A Week In NYC On A $12,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennial women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.)

Today, a 27-year-old in Bushwick, working part-time for $12,000 a year.
Photo: Courtesy of Old Navy.
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Industry: Academic Publishing
Age: 27
Location: Bushwick, Brooklyn
Salary: $12,000
Paycheck Amount (Every Two Weeks): ~$530
# of roommates: 2

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600/month
Utilities: ~$55/month
Transportation: Monthly MetroCard, $116
Phone Bill: My mom pays for it
Health Insurance: Medicaid (free)
Spotify: $10/month

Day One

10 a.m. — Breakfast is some scrambled eggs, a couple pieces of soy bacon, pita bread, and coffee, all of which I already had.

2 p.m. — I get coffee in Williamsburg with my friend and her boyfriend. An iced soy latte is $5 + $1 tip. $6

5:30 p.m. — I go to Trader Joe’s every Sunday to do my food shopping for the week. I find that it is cheaper than the local grocery, so the distance is worth it (a 45-minute bus ride). Today, I have a $50 Amex gift card from a focus group I participated in last week, so technically, the groceries are free. I grab some portobello mushrooms, an onion, roasted red peppers, canned tomato sauce, pasta, cauliflower, chickpeas, eggplant, hummus, dried mandarin orange slices, soy bacon, tofurky, and rice. In total, I spend $37.85.

7 p.m. — I accidentally skipped lunch, so I decide to make a hearty dinner of roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, and eggplant mixed with hummus, all of which were purchased at TJ’s earlier in the day.

Daily Total: $6

Day Two

7 a.m. — Breakfast is a bowl of cereal and coffee with almond milk. I use the last of it in my coffee, so I make a mental note to pick up some more later. I try to follow a primarily vegan diet, although I still eat eggs occasionally and am not super careful about milk products showing up in food. But everything I cook at home is made without milk fat.

10 a.m. — I get to work. I work part time as a marketing and production assistant, 27 hours a week.

10:05 a.m. — I have a 20% off coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond in my inbox, so after some debate, I decide to buy a small blender. Summer is coming and I love to make fruit smoothies, but our blender broke a while ago. $28.28

1 p.m. — Lunch is leftovers from last night.

2 p.m. — I step out to treat myself with a latte from Starbucks, using the gift card again.

5 p.m. — After work, I stop by a local grocery in Bushwick for some veggies and almond milk. They're famous for their dollar avocados. I can't use what's left on the Amex gift card here, so I pay for it myself. $14.09

7:30 p.m. — I usually do yoga on Sunday nights. But yesterday, I didn't have time, so I go tonight. The studio is pay-what-you-will, so I put in $2 for a bottle of water and then an extra dollar for the class. $3

9 p.m. — I know it’s pretty late to eat dinner, but I make some pasta, because otherwise I’ll wake up hungry in the middle of the night.

Daily Total: $45.37

Day Three

7 a.m. — Cereal and coffee with almond milk for breakfast.

10 a.m. — I get to work. A coworker brought in cookies, so free midmorning snack! This is one of the cases where I make a "dairy exception." These are definitely loaded with butter. Worth it.

1 p.m. — Lunch is leftovers from the pasta I made when I got home from yoga last night. To save money, I always try to cook enough for two meals.

4 p.m. — I have to stay late at work today and I can feel myself fading, so I grab a cup of coffee from the deli across the street. Unfortunately, we don't have complimentary coffee in my office. $1.25

7 p.m. — I throw together a stir fry with ingredients I got at Trader Joe’s and the local store.

Total amount spent: $1.25


Day Four

9:50 a.m. — I get off the train a few minutes early and decide to pick up a cardigan at the Old Navy nearby. As the weather gets warmer, our office seems to get more and more tundra-like. I need a new one, anyway. $22.94

12 p.m. — Once in a while, our company's printer representative comes in and brings us a catered lunch. I have a veggie, tofu, and hummus sandwich. Score!

5 p.m. — I'm on my way to babysit for a mom in Carroll Gardens. I babysit about once or twice a week, and I've been working for this particular mom for almost a year. The kid, a 7-year-old, NEVER runs out of energy, so I always pick up a coffee at a Starbucks near their apartment first. I use up the last of my Amex gift card to pay for the drink.

6:30 p.m. — Kiddo and I get pizza for dinner, her favorite. I have a slice with just tomato. Her mom pays.

11:30 p.m. — Mom gets back, pays me $80, and puts me in an Uber home. Perks of being a babysitter.

Daily Total: $22.94

Day Five

7 a.m. — Cereal and coffee with almond milk for breakfast.

10 a.m. — I get to work. Free cookies again. The perils of working in an office.

1 p.m. — Lunch is leftovers from Tuesday night.

3:30 p.m. — I have to work late again, since I'm taking tomorrow off. So, I get an iced latte. It's rapidly becoming clear that most of my money goes to caffeinating myself. An iced soy latte from the café nearby is a treat, since it's so expensive, but it's the first really nice day we've had and I've used my gift card for most of the other coffees. $6

6:30 p.m. — I stop at CVS to pick up a prescription and a few essentials. I have a coupon that takes about $5 off my total. $20.12

8 p.m. — Dinner is portobello and red onion tacos with avocado. I got the recipe from Refinery29!

9 p.m. — It's laundry day. One load, wash and dry. $5.50

Daily Total: $31.62

Day Six

9 a.m. — I have the day off and treat myself to a bagel with tofu cream cheese at the local coffee shop. My biweekly direct deposit also comes in today. $2.90

10 a.m. — PJ Harvey is coming to New York this summer for the first time in years. I have to get a ticket. $59.55

12 p.m. — A local tattoo shop is doing $20 tattoos for Friday the 13th ($13 tattoo + $7 tip). My friend and I went last year, but the line was so long we didn’t make it in. Luckily, I get there earlier this time and get in after a few hours. I get a small bird on my right thigh. $20

4 p.m. — On my way home, I pick up an iced tea. $1

4:30 p.m. — I missed lunch while waiting for my tattoo, so I heat up leftovers from last night. Leftovers are lifesavers.

7:30 p.m. — I go on a date with a writer I met a week or two ago at my favorite bar in Bushwick, Left Hand Path. He pays for the drinks and we have a really good time.

Daily Total: $83.45

Day Seven

11 a.m. — I’m on my way to the Upper East Side and grab an iced tea at the bodega. $1

12 p.m. — I go to the Bronx Zoo with three friends. We all manage to get in as "students." $14

2:30 p.m. — We stop at a snack bar inside the zoo and all get fries. $3.80

5 p.m. — It’s time to leave. Since we all have unlimited MetroCards and can’t use the express bus, we split an Uber back to the 86th Street Station. $8.50

6 p.m. — I make some pasta with broccoli and Gardein (vegan substitute for meat).

Daily Total: $27.30
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences, and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior. The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
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