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A Week In New York On A $150,000 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 who makes $150,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on matching T-shirts.
Trigger warning: This diary contains reference to the death of a friend.
Occupation: Associate
Industry: Private equity
Age: 23
Location: New York
Salary: $150,000
Assets: Liquid assets: $45,000 (savings: $16,000; investments: $6,000; Roth IRA: $9,000; 401(k): $14,000); home equity: $550,000 (technically my “half” of the apartment purchased with my parents. My name is on the deed but I don’t think it’s fair to consider it really mine since I’m essentially buying out my parents’ equity over time).
Debt: $0
Paycheck amount (2x/month): $4,000
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: $2,900 (I pay my “rent” to my parents towards home equity and my roommate lives in the flex room for $2,200, which goes towards HOA/tax).
Loan payments: $0
Equinox: $250 (partially reimbursed by work).
Doctor: $15 (health clinic membership fee).
Netflix: $16
WSJ: $4
Amazon Prime: $16
MealPal: $90
Phone: $0 (company covered).
Health insurance: $0 (company covered).
Language lessons: $115
HP Print: $5
Sweetgreen Sweetpass: $10
FSA: $25
Transit pass: $50 (for subway; pre-tax benefit).
401(k): $750
Roth IRA: $300
Investing: $250
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, absolutely. Both my parents grew up extremely poor and attended college with the help of government support in their home country. They immigrated to the US with very little and worked their way up to where they are now. They both worked in higher education and I was lucky enough to receive free tuition for college. They also began saving very aggressively when I was little in my 529 — some of which I was able to use to cover other college expenses. During college they did provide me a living allowance.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents lived very frugally growing up, despite their financial circumstances improving significantly as I got older. We never had explicit conversations about finances but they tried to instill habits in me early on (never eating out, only shopping from the sale section etc.). However, this suppression of spending has likely triggered poor habits now that I'm older and have free will.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I had odd jobs during high school including babysitting and teaching after-school programs for children. My parents didn’t give me an allowance growing up so I needed some spending money if I wanted to hang out with friends. Throughout college, I supplemented my spending allowance by working internships pretty much every semester.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Luckily I never had to worry about food being on the table or there being a roof over my head. My parents were extremely frugal about discretionary things (which may have led to some insecurities as a tween) but were more than generous with anything related to education (music lessons, test prep etc.). They took us on occasional holidays or to fly back to their home country to visit family so I knew we were financially stable enough to afford those privileges.

