What My Life Looked Like on a $58K Income in NYC

What My Life Looked Like on a 58K Income in New York City

I started writing this weeks ago, but then I got self-conscious and decided to scrap it. Doubts told me that this story wasn’t worth talking about. Because $58k is an absurd amount of money for a single person with no real responsibilities. Even in New York City. At least to me. And wouldn’t that be kind of insulting to people who make way less?

But then I came across a blog post that said that saving money on a $50k salary required making “serious sacrifices.”

Then I saw another comment about whether or not it’s possible to save in NYC: “You can do it with $85k by eating ramen and living with roommates.”

And then another: “Less than $60k is below the poverty line…”

For real?

So I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve never actually sat down and calculated how much I saved on that first New York income. But maybe I WAS barely scraping by when I made a lot less. Because I live in a place that’s designed to take my money away. I keep a spreadsheet of restaurants I want to try. Housing costs make me want to cry. I’ve spent $20 on a single cocktail. All ways to throw my money down the toilet.

In one of the most expensive cities in the world, is it possible to save on a median-ish income?

There are plenty of posts that talk about spending and saving in big cities, but they don’t show the numbers, and you know, that’s how we do things here.

My first full year living in New York City, I made about $58,000. Considering the industry I work in, I make more money in NYC than I would anywhere else. Using Nerdwallet’s cost of living calculator, that income bought me a lifestyle that cost around the $30-$40k range in most other places.

$58k in NYC =
$38k in Miami, FL
$34k in Allentown, PA
$39k in Chicago, IL
$29k in Tulsa, OK
$34k in Dallas, TX
$47k in Los Angeles, CA

If I adjust for inflation, that’s about $65k in 2018. It’s also important to note that my job was not entry level. I’d been working for a few years already and had some skills to bring to the table.

Adjusting for cost of living is one thing, but then there’s the other question: What qualifies for a “good” salary in NYC? That’s debatable, but as an anecdotal data point, my roommate’s first post-grad offer was $50k for a job title that had the word “junior” in it. I thought that was high, especially as my first salaried job was $33k.

Without further ado, it’s time to get financially NUDE (because I hate the word “naked”).

Income

Let’s take it from the top:

I took home about $3,496 per month or $41,952 annually.

I had to crunch the numbers a couple times, because I was shocked that $16,047 of my income went to taxes and deductions. Almost 30%! But it makes sense, because the $58,000 was cobbled together by multiple jobs: I worked one contract job I got through a staffing agency, and two freelancer jobs. This means no 401k plan to contribute pre-tax dollars to.

Being a contract employee also meant that I didn’t have the benefits that regular salaried workers do: no paid vacation, no sick days, no 401k match or health insurance through work.

I made $4,000 in 15 minutes.

I was offered that contract job for $25 an hour. I would have been happy with $27, so I asked for $30 an hour without giving an explanation for why. They settled at the $27. The worst they could have said was no. And I made myself $4,000 richer. Negotiation guys, DO IT. It’s the easiest money you’ll ever make, so don’t forgo those opportunities when they come your way.

I also did random freelance work for two old companies, adding another $4,000 to my income. It was absolutely mind-numbing work, but I didn’t think my income was high enough to poo-poo side hustle opportunities. It also helped that I was in a long-distance relationship at the time, so I had more nights to myself to spend on freelance projects.

Debt

$5,781 of my money went to student loans.

Paid them off that year, in three lump sums. As soon as my income gave me some breathing room, I paid more than the $169 minimum payments, so I was always ahead of schedule.

I had $0 in credit card debt.

My days of credit card debt were behind me. I charged everything to my credit cards, but paid them off in full every month.

Savings

I saved $14,000 of my take-home pay.

I was well aware about my 401k shortcomings, so I took extra care to actively save on my own.

For 8 months, I saved $1,500 per month, so $12,000 for the year.

Starting in August, I put away an extra $100 per week, adding another $2,000 to savings.

I then transferred $5,000 of those savings to my IRA investment account.

Lifestyle

$10,632 went to rent and utilities.

