Mind Your Money: This Native New Yorker Learns Why You Should Pay Yourself First

For this bachelor-in-the-city, eating out is gobbling up his discretionary income.

Name: Anthony Martinez

Age: 36

Location: New York

Occupation: law enforcement professional, editor of Men Who Brunch,

Salary: $76,000

Goal: Save money and eliminate debt

Over the last five years, law enforcement professional Anthony Martinez’s salary increased by $36,000 to a respectable $76,000. Now, the native New Yorker says he is ready for his savings account to match that same energy.

The 36-year-old has $1,000 saved in an emergency fund and puts away about 5 percent of his income into tax-deferrable retirement accounts. His government job will afford him a pension when he retires.  “Compared to most people, (my finances) aren’t that bad,” Martinez said. “But my eating out is a problem. Once I get that tackled, I’ll be able to save significantly more money.”

For the bachelor-in-the-city, his love of dining out on $50 Sunday brunches, $12 salmon filets, and $10 Wendy’s nuggets, is gobbling up his discretionary income.

Martinez is also the founder of “Men Who Brunch,” a lifestyle blog that caters to the Black, gay man who desires fun and safe spaces outside of clubs and bars. However, to get that brand off the ground, Martinez sank “thousands of dollars.

He recently partnered with an ad agency to monetize the brand, which took a nasty hit during the pandemic shutdowns. Martinez said that he wants the site to grow into an at-least a $2,000-per-month venture. His last blog advertising payment was $28. “I have to keep working on my traffic,” he said. 

For leisure, Martinez enjoys traveling to various Pride festivals across the United States. When he goes out locally, Martinez prefers day parties over nightlife. “I used to party a lot, but I don’t party as much as I used to,” Martinez said. “Like most people during the pandemic, I slowed down.”

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As a mixed-martial arts aficionado, Martinez also spends his free time honing his jabs, round kicks, and double-leg takedowns. That hobby costs him $300 per month at his dojo. Fashion-wise, he fancies the Polo brand, Burberry, and Gucci, some of which were gifted by his sister. 

“No shade, but I don’t wear cheap clothes,” Martinez said. “Quality clothes last a while.”

He gets his head shaved, and beard trimmed every other week for $25. His current credit card balance is $7,000. He owes $15,000 on his car and has $10,000 in student loan debt. His housing costs are $800 per month.

Pay Yourself First

Rahkim Sabree, financial coach and author of Financially Irresponsible, says it’s a feat for Martinez even to save $1,000.

“Most Americans don’t have $1,000 allocated for any type of emergency,” Sabree said.

Sabree’s financial philosophy for saving money is to “pay yourself first.”

For instance, a person working a salaried job can save by allocating money to a 401(k), a health savings account, then whatever money hits their direct deposit afterward, 10 to 20% of that money can be put into a savings vehicle or a separate account.

The money left over after that goes toward bills and other incidentals, Sabree said.

“It’s impossible not to save if you pay yourself first —even if that amount is as small as $20,” Sabree said.

Sabree also advises that Martinez fights against “lifestyle creep,” where people spend more money when they earn more. Anytime Martinez gets a salary raise—many government workers get annual cost of living increases—he should put the extra money into an investment account, Sabree said.

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To help pay down his debt faster, Sabree suggests Martinez find out what the interest rate is on his car loan. If the APR is above 5%, Sabree thinks Martinez should see if he can refinance for a lower rate.

Depending on his credit score, Martinez may be able to obtain a credit card with a zero-percent introductory interest rate and can transfer his credit card balance over to the card with no interest—and pay it off quickly, Sabree said. Or, Martinez can call his credit card company and ask for a reduction in the interest rate or get a personal loan. Those loans generally have a lower rate than consumer credit cards.

Also, Sabree suggests that people who want to save money use spreadsheets to track their spending habits. On the spreadsheets, people should group expenses by necessary expenses (housing, car, cell phone), optional expenses (gym, Netflix, Apple music, etc.).

In addition, most major banks track your spending on their websites or apps.

“It’s important to assess where you are with your money,” Sabree said.

Natalie P. McNeal is the author of The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out of Debt Without Giving Up the Fabulous Life.

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