How Much Does It Really Cost to be a Freelance Dancer in NYC? One Dancer Broke Down a Week of Spending

January 9, 2020

Dance Magazine
asked one anonymous dancer to record how she spent her money over the course of one week. Here’s what she sent us.

About Me

Freelance dancer (currently with three small companies), ballet teacher, part-time executive assistant at a wellness center.


Brooklyn, NY

2018 Income:
Roughly $25,000. Most of my income comes from my office job, but a healthy 20% comes from my dance gigs, and that’s increased every year.

My Regular Monthly Expenses

: $850 for half of a spacious one bedroom that I share with my boyfriend.

Around $60-$100 for wifi, gas and electric, depending on how high the AC is on in the summer. (The boyfriend just needed that extra fast wifi for video streaming and his video games. Okay, my games too.)

Around $195. An unlimited subway card is $127, plus getting to and from the class I teach on Long Island once a week costs $20 per round trip, and I splurge on the occasional Uber.

Around $120-$200, depending on how much time we have to cook at home. My boyfriend and I usually go grocery shopping together every other week at Trader Joe’s and split the cost, then make breakfast and dinner at home.

Eating out:
Around $115-$210 depending on how much time I have at home, and how many events are planned that month.

Between $20-$175. Whether it’s shampoo, paper products, cleaning supplies, or popcorn for a movie night, those odds and ends average roughly $90 per month.

Medical expenses:
Average $150. Call it an occupational hazard. Between teaching and dancing, you interact with a lot of individuals during flu season. Most months it’s $0, but others it’s a whopping $400 for two CityMD visits…and that’s after insurance.

Around $50. Seeing shows helps keep me in the loop—and seeing inspiring art is important.

$12 (technically $144 annually).

Around $60. I try to make it to class at least once a week.

$0. Thanks, Dad, for keeping me on the family plan.

Health insurance:
$0. Thanks, Mom! (I’m counting down the days.)

Student loans:
$0. I paid them off last year!

Renter’s insurance:
$5. My boyfriend and I split a $10 plan.


Gym membership:
$25. It’s not just good for exercise: The membership gives me access to handy changing rooms across NYC.

$0. (Thanks to the boyfriend.)

$5. I split Premium with the boyfriend.

Two people sit at plates of spaghetti, glasses of white wine at their elbows.
Getty Images


$0. I had cereal and yogurt at home to get me going.

Tan leo:
$52.20. I needed a tan leotard for an informal showing today and hadn’t been able to make it to Capezio until this morning. But it’s also a staple for photo shoots!

Pre-showing snack:
$0. My mom sends me gift packages of granola bars every month, so I packed one of those. They are mint chocolate—my favorite.

$35. Some friends and I went to dinner after the showing so I splurged on some lamb lasagna, a glass of wine and split an appetizer of calamari with a friend.

Daily Total:


Studio rental:
$17.50. Caught the early bird rate for an 8 am rehearsal of a solo I am working on for an upcoming show.

Epsom salt bath with a CBD bath bomb:
$0. I was in desperate need of a hot bath to soak away some tension today. I always keep a stash of these for recovery and order them in bulk.

$0. While I’m home, I make an omelet with peppers and spinach with some mango juice, my boyfriend’s favorite. (Don’t tell him I stole some.)

Massage and physical therapy:
$0. I snuck in a couple quick sessions before my shift behind the desk at my executive assistant job. One of the perks of working in a wellness center that treats dancers is that I can take the PT or massage slots no one else wants, as long as it’s not during my scheduled work hours. Best part? It’s free.

$0. I get home rather late after my evening shift and prefer to make a small meal at home.

Daily Total:


Studio rental:
$17.50. Unfortunately, I woke up nauseous and clammy, so I had to cancel my rehearsal. But because of the studio’s cancellation policy, I was still charged for the space.

Soup and tea:
$0. I always make sure I have a surplus of soups and tea in the house for days like these. I called out of the office and decided not to go to class to make sure I kicked the bug.

Daily Total:


$6.31. I had a quick photo shoot this morning, but because I had to rush to gather all my outfits after breakfast, I didn’t have time to pack a lunch. The wellness center is uptown, which means eating on-the-go is usually hard on the wallet. Subway is my easy, cheap, quick fix, so I grab a sandwich in between the shoot and the start of my shift.

$0. More soup at home just to make sure whatever bug hit me yesterday didn’t return.

Daily Total:


$0. I have a bowl of oatmeal at home, but it was a working breakfast. I spend my morning coordinating schedules with the companies I dance for as well as working on a plan for my Instagram page.

$0. I grill some chicken and toss it over a salad. When I work from home I always try to cook something fresh.

Ballet class:
$17. Time to catch up on my training for the week, since Tuesday was a bust.

$0. The boyfriend brought home Indian from our favorite spot near our apartment. No late night cooking for me!

Flight home for the holidays:
$525.60. My family lives in Denver and I try to buy my flights as early as I can. But between requesting time off from the office and making sure the companies I dance for are not planning anything, it can be difficult to plan far enough ahead to get inexpensive flights. This is actually lower than average. I always have to budget extra for it.

Daily Total:

Two hands rest on the keys of a laptop that is open to a search engine for flights.
Getty Images


Lunch on-the-go:
$6.31. I grab another Subway sandwich on the run between a morning rehearsal and my earlier-than-usual shift at the wellness center.

Tacos and game night:
$11. My friends and I meet up at one of our apartments and make tacos for our game night. We split the homemade dinner for a relatively cheap night in.

Daily Total:


Morning muffin:
$2. I am a regular at a street cart on Saturdays. The guy at the cart saves me a double chocolate chip muffin every Saturday morning. It is my treat to myself at the end of the week.

$2.99. I forgot to bring my travel mug of tea for my long day at the office. Luckily, there are Starbucks every other block in New York City.

$7.89. We ran out of leftovers at home, so I couldn’t pack my lunch. It was a cold day and the AC hadn’t been switched off in the office, so I bought some turkey chili.

$0. I get home at a decent hour for a change, so I make teriyaki chicken with broccoli and rice. Time for a comfortable night in with the boyfriend, eating and watching our latest show on Netflix

Daily Total:

Weekly Total:
$175.70 (not including the $525.60 annual purchase)