I couldn’t justify my own place on my income. I paid between $800 and $848 per month, which ended up being 25% of my take-home pay. This was accidentally the ideal income-to-housing ratio, but only because I always tried to find the cheapest housing option without sacrificing things I cared about: proximity to transportation, social activities within walking distance, natural light, wood floors.

I also chose to live in a vibrant neighborhood, so when my roommates got on my nerves there were plenty of cafes to escape to.

I spent $2,808 on actual food…

My grocery bills were really low, about $107 per month, because there were other things I valued more than the experience of eating food. Home-cooked meals were often simple, and I ate a variation of the same thing all the time.

But I bought work lunches a few times a week. I worked in Soho, and well, you can imagine all the food options around there are hard to resist.

Socializing with friends usually meant eating out once or twice per month, so $777 went to restaurants, and a surprisingly low $145 on drinks (happy hours, what?).

And about $500 on fake food.

When I look at my Mint account, there is a scarily high number of transactions from CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. I definitely wasn’t buying medical stuff. I was buying processed foods like Kraft mac and cheese, Campbell’s soups, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Rite Aid was right outside my subway stop, so I’d peruse the flyers on the way and stock up on items that were on sale.

I spent almost as much money on clothes as I did on food. $2,905, in fact.

I shopped at more budget-friendly places like Urban Outfitters, Zara and J. Crew. A lot of it was really junky. But the handful of items I got on sale from Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Barneys were not.

Oh yeah, and remember I worked in Soho? I snuck out to quite a few sample sales on my lunch break.

I spent $538 on healthcare.

I spent $30 on a doctor visit, but $401 on eye care, and $107 on fitness.

I had no health insurance.

I spent months researching several health insurance options, asking freelancer friends what kind of insurance they had, but decided against of all them for various reasons. Some just seemed exorbitantly expensive for the benefits you got. I’m very lucky that nothing ever happened to me.

But by asking around, I found a few clinics I could go to and pay based on a sliding scale if I needed to.

Transportation costs were a measly $1,645.

One big advantage of city life is the transportation savings. This includes my monthly subway pass ($104 per month) and $15 sketchy Chinatown bus trips to see friends and family. In a city with excellent public transportation, I took cabs almost never. If I break that down, it was a paltry $137 per month, which is much lower than your standard car payments and insurance costs.

I still had money leftover, so I took two trips.

They weren’t nearly as extravagant as the trips I take now, but I still got out of the country twice: a week in Mexico for $1,011 and $704 on a long weekend in Montreal.

I even found $611 for personal enrichment.

I thought it would be neat to learn how to make my own jewelry at FIT. Little did I know, it would take me all semester to make one small skull pin…I literally chiseled that thing out with a saw!

And lastly, $585 on entertainment.

Deal websites that were all the rage, and I signed up for all of them: ScoutMob, Buy With Me, Ideelist. In NYC, you don’t have to pay much to have fun. I remember back in Boston, I could count on my hand which bars and clubs didn’t charge a cover. But in NYC you could roll up and walk into most places for free. While housing is expensive, there are many things in New York City that are a much better deal than anywhere else.

Zero people accused me of being cheap or frugal.

No one ever called me frugal, and I never said no to activities. On the outside, I was living a normal lifestyle just like most other people. But on the inside, I was doing things a little differently. Just being more intentional about how I spent my money.

How It All Added Up

Here you can see that taxes were my biggest expense.

A Breakdown of a $58K Income in New York City

And here’s how I spent my take-home pay. Even then I didn’t prescribe to the 50-30-20 budget. I spent 37% on needs, 16% on wants, and 47% on savings. Sixteen percent on ‘wants’ seems really low, but what if you truly don’t want for that much?

How I Budgeted $42K in One Year

Key Observations

The $8,000 income increase was KEY. If I didn’t negotiate and find side hustles, I would have only saved about 15% of my take-home pay. I also got lucky with the side hustles and being at a point in my life where I had the energy to actually do them.