Do you worry about money now?
From a survival standpoint I don’t worry about money — I am very lucky to have a great support system of family and friends, and have worked hard to be in an industry known to pay well. I definitely feel money anxiety on a daily basis — about whether I’m saving enough as a young adult and comparing myself to peers on the pay scale — but I’m very grateful for what I already have. I’m also grateful to my parents not only for supporting me growing up but also for emphasizing that one of their financial goals is to ensure that they have enough so they never have to rely on my sister and me, even as they get older and retire.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I feel as though this is a hot topic of debate but from the perspective of paying the bills, I am responsible for myself alone. I’m aware that I have a lot of financial privilege from graduating from college debt-free, my parents helping pay upfront for a home so I don’t have to take on debt, knowing that if something were to happen I have a safety net, and so on.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I currently live in an apartment that is jointly owned by my mother and me. I pay “rent” to them towards home equity since my parents don’t believe in giving away a free lunch but I didn’t put any money down or take on a mortgage. Also, once a year my parents will waive one month’s rent for my birthday gift.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I groan instinctively. I am not a morning person by any means. I haul myself out of bed and get ready. I’ve been able to shorten my morning routine to less than 10 minutes so I am out the door quickly. I know it’s bad but I don’t have time for breakfast. I head to the subway and swipe my metro card (it’s unfortunate that my commuter card doesn’t work with OMNY). $2.90
9 a.m. — I get to the office and log on for the day. Our office manager is the best and she always makes sure the pantry is supplied with matcha powder and oat milk. I use a metal whisk instead of a normal matcha whisk — we make do with what we have. I run into a meeting room and we have back-to-back meetings for two hours. This is too much stimulation for a Monday morning.
12 p.m. — My boss is in the office for the first time in a while. He offers to buy lunch and we head to a local French cafe to pick up light bites and sweets. I opt for a plate of finger sandwiches, a baked salmon quiche and a green juice. Our office is near the Upper East Side so I see all the posh moms with their strollers, likely post-morning Pilates. I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy — sometimes I wonder if all this career grind is worth it as a woman in finance. I frequently have this discussion with my girlfriends who all work in the industry; our careers are likely halted or deeply impacted once we hit our 30s and we begin to decide between personal goals and having families. We finish up lunch and head back to the office to work.
6 p.m. — I log off for now and take the subway home. I quickly change at home into my favorite workout set (Vuori is so worth the hype) and head to the gym. A year ago, you never would have caught me dead in a gym but ever since I started paying for my membership I’ve felt obligated to go. I’ve been trying to get into running (and started training to run a half marathon) and the treadmills are life-changing. They have built-in streaming services so I get a good six miles in while watching the latest episode of the K-drama Queen of Tears. Then I opt for a yoga wind-down class, which is included in my membership. $2.90
8 p.m. — I head back home excitedly because my mom dropped off a package for me. For big-ticket items, I like to ship them to my family home since sales tax is lower and my mom usually drops them off whenever she heads into the city. I ordered a couple of items from Net-A-Porter that I had had on my wish list for months and got them for a great discount through my Amex offers. I’m trying to buy less fast fashion and more durable, high-quality pieces, and I know this dress will last me for years.
8:30 p.m. — I microwave a frozen Trader Joe’s meal and log back onto work. They have a delicious green chile chicken bowl that always hits the spot. I pair it with some meal-prepped baked blueberry banana oats for dessert and turn on a YouTube video for background noise. We’re working on getting a somewhat-live deal over the line so this week is looking like a sprint for work.
12 a.m. — I finally log off for the night and take a hot shower. I do the dishes and lightly clean the apartment. I FaceTime my boyfriend, B. (long-distance unfortunately), as I put on a face mask for skincare.
1 a.m. — I doomscroll on TikTok for an hour until the video of the woman saying “You’ve been scrolling too long” pops up. I feel a pit of despair at the prospect of waking up in the morning as it’s already 2 a.m. I know that I should have a better habit of not using electronics before bed but I can’t help but feel that the late hours of the night is the only time I truly have to myself.
2 a.m. — I remember to book an Airbnb for an upcoming trip in a couple of months to Mexico City. Airbnb lets you pay 25% upfront and the remainder a week before the trip at no additional cost, which is great. I’m hoping the dollar continues to get stronger. I got lucky this time planning the trip — usually it never makes it out of the group chat since we’re all so busy but we finally found a long weekend we’re okay with taking vacation days around. The price is relatively affordable for how beautiful the apartment looks. I’m excited and finally doze off to sleep. $65
Daily Total: $70.80

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up groggy and check my phone. I’m shocked to see a text from a friend that someone we know has passed away in an accident. In a state of distress, I rush through my normal routine and head into the office. $2.90
9 a.m. — The usual. Matcha. Logon. Meetings. In between meetings I text the friend who notified me about the passing. I donate to a fundraiser started in honor of the passing towards a notable cause. $100
12 p.m. — I pick up a MealPal from a nearby bowl place — today’s menu is Greek salad, which I love. My friend and I ultimately decide to head out of the city to attend the funeral. I ask my boss if I can leave early so I can make it to the evening gatherings. My coworkers offer to cover for me during a call I was supposed to lead, which I’m grateful for.
4 p.m. — I buy a round-trip train ticket out of the city. Luckily, my work outfit was already black and I am running to catch the train. I’m in my early 20s and I haven’t had much experience with this part of life yet so I don’t quite know what to expect. I’m still in a state of disbelief, to be honest. $26
9 p.m. — Once the ceremony is over, myself and a group of old friends decide to grab a quick bite to eat. It’s quite an unfortunate reunion; I haven’t seen many of them in over half a decade. The shop is closing so we finish our meals quickly. I hop on the next train back to the city and turn on my hotspot. I’m behind on work so I try to send out a couple of emails that have been on hold for a couple hours. Life never stops for you, I guess. $12
Daily Total: $140.90

