Thought Catalog

Carrie Bradshaw’s Budget In Real Numbers

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The Background

A month ago, The Frenemy [1] wrote a humor piece titled ‘Carrie Bradshaw Math,’ in which the author attempted to break down the illusive Bradshaw Budget. I always enjoy The Frenemy’s articles, and this piece was no exception – but I felt unfulfilled when a trillion dollars was allocated to condoms (mostly because Carrie seems like the type who would take someone home from the bar and then get bitchface when they don’t have a condom on them because after all, “that’s the man’s responsibility”).

I didn’t want to watch the entire first season to write this (well, I did, because I always do, because I fucking love the campy monstrosity that is Sex and the City), so I didn’t. I did, however, do some light research to paint what I believe to be as accurate a picture as we’re going to get regarding Carrie’s unkempt, irresponsible financial situation. For accuracy’s sake, this article refers specifically to Season 1 of the show, which took place in 1998.

Considering Inflation

What cost .75 cents at the start of the series now costs us $1.00.

Carrie’s Expenses

Carrie is a serious smoker during the first season of the show. I’d estimate, based on her drinking and stress patterns, that she smoked 3-4 packs a week. I say this as an ex-pack-a-day smoker. The cost of cigarettes nationwide in 1998 was $2.46 [2], but because everything’s more expensive in New York, let’s bump that number up to $3.50. This would put Carrie’s monthly cigarette expense at $49.

The average overpriced Manhattan cocktail is approximately $14 now, which makes the average 1998 Cosmopolitan (her drink of choice) $10.50. We’ll round that up to $11 per drink, the difference will account for a combination of tip and any number of drinks that were priced below the bougie price point of $10.50. The girls typically spend one night a week together sans dates, and based on her intoxication median (that is to say, slightly drunk but rarely boisterous), I wouldn’t expect that she’s ever purchased more than three drinks for herself on any given night. Drinks purchased by other people (Samantha, men) would account for the rest. That would put her at $33 a week, or $132 a month.

We’ll use Balthazar to deduce a price point for the typical brunch outing, as it appeared on the show countless times and is of similar stature to the restaurants they frequent. Because the girls don’t get bombed at brunch (is this what I have to look forward to?), I’d estimate that the bill would run them $160, or $121 in 1998 dollars. Since they seem to take turns treating each other, and inferring that they have brunch together once a week, the bottom line on brunch comes to $121 a month.

Prior to Carrie’s Vogue column and her book advance, she reveals that she’s spent $40K on shoes. Stanford calls Carrie out for wearing Candie’s (and taking the subway) when she first arrived to Manhattan in 1986 – so her “shoe addiction” hadn’t been fully realized in the ‘80s (because Candie’s, hello?) It’d be five years before she moved into her infamous Upper East Side apartment (according to the Sex and the City film, in which she claims to have lived in the apartment for 20 years when moving out). Let’s assume that she began her shoe collection in 1991, after securing her apartment. She calculates her shoe spending 11 years later, which would mean she’s been spending $3,363 a year, or $303 a month, on designer shoes.

Carrie is notorious for taking taxis everywhere. She goes out downtown often, so I’d slap a price tag of $25 (in today’s dollars) on a round-trip with tip, or $19 in 1998 money. Say she ventures out of the UES three times a week on average. That’s $228 a month on transportation. Remember – she’s been known to bum rides with Mr. Big, so she’s not taking a cab every time she leaves the house.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 caused hella drama in its wake, and phone bills were unpredictable because of it – but my sister was a bill paying New Yorker back then and estimates her bill to have been $125 a month circa ’98.

Carrie does not own cable TV, internet, or air conditioning. Gas in 1998 was at its lowest since 1949, at $1.03 [3]. Knowing that, and combined with the fact that she hardly used any electricity, we can assume that her ConEd bill was miniscule. Probably $60 a month.

Carrie’s rent controlled apartment cost her $750 a month.

Carrie’s Column

In 2009, fashion writer Glenna Goldis publicly chastised The New York Observer, a weekly print publication that allegedly owed her $700 for two pieces she wrote for them [4]. Let’s assume they were $350 a piece.

We can agree that Bradshaw’s column for the fictional paper, New York Star, is meant to mirror Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell’s experience writing for the Observer. This would mean Star would’ve likely paid Bradshaw at least $350 in 2009 dollars. Let’s say, based on her notoriety, that she’d make $400 per column (in 2009). That’s approximately $300 a column in 1998 money. One column a week at $300 a column would give our girl a whopping $1,200 a month.

Income Tax

Carrie’s taxes are low, because she’s a broke ass. In 1998, she would’ve paid 15% of her income, so $2,100. Her New York State income tax would have been $973 [5]. Of course, as a freelancer, there’s a ton to be written off – but Carrie is irresponsible and doesn’t handle her money like an adult so let’s assume she didn’t see an accountant. Actually, let’s assume that she didn’t even pay her taxes (hay girl) (jk, please don’t audit me, I totally plan on paying my taxes) (…).

What I Can’t Account For

Meals other than brunch: This bitch keeps sweaters in her oven and offers Miranda expired food when she comes over, so it’s safe to assume she’s perpetually dining out. Who’s paying for it? Depends.

Gifts: The series starts with a birthday celebration. Later on, Carrie attends a baby shower.

