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  • Writer's pictureGavin Godfrey

In between jobs in Grant Park

Despite her cost-of-living struggles, this 56-year-old has hope

 
Art clippings of a one hundred dollar bill, a map of Atlanta, the Georgia capitol, and a peach
Illustration by Khoa Tran

A resident of Grant Park, this 56-year-old former real estate analyst likes to joke that she’s another local living the life of “home-loaner-ship.” (“I got fed up with reminding my family that I would not own my condo until my mortgage was paid off,” she says.) Her combination of student loans and credit card debt “angers and mortifies” her, so discussing exact figures is not something she likes doing.


When she filled out our Two Cents survey, she was between jobs, hadn’t taken a vacation in almost 10 years, and was using her savings and 401(k) to cover monthly expenses. Now, she has a new gig working for the City; before that, she couldn’t remember receiving a pay raise that adequately covered cost-of-living increases in Atlanta.


Despite these struggles, she does have hope: “The city has tremendous potential and lots of supersmart people who come up with great ideas to make it better.”


Job title

Though she’s now working for the City, all answers are from when she was still between jobs.


Age

56


Neighborhood

Grant Park


Lives with

Alone


Annual gross income

NA


Monthly mortgage payment

$1,350


Health insurance and prescriptions

Insurance: $565 for mini-COBRA. Prescriptions: $100 a month while I have insurance coverage.


Phone plan and monthly subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, food delivery services, apps, etc.)

Just over $200


Utilities

$200


Transportation (car payment, car insurance, and gas + public transportation or Uber)

$145


Groceries

$100


Restaurants, fast food, drinks at bars, coffees

$30–$100


How much do you save each month, and how much do you have in savings/401(k)?

Before losing my previous job, I contributed to a 401(k) and put $200 per month in savings.


Vacations

I have not taken a vacation since 2016.


Fun (concerts, books, movies, recreational drugs, etc.)

I am an avid reader and addicted to books! I belong to the A Cappella Books Choir and try to trade in several books a month to manage my spending. I honestly do not want to figure out what the monthly amount is and would rather go without other things than cease to be an A Cappella patron!


Clothes/beauty (new shoes, laundromat services, makeup)

I do my laundry at home in a compact high-efficiency washer and air-dry most of my clothes. I shop at CVS and Thrive Market. I supplement my beauty purchases from there with an occasional indulgence from Lush. I have used shopgoodwill.com and Queenie’s Consignment for most of my clothing for years. I also buy from Eileen Fisher Renew. I’m sure I spend more than I think I do! But I try to consign anything I haven’t worn in a year during the appropriate season. I also try to get all my shoes when they are on sale.


What she’d like to have but lives without

I would like to travel again—around the country and outside the U.S. I would also like to get an electric bike so I can stop driving, and a monthly pedicure would be spectacular.


Her take on what can be done to improve the cost of living in Atlanta

The cost of housing needs to become realistic. Our public transportation system is in dire need of expansion and variety. Wages need to rise to address the incredible increase in the cost of living. I cannot recall when I have received a “raise” that covered the annual cost-of-living increase, let alone one that was an

actual increase above the cost of living.


Most challenging thing about living in Atlanta

I am fortunate to have shifted from renting to “home-loaner-ship” in 2015 and to have refinanced at the right time in 2020. But having a car and trying to get around, even with a car, is awful and expensive. Our public transit system and lack of transit options suck.


What she loves most about Atlanta

The city has tremendous potential and lots of supersmart people who come up with great ideas to make it better. If we could just get out of our own way and see some of those through, it could be truly terrific.

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