A Week in Queens On A $71,000 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 woman working in city government, splitting everything with her husband.


Industry: City government
Age: 28
Location: Astoria, Queens
Number of roommates: 1 (my husband)
Salary: $71,000
Paycheck amount (2x a month): $1,615 (post-taxes and deductions automatically taken out of my paycheck)

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,125 (my half)
Utilities: $75 for internet and Con-ed, gas, and electric (my half)
Phone bill: $80
Gym membership: $20
Netflix: $0 — every Christmas, my stepmother's present to us is gift cards to cover a year of Netflix
Renter's insurance: $13 (my half)
Dog insurance: $26 (my half)
Dog savings to pay for the dog walker: $160 (my half)
Money for main savings account: $150
Personal travel savings: $50
Money for joint savings with husband: to use to pay for car insurance every six months and other random large joint purchases (i.e., Ikea trips and Hamilton tickets): $100
Monthly Metrocard (taken out of my paycheck automatically): $116.50
Union dues per month (taken out of my paycheck automatically): $72
Pension contributions per month (taken out of my paycheck automatically): $265
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Day 1

8:35 a.m. — I take the dog for a walk, quickly make toast with hummus, and grab a can of seltzer water for a breakfast on the go.

10:30 a.m. — I'm on the hunt for a snack and my coworker offers me some of her sugar-free dried mangos from Trader Joe's. I eat one and do not enjoy it, but beggars can't be choosers. Instead, I grab my almond butter from the office fridge and eat two spoonfuls to get myself to lunch.

1 p.m. — I have a Mealpass plan for three meals per month, which is automatically charged to my credit card at the beginning of the month (so I have already been charged). Every day, they send an email with all the participating restaurants and their one lunch item for the next day, which you reserve. Each lunch works out to $6.90 — way less than if you actually purchased it from the business itself. Last night, I reserved a Cuban sandwich and also pay for a can of Sprite Zero ($1.63). I am dangerously close to the Plaza Hotel Food Hall and cannot resist the frozen yogurt spot. It is overpriced, but has the best toppings options; I have zero will power and go in and indulge myself ($6.37). $8

6 p.m. — Once I'm off the train in Astoria, I go to my favorite nail spot to get a manicure ($8). I was in Colorado last week for a wedding and seemed to have lost my quick-dry top coat, so I pay an extra dollar for it, plus tip. $13

7 p.m. — I get home and had plans to cook dinner for my husband and I, but neither of us are hungry. Instead, I take our dog for a walk and do some quick chores around the house. After, we hang out in our backyard for a little bit.

8 p.m. — I pour myself a healthy glass of red wine, grab some snacks from the pantry, and we settle in for the night and watch Netflix.

Daily Total: $21
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Day 2

8 a.m. — I walk the dog, get ready for work, and quickly make myself an almond-butter-and-jelly sandwich for breakfast with a can of seltzer as I run out the door.

1 p.m. — I go to a deli for lunch with a coworker/friend. This spot is the best place to do pizza and salad, since their slices are smaller and you can put whatever you want from a hot/cold bar in a container. I get a slice and fill a small container with Greek salad and cauliflower. At checkout, I throw in a 50-calorie peppermint chocolate to split with my coworker. $8.73

5 p.m. — I am starving and started my time of the month earlier today, which is not helping my sweet tooth. Luckily, my supervisor brought in some communal candy and I eat half of a crispy chocolate bar.

6 p.m. — I am back in Astoria and bring my Wallflower plug-in back to Bath & Body Works, because they will exchange them for free when they stop working.

6:30 p.m. — At home, I cook myself zucchini noodles with onions and Feta cheese and a Johnsonville bratwurst for dinner. It was my first time cooking vegetable noodles and it turned out so good!

7:30 p.m. — My husband leaves to go meet a friend at a bar and I stay behind and watch an episode of Shameless on Netflix, do the dishes, and walk the dog.

9 p.m. — My husband and his friend move to our favorite restaurant in Astoria, which is a Creole NOLA-style place. I meet them there and somehow find the willpower to not order an entrée. Instead, I order gumbo cheese fries as an appetizer for the table and have a couple drinks. Because our friend has never been to this restaurant, my husband wants to treat us all and covers the bill.

10:30 p.m. — On our walk home, we pass one of my favorite bars and I insist on going in and having a round on me. I pay for three drinks, two picklebacks, and tip. $41.10

11:15 p.m. — We come back to our apartment and around midnight, I decide I am going to bed while my husband stays up and hangs out with his friend.

Daily Total: $49.83
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Day 3

9 a.m. — Get out of bed and head out to the backyard with the dog to fully wake myself up. Once I feel alert, we go for a long walk.

