Money Diaries logo

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

Photo: Getty Images.
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.
We’re casting for an upcoming Money Diaries video project! Do you need some financial help? Do you want a money makeover? Do you want to be part of the next iteration of Money Diaries? This is your chance! Fill out this form for a chance to be cast in our latest Money Diary endeavor.

Today: a journalist who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a chai latte.
Occupation: Journalist
Industry: Media
Age: 22
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $55,000
Net Worth: $42,000 ($12,000 in savings, $20,000 in a Roth IRA, and $10,000 in a brokerage account — both are courtesy of my parents.)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,750
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,125 (I live in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. This is net effective rent because we got pandemic pricing. This also includes heat, water, gas, and electricity.)
Internet: $22.50
Netflix: $0 (I use my parents' account.)
Spotify/Hulu: $0 (I use my sister's Spotify account and my friend's Hulu.)
New York Times: $4
Medication: $24
Health Insurance: $0 (I'm on my dad's plan.)
Monthly Metrocard: $127
Cell Phone: $0 (I'm on my parents' plan.)
Roth IRA: $500
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?
Since both of my parents have graduate degrees, there was an assumption that my siblings and I would attend college and even graduate school. My parents paid for my siblings and me to attend elite colleges (though we all received generous financial aid packages, and I got a four-year, full-tuition scholarship for my school), and we were all lucky to graduate debt-free.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents are immigrants and are incredibly frugal. They taught us the importance of saving, not spending on unnecessary expenses, and stretching any money we did have. Now that we're older, my parents are constantly stressing the importance of investing for retirement and paying off credit card bills in full and on time.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a call center representative for a fast food chain when I was a senior in high school. I got the job because I wanted some cash of my own, but I ended up quitting just a few months after I started.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never had to worry about money when I was growing up, but my parents did before I was born. Money was a big concern for them after they moved to the states and had my siblings. My mom started working after I was born so money was less of an issue when I was growing up.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. NYC is crazy expensive and as someone originally who grew up in a town with a relatively low cost of living, I am always shocked by the cost of everything in the city. I also work in a field that's known to be underpaid with little job stability, but I definitely got lucky with the salary I have now.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
22. I'm still kind of financially dependent on my parents because they pay for my health insurance and medical expenses, but I'm on my own when it comes to the essentials like food, transportation, and rent. My parents would definitely help me out if I needed it.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents started investing in a Roth IRA and a brokerage account for me when I was younger. I also have money in a 529 savings plan that I can use if I go to graduate school.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I've decided to go into the office this morning so this means I can't keep hitting my snooze until work starts at 9:30. I shower and then pack a lunch of quinoa salad, which I meal-prepped earlier this week, and a protein bar.
9:50 a.m. — Despite power-walking to the subway stop and from the stop to work, I arrive slightly late like I usually do. I'm not required to work in person and there are usually only a few people in the office when I do. With this being my first job out of college, I need some structure to my day and human interaction in order to get me through the work. I check the calendar of stories and breathe a sigh of relief when I see two of my stories have been pushed to tomorrow.
11:30 a.m. — I finally start working on one of the stories I have due tomorrow. I've already done the interviews for it but now it's time to do the research. I read a few news articles before I hunker down and start writing the story.
4 p.m. — I've hit a wall with my writing, so I head to the café. I try and refrain from impulse purchases on food, but I really want a snack. Ever since I moved to the city, a lot of my social life has involved meeting people for drinks or dinner, so I try to limit myself on the amount of money I spend on restaurant food when I'm alone because I'd rather spend that money when socializing with friends. I secure a cheese danish and submit the story. $2.45
5:10 p.m. — I call it an early day. After work, I head to Zara and American Eagle to look for jeans. I discover how much sizing varies between retailers: I barely fit into a size 0 at Zara but a size 000 at American Eagle is slightly loose on me. I'm discouraged by the lack of good-fitting jeans at AE and head home, picking up a half-gallon of milk on the way. $2.49
6:50 p.m. — When I come home, I'm greeted by cookies freshly baked by my roommate and a huge order of yarn from Michael's that I placed last week. I eat five cookies before meal prepping burrito bowls for tomorrow. I realize that I forgot to cancel the free Apple TV+ subscription that came with my iPad, so I get charged for a month. $4.99
9 p.m. — I do my pelvic floor physical therapy before I go to bed. I have vaginismus, a medical condition that makes it impossible for me to have penetrative sex. (Some people with vaginismus can have sex but only with extreme pain.) It requires doing exercises that desensitize your pelvic floor to penetration. I've made slow progress with my at-home PT over the past three months, but I'm hoping that with regular PT sessions in the future, I'll be able to have penetrative sex for the first time. I saw a PT twice during the summer, and it cost more than $100 per session with insurance. Since my parents pay for most of my health insurance expenses, I feel bad about the expense. But given how this condition affects my quality of life, especially my romantic relationships, I want to resume my sessions.
11 p.m. — I do my skincare and haircare routine for the night. I have female pattern hair loss, so my haircare routine involves applying Rogaine and taking oral medication to keep my hair in my head and my skin clear! I end the night by painting my nails and watching You. I fall asleep really late — around 2 a.m.
Daily Total: $9.93

