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A Week In Queens, NY, On A $80,000 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: Dietitian/Lactation Consultant who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Into The Woods tickets.
Occupation: Dietitian/Lactation Consultant
Industry: Nutrition/Public Health
Age: 29
Location: Queens, NY
Salary: $80,000 ($62,000 from full time job + $18,000 from part-time job)
Net Worth: -$2,820 (Investments: $14,680, 403(b): $4,000, HYSA: $12,000 minus student loan debt. My partner, V. (she/her), and I started living together recently, but we don't share finances yet. She very recently got her first full-time job after finishing graduate school and we are waiting to combine until she feels she is in a more financially comfortable position on her own. For example, I pay for rent and utilities for the apartment, and she pays for her car, car insurance, and EZ pass. We plan to group these payments together and split them proportionally to our salaries in the future.)
Debt: $33,500 in student loans
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,629, plus about $1,500 once a month from the part-time job
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent $1,600 for a one-bedroom apartment with a small private backyard, got it as a COVID deal + $180 for a parking spot
Student Loans: $330, currently on pause
Spotify: $9.99
Apple Care/iCloud Storage: $11.99 (I'm lucky to still be on my parents' phone plan)
Classpass: $49.99
Netflix/Hulu: $0 (shared plan with my family, my parents pay)
Apple TV: $4.99
Internet: $69
Electricity: ~$45
Patreon: $5
Savings: ~$800 per month ($200 per paycheck into HYSA, $200 per paycheck into 403(b) account)
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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?
There was definitely an expectation for me to attend college. I was a smart kid and very early on began to measure my self-worth based on being “the smart kid.” All of the “straight-A student” pressure I had in high school was definitely self-inflicted. My parents struggled with how to handle college for me because I wanted to apply to a lot of private universities that they couldn't afford to send me to. I ended up going to an in-state private school that gave me cheaper tuition because I was in-state. I took out roughly $20,000 over four years, which was the max I could take out under my own name. My parents took out additional loans, but I don't know how much they took out. By the time I was applying for graduate school, I had a much better sense of “if I go to this school, I'm going to be in this much more debt.” I went to a public university for grad school and only had to take out $20,000 for the whole degree, which covered tuition and living expenses.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I wish my parents had had more conversations about money with me directly. When I started having to sign up for retirement and investment accounts at work, I felt totally lost. My dad took care of my taxes for me until last year when I started doing them myself, which was a choice I made so that I could attempt to understand them better. My biggest regret is not understanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program adequately when I first started paying off my student loans. Working in public health, I can get the remainder of my loans forgiven after working in the field for 10 years. I started off aggressively trying to pay down the balance, but realized too late that my approach should have been to pay the minimum to have more forgiven at the end. You live & you learn, I guess.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first jobs were babysitting and lifeguarding. I remember thinking that being a babysitter was cool and I was excited to babysit for my younger sister's friends. I mostly got these high school jobs for extra spending money. My parents didn't do a regular allowance, they were pretty good about giving us $20 here and there when we wanted to do things, but also had me get a job so that I would have my own spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not much. I had a vague awareness of my family's financial situation, but no real concept of how much money my parents made and how that compared to other families. We were always comfortable and I was never made to feel that we were lacking, either on essentials or fun things as a family. I don't think my parents adhered to a strictly outlined household budget, but they were never extravagant spenders either. I think I passively absorbed a general sense of what I can and can't afford now as an adult from them, and maybe have an instinctive drive to be more frugal/budget conscious.
Do you worry about money now?
Currently, yes, more so than in the last few years because my partner V. and I just got engaged and are starting to plan our wedding! We are incredibly fortunate and grateful to be getting help with the wedding from both of our parents, otherwise, we would not be able to afford the type of wedding we are envisioning. Prior to being with V. and thinking more seriously about the future, I didn't really worry about affording my day-to-day expenses and have been lucky to feel relatively financially secure since getting my full time job in 2016. I did (and still do) worry sometimes about saving for the future, affording a house, and supporting a family.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at age 23 when I moved out of my parents' house. I definitely had a safety net with my parents, and still do, where they'll sometimes pay for groceries when I come home for the weekend or give me cash. I know I could ask them for help if I'm ever in a tight spot financially and they did help me with rent for a few months when I first moved to NYC.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up and it's sunny! I make coffee and a smoothie for breakfast at home before delivering groceries for a local food pantry for a few hours. It feels good to help others, especially because I have access to my partner's car. I drive around my neighborhood for about two hours with deliveries and catching up on listening to my Survivor podcasts.
3 p.m. — My parents and my partner's mom arrive and we go visit our wedding venue to make it official!!! After weeks of searching and having tough conversations, we finally have found a venue that fits the needs of our large Jewish family (mainly my very large extended family), as well as our budget. We are lucky enough that our parents are each giving us money to help pay for the wedding, which we are putting toward the cost of the venue. My partner and I will also be paying for the wedding when we start picking our photographer, DJ, decorations, etc. My parents pay the $1,000 for the deposit.
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5 p.m. — I meet a couple of friends at the Dave's Lesbian Bar pop-up while V. takes a break from the heat at home. There are a lot of cute vendors and good music, and it is nice to walk around with friends. I buy an art print and a birthday card for a friend at a local store before going home because again, it is too damn hot. $15

