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Real talk: how to live on the City Year stipend

City Year AmeriCorps members don’t choose to serve their communities for a year or two because it’ll make them rich. They serve because they’re passionate about education equity, supporting classroom environments where all students can thrive and growing their own skill set while doing good. While City Year offers corps members a monthly stipend in addition to other benefits and resources, we know it is challenging to live on a modest budget while serving long hours.

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Learn more about the $6,000+ Segal Education Award and how it can help you pay down past college debt, future education expenses and even educational travel!

However, we’re committed to ensuring that service is financially feasible for as many young adults as possible.

With this commitment in mind, City Year raised the minimum stipend to $20,000 a year (pre-tax) starting with the 2022-2023 school year and many of our locations increased living stipends increased stipends well beyond that amount.* Serving with City Year is now more possible than ever.

But you’re probably still thinking, “What is it really like to live on the AmeriCorps stipend?”

We interviewed City Year alum Charlie Bridger (Boston ’15) about how he made ends meet during his year of service. And even though the stipend amount has risen since Charlie served with City Year, he offers valuable, evergreen advice on living and saving money on a limited budget.

City Year AmeriCorps members

What is the benefit of living on a 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. Budgeting 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 a stipend?

CB: Balancing necessities and fun on a fixed income. You always have a choice about how you spend your time and money. Those decisions can be pretty tough when you have a limited amount of both. 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.

Advice for new corps members living on a stipend

CB: My advice would be:

  1. Go grocery shopping instead of eating out. It saves a TON of money and teaches you how to cook.
  2. Search for affordable housing on Padmapper or another housing aggregator
  3. Take advantage of assistance benefits programs – if you qualify
  4. Find our which discounts you’re eligible for through City Year, such as transit passes. Learn more about the benefits of serving with City Year and career resources for alums.
  5. Find free things to do in your city (especially if you have access to assistance benefits programs)

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Learn more about City Year’s relocation allowance for any confirmed AmeriCorps member moving 50 or more miles for service.

What are your monthly expenses?

CB: My monthly expenses are pretty simple: Housing, utilities, food and fun. My rent is $550 per month and groceries are $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 a stipend?

CB: Depending on the level of income reported during the year you serve with City Year, AmeriCorps members can qualify for food assistance and assistance with home utilities. You may also be eligible for exempt status on income taxes (which 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 a lump sum).

Have more questions about the City Year stipend or how to choose which City Year location is best for you? Connect with a recruiter today!

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*Your take home pay after taxes ultimately depends on your personal financial circumstances. City Year is not responsible for calculating or predicting tax implications for AmeriCorps members.

Editorial Note: This post was originally published in April 2015. It was updated and expanded in June 2022.

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