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Today: a designer who makes $102,900 per year and spends some of her money this week on art supplies.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Net Worth: ~$168,000 (inclusive of retirement, investment, checking, and saving accounts; no debt, loans, or mortgage.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,330
Rent: $2,200 (I live by myself in a studio.)
Wi-Fi: $0 (normally $40, but my company is expensing Wi-Fi during mandatory WFH)
Phone: $0 (I only have a company phone)
Electricity: ~$80 (my apartment runs on electricity for everything)
Equinox and ClassPass Memberships: $0 (both currently frozen due to COVID-19)
Health Insurance: $0 (covered by employer)
Spotify Premium: $9
New York Times: $4
New York Magazine: $5
NPR Coffee Club: $16.15
iCloud Storage: $1
Savings: $0 (I recently switched to frontloading investment contributions after previously contributing ~$950/month)
401(k): ~$1,200 ($600/paycheck, but almost maxed out for the year)
Roth IRA: Max out every January
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
My parents are immigrants who came to the U.S. for their master's degrees, so there was not only an expectation growing up to attend higher education, but to get into a top university. I initially went to a mid-tier, in-state public school but transferred after a year to a top ten, out-of-state private school due to self-inflicted pressure and shame. My parents paid for my education in full. I tried to lessen my burden on them by stacking my high school schedules with AP and honors classes, taking summer classes, and graduating early.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't talk about money and I had to do a lot of self-education as I got older. By the time I was in middle school, my parents had clawed their way up to being comfortably upper middle class, but there was always this immigrant-scarcity mindset looming over us — my parents definitely struggled when they first immigrated and did a lot of manual labor jobs to get by. I definitely inherited my mom's frugality.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job with a W-2 was as a server at a Taiwanese fast-casual restaurant in my university town. I wanted spending money and didn't feel comfortable asking my parents for it. Before that, I had done various miscellaneous jobs, like helping senior neighbors with paperwork and driving kids to summer camp.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, though I do remember my mom crying in 2007 when the stock market crashed. She said she lost what she and my dad had been saving for my brother and my college funds. I didn't understand investing at the time, but I felt her fear.
Do you worry about money now?
No, I feel quite stable and that I'm living within my means.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Around 21 or 22 after graduating college. I try to be as self-sufficient as possible now, so I'm off the family phone plan and on my own health insurance. However, I do know my parents would help me out or let me move back home if things went awry.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
8:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling extremely not well-rested. I spiraled a bit last night and then stayed up way too late looking at out-of-stock European road bikes and I'm still feeling emotionally low. It's pandemic fatigue, being worked to the bone, and physical injury compounding. My wrist has been bothering me a lot so I try to hype my non-runner self up to go for a run and take time off from cycling and lifting. I change into an Outdoor Voices set, but end up cleaning my kitchen to procrastinate.
10:30 a.m. — My boyfriend texts me asking if I want to run, so now I have no excuse. I jog over to meet him. We do a mile and a half but then my calf starts acting up. I get frustrated and cry on the field as we take a stretch break. I have terrible body image and it's been hard to push cruel self-talk out of my brain when I can't focus on things like strength and endurance due to injury.
11:30 a.m. — We end up doing three miles total. I feel embarrassed about crying (I've been crying a lot lately) and ask if he wants to get coffee. We walk up through Brooklyn and stop at a bakery. I get myself a cortado and a slice of honey pear loaf and my boyfriend an espresso and a raspberry danish. $18.90
12:30 p.m. — We sit on an empty bench by the water and share our pastries. He coaxes me to actually talk about what I'm feeling and the floodgates open again. I tell him how I feel lonely and disconnected from most people and like a loser for how the only parts I like and am proud of about myself are closely intertwined with job performance.
2 p.m. — He walks with me to the art supply store. He's been encouraging me to paint again and I've been making excuses. I pick up brushes, pencils, canvas, a palette, and five tubes of acrylic paint. $81.08
3:30 p.m. — I'm hungry. We quickly stop at the grocery store and I pick up a loaf of French bread and a delicata squash ($5.05). We part ways and I speed-walk home in my weather-inappropriate crop top and leggings. I make and inhale avocado toast and leftover chicken breast and then take a long hot shower. $5.05
5 p.m. — I help format a PowerPoint for my mom, which ends up taking a lot longer than I expected. This is a woman with a master's degree and she centers text by pressing the space bar a trillion times. I snack on bread with hummus and apple drizzled with honey while I work.
