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A Week In New York City On A $55,000 Salary

A Week In New York City On A $55,000 Salary

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern w orking women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

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Today: an administrator working in higher education who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a quesadilla.

Occupation: Administrator
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 29
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $55,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,350

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $925 (I live with a roommate and our total rent is $1,850, split evenly.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I was lucky enough to receive a full ride to a state school for undergrad.)
Health, Vision & Dental Insurance: $190 per paycheck
Internet/Cable: $87.26, split with my roommate
Utilities: Currently around $100 for summer AC use, but usually around $70, split
Gym: $10
HIIT Classes: $135
MealPal: $83.88
Spotify & Hulu: $8.99
Netflix: $0 (I use my roommate’s account, and she uses my Hulu!)
Savings: $215 taken out of my paycheck each month, based on a percentage. I also have a high-yield savings account that I move money into from my direct deposit checking account occasionally.
Transit: $120 from each paycheck pre-tax

Additional Expenses
Roth IRA: $3,500/year

Day One

9:45 a.m. — I somehow manage to sleep in until close to 10 a.m., but I hear my roommate moving around in the kitchen. I always seem to go from sleepy with no appetite to ravenous in like 10 minutes when I wake up on weekends. I eat a handful of M&Ms while I wait for my roommate to be done using the kitchen. I’m a huge fan of dessert items for breakfast…and I see no shame in eating a slice of cake or a cookie instead a sugary muffin or donut!

10:15 a.m. — I wander into the living room/kitchen area, wondering if I smell suspiciously like chocolate, and say good morning to my roommate. She is a quintessential morning person, and I am very much not, so our early day interactions are pretty sparse. I make a fried egg with a chicken sausage breakfast patty I’m excited to try, and it’s delicious. I eat both on a slice of toast, along with another piece of toast covered in an avocado spread I made, topped with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning, a drizzle of Sriracha, and a drizzle of olive oil. I also make a coffee with half and half. I’ve recently gotten into the show Nailed It! on Netflix, and finish the remainder of my coffee while wondering if I, too, would forget to grease a cake pan during a televised baking show.

12 p.m. — I’m taking it easy, as I have two birthdays to go to tonight, and I know it’ll be a late one, but I start to get antsy and anxious. I clean up my room, recycle a bunch of old papers from my desk, vacuum the living room, and then finally put my grad school diploma into a too-big frame, just to get it out of the envelope it was shipped in last summer.

1 p.m. — I recently ordered a few pairs of Clarks heels and wedges to try on (#old!), so I “fashion show” them for my roommate, a.k.a. wear one shoe and one flip flop while hobbling back and forth from the living room to her room. We both agree I have pasty legs and can’t wear dark brown shoes (and this is with a post-vacation tan!). We also agree that the cheapest and most comfortable pair looks the best! I rejoice and pack up the other three pairs to return. Hungry for lunch, I order a spicy roll combo with salad from a local sushi place and walk to pick it up. $14.98

5 p.m. — My friend and I head to birthday #1 at a cute bar down the street. I get a gin and tonic and my friend grabs the first round, since the place is packed, and there’s only one bartender. We move to a table area with more of our friends. I get the next round of two strawberry sangrias and a large order of fries. $13 cocktails, you hurt me. $42.02

9:30 p.m. — We make it to birthday #2 right as the birthday boy arrives, and we’re lucky enough to snag a table as people leave. I go up to the bar with three friends to get a gin and tonic, and a friend gets the tab for round one. I hang out for an hour and a half, but it’s stuffy and crowded, I feel too old and underdressed for the Meatpacking District, and I still haven’t had dinner.

11:30 p.m. — My roommate and I decide to call it a night and make the rookie mistake of saying goodbyes and going to the bathroom BEFORE calling a Lyft, which ends up taking 20 minutes because of crazy rain and the resulting traffic. On the ride home, I order food I should be drunker for: fries covered in gravy and melted mozzarella, pita bread, a pork souvlaki skewer, and a side of ranch ($16.26). I Venmo my roommate $20 for the Lyft. By the time I go to sleep, it’s a little after 1 a.m., which, considering I thought this would be a “close the bar” type of evening, is nice. $36.26

Daily Total: $93.26

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up to darkness and rain, and my brain screaming: “water!” I chug the water on my dresser, lay in bed considering getting up to go to the bathroom, but then fall back asleep.

