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A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $35,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar.
Today: an editor who makes $35,000 USD per year and spends some of her money this week on a bagel and cream cheese.
Occupation: Editor
Industry: Journalism
Age: 22
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $35,000/$54,138 AUD
Net Worth: $3,006.34/$4,649.70 AUD (money in checking and savings and I haven't contributed to a 401(k) yet).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,185.85/$1,832.98 AUD
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000/$1,546 AUD (apartment shared with two roommates).
Utilities: $80/$123 AUD
Wi-Fi: $16/$24 AUD
New York Times: $1.57/$2.43 AUD
Apple: $1/$1.55 AUD
Cell Phone: $0 (covered by parents' family plan).
Streaming Services: $0 (use parents' accounts).
Health/Dental Insurance: $0 (on my dad's plan).
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?
Yes. Education is very important in my family; both of my parents hold multiple degrees and always encouraged me to pursue my interests. I got pretty good grades and I liked school for the most part so it was a given that I would attend university. My parents paid for almost all of my tuition, which was about $25,000 CAD ($28,651 AUD, I grew up and went to college in Canada). I paid a small amount and also received some scholarship money, totalling around $2,500 CAD ($2,865 AUD). Housing was a mess due to COVID (dorms shut down, I moved home, then back, then home again) but my parents paid for roughly half my rent and let me live at home for free.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money wasn't talked about much in my house growing up. I was always a saver, which my parents encouraged. They opened up a bank account for me when I was around 12 years old. When I was in my late teens, I started asking questions about finances: What sort of savings account I should have, how much I should have in it, how mortgages work etc. Whenever I have questions about money now, my parents are incredibly helpful.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was around 10 years old, I delivered newspapers in my neighbourhood. I thought it would be very grown-up of me to have a job. I also remember really wanting to buy a wooden bow and arrow set (I eventually bought it and was underwhelmed). I did a lot of babysitting throughout middle school and then worked at a grocery store in high school.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. My family was middle-class in an upper-class neighbourhood so although I grew up incredibly fortunate, I don't think I fully realised it at the time. I have three siblings and we lived in a high-cost-of-living area on a single income for a while so I know we were stretched thin, but my parents kept me shielded from any troubles they had.
Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money pretty constantly. I don't feel secure financially and I have underlying fears about all sorts of things. What if I get sick and need to take a week off work? What if my phone or laptop breaks? Will I be able to afford a deposit when I need to move? When can I see my family next?
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I am still not entirely financially independent. My parents pay my phone bill and my health insurance. They also do this very sweet thing where they order my favourite groceries to my apartment as a surprise occasionally. My parents would loan me money if I needed it, which is an incredible privilege and probably one of the main reasons I feel comfortable enough to live so precariously. That being said, it would be a last resort.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My grandmother once gave me $1,250 ($1,933 AUD) as an inheritance.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up and I am out of coffee. It's the weekend so I decide to treat myself to a cup at a café near my apartment. I wear a black dress that I found in a free pile and Doc Marten Oxfords (a graduation gift from my parents). I order a latte for $4.75 ($7.35 AUD). The cashier asks if I'd like it iced. I say yes. He asks what type of milk I want. I say oat, please. He spins the tablet to me and I notice that he's upsold me on two counts; my new total is $6.50 ($10.05 AUD). I don't know why but I tip him a dollar. I walk home feeling swindled and humiliated. $11.25 ($17.40 AUD)
10:15 a.m. — I call my brother who lives overseas. We talk for 45 minutes about our friends, work and movies we've watched recently. I tell him about a bed frame I got for free on a buy nothing Facebook group. He says, “That's gross.”
11 a.m. — I take a shower and get ready to meet a friend at a rugby game. I use an Andalou colour corrector, a Laura Mercier powder, a Too Faced eyeshadow palette and drugstore blush, mascara and concealer.
12:30 p.m. — I take the train to the bus stop. I call my family back home while I wait for the bus. We talk for about 20 minutes and they ask me to come home for a visit this summer. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
1:50 p.m. — I arrive very late to the rugby game. My friend, N., offers me a drink when I get there, then another. After the game, a few of us get a ride back to her house, order a pizza and get ready to go see live music at a bar. I Venmo her for the drinks and the pizza. $20
7:30 p.m. — We take an Uber to the bar. There's no cover and N. used to work at the bar so our drinks are free. We dance for a few hours with a crowd of people who are mainly in their 50s and 60s.
12 a.m. — Before we leave I fill my purse with snacks from an adjoining venue that was hosting a birthday party (Rice Krispies Treats, pretzel sticks and sugar cookies). Some new friends offer me a ride to a bar in a neighbourhood that's closer to my apartment. I promise several people that I'll take an Uber home from there. I take two trains home instead. I eat a Rice Krispies Treat at the subway station. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
1:30 a.m. — I text my friend to let her know I'm home and safe, brush my teeth and do my skincare routine (Innisfree cleanser and hydrator then The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%), then go to bed.
Daily Total: $33 ($50.95 AUD)