7 p.m. — I email the PowerPoint back to her and then make bacon-wrapped asparagus for dinner to catch up on my veggie intake. I do good on promises I made my boyfriend earlier today, nabbing an appointment to get my wrist checked out and emailing a therapist to set up an intro session. I have apple sauce for dessert.
10:30 p.m. — Hungry again while scrolling through beautiful but expensive cookware on Food52 and Williams-Sonoma, so I make some avocado toast. My wrist is now hurting while doing everyday menial tasks like lifting a laptop or holding a phone. Sigh. I go to bed around 12:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $105.03
8:30 a.m. — Wake up fatigued again. I take my time getting ready and feel okay taking today as a partial sick day for my doctor's appointment since I had to work late hours last week and some on Saturday, too.
11:40 a.m. — Make avocado toast and hojicha for brunch before my teammates in California wake up and the meetings start. My diet is normally not this homogenous but my fridge situation is pretty barren right now — I'll stop by Trader Joe's after my doctor's appointment in Manhattan.
12 p.m. — It's 9 a.m. in California, so here comes the meeting marathon. The first meeting is with my immediate design team — a couple of people are on leave or will be going on leave due to COVID-19 and our coverage is going to be super sparse, so some of us will have to absorb some of the workload in their absence. Then meetings with my immediate product team, figuring out short-term priorities and trying to carve out time for road mapping and sprint planning.
2 p.m. — I have some apple sauce and then step out for my doctor's appointment. I'm taking the train for the first time since the pandemic started and I'm relieved people are masked up and leaving seats open to keep distance. I have to buy and load a new MetroCard since the one in my wallet is expired. $6.50
3:20 p.m. — I officially have De Quervain's tenosynovitis. The doctor pours a numbing agent on my wrist and gives me a corticosteroid injection. I pay the copay ($10) and hit Trader Joe's. $10
4 p.m. — I haven't been to a TJ's since moving to New York and I'm sticker shocked: the lemon chicken and arugula salad I adore is a full dollar more expensive than it is in San Francisco so I pass. Since I need to take the train home and my left hand is pretty much out of commission, I'm selective about what I buy and mostly load up on fun snacks I can't get at the grocery stores close to me. I get pumpkin bread mix, almond milk, toscano soaked in syrah, crisps to pair, firm tofu, baby broccoli, Brussels sprouts, some festive pumpkin sandwich cookies, Speculoos cookies, two suspiciously cheap Ritter Sport chocolate bars, and some dried flowers to make an arrangement. $47.60
4:40 p.m. — I lug the haul home and immediately have to dive back into meetings. I try the pumpkin sandwich cookies and they're a bit sugary for me. I'll still eat the whole box in no time, though.
6:45 p.m. — I'm done with meetings. I have to work late tonight so I break to make a proper dinner. I remake a delicious Blue Apron recipe with chicken, delicata squash, and Brooklyn Delhi's tomato achaar, and put half away for tomorrow's lunch. As I cook, I spar with a good friend over text who has been not so responsible during this pandemic — traveling every few weeks around the country and hanging out with a bunch of different people regularly. She's finally coming back to New York this weekend, but wants to throw a Halloween party — WTF?! She says it'll be fine if everyone gets COVID tests, but I think it's dumb and doesn't take into account false negatives. Ugh.
7:50 p.m. — I have dried mango and chocolate for dessert and try to get back in the working mindset. I respond to a jewelry brand that wants me to do another promotional post for them. I'm not an influencer by any means, but I'll take free jewelry any day. I also get back to the therapist I emailed last night to continue the booking process.
10:05 p.m. — I've reached a good stopping point and will get feedback from my team tomorrow. I see my Wi-Fi got billed today, so I submit an expense report for it. Afterward, time to vegetate! I have some speculoos and chocolate as a late night snack, and don't end up sleeping until past 1:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $64.10
8:45 a.m. — Staying up and consequently sleeping in a lot later than normal this week. My wrist is noticeably better and I'm hopeful that I can get back into my normal routine by end of week. I check and respond to work stuff from bed (bad) and get ready and listen to my daily NPR after a bit. I procrastinate work by unloading my dishwasher (glorified drying rack), taking out trash and recycling, and organizing storage drawers.
10:25 a.m. — Back at the "desk," aka my dining table that's two feet from my bed in my shoebox studio. Two orders I put in for stocks go through. I'm trying to course-correct after dumping a lot of money into a HYSA with diminishing APY for most of the year and build up my investments now to match.