10 a.m. — Get home and immediately feed the dog and make myself an egg sandwich for breakfast. I make two over-hard eggs and throw them on toast with some Boar's Head low-sodium turkey and Boar's Head herbed mozzarella cheese I have in the fridge, topping it off with hot sauce.

10:45 a.m. — I play fetch-of-war with our dog. It's his own unique mix of tug-of-war and fetch, where every time he brings me back the toy, we play tug-of-war for it before I can throw it again. I do this to tire him out so I can do some cleaning. Instead, he decides to nap in my lap and I get couch-locked. I watch an episode of Shameless.

12 p.m. — Cleaning! I really wish I could afford a twice-monthly cleaning service, but with my current budget, it seems too expensive. My husband is supposed to go into a salary renegotiation next week, and depending on how that goes, we may be able to swing it in the future.

1:30 p.m. — Go to the gym for a Zumba class and bring a water bottle from home to fill. The class is included in my monthly gym membership.

2:45 p.m. — Stop by Duane Reade on the way home, because I need deodorant. $4.12

3 p.m. — I need a snack after my class, so I eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with vanilla almond milk.

5 p.m. — I take our dog for a walk and hang out with some neighborhood friends on their stoop. On the way home, I grab an iced coffee for myself and a hot coffee for my husband from a bodega at the end of our block (it has the cheapest iced coffee around). $3

7 p.m. — We decide to go on a dinner and a movie date night. We walk to Unos, since it is 1. right next to the movie theater, 2. I have a $10 off coupon, 3. I actually find the food delicious, and 4. Their beer is cheap. I get a beer and entrée — steak tips with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes — while my husband gets soup, a burger, and sticks to water. We split the bill and I use my coupon. $22.93

8:45 p.m. — We go to the movie theater. I have movie ticket vouchers that I bought at Costco, so the tickets end up only costing $8, instead of the normal $14. We decide to splurge and split a medium Diet Coke and medium popcorn. We split the charge. $6.95

11:30 p.m. — We walk home and quickly take the dog out before settling in for the night. I am trying to cut down on my alcohol consumption in an attempt to lose five pounds by the end of the year, so I floss and brush my teeth to stop myself from dipping into the open bottle of wine I have in the kitchen.

Daily Total: $37
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Day 4

6 a.m. — Drinking coffee at 5 p.m. was a horrible idea, because I am still awake and I don't think I have been this close to staying awake for 24 hours straight since college. We book a trip to Key West [FL] for next Memorial Day. I don't know if it is the lack of sleep or what, but we decide to go with our dog. We find insanely cheap tickets into Fort Lauderdale [FL] and decide we will drive down to Key West from there. I use TrueBlue points to pay for my flight from NYC to Fort Lauderdale. We put my return flight and my husband's roundtrip flight on our credit card and split the overall charges 50-50. My half is $130.45, but I will use money I have already set aside in my travel savings account to cover it. $130.45

12 p.m. — Get woken up by the dog and take him out into the backyard to play. I book a dog-friendly hotel for the night we get into Fort Lauderdale, since it will be too late to start the drive to Key West. I am able to find a La Quinta hotel that offers a free airport shuttle and does not charge a fee for a pet. With my AAA rate, it is $145 for the night with taxes, but we won't be charged until check out.

1 p.m. — We have to leave shortly to go out to Long Island for my husband's grandfather's birthday dinner, but I am starving, so I snack on two Eggo waffles with whipped cream.

2 p.m. — On the way to where our car is parked, we stop at the bakery and get an apple strudel for his grandfather. We also get two waters for the road and my husband gets a Red Eye with soy milk and a pastry. He insists on paying for everything.

3:30 p.m. — We get to the hibachi restaurant and celebrate grandpa's 80th birthday. This side of my husband's family is huge — even though some people couldn't make it we are still a group of 20. Grandma and grandpa cover the bill for everyone.

6 p.m. — Afterwards, most people go to our aunt's house for cake, but we decide to head back to Queens. since there is already traffic and we will have to find parking. Also, we are definitely starting to feel the effect of staying up until 6 a.m.

9 p.m. — We get home, walk the dog, and watch the new episode of Westworld before bed. We use my stepmom's HBO Go account login. I am going on a girl's trip to Long Island to go to wineries. While watching the show, I get an email that the girl who paid upfront for the Airbnb sent me a Venmo request to pay for my share, which I do. $93.83

Daily Total: $224.28

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Day 5

10 a.m. — I have a dermatologist appointment, so I am going into work late. I check in with the front desk, because my insurance recently changed. Previously, I never had a copay, but with the change, I believe it is now $10. They told me to wait and see if I get a bill in the mail for the copay, since there will not be any sort of late-payment penalty.

