A Week In NYC On A $46,000 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 receptionist in New York City, going on a girls' night out and celebrating payday.
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Occupation: Receptionist
Industry: Finance
Location: New York City
Age: 25
Salary: $46,000 plus overtime (before taxes and transit, health and 401(k) contributions, taken out of each check)
Paycheck (2x a month): Anywhere between $1,300-$1,650 (depending on overtime)
Roommates: 1 (Does your mom count as your roommate? I guess so when you’re forced to pay rent)

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000
Netflix: $9
Loans: $250
Planet Fitness (gym) membership: $20.89
Phone bill: $130.00
Health insurance (taken out pre-tax): $166.68
401(k) contribution (taken out pre-tax): 10% of my biweekly check (last month was a combined total of $199.34)
Transit: $116.50 (taken out of paycheck before taxes) for monthly Metro card

Day One

6:30 a.m. — It’s the most wonderful time of the year because…payday! This is the paycheck that isn’t swallowed up by my rent, so I’m always super happy when the 16th rolls around. I’m trying to be good, because I went a little over budget this past week, so I make coffee at home and take a bite of the spinach, onion, and sausage omelet I made for my mom.

7:30 a.m. — I already know this is going to be a long day because the train is extra crowded today, and I’m silently praying I make it to work on time and in one piece. I make an iced latte as soon as I get in. This new espresso machine is really a lifesaver. I try to avoid giving into my breakfast-sandwich craving, but the leftover mini bagel I grabbed from an earlier meeting is not cutting it. I end up ordering bacon and cheese on a bagel. My coworker kindly treats me. I promise to pay for our next craving cave-in.

8:30 a.m. — I’ve been waiting for a week to purchase the matte lipsticks I have saved in my online shopping bag from ColourPop cosmetics. I’m obsessed with lipsticks, especially matte ones. I buy six because they’re only $6 each, plus free shipping! $36

10 a.m. — I grab some fruit from the office kitchen.

2 p.m. — I check out Old Navy’s website after I see a neighbor’s coupon. The weather forecast for the next several days urges me to add to my wardrobe. I purchase a couple of dresses and jackets. I use a 30% off code sent to my email. $73.44

2:10 p.m. — I’m in a spending mood (as I am every payday) so I purchase a couple of songs off iTunes to keep me awake during my commute. $3.27

2:30 p.m. — I heat up a frozen chicken enchilada from my excursion to Whole Foods the day before; I grab an apple juice from our office fridge and a Girl Scout cookie from a now-communal stash.

7 p.m. — My sisters and I decided to have overnight girls’ night, so we booked a hotel room in the city through the Hotel Tonight app. When we get to the hotel, we find that they're completely sold out, so we can't upgrade from the standard one-bedroom that’s assigned at booking. Thankfully, we’re able to get a credit back on the app account to book another hotel. The Best Western Hospitality House turns out to be the only hotel with rooms to accommodate the three of us; it’s just a tad bit pricier than the last one, but we already planned to split all the hotel costs, so I only end up paying a fraction of the difference. $7.60

8:30 p.m. — We grab dinner while looking up other hotels options; it’s a Thai restaurant they’re both familiar with. I get the Thai fried rice with chicken and wonton soup. We split the bill. $20

10 p.m. — We finally get to our hotel, after a botched Uber ride. Everyone’s craving something sweet, so we hit up a nearby Duane Reade and stock up on snacks. Apparently I’m not as young as I thought, because I’m barely hanging on; I wait till we get back to the hotel and make a pot of decaf coffee to keep me awake through our sister-bonding night. $7.43

Daily Total: $147.74

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — Perks of staying at the Best Western rather than one of the fancier hotels in the city is the free breakfast! Eggs, bacon, fresh waffles, and unlimited coffee. I'll take that any day.

