Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email email@example.com.
This week we talked to Toye, 28, a student and cryptocurrency trader in Southern California who made an income of roughly $55,000 last year.
Over the past two years, Toye switched her revenue streams to be roughly 90 percent cryptocurrency. She also makes up to a few hundred bucks a month selling custom T-shirts online, but in 2018, the vast majority of her household income will be earned in cryptocurrency. She lives with her husband and baby boy, and she has hacked the code to managing dynamic budgets, studying, and working all while keeping a baby, you know, alive.
Rent per month: $2,300
Other major expenses: $350-$1,400 a month on daycare, $12,000 a year in tuition studying computer science.
Minimum she needs to make from cryptocurrency trading to pay her monthly bills and budget: $5,000
Average money put toward savings: Zero to thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin. She aims for half of her monthly earnings, but it depends on the market. The most money she’s ever made on a single cryptocurrency trade was $10,000. The most money she’s ever lost on a bad trade was $5,000; she lost far more money that week than she earned.
Toye could make up to $30,000 a month if she went back to selling bitcoin for fiat (aka regular money) instead of strictly transacting in cryptocurrency. But she prefers to do what bitcoin users call “hodling,” which means storing the majority of her capital in bitcoin as a long-term investment.
Instead of storing her savings in a bank, it’s in her own personal digital wallet. She trades and sells altcoins (aka other types of cryptocurrency) for most liquid cash flow needs. Bitcoin is the oldest and most popular blockchain-based currency, but there are already more than 2,000 different cryptocurrencies. Toye uses different currencies for different tasks: bitcoin is for saving; dollars are for spending; altcoins are for earning, trading, and eventually cashing out as dollars or bitcoin.
Average money put toward clothing: $100-$200 a month.
Most she’d spend on jeans: $90 for Paige jeans from Nordstrom.
Most she’d spend on shoes: $560 for Gucci sneakers.
Most she’d pay for sunglasses: $325 for her favorite Versace ones (she even lost them and reordered the same pair).
Average monthly hair and beauty budget: $200
Most she’d spend on hair or beauty treatments: $600 on a weave.
How did you learn about and start using cryptocurrency?
My dad was extremely tech obsessed. He built a computer for me when I was 5. I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with computers. I’m from New York originally and I grew up in kind of a rougher neighborhood at first. I knew I wanted to go to school, I wanted to do something. But I didn’t have money to do that, so I started dancing. Fast forward to 2014, a lot of sites that adult performers and dancers used converted to taking bitcoin only. I remember searching like, “What is this?”
Then the next year, one of my friends who used to dance was asking me about how to get bitcoin because she needed it for this site. I thought, “I’m pretty tech-savvy, I could figure out how to get this.” I bought her bitcoin and she gave me [fiat] money.
So one day I’m like, “Let me see if I could sell this [bitcoin] on my own and if this is something.” Within the first 30 minutes of putting my ad up, I doubled my money. From there, it just went crazy. When I first started selling, bitcoin was maybe $500 or $600. [Ed note: According to CoinMarketCap, bitcoin sold for around $17,645 on January 6th.]
How have your shopping habits changed since you joined the cryptocurrency community?
I try not to spend my money on things that don’t bring me returns... I try to avoid shopping online and shop at local stores instead. When I used to go to the mall, I was like, “Why am I paying full price for this?”
I changed my spending habits and got tired of giving other people my money. Louis Vuitton ain’t doing nothing for me. If I’m giving them money, it doesn’t give anything back to me. I want to say starting last year or a little bit longer, I started buying my friends’s T-shirts that they were selling online, or anything that they were doing apparel-wise. That’s where I would get my stuff from because I wanted to support my friends and my community.
Do you shop differently for your son than for yourself?
Yes, when I buy stuff for my son online I find awesome deals. I try not to shop with cryptocurrency. I have before, but now I’d rather give my dollars. Like, here, take my fiat.
I combination shop, too; I don’t mind mixing something a little bit expensive with something cheaper. If I’m shopping in Target and I see a sale, I’ll just grab a few of those. I try to buy a big amount of clothes because he grows a lot.
What has shaped your perspective on shopping and budgeting?
I do look for good quality. I’m tall, so I have to spend money on good jeans, period. [When I danced,] I had to shop to look a certain way. I was my product.
For myself, now I usually try to only buy what I need. I love shopping for my family or doing things with my family. I’ve been in that space, valuing material things, and I didn’t find happiness. Cryptocurrency has changed the way I spend money. I wish this perspective were taught. I’m black, so I come from a community that definitely looks at money so differently from the way I’ve been looking at it recently.
I’m happy that I look at things now on a longer timeline. There are things I want my son to have. And I feel like if all I do is give my money to Louis Vuitton, all that will do is make their family rich. If I’m going to spend money, I want to spend it on my people and people who are trying to be a part of the American dream.