8 p.m. — V. and I take the train into Manhattan for a birthday dinner for my friend from college. We share a bunch of appetizers and entrees. $75

10 p.m. — We go out for drinks after dinner and I treat the birthday girl to a drink for her 30th birthday. I take the train home because Ubers have been stupid expensive recently and it is still early enough to feel safe. $45

Daily Total: $135

Day Two

10 a.m. — V. and I each need to do one grown-up task — I need to pick up my medicine for my silly little mental health ($17 co-pay) and she needs to mail a ticket, so we drive to the shopping center that has both the pharmacy and the post office. Around 11, my friend, B., comes over before going to see a Broadway show! We're seeing Mr. Saturday Night with Billy Crystal. $17
2 p.m. — We head to the theater for our show! We take an Uber to a closer train station and then the subway the rest of the way. We love the show! It has a lot of old Jewish humor, which we enjoy. We also very much enjoy the air conditioning in the theater on another brutally hot day ($5 each for the split Uber, $70 for the ticket, and $5.50 for the subway both ways). $80.50
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5:30 p.m. — We have dinner at our favorite Greek restaurant in the neighborhood. Great food and great company — a perfect evening. $45
Daily Total: $142.50

Day Three

7 a.m. — I try a new studio on ClassPass this morning for a pilates reformer class. I really like reformer classes and they've been great for improving my core strength and posture, but they're definitely pricey. The studio is a bit of a walk from my apartment, so I walk there and take the train back to save time. $2.75
10:30 a.m. — Take the train to the office. I'm working the late shift today from 10:30-6:30. I eat leftovers for lunch. During my lunch break, I go to TJ Maxx to buy a new iPhone charger cord and some no-show socks. $32.75
6:30 p.m. — I leave work at 6:30 and take the train home. V. makes a dinner of some leftover stuff we have in the house since we didn't go food shopping yesterday (we typically do a big food shop for the week on a Sunday of ~$100 but we didn't this week because of going to see the show). She makes whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce, roasted cherry tomatoes, and some zucchini. After dinner, we finish up a pantry clean out we started last week. $2.75
Daily Total: $38.25

Day Four

7 a.m. — I walk to another workout class this morning. I have a bunch of ClassPass credits to use up before the end of this month.
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9 a.m. — I make coffee at home and a smoothie for a late breakfast with frozen fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, milk, and yogurt. Then I have a protein bar to make sure I'm not hangry until dinner time.
3 p.m. — I work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and leave early today for V.'s belated graduation. She graduated in 2021 and we finally get to celebrate this year in person. It'a nice to be able to meet some of her grad school friends. $2.75
6 p.m. — We go out to dinner with V.'s mom to celebrate. V.'s mom treats us to dinner, which is very nice of her! We take the train home after dinner. $2.75
Daily Total: $5.50