12:30 p.m. — Checkout. We were given the “Penthouse Suite" (Best Western style) for our stay. It was pretty cute and spacious, with a nice balcony and view. My sister said it gave her a time-share vibe. The fee to upgrade was $46.50; we split it three ways. $15.50

2 p.m. — Back home I decide it's time to decrease the growing “dry-clean only" pile on my couch. I take my favorite trench and midi skirt to be cleaned, and the skirt to be altered as well. My skirt costs $13 to alter and $7 to clean, and it's $15 for the trench to be cleaned. $35

4:15 p.m. — I stop at the Dollar Tree closest to my house on my way back from the gym and cleaners. I go in to buy safety pins, Tupperware to bring my lunches in next week, and two cards to congratulate my friends on the end of their first year of grad school. Somehow I end up with two bags of frozen foods, gifts, toiletries, and miscellaneous items. SMH. Is there a rehab for bargain-shopping addictions? I’m a sucker for a sale. $56.93

4:45 p.m. — I don’t want to do any more shopping after my $50 overspending moment, but I still need to pick up some items for lunch and dinner for the next week. I grab meats, a couple of Weight Watchers lunches, veggies, and dairy products. Since my mom handles the utility costs, I cover the groceries each month. Plus, I’m the better cook (shhh, don’t tell her I said that). I always make sure to check out the markets’ circulars before I go shopping. I find a jumbo carton of eggs for $1.25, yogurts with M&M toppings (2 for $1), and a 128 oz. bottle of vanilla almond milk for $4.99 at one of my local grocers. Didn’t I tell you I’m addicted to a sale? $33

6 p.m. — I make a half rotisserie chicken, sweet potato casserole, and broccoli for dinner with the groceries I bought today. I put a serving aside for my lunch during the week.

Daily Total: $140.43

Day Three


8:45 a.m. — Manage to make a cup of coffee before church this morning. My mom’s friend, who picks us up sometimes, brings us pastries from this bakery in the Bronx. Thank you, Jesus.

2 p.m. — It’s such a nice day out; I treat mom and myself to helados (a frozen, sorbet-like treat), from one of the pushcart vendors while we walk home from church. I get a rainbow/mango mix, she opts for plain coconut. $2

4 p.m. — I decide to make this stew I saw online. It seems like it would yield enough portions for a few lunches and dinners. It consists of sweet Italian sausage, corn, black beans, zucchini, bell peppers, and onions. It turns out yummy!

9:45 p.m. — Against my better self-imposed retail judgment I check out Lord & Taylor’s website. It’s the last day of the Family & Friends sale. I see a cute jacket for my mom. Mother’s Day Gift? Check! $28.45

Daily Total: $30.45

Day Four

6 a.m. — Coffee at home.

6:45 a.m. — I buy a couple more songs to get me through my commute because I’ve played the other three to death over the weekend. $2.58

10:15 a.m. — It’s that special time of month. I’m not really hungry, but after popping a few Advil, I grab a cup of coffee and a piece of toast from the office kitchen. The yogurt I brought for breakfast has lost its appeal.

1 p.m. – I eat the lunch of chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli I prepared on Day Two.

2 p.m. – I make a cup of tea in the office to soothe my cramps.

7 p.m. – I stop by the grocery store on the way home, since I’ve run out of my favorite French Vanilla creamer I use for my morning coffee. I grab a bag of sweet plantain chips at the checkout line. $6.48

8 p.m. — I’m still not hungry, so I make a multi-ingredient baked omelet that I cut up into squares for my breakfast this week. The smell of the bacon makes me second-guess my plan to forgo dinner completely; I throw in a few extra pieces to put on a piece of toast. #Dinner.

Daily Total: $9.06

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Coffee at home.

7:30 a.m. — I forgot to bring an omelet square for breakfast. My appetite’s still on its monthly fritz, but I grab a bombolini, one of my favorite pastry treats, from the restaurant next door to my job to go with the latte I plan to make when I get in. $2.18

10 a.m. — One of my coworkers has on a really cute white button-down. It reminds me that I’ve been meaning to purchase a wrinkle-free one. I find one on Nordstrom’s website. It’s not exactly the style I had in mind, and they only have it in a bigger size, but for the price I’ll make it work! $35.44

12:30 p.m. — My coworker sent an earlier email about pastries near her desk; I decide to check them out. I take two mini cupcakes, vanilla and red velvet. I go to the office kitchen to make a latte to go with my mini cakes. I happen upon some slices of rye bread and a hazelnut spread from a breakfast meeting. Don’t judge me. I consider that lunch.

