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Animation director: My budget and planning for the future

Lisa LaBracio, an animation director, shares her financial journey. She earns around $80,000 per year, lives in a shared apartment in Brooklyn, and carefully manages her expenses. Despite her comfortable lifestyle, she worries about future financial responsibilities like caring for her aging parents.

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Video transcript

My name is Lisa LaBracio, I'm an animation director at TED-Ed and I make approximately 80,000 per year. So animation is a thing, I've wanted to do since I was a very young kid. Went to school for it and I never even asked questions about like it never occurred to me to ask, what is, where does someone live or how does work look like or what do they make? It was just like, well, that's just want I'm doing forever. So, I never thought about it at all. So, I went to a private school to study animation. I'm actually the first generation in my family that's gone to college. So that's, that was really important to all of this generation of my family. My dad left high school, I think he went to 9th grade and then stopped going to school. He worked in a factory, he became a musician at some point. So, he never got a proper education per say and it was something that he was like very, very, very adamant about providing for his kids. We did all the financial aid possible through college. I worked through college, I worked for the school in order to get money towards tuition. And then I also took on jobs throughout my college career, so that way, they wouldn't also be paying for my expenses on top of it. Later I actually ended up working for the School of Visual Arts for a little bit as well, and that helped pay them back too. I live in, I guess what's called Prospect-Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, I've lived here for about five years and it's, it takes me about 45 minutes to get to work on a day that everything goes right. It could take an hour or a little more. I've figured out a way to not spend a ton of money on rent and things like that. So, I share an apartment space, basically a brownstone in Brooklyn with friends, long time friends, and we share most of our expenses. So that totally saves a bunch of money. I think it's safe to say, that if I were to move into my own space and be able to maintain my home office set up, so to have enough space to live and work from home and if I were to move even just a little bit closer or honestly stay in the neighborhood I'm in now, I'm sure I would pay about twice the amount for cost of living, than I do. So, that is an important decision that I made in order to stay here, but also in order to just maintain a lifestyle that I like and that I feel comfortable in. New York has very high rent, but it's also just very expensive to eat and to breathe here. So, yeah, it does have a lot of expenses that maybe I wouldn't incur in other places. Each year I make somewhere around 80,000, that does depend on how much freelance I bring in during a year. So, that breaks down to being, before tax, about 6,600 each month and then after taxes, and so, because of my full-time job, in addition to taxes, I'm also, they're also taking out money that I've elected to put towards my 401K, I have my metro card, so my commute every day, that comes out from. So, that's about 2,800 that gets taken out over the course of that month. So, take home is around 3,800, let's say. Of that I pay $1,000 a month for rent, as I mentioned I live with a few people in a shared space, so as a result, my internet and electric is also cheaper, so I'm spending about $50 per month on gas and electricity. Around $10 on internet per month and around $20 on subscriptions to streaming things in place of television, so like Hulu or Netflix or what have you. And, for my cell phone, I share my phone with my family, my phone bill with my family, so I pay, I only put forth about $20 or so a month for that. So all of these are far reduced costs, thanks to the commune. And, in addition to my subway, I also pay for City Bike, for the bike share in New York City, so that I guess comes out to being around $15 per month. Fortunately not putting money towards student loan. And every month I'm probably spending around $200 on groceries and some of that is reduced because again I'm sharing it with a lot of people, so we get to share the bigger expenses, like household goods. But also I'm part of what's called a Community Supported Agriculture program in Brooklyn. I know a lot of cities have this it's called the CSA for short and that's paying into, you pay advanced into a program that gets you food from a local organic farm. So that ends up saving me a ton of money. Cause I pay about $300 for about six-months of veggies and eggs and fruits, so that's really great. Otherwise, I've totaled that I spend about $35 a week on coffee, which equals $140 per month. Which is crazy. In otherwise, I decided at some point to leave the gym because it was very expensive and I instead do yoga at home and go running in the park that's very close to my house, so I try to do that in the place of paying for that sort of thing. And then on personal care, I'm spending around $100 per month. And for entertainment and restaurants, so just being in New York City, I would guess that I'm spending around $1,000 per month. After all of those deductions, it would seem that I have about 1,240 left over at the end of the month and from that I would estimate that I put about 500 into savings each month. I don't actually do this on a monthly basis, instead I wait until the end of the tax year and elect to put a chunk of money into my IRA at the end of each year. And that kind of depends on how the year went as freelancer, so that's part of the reason why I don't make that decision on a month to month basis. So, I will, I would guess I put about 500 away each month and after that, that leaves around 750, that is what I like to just have as a cushion, to be able to take a trip if I want to take a trip, go on vacation if I want that, go visit my parents who live a plane ride away. So, I just like to have a little something there, something flexible, so I'm not stressed on making decisions like that. So, I totally feel in control of my finances and I don't feel like I live paycheck-to-paycheck, I feel like I'm quite comfortable in the way that I'm set up. But I do worry sometimes that I don't worry enough. My parents are on the older side, so I am concerned about them and I'm concerned about what happens when I might have to change my lifestyle to take care of bigger things, things that are bigger than me, like the health of my family, or like a family, or things like that. So all of that is something that I don't have to worry about right now, but I know at some point I will. So, I do sometimes wonder if I should be thinking more seriously about that instead of just the, well I'll wing it the way I've been winging it so far. So there's that kind of stuff, that feels very abstract, but I'm sure is absolutely not abstract. (laughs)