A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $32,000 Income

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: the founder of a beverage who makes $32,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a chai. Below, we asked the OP some questions about her career.
How did you get into your line of work?
"I got into food in high school when I was tasked with cooking family dinner after voicing my distaste for kitchen-cleaning duty. During undergrad, I worked as a short order cook, and after grad school, found that I wasn't suited for office life, so I went back to work in food as a prep cook. I knew I wanted to eventually have my own company, but I was unsure of what it would be. I've also been a catering cook, a line cook, a kitchen manager, a demo specialist, an event lead, a sous chef, a farmer's market manager, and a wholesale operations manager."
What are the challenges of running a beverage company?
"Aside from cash flow, the biggest challenge is definitely having to be a Jane of all trades. We're bootstrapped, so there's a lot of learning on the job (a nice way of saying we're winging it), sometimes even side-by-side with a new hire."
What advice would you give to someone starting out who wants to create their own food or beverage company?
"Get contracts in place early, hire a lawyer so they don't only favor the other side, and read them them very thoroughly before signing. And do your best to ignore the competition and trust your own voice. If you keep your head down and keep staying true to your vision, success will follow."
Occupation: Founder/CEO
Industry: Food & Beverage
Age: 32
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Income: $32,000 (I have been in the food industry for nine years, not including college jobs, and this is the most I've ever earned.)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600 (I share a three-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, R., and the total cost is $1,800 because I've lived in it since 2010. We each have an office, but since I make less, he pays more here and I cover utilities and internet. Half my rent is expensed for office and kitchen R&D.)
Student Loan Payment: $75 (My undergrad was covered by scholarships, so my parents offered to cover grad school loans and pay $525 monthly.)
Renter's & Auto Insurance: $164.31 (paid through my company account)
Internet: $84.95 (expensed)
Gas: $22 (expensed)
Electric: $85-$150 depending on season (expensed)
Cleaning Lady: $80 (We split evenly, but my share is expensed.)
Spotify Premium: $9.99
Gym: $10.45
Yoga Studio: FREE in exchange for a limited amount of product monthly
Ritual Vitamins: $30 (I used to be a total bargain shopper and always get the best deal. Now that I know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into branding, I’m a total sucker for it. I know I can’t really afford $30 vitamins each month, BUT THE BRANDING. Plus they’re minty! Let it be known it was not avocado toast that did in this millennial’s bank account. It was the fancy mint vitamins and pink padded envelopes Glossier packs their products in.)
Phone: $211.38 (covers my phone and two tablets for employee use on the clock, paid for through company account)
WNYC Donation: $11
Insurance: $86.79 (through ACA)
Savings: $240 to retirement, $100 to “build wealth”
Annual Subscriptions
Amazon Prime: $107
Headspace App: $99
New York Times Crossword Puzzle: R. subscribes to digital NYT, so I glommed onto his account and tacked on the $5 annual puzzle subscription (down from the $45 annual I was paying before we moved in together!).
Bon Appétit Subscription: $20 (expensed)
Fast Company Subscription: $11 (expensed)
Inc. Subscription: $11 (expensed)
Other Subscriptions
Subscribe & Save: $50.33 every three months
Burst Toothbrush Heads: $6 every three months

Day One

4:57 a.m. — There was a blizzard yesterday, and for some reason our flight home is one of only two flights getting out today! Don't know what I did to deserve this, but it means I won't get a parking ticket and the cats will get fed. It's early, but we won't land until 9:45, so I grab a blueberry Rxbar and a hot tea. $7.65
10:40 a.m. — Finally in a cab home after having to take a shuttle from our terminal to the car rental area because the taxi line at our terminal was closed. The cab to our place in Brooklyn is $32.15. R. pays.
11:30 a.m. — Once the cats are fed, I make a coffee with one scoop of collagen and a splash of oat milk and then start cooking lunch (sweet potato and black bean chili). R. runs to the bodega to grab a few things — onions, garlic, cilantro, canned chipotles, cleaning spray, bananas, and blueberries. He pays, because he doesn't cook (ever). Start eating while catching up on work.
3:45 p.m. — It's been a long day, so I make myself a turmeric tea with mix from my friend's company and climb into bed with R. to watch some of The Clinton Affair while we munch on snack mix his mom sent home with us.
6:15 p.m. — Lunch leftovers for dinner, with an added handful of spinach to my bowl and a slice of cheese on top. We can't tear ourselves away from The Clinton Affair. I'm reading Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly, and it's giving everything else I read and watch a subtext of female anger. Our CSA box is delivered. We get one as needed through Farm To People, which is technically a subscription, but we skip a lot — if I don't cook, it sits and rots. This week it's on my card. $59.90
Daily Total: $67.55

