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Home Ownership in The Big Apple on $72k Per Year

How One Couple Made Their New York City Dream a Reality

Tiina Treasure, 32, lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband Danny. In spite of her awesome last name, she does not, in fact, have a chest stuffed full of gold medallions and precious gems.

No, Tiina is a social worker. Danny is a teacher. And, even without a pile of gold, they own their very own slice of the New York City real estate pie.

Yes, This Story Is For Real.

How did they do it? Spoiler alert: they used a budget. And, yes, thrifty blood flows through Tiina’s veins. From a young age, she was taught to spend mindfully—her mother and grandmother were experts in the art of stretching a dollar bill.

Still, Tiina’s not so different from a lot of 30-somethings in New York: Impulse purchases at Duane Reade? Yep. Student loans? Check. Loves sampling the smorgasbord of eateries available in the city? For sure (including more than just a little cold brew coffee when she’s out and about).

In fact, it wasn’t until she and Danny decided to consolidate their finances that Tiina really amped up her budgeting game.

Save Money, Save a Marriage!

No, they didn’t have problems—just pointing out that, like the smarty-pants couple that they are, Tiina and Danny acknowledged that a budget is a great, proactive marital peacemaker.

“We’ve always divided everything down the line (this may or may not 
include weighing bowls of mac’n’cheese) and we worried that 
if we didn’t use a [budgeting] program it would erode our relationship.”

… so they started to watch their money more carefully. Tiina’s rudimentary budgeting tactics (to make sure she covered the basics, like rent and food) were replaced with YNAB. And, in true YNAB style, she and Danny made sure to budget for necessities and to leave some wiggle room for fun.

“We didn’t want to feel like we had to ask [each other] to spend money or, 
on the other hand, feel jealous or resentful regarding the other’s purchases. Budgeting 
software helped us set ground rules for how we would spend and save our money.”

A Leak-Proof Financial Foundation …

With their new budget, Tiina and Danny could see exactly how much the small things—like dollar store “treasures”, disposable clothing and drugstore purchases—add up. They curbed impulse purchases by signing up for Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program. (Bonus: not only is the bill less, they’ve got fewer bags to schlep home on the Subway).

They also reigned in their allowance for leisure.

“As New Yorkers, 95% of the reason to live here is the food and drink 
but, if we see that our nice suppers out are becoming 
more like regular meals (rather than special occasions) we cut back …”

YNAB helped the couple pay attention to financial details they’d been ignoring (or had automated) with previous budgeting attempts. The budget clarity and subsequent adjustments helped Tiina and Danny imagine a better life …

There’s No Place Like Brooklyn.

Before YNAB, Tiina always felt like there was enough money to make ends meet, but not enough to save.

“Now I feel like I have enough to make due AND to save, which opens up 
a lot more options for our future. I honestly never thought we’d get to 
buy a house in New York City. Being able to do so was an absolute dream. 
It never would have been possible without budgeting.”

And budget they did! For the two years leading up to buying their place, Tiina and Danny saved an average of $1,000 per month (or about 15% of their income). Not only did the couple cut back on spending, they leveraged Tiina’s pay increases to help them get even further ahead:

“I went from making roughly $46,000 to $56,000 per year … the extra 
$10,000 would more or less just head into the buffer 
because I just never included it in our “available” budget.”

When it was time to buy their home, the couple also had a bit of help from their family. The majority of the money they saved went towards the apartment—accounting for roughly half of their down payment. The rest of the money for the down payment came as a very welcome gift from their family (Thanks, family!).

Own Your Expenses, Literally.

Yes, in addition to following YNAB’s tried-and-true formula for budgeting success, Tiina and Danny had some financial help from their family … but, according to Tiina, they never would’ve pulled the trigger if they hadn’t mastered their budget, first.

“We never would have been able to save the amount that we needed without YNAB, 
and I never would have felt confident with our increased monthly expenditures (mortgage/maintenance) without the hard evidence that we could make to work.”

With the help of their budget, the couple transitioned smoothly from paying $1,200 per month on rent to nearly $2,000 per month on their mortgage. They’re working at saving a bit more, given the rise in their living accommodations, but they’re optimistic.

“In the future we’d like to be student-debt-free and possibly 
be able to travel outside of North America.”

Spend More, Get More.

In addition to keeping them honest about their priorities and expenses, YNAB helped Tiina and Danny see that they could comfortably afford some pretty high-ticket items (we mentioned the apartment, in New York City, right?).

Rather than justifying a million smaller expenses that don’t truly satisfy them, Tiina and Danny are in full control of their cash—so they can spend more on the things they really love.

“YNAB let me become more comfortable spending money because I had 
tangible proof that I was saving money … Recently I bought a bunch of vintage 
Persian rugs for the house. I got a good deal but it was still a pretty penny. 
In the past, I would’ve been worried about investing in something of this nature 
and just gone with something cheaper that I liked less.”

So, not only do they get a new apartment (and awesome rugs) … they feel good. No more anxiety about money, just satisfaction.

What Are You Waiting For?

We asked Tiina what budgeting wisdom she’d share with aspiring budgeters who feel like their dreams are out of reach. Here’s what she had to say:

“I think people are afraid of budgeting because they’re afraid to confront how little they have. In reality, I think many don’t realize how MUCH they have (and how many random and unexpected places it’s going). I really think people could live more comfortably if they just set aside a little time for planning. Financial stress is no joke, trust me—I’m a mental health professional. Take care of yourself and your money.”

You can read more about Tiina and Danny, and how they budgeted their way to home ownership, over at Layers and Layers of Paint.

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Home Ownership in The Big Apple on $72k Per Year