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A Week In New York State On An $80,000 Salary

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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 marketing coordinator who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a checkbook.
Occupation: Marketing Coordinator
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 21
Location: New York State
Salary: $52,000 + $28,000 in freelance income ($80,000 total).
Net Worth: -$83,000 (checking account: $3,600, HYSA: $5,500, 403(b) and Roth IRA: $3,000, stock investments: $500, minus debt).
Debt: $95,600 ($2,600 on a credit card, $75,000 in student loans (includes a $14,000 personal loan for college living expenses), $18,000 car loan).
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): ~$1,600 (paid hourly so there's some flux).
Freelance Income: averages $2,400/month.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $700 (I live with two roommates).
Student/Personal Loans: $405
Car Payment: $397
Car/Renters' Insurance: $230
Utilities/Internet: $60
Digital Subscriptions: $118 (includes invoicing, transcription and web hosting for my freelance business).
Nuuly: $90
Gym: $25
Health/Dental/Vision: $51 pre-tax.
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, absolutely. My parents both have college degrees and it was assumed that I'd pursue higher education. I was very eager to get to college and started touring schools in ninth grade but I always knew I'd be paying for college on my own. I didn't qualify for much financial aid so I chose the least expensive school I was admitted to and got a pretty significant amount of scholarship money. The rest was paid for with student loans. I worked several jobs throughout college but also totally overspent. I have about $75,000 in student loan debt from my three years at a private college. I graduated a year early so I wouldn't have to take on an extra year of loans for tuition/housing/living expenses, a decision that I definitely think was the right move.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money was never a taboo subject in my family but I'd say the majority of my financial literacy came from school. My public school offered classes where we would take career aptitude tests and make mock budgets. I definitely inherited my mom's attitude towards spending and penchant for nice things, whereas my dad thinks clothes should never cost more than $20. As I'm getting older, I'm trying to find a balance somewhere in the middle of those two mindsets.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a very entrepreneurial child and was constantly trying to launch ventures like party planning and tutoring businesses. I started babysitting when I was 13 and then got a restaurant job at 15 that I absolutely loved. I worked in the restaurant for all of high school, plus summer and winter breaks during my first year of college. Those paychecks went to spending/gas/lunch money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not so much! I know now that my parents faced financial challenges when my sister and I were young but they did a really amazing job of shielding us from that and making sure we had absolutely everything we needed. When I got a little older, they were super transparent with me that they wouldn't be able to contribute to my college costs so I was able to prepare for that and make an informed decision.
Do you worry about money now?
Sure do! I'm grateful for my college experience and the opportunities it opened up for me but my college debt really weighs on me. I know it'll eventually be paid off but it's a burden for sure. I developed a pattern of impulsive/emotional spending during college and got myself into credit card debt, which is something I feel stupid and guilty about. Additionally, I have a pretty sizable car loan. The car I had been driving all throughout high school and college crapped out on me last summer so I decided to make the investment in a nicer car that I'm hoping will last me eight to 10 years. I'm working to pay all my debt off while still enjoying my early 20s and putting money aside for savings and investments for my future. I have a budget that I follow closely and a spreadsheet with all expected income and expenses over the next six months. I check the spreadsheet multiple times a day, updating the values of my investment accounts and making sure there aren't any unexpected expenses popping up (and yes, my relationship with money is something I work on in therapy). I also give myself a weekly allowance of $200 for daily spending (groceries, eating out, gas etc.). I transfer the money to a separate debit card and carry only that card around so I don't overspend.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents still have me on their phone plan so in that sense I'm not entirely independently financially responsible yet. They would definitely welcome me home with open arms if something were to happen and I lost my housing but I don't think they'd be able to cover months and months of my expenses for me.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I was gifted around $2,000 total from various family members when I graduated from high school and received about $4,000 from the CARES Act as a college student during COVID.