Taxes were high. In addition to federal taxes I paid state and city taxes, plus self-employment taxes from those side hustle jobs. And no 401k contributions to reduce my taxable income. Even though I make a lot more money now, it’s crazy that I actually pay about the same amount of taxes…

Opting out of health insurance was royally stupid. The king of bonehead decisions. But the insurance options available to me at the time were terrible. So terrible I thought it might be better to go without insurance than pay for one that hardly covered anything at all. It was a personal decision, and I don’t advocate for people to follow my example in this scenario.

I can’t think of a single thing that I wanted to buy but couldn’t afford, so I don’t think more money would have made me much happier. The student loans cramped my style, but I kept my fixed costs low, so I could still spend on the one or two discretionary categories I cared about.

But I can say that having more money would have helped me reach financial goals much more quickly. The following year I funneled all the extra money I now had from the paid-off student loans right into savings.

The savings seeds were planted. Not everybody can save 50% of their income. But they can try to work their way up to it. If I was debt-free I would have been able to save 47% of my take-home pay. Not too shabby, right? And if I had access to a 401k program, I probably could have gotten over that 50% mark. But those weren’t the circumstances I was dealing with. That was OK, because I knew those circumstances were not permanent. I WOULD find another job. A better one. A few months later, I got a salaried job at a large company that offered great benefits, like 6% 401k matches, 4 weeks of paid vacation and profit shares, to boot!

Maybe some of you think my life was sad. That’s OK. Because I don’t live my life for other people. And for others, the comparison game is a trap. You might see someone saving twice as much as you and feel like that will never happen for you. But remember that that person had to start somewhere, too. Most people don’t start out making six figures right out of school. It can take years and years. So hopefully these numbers help you see how it’s possible to make progress, even if you make less than an “ideal” income.

How did/do you save in an expensive city? Did you feel rich even on a “lower” salary? If not, what’s the minimum salary you’d need to feel comfortable?

Feature Image: Unsplash

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  • Financial Mechanic

    When I tallied up my expenses for last year I was shocked: 23k (not including what went towards taxes) in a High Cost of Living area. I never felt deprived or like I was scrimping. Thanks for sharing life in NYC on 58k, very impressive you were able to save a high percentage of your income. It’s really cool to see such a detailed breakdown.

    • Keep up with those kinds of expenses and you’re gonna be FI in no time!

      I think part of not feeling deprived was that I didn’t grow up with a lot of “standard” things, so I wasn’t used to them. But at the same time, I didn’t feel like I needed to overcompensate for not having things when I was younger, either.

      Yeah, I’m pretty impressed with Past Me for saving a decent amount! I didn’t think it would be that high, so it was a neat exercise.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Alicia McElhaney

    omg i had the drugstore problem when i first moved here. i remember looking at my spending and being astounded that i spent so much there. you’re right about all the things you can do here: i’ve taken advantage of so much free stuff

    • Yeah, I def hate medicine of all kinds, so I was like, what did I buy there? Ohhhh, bulk candy and junk good on sale, that’s what!

  • Chicago

    Yet another post that I can related to!

    I currently make 65k gross in Chicago. I don’t think it’s a “lower” salary. I live alone and generally don’t have to scrimp and save for things that I want to buy (I am naturally frugal though but am constantly working on reducing my consumption — for financial, spiritual and ethical reasons.)

    If you count my employer contributions, I save 30% of my income (at least that’s what Wealthfront tells me). I still wish I made more because that’s basically all going towards retirement savings; I’m not putting away anything towards a home right now (see above need to reduce my consumption).

    • Hey, glad you can relate! I never actively budgeted, either. I think the people who think it’s a lower salary are living a very different lifestyle. I can see how simply having two cars in the house basically would obliterate any savings, too.

      Dealing with competing goals is really tough! Are you aiming to retire early? Could you split some of the savings between longterm and medium-term goals? I’ve also found working to reduce just one category at a time makes it way more manageable. For us, it was food, and we’ve made some decent progress there.

