Big City. Millennial Budget.

Today’s post is a guest feature from my good friend Carly Stiles. She’s talking today about living in a big city  (N.Y.C., specifically!) and how she takes on the Big Apple on a Millennial budget. Here’s a little rundown about Ms. Stiles –

Carly was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, in the time before it became a destination for the young to go retire. She currently resides in New York City, where she enjoys being a foodie and trying any brunch place in the city, while also training for half marathons. She’s guilty of watching every season of Top Chef at least 3 times each and reads cookbooks like novels. Lastly, she enjoys cooking for her friends and family but will order Seamless any night of the week! 

Without further ado, I’ll let her take it away!

Big City


Landing a ‘real-world’ job in a big city can be incredibly exciting. That $45,000 starting salary sounds like it will be sufficient, right? Fast forward to your first paycheck. What. Just. Happened?

For most millennials in big cities, paying rent with one bi-weekly paycheck is a pipe dream. Financial advisors recommend that only about 35% or less of your monthly take-home pay should go to paying rent. I live in New York City and 65% of my income goes to rent. Just. Rent. Is it possible to make a millennial salary and live comfortably in a big city? Thankfully, the answer is yes.

I’ve tried a number of different ways to budget and manage my money in the two years that I’ve been living in NYC. Nothing quite worked for me until I started using a service called LearnVest. A friend recommended it to me and at only $19/month I figured I should give it a shot. My monthly fee gives me access to a financial advisor (a real person!) who assigns me challenges each month that forces me to evaluate my spending habits, read articles on credit card debt, etc. When I first signed up with LearnVest, she walked me through a new plan that I was expected to stick to.

While I’m not perfect with my spending habits (I’m a sucker for a new Fabletics outfit or those 40% off sales at Loft), I’ve put my advisor’s advice to practice. Here are some tips:

1. Pay yourself first.

This is not new advice by any means. I’d pay myself first before using LearnVest by setting up an automatic transfer of $50 to my savings account to occur on pay day. By the time I remembered it was pay day, the money was already in my savings (in which I made a rule to never touch!).

However, something I didn’t even consider to do was to pay myself first for non-monthly expenses, not just for my emergency savings account. Those once-a-year insurance payments or Christmas gifts can sneak up on you and really derail your financial stability. By estimating your non-monthly expenses for an entire year and dividing by 12, you’ll get a ballpark amount that you should put away each month in order to not feel stressed when your renter’s insurance needs to be renewed. You’ve already saved for it!

2. Use multiple bank accounts.

Before LearnVest, I had a checking and a savings account. I now have two checking accounts and three savings accounts. Seem excessive? It is, but it is so helpful to not mix-up the amount of money I have in each given category.

I opened two online high-yield savings accounts with Barclays to keep my emergency savings as well as a separate travel fund. With Chase, I use my savings account to stash money for non-monthly expenses. Finally, I use one checking account to keep all funds for my monthly fixed costs (rent, gym membership, utilities, etc.) and one for my “flex” expenses (groceries, entertainment, dining, etc.). This way, I never have to feel stressed about spending too much at brunch and not having enough to pay rent. I cut up my debit card from my fixed account, so I can’t even access those funds unless I go through the process of transferring to my flex account.

3. Set money goals.

Most of us set goals in our personal and professional lives, so why not do the same with your money? My LearnVest advisor and I established some short and long term goals when we first started working together and she takes that into consideration when advising me how much to save each month and where I should put my money.

It is important to consider not only short term goals (vacation to Miami! New handbag!) but also long term goals, such as buying a house, saving for a wedding/honeymoon, and most especially retirement.

 

With the advice from my financial advisor, I’m able to pay rent and utilities, have an Equinox gym membership and not eat top ramen for dinner every night, while still having a social life. Adding structure and thoughtfulness to your budgeting can make a big difference. There isn’t much we can do about seeing a small paycheck as a recent grad, but there is something we can do about setting ourselves up for money success.


Thanks so incredibly much for stopping by, Carly! Regardless of what city we’re each living in, there are methods & ways to feel successful with our money.

What city do you currently live in? What are some tips you have for taking on expenses where you live? Have some great budgeting practices you’d like to share? Tell all in the comments below!

*Please note: the following links listed above are not affiliate links, just services that Carly utilizes to master her Millennial budget in a big city!

Are you a Millennial taking on a new city, or feel like you’ve got your budget on lock where you’re living? Feel free to email me at Alyssa.Windell@live.com, I would love to share your story here on GenerationYRA.

Curiosity Makes Cents

“Curiosity allows the possibility that the way we’re doing it now isn’t the only way, or even the best way.”

