A Week In Albany, NY, On A $56,097 Salary

Photo: E-ZPass/Getty Images.
Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working 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.
This week: a criminal justice program rep who makes $56,097 per year and spends some of it on a new tattoo and an E-ZPass.
Occupation: Criminal Justice Program Representative
Industry: Public Safety (State Government)
Age: 26
Location: Albany, New York
Salary: $56,097
Paycheck (Bi-weekly): $1,386.61
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $850, including utilities. I rent the top floor of a house in a suburb of Albany County.
Car Insurance: $201 every three months
Cell Phone: $70
Netflix: $9.99
Loans: $225 to $450. My dad took out a home equity loan to pay off my student loans because the interest rate is cheaper. My regular monthly payments are $225, but I try to pay $450 each month to pay the loan off faster. I am on track to pay it off in five years instead of 10.
Personal Training: $299 for a 10-pack
Savings: ~$200
All Other Monthly Expenses
403(b) Pre-Tax Deductions (bi-weekly):
Deferred Comp: $40.69
Health Insurance: $52.55
Pension: $64.55
Post-Tax Deductions (bi-weekly):
Union Dues: $19.36
Parking: $13.46
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9 a.m. — I wake up after sleeping for 11 hours last night (glorious), eat a banana, and make coffee with almond milk.

10 a.m. — I do a 30-minute “booty and abs” workout on my computer. Because I pay for a personal trainer, I try to utilize free workout options whenever I can, like doing cardio outdoors in nice weather or working out with YouTube videos. After my workout, I snack on some toast.

11:30 a.m. — Time for errands. I run to the drugstore to pick up a prescription for the acne that has kindly taken up residence on my face. The prescription isn't in yet, but I do buy pencils for an exam I'm taking tomorrow and condoms. It's been years since I've had to buy any and there are way too many options; I buy a pack that looks good. $26.24

12 p.m. — I've been meaning to get E-ZPass since I bought my car…five years ago. Naturally, the grocery store I visit is out of them. I pick up yellow tulips for my apartment though! $8.64

12:30 p.m. — Meet a date for lunch at a salad place I've never been to before. I order a salad with shrimp, blueberries, sweet corn, and pomegranate dressing. It's as big as my head and yummy. After lunch, we both go pick up E-ZPasses from AAA. Because we're members, we get discounts on the cost. He buys lunch so I only pay for my pass. $23

2 p.m. — Back home, I register my E-ZPass and call to make my tattoo appointment. I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday and recently decided I'd like another one. My parents have both done so much for me, especially lately, and I want to get a tattoo incorporating their initials. I always said I would do this someday when they're gone, but I figure that I should do it now when I can show them. I call to make the appointment and pay the deposit over the phone with my credit card. $60

5:30 p.m. — I decide to take a walk for some afternoon cardio but only last about 20 minutes because of the wind. Living on the second floor is deceiving; I turned my heat off because my apartment is 69 degrees, but outside it's 40 plus wind chill.

7 p.m. — Meet a girlfriend for drinks and appetizers at our favorite sports bar. Martinis for me, margaritas for her, and spinach dip with mozzarella sticks cost $75. I use gift cards from Christmas to cover the bill and my girl leaves the tip.

Daily Total: $117.88
2 of 8
9 a.m. — Already feeling rushed this morning. I have coffee and a banana while I meal prep with food I have in the house.

10:30 a.m. — Grocery run at Aldi's! I get a bag of Goldfish crackers, almond milk, bananas, cucumbers, carrots, a bag of kale, a 32-ounce tub of vanilla yogurt, raspberries, salmon, and organic agave. The Aldi's I shop at never has cocoa powder, so I stop at ShopRite on my way home for that. $35.32

11:45 a.m. — Sundays are usually a cardio day for me, so I go for a four-mile run around the neighborhood.

1:30 p.m. — I have a state civil service exam at 2 p.m. this afternoon, and I forgot to grab a bottle of water from my house. I stop at Starbucks for one and get a skinny vanilla latte as well. $6.48

2 p.m. — Test time. I took this same exam to get my current job, but it doesn't hurt to stay on the eligibility list. My testing site is a local high school and the fire alarm goes off at one point, so we wait outside for the fire department and get some sun.

