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A Week In Long Island, NY, On A $23,000 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 children's librarian who makes $23,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Gatorade.
Occupation: Children's Librarian
Industry: Library
Age: 32
Location: Long Island, NY
Salary: ~$23,000
Net Worth: ~$216,900 (Savings: $2,025.58, Albert savings: $2,000.62, car value: $8,795, home that I co-own with my mother: $570,000 minus debt.)
Debt: $365,914.65 ($308,347.20, student loans: $54,281.07, credit card: $3,286.46)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): ~$788
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,200 (my half, I co-own my house with my mother)
Student Loans: $0 (currently on pause)
Everyplate: $62
Netflix: $16.38
Peacock: $4.99
Paramount+: $4.99
Credit Card Payments: $156
Car Insurance: $108.25
Cell Phone: $82
Health Insurance: $0 (no monthly payment since I'm on NY state insurance and have a low income)
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. My father went to college and valued education and my mom got her bachelor's degree when I was a child. It was obvious to everyone that my brother wouldn't go to college (he hated school) and my sister was more focused on athletics so I felt as the more academically inclined child that it was my duty to go to college and give that pride to my mom.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My father worked in finance, but didn't teach us much. We were comfortably middle class, but my dad always made us feel like we didn't have enough money for anything. If he gave me $20 to go to the mall with friends, he would ask for the change back when he came to pick me up. My mom has a different philosophy on money, she is more of a "can't take it with you when you go" type. She learned how to budget when my parents divorced and my dad drained the bank accounts. My mother always taught me to make my own money and never rely on a partner financially. In her generation, they married young and everything was joint so when they separated, what was "their money" was taken by my dad and she had nothing. She never wanted us to experience that situation so she was insistent that we have a career and be able to support ourselves.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
If we were in after-school sports, my parents did not require that we had a job. But during my senior year of high school when I stopped sports, I got a job to have something to do and save for car expenses. My first real job was at a clothing store. I saved most of what I made.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. My dad is frugal and would always make it seem like we had just enough to get by. My money worries really began towards the end of high school when my parents separated and my dad took all of the money. He also didn't have to pay child support because my brother and I were legal adults by the time the court proceedings finished. My mom had to work overtime because my dad refused to help out. Luckily, the judge ordered my parents to split undergraduate tuition for any child who wanted to go to college. I helped my mom pay for her half with loans.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, constantly. I lost my full-time job about six months ago and finding additional part-time employment or a new full-time job in my field has been very difficult. I work in a civil service job so there are many hoops to jump through. I sometimes deliver groceries on the side to supplement my income and luckily my mom and I have some savings that we built up right before this happened, so we've been able to dip into that a little. It makes me anxious because I want to be able to replace those savings ASAP. I got approved to work full-time at my current job through the summer, but that ends the first week of September.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say that in some sense I'm still not financially responsible for myself because I share many expenses with my mother, who I live with and co-own my house with. However, all car payments, insurance, credit cards, etc. that are mine alone I have been responsible for since 18. I have also often contributed to family bills throughout my life.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I inherited $1,000 in a trust fund when my grandfather passed away and my dad used it to buy my first car without my knowledge. He took it out too early and I ended up having to pay a tax penalty even though I didn't realize I had inherited money at all. My parents helped me pay for college, but beyond that, I don't expect to receive anything from them. My mother is not wealthy. My father has money, a very high salary, and few expenses, but we don't expect him to leave us much if anything at all.

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up to a text from my boyfriend, D. I didn't hear from him this weekend and was really worried. He battles depression and it's been pretty bad lately. His text explains that he thinks we should not be together right now because he doesn't feel like he can be a good partner to me until he can get himself in a better place. As much as I hate this, I can't fault someone for wanting to be better. I've been afraid that this would happen. He's been having a really hard time lately. We agree to keep it to a friendship level for now. I lay in bed crying because I'm sad.
9:15 a.m. — I force myself out of bed and take my puppy out of her crate. I let her outside with the other two dogs and get her food ready. While the dogs bask in the sun on the deck, I toast an asiago cheese bagel and top it with cream cheese. I eat that with a coffee while watching The Hills.
11:30 a.m. — Dogs are back inside. I pull some chicken out of the freezer and I'm out the door, heading to see my grandmother. She is in her 90s and in a nursing facility. She broke her leg a few days ago so my mother and I have been taking turns sitting with her while she recovers. I bring her some of her favorite foods: McDonald's cheeseburger and fries, fudge cake, and coffee (Happy Meal is free with rewards points!).