Day Three

7 a.m. — I have to wake up extra early today to attend a work conference. It’s raining cats and dogs outside, and I decide to take an Uber to the event. It’s my first time attending and I feel very anxious since I don’t know anyone. I often feel an extreme sense of imposter syndrome at these types of events — the team I work on is relatively small so I’m often sent to speak with people well above my pay grade due to resource constraints. It’s great to have this exposure and responsibility at my age but I can’t help but feel like “I’m just a girl...” as the popular social media phrase says. They have a great breakfast buffet set up but I’m already late so I just down a glass of orange juice. $45 (expensed).
12 p.m. — We stop for a lunch intermission. The speakers are great and to be honest it’s quite inspiring seeing so many women leaders in finance talk about their careers. I grab a bowl of soup and a salad and try to find an empty spot to sit. I pick a table that looks approachable and ask to sit with them. Phew!
3 p.m. — I have a call I need to take shortly so I leave the conference and Uber home. I try to prep for the call in the Uber and pull up some of the materials to review. My phone is blowing up with requests that I’m behind on. While going to conferences and traveling is super cool, especially for someone my age, it usually just ends up being extra work and hours for me since the deliverable timelines are still live. It’s still raining outside and I run into my apartment building. My doorman always greets me with a smile and tries to crack a joke about me coming home early today. I’m very grateful for the lighthearted interaction — there’s no one in your life quite like your NYC doorman. $35 (expensed).
6 p.m. — I hop off the call and am starving. I could barely eat my soup since I was talking during lunch and my stomach has been growling since. I decide to boil some frozen dumplings and make some stir-fried eggs for protein. I’m quite happy with my meal; half a year ago you never would’ve caught me cooking in the kitchen. I’ve been forcing myself to eat at home and have made it a habit of only eating out on weekends. It makes the weekends more exciting and I’m also financially happier and physically healthier!
8 p.m. — I venmo a friend my portion of the other Airbnb we are booking for Mexico City. The housing there is quite affordable for a weeklong trip. We start discussing restaurants we want to try and my friend starts a planning document. I’m happy to travel with friends who are as keen on planning as me; I usually am that friend who creates Excel trackers and builds itineraries for everyone. What can I say? I’m a maximalist. $190
12 a.m. — For work I usually have late-night calls a few times a week to accommodate time zones. I hop on an hour-long debrief call that goes on until 1 a.m. Luckily, it finishes on time for once and I shower and get ready for bed. I go to my roommate’s room and we chat for a bit before heading off to bed.
Daily Total: $190

Day Four

9 a.m. — I’m allowed to work from home later in the week, which is much appreciated. Many firms have been very strict about coming into the office but I’m glad that the culture of my team is still understanding. I make my usual matcha at home and log on for work. I realize that I’m out of oat milk and quickly pull together an order on Gopuff. I need to make the minimum order cut-off so I add some toilet paper and Clorox to my cart. I got a free yearly membership with my credit card so delivery is free. $16
11 a.m. — I get a flurry of messages from coworkers. The deal is blowing up because different senior leaders are having conflicting opinions. I hate office politics so I don’t participate in the conversation. I decide to make some kimchi stew for lunch and eat my warm soup in peace as I continue working on the side.
6 p.m. — I head to the gym and do my usual six miles. I’ve been loving running to house music and cue a playlist of John Summit songs. Today I’m really trying to push myself and I get my average mile time into the nine-minute range for the first time. I feel quite accomplished and snap a picture. My fitness journey really only started a couple months ago and back then I couldn’t run a mile straight without feeling exhausted. I’ve lost the 20 pounds I put on after working in banking for a year and I’ve never felt better. I start considering if I should finally splurge on some running gear to take my training outside (this is a big step for me, lol). I don’t have an Apple Watch so I start researching the best beginner running trackers and running vests.
8 p.m. — I take a shower once I get home and get some more work done after the workout. Then my friends text me and urge me to come out to dinner and drinks. We decide on a casual taco place. They had already gotten started on a margarita pitcher before I arrive to take advantage of happy hour, so I focus on devouring my delicious tacos. $35
11 p.m. — I finish the night by walking home to help digest. I log on once I get home and finish up some last tasks for work, with Netflix running in the background. Then I get ready for bed and call B. He’s finally moving to the city in a few months and we discuss our schedules around his move. I’m very excited as this is the first time in five years that we will finally be based out of the same city.
Daily Total: $51

