A Week In Queens, NY, On A $90,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a communications manager who makes $90,000 per year and spends some of her money with Keratin shampoo.
Occupation: Communications Manager
Industry: Communications/Education
Age: 29
Location: Queens, NY
Salary: $90,000 (eligible for an up to 10% bonus annually)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,211
Gender Identity: Cis Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,877.75 (I live by myself in a one-bedroom in Queens. I'm in a rent-controlled building so it goes up weird amounts every year due to a formula.)
Student Loans: $388 (About 3.5 years left)
Credit Card Debt: $700-$900 (Made some bad decisions in my younger 20s and now have around $6,500 over three cards that I am trying to pay down)
401(k): $206 (automatically deducted from paycheck, pre-tax)
Health Insurance (Medical/Dental/Vision): $186 (automatically deducted from paycheck, pre-tax)
Metrocard: $100 (automatically deducted from paycheck, pre-tax)
Car Lease: $215
Car Insurance: $117
Garage: $250
Gas/Electric: $90
Dinnerly: $160 ($40/week, assuming I don't skip a week during the month)
Phone: $0 (Still on my mom's plan, thanks Mom!)
Internet: $70
Netflix/Hulu: $16
Amazon Prime: $0 (thanks, Mom!)
iCloud Storage: $2.99
Savings: $0 (I know, but right now I'm focused on my debt. I have about $5,000 in a savings account.)

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My alarm rings. I had every intention of getting up to take a quick shower/wash my hair before work, but it feels like today is a sleep-in day. Snooze and ponytail it is!
8 a.m. — Wake up for real, throw on clothes, makeup (eyeshadow, Stila eyeliner, Tarte mascara, and lipstick), and out the door to the subway ($2.75/ride but prepaid, mentioned above). I don't do the monthly subway because I only take it on weekdays for work. I try to avoid Manhattan on the weekends when I can and Queens/Brooklyn are generally driveable/are not easily accessible from my subway in Queens.
9 a.m. — I love living in NYC, but most days I feel like my anxiety level would be so much better if I didn't have to ride on public transport. Sit down at my computer and get to work; we've got a big event next week and I'm trying to get things ready. I'm hungry so I go upstairs and grab a granola bar and yogurt from the work pantry.
1 p.m. — Pause for lunch. I am trying to be better and bring my lunch to work to stop spending so much money eating out. The Dinnerly boxed meals have helped with this because it gives me a variety of meals and means I'm more likely to actually reheat my leftovers instead of opting for something that doesn't feel boring. I resist the temptation to go out and grab lunch with friends and instead just heat up my food and eat with them when they get back. Then back to the grind.
3 p.m. — So much for being good. Now that the weather has changed to full-on winter, I feel it's been harder for me to feel awake and energized throughout the day, even when I get a full night's sleep. With that being said, it's Starbucks time. I get an iced coffee because I will always drink iced, regardless of weather, and a snowman cookie because they're so darn cute and addicting. They're currently doing their Starbucks For Life contest, so I feel like at least I might get something from this purchase, maybe? Someone validate me, please ($7.92, but prepaid from money I still have from the last time I topped up my card).
6:30 p.m. — Later than normal night. Wrap up for the day and head back home from Manhattan to Queens on the subway. I wait ten minutes for a train to come because the MTA is garbage, only to find the first train that comes is switching to express. Curse you, MTA. I wait another two minutes for the next one, which is at least less crowded. I stop at the agent at my home stop to get help with my card. It is about to expire and the machine won't just give me a new one like it normally does. She tells me it's because I have an "old card" (what?) and I just need to buy a new one. I ask her to help me add enough money to my old card so that it is an amount equal to an exact number of rides so that the MTA doesn't get any extra money from me in unused funds. $2.45
7:30 p.m. — I make my last dinner of the week — one-pot pizza tortellini! I love these Dinnerly boxes and they lasted me the entire week the last few months when I was working on a community theater show and away from my apartment one night a week. Now I'll have a gap day, but I think I'm adult enough that I can come up with one dinner a week. Their only other issue is the recipes can be hit/miss. Last night's dinner was fantastic (herbed chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes), tonight the pizza tortellini is not their best... doesn't bode well for my lunch plans. I sit down in my living room to eat the meh pasta and watch The West Wing, which I'm currently re-watching on Netflix. Aaron Sorkin is a genius and anyone who disagrees is just wrong. Stay there until I move to my bedroom around 10:30 for bed.
Daily Total: $2.45