  • Annie

    My husband and I have a roommate that pays half of our mortgage! My mom thinks we are crazy but it lets us invest an extra 12k a year. I don’t love having a roommate but it’s so worth it for the savings we are getting 🙂

    • Maybe mom thinks it’s crazy, because she’s too influenced by what society thinks…

      I think having a 2-bedroom if you’re just a couple is really smart. And imagine what you can do with that extra income. You could probably buy another property and use that to build even more wealth!

  • alison

    A while back I read a book called How To Manage Your Money When You Don’t Have Any (very good, recommend it) and it included a side by side financial comparison of a CEO of a company making 6 figures and spending it all on fancy cars and crap, and a bottom level admin assistant in that company making around $32k who kept a budget and saved, even if all she could manage was $20 a month. In the example, the business failed and the underpaid employee who saved what seemed like a pathetic amount of money per month fared better than the CEO.

    IMO anything less than $40k is not a living wage for an independent person in New England. A shocking number of people don’t actually know what it costs to fully support yourself because they’ve always had a live in boyfriend/husband or roommates subsidizing them.

    • I’ve never heard of that book, but it sounds awesome! I’ll need to add it to my library list.

      I think the livable wage depends on where you live. I mean Boston is one thing, but rural Maine is another. I also think lots of people don’t know the costs of supporting themselves for lots of reasons, but mainly because we don’t live in a society that encourages valuing money, comparing costs, understanding longterm consequences, etc.

  • Eddie

    Hey Luxe, this topic resonates with me. Living in San Francisco is pricey and I don’t make a ton of money. Rent is truly the biggest culprit. I got lucky because my good friend has rent control and one of his rooms opened up the summer I moved here. Everything else in SF is on par with any major city. The trick is to sink your teeth into the city. Befriend a bar tender. Find those bars that sell $3 Heineken and find those ancient grimy diners where you’re paying for the inexpensive food and not the hip ambiance (tbh I like the grimy ambiance). Also there’s a lot of free things to do and always ask for resident discounts. Standards of living are subjective and lowering them is necessary in order to thrive. I overheard a friend’s angry phone call to her mother, demanding $300 for her laundry service and groceries for the week. Idk where she got that number from.

    • Don’t ever leave that rent controlled room, Eddie! If you can stand your roommate, this will do wonders for your finances. I remember looking up affordable housing lotteries when I first moved here. But then I saw the rent prices–they were STILL unaffordable. At least to my standards. I didn’t think it was wise to tie up $1,600 per month on my salary.

      My husband is great at befriending bartenders. Me, not so much, but we can compliment each other like that. And I agree that a lot of restaurants have style and nice branding, but the food is subpar. You have to wade through a bunch of places to find the gems, but they’re there. Ha, if I see “small plates” or “tapas” I know I’m going to leave hungry!

      Oh man, at that friend! Wouldn’t it be nice?

      • Eddie

        Hey Luxe, yeah I’m not moving anytime soon. Rent is truly insane for some newcomers. Some pay double what I pay and it’s totally normal. Hopefully prop 10 is passed and the city can enact an autonomous rent control. We’ll see how that goes. Rent can be the biggest factor in anyone’s budget and it can really cripple/discourage financial independence if it’s too high.

        Did you know that once upon a time in Spain, tapas were free and served whenever a patron would buy a drink at a bar? Now they’re overpriced petit horderves. smh

  • i used to hate going out in boston when i was a broke 20 something. you did what my friends and i did when we were young and single. share a place, eat for cheap, have a good time. except i wan’t saving back then but it all worked out great.

    • The thing about Boston is also that there are no happy hours and the train closes so early, but yes, I had a great time there–lots of young people to meet because of the number of colleges. I refused to live in the city center there. It also created a bit of mystery when people asked where I lived…

      • i used to live in everett in ’92 when it was still awful. i hate they close the train so damned early too. i was on a date and had to take a cab i couldn’t afford once. LOL.

        • Yeah, we’d go out at around 10pm, then grab the last train home at 12:45am. We had it down to a science, except sometimes we didn’t, so hello expensive cab home.