Day One

8 a.m. — Rise and shine! Wake up in my bedroom at my parents' house. I'll WFH today after visiting them over the weekend so I take advantage of not needing to get ready and hit snooze. I finally get up, do a quick skincare routine and change into slightly nicer sweats (the universal uniform of the WFH army).
9 a.m. — Set up at my desk and get going on some of this week's work projects. I work in marketing and communications for a college and I spend a lot of my time writing, promoting programs, creating social content and, recently, managing our summer interns. Our team is amazing and we're lucky to have a fairly flexible work schedule.
10:45 a.m. — Just wrapped up a meeting with my supervisor so it's time for…brunch? Open the fridge and it looks like leftover halloumi risotto will be the move this morning. I'm a staunch believer that anything can be breakfast food if you just believe.
12:30 p.m. — Play the NYT crossword before taking a quick call with a freelance client. Then I rush out the door to go meet a rescue dog I'm thinking of adopting.
1:30 p.m. — Okay, she had a bite history — probably not the one for me as a first-time dog owner but she was a cutie! I've never had a dog before but work in a very pet-friendly office and have been desperately wanting a canine companion of my own. I'm moving into a two-bedroom with no roommates in a few months so I feel like the time is right to start looking.
5:30 p.m. — I rebook a flight after texting about logistics with my college bestie, S., who currently lives in LA. I get $190 in future flight credits for the fare difference and pay now for a preferred seat ($41) plus lounge access for my flight home ($50). Since I'm on a roll, I make an appointment for TSA PreCheck in a few weeks and order a book of checks ($18) so I can finally get a passport. Can you tell I've been putting this stuff off for months? $109
7:30 p.m. — Finally shut my laptop after wrapping up a few more work tasks. Join my parents for dinner, Jeopardy! and ice cream before retreating to my room to watch The Ultimatum: Queer Love and scroll on TikTok.
11 p.m. — Wash face, brush teeth, lights out.
Daily Total: $109

Day Two

5:45 a.m. — Yuck. I'm still half-asleep as I shower, throw on black work pants and a white T-shirt, and do the absolute bare minimum makeup. Load my bags in the car and hit the road to head home.
9 a.m. — I book it directly into work, paying for parking ($8) and grabbing a matcha ($6) on my way in. $14
1 p.m. — Between meetings, editing intern work, scheduling social posts and playing the NYT crossword, I don't think I've gotten up from my desk since I got in. I stretch my legs on our office balcony while I eat some pasta I packed last night and read a chapter of my current book (We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart).
3 p.m. — More scrolling on Petfinder… I think I'm hitting a work wall. I submit an inquiry for a rescue puppy and do some more research into pet insurance and obedience training costs. My work bestie, C., and I stroll across the street to pick up a Diet Pepsi and get some air and some caffeine. $3
4:30 p.m. — Sending a few freelance emails as I wrap up for the day. I started doing freelance writing and marketing work in college and right now I have two consistent clients and take on other one-off projects as they come up. I'd say I put in 10-15 hours of work per week and average about $2,400 a month (pre-tax — I put money aside for quarterly payments). It took a lot of work to get here but I feel so lucky to be in this position. It affords me opportunities like traveling and going to concerts and will let me pay off my school debt much faster than I could on my salary alone. I definitely could be smarter about saving and investing more of that money. I'm a bit of an impulsive spender and it's something I'm working on.
6 p.m. — Right from work to pottery class. I'm taking a beginner wheel class and while I thought I was a natural on day one, it's becoming increasingly evident that it might have been beginner's luck. Still a blast, though! I chat with some of the ladies in class and gratefully let the instructor fix my pieces when they get a little wonky. This class was $360 for eight weeks and I paid last month. Stop and fill my gas tank on the way back from class. $41
8:30 p.m. — Home sweet home! I catch up with my roommate, J. I prep some food while we're chatting: roasted chickpeas, pasta and broccoli, all of which I'll eat throughout the week. I have a hair appointment and a friend's birthday spa day coming up so I want to avoid eating out as much as possible.
11 p.m. — Read a few more chapters while drinking a cider, and then it's bedtime.
Daily Total: $58