11 a.m. — I didn't eat breakfast before my appointment, so on the walk to my office, I stop by Hale & Hearty and get one of their picnic boxes with a small sandwich and some pasta salad. I also get a diet lemon Snapple to drink and a small chicken and vegetable soup to save for later. $12.52

12:30 p.m. — Through Chase QuickPay, one of my friends sends me $190 that she owed me from a girls beach trip back in August. I put the money back into my main savings account, as I used that account to front the costs for the Airbnb, a hotel room for one night in Ocean City [MD], and the rental car. As people pay me back, I am putting the money back into the savings account.

1 p.m. — The dog walker sends me an invoice for 10 walks, which is $130. This is a cost I split with my husband. I have an account that I created just for dog-related costs. I automatically put $80 into the account with every paycheck, so I already have my half set aside. I get my husband's half from him and pay the walker.

2 p.m. — I break into the chicken and vegetable soup I bought earlier and snack on communal fun-sized candy bars that are in our office.

6 p.m. — I get home and would usually go to a 6:30 Zumba class, but am so sleep-deprived from the weekend and hungry, so I head straight home to make dinner. I make roasted butternut squash and Johnsonville beef brats. I snack on Triscuit Thin Crisps with roasted red pepper spread while everything is cooking. My husband isn't hungry, so I throw his food in the fridge for another time.

Daily Total: $12.52

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Day 6

9:45 a.m. — I am finally feeling caught up on sleep after going to bed really early last night. At work, I eat an almond-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a seltzer from home.

1:15 p.m. — I walk over to Cosi to get lunch. My husband's work site is in Long Island City, but today he is in Manhattan for meetings, so he meets me there, but has already eaten. I get the You Pick 2 and get two of their salads, the Shanghai Chicken and Signature Light, with a piece of the multigrain bread. $10.33

5:45 p.m. — As I am walking home from the subway, I pass a new pizzeria that just opened and they are giving out free slices, so I grab one for dinner. Nothing tastes better than free!

6 p.m. — Long story short, last week, I special ordered a sweater from New York & Company, because it was sold out online and at every store I went to. There was a $15-off coupon that I forgot to use, so they said once I got it in the mail, bring it in so I could "return" and "rebuy" the sweater to get the $15 back on my card. I got the sweater in the mail, so I run to the store in my neighborhood. +$15

7 p.m. — My husband and I decide to drive to the Trader Joe's to do a stock-up. We buy: two of their TJ-brand six-packs of beer, two boxes of multigrain Joe-Os, pumpkin cookies, a four-pack of grapefruit seltzer cans, two one-liter bottles of cranberry-lime seltzer, spicy harissa salsa, medium salsa, a can of garbanzo beans, baking walnut pieces, protein-power banana chocolate chip muffins, a frozen butternut squash parmigiana entrée, soy chorizo, pre-cut and seasoned Brussels sprouts, organic baby broccoli, a bag of organic spinach, organic baby carrots, a bag of dill popcorn, a bag of six pre-portioned 120-calorie bags of kettle corn popcorn, 96% fat-free ground beef, pastrami-style smoked nova, a pre-seasoned pork tenderloin, two family-style frozen multigrain roasted vegetable lasagnas, frozen mango chunks, frozen pineapple tidbits, veggie burgers, a jar of capers, spinach and kale yogurt dip, PB&J granola bars, and cage-free eggs. Groceries are a split charge. $58

9:15 p.m. — I walk our dog and finish the open bottle of red wine we have and grab one of the bags of kettle corn. We watch the newest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver before bed.

Daily Total: $68.33
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Day 7

10 a.m. — I eat one of the protein-power banana chocolate chip muffins from TJ's for breakfast.

12:30 p.m. — A friend of mine just started a new job and we are now within walking distance to get lunch together. I have a Groupon worth $20 for a café that is the exact midpoint between our offices. I get half of a BLT sandwich, a side of roasted vegetables, a mini chocolate chunk cookie, a Vitamin Water Zero, a muffin for tomorrow's breakfast, and a granola bar to keep at my office as an emergency snack. I end up owing 58 cents. $0.58

5:30 p.m. — I am hungry as I am leaving work, so I grab an individual bag of white cheddar Cheez-Its from the subway station vendor. $1

6 p.m. — Once back in Astoria, I run into the Dollar Tree and grab the accessories for a costume that I need for an event this weekend. $1.10

6:30 p.m. — I meet up with a friend and we do a Zumba class at the gym. I brought my own water bottle and the class is included in my membership.

8:30 p.m. — After getting home and showering, I don't feel like cooking, so I nosh on snacks around the house. I have some Triscuits with the spinach and kale yogurt dip from TJ's and have half of a PB&J sandwich with a beer.

Daily Total: $2.68
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