Feb 25

Sex & The City on a Budget

student debt survivor

Shortly after I graduated from college, I dreamed of moving to New York City and living a fun and fabulous lifestyle a la Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City. What I didn’t realize is that young professionals (most of them) aren’t living like Carrie Bradshaw. If Carrie Bradshaw were a real 20-something living in NYC here’s what her life would look like:

  1. Manhattan livingForget a super sweet apartment on the Upper East Side. “Real” New Yorkers live in the outer Boroughs too. Think, Brooklyn and Queens. If you want to be in close proximity to the city but don’t have a big budget, there’s no shame in being, “Bridge and Tunnel people”.
  2. Single in the City-You might be single, but you won’t be living alone. I have one word for you, Roommates! Probably multiple roommates, maybe bunk beds, maybe turning the living room into an extra bedroom or putting up a curtain or partition.
  3. Fine Dining-Maybe Mr. Big is footing the bill, in which case indulge. But if he’s not, you’re probably looking at lower cost options. The restaurants “Carrie” frequented are expensive, and if you’re a young professional you’re not going to be eating at them regularly. Cooking at home in your microscopic kitchen, or ordering inexpensive take-out are more budget friendly options.
  4. Smoking-Not only is smoking bad for your health, a pack of the Marlboro Lights Carrie spokes during most seasons of the show are going to set you back over $10 a pack in NYC (how much exactly, I’m not even sure because even if I wanted to smoke, I couldn’t afford to do so).
  5. Cosmopolitans-Mixed drinks a fancy bars and clubs will set you back at least $10. During your first few weeks in the city you’ll find the dive bars and 1/2 price happy hours. You might also discover you like beer πŸ˜‰ I did!
  6. Manolo Blahniks-At $400+ a pair, would you rather pay your rent or wear expensive designer heels? Not only were the shoes Carrie wore out of most young New Yorkers’ budgets, they’re also pretty impractical given you’ll be riding the subway and doing a lot of walking, see number 7.
  7. Cabs-Carrie rode in cabs constantly. If your rent is half of your budget, you can’t afford cabs. Public transport is where it’s at. NYC has one of the best public transportation systems in the world, and you’re going to be intimately acquainted with it.

Which Sex and The City Character Did You Identify With? (I liked to think of myself as a Carrie/Miranda combo). Do you live in NYC or another expensive city? How do you stay within your budget?

Image: JoΓ£omagagnin


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  1. We were just in New York City this past weekend and I had a $20 grilled cheese sandwich. I swear. It came with fries and was delicious but it was soooo expensive! I did see that cigarettes were $13 a pack in Times Square. That is insane.

    1. Yup, imagine being a pack a day smoker. It all adds up fast.

  2. I definitely do not live in an expensive city and I like that. St. Louis is fun but still affordable πŸ™‚

    1. bf and I would love to move to a cheaper city. There are certainly things we love about NY, but when I see what other people pay for the same things sometimes I get a little jealous.

  3. I love that show! I do believe it is pure fantasy though. Its just entertainment.

    1. totally for entertainment, but wouldn’t it be fun if it were “real”, if only for a week? πŸ˜‰

  4. I lived in Chicago while in high school and while it’s a great place to visit, it’s so expensive. We live in Omaha now and it is thankfully very affordable.

    1. I’ve never been to Omaha, but think there are so many benefits to being in a smaller city. When I was in college I lived in Providence and loved it. It was small and relatively inexpensive for an east coast city.

  5. I can totally relate! I live in San Francisco (now the most expensive city in the US to live in, surpassing NY in 2012) and in my college days I followed this strictly. I lived in the outskirts of the city with MANY roommates, took the bus eveywhere, and ate and drank at the cheaper funky places. Now I live in the heart of the city with my boyfriend, and enjoy a nice meal out or a fancy cocktail from time to time. I still never smoke or buy designer gear (both I’ve always seen as a waste of money).