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — I wake up for no earthly reason and toss and turn trying to fall back asleep. I have this problem often, where I wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep. Thanks, anxiety. I finally fall asleep around 7, which means I'm certainly not waking up again at 7:30.
8 a.m. — Awake, same as yesterday, throw on clothes, normal makeup routine, and to the subway.
10:00 a.m. — I'm really dragging today thanks to my two-hour sleep lapse overnight. I order an iced coffee and croissant for breakfast from Starbucks (having both a Starbucks and Dunkin' within a .1 mile distance from work is dangerous). I top up my card with $15. $15
12:30 p.m. — I stop working for lunch with my work friends. I really cherish having a break for lunch as it's new for me (I've only been in this job about five months). Prior to this, I worked in the news industry. Lots of stress and always eating at my desk or not even having time to eat. The change in pace, while sometimes boring, has done wonders already for my mental health. Back to actual lunch of the day. Surprise, I did not bring my dinner from last night with me because I knew I wouldn't end up eating it anyway. Our office brings in a rotating group of restaurants to serve the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and we get $5 off when we buy from them, so I get an Italian panini from today's vendor and a soda from the vending machine. $8.25
4 p.m. — Today is a slower day at work and I have some free time so I decide to do some remaining holiday shopping. I still have a few people I haven't gotten gifts for yet. I search the internet for some ideas and then scroll through Etsy and Amazon. I settle on a few things and then realize the same friend I'm buying a Christmas gift for is getting married in February and I haven't bought a shower or wedding gift yet. The last wedding I went to, I dawdled on buying a gift, and by the time I went to buy one, the ENTIRE registry was purchased. I don't want to run into that again so I buy a few quick things off the registry from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and use a 20% off one item coupon to save $6. $102.83
5:30 p.m. — Out of work and to the subway. I stop at the grocery store to get food for dinner tonight. This morning, I saw the vegetable stand across from the market had 99-cent asparagus! At the grocery store, I get chicken breasts, Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, two bottles of seltzer, two boxes of Uncrustables PB&J (don't judge, they're good grab-and-go food and on sale), and two Country Crock butters (also on sale!). At the vegetable market (a 24-hour vegetable market, by the way, I love NYC), I get asparagus and a carton each of sliced watermelon and cantaloupe (all this for under $3). Then I carry it all the two blocks home and set out to make chicken alfredo with asparagus. $27.48
9 p.m. — I am having a sugar craving, so I have a few spoonfuls of ice cream. Java mocha chip. The best flavor. Then I settle in my bed for more West Wing binging. Planned to be asleep by midnight but got distracted by a really good episode and trying to beat a game on my phone (damn you, Picture Cross). Fall asleep around 1.
Daily Total: $153.56

Day Three

4:30 a.m. — Hello insomnia. I'm awake and tossing again. Luckily, I fall back asleep after about 20 minutes this time, so not too bad.
7:45 a.m. — I wake up a few minutes early from my normal "I can't sleep" time because I have to drop off a dress I wore to a wedding a few weeks ago at the dry cleaners on my way to work. I do it and then grab the subway. On my way, I mobile order a coffee and wrap from the Dunkin' near work ($6.08 but paid for with pre-loaded money on my Dunkin' app). When I get off the subway, I stop at the machines quick to get a new card and load it up using my prepaid card. I have to use three machines because only one is taking debit/credit cards at the moment. I refer back to my "curse you MTA" comment.
1:15 p.m. — I stop to make lunch. Leftovers from last night. I really wish I could get on the leftover train, but I just don't like them as much as some people claim they do. I don't think anything tastes better in the next day. Regardless, I eat at my desk, partially because my work friends are busy and partially because I'm leaving a little early to get to a hair appointment.
4:45 p.m. — Log off my computer and head out to get my hair done! I'm super excited. I cut my hair really short last week to donate to a charity, but it ended up shorter than I had wanted. I'm half Jewish/Eastern European and half Greek so I have crazy thick, wavy, often unmanageable hair. I took advantage of the deals on Black Friday last week and got a Keratin straightening deal for $82 (for those of you who don't do Keratin, this is basically free, it can be upwards of $300 at some places)! The cost of the service was already paid from Black Friday, but I pay tip and tax ($27.16). $27.16
6 p.m. — Across the street from the salon is a Trader Joe's. I stop and stock up on frozen foods, before realizing my mistake — I'm 12 blocks from the subway and a 25-minute ride from my apartment. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Guess I'm getting my cardio and strength in today. $41.59
7:30 p.m. — Get home, throw everything in the freezer. Make some frozen rice and salmon balls for dinner. Watch more West Wing until midnight, then go to bed.
Daily Total: $68.75

