How Phoebe Buffay navigates life in New York with a little help from her friends

No one on Friends embodies the hustle and bustle of New York better than Phoebe Buffay. The funniest friends on Friends (yes, I said it) live the bohemian-chic lifestyle that most city transplants dream of—but without the budget of Carrie Bradshaw.

Instead, Phoebe became a jack-of-all-trades, moving from one job to another. But none of the posts seemed to provide Phoebe with enough money to live a decent life in Manhattan, even in the '90s, leaving fans wondering how she could make ends meet.

Aside from Ross, Phoebe is the only main character in the show who lives alone. She claimed to have a roommate named Dennis, which became a running joke when Dennis was never seen or heard from, leading the group to suspect that she was completely making it up.

Regardless, her rent will probably be higher than Chandler and Joey's place or Rachel and Monica's place (especially since they live in a rent-controlled apartment), which again calls into question how exactly she Afford your lifestyle.

She absorbs it through massage

Lisa Kudrow stars as Phoebe Buffay and Matt LeBlanc stars as Joey Tribbiani in the Friends episode "Rachel's Assistant." NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Phoebe's most stable job on Friends was as an independent massage therapist, which got her into some hilarious situations. Because she often works part-time, fans may assume that she doesn't make any money from her massage gigs. Instead, Los Angeles-based massage therapist Sabrina Ortolano said Phoebe could have made a good living through the profession.

"It's interesting that Phoebe is often portrayed as poor, living a survival life until she gets a job at a spa chain," Ortolano tells Bustle. "Massage therapists in private practice tend to do a good job if they keep their books full."

Courteney Cox as Monica Geller-Bing, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, and Paul Rudd as Mike in the "Friends" episode "Where Monica Sings" · Hannigan. NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

When Ortolano and her wife, Cyndi, started their private massage therapist business, they were charging about $80 to $85 an hour. "Prices tend to be higher in New York, so Phoebe's income is likely much higher than in New York," she said. "On the low end, Phoebe was probably making $90 an hour when she was working for herself. On the high end, it was up to $200. Even in the '90s."

New York considers massage therapy to be medical care and requires 1,000 hours of training to practice it on patients, so Phoebe's rate may reflect that. However, since independent therapists can choose their own rates, Ortolano said Phoebe could even charge $60 an hour. (Given the character's laissez-faire attitude, it wouldn't be surprising if she passed up a good deal.)

Rent was affordable in the 90s

Lisa Kudrow stars as Phoebe Buffay in the Friends episode "What We Could Have Been: Part 1." NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

While renting an apartment in New York can be expensive, it was cheaper in the 1990s, especially if Phoebe was booking a lot of massages every week. "My first loft in Los Angeles cost $850 a month and I could live easily with only three or four clients a week," Ortolano said.

In 1994, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York was about $1,500. If Phoebe's roommate Dennis is the actual rent and shared rent, it's about $750. Even if Phoebe lived alone, a full-time massage therapist would still be affordable.

she did all the odd jobs she could

Lisa Kudrow stars as Phoebe Buffay in the Friends episode "After the Super Bowl" (Part 1). NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Because of her odd job, Phoebe has more worldly experience than others. When she's not giving massages, she also works at Dairy Queen, a telemarketing company, and is an aspiring musician, blessing Central Perk with signature jams like "Smelly Cat."

She's even invaded friends' workplaces, serving as Chandler's temporary secretary, Monica's catering partner, and an extra on Days of Our Lives with Joey .

Pay for these jobs ranges from coffee shop tips to working as a secretary at around $22 an hour. Since they lasted no more than one episode, it's unlikely she earned a full year's salary anywhere. But if she maintains a regular massage schedule, the money will be an added bonus.

"The benefit of being a massage therapist is that it allows you to make a living while working far fewer hours than most careers, so you do have more time to do other part-time jobs," Ortolano said. "Probably what makes Phoebe so interesting is that she has time."

She rarely overspends

Lisa Kudrow plays Phoebe Buffay and Jennifer Aniston plays Rachel Green in the Friends episode "Where Phoebe Runs." NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Unlike some of her other friends (ahem, Rachel), Phoebe usually lives within her means. However, her reasons for doing so were not always financially motivated.

Phoebe is a champion of small independent businesses. She even admonishes Rachel for buying a coffee table from Pottery Barn (horrible!) and using a gift certificate for a massage spa chain (even though she secretly works for the chain).

But the lifestyle benefits Phoebe financially, as most of her vintage second-hand furniture is much cheaper than Pottery Barn, which later sold a Friends- inspired apothecary for more than $1,100 table. As usual, Phoebe is ahead of the retro trend.