Day Two

9 a.m. — I wake up. I am still out of coffee so I go to the bodega and get some espresso grounds. I walk home and make coffee and scrambled eggs on toast with greens, cheese and ketchup. If I had all the money in the world I would still eat this meal. $11.43 ($17.68)
10 a.m. — I write the last page in my journal and start on a new one (a nice notebook I found in a free pile). I take a shower and get ready to go out.
10:37 a.m. — I text N. and ask her how much I owe her for the Uber. She doesn't respond, even though the Uber was expensive. N. and I work together and she knows I don't make a lot of money. I worry that she feels uncomfortable accepting payment from me.
12 p.m. — I pack a lunch for myself (cheese, crackers, trail mix and another Rice Krispies Treat), a picnic blanket, a book, a water bottle and sunscreen, and I walk to the park. I sit under a big, leafy tree. I call my dad and we talk for close to an hour. Then I finish reading my library book (Lolita), eat and write some more. After about five hours, I have to pee very badly so I take the train home. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
6:30 p.m. — I return home and make Alfredo pasta with broccoli and spinach. It tastes like nothing and is slightly congealed. I clean up my room and the kitchen. I start a new book, James Baldwin: The Last Interview and Other Conversations (found in the same free pile as the notebook).
9 p.m. — I go for a walk and smoke a little bit of a joint. I come home, do my skincare, light some candles and watch the movie Persona before going to sleep. A very lovely and perfect evening.
Daily Total: $14.18 ($21.94)

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up then make a cup of coffee and toast with cheese and jam. I take a shower and pack a lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and trail mix. I check my emails before getting ready for work.
9:45 a.m. — I take the train and then the bus to my office. I read my book on the bus. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
11 a.m. — I talk to my coworkers about their weekends and meet a new intern. I write many emails. I lay out some stories for print, edit some and upload some to our website.
4 p.m. — I finish my book on the bus ride home. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
5 p.m. — I arrive home, pet my roommate's cat and make some Trader Joe's noodles. It's my brother's birthday so I order him a weird T-shirt that I think he'll like. $29.98 ($46.37 AUD)
7:20 p.m. — I take the train to Trader Joe's to buy groceries (reader, do not go to Trader Joe's at this hour). I listen to a podcast about making friends as an adult. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
8 p.m. — I buy bananas, oat milk, tofu, trail mix, yoghurt, cereal, an avocado and eggs. The very friendly cashier packs my eggs sideways in my handbag. I walk to the train station with incredible shoulder movement restraint. $21.52 ($33.30 AUD)
8:10 p.m. — I wait for the train at the wrong platform for 10 minutes before noticing. When I find the right platform, the train is delayed 20 minutes. To make up for lost time, apparently, the train skips several stops in a row. The woman beside me says “stop” out loud to the train. I get off a stop early and walk 15 minutes home to my apartment. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
9:30 p.m. — I had ambitions for a salad but I am hungry and tired so I opt for raisin bran cereal with a banana.
11 p.m. — I do my skincare, brush my teeth, then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $62.50 ($96.68 AUD)

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up, make coffee and eat scrambled eggs on toast.
9 a.m. — I shower and get ready for work. I pack myself yoghurt, granola, peanut butter and a banana for lunch.
9:45 a.m. — I take the train to the bus stop. A woman sitting across from me is singing and clapping. I put on my noise-cancelling headphones (a luxury) and start reading a new book, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (free pile). $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
11 a.m. — At work, I do more of the same: editing, writing emails and teaching interns how to use InDesign and WordPress. I talk to N. and get her to tell me how much money I owe her (she says $10, I say $20) and I Venmo her. $15 ($23.20 AUD)
4 p.m. — There's traffic during my bus ride so it takes an hour and twenty minutes to get home. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
6 p.m. — I make a salad with fried tofu in soy sauce, spring greens, orange pepper and sweet vinaigrette. I get an annoying text about work and have to write more emails.
7 p.m. — I go for a run. I come home, shower and change into pyjamas.
9 p.m. — I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and write in my journal. I go to bed at around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $20.50 ($31.71)

