A Week In NYC On A $45,000 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 librarian buying concert tickets and taking a physics course on the side.
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Industry: Higher education (librarian)
Age: 28
Location: Bushwick, Brooklyn
Salary: $45,000
Paycheck (2x a month): around $1,100
Number Of Roommates: 1

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000 (including heat & electricity)
Internet: $25
Cooking gas: around $8
Gym: $11
Transportation (Metrocard): $116.50
Student loans: $213 minimum, but I usually pay $350-$400+
Phone/Netflix: $0 (on my family’s plan, and my parents generously refuse to take my money)

Day One

7 a.m. — I make coffee at home while I pack my lunch for work. I put leftover farro, cucumbers, tomato, and roasted chickpeas in a tupperware last night after dinner, so I just drizzle it with some homemade tahini dressing and cut up some fruit to bring with it. After getting ready, I commute 40-50 minutes by subway to get to work in Manhattan.

8:45 a.m. — Payday! I check my bank accounts to see that $1,112 has been deposited. This amount is after taxes, $125 for health insurance, and $117 (plus a company match of $87) to my 403b. I have $25 automatically transferred to my emergency/long-term savings account, bringing it up to $3,260. My goal is to get it to at least $5,000, and most months I contribute something extra, but this is the minimum. I plan to put an extra payment towards my student loans this month. $213

10 a.m. — Tickets go on sale for a band I really like (The Hush Sound). It’s a special reunion tour, so I deem it worthy of my entertainment budget funds. $20

10:15 a.m. — I grab a packet of oatmeal and a spoonful of Trader Joe’s super-seed blend from my desk and use the hot water tap in the office kitchen to make breakfast.

1:30 p.m. — I eat at my desk while finishing up my work for the week. I work at a Jewish school, so we get out early on Fridays.

2:30 p.m. — I have some time to kill, so I pop into Madewell and notice that a dress I’ve had my eye on for a wedding this summer has finally made its way to the sale rack. Alas, they don’t have my size. I check on my phone and see that it’s available online...but without the extra 30% discount. I mention the situation to an employee, and she says they’d be happy to order it for me, with free shipping plus the discount. Score! I usually budget $50/month for shopping, but I saved it last month in anticipation of this purchase. $70

4:30 p.m. — A close friend from college is in town after a few years abroad, so I take the subway up to Columbia to meet up with her and another girl, and then back downtown together to Agave for happy hour drinks. I have two $6 margaritas. We’re going to dinner next, so another girl pays and we decide to settle up after our meal.

5:30 p.m. — My friends didn’t eat lunch, so they’re starving. We go to an early dinner at Crooked Knife. We order a bottle of wine to share and I get the shepherd's pie. It takes us too many tries to work out the math on the bill after the wine, but we manage it. I usually only go out to dinner once every month or two, so this is a special occasion. $42

7:45 p.m. — It’s still early, and we’re having a blast catching up, so we move on to Art Bar nearby and switch to beer. We linger over two rounds and eventually split the tab. $15

10:45 p.m. — I resist the urge to stop for a snack and grab the subway home.

Daily Total: $360 (yikes!)

Day Two

8 a.m. — I get up feeling a little thick-headed, so I drink yesterday’s coffee over ice with two ibuprofen.

9 a.m. — I work a volunteer shift once or twice a month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art library, and today’s my day, so I grab a banana and head to the subway to get there by 10. I have a Dunkin Donut’s gift card, so I stop on the way for a hangover-ameliorating bagel with cream cheese and another iced coffee. I use up my gift card and pay the difference. $0.78

12:30 p.m. — Sometimes I’ll pack a lunch, but I usually save my treats for volunteer days and get a coffee and/or lunch out. Today I stop by Butterfield Market and pick up a steak quesadilla to eat in Central Park on my break. $8

7 p.m. — On my way home from the subway I stop at my neighborhood grocery store to grab some milk and a few other items. I aim to spend $250 a month on groceries, plus another $50 or so for alcohol and eating out, so it’s usually closer to $300. I make some mac-and-cheese with broccoli and chicken for dinner at home. $10

Daily Total: $18.78

Day Three

11 a.m. — Today I just want to relax and enjoy my day off. I lounge around my apartment, reading and catching up on TV. I make some oatmeal with blueberries and peanut butter for a late breakfast.