    1. My grad school roommate was from San Fran. I didn’t know it had bypassed NYC, but I totally believe it. Ironically she left NYC to go back to San Fran complaining that NYC was too expensive πŸ˜‰ Glad I stayed in the “cheaper” city.

  6. I used to covet that kind of lifestyle, but I think I’m much happier with my frugal life. But I think if you had told me that I’d feel this way 5 years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Aging really changes your priorities.

    1. Definitely. I used to think I wanted that lifestyle too (and thought everyone else lived like that). Now I’m a little older and wiser I’m much happier living on less and saving more for the future.

  7. Great minds think alike because I published a Sex and the City theme post this past weekend too πŸ™‚

    I have such a girl crush on Carrie Bradshaw so I like to think I’m a Carrie (on a budget) πŸ˜‰

    1. Not sure how I missed your post, just went back and read it:-) I’m not sure how when I was originally watching the show I didn’t realize how out of touch the show was with reality. I guess because I didn’t live in NYC at the time and didn’t understand how much certain things would cost. Now it’s all laughable, but a girl can still dream, right?

  8. Being a dude, I didn’t follow the show. However, with my son off to NYU (most probably) in the fall, I’m about to get more Manhattan than I ever dreamt I’d have…..

    1. A lot of my good friends at work went to grad school at NYU. It’s a great school (and very “New York”). He’ll have a lot of fun here.

  9. A while back I read something similar about friends. The article basically said that Monica and Rachel would never be able to afford such a large apartment in the city on their incomes.
    It’s amazing how location can influence how much your lifestyle is going to costs. In the suburbs of Detroit I can purchase a $1,000 SQ ft house that costs 1/10th the price of a loft in New York.

    1. I guess that’s what makes the shows so fun, believing that you can live a fun and fabulous lifestyle as a writer, or live with a group of friends in the city in a great apartment that you wouldn’t really be able to afford. I pay more in taxes on our condo each month then many people pay in rent in rural areas. It’s pretty sad when I think about it that way. But we also make better salaries then we would in smaller cities, so I guess it evens out in some ways.

  10. As I am a guy and I didn’t really watch the show all that much I think i’ll go with Mr Big. Now I just need to drive around in a limo all day everyday…

  11. I figured this post wouldn’t be as relatable for the guys ;-). Being Mr. Big might be more fun than being Carrie!

  12. I have always had a pet peeve with Sex and the City becaues for what Carrie Bradshaw was (a writer) she lived in a magnificent apt and as you identified was able to enjoy a lot of perks that the average hardworking writer wouldn’t have been able to afford. Heck I make a pretty good salary and I know I couldn’t afford to live in NYC.

    1. Yeah it’s pretty laughable really. I understand it’s TV, but I can’t even explain how many of my friends dreamed of being Carrie (well having a similar lifestyle) and got here to find it’s not at all realistic.

  13. Mr Big of course. Dag it, looks like Glen beat me to it!

    1. You and Glen can share being Mr. Big, or you could be Aidan, but that’s not nearly as much fun πŸ˜‰

  14. I’m planning on a lot of cash leaving my wallet when we head to NYC for vacation. My wife is pretty fabulous on a budget, but in NYC, I want to be able to spend guilt-free and enjoy the movie lifestyle for a few days.

    Living there? No flipping way.

    1. Vacations are a time to live it up. We always try to bring twice as much as we think we’ll need. If you need an restaurant recommendations let me know. We have a bunch in all price ranges.

  15. Great idea for a post! I live in Vancouver which is apparently the most expensive city next to New York in North America, and all your tips totally apply to my city too!

    1. I’ve never been, but it’s on my list of places I’d like to visit. The good thing about being in NY is pretty much anywhere else in the country feels “cheap”. I’m sure you feel the same way when you travel to other cities.

  16. I will say that Manolo Blahniks are very comfortable, especially thrifted and only for $60. πŸ™‚

    I recently took in all my expensive shoes (around $60 – $200 per pair) to be repaired and fixed. Well worth the money spent.

  17. I used to live in NYC so I LOVED this piece. People just don’t get it!!

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