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I very much consider myself a morning person, but I still need coffee before my run. After downing two glasses of water, I sip a collagen and oat milk coffee while I do the crossword puzzle, check emails, browse Instagram, and feed and play with the cats.
8 a.m. — Coffee is done and house is pre-tidied for our cleaning woman (I don't like for her to have to wash dishes or deal with cat litter debris) and I'm out the door for a quick 3.5 miles before yoga. I just started running in May and I hate the treadmill, so I run outside even though it's freezing! I get back in time to make some tea and take care of a few quick tasks before heading out to yoga.
11:30 a.m. — I stop by the grocery store near the studio to pick up a few supplementary items for what we got in our CSA box. I try not to buy too much, since I'm planning on going to see some friends at the farmer's market on Sunday. I get one bundle each of kale and scallions, some oyster mushrooms, diced tomatoes, dried garbanzos, black beans, cannellini beans, and red lentils. I check emails and respond to work texts on my walk home. A new acquaintance and I are trying to hammer out the details of a new venture I'm really excited about. It would be great for my existing business and would fill a huge need within the food-business community, but there's a lot of moving parts. $20.36
12:30 p.m. — Come home to a sparkling clean house and fighting cats. R. pays cash and I Venmo him my share ($40). I have just enough time to shower, eat, and put groceries away. Lunch is a reprise of last night's chili with spinach and cheese added. I notice we got a ton of mushrooms in our CSA, and we also got arborio rice, so I guess I'll make mushroom risotto tonight! I check emails and try to get organized for my assistant's arrival. She's still in the training phase, so I basically don't get anything but the most minor tasks done while she's here. She's energetic and eager to learn, but I am really looking forward to her being able to self-manage.
1:30 p.m. — My assistant arrives and I make us each a tea — chai for her, chai matcha for me. We catch up, discuss a potential new hire, and bang out some admin work before driving to the warehouse.
4:30 p.m. — Once we finish at the warehouse, I'm starving and a little achey from my workout this morning. I have a case of Snacklins in my car, so we each have a bag. I head to my friend's kitchen so we can all taste test some potential reformulations of my company's existing SKUs (stock keeping units, a.k.a. products). I eat a small square of his chocolate cake scrap while I'm there.
6 p.m. — I unpack the leftover samples for my boyfriend to taste and start a big batch of my product. We have a kegerator in the house, and the cats opened the taps on a fresh keg while we were away, so I'm going to try and recreate the same flavor. It was expensive and presumably messy (shout out to the cat sitter for cleaning it up), and our floor is completely warped now. We definitely won't be getting the security deposit back. I check emails and do some work while the tea is steeping. R. texts that he's on his way home and I ask him to pick up parmesan for the risotto on his way back. He pays.
8 p.m. — I am so tired and sore, I almost feel like I'm getting sick, but I probably just need to drink some water. I look up a risotto recipe I can make in my Instant Pot and summon my final bit of energy to make dinner. I have more work I should do while it cooks, but I can't focus on it at all, so it will have to wait. When the risotto is done, I poach an egg to put on top of mine and we settle in for more of The Clinton Affair.
Daily Total: $20.36

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — I have collagen coffee and a chocolate sea salt Rxbar. I'm doing a 10k training program in the Nike Running app, and I'm supposed to do a nine-mile run today. Really don't feel up for it, but I'm trying to muster the energy.
10:30 a.m. — Back from my run in just over one and a half hours — I did the whole nine miles! It's the longest run I've ever done. I'm not hungry, but I know if I don't fuel up I'll crash hard. I make a smoothie with a handful of spinach, some pea protein, powdered peanut butter, half an avocado, frozen berries, and oat milk. It's not very good. I work on emails while I stretch and sip my smoothie.
11:30 a.m. — I make myself a turmeric tea and settle in to do a few quick things before I have to leave the house.
12:45 p.m. — Risotto leftovers for lunch. So yummy. After lunch, I drop off my laundry (paying later) and stop by an ATM. I withdraw $400 from my personal account because I'm on my way to get a tattoo finished! It's my third session, and my biggest tattoo. It looks amazing and I'm in love with the artist — she's done an amazing job. I also withdraw $400 from the business account because I am picking up two cases of wine for corporate gifts this afternoon. It's the first time I've had time and money to even consider doing corporate gifts, and I'm so excited. The wine is sourced from a female-owned and operated vineyard and purchased through a female-owned wine bar. I bring a LaCroix from home to hydrate while I sit.
4 p.m. — In a lot of pain, but so stoked on the tattoo! It's $300 plus a tip. I didn't have enough cash for a tip last time, so I give her the entire $400 to cover it. I'm feeling babe-a-licious with this new piece. $400
4:45 p.m. — In Manhattan to pick up two cases of wine, which costs $384. I resist the siren call of Big Gay Ice Cream and then regret my decision. ($384 expensed)
6:15 p.m. — Get home and there are two huge boxes for us. They're the dinner plates my mom got us as an early holiday gift — a huge upgrade from the blend of Target and Ikea dormware we currently have. I unpack, send some quick emails, and respond to a text from a new freelancer I hired to do social media. We don't have a centralized HQ, so every position at my company is very autonomous and requires a huge amount of trust. At the end of the day, all I can really do is give them instructions and hope for the best, especially for brand ambassadors. I try my best to communicate in a very clear and concise way, and sometimes people just don't listen/read texts/check emails. I'm annoyed and tired and don't want to cook, but I DO want to use a new dish. R. is out for the night, so I pan-fry a salmon filet (also purchased by my mom when she was in town), make a quick spinach salad, and reheat a bit more leftover risotto. Plus wine, et voila!
8:15 p.m. — A little wine drunk (barely two glasses, I'm a cheap date!). I decide to get into some chocolate R.'s mom sent home with us. Fall asleep early watching Poldark.
Daily Total: $400