Shopping: When Carrie cleans her closet out in the first Sex and the City movie, it’s revealed that she basically never throws anything out. If you remained the same size for twenty years and never threw anything out, you’d have an extensive wardrobe, too. It’s likely that Carrie has purchased 50% of her wardrobe and grifted the rest via her second tier socialite status. For that reason, I won’t put a number on clothes acquired in 1998.

Other Considerations

In Season 1 Episode 5, a French architect leaves Carrie $1,000 after a one-night stand. Add to bottom line.

In the ‘90s, banks were like, “You’re a panhandler and your annual income is $437.62? AWESOME. Take this no-limit credit card; you undesirable loan candidate!” So Carrie had some wiggle room when it came to spending money she didn’t have.

Because she was clearly overspending, there’s bound to be some credit card payments she should’ve been making, but again, this bitch can’t handle her money so don’t count on it.

Conclusions

In the first season of the show, Carrie spent an estimated $21,216. Let’s round that to $22K to account for the things I couldn’t itemize, like food and clothes that were actually paid for and not leeched from someone else. She made approximately $15,400 ($1,000 of which was a non-taxable “gift”). We can assume, then, that she closed 1998 about $6,500 in the hole (not including her unpaid taxes and ignored credit card payments). If her spending was similar in prior years, she probably had the debt of the modern recent college graduate come Y2K – IF THAT.

Carrie goes on to write $4 a word at Vogue (for a feature length article, that’s anywhere between $3,000 and $4,000 a month). She gets a $25,000 sign-on bonus for her first book (she goes on to write five, and they’re wildly popular), and finally, she marries rich. If she moved into Manhattan debt-free, she may have been able to crawl out of the red-numbered K-hole by crafting a successful career. Paying for college has put me in the same fucked up financial boat as 1998 Carrie, minus 100 pairs of designer shoes.

What I’ve Learned

Inflation’s a bitch. TC mark

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    • karina

      damn girl. you did that research!

      • Aja

         I was about to conclude the same thing! 

      • average girl

        respect.

      • average girl

        respect.

    • Anonymous

      If you watch the first Sex and the City movie, you actually learn that Carrie OWNED her apartment, as she had to sell it to move in with Big, and then had to pay the seller more than what she got for it when they broke up.

      • guest

        She didn’t buy it until the 4th season.

      • guest

        yes, but she owns it after Charlotte sells her engement ring from Trey and “loans” the money to Carrie.  Let’s assume she doesn’t pay Char back.

      • anon

        She borrowed the money for the apartment from Charlotte when she gave her the old engagement ring. Aidan bought her apt and the one next to her and was supposed to convert them into one space, remember? 

      • http://goldenday.tumblr.com Kia Etienne

        damn we can tell who only caught like 2 episodes of S&TC.

        • SisterRay

          lolz

        • SisterRay

          lolz

      • ThatGirl

        Yeah, she had to buy it from Aiden so that he wouldn’t evict her after he bought it and they broke up.  So, she didn’t own it from the start.

      • Monicookie

        She only purchased it later on, when Aiden gave her an eviction notice and she took a loan from Charlotte to buy her place.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t even watch Sex and the City, and this piece is weirdly enjoyable

    • Anonymous

      I don’t even watch Sex and the City, and this piece is weirdly enjoyable

      • Amissa

        same!

    • Anonymous

      I don’t even watch Sex and the City, and this piece is weirdly enjoyable

    • Anonymous

      I don’t even watch Sex and the City, and this piece is weirdly enjoyable

    • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

      fuck yeah!

    • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

      fuck yeah!

    • ladybug

      this is awesome
       

    • Mr Shankly

      *elusive.

      But apart from that the article was lovely.

    • Mr Shankly

      *elusive.

      But apart from that the article was lovely.

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        Thank you, and no, I mean illusive as in misleading, but yes, elusive would work in that context as well. 

    • Anonymous

      tinyurl.com/24n4nqb

    • Anonymous

      tinyurl.com/2df4ccp

    • DL

      I’m an accountant who can’t stand how financially unrealistic that show was (ie I’m a loser) so I especially loved this piece.

    • DL

      I’m an accountant who can’t stand how financially unrealistic that show was (ie I’m a loser) so I especially loved this piece.

    • Red

      Carrie definitely had internet. There was an episode all about her being terrified to open an email from Big or something. Or just being terrified of email in general.

      • Sam

        Not in Season 1, she didn’t.

      • http://paintwithwords.tumblr.com leah

        ‘he’s online. can he see me??’

    • guest

      In 1998, I was 23 years, lived in NYC, and smoked about a pack of Parliament Lights a week.  Each pack cost at least $5.  Just an FYI.

    • guest

      In 1998, I was 23 years, lived in NYC, and smoked about a pack of Parliament Lights a week.  Each pack cost at least $5.  Just an FYI.

      • guest

        *I was 23 years OLD

      • Michele

        Huh. I started in 2001 in NYC and they were 5 bucks then… 3 years later. Oh well. Anyone who has smoked here long enough knows you can’t put one price on a pack.

    • Anonymous

      tinyurl.com/24n4nqb

    • imstarving88

      I really enjoyed this analysis, but it is totally incomplete.  You can’t account for her spending on CLOTHING?  that was by far the most unrealistic aspect of the entire show! The Momo Falana coat that she wore when Miranda gave birth was worth thousands of dollars alone (lay off me, i know that was not season one).

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