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A Week In New York On A $55,000 Salary

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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: a community director who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on yarn.
Occupation: Community director
Industry: Arts
Age: 27
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $55,000
Net Worth: $45,549 ($14,627 in checking and emergency savings accounts, $1,627 in a Roth IRA, $2,537 in a travel savings account, $45 in an HRA (lol), $26,713 in investment accounts (gifted to me by my grandparents while I was in high school).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (bimonthly): $1,500
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,350 for my half of a one-bedroom (split with my boyfriend, H.)
Wi-Fi: $25 (my half)
Utilities: $62 (my half)
Spotify: $11
Ellevest Subscription: $5
Oportun: $5
NYT: $5
Gym: $13 (but this is covered by insurance every six months)
Roth IRA: $100
HRA: $30
Health Insurance: $80
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?
Attending college was not a question in our household. I went to undergrad in-state because I was really scared to take out loans. Most of my college tuition was covered by a scholarship. My mom, dad, uncle, and grandmother covered the rest, my sorority dues (I know...), and rent. I worked retail during college for spending money. I received a scholarship that covered most of my graduate school and used funds from the stocks my grandmother gave me for the rest.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents gave me an allowance and talked to me about saving and tithing. We were required to tithe some of our allowance at church. There wasn’t much conversation besides that but the way my dad talked about money scared me. He had it really tough growing up. We were solidly middle class, but I definitely have a scarcity mindset around money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working at a stationery store when I was 14. I got paid under the table and loved having a job and my own money, although my parents continued giving me an allowance.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Do you worry about money now?
I’m obsessive about money and budgeting. I check my accounts at least once a day and worry that I have lived a very sheltered life and wouldn’t be able to cope with “real” hardship or challenge, whatever that means. I am grateful for what I have and feel a lot of guilt because I don’t have debt. I have a hard time enjoying things. I also have chronic migraines and chronic recurring depression (I am so fun at parties), so I worry a lot about what would happen if I had to return to an office or if I got really sick again (I’ve had two debilitating bouts of depression that took me out of work and school).
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I’m not! My mom gives me $700 every month and pays our phone bills. She receives a good bit of alimony from my dad which she splits with my siblings and me. I save as much of this as I can. She probably won’t do this much longer but I certainly do not take it for granted and try to either save the money or use it to travel home.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I actually get out of bed when my alarm goes off this morning because it snowed last night! I grew up in the South and still get excited about it. I get dressed and walk to my favorite coffee shop in our neighborhood for a large black drip coffee with half and half. I take out my laptop and do some writing. $4.81
9 a.m. — I get about 20 pages of revisions done on my memoir in progress. I signed with an agent over the summer and our goal is to send it out on submission to publishing houses in the spring. It feels so scary to even say that out loud, but I have worked so hard on this book and I’m really excited about the whole process. H., my boyfriend, walks over to the coffee shop to catch up before my work day starts and we have a good chit-chat about what we’re going to do about our lease. We’ve had a lot of security issues in our building and our property management company won’t do anything. H. sends a cool, calm, collected email and we cross our fingers that they let us go without a fight. I walk home for my first Zoom meeting of the day.
5 p.m. — I’m teaching an online course for my alma mater that starts today so I set that up and send out a welcome email. My sibling comes over at 5 p.m. — I’m going to their work holiday party with them — with McDonald’s fries and a Diet Coke ($5.53, they paid). They do my eyeliner and then I put on black overalls from SSENSE and purple New Balances.
6 p.m. — We finally leave for the train, I tap into the subway for my ticket. $2.90
6:30 p.m. — Stop at a smoke shop to buy weed for my mom, haha. She lives in the South and my sibling is flying home tomorrow and will bring it to my mom as a little gift. I get her a vape and some gummies. $93
12 a.m. — Why are other people’s work parties so much fun? There are several bottles of wine being passed around, an open bar, and lots of good food. We head out around 11:30 p.m. and get candy bars at a bodega (my sibling pays). Swipe onto the subway to go home. $2.90
Daily Total: $103.61

Day Two

7 a.m. — Up and dressed in many, many layers as it’s 17 degrees outside and I’m working from the office today. I grab a frozen Trader Joe’s meal from the freezer for lunch and head to the train. $2.90
9 a.m. — I resist the call of a to-go coffee (also I’m late) and make a coffee with the Nespresso machine in our office. One of my coworkers brings lots of fun snacks so that’s breakfast sorted as well, albeit a strange one: some fancy sausage, a corner of a very good brownie, and a handful of tortilla chips.
2 p.m. — I run out for a coffee and a bit of fresh air and a fancy salted caramel coffee that is way too sweet. Ugh. $7.23
5:55 p.m. — Everyone but me is gone for the day and I have a book on hold to pick up at the library, so I skedaddle five rebellious minutes early. The book is All’s Well by Mona Awad. Get distracted by the new fiction shelves and end up browsing for an hour or so... Oops! Swipe through the turnstiles and back onto the train which takes forever for some reason. $2.90
8 p.m. — Home! I put on Tretinoin, CeraVe moisturizer, and PJs. I heat up frozen peas and some pork gyoza and eat dinner while watching a movie. We head to bed around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $13.03

