Some of your wonder how I manage to shop, travel, and save as much as I do with a social worker salary. One reason is that I work in the medical social work field, which pays higher than other social work fields. The second is that I live at home. As someone in my early 30s, this is frowned upon by society. However, 1) I come from a culture that expects their kids to live at home until marriage and 2) I live in the Bay Area, where a number of my friends also live at home because of high housing prices. This is the same place that has apartments so expensive that you might as well buy a castle.
Everyone who knows me knows that I've been trying to move out of my parents' house for several years, while at the same time attempting to maximize my retirement savings. The first few years, I started looking apartments only to be discouraged by rental prices. I then entered the home buying market, only to get outbid by upwards of six figure (all cash) offers each time. Now, housing and rental prices are so ridiculous that I've stopped trying (to the absolute joy of my parents/relatives and the chagrin of my sanity). And no, due to my cultural background, moving in with my boyfriend is not an option. Fortunately, he understands as he lived with his parents (despite having an engineering job) for nearly a decade before buying a house of his own.
Living at home in my 30s is not as bad as my teenage years, but can still be quite emotionally taxing. However, I've had opportunities to do things I would not have been able to do if I had my own apartment, such as travel as extensively as I have, eat sushi as much as I do, and grow a savings account enough to buy a decent house in any other part of the country (except maybe New York). I'm also not tied to a specific location due to a lease/mortgage, so if any surprise opportunities arise in the future I can uproot myself with relative ease.
Still, my hope is to somehow move out in the next year and live independently before settling down. If not possible, I may take an extended trip somewhere. While I appreciate the low-cost housing, there are days where I just need solidarity, privacy, and a chaos-free environment where boundaries are actually respected. Coming home from work only to have to listen to your "roommates'" problems without any consideration for your own can be taxing after a few years.
There is a price for sanity, and it's about $1,931 a month plus utilities.