Day Four

7 a.m. — Wake up feeling groggy and SUPER cranky because I didn't have a great rest last night. The cats were making a ton of noise and I had anxiety dreams. I'm supposed to do a “benchmark” run for my training program to track progress this morning, but I'm so tired! The dishes my mom sent didn't include cereal bowls, so I go online to purchase the missing set of bowls ($80) on her credit card while I make my collagen coffee and wake up. The Honey app finds an awesome discount code, but West Elm won't accept it since the dishes are already on sale.
9:15 a.m. — Just enough time post-run to make a turmeric tea and change my shoes before walking to yoga!
12:15 p.m. — R. brought home veggie momos from a Himalayan spot we love last night for me to eat for lunch because he is the best. They are awesome and are served with this spicy, creamy orange-colored sauce that I keep trying to puzzle out. R. thinks it's tomato-based, but I think it's coconut milk and chilis. I heat them up for lunch and settle in to get some work done. I have a lot of paperwork and accounting to catch up on.
2 p.m. — Crisis with our biggest distributor. Co-packer says they picked up last week, but nobody has a record of it. The order has somehow vanished into thin air. I also have to put down credit card info to receive a sample of the new packaging — $250 for one unit, but hopefully it will save us money in the long run. ($250 expensed)
3 p.m. — Afternoon slump! I get a bottle of kombucha from the fridge to fight my coffee craving and soothe my stomach, which has been bothering me since (Poldark season 3 spoiler ahead) George told Aunt Agatha she couldn't have her 100th birthday. Why can't I stop thinking about that scene? It just broke my heart. I also open my internet bill that has apparently been changed to $84.95(!), so I actually owe money from last month in addition to this month. I edit the auto-pay, which goes out tomorrow.
4:30 p.m. — I have a meeting and order a chai. ($9.71 expensed)
7:15 p.m. — We hashed out some logistics and I get assigned some homework. I stop by the ATM on my way to the subway to make a business deposit and take $100 out in personal checking so I can pick up my laundry (tip $2). $23
8 p.m. — Get home and am famished. My phone died, and when I plug it in I have a text from R. letting me know he's getting a beer with some work friends and won't be home for dinner. I'm bummed to miss out, because he rarely drinks. I poach an egg and put it on top of leftover risotto and spinach dressed with balsamic, plus a glass of wine. I flip through the December issue of Bon Appétit and pick out new cookie recipes to try. The December issue is my favorite because of the holiday cookies, and I love to bake when I have time.
Daily Total: $23