11:30 a.m. — I book a morning time slot at a wine bar to work with two coworker-friends tomorrow ($16.25). The place is normally open for dinner only, but they've been opening up their space for the WFH crowd during the day. I miss working from cafes (we all have our quarantine vices) but I want to be cognizant of taking up seating during a time when business is tough for everyone. This feels a bit better since it's an intentional move by the restaurant. In the meantime, I brew some chai at home. $16.25
12:45 p.m. — Sitting through video calls and my brain is foggy. I get an email saying a survey I took last week earned me approximately $1.50. Rad. I brew more chai and dip some Speculoos cookies in them.
2 p.m. — I reheat the other half of last night's butter chicken and squash on the stove and have it and some apple sauce for a real lunch. I only have one pan and no microwave, which is incredibly inconvenient sometimes — what should just be zapping food for a minute becomes an ordeal with extra dishwashing.
3 p.m. — I'm so lethargic that I contemplate taking a nap during a meeting break. Instead, I eat a few pieces of dried mango in hopes of a sugar rush and then head to my apartment gym to try to do a banded leg workout without impacting my wrist. I do a few lackluster squats before I get pinged to jump on an impromptu call, so I decide it was not meant to be and scurry back to my desk.
6 p.m. — Done with meetings and my to-do list is replenished. I was planning to go for a run but I am not feeling it — the sun is already setting. I'm hoping my wrist gets fully better by tomorrow so I can get back on my bike. I eat a weird dinner of boiled Korean fish cake, oven roasted asparagus, broccolini, shishito peppers, and some dried mango.
9 p.m. — I eat some chocolate while watching Better Call Saul. I'm super tired and go to bed early.
Daily Total: $16.25
7:25 a.m. — Up early. I get ready and then bike over (my wrist is feeling a lot better, phew!) to the wine bar to meet with coworker-friends for an outdoor catch-up and working session. The tables are well spaced out and not many other people are here, so I feel pretty okay about the situation. There's unlimited coffee with the work pass and I drink way too much. I'm super productive, shredding through my to-do list and coming up with fast follow design proposals in response to user research — the change in scenery definitely helps!
1:50 p.m. — I'm the last one standing and the hunger is hitting. They aren't serving food, so I pack up and start biking home to make myself a late lunch.
2:15 p.m. — As I'm biking home I change my mind. I stop by a favorite bagel spot to get an everything bagel toasted with cream cheese and a hero sandwich to drop off for my boyfriend ($16.41). He invites me up to eat, so we take a late lunch break. $16.41
3:30 p.m. — Home and showered and ready to dive back into work. I have two pumpkin Joe-Joe's from my TJ's haul before a working session with a new designer on my team.
6:50 p.m. — DONE. WITH. MEETINGS. I cook the same chicken and squash I made on Monday and again save half of it for tomorrow's lunch.
7:45 p.m. — I settle in for more binge-watching of Better Call Saul and do some more surveys for literal pennies. I make some chai with a splash of almond milk and pair it with speculoos for dessert. I fall asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $16.41
7:05 a.m. — Up early again — or perhaps I'm easing back into my normal sleep schedule. I check my schedule and I have back-to-back meetings from noon until 6 p.m. Ugh. It's super foggy out but I decide to go for a morning ride. I have a feeling I'll regret it if I don't.
8:45 a.m. — I bike laps around Highland Park for the first time. I normally just circle Prospect Park, Central Park, or along the outline of Manhattan. The fall colors and the fog over the cemeteries are beautiful, and I'm so happy I went on a ride and explored.
10 a.m. — Back at my apartment. Legs are jello. I check Strava and realize I'm ranked first on their platform for a segment! All on my single-speed! I relish in a hot shower and then get ready while listening to NPR.
10:50 a.m. — I check my personal email. I'm in a scheduling back-and-forth with the therapy office. The only slots for the therapist I felt would be a good fit are smack in the middle of the workday, and I feel like it'll be really rough to context-switch from therapy (where there's a high chance of tears) to daily product development syncs. They recommend another therapist on their staff with more availability, but I feel like I need to do more research again. Therapy would be super beneficial for me, but the logistical overhead and finding a match can be so exhausting.
11:20 a.m. — I have some cold brew with almond milk and accidentally chug it. Whoops. Fingers crossed for the caffeine to hit. I get an email that I was approved for a research study, which should net me about $150. Sure beats filling out online surveys.