-Brian Grazer, A Curious Mind, The Secret to a Bigger Life

Curiosity Makes Cents


I wanted to know more about this topic that society typically shuns speaking of: money. I wanted to learn why students taking on debt in astronomical amounts to obtain a degree find it difficult to visualize the weight it would have proceeding their graduation days. I wanted to create a space where people my age who haven’t quite reached their pinnacle of success can learn ways to build wealth along the way of their journey. I wanted to learn the ways of people who live rich lives but remain under the radar. I couldn’t help but allow curiosity to stretch to all of these various places. This is why I find myself learning & writing each and every week on this blog.

It’s a curious thing…wealth that is. Wealth can be defined in a myriad of ways. How I define wealth can be completely contradictory to how you may see it. But curiosity allows me to learn that “wealth” as defined by others will help me shape the way that I inevitably define wealth. By opening my eyes to perspectives and not just creating tunnel vision to my notions, I can establish my definition of wealth as a moving, changing, and expanding theme in life. As Grazer stated in his book A Curious Mind, my view of wealth is surely not the only, or best way. I challenge you to evaluate your definition of wealth, and seek ways to feel more empowered by it.

Curiosity grants us the freedom to flourish without limitation.

Curiosity opens the gates of my mind to determine multiple ways that I can strengthen my financial empowerment.

Curiosity allows me to question whether, or not you have to wear fancy suits with shiny shoes, live in big box houses, and own massive cars in order to have wealth.

Curiosity introduces me to different methods, practices, applications, and innovative ways that people are practicing to reach financial independence.

Curiosity could quite clearly allow me to innocently question how “normal” societal ways could be changed to accommodate each individual’s goals.

With all of these facets that curiosity brings about, I recognize that what I am doing now with money can always be challenged, reconfigured, fortified, or even eradicated. Curiosity provides limitless notions that you do not have to be stuck forever. Debt is not forever. Scraping by is not forever.

Continue to question, learn, and give. Discover new ways to approach things. Not only in regards to wealth, but everything in life around you. When you allow your curiosity to run free, you begin to recognize connections that never may have bridged in your mind before.

My curiosity to explore, learn, build relationships, and focus on my health continues to progress throughout my life. With a new understanding into these aspects of my life, I’ve been able to experience clarity to determine what I value, and focus on what I truly want to spend & save my money for.

I am grateful to have the opportunities to build upon my definition of wealth. I intend to continue expanding my curiosity around building wealth, and hope that you will join me with your curiousness, too.

Curiosity is a wonderful thing, and it makes cents for me.

Stay curious my friends, and cents will surround you throughout your life.

How do you define “wealth?” Does curiosity allow you to reach your goals for wealth/financial independence/minimalism? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Sunshine Blogger Award

I want to give a huge thanks to my friends over at Our Next Life for the Sunshine Blogger Award nomination! I’m heading off to sunny San Diego this weekend to attend the wedding of one of my dearest friends. This is the perfect precursor to kick off this incredible weekend!

Sunshine Blogger Award


So here’s the rundown of how this nomination works, or a little reminder if you already know the drill! I get to answer the questions that the nominator(s) posed for me to give more of a personal side as to who is behind this blog. From there, I get to pass on those rays of sunshine to the people I nominate and provide them questions that they get to answer. It’s a fun way to spread the joy in the blog-o-sphere!

Here are all the people I’d like to nominate next for the Sunshine Blogger Award:

Mixed Up Money

GenY Finance Guy

It Pays Dividends

The Wallet Diet

My Pennies My Thoughts

Here are your questions to answer! 

  1. Did you have one ah-ha moment that initiated the start of your blog/corner of the internet, or was it a series of events?
  2. Name one person (real, or fictional) who has changed your outlook on life and why?
  3. If there were only 3 things you could spend your money on for the rest of your life, what would they be?
  4. In your opinion, what’s the best/ideal setting to discuss personal finance? (i.e. with one other person, in a classroom setting, equipped with food & drink, etc.)
  5. What’s one movie line and/or song lyric that you always recite, or that continues to stick in your mind?
  6. If there is one legacy you would like to be known for in your life, what would it be? Is it a work in progress?

Here are my answers to Our Next Life’s questions:

in what ways are you most like and most unlike your childhood self?

I definitely would have to say my curiosity is parallel to my childhood self. When it comes to learning, my quest to acquire more knowledge is never ending. The excitement I get picking up books & networking is comparable to that of when I used to tinker with polly pockets, legos, and beanie babies. I’m most unlike my childhood self in the sense that intimidation does not paralyze or prevent me from experiencing new things. As most of us have experienced, life definitely takes its course through our teenage years and early 20’s. It’s an amazing thing when vulnerabilities start to melt away as your confidence increases. Overcoming intimidation, breaking down my own fears, and embracing my mental & physical capabilities has allowed me to achieve much more than I could have ever imagined when I was younger.

what’s your all-time favorite book, and your favorite you’ve read in the last year or so? (bonus points if you do fiction and non-fiction. this is a shameless attempt by us to get more recommendations!)