10 a.m. — I’m up for real now, and head out to the kitchen to make coffee, an egg and egg white with a chicken sausage breakfast patty, and then a piece of toast with more avocado spread on it. Then my roommate and I do mild living room cleaning and organizing, and get out the power drill she got for Christmas to successfully (on the second try) mount our new Dustbuster. We’re left with an extra two holes in the wall where an anchor and nail went right through and fell down.

2 p.m. — I eat leftovers from yesterday — about six pieces of various spicy rolls of sushi, and the meager leftover fries and chunk of pita bread I didn’t demolish last night. I realize I’ve eaten fries for two of my last three meals, and silently congratulate myself/vow to eat more veggies this week.

5 p.m. — After a quick nap, I walk to my gym. On the way there I call my dad to ask him where to get spackling paste to patch up the holes in the wall, and he tells me any grocery store or drugstore should have it. Suspicious of his vision of NYC grocery stores, I stop at our local grocery store and drugstore, and neither have it. I call him back for a depressing declaration of “I was right” and make a mental note to check Amazon later. I get in 45 minutes on the elliptical. While I’m at the gym my roommate texts me to get dinner. I’ve been bad about grocery shopping for anything other than weekend breakfast items lately, so I agree. On the walk home my best friend from my hometown calls, and we chat about our respective nights.

7 p.m. — My roommate and I walk about 10 minutes to a wood-fired pizza place in the neighborhood. We split an order of burrata and then each get our own personal pizzas (I use this phrase loosely). I get one with meatballs, garlic, mozzarella, and fresh basil and save half of it for dinner tomorrow. I love leftovers! $29.50

9 p.m. — It starts raining crazy hard on the walk home and even with an umbrella I’m getting soaked. I’m compelled to lean my body over the pizza box to save my leftover slices from a mushy fate as well. When we get home, I change into PJs, set my clothes out to dry, and have a glass of rosé from a bottle I got at Trader Joe’s a few days ago.

Daily Total: $29.50

Day Three

7:25 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm, and before I look at the clock on my phone I think it must be the middle of the night because it’s so dark out…but no! I lay in bed for 10 more minutes, get up to brush my teeth, put in contacts, do my five-minute makeup routine (moisturizer, foundation, concealer, powder, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and brow pencil), and head to work.

8:50 a.m. — I get to work and clock in. I work at a university as a union employee, which means I have to sign in and out within five minutes of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. It’s really great when 5 p.m. rolls around, but it also means I’m usually one of the first people in the office. I catch up with my officemate, make an office Keurig hazelnut coffee with Coffee-Mate, and eat fruit-and-nut trail mix I keep at my desk.

11:45 a.m. — I venture out for lunch and get caught in a literal downpour. Once again, my umbrella is not helpful. I pick up my MealPal salad (it’s $6.99 per meal for 12 meals each month) and head back to work, where everyone is confused as to why the back of my pants and shirt are soaked, since it’s sunny out now! I change out of my soggy sneakers and into emergency desk flats, and silently curse Mother Nature. I read theater industry articles during my lunch break at my desk. My background is in the arts, and I’m longing to start my own company that focuses on producing diverse theatrical works, but I know that I need to have a new financial model or SOMETHING to really make it worthwhile in this crowded space.

4 p.m. — It’s a pretty slow Monday, so I read emails from my old grad school student account. There’s an awesome entrepreneurship lab on campus, so I sign up for a coaching session to bring in an idea. I’ve been terrible about taking concrete action on side hustles and projects since I graduated last summer, and I know it’s partly because I’m lucky enough to have a very steady full time job. I went to a session in January and pitched an idea about starting a new entertainment producing model, but in all honestly have just chickened out since then.

5 p.m. — I leave work, and it’s a packed elevator — no one wants to stay late on this rainy Monday! I trek to the gym and do 45 minutes on the elliptical.

7 p.m. — I get home and heat up my leftover pizza, adding breakfast sausage patty, shredded cheddar, and garlic salt on top. While it’s in the oven, I snack on some Trader Joe’s baby carrots and hummus. I also pour another glass of that rosé, because Monday.

8 p.m. — I shower and then read a bunch of articles on my phone and check dating apps. I go through phases of not checking at all and then checking a bunch of different apps at once; right now I’m in a more frequent-checking phase, but summertime dating is nonexistent for me. The most action I’ve had is an offer for a one night stand while I was at birthday #2 last weekend. To be honest, I’ve never had one of those, and I was considering it after my two drinks and zero dinner, but then the thought of food won out. I’m unsure if that’s a good or bad thing.

