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A Week In New Jersey On A $65,000 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: a data analyst who makes $65,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on bulldog clips.
Occupation: Data Analyst
Industry: Medical Research
Age: 34
Location: New Jersey
Salary: $65,000
Net Worth: -$54,500 (~$11,000 in savings, ~$5,500 in checking, ~$500 in retirement minus debt).
Debt: ~$65,000 in federal education loans, ~$2,000 in private education loans, ~$4,500 in credit card debt.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,786.44
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (live with parents).
Student Loans: $183 (federal loans are on pause).
Credit Card Debt: $450
Utilities: $0 (parents).
Car Payment/Insurance: $0 (use my mother's old car, on my parents' policy).
Phone/Internet: $0 (family plan).
Medical/Vision/Dental: ~$163
Prescriptions: $43.95
Retirement: ~$217
Hulu: $7.99 (everything else I get from relatives and friends).
Spotify: $10.65
Final Fantasy 14 (MMORPG): $12.99
Art Class: $160
Savings: $1,625

Annual Expenses
Dropbox: $119.88
Web Domain: $155.88
Art School Registration: $140
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, there was an expectation for me to attend college, but it was because I was a smart kid. I attended an expensive private liberal arts college. I had some grant aid and federal loans but that wasn't sufficient to cover all of my tuition/room/board. My mother covered two years of the remainder with PLUS loans and I covered the other two years with private loans. My mother has contributed to paying down some of my private loans. I also received a master's degree from a state university I attended with in-state tuition. That was paid for with federal loans in my name and my mother was listed as a co-borrower for a private loan I took out to cover my last semester. I am the only one making payments on that particular loan.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I don't remember talking about money growing up. I had a checking and savings account in high school but I didn't get any advice on using it. As an adult, I've talked to my parents about finances more, but my mother, who does most of the financial management, isn't the sort to budget. She is, however, very aggressive with debt. (She also sometimes encourages me to make frivolous purchases, like my PS5.) I talk to my dad about gambling; he regularly makes small bets and sometimes I join him.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a cashier at a grocery store in high school. I wanted money for video games and going out to lunch at school. In college I worked as a computer repair tech, which covered food, books and fun.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't. My family was never rich but we were comfortable. In retrospect, I recognize that at one point my parents were both working two jobs to keep everything up. Most nights only one of my parents was around to make dinner, but at least one of them was always home. I did start worrying about it more when I started college and my mom financed things through loans. Shortly after I started college she got a significant promotion and things became more stable.
Do you worry about money now?
To be honest, not really. And in the past, my attitude was total resignation to constant debt rather than worry. Ever since I got my current job, I feel like there's a route out of my debts and I've been a lot more optimistic. If I lived on my own, I definitely would be more worried, but I'm living with my parents so I can be more secure before I move out. My retirement sucks but I know my previous financial circumstances made it impossible to save up, and I'm trying to get a start on it now.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I have been using my financial safety net, my parents, for years. There was a time when I was mostly financially independent: my first attempt at graduate school, which was fully funded. However, I had to leave that program due to my first major depressive episode, later leading to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I moved back home and started tutoring. The pay was inconsistent and overall I was only making $7,000-$9,000 per year. It was nowhere near enough to be self-sufficient and most of my wages went towards debt. While tutoring, I lived at home and worked on my master's degree. As I was finishing my degree, I entered another major depressive episode. When I recovered from that and was preparing to apply for a full-time position, the pandemic hit…and so did even more depression. My 20s and early 30s were awful and my depression was severe enough to be disabling. The past year, I've been doing great and about four months ago I got a new full-time job. I'm still living at home to handle some of my debts. I've already paid off about $2,000 of credit card debt and my credit score has increased significantly, allowing me to open a 0% APR card to deal with the remainder. I've been told that I can stay here as long as I like. I also know that if I moved out, taking art classes would become difficult, and it's become an important part of my mental health routine.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Currently no inheritance, annuities or settlements. I know I will inherit something when my grandmother passes, but my mother and my uncles are set to inherit the majority of her estate, so I'm not sure how much I stand to gain. I have received some very generous gifts. In terms of transportation, my parents bought me my first car after my first year of college and I now drive my mother's old car, which is still in her name. Last year I received $1,500 from my father (from a very lucky bet), which went towards a PS5, art classes and everyday expenses. A previous gift of $1,000 from my mother went towards a necessary new computer and credit card debt. My mother contributes $100 a month towards one of my private loans and has sent me $25 a week since college (she has chosen not to shut the transfer down despite knowing it still exists).

