‘Sex and the City’: Which Characters Could Actually Afford Their Lifestyles?

Sex and the City made every 20-something girl in the 2000s want to pack up her things and head to New York City. Manhattan seems to hold infinite possibilities. You can be anyone or anything you want in the city of over eight million people, but there’s a catch, you need to have the funds to make it happen. So, could everyone’s favorite foursome really afford the lifestyles that were depicted through HBO’s lenses? The answer isn’t exactly cut and dry.

Carrie couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan as a columnist

With an estimated salary of around $50,000 (before she started writing books), Carrie Bradshaw would have never been able to afford to live in Manhattan and enjoy all of the finer things in life. In fact, it’s pretty much a known fact that Carrie would have been running on a monthly deficit that would make most financial advisors cringe.

Sure, the writers suggested she had a rent-controlled apartment, but even if she found the steal of the century, she couldn’t afford to keep herself in Manolos while taking cabs, dining out, and buying as many fashion magazines as she could get her hands on. It’s just fact; Carrie couldn’t afford to live like an A-lister.

Miranda’s lifestyle was pretty realistic

Miranda was a lot more low maintenance than her three besties. She preferred the comfort of TiVo than spending her nights out on the town, and she found Carrie’s Manolo obsession a little ridiculous. Sure, she liked to order in Chinese takeout and was happy to indulge in a cosmopolitan here and there, but day-to-day, she was much more frugal than her free-spirited friends. The funny thing is, Miranda is likely the only member of the group who could afford to live a little in Manhattan.

 Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbs and Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones
Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbs and Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones | Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic

According to Payscale, a law firm partner an expect to make around $300,000 a year before bonuses. Additional compensation in the form of bonuses and profit-sharing could quickly push Miranda’s income up to about $500,000 per year. Her only real expenses were her mortgage, a cleaning woman and takeout dinners.

A home like Miranda’s would have sold for around $750,000 at the time that she purchased it, according to SceneTherapy. If she put down the traditional 20% in a down payment, that leaves the Harvard-educated lawyer with a $600,000 mortgage, which would cost around $3,600 per month. If she paid Magda $1,000 a month to clean her pad and shelled out $400 a month in takeout orders, that puts her at about $5,000 per month in necessary living expenses. After taxes, a lawyer like Miranda would bring in around $21,000 a month. In short, she can afford her apartment, her maid and her takeout without a problem.

Charlotte made an excellent financial move by marrying well

While little is known about Charlotte’s upbringing, it is mentioned that she went to Smith College and grew up in Connecticut. It’s assumed she was from a wealthy family, so one can expect she didn’t start off her life in Manhattan crippled by student loan debt. Even still, her first job as an art dealer isn’t all that lucrative. According to ZipRecruiter, the average art dealer in New York City can expect to make around $61,000 a year.

That job doesn’t last terribly long, though. Once Charlotte marries Trey McDougal in Season 3, she gives up her spot in a gallery to be a wife, mother, and part-time bowl glazer. The marriage implodes, but Charlotte isn’t left high and dry. Along with her Park Avenue pad, she also receives a settlement, which is assumed to be worth around $2 million. In short, Charlotte is financially set until she meets her second husband, a divorce attorney.

Samantha Jones’ income is hard to nail down

Samantha Jones is a one-woman show. The sexually liberated public relations director owns her own business. It’s hard to figure out just how much she would make, but Payscale pegs a public relations director’s salary at about $140,000 a year. That’s someone who works for an existing firm, though.  Since Samantha owned her own business, her income would have been far more variable. In short, she could have made a lot more or a lot less than $140,000 a year.  

Based on her lifestyle, she’d need to make substantially more to get by. Not only does she own an apartment in a trendy neighborhood, but she has high-end tastes when it comes to fashion accessories. After all, she was happy to plunk down thousands of dollars on a Birkin bag. It’s possible that Sammie Jones could make things work, but it’s also possible that the perpetually-single Samantha had a lot of credit card debt.