11 p.m. — I usually call my mom every night just to check in and talk about our days. I’m an only child, and my parents are a huge part of my life, but I honestly think we have a better relationship now that I live over four hours away, and we speak mostly on the phone. We have very different political views, and the past couple years have been tough on our relationship.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:35 a.m. — I wake up, eat a mini Twix bar, and get ready for work. I have a bad habit of eating chocolate first thing in the morning. While eating my breakfast chocolate, I check the workout of the day for my HIIT class later and am pleased to see there will be no running outside in the humidity and rain. Wahoo! I make a mental note to sign up for class on my way home from work. I pack up shoeboxes to return and cart them on the train.

8:45 a.m. — It was a muggy commute, and I’m super thirsty, so I splurge on an iced cold brew with milk before work. I run into an old coworker who just got back from maternity leave and she seems as shocked to see me as I do her. I think about going in for a hug, but I have a giant bag of shoe boxes with sharp edges and am balancing a coffee, so I just open my arms a little too wide, close them, and then we chat and nod and part ways. $3.21

9:50 a.m. — Work emergency — my officemate comes back from the bathroom and tells me there’s a roach wandering around that hallway. This happens around once a year in the summer when it’s rainy, but now I’m slightly scared to go to the bathroom for the rest of the day because WHERE WILL IT GO?

10 a.m. — My stomach starts growling, and I realize my mini Twix was not enough breakfast, so I munch on almonds and pistachios, and also maybe half of a Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar. Once you chocolate, you can’t stop?

10:30 a.m. — A colleague walks by coming back from the bathroom, and I yell after her to find out if the coast is clear of the roach. We walk to the back hall together (like I am a toddler), and confirm that the coast is, in fact, clear. Phew. I report back to some of my other worried colleagues on the floor.

11:45 a.m. — As I was scrolling through Instagram on the subway this morning I saw an ad for 50% an online order from a salad place near my office. I create an account and place an order for pickup to claim my 50% off deal. $6.36

12 p.m. — I venture out to to pick up my birth control prescription, for which I’ve been getting increasingly frequent texts from CVS to come pick up. Luckily, I have no copay! Then I swing by the salad place to grab my lunch, which is ready and waiting. While walking back to work, I give my mom a call to discuss end-of-summer plans. I’m heading home for Labor Day weekend to visit, and she needs to know my exact dates.

12:20 p.m. — I answer emails and check on invoice payments while eating lunch. This salad is delicious: steak, corn, black beans, tortilla strips, feta, and smoky ranch dressing. My friend texts to see if I’m down to join a brunch reservation with some of her coworkers and another friend of ours this weekend at a place with unlimited sangria — I’m in!

1 p.m. — I put the rest of the ranch dressing into the work fridge to save for later to dip homemade fries into when I get home. Sometimes I joke with my friends that I order food off a menu based mostly on what condiments it comes with, and I realize now that’s a hard truth. I debate making myself a calendar reminder for 5 p.m. to remember to take it out of the fridge and bring it home, but that may be going #toofar.

1:30 p.m. — I head across the street to a Starbucks where I meet an alumni representative from my undergraduate college for coffee. She treats, and we have a really nice hour-long conversation.

2:30 p.m. — Back to the grind! I eat the other half of that Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar and chug water. As our year end is approaching at work, I’m following up on a lot of invoice payments, stipends, donations, and budget tracking. I spend the next couple hours confirming vendors have been paid, updating spreadsheets with our current budget numbers, and making sure my manual tracking matches with the university’s budget database records.

5 p.m. — I head out and remember the ranch from the office fridge! On the subway ride home, I sign up for my workout class. I stop at the grocery store on the way and buy a sweet potato, white cheddar Popcorners (because I can’t seem to NOT have a bag of them in my apartment at all times), and Skinny Pop. $5.02

7:30 p.m. — I get home from class, which was ROUGH. Longest. 45 minutes. Ever. I shower and then cut up a sweet potato into fries and stick them in the oven to bake. Then I heat up another breakfast chicken sausage patty, fry an egg, and eat both on a piece of toast along with my fries and the leftover ranch.

9 p.m. — I start drafting outreach emails to old grad school professors, alumni, and industry folks. I’m a huge theater nerd and am trying to figure out a good way to combine my love for that with my love of numbers and math. I do research on Actors’ Equity codes for an upcoming reading of a show I want to produce (but like, actually pay the performers for it), and I also research some investment models and read an interview with a Broadway lawyer. Then I lose the next 45 minutes of my life browsing Streeteasy listings of apartments I will never be able to afford.