3:45 p.m. — I clean my kitchen and bathroom and then eat my leftover mac-and-cheese dish.

5:00 p.m. — I finally drag myself out for a run, then come home and do some strength training in the living room.

7:30 p.m. — I shower and pull a veggie burger and an English muffin out of the freezer for dinner, with some carrots on the side.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

9 a.m. — I’m going to a professional development workshop this morning, and it doesn’t start until 10, so I get to sleep in a little. I make coffee at home and grab a complimentary granola bar at the event.

1:30 p.m. — I’m back in the office for the afternoon and eat a salad that I’ve brought from home. It’s romaine lettuce with a hard-boiled egg, tomato, corn, cranberries, pecans, and a basil-greek-yogurt dressing.

7:00 p.m. — Dinner is a veggie burger again, this time with some homemade sweet potato oven-fries and broccoli. I watch Jeopardy with my roommate, and we compete against each other.

Daily Total: $0


Day Five

10 a.m. — Coffee from home and oatmeal at my desk again for breakfast.

1:15 p.m. — I eat a ham-on-rye that I brought with me (surprise!).

2:00 p.m. — I’m encouraged to take a full break outside the office, so most days I do. I try to stick with walks and necessary errands, but occasionally some shopping happens. Today I grab shampoo at Harmon ($7) and then go to Trader Joe’s to pick up some coffee and somehow end up with kale chips and dried coconut too ($9). $16

5:30 p.m. — I head to the gym after work. It’s not the best, but you can’t beat the price, particularly in NYC.

7:30 p.m. — Dinner is an egg scramble with leftover sweet potato from yesterday, spinach from the freezer, and some salsa I had in the fridge. If I ever have a bag of fresh spinach that’s on its last legs, I throw it in the freezer. It’s great to crush up and add to just about any dish.

8:00 p.m. — Netflix and chill (the non-suggestive kind).

Daily Total: $16

Day Six

10 a.m. — I change it up with some cut fruit and a hard-boiled egg from home for breakfast. Plus coffee, of course.

1:30 p.m. — Lunch is another salad I brought, similar to Monday. It can be kind of a pain to prep and transport two meals a day to work, but it’s so much cheaper and usually more delicious.

7 p.m. — I make another quick stop at the grocery store after work to pick up some frozen vegetables, lettuce, and a few other things. For dinner, I make a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich on rye, with some of the frozen squash that I bought. $15

9 p.m. — My evening’s entertainment is a physics course that I’m working my way through on Coursera. I was recently reminded how much I enjoyed my high school AP class, so now I’m challenging myself to see how much I remember of Newtonian mechanics. Yes, I’m a nerd.

Daily Total: $15

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — Same breakfast as yesterday.

1:30 p.m. — Today’s salad creation features salsa, corn, and cheese. I wish I had some black beans. Also brought a banana and some almonds that I snack on through the afternoon.

5:30 p.m. — I make it to the gym again today. I stop on my way home from the subway to pick up my laundry from the wash-and-fold, which I do every two or three weeks. I know it would be cheaper to do it myself, but when I think about the hours saved it really doesn’t seem too bad. I dream of a day when I have laundry in my building. $18

7:45 p.m. — Dinner is another veggie burger with the leftover squash, plus some peas and carrots from the freezer. I swear I don’t usually eat so many, but all the weekend excitement meant that I didn’t do my typical batch-cooking, so this is what happens. Must plan meals better next week.

8:30 p.m. — I pack for a bachelorette weekend trip to Lake Placid. I’m definitely at the age where all my friends are getting married, so I have a permanent line item in my budget to save for all the various expenses. This trip was paid for several months ago, so all I have to worry about tomorrow is splitting gas with my roommate (who, conveniently for me, has a car).

Daily Total: $18
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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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