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A Week In Brooklyn On A $43,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

This week: an assistant publicist who makes $43,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bag of Swedish candy.
Occupation: Assistant publicist
Industry: Book publishing
Age: 23
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $43,000
Assets: Checking: $910.04; saving: $11,693.69; stocks: $11,176.05
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,385.77
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: I pay $1,500 for my half of my $3,790 apartment. I’m very, very lucky to live with my best friend of 15 years, and I’m very grateful to her parents who pay a majority of our rent. I truly feel that they are my second parents and would not be able to live in such a nice area without them. We have lived in this apartment since last May and I will be moving into a different apartment this May with two other people in order to make rent cheaper, as my current rent is completely unsustainable. My mother sends me $500 a month that goes to my rent (so technically I pay $1,000 for my apartment).
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Electric Bill: ~$60 (My roommate, M., pays the gas and wifi bill, it sort of evens out and we get too confused to be reminding and subtracting; in the summer when the electric bill goes up we do split it evenly.)
ClassPass: $89
Savings: $250
Health Insurance: $0 (I am still on my parents’ insurance.)
Cell Phone: $0 (I am on my parents’ phone bill.)
Spotify, Netflix, Hulu: $0 (I use my mom’s accounts.)
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?
It was not a question that I would attend college, and there was large pressure for me to do well enough in high school to get scholarships. My mother is a doctor and my dad has his master’s, so there is still some expectation that I might attend grad school at some point — though it’s been made extremely clear that if I do it’s on my own dime. I attended an extremely expensive private college here in New York (not NYU, but NYU-adjacent) for my BA, but was lucky enough to have 75% of my tuition paid for by a combination of scholarships and grants. My parents were kind enough to pay the rest. I majored in literature studies and minored in journalism, so it was unclear if this was even a good idea, but I was passionate about it, and landed a job in my dream industry within three months of graduation.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Until the recession, I was raised in a two-income household, with my mom making a majority of the money as a hospitalist, and my dad being a teacher. When my dad lost his job in the recession there were discussions about how we would have to cut back, but it didn’t majorly affect our lifestyle. My parents are not big vacationers, except to visit family once a year. We still have never been on a major family trip with the three of us. In a strange way, I never thought of us as being well-off because I went to an all-girls’ private school and understood that we were not wealthy at all compared to my peers. My parents definitely lived within their means, and money was just an addition to our life, not a detriment. My parents work extremely hard, with my mom working seven days consecutively, and when I was a kid, she would work 21 days consecutively, to have seven days off. My mom took me to open my first bank account when I was in middle school and stressed the importance of saving.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job when I was 16, at a frozen yogurt chain. By the time I was 16 my parents were not giving me pocket money for trips to the mall and such, and I realized that I, unfortunately, am pretty materialistic, and I like to buy myself things that I like. My parents have always encouraged me to work, and when I was 16 it was pretty much expected that I would have an after-school job. I made $7.25 an hour and worked three days a week. It was a terrible job, lots of moldy frozen yogurt. I hated it so much but working there has always set me up for how I behave as an adult. I truly, truly believe that everyone should have to work in the service industry at some point in their life. There have only been short periods of time in my life where I didn’t have a job — I worked as a bartender throughout college, and even worked service industry jobs during COVID-19.
Did you worry about money growing up?
My family definitely did not worry about money, but there was always a limit. We never upgraded our phones until they were broken beyond repair, all of us drove Hondas until they died, and buying clothes was not a regular weekend activity. However, if we needed a new phone, or the car broke, we could afford to fix it, and if there were holes in my socks of course I could have new ones. My parents are extremely practical: They did not buy shiny new things often, if ever, but we were always able to live without financial threat.
Do you worry about money now?
I think about money dramatically often. Mostly, I just want to be informed about my finances. I took a women-centered economics class online that really shaped my outlook on personal finance, and I try to trust the process and not just hoard my money in my savings account, but it’s hard, and, frankly, I’m 23 and like to party. I get really bad post-purchase regret, so I rarely buy myself new clothes, but for some reason my card falls out of my wallet and onto the tap-and-pay as soon as I want food or drinks. I know I need to open a Roth IRA in the next year, and it stresses me out that I don’t have one already. I also stress about the fact that I want to leave my job in the near future and try to go traveling full time, or move to a different country. I see a lot of uncertainty in the next few years and I need to be able to support myself. So yes, I worry about money almost constantly.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I am still not fully financially responsible for myself as my mom still helps me with $500 of my rent, and I occasionally put a drunk Uber or a hungover Uber Eats on her card. I know a lot of people in NYC who claim to be financially responsible for themselves but still use their parents’ Amazon, and I think that’s shitty. I will not be financially responsible until I am completely removed from my parents’ finances, i.e. also off their insurance, et cetera. I know that if I lost my job at any point, my parents could help me pay rent for at least a little while while I figured out what to do, and that’s such a massive, gigantic, mind-boggling privilege in this pricey-ass city. If that happened they would immediately expect me to get a bartending job again and at least contribute, I don’t think they would help at all if I treated it as free rent. I’ve been reasonably financially responsible for myself since I was a teenager if you consider that anything that wasn’t a necessity, was my responsibility to pay for. Even in high school I bought my own shampoo and did my own groceries occasionally. My parents owned the car, I paid for the gas, that kind of thing.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I was 19, my grandfather, who’s extremely literate with the stock market, helped me invest $10,000 into stocks. He helped me get set up with his broker, who occasionally calls me and talks to me about how my stocks are doing. I make all of the decisions on what happens with my stocks and nobody else is involved, and I cannot pull any of the money I’ve made until I’m 29. So I know at least when I’m 29 that I will have somewhat of a safety net, but for now, I literally cannot touch the money and it grows passively.

