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, I would love to share your story here on GenerationYRA.


7 thoughts on “Big City. Millennial Budget.

  1. Great post! I live in Cambridge, MA, just next to Boston, so I can relate to the expenses of living in a city. Strangely, the best way I’ve been able to cut my budget was by buying a condo! I know that doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but rent in Cambridge is insane and goes up a ton every year. By owning my own home, I know that my costs won’t increase. I had to put a lot down, but now I am able to live very affordably on a monthly basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always wondered more about East coast big city living, and I’m learning so much! That’s great, and definitely makes sense! Rent prices are starting to skyrocket everywhere. It would be nice to have that consistency. 🙂 In the future have you thought about renting your condo out as an investment property, or do you plan on living there for quite a while? Thanks for stopping by!!


  2. I came to the conclusion that living in a big city is great for rich people since they have access to many things you can’t find elsewhere, but it isn’t that great for everyone else. We used to live in the SF bay area and struggled with rent, parking, and costs. That said, for some people living in that environment is worth giving up so much else in terms of quality of life. I guess that’s also why they elect people like DeBlasio who say they’ll take money from the rich people and give it to them.

    It sounds like Carly has found some great ways to still stay above water despite the costs. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We can definitely relate on the expensive city front! Though, in our case, we just swapped an expensive city for an expensive small town! At least where we live now, it’s sufficiently inconvenient to go to town that we usually stay home rather than going out for dinner. That helps all on its own! But we can attest to the fact that it’s quite possible to save in an expensive place, so long as you make it a big focus. Plus, the high-paying jobs are in the big cities for the most part, so the expense of the place is often offset by the higher pay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could see how living in a small town with the inconvenience factor could definitely help with saving money! There are certain cities that just provide many temptations to incur additional costs (I.e. parking, entertainment, niche grocery stores). It’s always great to hear how people save in more expensive places, because different tactics & methods work for different people. 🙂 That is the one catch, landing a high paying job seems to be much more feasible in a big city!

      Liked by 1 person

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