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up groggy and tired after having gone to bed so late. I shower and do my haircare routine which involves Head and Shoulders and rosemary oil because it's supposed to encourage hair growth. I pack my lunch and speed out the door.
9:55 a.m. — I'm late to work and I'm STARVING. Normally I would eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I'm running low on time this morning. I grab a greasy breakfast sandwich from the cafe and some free coffee ($4.41). I chat with a co-worker before I respond to Slack messages from my boss. $4.41
11:40 a.m. — We have a meeting on our site traffic for the month, and it's up, so woohoo! After the meeting, I pitch some story ideas to my boss. I realize I have stories due tomorrow and Monday that I have not yet started working on. I make a plan on how to tackle everything I need to do: research, find sources, reach out to sources, and arrange interviews.
2 p.m. — After chatting with my coworker and emailing sources for my story, I eat my burrito bowl that I meal prepped yesterday. I grab a free cup of tea and start writing a story that's due tomorrow while I wait for sources to respond to my emails.
5:19 p.m. — I've written most of my story for tomorrow and am still waiting for my sources to respond. I figure I can write the rest of the story tomorrow and head home.
6:30 p.m. — I confirm my Hinge date plans for later that night and do my PT now since I won't have time later.
7:30 p.m. — I'm feeling lazy, so I make a bowl of oatmeal for dinner and eat another cookie. I make a cup of tea and watch You while crocheting. I'm making a beige striped cardigan for myself. I've been crocheting since I was child and I started doing it again during the pandemic. I've been making cardigans, sweaters, crop tops, and tote bags for myself. I'm a creative person, so it's nice to unwind by doing an activity that allows me to make something with my hands.
9:15 p.m. — I begrudgingly get out of bed and get dressed up for my date. I wear a leather button-down, wide-leg jeans, a tight white crop top, and a pair of silver hoop earrings. I meet up with him at a bar near my place and I'm surprised when we get along immediately — he's asking me questions about my job and we're laughing about TikTok, 90 Day Fiancé, and The Bachelor.
12:30 a.m. — He pays for my vodka tonic and as I'm walking home from the date, he asks if I want to hang out again. This is the fourth first date I've been on in the past month and it's refreshing to finally meet someone I want to go on a second date with. I say yes. When I get home I do my skincare and Rogaine and go to sleep at 2.
Daily Total: $4.41

Day Three

9:20 a.m. — I barely wake up because I got six hours of sleep after waking up in the middle of night. I'm working from home today, so I French press my coffee and tell my roommate about my good date. My story gets pushed to next week, so I spend the next few hours reading articles and submitting a job application.
11:30 a.m. — I have an early lunch and eat my meal-prepped burrito bowl. Since it's a slow day, I call my mom and chat with her before I start working.
1 p.m. — My sources have responded, so I email them my questions, arrange interviews, and submit the story I was working on yesterday.
4:30 p.m. — I pop out to Duane Reade to ship a package, but they won't accept it. I come back and respond to a few emails before I go grocery shopping. I don't live near any affordable grocery stores, so shopping is a bit of an ordeal for me. I venture onto the bus for a 30-minute ride. Since I haven't gone grocery shopping in two weeks, I make sure to stock up on fruits, vegetables, frozen meat, and non-perishables like canned beans and pasta. Hopefully next week I won't have to go grocery shopping again because I've bought so much. $54.27
6:45 p.m. — After I come home, I make a quick dinner because I'm exhausted after walking with my heavy grocery bags. I eat a spinach and mushroom omelette and some grapes.
8:45 p.m. — I shower and wind down for the night. My sister is visiting me for the weekend, so I wait for her to arrive while I crochet and watch You.
10 p.m. — My sister finally arrives at my apartment and we chat for a bit before we get ready for bed. We both have insomnia, so we both pop some melatonin and antihistamine pills before we fall sleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $54.27

