Money diaries logo

A Week In Long Island, NY, On A $131,000 Joint Income

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 has a joint income of $131,000 and spends some of her money this week on K-pop albums.
Occupation: Children's Librarian
Industry: Libraries
Age: 29
Location: Long Island, NY
My Salary: $64,000
My Husband's Salary: $67,000
Net Worth: $228,000 ($145,000 in checking and savings accounts; $30,000 in my Roth IRA; $10,000 in my husband's deferred compensation plan; $24,000 value of my car; $19,000 value of my husband's car)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): My paycheck: $1600 (after taxes and deductions) / My husband's paycheck: $1500 (after taxes and deductions)
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,179 (for a one bed/one bath apartment)
Utilities: $200
Internet: $59.35
Health Insurance: $430, deducted from my husband's paycheck
Vision/Dental Insurance: $12, deducted from my paycheck
My Union Dues: $67, deducted from my paycheck
My Husband's Union Dues: $60, deducted from my husband's paycheck
NYS Retirement: 4.5% of each of our paychecks (this is a pension plan, so the percentage we contribute automatically changes based on our salaries)
NYS Deferred Compensation: $500, deducted from my husband's paycheck
Roth IRA: $500
Car Insurance: $350 (for myself, my husband, and my husband's parents)
Life Insurance: $70 (for a 30-year term, $500,000 payout policy on both myself and my husband)
Phone: $130 (for myself, my husband, and my husband's parents)
Money for My Family: $200
Spotify Duo: $12.99
Netflix: $16.83
Hulu: $0 (my husband's best friend pays and we pay for Netflix)
Annual Expenses
Amazon Prime: $150
Renter's Insurance: $110
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 always the expectation that I would go to college. I was able to get a full scholarship for my bachelor's degree at a private college, so I was able to graduate without debt. I went to a private university for my master's degree, which cost $50,000 in total. I was able to get $15,000 in scholarships and my mom covered $15,000, so I only had to take out $20,000 in student loans. I made as many payments as I could while still in school, so I was able to pay off my loans entirely within a year of graduating.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents almost never talked to me about money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a library when I was 14. I applied because all of my friends worked at our local library and I wanted some extra spending money. My dad died when I was 18 and at that point, I was responsible for as many of the family bills as I could afford, so the extra spending money quickly turned into bill money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about my immediate family, but I did worry about my extended family in Asia not having enough money. As a child, my mom would frequently remind me not to waste things by telling me about the poverty she grew up in and telling me how lucky we were to have so much. She would send money and supplies to my grandmother as often as she could and I often worried that it wasn't enough. Looking back, I can tell that my family struggled a bit when I was a kid, but it was hard to tell when I was always comparing my life to the stories my mom told me about her own childhood.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry about our day-to-day bills, but I do worry a lot about the future. My mom and my husband's parents are all immigrants who never had the opportunity to save properly for retirement. My husband and I were also both raised with the cultural expectation that we will care for our parents when they get older. We expect to be responsible for caring for all three of them, especially because I'm the oldest child in my family and he has no siblings.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I first became financially responsible for myself when I graduated college at 21. When I decided to pursue my master's degree a few years later I moved back in with my mom, then became financially independent again when I graduated at 25. Until my mom and my husband's parents retire, we can count on any of them to help us out if we need. Once our parents are too old to work, our safety net will disappear.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When my dad died, my mom received his life insurance payout. She used the majority of it to pay off the mortgage so that we wouldn't lose the house, but she was able to set aside some leftover money for my younger brother and I. She gave me $15,000 to help pay for my master's degree and $15,000 to help pay for my wedding. She wanted my dad to be part of those big life events even though he couldn't be there.

