Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
What she earns: Carrie Bradshaw writes a column. For a newspaper. In 2013 you’re lucky if that earns you anything at all, but given that the show was set in an age before the ass completely fell out of print media, let’s give her benefit of the doubt and award her a salary at the upper end of the scale for this occupation: $45k, max.
Where she lives: In a swanky Upper East Side pad where you can barely move without tripping over an expensive pair of shoes.
Where she’d really live: OK, so, after tax, your $45k a year turns into just over $35k, or just under $3k a month. Take out a couple of hundred dollars for health insurance and another $100 for a MetroCard. That leaves you with about $2,500 in disposable income. The general wisdom is to spend no more than 40% of your salary on rent, which equates to about $1,000 to spend. You’d be lucky to get a closet anywhere near Central Park for that, so Carrie can forget her UES pad (and her expensive shoes, too.) Clearly, cohabiting would be the best option here, but assuming Carrie wants her own apartment, perhaps the best option is a “cozy” one-bedroom on… Staten Island. Oh, the infamy!
Hannah Horvath, Girls
What she earns: A $3.5m book deal! Well, Hannah is starting out as a freelance writer, so from experience, the answer here is: not a great deal. The halcyon days of extravagant per-word rates are sadly long behind us — these days, Hannah’s likely to be pitching articles to blogs that pay less than $100 per article, or nothing at all. (Last season we saw her make $200 for a personal essay about a coke-fueled weekend, but let’s be real: no one will pay you to write about that as long as Thought Catalog exists.) It’s a rough way to make a living. Thankfully, she’s also got the occasional shift at the local coffee shop to tide her over while she’s waiting for people to deign to settle her invoices. Let’s say that Hannah’s doing three shifts as a barista, and optimistically, let’s give her a $100 a shift. That’s $300 a week. The rest of the time she’s pitching articles like crazy — $50 here, $100 there. Once in a while, she hits the jackpot with something that pays a decent per-word rate — a payday of $500-$1000, maybe. But this is all before taxes, and she’s probably also paying off a student loan. She certainly can’t afford health insurance. Average all this out, and she’s lucky to be clearing $2k a month. Probably less.
Where she lives: Greenpoint.
Where she’d really live: You could make it work in Greenpoint for $800 a month (with roommates, obviously), but more likely you’d be looking south or east — the outer fringes of Bushwick (around DeKalb Ave on the L train), Ridgewood, or Bedford-Stuyvesant.
June Colburn and Chloe McGruff, Don’t Trust the B____ in Apartment 23
What they earn: The square root of fuck all, considering June works in a coffee shop and Chloe doesn’t appear to do anything.
Where they live: It’s unclear, although it’s somewhere in Manhattan, it’s huge, it’s near James Van Der Beek (playing himself), and it’s gloriously, hilariously unrealistic.
Where they’d really live: OK, let’s look at that apartment. It’s got two bedrooms, a dining area, a spacious kitchen and a freaking pool table. The place is getting close to 2,000 square feet. And we’re talking about two people with a combined income of maybe $500 a week, so they can probably stretch to $1,000 a month. That means that, realistically, they’ll be living in… um, Albany! It’s a long walk to James Van Der Beek’s, but you can’t have everything.
Max Black and Caroline Wesboth, Two Broke Girls
What they earn: Well, they’re allegedly broke, but “broke” clearly means something different to privileged white girls than it does to people who are actually ground under the heel of crushing, atavistic poverty. But anyway, both Max and Caroline are waitresses at the fictional Williamsburg Diner. Since they’re “broke,” we can assume they’re not working full-time — so let’s say they earn the minimum wage for waiting tables (a whopping $5 an hour), relying on tips for the rest. The Williamsburg Diner doesn’t look like the sort of place where you’d be raking in tips, so we’ll place them at pretty much the average wage for this job — say $20k a year between them, since they’re both part-time. This works out to about $1,600 a month after taxes (again, no health insurance). Max supplements that with work as a nanny, which pays better — $14-$20 an hour, according to this. So let’s say the duo has… $900 a month for rent?
Where they live: In a nice, big, spacious loft in Williamsburg.
Where they’d really live: Not in a nice, big spacious loft Williamsburg, that’s for sure. And with a combined $900 to spend, our two broke girls wouldn’t just be sharing an apartment — they’d be sharing a room. If they want to live close to work, for that money they’d be lucky with the sort of apartment share that’d feature on The Worst Room — more likely, they’d end up further out in Bed-Stuy, riding their bikes to work because they can’t afford the subway. Suddenly the whole bohemian-living-on-the-poverty-line lifestyle doesn’t look like quite so much fun, eh?
What they earn: We’ll look at Monica’s situation here, because it’s still the gold standard for unrealistic TV depictions of NYC living — despite their oh-so-swanky place, neither Monica nor her various roommates (first Rachel, then Phoebe) are exactly rolling in cash. Rachel starts off working at Central Perk, then works variously as a PA, fashion buyer, and, finally, at Ralph Lauren. Monica is a chef, starting from the bottom up. Phoebe is a masseuse and occasional musician.
Where they live: The West Village!
Where they’d really live: Well, OK, working Ralph Lauren presumably brings a decent amount of cash. But at the beginning? Rent-controlled or not, there’s no way their combined salaries could extend to renting a closet in the West Village — as a part-time waitress, Rachel would have been earning as much as the aforementioned Two Broke Girls, while as a bottom-rung chef Monica could expect about $24k a year. Phoebe, meanwhile… well, would you rely on her for the rent? Our heroines would more likely be living a lot further west than Bedford Street… Hoboken, perhaps, where if they were lucky they could team up to score a decent three-bedroom apartment for under $2k a month. And hey, the PATH train isn’t that bad…