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A Week In New York, NY, On A $50,000 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 health educator who makes $50,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a pre-bottled Old Fashioned.
Occupation: Health Educator
Industry: School-Based Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $50,000
Net Worth: $19,400 ($2,600 in checking account, $10,000 in savings account, $6,800 in retirement account)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,200-$1,300 (varies slightly paycheck to paycheck because I am technically paid by the hour)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,300 (live with one roommate)
Utilities: $80-$130
Internet: $40
Spotify: $5 (student rate)
Donations: $65
Union Dues: $80 (this includes my health insurance)
Metrocard: $127
403(b): $632
Streaming Services: Use my parents', friends', and sisters'
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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?
It was always expected that I would attend college and likely graduate school. My parents paid for my undergrad education at a private university. I am currently in graduate school pursuing my master's in public health and have education benefits through my union that cover the cost of school part-time while I work full-time. Because of COVID, I was furloughed during my first semester of graduate school so the union did not pay; my parents covered that semester.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I grew up in a very affluent suburb surrounded by wealth that was in some cases much more obvious or showy than my family's. We talked about money, and I was, of course, aware that many people had much less than we did, but we were much more proximate to those who had (or appeared to have) much more. My parents would never have described us as rich or wealthy when I was growing up, and I did not know how much money they made. They did give my siblings and me a weekly allowance as a way to teach us about managing our own money, and whenever we made money we had to put away a third of our earnings into savings controlled by our parents.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was in high school, I babysat as a way to make some spending money of my own. My parents also used this as an opportunity to teach me about saving and job responsibility. My first full-time job after college was at an HIV and AIDS service organization, which I got through a matching process within a service corps program I did the first year after college.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried about money growing up.
Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money now, but it is not a significant stressor. Salaries in my field are low, including my own, and life is only getting more expensive. However, I have a significant safety net through my parents, so these worries mainly stem from my desire to maintain financial independence and from concerns about my ability to support myself long-term.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became fully financially independent, besides being on my parents' phone plan (which I still am), when I was 23 years old. I do have a significant financial safety net through my family.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received an allowance throughout my schooling, including during undergrad. Aside from that, I have not received any passive or inherited income as far as I am aware.

Day One

5 a.m. — Wake up to my needy dog crying because he has to go out, so I roll out of bed to prevent a floor pee. I take him out and then go right back to sleep.
11 a.m. — Wake up again and start the day. I have been quarantining with a mild case of COVID (my first time!) for the past nine days, and today is day 10 from my positive rapid test and day 11 from the onset of symptoms. Per CDC guidance, this is my first day of freedom, so I guess I'd better... clean my room and do some laundry? I have been out of work for the past eight business days, which coincided with the final weeks of school before the students leave for the summer, and I have to actively resist the temptation to log into Epic (our electronic medical record system) and see how things have been going in the school-based health center where I work. It's Friday, and I'll be back soon on Monday!
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12 p.m. — I take my first Peloton class in a while, restarting my $13/month membership and convincing myself (not for the first time) that I'm really gonna keep it up this time! $13
1 p.m. — I love my rent-stabilized building, but the lack of in-building laundry is hell. I walk around the corner to the laundromat to do my tremendous haul of post-COVID laundry. $9.50
1 p.m. — While my laundry is laundrying, I stop by Duane Reade to pick up Mucinex for my roommate who still has COVID and some snacks (Cheez-Its, Reese's cups, and a box of Quaker Oats cereal). $25.71
4 p.m. — Nine unelected legal officials decided to destroy the right to abortion today, and I am sad and scared and angry and unsurprised. I donate $100 to keepourclinics.org, a project of the Abortion Care Network that distributes funds to independent abortion clinics. $100
7:30 p.m. — I am feeling more spooked than I expected about the possibility of infecting other people even though I'm on day 10, so I don't feel up to attending one of the protests happening downtown for abortion rights. I get drinks outside with a friend who is feeling just as heartbroken over the SCROTUS (yes I added that "r" on purpose) decision. We share a carafe of Aperol Spritz to drown our sorrows. Back to the fight tomorrow... or the day after that, because my next stop is to see my boyfriend for the first time in 12 days! $26
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9:30 p.m. — Is it COVID-related brain fog, or am I just a ditz? I left my unlimited MetroCard at home, so I have to pay for my subway ride with OMNY on my phone in order to end my day at my boyfriend's place. $2.75
Daily Total: $176.96

Day Two

9 a.m. — Wake up and lay around in bed all morning with my boyfriend, P., absolutely blissful to be done with COVID and (for the moment) blocking out of my brain anything that might mess with that bliss.
12 p.m. — We're up and out! P. pays for my coffee and croissant and I pay for our ice creams. We spend the afternoon sitting in the park with our food until we overheat. Then we go back to his apartment for air conditioning and The Parent Trap, because tumultuous moments in history call for the medicine that is a Nancy Meyers movie. $18.28
6 p.m. — The MTA is so lucky to have forgetful riders like me, who end up having to pay even though we already paid for that unlimited card that's sitting impotently at home. $2.75
7:30 p.m. — Once I'm home, I realize I've only eaten a croissant and an overpriced ice cream today, so it's time to order from one of my favorite neighborhood spots where I have a $10 off promo code. This will sustain me for the long and glorious night of couch-sitting and TV-bingeing ahead of me accompanied by my roommate, F., and my dog. $19.97
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Daily Total: $41

