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A Week In New York On A $49,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Essie.
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 fitness studio owner who makes $49,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a manicure.
Occupation: Fitness studio owner/event staff/modeling
Industry: Fitness/events
Age: 38
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $49,000
Net Worth: -$285,059 (checking account $1,854.99, savings account: $87.81, investments: $45,000 minus debt. I also have a car but it’s old and worth less than $1,000.)
Debt: $31,500 in credit card debt plus a business loan in my name for $300,000.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly, varies greatly depending on how many events I work): $300-$800+
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,830 (I live with my husband, V., but I pay rent and he handles other household expenses, such as utilities, streaming, and groceries.)
Business Loan: $2,200 (I’ve paid off about $4,850 so far.)
Traditional Gym: $287.38
Martial Arts Gym: $100
Spotify: $10.99
Canva: $12.99
Health Insurance: $0 (I have state insurance and it’s free.)
Pet Insurance: $26.46
Cell Phone: $0 (on my parents’ plan)
Apple Storage: $2.99
Citi Bike: $5.44
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?
Absolutely; there was no other option. I received a scholarship for $10,000 per year to a private, in-state school and my parents paid the rest of my four years of college.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My grandmother was a very smart investor and workaholic. She was very stingy, but every gift she ever gave me was a check, which was then immediately put into an investment account that we had no access to.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I have also been a workaholic as long as I can remember, having multiple jobs dating back to middle school. I worked at a bakery and as a pharmacy technician on the weekend. I got the jobs because I wanted to buy a car (which, eventually, I did).
Did you worry about money growing up?
Growing up, I wasn’t worried about money.
Do you worry about money now?
After graduating, I worked three jobs, one of which was bartending in the city and leaving with tons of cash. In my early twenties, I wasn’t worried about money or savings at all. I paid off all my credit card debt and lived in a luxury apartment building in the city. When my now husband, V., and I decided to open our own fitness studio, we put almost everything we had into it. I liquidated $80,000 from my investments, took out the line of credit for $300,000, borrowed $80,000 from V.’s financially secure older brother, and borrowed $10,000 from my mother (which I don’t think I am expected to pay back to her). We both work full time at the studio and do not take payment (we can’t afford it currently), so I only make income from side hustles, like modelling jobs, event staffing, and brand ambassador jobs (which I’ll refer to as promotions throughout this week). V. and I live pay check to pay check and have constantly almost maxed-out credit cards. My pay checks vary greatly based on the number of events I am booked on, the rate per event, and the hours per event. I do not make any money if I am not physically working.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was financially stable and responsible for myself from college graduation in 2010 through opening the studio in 2018. The studio was thriving until March 2020, when we had to close, and we are still building things back up. I have a credit card linked to my mother’s bank account in case of emergency, and my parents and in-laws have been sending us small sums of cash for every holiday and birthday.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When my grandmother passed, she left her brownstone in New York to my mother. This is what allowed me to take out the line of credit (on her property). Also, see above for “borrowed” and gifted money.

Day One

7 a.m. — This is my latest morning wake-up time. I have two cups of coffee while reading articles with the cat. At 8:30 a.m., I take a cardio dance class that is included in my gym membership. At 9:45 a.m., I head to the studio to open for classes. I get a coffee from Starbucks on the way. $4.85
12 p.m. — I take the subway to a training class (included in my martial arts membership). After working out, I head to a local business that I run a social media account for to create content. I want another coffee desperately, but I don’t give in. I take the subway back to my studio ($2.90). $5.80
5 p.m. — At the studio, the dryer is acting strange. V. and I are stressed but manage to fix it ourselves and avoid a maintenance call/service fee. I close up the studio around 8 p.m. and do a quick Target run on my way home (famous last words). I “need” mouthwash, but in addition to a bottle, I leave with two cans of grape Olipop, a bulk package of Mentos, trail mix, and gummy vitamins. At home, V. and I eat dinner from groceries we already had and watch the past weekend’s SNL episode. $42.70
Daily Total: $53.35

Day Two

5:40 a.m. — Earliest morning, so a quick coffee before biking over to open the studio.
8:30 a.m. — Coffee run! I reload my Starbucks app with $25 for the week and get two coffees, one for V. and one for me. $25
10:30 a.m. — I take a heated Pilates class, included in my gym membership. I stop by my local Buffalo Exchange in hopes of selling some clothing items (I walk away with $23.50 in cash).

12:30 p.m. — I always go to the same nail salon (I love them deeply). I have a loyalty card and I thought I had enough points to redeem a free manicure, but I don’t. I use all the cash I just made at Buffalo Exchange plus two quarters I find in the bottom of my bag. Manicures aren’t mandatory for my event bookings, but they are highly suggested (and expected) since we work with our hands and they appear in photos. $24

2 p.m. — I have a virtual therapy appointment ($0, covered by insurance). We mostly talk about money stress. I have coffee and eggs at home, then take the subway to a job. $2.90

9:30 p.m. — I work for five hours for a corporate client with my bestie, K., and we snack on leftover catering food (little bites, like mini grilled cheeses and cut veggies) throughout. K. brings new treats for my cat! We take the subway home together ($2.90) and then I quickly get ready for bed and finish a library book, falling asleep around 11 p.m. $2.90

