A Week On Long Island On A $37,000 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, we have a marketing assistant at a finance company, paying off her student loans and living at home.
Industry: Marketing
Age: 22
Location: Long Island, NY
Salary: $37,000
Paycheck (every two weeks):
Number of roommates: Technically three; I live at home with my stepdad, mom, and sister.

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0. My mom was charging me rent, but kind of cut me a deal if I took over full responsibility of my $25,000 student loan she took out for me from a private university I went to my freshman year of college.
Loan payments: I direct-debit the minimum amount every month ($312), but I typically put in more with every paycheck.
Utilities: $0
Transportation: gas, $80/month
Spotify: $10
Netflix: $8
Savings: $400
Gym: $20

Day 1

8 a.m. — Breakfast and coffee at home today. My parents go grocery-shopping for the household every Sunday, so there tends to be a stocked fridge. I shop for myself once a week, for random groceries and staples we're running low on. I had scrambled eggs (with a bit of Adobo sauce!) on avocado toast — my go-to. I’ve also been using my French press way more. It saves me money, is easy to use, and the end product tastes delicious.

1:30 p.m. — I usually bring lunch from home; my mom has ingrained that in me since I was a little kid. I had egg noodles, edamame, and a salmon filet (with homemade Thai peanut sauce!) that I grilled in the oven the night before. I like to meal-prep for the next few days on Sunday nights, so I have everything ready to go in the morning.

5:45 p.m. — Headed to Target after work, but didn’t actually buy anything. It’s a miracle! I went to return a bathing-suit top that was too small (+ $14.54 to the bank account).

6:45 p.m. — I ate at home. Made a black-bean burger with tater tots (I’m actually 5) and some steamed broccoli.

8:45 p.m. — Got myself to the gym, even if it was later than I wanted. At least I was there, right?

Total: $0

Day 2

8:15 a.m. — I was running a little late, so I made coffee and a breakfast sandwich to go: whole-grain bread with avocado, an over-easy egg, and hot sauce (Cholula’s, of course).

1:30 p.m. — Eating my way through my prepped lunches. I can’t believe I improvised a sauce that tastes so good!

1:45 p.m. — Feeling that afternoon slump. I headed to the Starbucks next to work for a black tea and a brownie. $4.89

2 p.m. — Decided to pay off my credit-card balance today. I’ve been using it more because of the rewards-per-dollar-spent feature. $90.77

3 p.m. — Put some money toward my student loan. $100

7 p.m. — My girlfriends and I met up for burritos and margaritas. I missed catching up with them. I devoured my shrimp burrito; no leftovers here. Oops: $24.29

Total: $219.95

Day 3

8:50 a.m. — A sad desk breakfast for me today. Yogurt and some tea that I brought from home.

1:30 p.m. — Lunch was still what I made for the week: edamame, egg noodles, and salmon with the peanut sauce.

6 p.m. — I had such a hankering for my favorite mozzarella house salad from a pizzeria in town. I got a large salad and an eggplant parm so I could have some for lunch tomorrow, too. $14.66

Total: $14.66

Day 4

7 a.m. — It’s payday today! Hooray! Money gets taken out of my account automatically and put into my savings ($200 per paycheck).

8:30 a.m. — Picked up Starbucks for breakfast today: a coffee and a scone. $5.11

1:30 p.m. — Did some online shopping during lunch today. Big mistake. Purchased Topshop booties from Nordstrom that were on sale. I hope they fit! Or maybe I don’t, so I can have the money back in my account, ha. $47.06

1:45 p.m. — Ate my leftover Italian feast for lunch.

2 p.m. — Scheduled a payment toward my loan. $100

7 p.m. — Made another black-bean veggie burger with avocado and hot sauce for dinner.

8 p.m. — I went to Aldi to pick up some German chocolate that I’d been wanting to try. I also got cash back so I could get gas later. $26.69

Total: $178.86

Day 5

8:50 a.m. — Happy Friday! I brought another one of my egg-and-avocado-on-toast sandwiches to work along with some French-press coffee.

9 p.m. — I caught a late dinner with a guy I’m seeing. We couldn't find any place to park for free for the life of us, so I got street parking. $3

9:15 p.m. — I brought him to a cool place by me that specializes in meatballs ("veggie balls" for me). He treated.

10 p.m. — We headed over to a German Bierhaus and I bought us beers. $17.21

Total: $20.21

Day 6

11 a.m. — The guy and I hit up brunch at one of my favorite places near me. Eggs Florentine and coffee, please. I picked up the tab. $44.49

1 p.m. — I got a pack of gum along with cash back. $11.09

1:15 p.m. — I decided to get a mani-pedi because, hey, I felt like it! Plus, it’s getting warm out and my feet have no reason to be in sandals until they get scrubbed, buffed, and polished. $28

3 p.m. — Had a very hearty and nutritious lunch of microwave popcorn that I found in the pantry.

7 p.m. — For some reason, I ate like a toddler today. I made myself a PB&J, because it’s a classic comfort food. Not complete without a side of veggie sticks.

8 p.m. — I hit the gym (gotta work off that brunch), and then stopped by the grocery store in the same shopping center for some food to tide me over for the next week or so. Bananas, apples, Kind bars, rice cakes, frozen edamame, frozen salmon, veggie burgers, whole-grain bread, lettuce, etc. $28.39

Total: $111.97

Day 7

11 a.m. — Sunday-morning breakfast at the diner has become a little tradition between me and my sister. I got two over-easy eggs with some home fries and toast. #carby $11.67

3 p.m. — I spent some time prepping my meals for the week, and made one for lunch today: rice noodles, sautéed shrimp, and sugar snap peas, with a bit of teriyaki and soy sauce.

5 p.m. — I headed to the gym before it closed for the day. I’ve really been trying to go three to four times a week; exercising is so good for the body and the mind. I think the fact that I pay for it every month helps me go, too.

7 p.m. — Ate another PB&J. Abs of steel, here I come!
Total: $11.67
Without credit-card bills or student loan payments, this diarist spend $266.55.

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.


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