Day Three

6 a.m. — I wake up for no clear reason at the crack of dawn. Unable to fall back to sleep, I get up at 7 to do some reading for my grad school program and get ready for the day.
12 p.m. — I leave home to complete my early voting for the Democratic primary and then go straight from there to the Queer Liberation March for Trans and BIPOC Freedom, Reproductive Justice, and Bodily Autonomy. It is my first time being around a bunch of people since I've had COVID and it is such a joy to be surrounded by beautiful, queer, trans, anti-racist community.
5 p.m. — After the march, I am covered in sweat and glitter and in desperate need of some food. The first place I see without an absurd line is Chipotle, so it is my fate today to shovel half a burrito bowl into my mouth while leaning against scaffolding on the sidewalk. $14.81
7 p.m. — Once I'm home and showered, F., P., and I order dinner before the time comes to pass out for the night. $25
Daily Total: $39.81

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Today is my first day back at work since I've been out with COVID, and it also happens to be the last day of school for students. I work as a health educator/coordinator in a school-based health center, which provides full primary care including sexual and reproductive healthcare to any student at the public high school where we are located. It is relatively quiet in the clinic today, but a few students do come in. I try to reach all of our students who come to us for birth control, or who are due for STI testing, to make sure they have everything they need and know how to reach us over the summer.
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4:30 p.m. — I have decided I *must* purchase a pre-made Old Fashioned I found out about online, by a company called On The Rocks, to bring on my Amtrak train this weekend when I go away with P. for the first time. He has a very romanticized idea of train journeys and I will make a northeastern Amtrak journey feel special and fancy if it's the last thing I do. Yes, I'm adorable. Yes, I'm fully embarrassed about it. $13.05
5 p.m. — One of my many projects during COVID was organizing and cleaning out my closet, and I have a gigantic bag of nice clothes I want to try and sell at Buffalo Exchange. Of course, I forgot the unspoken rule of consignment: Never expect to sell anything. I make $52 in store credit, so I immediately spend it (plus $5 more) on a skirt, a blouse, and a pair of rain boots. I then lug my overflowing Ikea tote of unsold clothes home through the sweltering day. $5
6 p.m. — I make a plan to have a heroic friend dog-sit for about 12 days while F. and I are both out of town. They insist payment is unnecessary, but if you knew my dog, you'd know that it absolutely is. I expect to spend about $250. $250
8 p.m. — Speaking of the small gremlin that is my dog, I need to pay our dog walker who came twice this week. She goes to high school nearby and comes to walk the dog after school on days that we need her. I leave cash for her every week that she comes, about $12 a walk. $25
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Daily Total: $293.05

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Today will be my last day of work in person for a while, as we'll go remote for the next few days while the school building is closed and then I'll be on vacation for two weeks. I have to clean up my office a bit and get paperwork done that cannot be completed from home.
1 p.m. — F. and I are both about to be away for a couple of weeks and will miss a pick-up day for our CSA, so I have to write to the listserv to try and switch shares with someone. We pay a lump sum at the start of the season, which comes out to about $38 per pickup (split between the two of us), so we don't want to lose it!
4 p.m. — I treat myself to an end-of-school, start-of-summer, post-COVID, the-Supreme-Court-is-destroying-what-few-rights-people-had-in-this-godforsaken-country mani/pedi. It's $57.50 plus tip to feel pampered and pretty. $69.50
8 p.m. — F. and I *need* to watch the queer season of MTV's iconic dating show Are You The One?, so I download a seven-day free trial of Paramount+ and set a reminder on my never-ending to-do list to delete the subscription before I get charged. This is life when you don't make enough money to support the level of Treat Yourself energy you have going at all times.
Daily Total: $69.50

Day Six

9 a.m. — I'm working from home today, attending a conference virtually, and excitedly getting myself packed and ready for a weekend away coming up. Of course, my pet expenses never rest, and my tiny gremlin (dog) needs his Prozac, which auto-ships from Chewy today. $77.57
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12 p.m. — Did I mention the endless string of free trials that occupy my life? I cancel the Instacart+ free trial I signed up for to order groceries when F. and I both had COVID.
7 p.m. — A friend comes over for the first time since COVID ravaged our home, and we watch the first two episodes of season two of Only Murders In The Building (signed into a friend's family Hulu account, of course!). We ascertain that I am Martin Short's character Oliver, and this is delightful.
Daily Total: $77.57

Day Seven

9 a.m. — My monthly donations all process around the beginning or end of the month, so out goes my monthly $5 to my favorite community bookshop and $25 to a dear friend and amazing performing artist's Patreon. Set up monthly donations! Do it! An anonymous stranger on the internet implores you! Accounted for in my monthly expenses above.
8 p.m. — F.'s sister has two extra tickets to see Into The Woods tonight, so we sit in an audience of almost entirely musical theater nerds (which we are not, but we sure do know and love a lot of them) and get to experience a Broadway show with a theater full of people who have certainly all been in a version of this show at some point. And happy ever after! $50
Daily Total: $50
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