A Week In New York, NY, On A $105,000 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.

Today: an associate media director working in advertising who makes $105,000 per year and spends some of it on a Kiehl's hand cream gift set.
Occupation: Associate Media Director
Industry: Advertising
Age: 32
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $105,000
Net Worth: $541,469.07 ($466,479 in mutual funds, $14,715 in traditional IRA, $37,437.06 in an old 401(k) that I know I need to move, $4,571 in current 401(k), and $24,724 in my checking — a few times a year, I move a good chunk of this to mutual funds or the IRA — minus debt)
Debt: $6,456.93 credit card bill (I pay this in full every month. This one is hefty due to the holiday season.)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,899.68
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,625 (for a one-bedroom I share with my BF, J.; rent is 50/50.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
Apple TV: $4.99 (shared with my parents & brother.)
Netflix: $14.92 (also shared with the family.)
Google Storage: $1.99 (I take lots of photos and need them backed up somewhere.)
Spotify: $10.65 (BF also uses my login.)
Prime: $0 (My brother pays, we all share.)
Hulu: $0 (My parents pay, we all share.)
Phone: $0 (Shamefully, my mom still pays for my brother and me, but she also won't allow us to be off of it. But eventually this will shift and my brother and I will pay for my parents' cell phones.)
Peloton App: $12.99 (My mom also uses this, but so far my credit card gives a $60 credit/year.)
Electricity, Gas, WiFi: $0 (My BF pays, since he makes a good amount more. He uses my subscriptions, I use his car whenever I need, and rent is split evenly. We thought this was a good compromise.)
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, very much so. Both my parents were the first in their family to attend college. It was a big deal with them, being immigrants. My grandparents instilled a philosophy of work hard for a better life. My brother and I are very lucky that we were both able to not only go to undergrad, but also get our master's, funded by our parents. My parents saved from when we were born to ensure we had enough to be set up for success.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We grew up in a very tiny apartment in Queens, and I knew from a very young age we didn't really have nice things. But we always had everything we needed. My dad worked very long hours. My grandfather was very much into working hard and saving; that trickled to my dad. My parents never spent outside of their means. They made it clear that experiences like vacations, nice meals, etc. were much more important than material things. I remember my mom always asking, do I really actually need something, or do I just want it? Both of them also know a good deal when they see one, and that for sure is also instilled into me. We moved to a nice suburb when I was in high school. I hated it, but then I knew we weren't as strained as when I was young.
What was your first job, and why did you get it?
Baby-sitting, but my first real paycheck was at a farmers' market in town during high school. I also was a camp counselor during the summers.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Kind of. I knew the area we grew up in in Queens wasn't the best. I wasn't really allowed out after dark, and our apartment wasn't in the best of shape, but I felt a great sense of security with my parents. My brother and I never asked for much. We'd go on vacation once a year, but we never got a lot of material things.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, I worry whether I'm saving enough, because my parents started saving for us since we were young and have provided for us. I'm now worried I won't be able to 1) provide for my future family and 2) provide for my parents as they get older. In the Asian culture, the roles reverse and I would love nothing more than to support them so they'll be able to enjoy life, like they provided for my brother and me. It's a bit stressful.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself, and do you have a financial safety net?
Probably at 26. When I went to grad school, my parents were still sending me partial rent money to help me out. My mother also still pays for my brother's and my cell-phone bills (if we get new phones, we pay that in full ourselves, though), and she gladly does it. This will eventually be a 180, where my brother and I will cover. My Asian mother just won't allow it, and I've offered plenty! If anything were to ever happen, my parents and brother will help in a heartbeat.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I don't think so.

