How a 24-year-old New York-based business journalist spends:

  • SALARY: I make just under $75,000 per year as a business journalist. I'm really lucky to be making enough money to save in a notoriously expensive city, and I understand that it's not as easy for other people. I asked for a raise about six months into my current job and was basically told a raise that early on wasn't going to happen. I asked again after nearly a year and a half and got a 5% raise, which doesn't sound especially impressive but in my industry is pretty good.
  • SAVINGS: I've got about $20,000 in a money market account and about $7,700 in a robo-investment account. I’m the saver in my relationship. My boyfriend is less personal finance-obsessed than I am, so many times when we're deciding about eating in or going out or where to go on vacation, it feels like I'm the non-fun one who's forcing us to cook or take public transit instead of a cab. We talk about it and it's a process, but it's tricky.  
  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: I pay $1,150 for rent each month, not including utilities and cable. I share an apartment in Brooklyn with one roommate. I am still on my parents’ insurance plan. Each month I pay for a gym membership ($50/month, which is reimbursed through my work's wellness program, though) and Spotify (just switched to a family plan). I benefit from certain privileges that I'm acutely aware of: my family lives here and takes me out to dinner sometimes, as do close family friends occasionally. Additionally, I had the option of living with my parents in New York City (even though I don't). I find discretionary spending a really confusing topic, especially in an expensive city. People say to save 20% of your income, including retirement savings, but discretionary spending percentages seem less hard and fast. What's normal to spend? How do people avoid spending insane amounts of money eating out and still have social lives? It seems really hard.
  • DEBT: I am not in debt.
  • INVESTING: I invest through a robo-investment service that my boyfriend referred me to and, separately, I've been experimenting with low-cost index funds using my Roth IRA. (I set that up separately from my employer-sponsored 401(k) for the money I contribute above my employer match. It sounds like that makes sense if you're younger and in a lower tax bracket, so you pay taxes on that now rather than, as you would do with a 401(k), later.) I also have a 401(k) that's invested in one of those target date funds that's supposed to invest keeping your expected retirement date in mind. 
  • SPENDING VICTORY: The best thing I've ever spent on was a $179 vibrator during a very "treat yourself" moment. I had previously had a $20 one in college, and when it broke I waited a while to replace it. Then, around the holiday season, Lelo was having a sale and I just did it. No regrets: I've had it for a year and it's a great product. Hopefully it'll last me several years (it's rechargeable, haha). So much of what I spend on is at least in part for other people, whether it's clothes for work or going to a restaurant a friend wants to check out. Investing in this was something I was doing 100% for myself. And that felt good. 
  • SPENDING REGRET: I very stupidly bought a dress for about $100, with $20 shipping, that I'd seen linked to in an online newsletter. The dress took forever to arrive, didn't fit me quite right and oh yeah, the return address was in HONG KONG. It would have cost more money to ship it back than the dress was worth. I still feel like an idiot about that, even many months later. I also used to spend a lot of money on eating out and drinking without realizing it. I've cracked down on that a lot now, limiting myself to a budget of $70 max for going out for dinner and drinks, but should have realized earlier how quickly that adds up. Even though $70 sounds like a lot in addition to groceries, you can blow through that really quickly in New York City with a brunch with an out-of-town friend here and impromptu drinks there. 
  • CHARITY: My last donation was to Planned Parenthood.
  • SIDE HUSTLE: I don't know if this is exactly a side hustle, but I am working on a novel. I'm not doing it for the money exactly, but the dream would be getting it published, having the book take off and then getting to write books full time. 
  • GOALS: My main money goal right now is saving for a down payment on an apartment. I live in New York City, where housing prices are insane; every time I fork over $1,150 for rent I die a little inside, and that's hardly the highest rent I know of in this city. So saving aggressively toward a down payment helps me feel more in control of that. Realistically, I'd probably need at least $120,000, and that's with current housing prices (I'm many years away from that goal). There are all kinds of programs for first-time homebuyers, which could be helpful, and it's possibly that my boyfriend and I might buy together at some point, though it's just too early to say. And at the same time, I'm also ambivalent about staying here for a long time. Even as I'm trying to save and be strategic I am also not totally sure what the end goal is. 

- She Spends / Issue #21