Day One

8:20 a.m. — I'm up! Have a cigarette and some coffee. My period has been miserable this month and I check Clue, only to realize it's been going on for nine days. I feel fine and my flow has been very light so I'm not losing excessive blood, but I do manage to freak myself out. I don't think this is something that warrants a visit to an urgent care, and I'm not even sure what they would be able to do for me other than refer me to a gynecologist. Look at Planned Parenthood but there are no open appointments soon. Ugh. I'm just going to be worried about this constantly.
9:40 a.m. — My sister was over yesterday and stayed the night, so we watch Only Murders in the Building together as a family.
11:20 a.m. — My mother drives my sister home and I talk to my father about the football games happening today. I refill my pillbox and take my morning meds (a mood stabilizer, an antipsychotic, and a non stimulant ADHD medication), and have more coffee and another cigarette.
12:20 p.m. — My dad makes brunch for everyone and I have ham, egg and cheese with ketchup on an English muffin. I try to text a Planned Parenthood health educators text line, but they're offline. I'm getting myself super worked up over this period thing. According to Clue, it's my first irregular period in three years.
1 p.m. — It's football time! Even though I'm not going anywhere today, I finally get dressed and throw some dry shampoo in. It helps me feel better and hopefully the game will get my mind off things. I grab some fancy smoked gouda from the fridge to snack on while watching.
3:45 p.m. — We win! I start journaling now that I'm free of football. I've been journaling daily for about four years now and it's a super important part of my self-care. I open up a brand-new Leuchtturm1917 since I finished my previous journal last night and I start writing while watching Iron Chef Japan and snacking on a mini KIND bar.
5:45 p.m. — Ugh, I ended up falling asleep in my armchair while journaling. I eat more cheese, have another cigarette, grab an Athletic Run Wild non-alcoholic beer, and finish writing.
7:10 p.m. — Dinnertime! My mother made rigatoni with meat sauce and she serves it with bread and butter. We eat as a family and hate-watch Worst Cooks in America before turning on more football. I have a little bit of icebox cake for dessert.
9:30 p.m. — I recently resubscribed to Final Fantasy 14 (I took a break for a few months when I started my new job) so I log on to play and pop into voice chat with my online friends. I really appreciate having my gaming friends in my life and playing through different group content in FF14 has been a blast.
11 p.m. — One more cigarette for the end of the day, then a shower and my evening meds. I'm in bed by 11:40 and watch YouTube on my phone to fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8 a.m. — I'm up! Have a cigarette and some coffee. It's a legal holiday so I'm off. I call Planned Parenthood at 9 a.m. but I get a message telling me to call back “between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.” I talked with my online friends about periods yesterday and that made me feel better, but I would love to talk to a nurse, so I see if my new health insurance has a nurse hotline. No luck there. Text hotline is also still closed. I give up.
10:10 a.m. — I head out to run a couple of errands. First up is the art supply store where I buy two pieces of foam board and two bulldog clips for my art classes this week. I've spent a lot on art supplies over the past couple of months and ordered most of them online from an art supply website, but these two items were only available in bulk online. Fortunately, here at the store, I don't have to buy a whole case of the stuff. $15.87
11 a.m. — I go to an Asian grocery to buy some ingredients for later in the week (apple, scallion, onion, garlic, gochujang, frozen sliced pork shoulder) and to restock on bottled green tea (eight 2L bottles of Ito En Oi Ocha unsweetened green tea). That much green tea should last me about two months. $60.74
11:30 a.m. — I'm home! Finish the last of the coffee, have another smoke, and put things away. I eat a GoMacro bar because there isn't anything else around that I feel like eating. I take my meds, turn on more Iron Chef Japan, and start journaling again.
1:15 p.m. — Change my sheets, do some laundry and empty the dishwasher. Then I meditate for 15 minutes. Before the pandemic, I meditated 20 minutes a day. It was super important to me and helped my mental health, but I fell out of the habit and now I'm trying to pick it back up. I don't subscribe to any meditation apps or go to classes, I just focus on a simple breath practice. I journal another page after I'm done.
3:15 p.m. — Finally decide on eating a slice of bread with some butter, then I join voice chat with my online friends and play Final Fantasy 14 for a couple of hours. After I'm done, I fold up my last load of laundry and pack up for my art school work-study shift.
6:35 p.m. — Work-study time! I have another cigarette, then work the opening shift at my art school. I get a free class in exchange for working the desk once a week, and I've been doing this for over a year now. Someone needs to buy supplies but doesn't have the cash or a card we accept. I have a $50 bill I want to break so I buy it for them and they immediately Venmo me back. I do a drawing while the class is going and eat some cookies.
10:10 p.m. — Done with work-study! I'm really happy with the drawing I did today. I head to Taco Bell because there isn't anything at home for dinner and at this time of night only fast food places are open. I order a black bean crunchwrap box via the app ($6.39) and pay with a gift card.
11:00 p.m. — I put away my personal computer and put out my work computer for the morning. I'm not tired yet so I log onto Final Fantasy 14 and play a little while before calling it a night at 11:50. My period is definitely slowing down. Skipping my shower because tomorrow is a work-from-home day.
Daily Total: $76.61