Day One

10 a.m. — Sleeping in is great and it's Sunday, but we really need to get up to be somewhat productive, and we're getting a bit hungry.
10:30 a.m. — J. and I are trying to decide on what to eat — brunch out or cook in. We decide to just make our own avocado toast. We head downstairs to the market to get avocados, a jalapeño for him, and a coffee for me. I pay. $7.13
11 a.m. — He cooks it all up, and I watch the new Tiger King season while we eat. (J. is not interested at all; he never got into the fad last year.) After, I start to do a coding project. I'm on the last class for this first course. Code everything based on a design file we were given, and it doesn't take me too long — kind of impressed with myself. But then I hit a snag with the FTP not working. I chat with support, and he also isn't sure what the issue is.
3 p.m. — After three hours of troubleshooting, I stop so we can run some errands. We head to BJ's to get some essentials. We go to BJ's maybe every three weeks. It's enough for just the two of us, and it makes the weekly supermarket runs less frequent and less costly. We get orange juice, two tubs of Greek yogurt, tomatoes, eggs, tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole packets, paper towels, hummus, a block of Havarti cheese, bananas, frozen mixed berries, oat milk, body wash, shampoo, garlic, and Christmas tree lights. We were hoping for attractive-looking ornaments but are let down, so we just get white Christmas lights. In my biased opinion, Costco is better, but this is closer and cheaper. Comes out to $140.26, and we split it at the register. $70.13
4:30 p.m. — We go drop off the stuff. J. has a car, so we just stop out front, bring it upstairs, rest for about 15 minutes, and go back out again because J. wants KBBQ for dinner. Head over to our go-to spot, and it's about an hour wait! We head over to the Asian food market nearby to grab some things I've been needing for a few weeks, plus snacks. I get frozen crab sticks, Kewpie mayo, sushi rice, noodles, miso paste, fish sticks, some kimchi crackers, a colander, and frozen durian. The durian is for my mom since she loves it, but I cannot get over the smell, woof. Total is $90.41, and we split it at the register again. My mom says she'll pay me back for the durian, but I won't let her. J. also doesn't mind splitting it evenly. I'll just pay the tip at KBBQ. $45.20
6 p.m. — We wait in the car and snack on some kimchi crackers. We finally get the text that our table is ready. I get hot pot, since my friend's birthday tomorrow is at another KBBQ spot, and as yummy as it is, I can't have it two nights in a row. It's unlimited, so we're STUFFED. Total is $35 each, but I tip so my half is $48.24. Talk about an expensive day. $48.24
8:30 p.m. — I shower, since I smell like KBBQ. I like/need to go to bed clean. Then we start watching a new show called Hellbound — not bad. After an episode, we decide to watch the latest Great British Baking Show — we love Jürgen!
11 p.m. — I'm getting sleepy, but J. wants to play a game on his Xbox, so I just watch something on my iPad for a bit, but I end up going to sleep in about a half hour.
Daily Total: $170.70

Day Two

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I think I hit snooze about 10 times. Luckily, J. sleeps through all of it... every day. I've been trying to get up earlier to be more productive, like work out, coding classes, etc. but I'm not a morning person. :( I make breakfast, trying to see if scrambled eggs in a rice wrapper is good. It's not bad… but I should probably look up an actual recipe. So much for experimenting. I then make my coffee and start working.
12 p.m. — I'm getting hungry, but am not sure what to make. Luckily, J. is off all week because his company gave them the whole Thanksgiving week off. He makes a summer corn salad. It's fall and cold out, but I'm not complaining because it's good. I eat it in time before another meeting starts.
5:30 p.m. — Finally get to leave and run to the train for my friend's birthday. The KBBQ place we want has a 45-minute wait for the five of us. We feel a bit let down, but we walk another 10 feet and find a place we've all been to and there's no wait. We order some apple soju, beers, and meats. At one point there is a roach crawling up the wall behind me. I basically smush my friend next to me to get away from it, and watch it until it “disappears,” ugh bleh. I don't want to make a scene, so we just toast to our friend's birthday and basically inhale everything. My friend, H., decides to grab the bill for points, and she'll Venmo us all later.
7:30 p.m. — H. calls it an early night. T. and birthday boy, D., decide to go to another bar around the corner. Grab one beer, and my friend decides he wants to go downtown. We're all for it. S. pays for this round, and I Venmo her half. We hop onto the subway ($2.75) — I use my card. $22.75
8:30 p.m. — We “shamefully” head to a bar known for its sloppy times, where we watch the Giants game and take advantage of the Monday specials, cheap drafts, and green tea shots. We head to another bar around the corner, and it's got way better vibes, plus the floors aren't sticky. We get lucky and a table clears. J. and his friends meet us after the Giants game is over.
12 a.m. — T. buys a round of shots, blegh. I bravely take the whiskey, and it's probably putting me over. The birthday boy finally calls it a night and heads home. S. also leaves about 15 minutes later. I chat a bit longer with the guys, but I'm about ready to fall asleep. J. wants to stay out a bit longer — totally cool with it — and he walks me to the Uber. Finally make it back at 1, strip off my jeans, and still muster the energy to take my contacts out. I do sometimes judge how drunk I am based on my ability to take my contacts out. It's been a while since I've slept with them in, kind of a win. Then I'm OUT. $45.39
Daily Total: $68.14