This has always been a tough question for me! I would have to say my all-time favorite book is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I selected this book because the first time I read it was on an airplane. One of the flight attendants handed me a handwritten card as we were exiting the plane because she had just finished reading the novel with her book club. The card posed questions, thoughtful words, and what she took away from reading the novel. This is how powerful reading is when people share their ideas & thoughts from the way a book moved them. Interpretation is different from all perspectives even if you are reading the same book, and that’s what I absolutely love. My favorite books I have read in the last year include: The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley (a common personal finance favorite!) and Yes Please by Amy Poehler (she’s hilarious).

what has life taught you about finances, and what have your finances taught you about life?

Life has taught me that many people approach their finances differently in order to live out their dreams. There is opportunity to take on new ventures, travel, help others, retire early, and prepare for your future if you decide to face your finances from a positive place. My finances have taught me that they do not have to completely dictate my life. Being aware of my financial goals & habits allows me to save & live for today in a balanced manner. There is always room for growth, error, and restructuring. Building a foundation of my finances now will allow for more time to focus on the people & passions I value in life.

what is something you’ve always wanted to do, but have never done for no good reason? (bonus points if you care to share what action you’ll take to do that thing!)

I’ve always wanted to take one of my passions that’s truly shaped who I am & share with others that may have never thought to try. I am so elated to say that this is currently in the works right now. Throughout my life I’ve trained in dance (tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, and more). I now have the opportunity to volunteer at a local youth organization by teaching dance classes! The goal is to implement a new program the organization has not seen before. I cannot wait to start this adventure in September!

what scares you most about early retirement / financial independence / minimalism / self-sufficiency or whatever you’re striving for?

The question that always comes to mind internally is: “Am I doing this right?” There are a myriad of ways that the above listed can be approached & accomplished, that it can become a bit overwhelming. Trial & error is bound to happen, but just stepping a foot forward and trying is what allows me to overcome any of my fears, or doubts. 5 years from now my mindset may change, but allowing that flexibility to reach my goals of financial independence will allow things to surely happen.

what tv show is atop your must-see list right now? (or if you’re not into tv, what’s some under-the-radar thing that we should all be paying attention to?)

So I really don’t watch TV all too much, but watching the last season of Newsroom is definitely a must-see for my fiance & I right now. As an under-the-radar thing, I would like to really immerse myself into the art of brewing whether it be cold brew, kombucha, or craft beer. The Pacific Northwest definitely provides many resources & shops to take this on, and I would love to focus on building those skills!


 

Such a fun nomination, thanks again Our Next Life! For all my readers: let me know one quick fact about you in the comments below. I’m curious to learn more about all of you!

Balanced Budget Bride

It’s officially go time & in less than a year my fiancé Andrew & I will be getting married! In the blogsphere you will find a whole range of different ways that people plan on celebrating their big days. It’s incredible how varying the different ceremonies, receptions, elopements, and destination weddings are that take place today. Whether you believe in having a wedding celebration or not, I am going to be downright honest that I absolutely cannot wait to have a wedding. My fiancé & I have the opportunity to throw one awesome celebration while bringing both of our families together! Here’s the scoop of how the planning process has gone down so far. I wanted to give some insight on how we’re discovering ways to avoid sky-high costs that weddings can potentially bring about.


Wedding’s can be ridiculously expensive (I’m talking an average in the U.S. of $30,000+…yikes)! I can tell you point blank our budget does not even come to half of that projected cost. It can become a bit challenging to lower the costs of a wedding, considering the market of this type of celebration has gone haywire. In order to figure out which costs you would rather spend more money on than others, determine with your significant other what holds the most value for your big day. Want your guests to be speaking of the delectable food months later? Research heavily on what dishes you’d like to serve at your reception. Think you would dig having all of your loved ones get down on the dance floor? Focus on what type of tunes, live band, or DJ you would like to have at your event. Find that balance: spend more on the features you value for your day, while finding alternatives for the others.

Since beginning the wedding planning process, I’ve also realized that you can either spend more time, or money. Yes, you can definitely DIY your way to the big day. But if it’s going to take away some of your sanity and normal sleep schedule, than maybe you should consider otherwise. Outsourcing to a vendor/professional may be a bit more cost wise, but it will also free some of your time up for other things than just wedding planning. Finding the right balance of DIY and paying for services for the wedding is what we are striving for right now.