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and go for a long morning walk before work. I've gotten into the habit of saving new episodes of my favorite podcasts for going on walks as motivation to get up and go. I stop at the grocery store at the end of the walk so that I have some food to make a salad for lunch. I buy a cucumber, a can of chickpeas, feta cheese, a jar of olives, a jar of roasted peppers, and a couple of other items for the house. I make coffee at home and have an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana for breakfast. $23
9 a.m. — Work from 9 to 5 today. During my lunch break, I drive over to the food pantry to return some items that nobody claimed. They tell me I can keep what I want, so I keep perishable items like milk, eggs, and a zucchini. I pick up a sandwich for lunch on my way back because I truly have no energy to make something for lunch today at home. $13
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8 p.m. — Survivor season finale night! V. and I invite my siblings and my best friend and her husband over for a watch party. We order burgers, sandwiches, fries, and donuts. I opt to pick up the food instead of delivery to save a bit on fees. It's fun to have a full house to watch, cheer, and argue all together. $35
Daily Total: $71

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — I wake up a little later than I meant to but I'm determined to still take a walk this morning. I'm able to squeeze in a 45-minute walk before work.
10 a.m. — Into The Woods is transferring to broadway so I log on the moment the tickets go on sale. I frantically buy them immediately for myself, V., and two other friends. I swear the hype around this production was so big that with my anxiety, you would have thought I was fighting fans for tickets to a Harry Styles concert. Thankfully I'm able to grab seats that are in a decent location and moderately priced. $110
11 a.m. — I lead a prenatal group once a week teaching expectant moms about breastfeeding. My supervisor is observing my group today and I'm a little bit nervous, but I get really great feedback. It feels really good to be told I'm good at my job! Imagine that!
1 p.m. — I take my lunch break with my sister, who slept over after the Survivor season finale last night. We get a couple of slices of pizza and then sit in my backyard and eat and read before going back to work. She pays for my pizza to make up for me paying for her dinner that we ordered last night.

2 p.m. — Another friend wants to get Into The Woods tickets with me to the first preview performance and how could I say no? I live and breathe for Sara Bareilles, especially on Broadway. She tries to go to the box office to get tickets for us without online service fees (pro tip!), but it doesn't open for a few more weeks, so we suck it up and get tickets online. $180

5 p.m. — I find some chicken and Trader Joe's ravioli in the freezer, a giant zucchini in the fridge, and some panko bread crumbs and pasta sauce in the pantry. I put it all together and make dinner for V. and myself. It isn't half bad for a throw-together meal!

8:30 p.m. — We write thank you cards for some engagement gifts we've received recently, then discuss our plans for the weekend. We also look at some wedding invitation options.

Daily Total: $290
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Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Wake up and groan because I have to go to the office today. I pack up my breakfast and lunch, make an iced coffee, and head out the door. I take the subway to work. $2.75
1 p.m. — I eat my salad at my desk and then go sit in the park and read for a while. I'm trying my best to stay off my phone for long stretches and break the compulsion of opening it all the time. I deleted TikTok off my phone two weeks ago to try to help with that as well.
4:30 p.m. — A bunch of people come in last minute and I end up having to stay late, which makes me grumpy. I get extra grumpy because I didn't know it was going to rain and I get soaked on my way to the train. $2.75
6:30 p.m. — I stop at the grocery store on my way home for a few baking and dinner supplies. I get home and immediately take a shower. V. makes a Shabbat dinner of miso salmon, rice, and green beans. $40
8 p.m. — I bake a coconut cream pie. I'm obsessed with the musical Waitress and am currently baking my way through the Waitress pie cookbook. This one is called “Old Joe's Slice Of Heaven Pie.”
Daily Total: $45.50
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