Day Three

8 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I'm huuuuurting. I notice J. isn't in bed, and I panic. I run out of the bedroom and see legs on the couch, phew. I walk over to see if he's okay, and he's using my bath towel as a blanket? He wakes up and sees me, and we're both like, okay, we're good. I get a glass of water, chug it, and go back to lying down. Half an hour later, he makes his way to bed. Okay, it's 9 and I really need to get up and sign on. Nights like these aren't a common thing. We went a little hard!
11 a.m. — I still haven't eaten yet, mainly because I probably can't keep it down. I cave and take an ibuprofen because my head is pounding. J. finally wakes up and heads to the store downstairs to get some breakfast foods, and he comes back with a bagel so he can make an egg Sammy, plus a beef bulgogi bowl and coffee for me. He's great. I drink the coffee but wait a bit on the bowl.
1 p.m. — Work is picking up, and I try not to get anxious and panicky. Side note: My anxiety gets heightened with work, and sometimes it could be trivial, but it's hard to control at times and then it affects my mood and J. I got diagnosed with general anxiety disorder; it's almost debilitating at times and causes GI issues too (sorry, TMI). My doctor prescribed me medication at a small dosage to take every day, but it makes me nervous to take something daily that can alter my brain. I'm trying to meditate every day and am still actively looking for a therapist. If that doesn't seem to help, I'll reconsider medication.
4 p.m. — Okay, now work is slowing down, so I take a break and unload the dishwasher. I never grew up with a dishwasher — my mom uses her dishwasher now as the drying rack, after hand-washing. I think to this day, I also prefer to wash them by hand. Is it just me? I start dinner, and it's an attempt to make the tomato soup recipe I've been wanting to try. I finally open the immersion blender that I bought two years ago. I start making the grilled cheese with Havarti on Tuscan bread. It's actually quite good!
11 p.m. — After some more Hellbound episodes, it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — Alarm goes off, but it's the day before Thanksgiving! So I snooze little bit, knowing it'll be a slower work day. After some scrolling, I get up and log on. J. sleeps till about 10:30 — talk about taking advantage of the week off. I'm jealous.
9 a.m. — Wash my face — I've been alternating between Kiehl's and Drunk Elephant. So far it's just about what mood I'm in in the morning, but I also have eczema and it's been flaring up under my nose. I switch between a La Roche-Posay eczema cream and just straight up hydrocortisone cream, which seems to always tame it temporarily.
9:30 a.m. — After some work, I make two scrambled eggs and a coffee — which is hot water from the electric kettle and a tablespoon of Jot. I've been on the lookout for a new espresso machine, but I want something as nice as a Jura and I can't justify how much they are. I've been doing a lot of research and am hoping there's a good Black Friday sale. But Jot has been holding me over, especially with the convenience.
10 a.m. — The day is quite slow, and I'm surprised we haven't gotten an announcement for a half day, since tomorrow's Thanksgiving. But it looks like everyone else is kind of checked out too, based on their away statuses. It's holiday mode!
3 p.m. — It's time to get our booster shots. Afterwards, we head to Target, while I keep checking my phone for any work messages. J. and I shop for Christmas decorations and ornaments — he's definitely way more into it than I am, and it's nice to see him so giddy. We actually spend about THREE HOURS at Target, but I think we've got some great stuff. It's a whopping total of $306.83. We split that in half, $153.41 for me. We're starting Christmas from scratch this year, so everything is new, but we tell ourselves this is the base and next year it won't cost THIS much for Christmas spirit. $153.41
6:30 p.m. — We stop at a nearby bakery so I can pick up some desserts for my family's Thanksgiving, a box of biscotti, and a slice of pizza J. wants to try. We kind of get into a little bicker because his sarcasm is getting to me, and I'm usually a bit more sensitive. It's a silent ride home. Bummer, since Christmas shopping was so fun. $27.38
7:30 p.m. — Get back, and I quickly pan-fry gyozas and cook frozen tteokbokki for dinner. I wanted these over rice, but I guess these came with noodles and more of a soup. We're still in a bit of a silent period, so after dinner we finally talk. It takes a bit longer to see eye to eye, but we eventually get there. I'm not great at communicating my feelings at times (a lot of the times), but he does, so it's nice he's able to guide me and sort through my thoughts, and he's super understanding. We koala hug and move on.
12 a.m. — We continue episodes of Hellbound. After three more, it's already midnight and we need to get ready for this damn turkey trot that SIL is making us do — yes, she's made us into one of those families. Luckily, I'm walking a mile with my parents, and J., brother, and SIL are racing the 8K.
Daily Total: $180.79