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Up early for the weekend to go meet my friend, O. She's getting married next year (I'm a bridesmaid!) and is planning to do her own makeup. She booked a makeover at Sephora to get some ideas and tips and tricks for doing her full face makeup and asked me to come along for moral support and to make sure someone else hears the tips and can help her. I drive to Brooklyn to pick her up and then to Sephora, but I forget it's Saturday which means parking is harder. I drop her off and drive for another five minutes until I give in and park at a metered spot. I have to run back out once to fill the meter. $4
10 a.m. — Once the makeover is done, we look around Sephora, I get one Bite Beauty lipstick, marked down to $6! $6
12 p.m. — We drive about a mile down the road to get brunch. She gets a Bloody Mary, coffee, and huevos rancheros, I get iced coffee and the “country breakfast,” which is sunny side up eggs, potato pancakes, maple bacon, and toast all in sausage gravy. It's amazing and hits the spot. Despite my protests, O. pays since I came with her and drove.
2 p.m. — After dropping O. back at her apartment, I'm on my way home to Queens when I remember Bath and Body Works is having their biannual candle sale. I don't really need more, but it's not like they go bad and who can resist $9.50 candles?! There's a store about a mile from my apartment. I park in a pay lot across from the store and risk only paying for a half-hour and hoping I can speed-choose and get through the long line quickly ($1). Luckily, speed shopping is a skill of mine. I choose four candles. While waiting in line, the nice woman behind me starts talking and asks me if I have a 20% coupon. I said I couldn't find one (checked the website, my email, and retail me not and didn't find any) so she kindly offers to text me the coupon! Who says New Yorkers are mean? $34.10
6:30 p.m. — Hungry and don't feel like cooking. The worst thing is when you're craving something and then it's not good and that happens to me tonight. Order a quesadilla and piece of cake for delivery. Cake was good, quesadilla not so much (and that's what I was really craving). At least I got $3 off. I round up my order cost to donate to a charity that helps feed kids. $17
Daily Total: $61.10

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — Wake up. Why am I up so early on a weekend when I don't have set plans?! I think it's because I'm a bit bummed from something that happened last night. I was supposed to have a second date with L., a guy I'd met online. We had a really good first date and I thought things looked promising, but our schedules hadn't been cooperating for a second date. We had still been talking fairly consistently and finally made a plan on Monday to meet this weekend, but when I contacted him to confirm, no answer! I texted him two times over two days and then I gave up. I don't have time for this. But still, why are guys the worst sometimes? I resist the urge to text him to tell him how rude ghosting is, and just delete his number.
10 a.m. — I'm struggling to get moving today. My bed is so comfy. While playing on my phone, I fall prey to online advertising. American Eagle sends me an email about a sale on their jeans and I've been looking to try new brands. Let's talk about jeans quickly, dear readers. Any suggestions for curvy girls? Used to do Old Navy but they changed their style and I hate their new fit. I don't like Torrid or Lane Bryant's denim because they put Lycra in the waistband. Please give me your suggestions in the comments readers! Anyway, back to the point, someone suggested AE so I bite the bullet and buy a pair to try. I just wish AE would sell their plus sizes in stores so I could have tried them on. #fairsizingforall $26.99
12:00 p.m. — I'm finally up and moving. I have to run out to pick up some bras I ordered from Lane Bryant. They had a sale on Thanksgiving — bras for $25 each! I pick up my order and avoid spending more money while in the store. I haven't eaten yet and there's a Starbucks next store, so I reward myself with an iced coffee and croissant ($6.79 but paid with money I already put on the account above).
1:30 p.m. — I have a coupon for discounts on Delivery.com, my favorite food app! I decided to get poke for lunch ($12.42) and Chinese food ($13.44) for dinner. $10 off altogether! The Chinese will last me at least two days. $25.86
7 p.m. —I'm not in the mood for all the Chinese food tonight so I scour my freezer for something else. I settle on a frozen Hassleback potato I bought from Trader Joe's. A potato is always a safe bet. I pair it with parts of my Chinese (egg drop soup and crab rangoon). I watch West Wing for the rest of the night, I'm getting close to the end!
Daily Total: $52.85