11:30 p.m. — I give my mom a quick call, brush my teeth, put on the ol’ acne face cream since my body still thinks I’m 13, and head to sleep.

Daily Total: $14.59

Day Five

7:35 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and it’s dark and raining again. Joy! Having eaten all of the meager chocolate I had in my apartment during the last couple days, I get ready while only drinking water. I notice my arm feels sore, and I wonder if it’s from class last night (seems strange, since I was using light weights) or if I slept on it funny.

8 a.m. — I throw gym clothes into a tote bag to bring to work. A few days a week, our campus offers free yoga classes (less so in the summer), and I’ve never gone, but the idea of stretching sounds really good.

11 a.m. — Our office is freezing, and I can’t wait to go outside in the humidity to get my lunch in a bit. I check my Gmail, and see there’s a $5 off coupon from a new pizza place nearby. I make a mental note to order from there Friday for lunch, which is the one day this week I didn’t reserve a MealPal. Must get better about bringing lunches next week!

12:15 p.m. — Salad is acquired, and I sit at my desk eating it and reading articles on diversity in VC. Ever since I started keeping up with this industry back in December, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the work Arlan Hamilton has done with her company, Backstage Capital, to change VC and provide crucial support for diverse startup founders. I aspire to have that level of tenacity, impact, and vision!

2 p.m. — My roommate, who works nearby, texts me to say she may need a margarita later after an epic meeting she is still apparently stuck in. I tell her I’ll meet her after yoga at 6:30.

3:45 p.m. — This day is dragging. My brain feels foggy, and I’ve waited too long for coffee now. I know I’m in PMS territory, and the mood swings and cravings are real — all I want are giant spoonfuls of peanut butter. I grab a handful of peanut butter-filled pretzels from our office supply room.

6:30 p.m. — I make it to yoga and leave feeling like I got a good stretch in but not a super sweaty workout. I meet my roommate at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for dinner. I end up getting my usual quesadilla, and we split an order of guacamole and chips. I also have two strawberry margaritas because they’re on the happy hour menu and particularly delicious tonight. Whoops! We split the bill. $43.92

10 p.m. — I take a shower and think of some good ideas for the company I want to start. I repeat them in my head until I get out, and then run into my room and grab a notebook to jot them down. Shower brainstorming is no joke, apparently.

11:30 p.m. — Brush teeth, put on acne cream, and head to sleep.

Daily Total: $43.92

Day Six

7:35 a.m. — The alarm goes off — brush teeth, put in contacts, put on makeup. I’m really feeling that yoga class, as in I can barely lift my arms over my head to put my hair up. Interesting.

8:45 a.m. — I get an iced coffee and everything bagel with scallion cream cheese on my way into the office. $6.21

9 p.m. — I get to my desk, sign in, and scarf three quarters of the bagel down. I get serious stomach cramps, and I can’t tell if they’re due to that lovely time of the month or my stomach adjusting to the avalanche of bagel.

11:45 a.m. — I go for a walk to get my MealPal salad, and bring it back to my desk. I can’t wait for cooler fall days so I can sit outside and enjoy my lunch! I get a request from a colleague to do some more budget research for a big event our office sponsors and participates in each year. It’s going to require some serious digging into old receipts, files, and online dashboards, and there is no way my foggy brain can tackle that right now. I tell her I’ll have it done by tomorrow.

3 p.m. — I feel myself becoming a whiny, cranky person, so I walk to the vending machine and buy a bag of M&Ms. I pop an Advil at my desk. $1.25

3:30 p.m. — What do you know, the M&Ms worked! I get a second wind and start working on the research project.

5 p.m. — Phew, out of here! I make a stop at the grocery store as well as the fruit and vegetable stand by my subway stop on the way home. At the store I get a pack of mini Twix (gotta replenish!), pita bread, tzatziki, some more popcorn, a sweet potato, and more white cheddar Popcorners that are on sale ($11.16). At the stand, I get three tomatoes on the vine, three kirby cucumbers, and two avocados (4.19). I will never not be thankful for how cheap and amazing their produce is! $15.35

6 p.m. — I get home and munch on popcorn. Salt, get in my belly, please. My roommate gets home and makes dinner, and I change into gym clothes and head out. My arms are still super sore from yoga, but I do 20 minutes on the elliptical, and it feels good to be moving in a slight way.