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up and it’s freezing in my room because it was hot last night and it’s now 36 degrees outside, so sleeping with the fan on was a bad idea. I wash my face with Cetaphil, use my Lineage toner (sample size, but I LOVE it so far, a gift from Christmas), and slather myself in Aveeno SPF35 moisturizer. I do my makeup and get dressed quickly (again, freezing, and this house is barely insulated, if you could call it that). I don’t eat breakfast before work because it makes me nauseous, so I grab a think! protein bar and throw it in my bag.
9:10 a.m. — I am out of the house in less than an hour, and swiped in for my first of two trains at 9:10 a.m. $2.90
9:45 a.m. — I buy a mango passionfruit Celsius at the CVS next to my work. I’ve been meaning to do a bulk buy but at this point CVS is so easy and still cheaper than a cappuccino, which is what I actually want. $3.31
1:45 p.m. — I work steadily throughout the morning and eat my protein bar. Mondays are normally super busy but my bosses are out of town right now so it’s a casual day. I book a few author events and a few onto some podcasts, tie up loose ends from the weekend (I am very strict about working 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). My everyday lunch is soup and a piece of bread or a deli salad. Today they have cream of mushroom, which is my favorite. $7.38
2:34 p.m. — Back at my desk, got a review in The Washington Post, my author’s interview on NPR’s Here and Now aired… Lots of research on wine podcasts today, which makes me want a glass of pinot when I get home, but I’m trying not to drink on weekdays, and I have a 7 a.m. barre class tomorrow anyway.
3:25 p.m. — Today is podcast pitching day which is my least favorite, especially for our current lineup, which is a lot of political books. During my search I see a podcast that I know my ex used to listen to; it reminds me that I have to pick up the rest of my stuff from him tomorrow after work. I draft a podcast pitch, get it approved, and start sending it to various podcasts I find on Spotify. I organize an op-ed with a food and wine magazine that will print in May, and send on the instructions to the author.
6:01 p.m. — I leave work and swipe into the subway, it’s still freezing. I’m listening to the Conspiracy Theories podcast on the Silk Road drug trade; two trains home. $2.90
6:45 p.m. — I eat leftover green beans and half a box of Goodles for dinner. For dessert I eat raspberries that were about to go bad and a few thin mints. I have a barre class through ClassPass tomorrow morning so I try and get in a lot of protein. I’m not a great cook but I try to eat lots of veggies. I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with my roommate and her boyfriend.
10:47 — End the night with a cup of Sleepytime Lavender tea and a few more thin mints, in bed reading an advance copy of a book I got for free through NetGalley.
Daily Total: $16.49

Day Two

6:25 a.m. — If you thought I could get ready fast yesterday, I’m out the door by 6:40 a.m. for my 7 a.m. workout class, which is a four-minute walk away.
8:04 a.m. — Walking home, I’ve decided not to shower this morning. I have a banana, double cleanse my face and do my hair and makeup, get dressed and throw a protein bar in my bag. I watch a little Seinfeld while I get ready and have literally three bites of Goodles before I have to run out the door.
9:09 a.m. — Swipe into subway. $2.90
9:41 a.m. — All my trains lined up perfectly this morning so I get to work in 30 minutes. Grab a Celsius from CVS and then sit outside in the sun on the riverfront for 20 minutes until I have to go inside. $3.31
1:42 p.m. — Deli salad for lunch today, the soups all had meat except lentil which is my least favorite. The guy behind the counter was cutting his nails. I validate my lunch purchase because if I wanted a salad from Sweetgreen it would be $17 so I’m actually saving money. I don’t know why I don’t bring salads from home. $11.92
2:17 p.m. — Took a walk to Dumbo Park and watched the merry-go-round. My ClassPass renewed for $89 even though I thought it wouldn’t until next week. Fml. $89
3:47 p.m. — Dread is rising thinking about how I’m going to bring my ex his things back after work. I’m also not in the mood to go home and then have to get back on the train to Bushwick and then back.
6:09 p.m. — Train swipe. $2.90
6:45 p.m. — Train swipe, carrying a duffle bag of my ex’s crap. $2.90
7:30 p.m. — I leave my ex’s. I’m tempted to get a crab slice from Artichoke Basille’s Pizza (my fav), but it reminds me of all the times we went there together, and that makes me sad, so I run past it before I start crying. Train swipe, this time carrying a duffle bag of all my own crap. $2.90
8:20 p.m. — I make a dinner of tabouli, egg whites, spinach, and toast topped with chili crunch. Watch Time Bandits with my roommate as part of a project where we watch movies depending on the decade. We are doing 80s movies this month.
11:06 p.m. — Showered and in bed with a cup of tea and a few thin mints. I cry a little and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $115.83

