How to Live in Denver on $24,000 a Year

Cliff Johnson
Cliff Johnson Courtesy of Cliff Johnson
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 of the series here.

Cliff Johnson, 26
Job: field manager, Grassroots Campaigns
Salary: $24,000 a year

What brought you to Denver, and what makes you want to stay? My sister Candace moved to Denver about twelve years ago, and she opened the idea up to me about moving here. She's been doing really well since she's moved out here; her life has progressed in great ways. It's a really progressive state, and it's a really beautiful state. Also, because the art scene is growing here, and I'm also an artist. And weed is legal!

Which neighborhood do you live in? Rent or own? I rent, and I live in Bellevue-Hale.

What are you saving for right now? Right now I'm saving money for studio time. It's about $1,000 to get a mixtape fully recorded, mixed and mastered.

When you're not working, what takes up most of your time? Writing music, checking out these nice bars out here in Denver. I skateboard everywhere; Denver's great for skating. I'm thinking about work, obviously, thinking about my canvassers that I train for the next morning.

What is the biggest financial stress in your life? Trying to buy a vehicle, and now that I'm 26, I have insurance to worry about.

Do you think you make enough money? Yeah, definitely.

Is Denver an expensive city? I would say for the size, yeah. It's like they're building so much but there's not enough people that can afford these places yet. But I think the city itself is worth the price. It's a pretty dope city. The prices are right up there with Minneapolis; it's not too outrageously high. I don't think it's too highly priced, to be honest.

You just got paid and you're hitting the town for a night. What's your first stop? Probably going to Satellite Bar to grab a beer after work, then Illegal Pete's. That's kind of where I start. Then maybe go to a show, see my favorite artist who's in town that weekend.

What's something you hate spending money on? New shoes. I skateboard a lot, so my shoes get ripped up pretty fast. It's annoying. They're still new, they just get rips in them. That happens pretty frequently. Honestly, I hate spending money on food because it's just always fucking there. I need to eat, but I want to spend it on something else. And I'm on my own right now, so I gotta figure out how to cook. It's just been interesting having to figure out how to buy food the best way. Do I go to the grocery store and get a bunch of shit I can't cook, or should I just eat out to make it fast and get a good meal?

What's something you wish you had more money to spend on? Definitely travel. I want to see different countries and go to different states. Moving here has opened up my mind quite a bit to different cultures...even just ten to twelve hours away from my home town. Traveling would be a huge one, and being able to invite friends to come with me to just experience the rest of the world with me.

What's something you consistently spend money on even though you know you shouldn't? Four to five days a week I'll grab a Pabst right after work, just a little tallboy. Even if I go to the bars, I'll still grab one to go home.
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