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Wake up, feed cats, make coffee, do the crossword, check emails, and see the internet bill went through today ($137.56).
9 a.m. — Back from a quick 3.5 mile run with R. Make a turmeric tea and decide to do yoga at home so I can focus on some much-needed deep stretching and save myself the hour roundtrip before I have to meet with a distributor this afternoon. Home yoga is hard because I get distracted by dust bunnies, playful cats, and to-do lists. I sweep the floor, shut myself in the bedroom, light palo santo, and start with a Headspace meditation to get in the zone.
11 a.m. — Showered and settling into the workday. It's bill paying day. I pay warehouse rent ($1,470 for 750 square feet, expensed), warehouse parking ($250 for one spot, expensed), warehouse utilities ($253.53, expensed), an overdue bill from the farmer's market ($258 including $50 late fee, yikes!, expensed), credit card payment ($5,000), co-packer payment ($11,280.12, expensed), and some freight payments ($2,266 expensed). Immediately after I pay the farmer's market bill online, I get an email from them letting me know they adjusted the invoice to remove the late fee — annoying, but cheaper! I also decide to go ahead and pay my personal credit card balance out of my savings account rather than eating the interest charge ($1,417.31).
12:15 p.m. — My distributor cancels our 2 p.m. meeting because he doesn't feel well, so I make lunch plans.
1:15 p.m. — I meet a close family friend in Manhattan for lunch. She is a teacher and has eight students from the DECA club in tow. We eat at Xi'an Famous Foods. I get the spicy cumin lamb noodles (N1 for life!) and a bottle of water. She pays for my lunch. Afterwards, we walk to a cafe that sells my product so I can talk to her students about my business and marketing. I purchase my product for her students to try and an Americano for myself. The buyer is there and covers the Americano. I tip $1. ($7.53 expensed)
2:15 p.m. — Afterwards we go to Economy Candy, where I buy cinnamon bears for myself and malt balls for R. $5.17
3:45 p.m. — I stop by Duane Reade before getting back on the train home and getting gift wrap and cards for the wine I bought earlier this week. ($53.48 expensed)
4:30 p.m. — Have a kombucha to get over the afternoon slump of filling out insurance paperwork. My delivery driver rear-ended a taxi last month. No damage, but their insurance company sent a huge packet that I need to fill out. We also received new packaging samples, so I text photos to my designer.
6:45 p.m. — I have another kombucha while I make dinner. I make a kale salad with roasted squash, shaved fennel, apples, and pepita/hemp seed brittle with a LaCroix. When I sit down to eat with R., I realize I haven't placed a merch order yet. I don't know how, but we went through 100 beanies in two months! I order another 100, plus hoodies and t-shirts. ($1,750 expensed)
9:30 p.m. — R. is still hungry and orders a pizza for delivery. He pays. I have a half slice.
11:30 p.m. — Not even remotely tired. Maybe a glass of wine will help.
Daily Total: $5.17

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Feed the cats. R. is up and out for Saturday activities. I try and fall back asleep because I didn't crash until 2 a.m.! Too hungry to fall back asleep. Make myself peanut butter toast and catch up on This Is Us.
12 p.m. — Sleep a bit more. Now time for collagen coffee. R. will be home soon with ingredients to make cookies for a Hanukkah party we're going to tomorrow. He pays, since I'm baking.
1:45 p.m. — R. reheats a slice of leftover pizza for me for lunch while I declutter and reorganize the kitchen. I top it with Sriracha and have a LaCroix with it. My friend comes over to meet our new kitty and she brings me coffee, her treat. I unload a ton of tea and adaptogen samples on her during my clean out. We taste some kombucha and I show her how to brew her own.
6:30 p.m. — I'm supposed to meet another friend for dinner, but she won't be available until close to 8, and I'm exhausted from not sleeping much last night. We reschedule and I make a red vegetable curry with noodles for dinner. I snack on seed crackers and hummus while I wait for it to cook.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — Get up to feed the cats. Then I try to fall back asleep briefly before deciding to get up and start the rugelach cookies for the dinner we're going to later. I make myself a cup of tea and prep and chill the dough. While I'm prepping the fillings, I eat a clementine. Then I clean the dishes and get back in bed with R. for some snuggles.
9:30 a.m. — Collagen coffee before running. It's raining, but we have a lot to do before the dinner this evening, so R. convinces me to run in the rain. Thank god it's only 1.5 miles! We split a vegan homemade version of a peanut butter and berry Rxbar before we leave.
10:45 a.m. — I have a glass of kombucha while rolling out the rugelach and debating whether R. should go out to pick up breakfast or if we should eat in. We decide to eat in. He makes toast and I scramble a few eggs with spinach, cream cheese, and Sriracha.
1 p.m. — The blade on my coffee grinder comes loose when I start to make the rugelach topping (freeze-dried raspberries and sugar). I spend 10 minutes Googling how to fix it and find nothing. I give up and go on Amazon to purchase a new grinder for same day delivery, since I won't have time to go out and buy one today or tomorrow and I NEED coffee. $23.90
1:30 p.m. — Cookies are smelling good and they are making me hungry, so I reheat a small bowl of last night's curry noodles.
1:45 p.m. — I quality check the cookies and give myself a harsh, The Great British Bake Off-esque review, even though I think they're fine and I know nobody will complain: “The swirl isn't very distinctive and it looks a bit rustic. The pastry is flaky but it's a bit overbaked. That's really a shame, that is,” — Paul Hollywood. After the cookie check, I settle in to handle a few small work tasks while R. naps before we have to head out.
5:30 p.m. — Quite the Hanukkah spread at the party! I fill up on latkes, pickles, brisket, and a grapefruit bar (like lemon bars, but grapefruit). I wash everything down with a beer and later a small glass of wine.
8 p.m. — Back at home, I open a LaCroix and handle a few quick work tasks to make sure Monday goes smoothly, including texting with my delivery driver and adjusting the production list for Tuesday. I browse cat toys and hammocks on Amazon but don't buy anything. Afterwards, I settle in to watch The Good Place but fall asleep almost immediately.
Daily Total: $23.90
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here. Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:
Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series