Day Three

8:34 a.m. — I totally slept in and am now totally late.
9:15 a.m. — Train swipe, in a hurry. $2.90
9:54 a.m. — Grab a Celsius, the process of running into CVS, grabbing it, paying, and leaving, takes me two minutes at this point. I get orange instead of mango passionfruit. $3.31
11 a.m. — Wednesdays are great because I have a document due at 3 p.m. that takes all day to do, so I can just throw myself into it and listen to my music on blast and have no meetings and nobody bothers me.
1:50 p.m. — Deli salad for lunch again. As I was walking into the deli a crackhead threatened to “beat me the fuck up,” which really threw me off so I forgot to ask for egg, which is really annoying. Sit by the water and eat. $11.23
2:55 p.m. — Back at the desk. The document needs to be circulated and I have a huge meeting at 4 p.m., very exciting stuff.
6:02 p.m. — Train swipe to my favorite place. $2.90
6:25 p.m. — Pit stop at Duane Reade for face powder because I’m running out. $7.39
6:34 p.m. — First espresso martini at the bar with my two friends. We each get two martinis and I pay, but they immediately pay me back, so I spend a total of $14.35 on myself. $14.35
8:34 p.m. — Wednesdays are fabulous because my friends and I always go to the same bar for $5 espresso martinis, and it is the one day of the week that I allow myself to get an actual meal outside of the house (ready-to-go soups and deli salads don’t count, in my opinion). On Wednesday nights I eat a seared tuna salad (it has cucumbers and avocado and crunchies and it’s just the best) and drink a $5 espresso martini surrounded by my favorite people. We always go on Wednesdays because a) that’s the day of the $5 martini, and b) everyone is normally free on Wednesday and we all have different commitments on the weekends. At this point it’s not actually even about the cheap drinks, I just love my people and will use any excuse to be around them. $48.95
10:45 p.m. — Second location, which happens to be a block from my first apartment in NYC on 14th Street. It was such a crap box, but I miss it every day. Now I’m crying on 14th Street (classic). We are going here because my best friend R. has a crush on this guy O., and I want to meet his cute friend. I am disastrously single.
11:34 p.m. — I am on the train home with my best friend P., who I love and who is my best friend. $2.90
12:12 a.m. — Showered and in bed, goodnight.
Daily Total: $93.93

Day Four

8:38 a.m. — There is nothing like drinking to make me remember why I hate drinking. I grab a bag of mochi rice nuggets from TJ’s and my protein bar.
9:06 a.m. — Train swipe, hungover edition. $2.90
9:11 a.m. — I’m so puffy from drinking yesterday, my face feels like a swollen balloon. Everyone on this train looks so put together. Last night two of my friends recommended me on Raya, so I apply for Raya on the L train. Thanks P. and C.!
9:41 a.m. — I’m standing like an idiot in front of the drinks section of CVS. I want to get all of my hangover foods (Goldfish, chocolate-covered pretzels, and Coke Zero), but I resist because I don’t want to look crazy at work. In any case I’ll probably have all of them on Sunday anyway since my friend J.’s birthday is on Saturday and I know I’ll party. In any case I have a workout class tonight so now is not the time to eat junk food the way I want to. I get my regular Celsius. $3.31
1:55 p.m. — I’m meeting my very stable and very amazing friend S. for lunch. I worked all morning and am craving sushi, but we get soup instead. I get potato and leek. We sit by the water and eat and catch up. It’s such a beautiful day. $7.78
6:01 p.m. — Train swipe, excited for my Pilates class. $2.90
8:25 p.m. — Out of class, walking home. My limbs feel very loose and I feel a lot better.
8:39 p.m. — I make an egg-white scramble with Boursin and stir-fried kale, plus a few breakfast patties and tabouli in a bowl. I love breakfast-in-a-bowl dinner. I watch Anatomy of a Fall with my roommate, it is reeeeally long.
11:52 p.m. — In bed with a cup of tea, the best feeling ever.
Daily Total: $16.89