  • Wow, great to see your numbers. Congrats, to me you lived happy and smart. And you’re reaping the beneifts now 🙂

    And in DC I’ve paid $18 for a cocktail but you’ve got me beat….

    • Awwww yeah, you’re damn right I am reaping the benefits now! I recently helped my mom pay some medical bills, and honestly being able to be generous with other people is one of the best benefits of saving money.

      Ha, to be fair, I asked the bartender to make me a custom cocktail.

  • Your post actually touches on something that’s somewhat similar to an idea I had with my recent “clerkship year money tour” post (where I described life with a year-long, gigantic pay cut relative to my law firm salary). I was thinking about explaining that it made me confident that I could go into public service after I pay off my student loans in full because I’d lived so luxuriously on $83.5k while making my $445/month in minimum student loan payments and having a lot of extra expenses that year that I wouldn’t have taken on if I wasn’t planning on going straight back to the private sector afterwards, but I quickly realized my idea wouldn’t work because I’m still so clueless about the expenses I might have if I had children or other dependents.

    Anyway, it still means I can provide a clear data point about that $85k comment being wrong, provided it was talking about childless individuals. I saved so little that year that I’m not a very good example, but well, for me, $83.5k easily accommodates far more expensive rent than yours; unusually expensive monthly transit expenses; the same amount of clothes shopping; regular coffee shop and restaurant outings; and much more, all while paying that $445/month to student loans and never feeling deprived of anything I wanted.

    • That post you did was pretty cool. I like being able to look back and see that things were a little more down to earth. It’s easy to think someone always had it easy, etc., but that’s often not the case. They work up to where they are now.

      When I made a little less than $83k, I was able to max out my 401k, which felt like a huge luxury and milestone for me. But I also don’t have the same sort of mandatory-isn expenses that a lawyer would. It’s really interesting to see how different people spend the same amount of money. Maybe that’s an idea for another post…

      • That’s really great about the 401k contributions on $83k! (I’m not sure what I would have done if I had the option – short-term clerks like me aren’t eligible to make any contributions to the federal government equivalent, the Thrift Savings Plan or TSP. If I had the option I think I’d have started with a very low cursory percentage, and probably would have kept at it all year, though it wouldn’t have gotten close to maxing out.)

        One thing I was thinking about in reading your post – when you were a contract employee without health insurance, does that mean you were paid on a 1099 instead of a W2? This is probably a topic I don’t even know enough about to ask intelligent questions, but it always seems to me like the same income for someone who is mostly a contractor/freelancer/getting paid on 1099s, as opposed to a W2, could be very different because of how taxes work, or not getting benefits.

        • When I was a contract employee I was a W2 employee, because I was technically employed by the agency, even though I showed up at another company every day. At some point the agency did offer insurance, but it was awful.

          I did have 1099s for my freelance jobs, though.

          But yes, not having a benefits package makes a big difference in total compensation. I once got a mailer from another job that explained that my benefits made up for almost $10k of my total compensation. Crazy.

  • Kate @ making it rain

    I am so glad you ended up writing this post! I wanted to write something similar about living and saving on a 50K salary (back when I was writing posts 🙂 although I was in a more affordable city than NYC at the time. I thought that idea for a post seemed a little silly, because hey that is a solid income for a single person. But I was surrounded by people who made more than me and couldn’t seem to save a dime or pay a penny over their minimum student loan payments. So I think posts like this are super important to demonstrate how people can live and save on moderate incomes.

    I am finding the mindset to be exactly what you described here in NYC! People act like making 70K a year will leave you destitute. Yes, this city is expensive. It is also rich in free and affordable things to do. Like you’ve written in the comments below, happy hours are plentiful. I mean, if you want to find a Tecate and shot of whiskey deal for $5, that is no problem here! Haha and I have been to a host of free concerts, museum nights, etc since moving here. There is always something fun to do for very little money.

    And I do not make 85K a year but I promise I am subsisting on something other than ramen 😀 I do have a roommate though. There are trade-offs here, to be sure. Living here has made it necessary to prioritize what is most important to me – a short commute and easy access to entertainment, transit, and amenities. Other than that, I don’t really care. Living with a roommate in my 30s – fine. No laundry or amenities in my building – fine. I would much rather make these choices and be able to easily save money and still travel than have to scrape by because I let the 40X rule get to me and signed up for a one-bed lease that I couldn’t really afford.