Day Three

8 a.m. — Sleepily kiss H. goodbye as he gets up for work and then I get back into bed with a book. I was planning to go to the coffee shop to write, but I make the executive decision to do that… Later. I owe my agent a revised draft in a month and am reckoning with a nasty case of writer’s (reviser’s?) block. I see that my friend from college’s mom has signed up for a paid subscription to my Substack which lifts my writerly spirits! I finally get up and send her a thank you email, start a load of laundry, get another cup of coffee, and jump on a meeting at 10 a.m.
11 a.m. — Get dressed and head out for errands. I take the recycling out, return some books to the library, and go to the corner store for peanut butter, oat milk, and a Poppi. $14.83
3:30 p.m. — It’s a quiet day at work so I go to the gym for a bit. Stop by the cafe where H. works to say hi on the way. Chat to one of his coworkers about a new barre studio in the neighborhood which sounds fun — I am not a gym girl and don’t use anything but the treadmill and it’s too icy to run outside. H. makes me an oat milk latte on the house and then I finish the icy trudge to the gym.
5 p.m. — Home from the gym and wrapping up work when and realize I left my sweatshirt hanging on the treadmill I used! I run back to get it and stop by the pharmacy to pick up my birth control which is covered by insurance. I eat dinner at home and am in bed by 10 again p.m.

Daily Total: $14.83

Day Four

7 a.m. — Pop out of bed early for the gym then walk across the street to a coffee shop that has barstools in the window. My Friday ritual is to read my book and have a blueberry muffin and cappuccino before work starts. $10.53
9 a.m. — Walk home at 9 a.m. to shower before my first meeting. I bought one of those at-home laser removal things a few months ago that was almost $300. It works, kind of, and it doesn’t hurt, but it’s not life-changing. I use it when I get out of the shower.
3 p.m. — Walk across the park to a cafe. There is definitely some drama going on between the two people working — you could cut the tension with a butter knife in here! Stand at the register very awkwardly and order an oat milk latte (once they stop glaring at each other) which costs $6.99 with a $1 tip, but I would pay a zillion dollars to get the scoop on the drama. I was going to go to a friend’s art show tonight but see on IG it’s been cancelled. I'm surprised by how disappointed I feel to not have plans tonight. All the snow this week is making me cabin fever-y. I get a tiny bit of writing done. $6.99
5 p.m. — Walk home when the cafe closes, give H. a kiss, and sit at my desk to post some things for my class. I look up and realize I’ve been at it for two hours, so decide to take a long lovely bath since I don’t have plans. I love an alone night in.
Daily Total: $17.52

Day Five

7 a.m. — Wake up way earlier than I meant to and make coffee for H. and me which we drink in bed while watching a soccer match. He leaves for work around 9 a.m. and I suit up to brave the cold. I got a membership to an art museum for Christmas and decide today is a good day to break it in. Tap into the subway. $2.90
11 a.m. — Take a coffee break after wandering around a bit and to get my bearings — I always get lost in this museum and end up walking around the same rooms. $5.53
2 p.m. — Leave the museum and walk around for an hour or so. Since we’re moving soon, I want to walk around other neighborhoods to get a feel for if we want to move to a new neighborhood. Stop in a bookstore and buy a used book (Benefit by Siobhan Philips). $10.23
3:30 p.m. — Oh no, I am hangry! Duck into a Chinese restaurant and order noodles with chicken and a lamb bun. I love taking myself out for lunch with a book. I start Court of Thorns and Roses which I checked out from the library using Libby and sent to my Kindle. I don’t read a ton of fantasy but one of my best friends does and loves this series so I’m excited to try something new. $32.22
4:30 p.m. — I was thinking of seeing a movie but I didn’t mean to spend so much on a solo lunch… Decide to head home instead. I tap into the subway. $2.90
5 p.m. — Stop in a new bakery on the way home for two very large chocolate chip cookies for H. and me. $8.62
6 p.m. — H. ask if I’ll grab some chicken for him to make for dinner on my way home. Happy to, especially if it means I’m not cooking! I get some hot chocolate mix and whipped cream too. I have a sweet tooth today. $12.85
8 p.m. — H. makes chicken for dinner and then we have a nice night in together.

Daily Total: $75.25

Day Six

9 a.m. — Sleep in and then walk to a cafe in another neighborhood. Order a bun and cappuccino. $11.23
1 p.m. — Go to the gym. I stop into the bodega for another cup of coffee on my way home but they’re out, which is probably for the best.
7 p.m. — H. and I venture out for dinner and end up at one of our favorite Italian spots. We split a pizza and I have a Campari soda. I am so happy in this cozy restaurant and feel like I could sit here all night! Dinner costs $63 but H. pays.
10 p.m. — We stop for a glass of wine on the way home at a new-to-us bar. The bartenders are very cute and I make a mental note to come back with a book. $35
Daily Total: $46.23

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up and am not in the mood to go to the gym or make coffee or speak to another human being. H. is usually off Mondays but is covering for a coworker which is probably good because I am so inexplicably grouchy. I cannot remember the last time I ordered breakfast but I Uber Eats a bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel and it is a luxurious expense, but absolutely delicious. $19.19
1 p.m. — Go by H.’s work to say hi and one of his very sweet coworkers makes me a latte on the house.
4:30 p.m. — We’re having a busy day at work but I finally have a lull in calls. I run to the yarn shop across the street for a couple of skeins of yarn I need to finish a scarf I'm making for my mom. $26.81
7 p.m. — After a long busy day I scavenge around the apartment for dinner food then get in bed early.

Daily Total: $46
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