How to Live in Denver on $100,000 a Year

Noah Lyman and his wife and toddler.
Noah Lyman and his wife and toddler. Courtesy of Noah Lyman
Editor's note: How do people survive in Denver, where the cost of living is rising, with no end in sight? We spoke with a few people who make different income amounts about how they make it in the Mile High. Read part one and part two.

Noah Lyman, 32
Job: real estate agent
Salary: $100,000 a year

What brought you to Denver, and what makes you want to stay?
I grew up in Durango and came to Denver in 2006 to go to the University of Colorado at Denver because they had a music-production program that was attractive to me. I just kind of fell in love with the city. Once you've lived here for a while, I think you're crazy not to stay.

Which neighborhood do you live in? Rent or own? I live in Congress Park, and I own. We bought our home in 2012. If we were buying it in today's market, we probably would not be able to buy in Congress Park. Our house has doubled in value since we bought it.

What are you saving for right now? Various things. Obviously kids' education, and having an emergency fund is important to us. The next project we're saving for is remodeling our kitchen.

When you're not working, what takes up most of your time? The kids and the family. Every spare ounce of our time is taken up by them right now, which is pretty fun and pretty exhausting.

Biggest financial stress in your life? The biggest stress that we have is insurance for the family right now, because I'm an independent contractor as opposed to an employee, so I don't get an employer benefit toward health-care payments. We pay a full premium, which is fine, we're happy to do it, but I wish it was less expensive. We need to make sure the family's healthy. We're very lucky that we don't need to pay for child care. My parents take care of our toddler full-time, and my wife is staying at home taking care of our infant. If we did have to pay for full-time child care, I don't know how we could afford that along with insurance and everything else. Denver is a super-expensive city for child care.

Do you think you make enough money? I made about twice last year what I was used to making in years before that, so in that sense, I'm very happy and blessed to make enough to provide for my family. As far as having goals for the future, wanting to improve the quality of life for your family, it always seems like you can never make enough money. If I stayed where I'm at, I could be happy and comfortable, for sure.

Is Denver an expensive city? It depends on what your gauge is. San Fran is a really expensive city. Denver has historically not been an expensive city, but its become more and more expensive. I think it's an expensive city based on average wages versus average costs. There are a lot of younger people with great incomes moving here for work or because of the attractive culture, but it's having the effect of almost gentrifying the city away from some of the younger people that are still at the beginning of their arcs, career-wise. If you know the hole-in-the-wall spots, you can get good food for a few bucks. Bourbon Chicken on Colfax, or food carts, Mexican places on Federal, or pho places on Federal. There are a lot of cheap options, but more and more, Denver is becoming a mecca of the new, hip "foodie culture"-type places, which is great on the one hand, because it brings residents a lot of new, unique and delicious food options, but it also opens an avenue for the type of uber-trendy restaurants you see these days that tend to have higher prices and smaller portions.

You just got paid and you're hitting the town for a night. What's your first stop?
I'd hit up the Atomic Cowboy on Colfax. I just wish the Biscuit Company was open all day.

Something you wish you had more money to spend on? Music, my home studio. I'm a musician, as well. I just don't have time for it these days.

What's something you consistently spend money on even though you know you shouldn't
? Coffee would be one for me. Beers are expensive in Denver, too. You spend $5 for beer at a bar versus eight bucks for a six-pack at the liquor store.

What's something you hate spending money on? My car!
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