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Budgeting and the New York Lifestyle

The other day I met up with my good friend, Tracey. These days we always seem to talk more about our careers and financial matters.  Tracey and I are in the same career field but have different kinds of responsibility. My job, for a large government agency, requires spending long hours on my feet and travel to many locations. Glamorous it’s not but it allows me a lot of autonomy. Tracey works on a yearly contract for a university in Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn with a roommate. Tracey lives in Manhattan with a roommate.

Tracey complained about her lack of autonomy and job security.  Tracey, like many people, feels that she is underpaid for the lifestyle that she wants to live. I mentioned several times in this blog how totally uncool I am. I don’t hang out in trendy coffee shops and don’t spend long hours queuing to get into the hottest new restaurants. I don’t have a gym membership. Instead I take great pleasure in finding free and inexpensive things to do around the city. Whether it be attending the local spa, free wi-fi at Grand Army Plaza Library or jogging around Prospect Park. I am a very low-key kind of girl. I don’t want to waste my income paying enormous rent each month. I buy what I can afford. Tracey is the opposite. Tracey grow up in California,  she wants to live the New York lifestyle so often showcased on Sex and the City and Friends. Tracey wants to go to the latest coffee shops and queue at restaurants. She wants to buy designer clothing and live in a glass enclosed patio-ed high rise.  I mean there is nothing wrong with that, if you can afford it. But, Tracey can’t afford it. As we spoke she told me how frustrated she was that some of her other friends were living this carefree New York life that she always wanted to live. One friend she noted lived in a nice loft apartment in Downtown Brooklyn for which he was paying $2700 per month rent. $2700 per month in rent is absurd to me. That’s more than my future mortgage payments I tell her. Then she says, “What’s the point of living in New York, if you can’t live that way”.  Another friend she noted lived in a small one bedroom doorman building, also Downtown Brooklyn and also paying a large amount of rent each month.  

Tracey shared how she feels that she is “missing out”.  I tell Tracey that if she lived the New York lifestyle portrayed on tv she would be completely broke.

A few years ago, I felt similar to Tracey.  But that feeling had lasted for several weeks. At the time, I lost out on the 2-bedroom cooperative apartment that I was in contract to purchase. It was Fall 2013.  I was angry.  And my anger only grew when I found out that I lost out on the property because the coop board didn’t think I was credit worthy, simply put they wanted a cash buyer. At the time I had just completed grad school and had over $40,000 in student loan debt (though it cost over $60,000 for the degree). And to make matters worse, the work promotion that I longed for and was promised never materialized.  I was gutted. I felt that I was missing out and that everyone else had it easier than me.  

But after the initially anger and hurt, I became motivated. I worked hard and applied for every job that came across my computer screen.  I saved money. Most importantly,  I paid my student loans consistently. I took stock of my life. I asked myself what I needed right now and in the future. What are my values? That self-assessment told me that I valued being a home owner.  Sure, at times I would like to go on a frivolous spending spree or a trendy restaurant and pay $30 for an entree but all of that frivolousness will only delay me getting to my goal. I want to buy a apartment in Brooklyn. And the only way I can do that is if I am careful with how and when I spend my money. I’m not perfect.  There are days when I am too lazy to pack my lunch and end up purchasing up to $20 a day on food (Brooklyn is expensive). But I always have my goal in mind. 

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