7 p.m. — I stop for gas on my way home. $31.68

8 p.m. — Sit down for another episode of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix — I'm almost done with the series! — and I also start reading a book I got from the library, In the Blood by Lisa Unger. She writes psychological thrillers that are impossible to put down. (A terrible habit: I frequently sit and read while watching Netflix at the same time.)

Daily Total: $73.48
3 of 8
6:45 a.m. — I wanted to take a walk before work because it's supposed to be warm today, but I have the hardest time waking up before 6:30; I'll try again tomorrow. I drink some coffee and get ready.

8 a.m. — More coffee and overnight oats from home while I catch up with my team. Each year, our local newspaper polls the Albany area on the top workplaces, and my agency won the top spot! I am so proud.

10 a.m. — I snack on cucumbers at my desk.

12 p.m. — I submit my latest assignment just in time to take a lunchtime walk. The food trucks have returned to my building and after debating between eating my boring lunch and ordering from a truck, I choose the latter. I get my usual at the Healthy Café truck — turkey, bacon, Swiss, and mayo on a whole-wheat wrap. I eat half with my apple and save the other half for dinner. $7

2 p.m. — Snack on a protein bar from home.

4 p.m. — Pick up my acne prescription on my way home. The original one wasn't covered by my insurance, so my doctor requested a cheaper alternative. I only owe my co-pay. $5

4:30 p.m. — Do more meal prep for the week. I sauté the kale I bought yesterday in a bit of agave and add quinoa, shrimp, and veggies.

5:30 p.m. — Time for my weekly personal training session. My trainer is awesome, and I always leave feeling very sore.

7 p.m. — I shower and eat the other half of my wrap from the food truck. I spend the rest of the evening catching up on TV shows, reading, and listening to podcasts (not necessarily in that order). I also check my bank account and see that the State of Massachusetts cashed my check for toll charges. There are no longer toll booths there and since I didn't have E-ZPass when I drove to Boston last month, the state billed me directly. $8.55

Daily Total: $20.55
4 of 8
6:45 a.m. — I slept with my windows open last night and spend way too much time trying to close them now because the handles are old and keep sticking. I make a mental note to ask Dad about oiling them, as well as find out what to do about installing A/C units in my windows.

8 a.m. — Overnight oats and coffee at work. Today's nice weather is already a distraction.

9 a.m. — One of our directors regularly brings tomato pies from his hometown in Utica, NY. I help myself to two pieces.

11 a.m. — I take a break to take a walk outside.

12:30 p.m. — Eat sautéed kale with quinoa, shrimp, and raspberries, and an apple at my desk while I read my book.

1:45 p.m. — Carrots and a banana for my snack.

2:30 p.m. — Take another walk outside.

3:30 p.m. — The same director who brought tomato pie brings another snack he bought at a fundraiser. He says it's chocolate fudge, but it turns out to be more like a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter fudge in the middle. Heaven.

4:45 p.m. — Home from work. I go for a 30-minute run before the thunderstorm is supposed to come. I want to go for longer but the wind reaches tornado level, so I turn back home.

6 p.m. — Dinnertime! I quickly grill a frozen stir fry I found at Aldi's — pasta, chicken, and veggies with garlic. It makes three servings, so I save some for later this week. I drink one of my favorite beers, Switchback Ale from Vermont.

6:30 p.m. — I catch up on Grey's Anatomy and paint my toenails.

8:30 p.m. — Chicago Fire while I do a yoga video from YouTube. My muscles are really tight this week.

Daily Total: $0
5 of 8
6:30 a.m. — I hit snooze twice this morning and immediately pour a cup of coffee to drink while I get ready for work.

8 a.m. — Overnight oats and coffee at my desk. My sciatica is bothering me quite a bit, which it often does on rainy days.

11 a.m. — My banana is one huge bruise (probably because I threw it in my bag), so I eat the only unscathed section and toss the rest of it out.

11:45 a.m. — I take a nice walk in the rain. When I get back, I'm craving carbs, so I grab a bag of Cheez-It crackers from the corner store. $0.75

1 p.m. — Same lunch as yesterday.

2 p.m. — Pretend my carrots are a chocolate bar. I ask my work spouse if he has any snacks (I'm hoping for something like cheese sticks), and he gives me a piece of gum.

2:30 p.m. — Take another walk.