Day Three

8:10 a.m. — I'm up! Coffee and a cigarette. Check Mint (I don't use the budgeting features but I like being able to see all of my accounts at once) and see my monthly transfer to my savings went through.
9 a.m. — Log on for a semi-regular meeting at work to discuss and catch up on our digital task board. I get to work from home as much as I want because I primarily work with biological sequence data and everything can be done remotely. Most of my job is to write code for processing raw data.
1:45 p.m. — I heat up a frozen pretzel to eat, have a cigarette, and meditate for 15 minutes. I'm feeling calmer and more focused now. Afterward, I eat a mini GoMacro bar and take my meds.
3 p.m. — My parents arrive back from their respective jobs early to pack up and leave for a few days away. My mother hands me a letter that just came in the mail: I've been summoned for jury duty. I keep working and look up my HR policies, then I say goodbye to them when they leave.
5 p.m. — Time to shut down my work computer. I try to keep a 9-5 schedule. I start journaling for a bit before I have to go to my first art class of the week. I eat a Clif Builders bar then head out at 5:45.
9 p.m. — Not thrilled with my piece from class tonight but it was still great to do art. I leave the art school after talking to some of the other staff and head to Chipotle to grab dinner. I get a barbacoa bowl. I bring it home and eat half. I snack on some chocolate pretzels and email one of my old art teachers to show her some recent work. $11.68
11 p.m. — Shower, smoke, meds, bed at 11:55.
Daily Total: $11.68

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — I'm up before my alarm and I wake up to a clean pad! Thrilled that this period is finally over. Check Mint to see if my credit card payment went out and it did. It was my first automatic payment for this new 0% APR card so I was nervous. Log onto my computer at 9 a.m. and get to work.
10 a.m. — I usually don't eat breakfast but I'm feeling a little woozy so I grab a GoMacro bar.
11:20 a.m. — I'm presenting in a couple of meetings today so I meditate for 10 minutes. I don't really get to a calm place but I appreciate the check-in to find out that I am a little more overwhelmed than I thought. Take my meds, have a cigarette, pour myself some tea and log back on.
2:45 p.m. — Meetings go well! I eat the rest of yesterday's burrito bowl for a late lunch. Even though I'm still working, I hop into my online friends' voice chat. I don't really talk but it's nice being able to listen to other people when I'm working alone at home.
5 p.m. — After sending off a couple of updates, my day is officially done. I make a marinade and then add it to pork — I'm making spicy pork bulgogi! Once that's done, I take a walk to buy two packs of cigarettes. $22
6:30 p.m. — Check in on my pork and flip through cable to see if there's anything worth watching. I settle on House reruns. I start journaling again.
8:15 p.m. — I get the rice cooker going and grab an Athletic non-alcoholic beer. I nibble on some chocolate pretzels and fill out forms for jury duty. I finally finish cooking and eat at 9:30. It's really good!
10:45 p.m. — Finally start doing dishes but one pan is beyond my energy so I leave it. I pack up my bag for tomorrow and lay out clothes. Smoke, shower, meds, bed at 11:50.
Daily Total: $22

Day Five

6:50 a.m. — I'm up, ugh. I'm going into the city today for work. Usually, my goal is to leave by 7:15 but that's not happening. Make coffee, take meds, and at 7:30 I leave for my mile-long walk to the bus stop. I'm on the bus at 7:50 ($6). My parents are coming back today and I text them on the ride to apologize for leaving a dirty pan around. Once I'm in the city, I hop on the subway, tapping through with my phone using OMNY ($2.75). I should look up my commuter benefits, but I only anticipate going into the city eight times in total this month, so even the flex pass of 20 tickets NJ Transit offers isn't worth it. $8.75
9:15 a.m. — Finally in the office after having another cigarette. I log on for a meeting. Someone else is in the office today and I debate talking to them to see if they want to grab lunch. After the meeting, I take a walk to Dunkin' for a coffee with almond milk ($3.64 on a gift card) and have yet another cigarette. I drink about three cups of coffee and smoke a little less than half a pack a day. I should cut down on both.
2:15 p.m. — Time for lunch! (I never ended up talking to my coworker.) The place I had been scoping out on Google doesn't exist? I buy some overpriced avocado toast instead and bring it back to the office. $13.05
3 p.m. — I was going to go to a small party at my old job tomorrow but I get an email that it has been delayed. I kind of wanted to get it out of the way and get some closure.
5:30 p.m. — I leave work (my head hurts from staring at spreadsheets all day) and head to a bar by myself for a negroni. I don't drink often and with the medications I take, I honestly shouldn't be drinking at all. The bar is a little crowded so I drink a little too fast to get out (tripledemic!). $14
6:20 p.m. — Start heading home. Tap into the subway again ($2.75). I almost miss my train because I'm feeling a little disoriented. On my way to the bus I see panettone on clearance in a storefront and consider buying it, but I know I'll have to walk home and don't want to carry it with me. I hop on the bus ($6) and thankfully there isn't much traffic. $8.75
7:50 p.m. — Back home! I walk in on my parents having dinner. My mother has made baked salmon, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower served alongside bread and butter; I make myself a plate. I'm super tired so I don't even process what they have on TV and just mindlessly watch YouTube after we're done.
10:30 p.m. — I eat a scone with some butter for dessert. I'm still feeling absolutely busted but I want to get some journaling in. I manage to write one page before crashing completely. I'm in bed at 11:20.
Daily Total: $44.55