7:45 p.m. — I get home, hop in the shower, and make dinner. I cut up sweet potato fries to roast with olive oil, garlic powder, and pepper, and also cut a pita into triangles to crisp it in the oven. When the pita is done, I dip it into the tzatziki and Trader Joe’s hummus, and dip the fries in the leftover ranch dressing. I also mash up the two avocados with lime juice, pepper, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, and a touch of cumin for third dip.

9 p.m. — How is it 9:00 already? I settle in on the couch to watch my new guilty pleasure TV show, The Bold Type. I’m a sucker for any show set in NYC that focuses on young professionals who, despite being a little lost, are actually killing it and have apartments and a sense of style unlike anyone who actually exists.

10 p.m. — My roommate gets home, and we chat about work and friend issues. Then somehow it’s after 11. I take my birth control, give my mom a quick call, brush my teeth, put on face cream, and then it’s time for bed!

Daily Total: $22.81

Day Seven

7:35 a.m. — Alarm goes off and, re-stocked with my not-so-healthy snack options, I eat a mini Twix and chug water as I’m getting ready. On the way to the subway, I walk behind a lady and her adorable little puppy, which makes everything better. The puppy hops with her up the subway stairs before she puts it in its carrier, stopping to look at her every few steps for reassurance, and my heart explodes.

8:45 a.m. — My commute is fast and painless, but I’m starving and not in the mood for trail mix at my desk again. I head over to a new place near campus that has $2 EVERYTHING, and get a large iced coffee with 2% milk and a blueberry muffin. $4.36

9:10 a.m. — I look on Amazon at paint rollers and painter’s tape. When I moved into my apartment six years ago I painted my bedroom walls a very bright color, never thinking I’d live there that long. I think I’m finally ready to go back to something cleaner and calmer, like white or light blue. I add a bunch of painting items to my wish list.

9:45 a.m. — I get my period. Ah yes, it all really makes sense now. I’m weirdly excited, because I started a new birth control pill a few months ago, and now this means I am finally back on a regular schedule and hopefully won’t have to worry about embarrassing surprise periods every two weeks!

10 a.m. — I recruit a colleague to walk to Sephora with me to get a free face mask as part of a promo they’re running this weekend. The two articles I saw about it said they were handing them out right when you walked in (or at least I read them that way), but turns out you have to wait in line and awkwardly ask for one if you’re not purchasing anything else. Slightly annoyed/emboldened by their possible shame tactic, I stand in line empty-handed and then very politely ask the cashier for a free mask. On the walk back to work, I have a great chat with my colleague, who is wonderful and a super artistic/creative person. She knows I want to start my own company, and says really nice things about how it’s inspiring to see someone she’s come to know from work begin to make big changes and take a leap. Yikes! One of my biggest challenges in life is actually DOING the thing I talk about doing, so I use these kind words as an added motivator/future guilt trip.

11 a.m. — I remember that I have a $5 credit in an email to use for that pizza place near work, so I preorder a personal pizza for pickup at noon. With the coupon, my total comes to $6.50. $6.50

12:45 p.m. — I’m eating and processing invoices. My roommate Gchats me that she’s putting in an Amazon grocery order due to a free trial offer, and asks if I want anything. I ask her to add a pack of grapefruit LaCroix to her cart for me, and I Venmo her to cover the cost. $4.02

1:20 p.m. — I’ve decided the room painting might be a terrible idea. Hmm.

2:45 p.m. — A couple of us venture out for an afternoon pick-me-up. I get an iced coffee. $2.25

4 p.m. — I text my writing partner from a musical theater writing program (nerd alert!). We’ve been lucky enough to get connected with someone who may be able to help us get the rights to the material we were adapting in class, but we need to submit kickass demos if we’re really going to go for it. We make plans to chat on the phone at 5 and come up with a game plan.

5:20 p.m. — We had a good phone call and are going to research cheap but professional recording studios. I grab prosecco for wine-and-cheese night with my roommate, since she’s grabbing cheese and crackers. $11.94

7 p.m. — My roommate is wonderful and comes home with two types of cheese and crackers, spanakopita, carrots, and hummus. We also put out cherries from the fridge, and I get honey for the truffle cheese. It is glorious.

11 p.m. — After watching Jeopardy! reruns (look out, crazy Friday night!) and eating my weight in cheese and crackers, I do the usual nighttime routine and head to sleep. A boozy brunch awaits me tomorrow, and I want to be ready.

Daily Total: $29.07

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