12:15 p.m. — I put my mask on and head up to my grandma's room. I'm unhappy that it is noon and they haven't dressed her or changed her. I put my bag down and find an aide, and ask that they get her cleaned up and moved into the reclining chair now. The aide completes this task with no mask, as is typical behavior for this facility despite the laws in place saying healthcare facilities still need masks. Unfortunately, my mom and I don't have the power to move her elsewhere. After she's cleaned up, I set up her lunch tray. She reluctantly takes a few bites of her Happy Meal. Her face lights up when I bring out the fudge cake. She eats about half of the slice and drinks her whole coffee and half a bottle of water. We talk about life for a while and she starts nodding off around 2. I settle myself into her bed with a book and just sit with her while she naps.
3 p.m. — My grandma wakes up and tells me to get out of her life. She has dementia, so I know she doesn't mean it but it still stings. I kiss her goodbye and hand her off to an aide. I cry the whole way down in the elevator. I know in my logical brain and in my heart that my grandma doesn't mean any of the things she says but I started the day with a breakup, so I'm extra emotional.
3:45 p.m. — I'm still sad when I get home and hungry since it's been a long time since breakfast. I let the dogs out and pop a bag of extra butter popcorn. I eat my popcorn watching more of The Hills. Lauren should've gone to Paris. Watching this as an adult is a whole new experience.
5:30 p.m. — My mom gets home and gives me a big hug. It's been really hard to watch my grandma in this state and I feel like my mom is the only one who understands. I grab the ingredients for our meal kit dinner and cook dinner. We eat our food in front of the TV, finishing up Safe on Netflix (10 out of 10 recommend).
8:30 p.m. — It's been a long day and I need a bath. I get the water scalding hot, light a candle, and grab my book and my phone. I step in and the water feels so nice. I stay in for about 45 minutes. Before I get out, I do my skin-care routine. I got a Tatcha Dewy Skin Set from Sephora after Christmas for a great deal and it's honestly rehabbing my dry skin. I get into bed around 10 after the longest day ever and spend a little time scrolling on my phone before I pass out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6 a.m. — Why am I awake right now?! I pick up my phone with the intent to scroll a bit and go back to bed but see a text from D. He says he feels sorry about yesterday, especially since he knows things with my grandma aren't great. He asks if he can come over and talk and hang out for a while before I have to go to work. I tell him I don't think it's a good idea. I know that if we're together it will inevitably lead to sex because that's what always happens and I don't want to confuse my heart. Crying makes me tired and I eventually fall back asleep.
8 a.m. — I'm up earlier than I want to be and decide to just get up. Same routine with the puppy and I make myself a coffee. I decide to not go see my grandma this morning. I'm very emotionally drained and think one day off will be okay. I empty the dishwasher, pull some sausage from the freezer for dinner, and do laundry.
11:45 a.m. — I heat up leftovers from Sunday night's dinner. When I work the afternoon shift I can never decide if I want to eat breakfast or lunch. I typically don't want both before I have to leave but I have to eat something because I won't be home until dinner time. I eat quickly and head upstairs to change. I stick the puppy into the crate and head out the door.
5 p.m. — Work is uneventful and I get out right on time. D. has been texting all day and it feels like normal. We might have to have a conversation about setting boundaries while we're not together. I don't want to feel like we're dating without the security of being in a relationship. My mom calls and tells me she went to visit grandma after work and she's in another angry mood. I can hear the stress in her voice and it makes me sad. I assure her that I've got the dogs covered and dinner will be waiting when she gets home.
6 p.m. — I feed the dogs and our two cats then start on chicken sausage parmesan sandwiches for the humans. My mom texts and lets me know she's hoping to stay until my grandma calms down. I go ahead and eat without her, then make her a plate and tuck it in the microwave for when she gets home. My mom looks like she's ready to collapse when she walks in the door around 8. I heat up her food and let her vent while she eats. We watch an episode of Captive Audience on Hulu and call it a night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8 a.m. — No text from D. this morning, which I'm grateful for. I need some space. Usual puppy routine and let the big dogs out too while I get things ready for my grandma. I'm going to stop by the store and get one of her favorite breakfasts for her on my way out.