Daily Total: $54.80

Day Three

6:40 a.m. — Wake up, coffee at home with the cat, and walk to open the studio.
9 a.m. — I leave the studio early, and take the subway uptown ($2.90) to pick up my car from friend, L. (we share the car). She parks in a garage that I pay $24 in cash for (and she quickly sends a Venmo for $24, even though I told her I would cover it). We drive down to my studio again and co-work for a bit together. $2.90

12:30 p.m. — I take a workout break to take a dance cardio class included in my gym membership. Then I continue working while eating a very juicy Asian pear with a Brussels sprout salad (from home). It’s still raining, so I take the subway to work ($2.90). $2.90

7:30 p.m. — K. and I work together for a high-end client, snacking on their leftover cheese and veggie board. The job location is right by a specialty store that’s having a sale (and they never have sales), so we shop after work. I get fancy butter, fresh pasta, nougat, and two bottles of Lambrusco for a friend’s upcoming birthday. I immediately feel guilty about spending this money. $63.22

8:30 p.m. — K. and I take the subway downtown with all our bags. I make dinner from groceries, catch up on work emails and laundry, start a new library book, and go to bed. $2.90

Daily Total: $71.92

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I wake up and realize that the cat is almost out of kibble and we’re almost out of coffee. It’s drizzling, so I walk to work instead of biking again. Customers are waiting outside for the studio to open, which is the worst feeling. At 9 a.m., I sit in the car during alternate side parking, working from my phone. Coffee withdrawal hits, so I order a small cup with my pre-loaded Starbucks.
11 a.m. — I check in to the gym and the front desk staff notifies me that I have an overdue balance. I move some money around so that I can pay off a little bit of one of my credit cards. I take a yoga class in an attempt to de-stress, eat lunch from groceries while working from my laptop, and then break for a stretch class with a friend.
5 p.m. — Back to the studio to work the front desk and do tons of cleaning. I close up around 9 p.m., make dinner with V., and head to bed around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6 a.m. — I wake up with my alarm, but V. is up so he said he will open the studio. I stay at home, sipping on our last cup of coffee, then bike to the studio for a few hours of work. V. booked us a day pass at a local bathhouse as a belated birthday gift, so I take the subway to midtown ($2.90). I would never be able to afford this and I am grateful for V. $2.90
2 p.m. — After our time in the sauna, V. and I are hungry. We go to Trader Joe’s, where I get a pear, chocolate, a protein bar, prepackaged beets, and a congratulations card for a friend competing this weekend ($12.96). I get ready for work at my gym’s nearby location (the fact that they have locations everywhere is so convenient, and it’s an expensive membership so I really try to take advantage of it as much as possible). $12.96
3 p.m. — I take the subway to work an in-store sampling event. I love working for this agency because they pay us within a week of the event at a competitive rate. $2.90
6:30 p.m. — I pick up my bags from the gym location (I left them in a locker, don't tell!) and freshen up. I take the subway downtown to meet K. for a dance performance her friend is appearing in. Another friend of hers bailed, so the ticket is free for me. $2.90
10 p.m. — I debate biking home to save the subway swipe, but I have so many bags with me and it’s been a long day. I take the subway home and eat an emergency dinner of rice crackers and a cookie. $2.90
Daily Total: $24.56

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — Finally, Saturday morning! Wake up for coffee and feed the cat. I walk to open the studio, then take an e-bike to two hours of training at my martial arts gym ($0.76, as there’s an extra charge for e-bikes). $0.76
12:30 p.m. — Exhausted after training, I get a tall coffee from Starbucks (I’m dangerously close to needing to reload my mobile app but can’t afford that, so I get the most basic, smallest coffee possible) and take the subway back to the studio to close up. I close up the studio, which really just means lots of laundry and cleaning on the weekends. $2.90
4 p.m. — After closing up, I meet V. at home for a quick lunch (we heat up a quiche from Whole Foods) and get ready to head to an exhibition fight being hosted at a traditional gym in Brooklyn. My friend is competing, so I am super pumped to see her in the ring. Since I have my car, I drive to Bushwick and park for free. We buy tickets at the door via Venmo for $25. After the fight, V. goes to the afterparty, but I drive to another neighborhood in Brooklyn to a friend’s apartment for a birthday celebration. I bring the bottles of Lambrusco, which are received very well! I find street parking both at her place and when I drive back home around 11 p.m. Before bed, I quickly eat some of the Trader Joe’s beets. $25
Daily Total: $28.66

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up late and sip coffee as I complete recaps for the events I worked this week. I am driving up to Hudson Valley today to meet my mother, sister, and childhood friend for brunch. I leave just after 10 a.m.
12:30 p.m. — We share brunch at a beautiful farm-to-table restaurant. We all split a beet salad, veggie hash browns, bread pudding French toast, and a brick-oven artichoke pizza. The total is around $100, but my mother pays (we all knew she would). We browse the local farmers’ market and stop by a winery that is out of the wine I wanted to purchase (thus saving me money).
4 p.m. — Driving back to New York City, I stop for regular gas ($21.30). The weather and traffic are horrible, as is searching for a parking spot on a Sunday evening. When I’m home, about two hours later, I unpack everything from the car and make salads using groceries about to go bad in the fridge. V. and I finish the second half of Killers of the Flower Moon (which just became available to watch on Apple TV). To shake that movie off, I shower, wash my hair, eat my Trader Joe’s chocolate, and read until bed. $21.30
Daily Total: $21.30
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