Day Five

9:15 a.m. — Today is Friday so I give myself a little leeway to sleep in since I have no calls and was productive last night. Then the usual: get ready, matcha, calls etc. The presentation I’ve been working on is looking good and I feel a sense of relief.
12 p.m. — I make myself a breakfast platter for lunch: smoked salmon, two eggs and an avocado that is turning brown. My roommate also works from home today and we sit in the kitchen working side by side. People usually assume that I live alone since the apartment is owned but I opted to turn the living room into a large flex room so I could have a roommate. Financially it makes sense so I don’t have to pay common charges and taxes but I also just didn’t think I was at the age where I wanted to be fully alone. It’s comforting at times like these, when work is busy, to have a constant best friend around to ease the pain. We blast her favorite artist (Taylor Swift) as we work.
4 p.m. — It’s late afternoon and we’ve pretty much finished the slides so I decide to take a break. Bridgerton season 3 is out so we have the TV playing in the background.
7 p.m. — I’m lucky enough to live close to home and my mom decides to come into the city to grab dinner. I take a bus to the Theater District. It’s a Beijing-style restaurant which is decorated very nicely. Naturally, the nicer the interior, the more mediocre the food (I feel this is the trend in most Chinese restaurants). My mom comments that the flavor is inauthentic and the A/C is too cold. $2.90
9 p.m. — Growing up, I always felt very detached from my parents since they were first-gen immigrants who, more often than not, didn’t understand some of the nuances of growing up in America. Everything was focused on education and we never discussed personal things (boys, friends, emotions). When I was a teen, I think I felt a lot of resentment about not having the same “childhood” — filled with playdates and spaghettiOs — as some of my American friends. Now that I’m older, I realize how much sacrifice truly went into raising two kids in a foreign country and feel a sense of empathy; after all, all our moms were once girls our age who had hopes and dreams of what the future might hold for them. I do my best these days to carve out time in my schedule to catch up with her and share my life, especially when my dad is away for work. I pay for our dinner and walk her back to her car. I’m usually not one for physical affection but I give her a hug goodnight. $150
10 p.m. — I text a friend who lives nearby to see if she’s free and we agree to check out a new jazz bar in the Lower East Side. I take the bus ($2.90), which drops us off right outside. The bar is also a restaurant upstairs and the interior is stunning. I order myself a drink and she orders herself a meal. $2.90
11 p.m. — We check out a bar nearby and order two drinks. We decide that we have outgrown the scene and decide to head home after a brief 20-minute visit. It’s unfortunate but since we started working the prospect of having a night in has become much more comforting than spending money on expensive drinks for a questionably good time dancing with sweaty young adults. We take the bus home and decide to watch a movie in bed instead. Much better. $43
Daily Total: $198.80

