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Real talk: how to live on the City Year stipend

What is it really like to live on the AmeriCorps stipend? Find out what City Year alum Charlie Bridger (Boston ’15), says about how he made his $630 bi-weekly stipend work for him by budgeting and saving money.

What is a benefit of living on the stipend?

Charlie Bridger (CB):Budgeting. I have gotten much better at one of the most difficult parts of being an adult, because I haven’t had much of a choice. Being able to budget well is essential for people who want to spend their hard-earned money efficiently and productively. The fiscally consistent bi-weekly stipend is a great training tool for people who may not be used to receiving a fixed income.

What is difficult about living on the stipend?

CB: Balancing necessities and fun on a fixed income. You always have a choice about how you spend your time and money. When you have a limited amount of both, those decisions can be pretty tough. For example, I am someone who values experiences, especially when I am in a new place. So, when I created my original budget, I found that after covering all the bases of what is typically important for comfortable living, I had only a little wiggle-room for fun-seeking. I made a personal choice not to pay for internet or cable. This gave me extra money every month so that I could save up for a road trip that I’m planning for the summer and not be forced to pinch pennies on the weekends if I wanted to do something fun.

What advice would you give new corps members about living on the stipend?

CB: My advice would be:

  • Go grocery shopping instead of eating out. It saves a TON of money and teaches you how to cook.
  • Search for affordable housing on Padmapper.
  • Take advantage of assistance benefits programs, if you qualify.
  • Find out which discounts you’re eligible for through City Year, such as free transit passes.
  • Find free things to do in your city (especially if you have access to assistance benefits programs, which allow you to go to several museums for free).

What are your monthly expenses?

CB: My monthly expenses are pretty simple: Housing, utilities, food and fun

  • My rent is $550 per month
  • Food is $150 per month

Whatever is left over goes toward fun, eating out and saving for my road trip.

Do you have any last words of wisdom about living on the stipend?

CB: Depending on the level of income reported during the year you serve with City Year, AmeriCorps members can qualify for assistance with home utilities and exempt status on income taxes (which basically just allows you to keep the money you make when you make it, instead of paying taxes and then getting money back in April in lump sum).

Still have more questions about the City Year stipend or how to choose which City Year location is best for you?

Editorial Note: This post was originally posted in April 2015. It was updated, expanded and reposted in February 2019.

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