One of the best (and scariest) things I ever heard about living in New York was this – “You can’t walk out your front door without $40 leaving your pocket.” At first I laughed, then I cried, then I sighed in agreement. Living in New York (or any urban area) can be extremely expensive, and then add on trying to find entertainment and “live your life” as a young person enjoying the place you live, and you basically go for broke each month. At the end of last year I made myself an excel grid (helllooo type A!) to catalog exactly where my money was going, and boy, it was an eye opener. I got honest about what was really important to me to spend my money on and makes me happy (yes, that includes clothes), and decided to cut some of the fat. If you’re asking yourself “where the ?&*! did my money go?!” at the end of the month, the below might help you prioritize where your cash should go:
Rent – “House poor” is a common phrase used in NYC. It is something I have been before, and promised myself I would never do again. Make sure you can really afford your rent, even if that means living a few blocks away from your dream neighborhood or taking on a roommate. Rent should never be above 1/3 your income.
Food – I go back and forth on my priorities with food here, and I think honestly most girls would feel the same way. The truth is when you have a significant other, you spend much more money going out and ordering in food than you would when it’s just you. Sometimes I miss the “old days,” when I could just whip up quinoa and chicken and not have a man’s hunger to worry about, but then again I’m also experiencing much more of my neighborhood any city by going out. If you DO spend a lot of money going out during the week, try to cut back on the other food expenses you may have, mainly bringing lunch to work (left overs) and losing your sushi or Starbucks habit.
Fitness – Again, I’ve talked about this before on the site (exactly a year ago even!), but what you spend on fitness is really up to you. When I was in a teeny apartment with roommates, it was important to me to have an oasis to escape to, and it made sense to spend more on a gym with classes and beautiful showers. Now, I just need a treadmill for the winter and some weights, so my $10 Planet Fitness membership works fine for me. I do indulge in boutique classes now and then. My favorites right now are SoulCycle and Prana Yoga.
Clothes & Makeup – Don’t think you’re being vain here – truly admit to yourself if clothes and makeup are a priority to you. For me, I love styling clothes and playing with makeup. I always have – since I was a teenager and saved up my coffee house pay to go to the mall. To make room for my monthly shopping budget, I cut back on fitness, entertainment and travel. It’s all about balance!
Entertainment – This is another area I have cut WAY back on in the past year or so. While I love going to new places and seeing my town, I try to take advantage of fun/cheap things to do rather than extravagant nights out that end up costing hundreds of dollars. It also may be a sign of getting older, but apartment dinner parties or wine nights in are some of my favorite things to do, and I’m spending much less on alcohol and cabs – simply because I’d rather spend the money somewhere else!
Travel – I’m in a time in my life where the most travel I’m doing is a driving distance away, so I don’t save up much for travel. I’m lucky that my work sends me to some great places, so I do get to indulge in travel without paying for it myself. However, I do have several friends that love to travel and need to get out of the country at least twice a year. If that is your gig, be sure to cut back on clothes, entertainment, and going out so you can save. You can have it all, but not all at once!
Where do you think your money goes?