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Up to straighten my hair quick before work. I warm up my straightening brush while doing my other morning bathroom regimen. Get dressed, grab an umbrella (it's raining today), and I'm out the door.
8:45 a.m. — I get to work and pour myself some water and eat the cantaloupe I bought earlier this week for breakfast. My boss and I have to go out to a site visit to check out the area we're using for an event later this week. Since it's raining, we grab a Lyft and my boss expenses it on his card.
1 p.m. — I was planning to break for lunch (my Chinese leftovers), but all of a sudden I start feeling really bad. My stomach really hurts and I feel horrible and clammy. I head to the bathroom and end up throwing up — I think I have food poisoning. Not sure if it's from my Chinese food from last night or if the cantaloupe I ate this morning was old (it tasted fine!). Now I'm mad because besides feeling sick, I have to throw out the Chinese food since I won't trust eating it again. Unfortunately, despite feeling sick, I have too much work to do to go home/I'm hesitant to try going home while feeling this off, so I soldier through.
5:45 p.m. — Luckily I feel a bit better from earlier. Most days I would have gone home, but I really didn't have the time for it today. On my way home, I stop at the dry cleaners to pick up the dress I talked about a few days ago. $11
6 p.m. — After the dry cleaners, I stop at Rite Aid to buy new shampoo. Now that I got the Keratin (you can't wash your hair for 48-72 hours) I realized I don't have any Keratin-safe shampoo (no sulfates). I buy a L'Oreal bottle, along with two seltzers. $10.59
6 p.m. — There's a cookie store on my street and because I'm in such a foul mood, I buy myself a snickerdoodle cookie (a snickerdoodle cookie with actual Snickers in it!). I put it in the fridge for when I'm feeling better and can eat ($3.81). I make myself a bland, thrown-together dinner of a potato and some toast for dinner and pray it stays down. $3.81
Daily Total: $25.40

Day Seven

3:30 a.m. — Hello insomnia, my old friend. This is the remnants from being sick yesterday, but luckily I manage to stay alright, just have trouble falling back to sleep until about 5:30.
7:30 a.m. — Up because I really do need to wash my hair since I haven't since the Keratin. My biggest problem with short hair is that unless I want to style it, I have to wash it in the morning. When it's long, I can wash at night, throw into a bun and sleep in it, and wake up with nice waves. Quick shower, throw in my earrings, do my makeup, and then out the door at 8.
8:45 a.m. — Get to work. Now that it appears I can eat again, I'm starving. I stop at Dunkin' and pick up an iced coffee and a wrap ($6.08 but pre-paid with money I had on my DD card). I get to work and get right back to working on our event, it's only two days away! We get distracted when my boss shows me a YouTube video of a girl singing Lizzo like Mumford & Sons. It's one thing I really like about working at this new job, I've never had a boss I have really liked and gotten along with before and it's a welcome change.
12:45 p.m. — Stop for lunch. I buy from an upstairs vendor since I don't have anything after throwing out the Chinese food. It's Indian today and I will always be here for chicken Tikka Masala. $9.16
3:30 p.m. — I'm dragging and need a quick break, so I go for a quick walk. I order a cold brew and a cookie from Starbucks and it's 50 cents over the amount I have left on my card, so I top it up with another $15. $15
6:30 p.m. — I leave work and go home. I throw a frozen spanakopita in the oven for dinner. I don't need to worry about lunch tomorrow because I'll be at the event location and lunch will be expensed!
Daily Total: $24.16
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