Day One

5 a.m. — It's Monday morning and my husband, B., is up. He's clearly trying not to wake me up, but I'm a light sleeper and he's running late. I won't be able to fall asleep until he leaves, so I get up to pack him a PB&J for lunch. He's out the door by 5:15 and I go back to sleep.
6:30 a.m. — I wake up a second time and scroll through my phone. I've sold a few photocards overnight! I'm a huge K-pop fan and I've recently started selling some of the extra photocards — which are exclusive photos of K-pop idols that come free with their albums — and other merch I have for a little extra money. I want to get these mailed out before work today and I have a lot of other things I need to get done, so I get right out of bed to go for my morning walk instead of snoozing like normal.
7 a.m. — I get back from my morning walk and head to the kitchen. Mondays are my late shift at work, so I like to get a lot of meal prep done for the week. B. and I are always too tired to cook during the week, but we love leftovers, so this keeps us from ordering in more than we should. I make cheddar biscuits, chamchi-jjigae, and a big batch of black bean enchiladas, which should give us enough variety for the week that we don't get tempted to order takeout. I also put together a few jars of overnight oats for B., then wash and prep our fruit for the week.
9 a.m. — I shower, brush my teeth, and dry my hair, then I get dressed for the day. I start to pack up the photocards I sold last night when I realize that I don't have enough bubble mailers. I gather up everything I need to mail and head to Target. I pick up the bubble mailers and make the mistake of taking the long way through the store to checkout. I remember that I'm out of vitamins so I pick some up, then I impulse buy some caramels and a cute sundress. I stop at the post office on the way home so I don't have to make a second trip. Shipping is paid by the buyers, so it's free for me. With all my chores done for the morning, I head home to relax a bit before work. $33.43
11:30 a.m. — I'm not hungry yet, but I need to leave for work soon, so I eat a cheddar biscuit and an enchilada for lunch. I pack some food for dinner, make myself a matcha latte with oat milk, and head out to work.
1 p.m. — I get to work and hit the ground running. We have some people out sick today, so I cover the reference desk until my coworker is free, then I rush to get my toddler art program set up. The little ones have a ton of fun and make a huge mess, so I spend a long time cleaning up and I get back to my desk just in time for my dinner break.
5 p.m. — I missed an email from my bank while I was running around this afternoon. B. and I are in the process of buying a house and the appraisal came back $50,000 under the sale price. I wolf down my dinner (chamchi-jjigae and grapes) while I panic. We have enough saved up to cover a pretty large appraisal gap, but not $50,000. I forward the appraisal report to our attorney and get an out of office email. I panic some more. When my dinner break is over, I head back to work and try to focus. I get a little done, but I mostly just worry about our mortgage falling through. Luckily, it's a busier night than usual, so I spend a lot of time helping kids with their questions and don't get to stew on my worries too much.
9 p.m. — I head home. B. and I discuss the appraisal and our options, then he starts to read through the report. In my panic earlier, I hadn't noticed how many errors there were, but B. keeps finding mistakes in the report — all big mistakes that would bring down the appraised value. There's even an entire bathroom missing from the report. It's late, so B. says he'll call our realtor in the morning and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $33.43

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I wake up full of nervous energy. I go for my walk then get ready for the day. I pack my lunch and make a matcha latte with oat milk. I realize right after I finish making it that I probably should have made myself a drink without caffeine since I'm already so anxious, but I don't want to waste it.
9 a.m. — I start work and luckily it's another busy day, so I'm distracted from my worries about the appraisal. When I manage to take a break, I see that B. has texted me an update: our realtor found even more mistakes in the appraisal report and said that she'll file a dispute. She's confident just fixing the mistakes will bring the value up $10,000-$20,000, which will put us in a much better position. I'm immediately much less stressed.
12 p.m. — Lunch time! I eat some chamchi-jjigae and some fruit and I download an audiobook to listen to while I eat — Last Call by Elon Green. The audiobook is free with my library card!
5 p.m. — After an afternoon filled with meetings, program prep, and cute kids, I head home. B. and I get home at the same time and he's filled with the same nervous energy I had this morning. We go for a walk around our neighborhood and talk about the appraisal some more. I manage our finances so he's extra stressed because he only has a ballpark idea of how much money we have. We talk everything over with specific numbers and he's much less worried when we're done. We head back home and heat up some enchiladas for dinner, then cuddle on the couch and watch some TV.
11 p.m. — It's time for bed, so I brush my teeth and do my skincare routine. My mother-in-law loves to give me random skincare products, so I use up a couple toner and moisturizer samples.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I decide to skip my morning walk and snooze. I wake up an hour later and rush to get ready for the day. I pack up my lunch and make myself my usual matcha latte with oat milk, then I rush out the door. I continue listening to my audiobook on the drive.
12 p.m. — I head to lunch and start up my audiobook again. I was in such a rush this morning that I grabbed the first things I saw in the fridge, so I wound up with two biscuits and a ton of grapes. Not sure if this is going to last me until dinner.
3:30 p.m. — My lunch is not going to last me until dinner. I eat my emergency granola bar from my desk, but I'm still hungry, so I wind up eating a ton of candy from our office candy bowl. I make a mental note to buy some candy the next time I'm at the store.
5 p.m. — I head home after a pretty productive afternoon and I stop to get gas on the way. I have a hybrid car so I only have to fill up about once a month and I'm pretty shocked at how much more expensive this tank of gas is than my last one. $40.33
6 p.m. — B.'s working overtime tonight so I heat up some enchiladas and curl up on the couch to scroll through TikTok. My friend sends me a Venmo request for some K-pop albums we bought together that have just arrived. $149.23
11 p.m. — B. is finally home, so we both head to bed.
Daily Total: $189.56

