, learned to drive and inherited a car, renting a very cheap but lovely home, and saving money rather than just making and living on as little as possible. The next obvious step is to think about / plan for early retirement...
Last edited by Ama on Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ama
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

Now for some numbers:

Income:
My Yearly Salary (Before taxes) $52k (I recently got a raise! This is a huge salary for me - I have an art school degree!)
After taxes and healthcare and 401k contributions its about $37k

My Expenses (everything is split, but I'll just mark my share here):
Rent - $200 (we rent under the table from a family friend)
Utilities - $130 (gas, water, electric, internet, Shudder)
Groceries - $200 to $350 (I budget $200 each, but lately we always go over this category)
Eating out - $100 to $200 (...same)
Car Gas - $55
Car - $827 / yr (insurance + new license plate - I inherited a nice car from my granddad, its a rock and I do all the upkeep myself, but the insurance is super expensive bc Im a new driver)
Personal Spending - ~$100 (toiletries, new socks, hobbies like gardening and weaving, YNAB subscription)
=$853 to $1,103 / month

I contribute 6% to my 401K through work (just enough to get the 3% company match). 401k is at about $9K, pretty pitiful - dropped by a couple thousand in March. I have about $34k in my savings account, and $5k in my checking. I'm interested in investing but I guess I havent dedicated enough research to take the plunge....

My main goals for this year are to lower my monthly spending (and thus raise my monthly savings!) and figure out what to do with the money sitting in my savings account. I've never maxed out my 401k contributions before and am considering doing that this year, but the rate of return on it right now (bc of the pandemic) is -17%.... so not exactly tempting. I also have been holding onto the money because my bf and I are thinking about buying a house together. Our current situation is extremely cheap, and in a lovely neighborhood, but it's a bit unstable - we have no lease, so the owner could ask us to leave at any time (he hasn't in 5 years, but you never know).

ertyu
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by ertyu »

Cat tax! Kindly please upload pictures :D

What is your plan for lowering monthly spending? What areas will you look into?

Cheepnis
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Cheepnis »

Welcome Ama! Please accept salutations from this fellow holder of a useless degrees (music for me).

Would you mind commenting at all on your experiences living in Detroit? It's the poster child for shitty American cities, and I know there are some real problems there, but what's the experience "on the street"? I mean, millions of people still live there, go to work, run errands, take their kids to school... as someone who's never even been to the state I wonder how bad can it be?

7Wannabe5
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Welcome! Metro Detroit is a pretty good place to live on the cheap. In fact, it is my contention that almost everything that is happening or available anywhere in the world is also happening or available someplace in Michigan.

Cheepnis
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Cheepnis »

7w5, that's kind of what I would expect. You can't get that many people together in an industrialized nation without options existing. Everybody might love to point and shout "haha bankruptcy", but the actual living experience surely can't be much different than many other cities. Still interested in Ama's experiences.

sky
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by sky »

You can find bad neighborhoods in Detroit if you want to. But much of Detroit Metro is very high quality of life.

Alphaville
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Alphaville »

good place to start a business these days too yeah?

e.g. see: https://detroitbikes.com/

Ama
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

ertyu wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 1:54 pm
Cat tax! Kindly please upload pictures :D

What is your plan for lowering monthly spending? What areas will you look into?
:lol:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jnI9iW ... p=drivesdk

^^^hopefully that works

And good q! It's easy enough to say you want to, but what is the plan... I think the easiest two areas to try to reduce spending are groceries and eating out. These are the only two categories where I've noticed a real life-style creep over the past couple years.

To help curb grocery spending, my plan is to choose recipes based on cost of ingredients. We don't really go wild with snacks, or buy shit we don't need. I think our grocery budget has increased because we've started cooking more meat (I don't like to buy the cheap meat for ethical reasons). For eating out, I'll need to first get better about buying groceries on a set schedule (my life has actually gotten busier during the pandemic so my grocery schedule went out the window) and second talk with my partner about limiting how often we get more expensive take out. We are lucky enough to live near lots of cheap, tasty, relatively healthy food options - lebanese shawarma sandwiches for $3 each! - so there's no reason for us to splurge $30 on Thai and Indian food in the same week
Last edited by Ama on Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ama
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Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

Cheepnis wrote:
Sat Nov 07, 2020 1:35 pm
Welcome Ama! Please accept salutations from this fellow holder of a useless degrees (music for me).

Would you mind commenting at all on your experiences living in Detroit? It's the poster child for shitty American cities, and I know there are some real problems there, but what's the experience "on the street"? I mean, millions of people still live there, go to work, run errands, take their kids to school... as someone who's never even been to the state I wonder how bad can it be?
it's nice to know there are other's here with useless degrees!! And now a bit about the Metro Detroit area, bc everyone seems interested! First, I am NOT from Detroit and I actually live in a first ring subburb, so if any native Detroiters pop up here - my appologies.

