How a Millennial Couple Who Makes $123,000 Annually Spends Their Money?

The Millennial Money series on CNBC Make It profiles people worldwide and explains how they make, spend, and save money. Days after marriage, Lucas and Yana Bononi abandoned their $600-per-month Aspen, Colorado, apartment to pursue their artistic goals in New York City in 2017.

Yana finished her bachelor’s degree in public relations while Lucas had been developing his fan base as an artist.

Six years later, Lucas, now 31, is a full-time painter associated with a gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Yana, a 29-year-old Russian immigrant with 111,000 Instagram followers, is a fashion influencer. They collectively earned more than $123,000 in 2022 and more than $154,000 in 2021.

“I always was very ambitious and saw this as the place for me,” Yana tells CNBC Make It. “I always dreamed of being in New York because it felt like the top of the world.”

Since Lucas planned to continue his art studies at Grand Central Atelier, a university renowned for its rigorous training in figure painting and drawing. New York was always a part of the plan for him.

“When I first moved to New York in 2017 with Yana, I told her I’d like to do a solo show in Chelsea, Manhattan, and then retire,” says Lucas. “I thought that would take me about 40 years — it ended up happening in four years.”

Getting To Know New York City

The couple, who met through a mutual friend in 2015, was used to living on the cheap. While studying for a bachelor’s degree in fine painting at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Lucas frequently visited food banks. And their Aspen apartment had been relatively inexpensive to rent.

Even yet, making ends meet was difficult. Yana, who arrived in the United States on a student visa in 2015, was unable to work when they relocated to New York legally. “I was just sitting home and stressed about how to make money,” she adds.

How a Millennial Couple Who Makes $123,000 Annually Spends Their Money
How a Millennial Couple Who Makes $123,000 Annually Spends Their Money

On the other hand, Lucas was already selling paintings on Instagram for thousands of dollars each. When they landed in New York, he had $188,000 in funds from painting sales and placed it all in a rental house in North Bergen, New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan.

The condo was priced at $215,000, but he negotiated a $184,000 deal: “The owner wanted to move back to his country and I was a cash buyer.”

Even though the investment provided the couple with consistent, passive income, they still struggled to make ends meet. In 2017, they made over $75,000 and lived on a weekly grocery budget of $40.

They “moved to Koreatown, then to the Upper East Side, and, oh my gosh, that place was a nightmare,” Lucas adds.

 “We had all the New York stereotypes — mice, cockroaches, black mold. I felt like I was living in a subway station.”

Yana launched an Instagram account on her immigrant experience for a predominantly Eastern European audience while hunting for a job in 2017. When she realized she “wasn’t going back to Russia,” she shifted focus and began writing her blogs in English.

 “It’s glamorous girls living in New York; everything is minimalistic and beige — I was never that glamorous girl.”

Yana differentiated herself by creating increasingly intricate fashion videos that she describes as “risky and creative,” with brightly colored bodysuits, elaborate motion effects, and kaleidoscopic lenses.

Her work steadily grew in popularity on Instagram, leading to representation by an agency that negotiates paid sponsorships on her behalf. She was able to quit her part-time job at Tiffany and Co. building window displays in September 2022 and now earns up to $5,000 per Instagram post.

She earned about $20,000 in the three months following her departure from her job, roughly half of her total income for 2022.

Lucas continued to sell paintings while teaching part-time at Grand Central Atelier and independently. When he graduated from Grand Central Atelier’s certificate program in 2021, the price of his paintings had risen from $5 per inch to $10 per inch, with larger images fetching up to $35,000.

He earned slightly more than $83,000 in 2022 and had his first solo show at the Sugarlift gallery in Chelsea.

How Do They Spend Their Money?

In November 2022, Lucas and Yana spent their money as follows.

  • $2,549 in business expenses for editing software, painting supplies, and travel.
  • $690 for eating out and groceries
  • Housing and utilities: electric, heating, HOA fees, and property taxes total $686.
  • Expendable: $244 for beauty and health items, clothing, and laundry.
  • Transportation: $192 for carpooling and subway fare.
  • AMC+, Apple Music, Audible, Google Cloud Storage, iCloud storage, and Spotify cost $101 a year.
  • Phone: $90 for a pair of phones
  • Homeowner’s insurance costs $12 per year.

The couple faced a $300 rent rise in early 2022, which would have increased their monthly Upper East Side apartment bills to $3,250, so they opted to relocate to their home in New Jersey, which had more significant space.

Financially, the move made sense: Their wages had improved to the point that they didn’t need to rely on the passive income from their rental property anymore, and they wouldn’t have to spend thousands in rent as they did with their Manhattan apartment.

Furthermore, they “got everything we could out of living in Manhattan,” according to Lucas. Aside from accommodation and food, their monthly expenses are modest.

The premiums on their city-run MetroPlus health insurance policies are subsidized by Covid-19 relief funding, and Yana’s free products cover a large portion of their discretionary monthly costs.

“Our expenses are low because I’m getting a lot of things for free as an influencer,” says Yana. “Makeup, shower gels, shampoos — even furniture I can get for free.”

They had no debt save for around $2,000 divided across two of their three credit cards following a $35,000 repair of their condo’s bathroom and floors that went over budget.

Lucas and Yana have never taken out college loans. Lucas’ art school tuition in New York was primarily funded by a federal scholarship from the United States Presidential Scholars Program. The full-ride scholarship is one of the most prestigious in the country, with fewer than 200 candidates each year.

Yana and Lucas are not currently saving or investing. Instead, they support nearly all their earnings in their job, camera equipment, or software.

“We’ve learned to invest in ourselves,” Yana says. “I personally believe it’s the same as investing in stocks.”

You can get additional information regarding the wealth of celebrities in the following sources:

Plans for the Future

Yana states that the couple’s future goals include starting a family and emphasizing a better work-life balance. Our New Year resolved to focus more on our relationship and each other adds Yana. She adds that her career still has “so much more to do,” including more imaginative and less lucrative work.

See the tweet below:

She says, “I want to start a career as a director or creative director and express my beliefs and emotions and everything I have to give to the world.” Lucas intends to carry on painting and hold a solo exhibition each year.

“I feel my paintings are the beginning of my self-expression, especially since I was studying in school for so many years,” says Lucas. “Now I can truly be myself and paint what I want. And that makes me feel a lot of joy.”

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