Welcome to How I Afford NYC, a series that looks at how New Yorkers manage to get by in this crazy-expensive city. Today, we’re talking to Loretta, a Brooklyn librarian in her mid-50s who just moved into a new 2-bedroom rental in Bensonhurst.  She’s focused on paying off her credit card debt, but dreams of buying a love seat and visiting Paris.

The Basics

  • Name, age, occupation: I’m Loretta and I’m in my mid-50s. I work at the Brooklyn Public Library as a staff librarian.
  • Annual salary: $51,000, with a biweekly paycheck that amounts to $1,200.
  • Living situation: I just moved into a new apartment in Bensonhurst. It’s a 2-bedroom, but I live alone. For the size, the $1,550 rent is very a good deal!
  • Financial goal: Currently, my financial goal is not to live for my rent and bills. I would really love the ability to buy some new furniture and to travel overseas once a year. I’d like a love seat, an armchair, and a couple of end tables — used would be fine. I’m researching this option. The travel would be for fun as well as family visits in the States. I’d like to explore the Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, and — forever — Paris.

image of loretta wallet profile

My Monthly Fixed Costs

  • Rent $1,550.
  • Groceries: $150-200.
  • Transportation: $121. I get my Metrocard from work. It’s automatically deducted from my paycheck, pre-tax.
  • Utilities: Gas and electrical amounts to $100; Wi-Fi and cable are another $70, and my phone is $110.
  • Medical costs: $100 for medical insurance, $17 for prescriptions.
  • Credit card debt: $500.
  • 401K: I can’t right now. This is one of my immediate goals for 2019.

My Biggest Indulgence: Smoked Salmon and Honduran Coffee

A couple of times a month, I will buy smoked salmon slices to put on my salad for lunch or dinner. In general, I also prefer organic food, especially Honduran coffee. Unfortunately, it’s more expensive; but I’m a firm believer that you can’t get away from paying, especially when it comes to physical health. Pay now for organic foods or pay later with poor health.

I really enjoy shopping at Trader Joe’s — not only because of their affordable organic foods, but also because of the staff, who are always friendly, helpful and professional. I rotate between buying organic meat and cleaning items and toiletries every other week there. For other items, I shop at the Associated supermarket near me in Bensonhurst.

My Unavoidable Cash-Suck: Credit Card Debt

My credit card debt has increased alarmingly over the past four years. I use credit cards now just to buy groceries, and then use my income to pay rent and recurring bills.

Ways I Save: French Press at My Office

I eat breakfast at home and bring lunch to work, and make coffee at home to have with breakfast. I also make it at work with my French press. I don’t have many additional expenses, aside from the occasional smoked salmon indulgence. I devote my take-home paycheck to my bills and feel satisfied when I pay rent and my other bills on time.

How Am I Doing? I’m Frustrated

I’m not pleased with my finances. While I enjoy what I do and work hard, I’m just not able to save as I need. On a scale of one to five, I’d say I’m hovering around two and a half. I’m expecting a promotion, which, among other things, will increase my take-home pay. Hopefully this will help me hit my two main financial goals: First, to apply a portion of my paycheck to savings via deferred compensation, and second, to take care of the credit card debt.

I do feel my housing costs are pretty reasonable, as is my salary — it just doesn’t go very far in NYC.  As I review our tax structure, it’s becoming more of an issue to me. It frustrates me that taxes for single persons are so high. It’s an unfair burden.

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