    And kudos for saving 47% on a 58K income – that is amazing and inspiring me to go up my automated savings right now 🙂

    • Hey Kate,

      I’d love to see a comparison of your life in your old city and NYC! I think it would be helpful to manage expectations for people who are considering moving to NYC. Otherwise it’s all conjecture from people who don’t live here giving well-intentioned, but misguided advice. Real numbers are helpful.

      The happy hour deals here are always so random, too, but that’s part of the charm. Like a slice of pecan pie and a Red Stripe beer for $5!

      OMG, the 40X rule needs to die in hell. I put that down as a post idea when I was in a particularly ranty mood, because it’s not hard to see how people use that guideline, especially when they aren’t educated in finances, or don’t care to think about that stuff. Then they wonder why they can’t seem to afford anything else…

      I’m glad I sat down and looked at the numbers, because I honestly would have guessed I only saved about 15% of my income, since my salary was not all that back then, but I’m so pleasantly surprised!

      Anyway, I hope you are encouraged to write your own post!

  • Great detailed breakdown!! You did a great job managing your money while earning a salary that wasn’t high in a HCOL of living area like NYC, which is one of the most expensive in the world
    Yo, $20 for a cocktail?!! You topped me on that one, the most I paid for one was around $15!!
    Our current lifestyle is like we’re living on a $58K salary!! We try to find activities and events that are free or doesn’t cost that much, spend just over $200 on groceries a month and luckily spend $1K rent a month in SF which is really low around these parts.
    I think it’s all about efficiently with how you spend your money. The less you burn your money and more smarter spending decisions you make, you will have a good savings rate!! And that really helps living in expensive area like NYC and SF!!

    • Ha, yeah, $20 cocktail, but usually they are $16 here, and I’m OK with that. Especially when they’re damn tasty.

      Your SF rent is unbelievable! And your expenses for two people plus a kiddo is impressive, as well.

      “Efficient” is the right word. I think I was probably a little wasteful in the shopping department, but other than that, I was really intentional about where I spent money and where I didn’t. I think mindful spending is key no matter where you live.

  • Annie

    Such a good post, appreciate it as always. I’ve always been more of a natural spender but I’ve been good about not inflating my lifestyle over the years. I’m still in the same rent-controlled apartment in SF with roommates after earning 4x more than when I first started living here. I finally figured out for myself what is worth it to spend $ on so it’s become much easier to say no to the things that won’t actually make me happy (those $20 cocktails!).

    • Hi Annie,

      Thank you–glad you enjoyed it! If you’re a natural spender then I applaud you, because it’s a heck of lot harder to fight lifestyle inflation than it is for people like me.

      And it definitely takes some time to figure out what is important for you to spend money on. For me, spending extra money on necessities like housing, transportation, etc. didn’t make me happy, but having money to spend on wants was definitely more my speed. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s one way I’ve chosen to find “extra” money in the budget.

  • Nina Thomas

    This was insanely eye opening and I love how you were willing to get “nude”. Seeing that your take home pay while making $58,000 was $3,486 is eye opening for me. I make $64,000 as a NYC teacher but my take-home is $3,200 because I started putting 7% in a 401K, I pay union dues, and have $50 taken out each month to pay for the subway/lirr. (Normally I take out more but I somehow I have a balance of $200+ on my card) You also really encouraged me by seeing how much you were able to save. All my money leaves my pockets on random things I’m convinced I “need”. I’m learning balance between what’s worth spending money on, and what really isn’t.

    • Hi Nina,

      So glad you liked this, and so many points for sharing your income! You might have extra deductions happening, so that’s why your take-home is less. Do you go to work every week day? If so, how come you don’t have a monthly subway pass?

      I see saving money for myself as a sign of self-respect. If I think about it that way, giving money away to a bunch of brands or merchants I don’t care for becomes a lot less appealing!