Day Six

12 p.m. — There’s nothing quite like waking up without an alarm. I wake up around noon and put on a workout set. My friend has a membership at a Lagree Pilates studio which allows you to bring a friend for free once a month. I usually prefer classic Pilates but I can’t say no to a free workout class. I drop off a Poshmark package at the post office on the way.
1 p.m. — I finish the class — it is deathly. I naturally have a super weak core (I mean, sitting for 10+ hours a day has got to do something to your body) so I usually come out of these classes super sore the next day. On my way home I drop off two items at my local dry cleaner's (a hidden gem where pieces are less than $7 to dry clean). I usually pay upon pickup so no cost incurred today.
1:30 p.m. — I make myself a matcha when I head home, where my roommate is making pizza (Nara Smith who?). I help myself to a healthy serving and it’s delicious. I take an everything shower and get dressed.
2 p.m. — I meet up with a friend and we decide to take the ferry to Brooklyn. We joke that it’s like our private yacht because it’s mostly empty and there’s a bar onboard. The ticket is a bit pricier than taking the subway but the views are beautiful. $4
2:30 p.m. — We hop off at Greenpoint and decide to stop by our favorite coffee shop in the area. It’s decorated seasonally with beautiful minimalist furniture, great drinks and flowers. My coffee is a bit pricey but well worth it. We people-watch for Brooklyn’s best dressed and vote on the cutest dogs. $8
3 p.m. — We decide to go gallery hopping in the area and check out the local vintage stores. I eye a vintage lamp that I fall in love with but the owner notes that it is only for rental. I look up the lamp online and pre-owned versions are selling for over $2,000. I wince but save it to my Locker. Not a plug but this is an app that I’ve really been enjoying! I used to be an impulse shopper but now I just store items that I’m eyeing and if I find myself continuously thinking about purchasing, I can go and revisit. I set new financial goals for myself this year (increasing my emergency savings, maxing my retirement contributions) and being more mindful about my purchasing decisions is one of the initiatives I’m really trying to work on.
6 p.m. — We take the ferry home. I search online and find tickets to see Challengers. The prices have come down a lot — last week they were over $30, which I felt was not worth it. Now they’re more normalized at $20. I purchase the tickets for me and a friend, and they venmo me to cover the cost. $20
10 p.m. — I meet up with my friend and we are running late to the movie. I’m hungry and we head to the concession stand to pick up some movie snacks. We purchase some mac and cheese bites. I consider getting a hot dog but decide that it is way too overpriced. Luckily I brought my water bottle so I don’t need to purchase the $5 water. $10
12 a.m. — We finish the movie. I won’t lie, I thought it was supposed to be about a thrilling game of tennis and drama. Needless to say, it was everything and more. I immediately search on TikTok for people’s interpretation of the ending. I also search for Zendaya’s training routine for the movie. I remember watching her growing up on the kids' show Shake It Up and now she has really taken Hollywood by storm in these major roles. I wonder if I should take up tennis...
2 a.m. — I’m not fully satisfied with the movie meal so I search on Uber Eats for some late-night options. I add a few things to cart — Popeyes, Taco Bell, Korean food — but decide against it since I don’t have the usual 40% promotion Uber keeps sending me. I decide to just go to bed so I can eat a full daytime meal tomorrow morning.
Daily Total: $42

Day Seven

1 p.m. — I wake up late and quickly get dressed. I’m meeting a friend at a new Australian bowl restaurant that is all the rage on social media. I take the subway downtown. $2.90
1:30 p.m. — We arrive to the restaurant and there’s a short line but it’s moving quickly. I search on The Infatuation to see what’s popular. As I’m waiting in line, I notice an influencer I follow online behind us. Even after years of being in NYC, I never really know if it’s polite to say hi to internet personalities and compliment their content. I opt not to say anything as I’m too shy just imagining the conversation. I decide to order a salmon sashimi bowl with their homemade soda. I feel bad for the cashier and tip them for dealing with such a crazy line. $26
2 p.m. — We walk around Soho and check out some shops. I try on a pair of jeans I’ve been eyeing from this denim brand. They just restocked the style that I want but unfortunately they're sold out in the color I want in this location. The store worker suggests that I order online as they still have inventory company-wide.
5 p.m. — We check out a few more stores but don’t find anything interesting. I stumble upon a pop-up for a brand that cuts and measures custom Levi’s but they are appointment-only. I try to make an appointment online for another day but I see that their prices are over $400. I close the window and decide to purchase the jeans I tried on earlier online, since I have been thinking about them for a month. I don’t find any stockists that offer discounts so I just buy direct. I rarely buy denim so the three-digit price tag hurts but I concede that it’s rare to find a pair of jeans that actually fit me right. $285
6 p.m. — We attempt to sit at a hot new restaurant that just opened up in the area but the wait is two hours . We decide against it and take the bus home. $2.90
7 p.m. — We head to the nearby liquor store and pick up a bottle of white wine. We decide to have wine night at home and order fried chicken. $39
9 p.m. — A second friend joins and we discuss the new merch for an artist we like. We think it’s funny and decide to purchase matching T-shirts. We decide to end the night shortly after and go to sleep. $64
Daily Total: $419.80

The Breakdown

Weekly Total $$ Spent: $1113.30
Food & Drink: $323
Entertainment: $20
Home & Health: $16.00
Clothes & Beauty $349.00
Transportation $50.30
Other $355
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