My name is Natalie Fisk. My job title is Assistant General Manager, and I make $65,000 a year. One of the bigger financial challenges for me, what I really learned the most, was from the transitional time between when my mom was helping me pay for college and when she wasn't. She had sort of signed on to help me with two years of college, which is, you know, I was very grateful for and so I'm very grateful for, but making that jump from that point to being to have some sort of ownership over it, was really challenging. And so much so, I got so stressed out, and because as I'm sure most people will do, I took out a credit card when I was like 18, and didn't manage it properly and so I was like, oh my God, I don't know how to pay for tuition. So I actually took a year off, to just like reset and figure all this out. I was like alright, let me take the year. I'm just gonna work a job, figure out how much my rent is, figure like how do I pay for my bills? How do I pay for all the things that I like to buy for myself, like clothing and shoes, and like, and suddenly, I just did that without school. And so, when I learned how to do that, then I was able to say, oh, you know what, like I actually don't need to spend a hundred dollars on clothing and I could probably just put that towards savings that I wanted to go back to college, because I did wanna go back to college right away, and I didn't want it to be like, I only wanted to take a year off. That's what I committed to. So, I started saving and then, you know, I started looking at another college and I was looking at colleges much differently. I was looking at colleges in places that were a lot more affordable. I think it's very easy when you're young to say, like "Oh, I wanna move to New York City "or I wanna move to San Francisco.", and these are markets that are very expensive to live in, and really hard to swing, I think, for someone's who's taking care of themselves. So I found a good art school in Portland, Oregon, and the market in Portland at the time, was a let more reasonable than it is now, but the tuition was reasonable. I knew I could get approved for that amount of loan to cover whatever I couldn't pay for, for just tuition flat, and I knew that based on the cost of living in that area, that I could work four to five days per week, like alternating week, and that would be enough to support food, utilities, rents and my art supplies. So, that's really how I came to that decision. I learned a lot from making mistakes, honestly. I mean, you know, the first time you're managing your own budget, and you're working, I think when you get your paycheck, and you see like 800 bucks, or a thousand bucks, or whatever in your bank account, you're like oh my God, I'm rich! I'm gonna go out. I'm gonna go this concert, and then it comes time to pay your bills, and you're like oh, crap, like you know, all these things are due. So I think it was really trial and error, you know, and you know, having enough sense to really just work that out, and like month after month, getting into a pattern of like, and now it's like a nature to me. But like getting into a pattern of oh, okay, I know that my credit card bill's due on the first day of the month, and I know that I get paid sometimes five to seven days before that. I need to make sure that in five to seven days, I don't spend all of my money, so I can pay my credit card bill. And really lining up all of your expenses of when they're due, and knowing when they're due, and making sure that you have enough to pay for them. And also knowing that just because you have a lot in your bank account doesn't mean that it's a lot, because, I mean, now my pattern is like a lot of things are due right around the first of the month, so starting the end of the month, it looks like I have a lot of money in my bank account, but really it's not, because it's all about to be spent. So, I think knowing that really helped me transition into knowing what my total expenses are. And then once you know what your total expenses are, you can kind of keep track and say, "Hey, okay, so I make this much. "I know I have an extra $300 that needs to last me "for this amount of time.", and so, you kind of just split it up. And I think one strategy I had at the time is I would take out like my $60, I was allowed to spend for groceries, right, and I would pretend like I couldn't access my debit card. And that was it. I had to make my $60 last for as long as possible. You also get really good at grocery shopping. I think it's like, you know, if you go to the grocery store and you buy like a kale salad for $9.00, like when you're 18 years old trying to work your way back into college, that's a very poor choice, because you can easily buy an entire five-pound bag of rice for like $4.00 and to that you can add a protein and vegetables, which you can also buy in bulk at very cheap prices, and once you know, how to kind of like feed yourself cheaply, that frees you up entirely. Like so much. And then you're really able to save money, or just do other fun things that you wanna do, or just work your way towards going back to college, which is what I did. And to be prepared to just take on the whole college thing again, I did a lot of reading. My high school didn't have a class on like finances, on interest, or any of that really cool stuff, that you definitely need to know about before you start any sort of big financial decision. But I did a lot of reading. I contacted the university I was hoping to get into and they gave me information and then I took that information and I honestly like, I remember like sitting in my bed like reading this and I read everything through and I highlighted like every word that I didn't know and I looked it up, and used the internet and tried to figure it out, and then just, you know, tried to make the best decision I could with the information that I had. And so, I felt much better about going back into it, because I had taken the time to really understand what it was. And so the way that I financially managed it, was that I actually just ended up taking out loans for tuition only, because I had sort of of figured out what I needed to make in order to pay for things like food and rent. So I actually went to school full-time and I worked full-time. So, yeah, so it was just for tuition only for loans. I didn't do any extra loans for, I know sometimes they can give you more money, and then you use that for rent or for housing. I also lived off-campus, and I lived with roommates, which is a much different scenario than living say, on campus and part of a university's program. So I could save money there as well. When I first moved to New York, I lived in Queens for two years. I was looking for, I needed to get approved for an apartment. There's a little bit more