Day Six

8:20 a.m. — I'm up! You know the drill, coffee and a cigarette. I log on for a meeting at 9.
2 p.m. — I push out some code I've been working on all week for review and make a rice bowl from the leftover pork. I do a code review after I eat.
5 p.m. — It's time to switch out the computers at my desk for the weekend. My father arrives home as I do so and announces dinner tonight is fried fish. It's not my favorite meal and I'd rather eat something else, but the kitchen isn't big enough for two people to cook at once. My parents both enjoy cooking and apparently anything I cook for them is “too spicy,” so I only ever get to cook when they're away. I eat a mini KIND bar as my dad starts prepping.
7 p.m. — I'm feeling distracted but I manage to start journaling some more. I meditate for 15 minutes after I'm done.
8:15 p.m. — My paycheck hit today and I've been waiting for it to arrive all week because I'm going to pay off my private student loans. My undergraduate loan ($1,132.21) and my master's loan ($603.64) are now officially done. I have a local hefeweizen to celebrate. $1,735.85
8:45 p.m. — Dinnertime. We have fried fish, broccoli, pierogi with onions and sour cream, bread and butter. We eat as a family and watch Lego Masters followed by a couple of episodes of Vice Principals. I crack open another beer because I'm still celebrating.
10:50 p.m. — I start packing up for my other art class in the city tomorrow and manage to stuff everything I need into my backpack. I eat half of a mini panettone. Meds, shower, smoke. I'm in bed at midnight.
Daily Total: $1,735.85

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — Slept in. Coffee and a cigarette. My mother is around because she's working late today.
11 a.m. — My mother is able to give me a ride to the bus stop on her way to work. I hop on the bus. $6
11:45 a.m. — Once I'm in the city, I buy an overpriced bagel with cream cheese at the bus station to bring with me. I should have probably spent some time trying to find a better option for lunch (or even found a way to bring a homemade lunch with me while juggling all of this stuff I'm carrying), but I want to make sure I have time to eat before class starts. $5.63
12 p.m. — I have a smoke before hopping on the subway and end up giving two cigarettes away while smoking. I try to build karma in case I ever need to bum one myself. I use OMNY to pay for the subway again. I arrive at the art school early and eat my bagel in peace at the school's cafeteria. Head off to class after I'm done. $2.75
2:40 p.m. — My work is going well so far! The teacher loaned me a blending stump that I really enjoyed using so I add one to my Amazon cart. I also add a pack of 12 bulldog clips because I'll have to leave mine behind with my work for storage and I need clips for my other class. It's a lot of bulldog clips to have, but it seems like I'll be using them a lot more than I anticipated. I hit order. $28.74
4:20 p.m. — Art class is done! I'll be working on the piece more next week but the teacher says I am off to a great start. I hop on the subway ($2.75) and manage to get the last seat on a bus that's standing room only ($6). $8.75
5:50 p.m. — My father agrees to pick me up from the bus stop. Once home, I eat a couple of potato chips, the last mini KIND bar, and pour myself a cup of tea. I make a payment on my credit card because most of my transactions from the week have cleared (all accounted for above). I had my credit card number stolen from me once and they racked up a lot of charges, but it was easy to dispute. I don't even want to imagine that happening to my debit card and getting my cash locked up. I work on fixing my father's computer as we sit and watch football.
7 p.m. — I place an order for a pizza and a chicken appetizer for pick-up and head out to grab it. My father gives me $20, which only partially covers the meal, so I throw in $15 to cover the rest plus tip. After we eat, I journal a bit. $15
11:15 p.m. — I unpack my art supplies, skip the shower, have another cigarette, and head to bed at midnight.
Daily Total: $66.87
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