4:30 p.m. — Dad is here to lubricate my windows so I can open them. We watch the Yankees for a while and look at houses online. My goal is to own a home by age 30, so why not start looking now? I'd like to own in the area I live in now, where I grew up, but we also look at surrounding counties.

6:30 p.m. — We grab dinner at a sports bar. Since it's National Grilled Cheese Day, I order the "Ultimate Grilled Cheese" (it has bacon in it) and my dad gets the "Award-Winning Wings." He declares that they're "pretty good," and then pays for dinner because he's the best.

8 p.m. — Back at home, I order extras of my girlfriends and family to hang on my apartment fridge from Shutterfly. $3.34

9:30 p.m. — The guy I'm dating casually stops by for a drink. We were good friends in high school and lost track of each other after graduation. Of the people I've gone on dates with lately (and there have been many), he is my favorite. He still has some work to do, so he leaves around 11 and I head to bed.

Daily Total: $4.09
6 of 8
6:45 a.m. — Extra coffee before work since I had a later night than usual.

8 a.m. — The usual. Thank god for meal prep!

10:45 a.m. — I'm not very hungry but I eat my banana anyway because I'm bored.

12 p.m. — A coworker sends out an email to the office about five-layer Rice Krispies Treats she made. One of my teammates is kind enough to grab me a piece because she knows they'll be gone fast. I don't know for sure what all five layers are, but there pretzels, caramel, and peanut butter involved.

1 p.m. — Salmon with green beans and an apple for lunch.

2 p.m. — I can't focus and browse the Stella & Dot website for jewelry, then look up class schedules for hot yoga and HIIT in case I decide to take any classes this weekend. Finally, I look up Yankee game tickets because my dad and I take a trip to the stadium each year. We usually go by bus so that we don't have to drive into the city, but this year we've decided to take the train. I'd love to sit behind home plate this year…

2:30 p.m. — I munch on a chocolate-and-mint protein bar. I'm feeling sleepy and just want to be home reading. I finished my book during lunch but I have more waiting for me at home!

4:30 p.m. — I'm too lazy to make anything and am sick of washing dishes, so I make ramen noodles. After dinner, I start cleaning my apartment. I have a busy weekend and hate having a dirty living space.

7 p.m. — Toning videos online. I work out with Tone It Up quite a bit because they have a huge variety of videos to choose from.

8 p.m. — I'm showered and in bed reading Heartbroken, another Lisa Unger novel. I've already read this one, but I'm on a mission to re-read all of her novels.

Daily Total: $0
7 of 8
8 a.m. — Friday! Overnight oats and coffee. Text one of my girlfriends about our upcoming vacation to Cape Cod; I cannot wait.

10:30 a.m. — Snack on my banana.

2:30 p.m. — I take a walk and don't want to go back inside. When I do come back inside, I snack on my carrots.

4 p.m. — Stop at the bank to withdraw my home equity payment for this month. Some months, I write my dad a check, and other months, I just give him cash because he takes too long to deposit the checks. I got a retroactive raise this month and a decent tax return, so I want to put an even bigger payment on the loan than usual. I withdraw $500, and I'll withdraw more next week when I get paid again.

5 p.m. — I take a 45-minute walk around the neighborhood. I'm trying to get back up to my usual five or six days a week of doing some form of exercise.

6 p.m. — Heat up the stir fry from earlier this week for dinner.

7 p.m. — Time for a trip to Target. I pick up supplies for "slutty brownies" — FYI, I did not make up this name. Google them and then bake some; they're delicious. I buy brownie mix, a package of Oreos, and two batches of frozen cookie dough for the brownies. I also grab two boxes of mac 'n' cheese (on sale!) and coffee. I'm notorious for never leaving Target without buying mascara, but tonight I resist. $19.03

7:30 p.m. — I stop at my ex-fiancé's house to pick up my Birchbox package. He got me a subscription for my birthday before we split up. Being back in the house we once shared is always weird, but we have a beer and catch up.

8:30 p.m. — I go to Cold Stone for ice cream before heading home. I've had a craving all week! I get a medium birthday cake remix and leave a tip as well, hoping I will make someone happy today. $8.36

9:30 p.m. — Cuddled up on the couch with my ice cream and Netflix for the evening.

Daily Total: $27.39
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