The planning process can be a bit overwhelming (hello, Pinterest & Etsy giving a million and one ideas). Simultaneously, it gives me incredible euphoria when my fiancé & I find ourselves smiling over how excited we are for this day to come. Here are some things we’re doing to decrease the costs/maximize what we value for our wedding. I hope that some of these ideas can be implemented into your current (or future) wedding planning process (in fact, this goes for any big event you may be planning in your future)!

1. Generate more value from the venue.

Think you can have your ceremony & reception in the same location? That alone cuts the cost of transporting your guests from point A to point B. Do you feel like only having a location for a few hours in the day is too short for the rental fee? Find places that allow you to rent for the whole day and/or weekend. My fiancé & I were able to find a venue that has a lodge you reserve VRBO style, where the ceremony/reception takes place outdoors. When you rent the venue, the cost pays for the whole weekend Friday-Sunday with a lodge that sleeps up to 12 people. Score for us, because we’re able to make our wedding a serious weekend bash! This allows us to have our dress rehearsal, ceremony, reception, and lodging fees all wrapped in one. The crazy catch? It still was less than half the cost of some major venues that we visited! It pays to keep researching beyond the heavily marketed venue choices.

2. Catering craze.

All-inclusive catering companies can have a very hefty price tag. Lots of venues also have the option of offering their own catering, which can lower the cost of hiring an outside caterer. We were also fortunate to discover that our venue includes this option if we choose. Think you would prefer to not use a caterer & have several family members/friends chip in to create a killer meal? Consider a potluck reception dinner (or brunch if you’d prefer a morning wedding)!

3. DIY when you want to give it a try.

With several blog resources, websites, and YouTube tutorials, you’re bound to have the skills to take on decor & additions to your big day without breaking the bank. A few things we’ve done so far ourselves: my fiancé is a graphic designer & will be creating all of our save the dates, invitations, thank you cards, and wedding signage. From there we will print at a local, or online print shop cutting the costs of stationary expenses by over half! Also, for the past several months we’ve been collecting any glass bottles/vases/jars that have come our way (we’e even received bottles & vases from co-workers because they know we’ve been collecting)! I’m talking pickle jars, pasta sauce jars, beer bottles, miscellaneous vases, you name it. This growing collection will be spray painted or hand painted with our wedding colors, and added to all the reception tables for flowers & decoration. Up-cycling at it’s finest!

4. Used wedding decor = score.

Decor for weddings can be incredibly unique making most couples only utilize them just once for the big day! Check different sites that offer marketplaces for brides that can sell their one-time/gently used decorations from their weddings (check out: Tradesy or Ruffled Blog Recycle Your Wedding). Rather buy locally? Craigslist and Facebook often have people trying to find new brides to sell and/or give their decorations to. Definitely check out garage sales locally as well, lots of hidden gems can be found there to add that unique decor touch!

5. Saying “Yes To The Dress” can be accomplished many ways.

Here are some other alternatives that I’ve been mulling over for a wedding dress other than paying a fortune. Consider renting a designer gown for your day (sites like BorrowingMagnolia can help you accomplish this). Visit sample sales and/or expos locally. Check into different retailers/designers that are not necessarily deemed as a “wedding” dress designer. For example, I may have found my wedding dress at Nordstrom Rack by BCBG for only $19.97!!! Yes, I’m not even kidding – you read that correctly. Trust me, I’m still in disbelief too! It’s not quite your stereotypical moment to be in a dressing room alone without your bridesmaids/mom/relatives etc. trying on your potential future wedding dress (instead I sent my mom awkward selfie pictures of me in the dress, and called her in the process of standing in the dressing room…). It was quite hilarious discussing with the random employees that did not even know me about how it could become my wedding dress (I would go into detail about what it looks like, but my fiancé reads my blog – hi babe)! Anyways…after this long-winded explanation & awkwardly fun story, there are several alternatives to searching for the perfect wedding dress.


These are just a few of the big items we’ve worked on to lower the costs of for our wedding. With access to the vast internet, researching your way to planning a wedding with the best value to you & your significant other can be feasible! In a year, I am sure many decisions will be made, and ways to curve the extraordinary costs of a wedding will be accomplished. Remember: at the end the day is about you and the person you love who you will spend the rest of your life with. That in itself is absolutely priceless.

How did you plan your wedding (or how are you planning right now)? Did you find alternative ways to lower the costs of the celebration? What is some advice you have for a future bride to be? Let me know in the comments below!

 

*Please note: none of the following listed links in the post above are affiliate links. These are all just resources I have looked into that I have found incredibly helpful for the wedding planning process!