  • Uhhh, that post was the first one I read on your blog and made me a McFrugal fan for LYFE. You really showed that living on that income wasn’t a life of deprivation at all. And of course, I’m always going to be able to relate a little better to city stories since that’s where I live, too.

    As someone who’ve lived with a best friend before, this is another one of life’s luxuries. Actually, having a best friend in general is something not everybody gets. But when you have a friend around who always gets you, really, what else do you need in life??? I remember one time my friend and I stayed home in our sweatpants and tried to copy breakdancing moves we saw on Youtube.

    I hear you about the salary–there are some specialized industries (like yours) and the public sector where it’s tough to negotiate. But even still, there’s no harm in trying. And you might be able to negotiate other things, like PTO, etc. instead of the salary.

    And I’m seriously impressed you were able to max out your 401k at that salary. I personally wasn’t able to do it until much later, because I prioritized spending on my wants.

  • It’s so funny how I felt “richer” when I was in college and had enough money to pay for lunch. At one point, I was receiving a stipend through this research program I was doing, tutoring, and working at a clothing store…that was when I felt like I could do it all haha. It felt so good to pay for those chipotle burrito bowls with my own money. I think back on all the coffees and pastries I bought back then…man, I felt rich! It would have been smarter to start saving those dollars even back then but the joy that coffee and a nice loaf of something brought me back then was just enough to get me through the harrowing days of grad school.

    Now, having a salaried job and having to pay back student loans (I have about $24,000 left) makes it so rough. Yesterday, Vadim and I had to take a Lyft to and from Manhattan because our trains were so delayed…even though we already swiped into the train station. We debated on whether or not to leave the train station and shell out the money, and ultimately we decided it was worth it. Especially, since we didn’t want to be late for dinner and then in turn be late for our wizard themed cocktail making experience. NYC is truly getting so expensive that I know for a fact, if I was single I would probably be living at home to save money. It can feel so daunting when you compare what you make to what you can’t afford to buy in this city but reading your blog time and time again, has reminded me that all the noise around you is just that, noise. And, it’s more important to zero in on the things you actually care for and be real with yourself about what really is a “need” versus a “want”. Practicing tough self love each month is hard but ultimately, I have a bigger picture for myself that makes all the current and future sacrifices worth it.

    P.S. Thanks for getting financially nude with us!

    • Sometimes I think back on how little I made in college, and how inexpensive my life was. I mostly hung out in people’s dorms/apartments, and browsed the mall. Rarely ate out. Life was so much simpler then! And yet, it was a blast. Trust me, I didn’t save any of the money I earned either, until I decided I wanted to go backpacking. Then all of a sudden I had a reason to save. I didn’t think about the student loans I had to pay back, or anything really!

      I think this where my rudeness shows, but if I were late to meet friends I would have just been late. I was even late to my current job interview. I was lucky it worked out, but for some reason I feel like sometimes taking a cab doesn’t get me places any faster? But I’m a weirdo, so I think 99% of people would have taken a cab in your scenario.

      If I listened to the noise then I’d probably have a mortgage that’s so high I’d be laying awake every night. I think it’s so important to do things on your own terms. At least when I do that, it always seems to work out the best for me.

  • Erin @ Reaching for FI

    I’m always super curious to see how people manage their money when they don’t make a ton and live in expensive areas and how their averages compare to mine, so this was super interesting!

    • I agree, when I read blogs I always found real numbers to be helpful, so it only makes sense for me to share when I can. I definitely got lucky with the income increases, and I’m fortunate I don’t have to actively seek out side hustle opportunities anymore.

      You are a great example of someone who’s saving today on a modest salary and in a big city!

  • This is super encouraging. My husband and I make 60k, and live in Cali, which while not as expensive as NYC, can get pretty pricey.

    • Yeah, my life has never been very expensive as a single person, no matter where I lived, but it has definitely increased since I’ve been coupled up. I’m glad that this was encouraging for you! I think it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap, but sometimes it’s worth being grateful for the things we do have.