Day Five

9:10 — Train swipe. I register for a barre class Saturday at 1 p.m., which costs eight credits, but that’s not real money. $2.90
9:42 a.m. — Off the train, Celsius in hand (found it in the fridge, so I must have bought it and forgotten to drink it). I gave a homeless man my banana so no morning snack today.
1:08 p.m. — I am STARVING so I’m taking an early lunch. No soups look good so I grab a salad and call my mom and sit by the water. They’re filming something in front of me and it feels like I’m in the background as an ugly side character. $11.92
3:54 p.m. — It’s not even 5 p.m. yet and I’m bored and I have to be here until 6 p.m. just sitting in this office chair watching the sun go down and doing nothing. Our office is five days a week in person — our bosses are old school and don’t understand that I can just as easily email people from the comfort of my house. It’s a give and take though, because working here means I get to be a part of projects that are way above my pay grade, but also, they’re way above my pay grade and I’m not getting paid for them. Also: The only two other people who work in publicity here are remote anyway. Very annoying.
5:59 p.m. — Train swipe. F train is not running northbound and I’m trying to get from Dumbo to LES, so I have to take the F backwards one stop to get the C at Jay Street to Fulton Street to get the 4 to Union Square to get the 6 backwards to Broadway-Lafayette. This type of thing always pisses me off, five trains to go what would have been three whole stops on one train. I hate this city sometimes. $2.90
7:37 p.m. — I split a box of wine with my best friend R. and order myself sushi. $31.29
10:14 p.m. — Train swipe to Carousel Bar to meet up with R.’s friends — one of them is very cute. $2.90
11:25 p.m. — I buy two drinks for R. and me. $24.89
1:59 a.m. — Train swipe home. $2.90
2:54 a.m. — In bed.
Daily Total: $79.70

Day Six

9:49 a.m. — Wake up, lie in bed on TikTok, wash my face, do my hair, eat a protein bar in bed and read a book until it’s time for my workout class.
12:49 p.m. — Walk to my workout class.
2:05 p.m. — I run to the grocery store and grab a quick snack of guacamole packets and hummus and some pretzel chips so I can bring them to work next week. I snack on them and a banana and then my roomie gets home. She’s been sleeping at her boyfriend’s apartment because her room is full of ants. $19.09
3:27 p.m. — We decide to spontaneously take a walk to BonBon, the Swedish candy store, where I go way overboard on the sweets. $24.94
4:01 p.m. — We decide to do a taste test of the sweets and picnic at Marsha P. Johnson State Park. We bring blankets and make a TikTok of us trying them, then we have to go home and get ready for J.’s birthday party which is at 7 p.m.
6:35 p.m. — Train swipe to midtown to the bar J. has rented out for the night. $2.90
9:45 p.m. — Have been at this bar for a while; got two drinks which is $30.21 with tax and tip. $30.21
10:01 p.m. — J. puts me in her Uber to The Johnsons, I get me and her three drinks which is $28.95. I have a long chat with my ex’s roommate, and see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a very long time. It feels good. $28.95
12:49 a.m. — Uber to Bossanova. I don’t know the DJ and I’m hammered. My friend W. gets the Uber, I don’t get any drinks but the cover is $15. $15
3:27 a.m. — Uber back to mine. $24.49
4:02 a.m. — My roommate is sleeping in my bed, I crawl in next to her.
Daily Total: $145.58

Day Seven

10:45 a.m. — Wake up, hungover. I chug my water bottle like my life depends on it. M. already left at 9 a.m. for her Sunday yoga class, so I just lay in my bed for a while and consider all that happened last night. I scroll on TikTok with the blinds open, it makes me feel good to just lay here and do nothing.
12:30 p.m. — M. is back, and I put on a sweat set and some sunglasses to go to the deli. I’m so hungry I can’t just get snacks, so I get a tuna sandwich, a bag of Hal’s kettle chips, and a Coke Zero. $12.22
12:45 p.m. — I’m home and on the couch, where I plan to remain all day, chugging water and watching movies. I watch Oldboy, which is fabulous, and Chinatown, which is awful and I regret ever putting it on my screen.
4:04 p.m. — I get accepted on Raya, but I don’t feel like building a profile right now.
8:02 p.m. — I eat some cucumbers and make a grocery list for tomorrow (I don’t feel like going to the grocery store today.) I’m going to make zucchini this week.
9:45 p.m. — I’m showered and in bed with a cup of tea and a few thin mints. I really needed a day of doing nothing. I watch some Seinfeld on my iPad and fall asleep.
Daily Total: $12.22

The Breakdown

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