Ok, so I gotta agree with all of the comments so far - like Cheepnis said, Detroit does have some major problems (and this is understating it). My first visit here I went on a driving tour and was struck by the vastness - you can fit Boston, Manhattan, and San Francisco inside of Detroit - and the emptiness - Detroit itself has a population of 670,031 as of 2020 census. I've never seen so many abandoned homes, empty lots, crumbling houses, and fire damage in my life. You'll drive through a neighborhood and see a block with only one or two houses standing, and that's totally normal here. But like Sky said - "Detroit Metro is very high quality of life." Detroit's Downtown is owned largely by a handful of billionaires (as of 2019 the Illitches, which is just one famous billionaire family here, owned 34% of the land Downtown https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/ ... 636965002/). We have a fancy new stadium, fancy new hotels and restaurants, expensive stores, and nice new river walk, etc etc. At the risk of revealing my politics, the difference between Detroit's Downtown and Midtown, with apartments renting for Manhattan prices, and Brightmoor or even most of the East Side, with the empty lots and abandoned homes, is completely insane. You really can't just visit Downtown and think you've seen and understand Detroit.

But as 7Wannabe5 mentioned - " almost everything that is happening or available anywhere in the world is also happening or available someplace in Michigan." So while Detroit is definitely full of food deserts, you can also buy land for $500, buy a house for $5k, and live very cheaply. The difference here is, there is a sense of possibility for someone moving to Detroit - there's room, and land, and things are affordable compared to most American cities (obviosuly not so for all of the people who lost their homes....). Like Alphavile said, it's a great place to start a business! I even have a friend here who bought a house for $1k, installed plumbing and electricity herself, and then a couple years later sold her home for $150k (along with the rest of the block) to a Catholic church that wanted to create a park in the name of a new saint. She's not into budgeting (althoguh I tried to advise her) and I think all of that net gain is gone now.

The first ring subburbs around Detroit are also a really interesting mix - I live in Dearborn, which has the highest Lebanese population outside of Lebanon. The neighborhoods are very family friendly, and there's produce markets, hookah, and cheap food everywhere. Another favorite nearby subburb is Livonia - there's a specific store for everything here (a kite store, a bonsai store, a pasty shop, etc etc). Hamtramck, which is actually a separate city inside of Detroit, has a large Polish population and a city atmosphere that reminds me of parts of Philly (where I'm from originally).... Ok can you all tell I think and talk about this city alot? I'll leave it here for now, could definitely keep going.

ertyu
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by ertyu »

your cat is excellent thank you

Alphaville
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Alphaville »

hey please feel free to go on about detroit till you’re blue in the face, i’m always curious about cities.

you mentioned the polish part of town— maybe see if you can find this movie somewhere?

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119910/

i saw it ages ago, as i recall it was very funny, good cast too.

also, not the first time i hear about detroit’s great shawarma.

hm, now i wanna go and buy a house there and start a business, lol

7Wannabe5
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

If I lived in Dearborn half my disposable income would be spent at Shatila :lol: My Iranian-American ex and I used to take the drive every month from Ann Arbor to load up on goodies and a giant tray of shawarma. You might want to check out the Henry Ford library book sale when it starts up again. One of the best in the metro area. I lived in Livonia from 1966 to 1977 and it’s amazing to me how much it hasn’t changed. I think the family owned store where my parents bought my school shoes is still in business. Also runs a very good book sale. My permaculture project is located in Hamtramck, where my Polish immigrant great-grandmother once fell off a second floor balcony while pregnant. It is the most densely populated city in the state and the kids in the schools there where I sometimes worked speak 36 different languages at last count. My paternal great grandfather was the Treasurer of Detroit, both my parents grew up there, and I was born there, but have lived in 7 different counties (3 rural including U.P.) and long term vacationed in 2 others in the state since then. Long way of saying, I would be happy to offer you any/many suggestions for reasonably inexpensive outings or day trips. Have you ventured up north much yet?

Ama
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Tue Nov 10, 2020 6:28 am
If I lived in Dearborn half my disposable income would be spent at Shatila :lol:
Shatila is incredible!!! My bf (I'm noticing most ppl say DH here?) has better self control than I do, so we usually only go a couple times in the summer. 7Wannabe5- really enjoyed all of your comment here, it's obvious you are a writer - such wild stories! I used to go to HF library weekly - will definitely keep an eye out for the book sale. I haven't ventured north yet (we never travel except to drive back east once or twice a year to see family) but I would love some recs!

Ama
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Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

Alphaville wrote:
Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:27 pm
you mentioned the polish part of town— maybe see if you can find this movie somewhere?

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119910/

...

hm, now i wanna go and buy a house there and start a business, lol
I'll definitely check this out, ty! And yes I am always trying to get everyone to move here, Metro Detroit area is incredible and has something for everyone!