Day Four

9 a.m. — I booked tickets to go to the Cooper Hewitt museum, but we're both feeling tired after not sleeping very well. We enjoy some French press coffee before we head out for the day.
12:27 p.m. — I meet my friend at a Cuban restaurant. We haven't seen each other in a few weeks so it's nice to catch up with her. $14.34
3:02 p.m. — We take the subway down to the Glossier store... only to discover that it no longer exists. We then walk to the Lower East Side, so my friend can go to her coworker's apartment. I decide to go shopping while I wait for my sister to finish hanging out with her friends. I've been on the hunt for a pair of new white sneakers to replace my Adidas Superstars, which have developed a large hole in them. I go to two Journey's stores before I find a pair of Reeboks that I like. I buy them but since my birthday is coming up, my sister Venmos me the cost of the shoes as a birthday gift.
4:46 p.m. — I finally meet up with my sister, but I'm sleepy so we head to a coffee shop before we decide what to do for the rest of the evening. I buy a chai latte for her and a coffee with oat milk for me. $8.71
5:52 p.m. — We decide on a fancy Georgian restaurant at the recommendation of my sister's friend. When we get to the restaurant, the ambiance is great — there's cool music, mood lighting, and nice decor. We sit at the bar and order food we've never heard of. My sister gets wine and we share a few different dishes like adjarkuli khachapuri, a rich dish of bread, cheese, egg, and butter. We're at the restaurant for a while because the waiters forget about us. Eventually, my sister flags down a waiter and graciously pays the +$80 bill.
7:49 p.m. — We're stuffed and satisfied and decide it's going to be a cozy Saturday night in watching The Great British Baking Show. Rather than take the subway, we decide to walk part of the way back to my place — we end up walking more than 70 blocks all the way back to my place and stop at a CVS on the way so my sister can grab some chocolate for dessert.
9:50 p.m. — After walking for nearly two hours, our feet hurt and we're exhausted. We sit on my bed and watch The Great British Baking Show and compare our Hinge and Bumble matches while eating chocolate. Around midnight, we both fall asleep.
Daily Total: $23.05

Day Five

10:52 a.m. — I set my alarm for 9 a.m. and turn it off after seeing my sister still asleep. I fall asleep again, and it's nearly 11 by the time I wake up. My sister is leaving in the afternoon, so we don't have much time to do anything else. I shower and make French press coffee.
11:30 a.m. — We decide to walk to get bagels but the bagel place is 30+ blocks away. While we're walking we see a Sprinkles Cupcakes, so we pick up pumpkin and lemon blueberry cupcakes to snack on later. My sister pays yet again. We realize there's not enough time to walk to the bagel place, wait in line, and take the subway back to my place before my sister's bus leaves. We end up taking the subway back to my place and plan to eat a quick lunch at my apartment.
1:05 p.m. — At my apartment, I make my sister a quick meal of eggs and toast before it's time for her to catch the bus. I won't see her again until Christmas!
1:52 p.m. — I'm still on the hunt for jeans, so I go to SoHo to do some solo shopping. I enjoy shopping alone because I like wandering through the store even when I'm not buying anything. Since it's Sunday, SoHo is packed so shopping isn't as much fun as I thought it would be — I'm weaving in and out of crowds in every store. I go to PacSun, Zara, American Eagle, H&M, and Uniqlo and leave empty-handed after trying on multiple pairs of jeans.
4:40 p.m. — I come back and make dinner. I soaked some lentils earlier, so I make lentil stew with mushrooms and spinach. I also make brown rice on the side.While I'm eating, I purchase three pairs of Zara jeans online. (I buy multiple sizes in the same design but only plan to keep one pair.) This is a birthday gift from my parents, so I don't pay for them.
7:12 p.m. — After washing the dishes and vacuuming the living area, I text some friends to make plans for the upcoming week and weekend. My friend invites me to go clubbing with her on Friday, so I buy a nightclub ticket online. I also invite the Hinge guy and he agrees to come. $28.10
9:27 p.m. — PT time and then skincare and haircare!
11:07 p.m. — I end the night by watching You and continuing to crochet my sweater. I fall asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $28.10