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — The alarm goes off, and both of us do not feel so great. I guess the side effects of the booster hit us a bit later, and we both had body aches and chills through the night, and slept terribly. We're not sure if we're able to go, because J. feels worse than I do and he's running the 8K. We finally muster the energy to get up, and pop ibuprofen to see if it helps. We make some breakfast and head out.
7:45 a.m. — We arrive and park at a high school, meet up with the fam, and put our bibs on. The mile walk/run starts at 8:15, so my parents and I just start walking and chatting. After a brisk cold walk, we find my SIL, J., and brother warming up, and they rush to the starting line to begin at 9 a.m. My SIL and J. are competitive, and so they try to run at the same pace, while my brother takes it leisurely and just tries to not walk.
9:20 a.m. — My parents and I are closer to the finish line, waiting to see them run by. We start seeing some fast runners, and man, are they FAST. We spot my SIL first, and it looks like she's smoking J. Then about 3 minutes later, it's my BF! Then, as they loop back around a second time, we finally spot my brother, and he's got a big smile on his face! Also faster than his expected pace. Then after, my SIL and J. meet us where we're standing. Ten minutes later, my brother loops back around, again with a smile. Now it's time to leave. I'm happy because it's chilly, brrr.
11 a.m. — We get back home, have some snacks, and get ready to go to J.'s dad's Thanksgiving first. We stop at Wegmans so J. can pick up an appetizer. We still don't feel great, and I grab ibuprofen and a bottle of water, plus some Pepcid — because Asian glow and no one wants to see that. I pay for the meds, and J. pays for the app and water. $12.98
2:15 p.m. — Arrive at his dad's, and we smash the first round today and watch football till it's time to leave for my family's Thanksgiving.
6 p.m. — We head to Brooklyn to my aunt and uncle's. I have some wine and apps. After two plates, I need to take a break, so I sit in the living room watching more football till it's dessert time. There's about 15 different types of dessert. I barely touch half of it, but try to nibble to taste everything. The body aches are kicking back in with the lack of sleep, so I drink some coffee.
11 p.m. — We say a long round of goodbyes and go home. We both conk out in bed. But I do muster the energy to use some Kiehl's face wash and a Garnier makeup remover, moisturize with Kiehl's facial cream, and then passsssss out.
Daily Total: $12.98