availability in Queens. When it comes to livability in the City, Queens is very affordable. The neighborhood was great, but I did wanna be in Brooklyn, because I felt like there was more of a creative hub in Brooklyn, but the cost of living, I mean, I would say, it's important for people to be adaptable. For example, I just moved from Williamsburg to Bushwick, because the rent got raised by 33%, and I think that, you know, people do what they have to do. Realtors are gonna do, real estate is gonna be whatever it is, but I think with cost of living my strategy's always been to keep my rent like as low as possible. But that does come with sacrifices. You know, like if you come from a place where like you want your own apartment, you want your own bathroom, and you know you wanna a backyard. If you have all these amenities in mind, that are important to you, I think it's important to realize that you're gonna be sacrificing a much larger part of your monthly budget to your rent. Whereas, I'm kind of like sure I'll have a roommate, like I'll get my laundry done at the laundromat, like, I don't need to be right next to the Wholefoods. So I think it really has to do with you're willing to compromise. Just walking you through my monthly budget. I'm make $65,000 a year. Monthly pre-tax, that's $5,416. Taxes, my personal healthcare and my husband's healthcare, and eight percent of my monthly pre-tax goes to my 401K, which my company matches at four percent, so that's roughly about $2,000. My take home or net, $3,184. My rent is $1,080, which I also share with my husband, so the total amount would be, you know, $2,160. For gas and electric, it's $43 per month as the average. For TV and internet it's a $66 on the average. My phone is $87 a month. For commuting expenses, it's $135 per month. For my student loan, which is based on my salary, and based on how much I make and it has to do with my tax returns, it's $180 per month, and on for the credit card, it's $450 per month, which is mostly wedding expenses, which my husband and I aim to pay off by January. For food, I always spend about $300 for food. My husband actually is very, gets very excited about food ordering programs, so we're subscribed to a couple of different companies who send out like Ramen, like our food from Japan, or like different kinds of stuff. So that kind of, I'm trying to just keep up with the amount of food that he's buying (laughs), and then for other things that I like to do. I do yoga which is donation-based, so sometimes it's like, you know, zero dollars, sometimes it's five or ten dollars. I spend about a hundred dollars on clothes a month, which kind of sounds crazy, because, I'm a girl and girls buy lots of clothes, but honestly I buy like good items that will last long time, so I don't have to buy a lot of multiple things. I spend on average, about $70 a month on art supplies. I say about $70 I have for travel expenses. So for entertainment and restaurants, I spend, about a hundred dollars a month, mostly because my husband pays for dinner. After that I have about $500, that I can kind of do with what I'd like. Most of the time, that will either go to my savings or go to my credit card, or towards loans or additional travel. When I got married my financial goals completely changed. Before I was looking at one person's annual income and how to pay off my bills and how to save for retirement for one person, and when I got married, you know, I had a conversation with my husband about finances and really our financial goals became the same goals. And so we had to talk about that. Like what age do we wanna retire? How many vacations do we wanna take a year? How important is it to go out and visit family? When we went into this conversation the first time, to be quite honest, it was bad. It was like oh my God what are you talking about? Like I don't understand. This is how much I make, and I clearly realized this is not the right approach, because what I wanted to communicate was that it would be better for us in the long run, if we combined our incomes to pay down debt equally, so we could pay down our debt faster which means we would pay less interest. And that was all something that took a little bit of work on my part to sort of put both of our annual incomes together, but both of our debt together and really kind of just show, like you know, my husband, like hey, this is what I want us to do. I think it also depends on the person you're speaking to. You know, I think my husband was very much like, "Oh, I'm never gonna own anything, "like I'm always gonna be in debt.", kind of person, and he really was not in very bad shape at all, and so it was a matter of just kind of like, also informing him, in a very delicate and like supportive way, that like hey, you're in a good position. We can actually be in an even better position and actually maybe potentially do all these things that you think that we can't do. And then you also have really fun conversations about spending, and actually you can't really take anyone's privilege away, and I think that's why for us, when we got married we decided we we're gonna keep separate bank accounts. We have a joint savings account and a joint credit card. So for any kind of like bigger purchases, or say we're going on vacation, we'll put it on the credit card and now we both individually pay it off, joint savings, just for the same exact reason. If there's any emergency, we both have access to that. So it's not something that we're unprepared for in any kind of way, but we still have our own individual freedoms, like I can go, you know, if I find this beautiful paintbrush that cost $300, that I know I'm never gonna find again, if I have the surplus that month to buy it, I'll buy that and he's not gonna, you know, be like, "Why did you by that?" And same for him, if he wants to, like I mentioned earlier spend a lot of money on food things that we get in the mail, that sometimes go back, 'cause we can't eat them fast enough, that's his prerogative, and that's okay. Because we still have that freedom. So, joint, but also separate at the same time. Our financial goals together are really, is just get the debt to a zero place, so that way, because then what our strategy is going to be is take all of the money that we normally pay on debt, we're gonna throw into a savings which will be a really good way to save a lot of money very quickly if we just pretend like all our expenses are the same, and then save all that additional money. We'll be able to really have a good savings account for our future kids or anything like that.
Careers brought to you with support from Better Money Habits® Powered by Bank of America® Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. Investment Products: Are Not FDIC Insured, Are Not Bank Guaranteed, May Lose Value