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — It looks pretty gloomy outside, so I skip my walk and make myself a Korean cafe-style strawberry milk from a recipe I saw on TikTok last night. I pack up my strawberry milk and my lunch, get ready for the day, and head to work for another busy morning.
11:30 a.m. — My mom texts me to ask if I can send some extra money to my aunt. I send my aunt money every month to help her cover school expenses and food for my little cousins, but they had some unexpected expenses this month so the money I sent wasn't quite enough. The exchange rate is pretty good today, so I'm able to send her what she needs for fairly cheap. $50
1 p.m. — Lunch time! I have an enchilada, a cheddar biscuit, and some mango while I listen to my audiobook. I finish it just before my break is over, so I download another one for the drive home later — Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. Once again, it's free with my library card.
6 p.m. — B. and I head straight to his parents' house once we get home from work. We're supposed to take them out to dinner tonight, but when we get there, they've already picked up takeout sushi for all of us. Pretty sure this is their attempt to stop us from spending money on them, but I definitely appreciate it right now with all the house expenses looming.
Daily Total: $50

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I don't want to go on my walk this morning, but it's nice out so I force myself to go. When I get back, I pack my lunch and make myself another strawberry milk drink with the rest of the strawberry puree I prepped yesterday.
12 p.m. — It's so nice out today so it's been a pretty slow morning, which makes the day drag on forever. On the plus side, the schedule finally works out for my work bestie and I to have lunch together today! We're both trying really hard to save money right now, so we sit outside and eat the lunches we brought from home. We're feeling really proud of ourselves for sticking to our budgets... until we both decide we could go for a sweet treat. We walk over to a nearby local cafe that we love and I get an overpriced, but really delicious, iced caramel latte. $8.33
6 p.m. — I get home and immediately head to the kitchen. I'm hosting my knitting group for the first time tonight and I want everything to be perfect. I put together everything for baked brie and get that in the oven, then I prep some veggies and put together a tray of crackers, veggies, and assorted dips. I finish up just as my friends start to arrive and we have a really fun night filled with food and great conversation. Not sure any of us got much done on our knitting projects, but that's okay.
11 p.m. — My friends start to head home. I know I should clean up now, but I'm exhausted so I get ready for bed and leave the dishes for the morning.
Daily Total: $8.33

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — It's finally the weekend and I want to sleep in, but I have an 8 a.m. dentist appointment. This was a mistake. I get up and get ready for the day then head to the dentist for my cleaning and checkup. My dental insurance is amazing thanks to my union, so I've never paid a single cent for dental work, even when I had my wisdom teeth removed. Today is no exception.
10 a.m. — I get back home and B. and I have no plans, so we decide to spend a lazy day hanging out together. I clean up the mess from having my friends over while he cleans the bathroom, then we just relax the rest of the day. We finish up all the leftovers in the fridge for lunch and dinner, watch a few episodes of Bob's Burgers, and take a few walks around our neighborhood.
11 p.m. — B. and I head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

10 a.m. — B. and I sleep in. I get up and get some laundry started, then I get ready for the day. I'm craving bagels but neither of us feels like picking them up, so B. makes us some egg sandwiches for a late breakfast.
12 p.m. — It's my turn to work overtime, so I head to work. B. has a lot more opportunities to work overtime than I do — Sunday shifts are the only overtime allowed and the library is only open for four hours. I always volunteer for as many as I can and usually I wind up scheduled to work a Sunday once every few weeks.
3:30 p.m. — B. picks up our groceries for the week while I'm at work. I'm trying to clear out our pantry and freezer as much as possible before it's time for us to move, so he only pick up a few things: potatoes, beans, oat milk, spinach, frozen vegetables, cheese, and vanilla extract ($46.68). He also heads to Target to pick up some household items like conditioner, soap, and toilet bowl cleaner, as well as candy for me to refill my office's candy bowl ($34.80). $81.48
5 p.m. — One of my coworkers likes to say that you really have to work for your overtime pay on Sundays and she's not wrong. Just like every other Sunday I've ever worked, I'm so busy helping people I barely have time to think. When I finally leave for the day, I'm exhausted.
7 p.m. — B. is out with some friends and my friend V. is coming over soon, so I don't bother making anything for dinner. V. and I are planning to watch a few episodes of a Thai drama she recently got into and I assume we'll get takeout for dinner to eat while we watch. V. surprises me though and shows up with a ton of frozen appetizers. She tells me she knows how stressed I've been about closing on the house so she thought we could skip spending money on takeout and just throw the apps in the oven. It's the perfect idea: it's just as easy as picking up food and it totally satisfies the junk food craving I got when I started thinking about takeout for dinner. I offer to send her money for the food but she refuses.
11 p.m. — V. heads home just as B. gets back. B. has to be up early for work tomorrow so he heads to bed almost immediately. Since I can sleep in tomorrow, I clean up instead of saving it for the morning, then head to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $81.48
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