A month ago, The Frenemy  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.
What cost .75 cents at the start of the series now costs us $1.00.
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 , 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 . 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.
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 . 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.
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 . 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.
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.
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.