2:15 p.m. — So many meetings and messages. I reheat my chicken and squash during a more casual team crit session and scarf down two pumpkin Joe-Joe's cookies.
4:15 p.m. — Mind is mush. I skip out on a meeting I don't need to talk in and eat some apple sauce, crackers, and cheese.
6:15 p.m. — I roast broccolini and asparagus in the oven for dinner and fire up Better Call Saul. More cheese and crackers and dried mango.
9 p.m. — More anxiety snacking on cheese and crackers as I tune into the presidential debate.
10:40 p.m. — Holy crap. I made it through. I go downstairs and collect a package from the FSA Store — I overshot my budget and have been using the excess on things like sunscreen. I also got a wrist brace, though I feel like my wrist is pretty much back to normal. I feel totally drained and fall asleep around 11:30 p.m. after putting on my brace.
Daily Total: $0
8:25 a.m. — I wake up exhausted. Morning ride is not happening. I doomscroll for a bit, reading through news coverage and Twitter commentary on last night's debate, and then get ready to NPR again.
10:15 a.m. — I cash out on some of the online surveys I did this week, which is a total of $7.09 after the exchange rate. I add that amount to my monthly coffee budget in my budget spreadsheet.
11:45 a.m. — I resist pulling on a hoodie and instead wear a nicer top and jewelry to feel like a human this morning. I brew hojicha and put on classical piano.
12:45 p.m. — Turn my camera off during a meeting to eat dried mango for lunch.
2:30 p.m. — Turn my camera off during a meeting to eat two pumpkin Joe-Joe's cookies.
4:30 p.m. — Feel a bit delirious so I have some cheese and crackers. Continue working. I'm trying to close a bunch of loose ends before the weekend.
6 p.m. — I pack up toiletries and walk over to meet my boyfriend at the park, where he is running laps. (I flatly declined this time around.) We walk to a food truck and he orders a torta, quesadilla, and chips and guac for us to share for dinner. We also stop by a natural wine shop and I pick up a bottle to go with dinner. $27.21
7:30 p.m. — The food is...bad. Everything is either too soggy or completely dry. Oh well. It was just the one dude in the truck and he was probably working alone for the whole day and completely over it by the time we showed up.
8:20 p.m. — We watch the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix — it's pastry week. We end up having sex and have to rewind most of the episode.
9:45 p.m. — In the Bake Off spirit, we make pumpkin bread with the mix I bought at Trader Joe's earlier this week. It smells divine and we try some when it finally finishes around 11 p.m. before going to bed.
Daily Total: $27.21
7:30 a.m. — Groggily awake for a few moments before going back to sleep.
9:40 a.m. — Ah shit. We overslept. We're volunteering in the neighborhood this morning and we're supposed to get there at 10. We hastily get ready and hustle on over. I look absolutely deranged in a big hoodie, my boyfriend's gym shorts rolled aggressively at the waist to stay up, and ankle boots.
11:40 a.m. — Done with volunteering! We stop by a bodega so my boyfriend can get a bacon, egg, and cheese. We also get coffee. Sometimes bodega sludge is exactly what you need to jolt yourself awake. He pays. Once back, my boyfriend showers and I get ready properly.
1:40 p.m. — I pack a slice of pumpkin bread for the road and we take the train into Manhattan. (I load $11 onto my MetroCard.) It's my boyfriend's first time taking the train since March, and we agree how weird it is to be able to walk around Manhattan in normal clothes and not lycra and bib shorts. My boyfriend is considering buying a car, so we're hitting all the dealerships in Hell's Kitchen today. $11
5:20 p.m. — We walk all the way from Hell's Kitchen to the southern edge of West Village. Some of the tree-lined residential side streets are absolutely stunning right now with all the changing colors and we daydream about owning a townhouse in Manhattan. We decide to do an impromptu date night, so we stop by Lelabar for happy hour glasses of wine before heading to Houseman for dinner. We share an endive salad, steak frites, and a chicken and tomato dish. I also have the most insanely good spiced cider and another glass of wine. I am thoroughly smashed by the end of dinner — I haven't drunk this much in ages. My boyfriend pays.
8 p.m. — We take the train back to Brooklyn. We stop at Levain for something sweet. My boyfriend orders a cookie and a brioche roll and I pay. $7
9:45 p.m. — We share the Levain cookie and brioche roll after getting distracted at home. My boyfriend is bizarrely still hungry, so he makes himself a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. We get ready for bed, sleepily watch an episode of Better Call Saul, and fall asleep halfway through.
Daily Total: $18
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