‘We’ve Learned to Invest in Ourselves’ – NBC New York

This story is a part of CNBC Make It is Millennial Cash sequence, which profiles folks world wide and particulars how they earn, spend and save their cash.

In 2017, simply days after their wedding ceremony, Lucas and Yana Bononi left their $600 a month residence in Aspen, Colorado, to pursue their artistic ambitions in New York Metropolis.

Lucas had been constructing a following as an artist, whereas Yana earned her bachelor’s diploma in public relations.

Six years later, Lucas, 31, is a full-time painter represented by a gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan’s artwork district. Yana, 29, an emigré from Moscow, is a trend influencer with 111,000 followers on Instagram. Collectively, they introduced in greater than $123,000 in 2022 and greater 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.”

For Lucas, New York was at all times a part of the plan, particularly since he needed to proceed his artwork schooling at Grand Central Atelier, a faculty identified for its rigorous instruction in determine portray and drawing.

“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 settled in New York Metropolis

The couple — launched by a mutual pal in 2015 — have been used to residing frugally. Lucas incessantly visited meals pantries whereas finding out for a bachelor’s diploma in high-quality artwork on the Academy of Artwork College in San Francisco. And their Aspen residence had value little or no to lease. 

Even so, making ends meet was a problem. Yana, who first got here to the U.S. in 2015 on a scholar visa, was not in a position to legally work once they moved to New York. “I was basically just sitting home and stressed about how to make money,” she says. 

Lucas and Yana Bononi at an art exhibition.

Courtesy of Lucas and Yana Bononi

Lucas and Yana Bononi at an artwork exhibition.

Lucas, then again, was already promoting work for hundreds of {dollars} a chunk by his Instagram account. He had $188,000 in financial savings from portray gross sales once they arrived in New York and invested all of it in a rental property in North Bergen, New Jersey, throughout the river from Manhattan.

The condominium was listed for $215,000, however he negotiated a deal to purchase it for $184,000: “The owner really wanted to move back to his country and I was a cash buyer.”

Whereas the funding supplied the couple with steady, passive revenue, they have been nonetheless struggling to make ends meet. In 2017, they made roughly $75,000 and lived off a $40 per week grocery finances.

Lucas Bononi working on a painting.

CNBC Make It

Lucas Bononi engaged on a portray.

Throughout this time, they “moved to Koreatown, then to the Upper East Side, and, oh my gosh, that place was a nightmare,” says Lucas. “We had all the New York stereotypes — mice, cockroaches, black mold. I felt like I was living in a subway station.”

Whereas Yana was in search of work in 2017, she began an Instagram account about her immigrant expertise for a principally Japanese European viewers. Realizing that she “wasn’t going back to Russia,” she modified her focus and began writing her posts in English.

She needed to do one thing totally different than what she already noticed: “It’s glamorous girls living in New York; everything is minimalistic and beige — I was never that glamorous girl.”

To set herself aside, Yana made more and more intricate trend movies she describes as “risky and creative,” that includes brightly coloured bodysuits, elaborate movement results and kaleidoscopic lenses. 

Yana Bononi filming a fashion shoot.

CNBC Make It

Yana Bononi filming a trend shoot.

Her work steadily gained a following on Instagram, which led to illustration by an company that negotiates paid sponsorships on her behalf. She was in a position to give up her part-time job constructing window shows at Tiffany and Co. in September 2022 and now makes as a lot as $5,000 per Instagram submit.

She made about $20,000 in the three months after leaving her job, which was about half of her complete revenue for 2022.

Lucas continued promoting work, in addition to instructing part-time each independently and at Grand Central Atelier. By the point he graduated from Grand Central Atelier’s certificates program in 2021, the worth of his work had risen from $5 per inch to $10 per inch, with bigger work priced for as a lot as $35,000.

In 2022, he made simply over $83,000 and had his first solo show at the Sugarlift gallery in Chelsea.

How they spend their cash

This is how Lucas and Yana spent their cash in November 2022.

Elham Ataeiazar | CNBC Make It
  • Enterprise bills: $2,549 for enhancing software program, portray provides and journey prices
  • Meals: $690 for eating out and groceries
  • Housing and utilities: $686 for electrical, heating, HOA charges and property taxes
  • Discretionary: $244 for health and beauty merchandise, garments, and laundry
  • Transportation: $192 for trip shares and subway fare
  • Subscriptions: $101 for AMC+, Apple Music, Audible, Google Cloud Storage, iCloud storage and Spotify
  • Telephone: $90 for 2 telephones
  • Home-owner’s insurance coverage: $12

In early 2022, the couple was dealing with a $300 lease hike that may have elevated their month-to-month Higher East Facet residence prices to $3,250, so that they determined to transfer into their property in New Jersey, which had more room.

Financially, the transfer made sense: Their earnings had elevated to the purpose the place they did not want to depend on the passive revenue from their rental property anymore, and so they would not have to pay hundreds in lease like they did with their Manhattan residence. Plus, they “got everything we could get out of living in Manhattan,” says Lucas.

Apart from housing prices and meals, their month-to-month prices are comparatively low. The premiums on their city-run MetroPlus medical insurance insurance policies are backed by Covid-19 aid funding, and far of their discretionary month-to-month prices are lined by the free merchandise Yana receives for her work.

Yana and Lucas Bononi in their apartment.

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Yana and Lucas Bononi in their residence.

“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 haven’t any debt, except for about $2,000 unfold throughout two of their three bank cards from a $35,000 renovation of the lavatory and flooring in their condominium that went over finances. 

Neither Lucas nor Yana has ever taken out scholar loans. Lucas’s tuition prices for artwork faculty in New York have been largely lined by a federal scholarship from the U.S. Presidential Students Program. The total-ride scholarship is likely one of the most unique in the nation, and is usually given to fewer than 200 candidates every year.

Yana and Lucas aren’t saving or investing something proper now. As a substitute, they’re placing just about every little thing they earn again into their work, whether or not that is shopping for digicam gear or software program.

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

Plans for the long run

Going ahead, the couple desires to deal with placing a greater stability between life and work, in addition to begin a household, Yana says.

“Our New Year’s resolution was to pay more attention to each other, to our relationship,” says Yana. However she says there’s additionally “so much more to do” together with her profession, together with work that is extra artistic and fewer industrial.  

Lucas and Yana Bononi in New York City.

CNBC Make It

Lucas and Yana Bononi in New York Metropolis.

“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,” she says. 

Lucas desires to proceed portray and do a solo present yearly. 

“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 really paint what I want to paint. And that makes me feel a lot of joy.”

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