2:30 p.m. — Mid-day boredom kicks in. I “happen upon” DSW’s website and “happen” to find some cute loafers for work. Don’t give me judge-y eyes. Yes, I know I’m addicted to sweets, sales, and shopping. They’re needed though! My favorite leopard loafers have lost some of their faux fur, and I don’t know how much longer they can last. Added bonus: DSW always has free shipping over $35. $39.95

5:20 p.m. — Third latte of the day. Hey, I need energy for the gym tonight.

6:15 p.m. — My favorite store ever is CVS. Ask my mother, and she’d tell you I go in there at least once a week, armed with coupons, because that’s the best part. THE COUPONS. I’ve run out of tampons and I have a $1-off coupon for a particular brand, so I grab those. I call my friend who I’m working out with tonight; he plans on grabbing water but I tell him I’ll grab one for the both of us. I scan my CVS card to see if I have any relevant coupons and to my surprise I HAVE FIVE EXTRA CARE BUCKS! Woohoo! Night. Made. I grab a pack of gum in the checkout line because I also printed a coupon for 50 cents off. I throw in a fig bar at the last moment, too. I check out with my Extra Care Bucks, coupons, and surprise sale items. $3.54

9 p.m. — After the gym, I head home and have some leftover stew I made on Day Three. Mom’s clearly been enjoying it.

Daily Total: $81.11

Day Six

7 a.m. — I barely slept last night, because I was anxious about a meeting I’m having today with my new boss. My stomach’s feeling the anxiety, too. I don’t want to eat anything, so I just grab a coffee at work to hopefully counter the bags under my eyes.

11 a.m. — Meeting with the boss went well, and my anxiety has lifted. I heat up an omelet square I made on Day Four, along with a piece of toast and sausage I had stored in the fridge. There’s also a smorgasbord of pastries and fruit leftover from a breakfast meeting — I grab a mini whole wheat bagel and smear it with peanut butter and butter. I also make a latte.

11:45 a.m. — I guess my anxiety was masking how hungry I really was. I go back for a second bagel, more peanut butter, more butter.

5:30 p.m. — I grab some grapes, a bag of bananas, and bag of gummy worms from the supermarket. The bananas are only 49 cents a pound; I get about six for 98 cents. Win! $8.01

8 p.m. — I pop some frozen pot stickers and a veggie egg roll in the microwave for dinner. I’ll regret this in the morning.

Daily Total: $8.01

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Regret Land. My stomach is not agreeing with the frozen apps from last night. Maybe I shouldn’t have had so many. I’m a sucker for dumplings and Asian appetizers. I still make coffee at home because…sleep.

7:30 a.m. — The skirt I had altered on Day Two is super tight. I grab a yogurt from my snack stash. It’s the 50-cent one with M&Ms I picked up on Day Two. The yogurt itself is definitely not great, but the candy makes it satisfactory.

8 a.m. — Why are my eyes burning?! Total sign of caffeine deficiency. I make a double espresso.

12:30 p.m. — I heat up my leftover stew. There’s also a quinoa salad in the kitchen from a lunch meeting; I throw a few tablespoons in with my stew.

1:10 p.m. — My coworker alerts me to a snack-pocalypse in the kitchen. I eat a snickerdoodle cookie.

9 p.m. — Go to my niece’s school recital; she plays the drums in the jazz band. I’m truly not saying this because she’s my niece, but she is THE BEST out of all her peers, a Sheila E in the making. Afterward, we stop for a snack. I make a beeline for the Dunkin Donuts. I order an apple fritter, a Dunkaccino (Dunkin Donuts’ version of a cappuccino) and a chicken salad sandwich on a bagel. $8.63

Daily Total: $8.63
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