Day Six

3:19 a.m. — I wake up in the middle of the night because my room is super humid and hot now that the heat is on. I can't fall back asleep, so I watch another episode of You before I lay in bed for a few hours watching TikTok and reading Reddit on my phone.
7:30 a.m. — Eventually I'm hungry and decide it's better to make breakfast rather than lay awake in bed. I make and eat eggs and toast before I'm sleepy again.
8:30 a.m. — I get back in bed and close my eyes before I'm awoken by the sound of the doorbell ringing. I haven't slept at all, so I'm annoyed to see two maintenance guys when I open the door. There's a leak downstairs, so they need to check my shower. They may be in and out of my apartment throughout the day and since I have two meetings today, I make the impulse decision to go into the office.
10 a.m. — As soon as I get into the office, I get a coffee from the coffee machine — I'll be needing it after getting less than four hours of sleep last night. I suspect that my hair loss medication is making my insomnia worse. I send a message to my dermatologist asking her if I can take a lower dose of the medicine. I'm in a tough spot because the medication has given me some pretty terrible side effects, but it's been great for my skin and hair. My derm responds and recommends a smaller dose. I then have my first meeting for the day and my boss goes over the stories due this week. I complete edits for a story due today and then respond to emails from sources before I start compiling questions for a video interview I have with a source later today.
12 p.m. — I eat the lentil stew and brown rice I made yesterday and work at my desk and one of my stories gets published. There's no one in the office today, so it's like remote working except I'm sitting in a cubicle alone.
2 p.m. — I get a call from the management office that owns my apartment, and learn that I won't be able to use my shower today or tomorrow. I'll have to head to the management office after work to pick up keys to get access to a shower in the empty apartment next door. I have my interview, and it's less than inspiring, so I brainstorm other sources to reach out to while I work on my story that's due tomorrow. I reach out to a couple of different people and start planning out my story for Wednesday. I text my friends about what they want to do on Saturday night. We quickly discover that going out in NYC on big weekends is incredibly expensive — buying tickets to a club will cost at least $50, not including the cost of drinks or any Ubers we might end up taking. We still don't know what we want to do, but we settle on something chill like a movie night.
5:15 p.m. — I leave work and walk nearly 30 blocks back to my place rather than take the subway. While I'm walking my roommate texts me and tells me that we won't have access to our shower for FIVE DAYS...
6:10 p.m. — When I get back, my roommate has picked up the keys to the apartment with the shower we're supposed to be using. Luckily the apartment is on the same floor as us but unfortunately, the bathroom doesn't have a shower curtain or showerhead, so I postpone the shower. I call management again, and they get someone to install the showerhead.
7:30 p.m. — I make chili honey lime shrimp for dinner, pairing it with black bean salsa and quinoa. It's my first time cooking shrimp and it's super tasty! I finally take a shower and it is the smallest shower I've ever been in.
10:30 p.m. — I skip the PT because I'm too tired. I watch You and crochet. I fall asleep at midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up feeling tired yet refreshed after getting a solid eight hours of sleep. I shower, pack my lunch, and head out the door.
9:45 a.m. — I chat with my coworker while I eat the yogurt, blueberries, and granola that I packed. I talk to her for more than an hour and a half before I realize I need to write my story.
11:15 a.m. — I respond to emails and do research before I start writing my story that's due later today. I then eat the lentil stew that I packed at my desk while I keep writing.
2:30 p.m. — I submit the story late and it's not the most exciting story, but it is very detailed and informative thanks to my source.
5:30 p.m. — I have a weekly meeting before I get started on edits for the story. Since they're not the type of edits that I can do quickly, my boss pushes the story until tomorrow. I eat a protein bar before I leave work.
6:15 p.m. — I make it back to my place and my Zara jeans have arrived. They don't fit well, so hopefully, the other ones I ordered will fit better.
6:45 p.m. — I have a Bumble date tonight! I quickly throw together a quinoa black bean salad with a honey lime vinaigrette. I then leave to go on my date. I'm wearing a pair of face earrings, a fluffy white cardigan, and a black bodysuit. It is, of course, pouring outside. I'm going to be late for my date…
8:02 p.m. — I meet her at a place in the East Village and it's empty. While it's initially awkward, we end up hitting it off and chatting about the weird class dynamics at elite colleges and the stigma around sex work. I get super tipsy on two drinks of Diet Coke and rum. $20
10:50 — I'm super sleepy afterward, so I take a 30-minute subway ride back to my place. I'm exhausted, but I still have to do my skincare, haircare, and PT. I watch You and do PT before I fall asleep past midnight.
Daily Total: $20
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series