9 a.m. — I run into the store and grab Entenmann's Crumb Cake and a couple of other things. I pull up in front of the door to sign in and grab a new COVID test. I sit in my car, give myself the swab, and wait 15 minutes. I put my mask on and head back in, let the lady take my temperature, and head upstairs. I am happy to see that my grandma is out of bed, dressed, and awake when I arrive. Must be all the complaining my mom and I have done over the last two days. I give my grandma some coffee and she takes huge bites from the cake. She's a new woman today, much more alert than she has been, and I'm really happy about it. I call my mom at work so she can chat with her while she's happy. The nurse comes in to give my grandma her morning meds and she takes them with no fight. $11.57
12 p.m. — I've been sitting in my grandma's bed reading while she naps when an aide comes in with her lunch tray. I try to wake her up enough to eat but only manage to get two bites of chicken and mashed potato in. She drifts off to sleep again. They come in to take my grandma's lunch tray and I snatch the nutritional shake off of it. I pour it into a cup with a straw and take that and my grandma's water bottle with me as I wheel her out to the day room. I get her a prime spot by the window and leave her drinks on the table beside her.
1:30 p.m. — I get home and let the dogs out, feed the puppy, then put a baby gate up so she stays in the kitchen while I shower. She's having trouble with the whole potty-training thing so I don't trust her to be roaming about when I'm not down there. I wash my hair, towel dry, throw some curl cream in it, and put two braids in. My hair has been falling out in mass quantities and I'm trying everything to make it better, including biotin and collagen. I haven't used any hot tools in a week and I'm kind of proud of that. I manage to get out the door for work earlier than usual. The shift is mostly uneventful.
9:20 p.m. — I get home and eat the meal kit dinner that my mom made. It's pretty good but I'm exhausted so I clean up the kitchen, grab the puppy, and head upstairs. I take a body shower and climb into bed with my book but don't get very far and fall asleep with it in my hands.
Daily Total: $11.57

Day Four

7 a.m. — Up early for the vet. I'm taking all three dogs to the vet by myself this morning. Pray for me. My mom helps me load them into the car and I head out. I asked for the first appointment of the day so that there would be minimal distractions (other animals) in the office when I arrive.
9:30 a.m. — That was an adventure…. and a pricey one at that. It was necessary though. Now everyone is up to date on all of their shots and medications. It's tough having three dogs at various life stages with all different issues, but we love them. I pay from a joint account my mom and I have for house expenses that we both put money into. $804.50 is the total bill, so $402.25 for my half. $402.25
10:30 a.m. — I get home and strategically unload the dogs from the car. I let them all run around in the backyard while I take a shower. I throw an asiago cheese bagel in the toaster. I slather some cream cheese on my bagel, make brown sugar oat milk coffee, and sit down for an episode of One Tree Hill so I'll be up to date for the next episode of the Drama Queens podcast on my ride to work.
12:30 p.m. — I get dressed, put the puppy in the kitchen, and get in the car. I start the newest Drama Queens episode and drive to work. I forgot my water bottle at home so I buy a Gatorade at a little cafe. $1.69
5:20 p.m. — I get home after an interesting shift. Sometimes you meet very strange people at my job. My mom is not here because she went straight to the nursing home after work. I text her so she knows I'm home and she calls me to let me talk to grandma. I start dinner — BBQ meatloaf. She walks in the door right as I finish cooking and we eat while catching up.
8 p.m. — I let the dogs out one more time then head upstairs with the puppy. She heads straight to her crate and I get in the bath. I watch some videos on my phone and soak for almost an hour. I read a little more of my book, then call it a night.
Daily Total: $403.94

Day Five

8 a.m. — Usual puppy routine. I make myself a cup of coffee with brown sugar oat milk creamer and relax for a little while. I get dressed and head out to go to the nursing home.
10:15 — My grandma is awake and dressed, which is great. I ask the nurse to have the aides move her into her reclining chair so we can keep her awake. She eats some crumb cake and sips some coffee. Physical therapy comes and she does great. By the time they bring us back up to her room, lunch has arrived. I cut it all up for her and help her eat.
1 p.m. — I get home and let the dogs out to run off some energy and use the bathroom. I run upstairs and shower, then come down and survey the contents of the fridge. I know my mom is making ziti for dinner because my friend is coming over to do her hair. I end up snacking on pretzels and onion dip. I let the dogs inside and sit down to read Family of Liars.
4:15 p.m. — I get dressed for work and my mom comes home. I catch up with her about her day and we realize neither of us will have time to go see grandma tomorrow. I run out the door and get to work right on time.