Day Five

8 a.m. — I wake up, then make coffee and raisin bran with banana and oat milk. I get ready for work.
9 a.m. — I am out of toilet paper so I walk to the bodega by my apartment and buy some. $4.15 ($6.41 AUD)
9:30 a.m. — I pack myself a banana and trail mix and leave for the day. I wave at a baby on the train and the baby smiles at me.
10:30 a.m. — I edit, layout and upload stories.
3:30 p.m. — I have to leave work early to go to an appointment at the bank. I take the bus. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
4 p.m. — I arrive on time for my appointment but the bank seems to be in some sort of small crisis so I have to wait an hour before seeing a representative. I edit stories and write emails on my phone while I wait.
5 p.m. — I speak to a kind and lovely banker for 30 minutes and she informs me that I cannot open a bank account with my current paperwork. My sublet agreement is not considered valid proof of address (understandable, seeing as it is a screenshot sent over iMessage with two literal scribbles at the bottom) and my pay stubs still have my old address on them. For context, I moved to New York from Canada three months ago and I moved apartments two weeks ago. The monthly rent at my previous sublet increased by $200 and I could no longer afford it. The banker seems very concerned about my situation. I tell her it was nice to meet her before I leave; she tells me to be safe.
6 p.m. — I take the train home. I make the same salad as yesterday but substitute avocado for cheese. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
7 p.m. — I spend a long time chatting with Adobe customer support while trying to cancel a subscription. I work on writing a story. I look through my credit card transactions and start to feel deeply and thoroughly anxious. Moving cost more than I anticipated and I won't put much, if any money towards savings this month. I likely won't be able to go home this summer to see my family, which means I will go two years without seeing my brother.
9 p.m. — I take a shower. I have a very small, self-pitying cry before I go to sleep. I wake up once because I am too cold and once because I am too hot.
Daily Total: $9.65 ($14.92)

Day Six

7 a.m. — I wake up, make coffee and eat cereal with a banana.
7:30 a.m. — I get ready for work. I don't have time to make lunch so I pack a banana in my bag.
8 a.m. — A man picks his nose on my subway car. I listen to a podcast about intergenerational trauma. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
9 a.m. — Thursdays are busy and there are a thousand things to do before our print deadline.
12:30 p.m. — I go to the bagel store by my office. I get a poppy seed bagel toasted with cream cheese, then go back to work. $3.50 ($5.41 AUD)
5 p.m. — My coworker and I have to cover an event. He drives me from the office to the venue. When we get there, we're told the event has been cancelled. He offers to drive me home and I ask if he could drop me at the bus stop. He's my age and generationally wealthy. On the drive to the bus stop, he tells me earnestly that he feels bad for people who have to take public transit.
5:30 p.m. — I take the bus, then the train home. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
7 p.m. — I write in my journal and pet my roommate's cat. I begin to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but my bread is moldy. Then I try to make noodles but my roommate is using our only pot. I settle for yoghurt, granola and trail mix.
8 p.m. — I watch a few episodes of a docuseries. I have to interview one of the directors for an article tomorrow. Then I get ready for bed and go to sleep at around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $9 ($13.92 AUD)

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up. I make coffee and scrambled eggs with avocado and ketchup (I am running low on groceries).
9:30 a.m. — Rain is forecast for the next eight days and I lost my umbrella during my move. I go to the 99-cent store by the subway station and buy a new one. $4.99 ($7.73 AUD)
10:10 a.m. — I get off the train and wait for the bus in the rain. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
11 a.m. — At work, I chat with my coworkers, schedule social media posts, prepare for my interview, write emails and plan the layout for a new project.
2:15 p.m. — I meet with the director at a café near my office. Their drinks are expensive so I buy a croissant. It's clear that she is very wealthy. She talks about making art and doing what you love, even if you have to work three jobs to make it work. She says it like it's inspirational, not depressing. $2 ($3.09 AUD)
3:15 p.m. — Back to work. I write the bulk of the article and plan for next week with our designer.
5:45 p.m. — I call my mum while I wait for the bus. We talk for 10 minutes but the background noise makes it difficult for us both to hear each other so we hang up. I listen to music on the way home. $2.75 ($4.25 AUD)
6:45 p.m. — I take out my garbage and recycling when I get home. My roommate invites me to dinner at a fancy-sounding place in Soho with some of her friends. I tell her thank you but I have other plans.
7 p.m. — I have a FaceTime date with my best friend from home. I make noodles with a poached egg while we talk. I go for a walk and show her my neighbourhood, and also a rat. We talk for an hour and 12 minutes, then my phone dies.
8:30 p.m. — I take a shower and get into bed. I text some friends and family members for a while before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $12.49 ($19.29 AUD)
All prices below appear in US dollars.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions.
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