Day Six

7 a.m. — I can't even sleep in and I'm trying so hard. I scroll on my phone to see some Black Friday deals. I've really wanted these oversize hoops from Mejuri for a while, but didn't want to pay full price. I wanted to treat myself for my birthday last month, but decided to wait till this very moment. I see there's a 20% off sale and a 12% cash back on Rakuten, so I pull the trigger ($252.64 with tax, but with 12% off pretax, it'll be $236). I tell myself not bad…right?! $252.64
10 a.m. — I see Kiehl's also has Black Friday deals and 15% cash back on Rakuten. I'm almost out of face wash and face cream, so I get that. I know my mom's big on hand cream, so I get a gift set for her for Christmas, and I add on avocado eye cream. Kiehl's automatically adds a Holiday Glow set — not sure what it is, but I'll take it. It's $107.16, and with 15% cash back pretax, I'll end up getting back $15.08. $107.16
11 a.m. — I'm a bit shopped out, but I want to get Christmas shopping over with and not worry about it later, especially with all the sales going on. But I take a break and put on the Jeopardy! episode we missed on Wednesday. We watch Jeopardy! almost every night while we eat dinner, then let it play through to Wheel of Fortune.
2 p.m. — Get to J.'s mom's for another Thanksgiving! Everything is sooo good. Then while J. helps his mom with some yard work and they go for a walk to catch up, I take a much-needed nap on the couch. Later, we head back home, and I pick up some mushrooms for a dinner recipe I want to try. $3.50
7:30p — I start cooking garlic miso mushrooms with noodles. Turns out better than I expected — even J. likes it. We watch the season finales for Hellbound and Great British Baking Show. Both end very well! Then we start watching the latest season of Curb. I've honestly never been a fan of this show, but he likes it so I give it a go. It's not bad, but I still find myself annoyed with some of the characters. After sharing a bottle of wine, we head to bed.
Daily Total: $363.30

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — Again, I can't sleep in, but I just lie around because J. is still asleep. I scroll and make a mental note of gifts I should still get this weekend. But spending all this money is inducing my anxiety, so I stop. I finally poke J.'s cheeks to wake him up. We shower together, and as I go into my skin routine, he cooks up breakfast. I eat my avocado toast with over-easy eggs, and he eats his BEC Sammy, while we watch the next Curb episode.
12:30 p.m. — I finally order some more gifts, telling myself I'm saving myself money in the long run. I get two pet portraits with 25% off, one for my brother and SIL, and another for my parents. We lost our family dog during the pandemic, and I know they still think about her all the time. My brother and I secretly want to get them a dog, but I feel like they don't want to replace her. Maybe with some more time. $111.95
12:45 p.m. — I get Bombas socks for J.'s mom. I also get a pair for myself since I'm not hitting the free shipping threshold. So with 20% off, it's $53.20. Pricey socks, but they really are amazing. $53.20
1:30 p.m. — I get ready, and we go pick a Christmas tree! I'm usually a fake Christmas tree kind of person, but J. insists. Sometimes a balsam candle works the same with a fake tree. After picking out a whopping $100 tree (wtf?), we split the cost, and my soul hurts just a bit ($55 for my half). $55
2:30 p.m. — We head to the supermarket to get some stuff for mulled wine. I pay for the spices, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, plus some things we're out of, like olive oil and rice vinegar. He gets the wine and brandy. $27.38
4 p.m. — Let the festivities begin. This is way more work than we thought — there's tons of pine needles everywhere — but it actually looks great! We need more wine and decide to order food. We haven't had food delivered in a very long time, so why not? It's a special day. Order two bottles of wine from Drizzly ($39.29) and pho for me and banh mi for him ($44.29). J. Venmos me $41. $42.58
10:30 p.m. — J.'s tired, but I'm not ready for bed yet. But we both lie in bed, and I watch a new episode of Selling Sunset on my iPad with headphones on. I'm tired after one episode, and lights out!
Daily Total: $290.11
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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