9 p.m. — Out of work and heading home. I hope my friend hasn't left yet. She is a hairdresser and often gets booked for weekend weddings. Tomorrow is one of those days and she has an early call time so she can't stay late.
9:30 p.m. — I get home to find my friend, M., putting the last bit of color in my mom's hair. We help ourselves to some ziti and catch up. When we finish eating, we light candles and she burns the sage she brought. M. is an adept tarot card reader and psychic/medium. I haven't told her about the breakup yet and in the first few cards she nails it right on the head, even the circumstances. Sometimes it's creepy how spot-on she is. A lot of things come up as the reading goes on and it gives me a new perspective on the breakup. If it's meant to be, it will work out and he'll make the steps he needs to feel better. After giving my mom a trim, I send M. on her way with plans to meet up next week. I head upstairs and get in bed, ready for sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

4:50 a.m. — Wake up to the sound of the puppy throwing up. I turn on the lights, look in the cage, and see that she's thrown up a rock. This isn't the first time she's done this and I'm not sure how to get her to stop eating pebbles and tiny rocks. I grab some paper towels, clean up, and toss her blanket into the hamper. I scoop her up carefully and put her back in the crate.
9:30 a.m. — Wake up and see the puppy still sleeping. I take the quiet time to play Taylordle and Wordle and scroll through my apps. When I get up, the puppy plays sleepy and doesn't want to get out of the crate. I scoop her out and carry her downstairs for our usual routine. I make a bacon, egg, and cheese with salt, pepper, and cream cheese on an egg everything bagel. I treat myself to this occasionally and it's the absolute best breakfast ever. Very New York of me.
10 a.m. — We're in the middle of renovations and the workers show up for the day. They immediately realize the wall air conditioning unit my mom bought to replace her old one is too small so I call her and she goes on the hunt for a new one. She tells me where to pick up the new one and the contractor offers to pick it up for me.
12 p.m. — I get ready and head to work. It's a pretty exciting day because the birds that we've been incubating at the library have hatched! They are so tiny and cute and I spend most of my day answering people's questions about them.
5:30 p.m. — The workers are wrapping up when I get home and they show me what they did today. I put the leftover ziti in the oven to heat up and make some garlic bread. My mom arrives and helps me feed the animals and then we sit down to eat. After dinner, I do some painting.
10 p.m. — Off to sleep after watching some YouTube.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I get up, usual puppy routine, and get the coffee going. My mom and I have coffee and chat then we get dressed and start packing to see my grandma. I make turkey sandwiches and grab a bag of potato chips. I also get some Girl Scout cookies and throw some in a bag. I pour a thermos of coffee and pack a soda for grandma and some water bottles for me and my mom and we head out.
10 a.m. — We take COVID tests and then hurry upstairs. My grandma doesn't want to wake up so I stick a straw in her coffee and make her take sips. She eventually comes to life and is happy to see us.
12 p.m. — I pull out the turkey sandwich and convince her to eat half. Then she eats the ice cream cup on her tray.
2 p.m. — Grandma is still in a good mood so we decide it's a good time to make our exit. It's very hard to leave her when she's confused; she's much easier to transition when she's happy.
2:15 p.m. — On the way home, we spot a new store that has opened up. I've been looking for some furniture to furnish the loft area outside of my room. The store has a really nice cabinet/table that would go great underneath the TV that I'm going to mount on the wall. We decide to buy the floor model because it looks great and we don't want to put anything together. We get to the register, ask for help loading it into my mom's car, and as they're loading it we see that the back of it has a rip. I ask the kid to ask the manager if they would consider doing a discount since it is damaged. He goes inside, and without coming out to see it, the manager says I can have 25% off, which amounts to $100 off. Sold! I head back inside and she processes my partial refund. $325
4 p.m. — The poor doggies are ready to burst by the time we get home so we let them out into the backyard and sit out on the deck watching them run. We are too tired to go out to dinner, so we order Applebee's instead. So nostalgic for us. $36.57
8 p.m. — We watch two episodes of Girls5eva which is honestly pretty funny. Then mom declares she wants to go to bed early. Honestly, I'm pretty tired. I have another bath because #YOLO. D. texts me to tell me he looked up therapists and found a few that take his insurance. I tell him I think that's great, but part of me wonders why I was the thing that needed to be cut out of his life to get that accomplished. Thoughts like these are bad. Ugh, relationships are hard.
9:30 p.m. — I fill out a job application in bed then switch over to YouTube and watch old NSYNC concerts until I feel sleepy.
Daily Total: $361.57
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