Alphaville
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Alphaville »

Ama wrote:
Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:52 am
I'll definitely check this out, ty! And yes I am always trying to get everyone to move here, Metro Detroit area is incredible and has something for everyone!
yeah i used to live in the dc area when it was a bit of a ruin and considered “dangerous” but i loved it. i left when it got expensive,

the idea of scoring a home for very little money in an urban area is very appealing to me.

having said that, i’m currently attached to my state for a number of reasons.

but i do hear the call of the “urban frontier”... and yes, i love a culturally diverse population.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

You need to visit the western coast of Lake Huron. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive. You can canoe on the Rifle or Au Sable river, or hike literally hundreds of miles of trails. There is free primitive camping available in the National Forest if you want to keep it cheap. There are bears, but they are harmless. My favorite spot is the birding trail at Tawas Pointe State Park. In the summer people kite-surf there. This time of year you could easily find a small beach all to yourself where you could cuddle with your BF and maybe a warm cup of coffee and watch the sunrise over the wide horizon.

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RFS
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Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by RFS »

Hey Ama, thanks for sharing (great progress, too!) I think Detroit is one of the world's most exciting cities. But not from a conventional view. Mark Binelli says it well:
Rather than relitigate the sins of the past, I hoped to discover something new about the city- specifically, what happens to a once great place after it has been used and discarded? Who sticks around and tries to make things work again? And what sorts of newcomers are drawn to the place for similar reasons? These questions seemed particularly pertinent now that Detroit was no longer such a freakish outlier. Cities in Florida and California, in the Rust Belt and the Sun Belt, in England and the Mediterranean and who knew where next, they'd all been woken up to the same problems that have been pummeling Detroit for decades, but not limited to structural bankruptcy, unsustainable city services and public obligations, chronic unemployment, vacant and increasingly worthless real estate, and the disappearance of a workable tax base. Left unchecked, Detroit levels of crime, political instability, and blight would certainly follow. I wanted to think about how Detroiters struggled mightily to solve these problems- historically, yes, but more importantly right now.

... Land speculators made the scene, too, as the new mayor, former Detroit Pistons basketball star Dave Bing, began to publicly acknowledge the need for the city to both shrink and radically reinvent itself, a pledge that urban theorists, who long regarded Detroit as the unsolvable math problem of their field, found tantalizing. And so they came, too, along with the Scandinavian academics, the neopastoral agriculturalists, the deep-pocketed philanthropic organizations and the free-market ideologues and the fringe-left utopians- they all came.

For the most realistic of these pioneers, which is how many of the newcomers self identified, Detroit might very well be the city of tomorrow, but of a wholly different city sort than described above. They'd come to see the place as a blank slate, so debased and forgotten, it could be remade. The irony was almost too perfect. Detroit, having done more than any other city to promote the sprawl and suburbanization that had so despoiled the past century, could now become a model city for the new century, with bike paths and urban farms and grass-roots sustainability nudging aside planned obsolescence.
I see a lot of opportunity for ERE-minded individuals. Do you think you'll move further into the city at any point? Or do you see yourself staying in Dearborn?

Ama
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Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

RFS wrote:
Sun Nov 15, 2020 3:58 pm
I think Detroit is one of the world's most exciting cities. But not from a conventional view. Mark Binelli says it well...

I see a lot of opportunity for ERE-minded individuals. Do you think you'll move further into the city at any point? Or do you see yourself staying in Dearborn?
Thank you for sharing this quote!! I have not read Mark Binelli before but this is exactly the stuff I was trying to get across in earlier posts. As for moving to Detroit, this was kind of a sticking point between my bf and I that I have over the years let go a bit. When I moved here I dreamed of moving to a street on the east side with a couple houses left, lots of land to garden / farm / do what we want. Bf really wants to stay in Dearborn and near his mother (who's health is not so great), and wants to continue living under the jurisdiction of Dearborn police. Detoit police are notorious for taking hours to respond to a call. I've never called the police (except once to help a stray dog), but it's a difficult arguement to counter. I think we will stay in Dearborn, and I've zeroed in on some areas on the border of Detroit and Dearborn that have the same kind of wild community feel as Detroit.
Last edited by Ama on Tue Nov 17, 2020 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ama
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Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:42 pm

Re: Ama journal - new found stability in Detroit

Post by Ama »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:31 pm
You need to visit the western coast of Lake Huron. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive. You can canoe on the Rifle or Au Sable river, or hike literally hundreds of miles of trails. There is free primitive camping available in the National Forest if you want to keep it cheap. There are bears, but they are harmless. My favorite spot is the birding trail at Tawas Pointe State Park. In the summer people kite-surf there. This time of year you could easily find a small beach all to yourself where you could cuddle with your BF and maybe a warm cup of coffee and watch the sunrise over the wide horizon.
I love these recs so so much, thank you. It's going to be a very romantic spring ;)

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