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Rise and shine! I shower, do my hair and skincare (I switch between a retinol and a vitamin C serum, moisturize and sunscreen). I get dressed in a Nuuly 'fit from my new box that arrived yesterday — navy wide-leg cropped pants and a button-down with little strawberries on it, worn open over a white tank, plus blue and white sneakers.
9 a.m. — Back to the office. Lots to do today! One of the biggest programs I cover just started up last week so I have a ton on my to-do list, plus some meetings.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime. I have a kale salad provided by the office and brownies.
5 p.m. — I place an Instacart order for some household essentials and produce before I leave the office. I would go and get it myself but the air quality today from the Canadian wildfire smoke is scaring me and I just want to get home. Laundry detergent, fabric softener, paper towels, lemons, bananas, eggs, Diet Pepsi, ketchup, York peppermint patties and sourdough bread, plus tax and tip, comes to $92. $92
7 p.m. — J. and I sit on the couch for the finale and reunion episodes of The Ultimatum: Queer Love. I eat leftover pasta and we split a bottle of local cider. We crack up throughout the episodes and decide we are both Team Mal at the end of it all.
9:30 p.m. — This is a TV-filled day, I guess. I watch two episodes of the Duggar docuseries on Amazon Prime before brushing my teeth, washing my face and going to bed.
Daily Total: $92

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Wake up and get ready for a very weird WFH day. I've been looking for a new hairstylist and the woman that my mom and sister both go to was able to fit me in at the last minute for a 10:45 a.m. appointment. This is complicated by the fact that she's an hour away and I have work to get done today so it looks like I'm working from the salon.
9 a.m. — Get to the city where the salon is and work from a Starbucks for about an hour and a half before heading to my appointment. My iced coffee is $6, paid for with my prepaid card in the app.
10:45 a.m. — Log into the hair salon's wi-fi and work away while she cuts and colors my hair. This is honestly such an ideal situation for me — I'm able to totally focus on the editing work I'm doing and I don't have to struggle to make small talk with the hairdresser. (Something about talking while looking in the mirror with the cape on is my worst nightmare.)
2 p.m. — Whoops! The hair is done and looks amazing but it ended up being $300 plus tip. I had budgeted for $250 including tip based on her pricing online. I'll move some money around in my spreadsheet and cut costs over the next week or two to make up the difference. Feeling fortunate I'm in a spot to absorb that extra, unexpected expense. $360
2:30 p.m. — The salon is in my little sister's town so I meet her to pick up lunch at a Chipotle nearby. She very kindly treats me to my steak salad bowl after I moan about my hair pricing woes.
3:15 p.m. — I wrap up my work day at my sister's place and then head home.
6:30 p.m. — Home again! Heat up some pasta and read a few more chapters before doing my nighttime routine and falling asleep very early — all that driving must have tuckered me out.
Daily Total: $360

Day Five

8 a.m. — Another day, another dollar. I wake up, shower and do the NYT crossword while eating a piece of toast with avocado and a fried egg. It's a WFH day so my morning routine consists solely of brushing my teeth.
11 a.m. — Force myself away from my laptop to throw in a load of laundry and run the dishwasher. It's one of those work days where thing after thing keeps popping up so I'm having a hard time staying focused.
1 p.m. — Looking at my budgeting spreadsheet during my lunch break and starting to stress about the costs of moving AND bringing a new puppy into my life. I do my usual panic routine of looking up weird part-time jobs I could potentially get. (No, I don't want to do data entry from home!) Luckily and serendipitously, divine intervention strikes and I receive an email from my freelance client asking if they can prepay me for $12,000 of work before the end of the fiscal year. Uhhh, yes, you can! I quickly send over an invoice — that money will hit my account by the end of the month.
3 p.m. — More leftover pasta. I add sauce and frozen chicken nuggets to zhuzh it up a little since we're on day four.
6 p.m. — Finish up my day job work and then head out the door with my camera for an event a freelance client is hosting. I'm here to take pictures and talk to attendees, and I'll write a news piece about the event early next week.
9:15 p.m. — Home from the event and I am absolutely exhausted. I was really going to make this a no-spend day but I cave and DoorDash ramen from a local restaurant. I have a DoorDash credit from finding a caterpillar in my food the last time I got delivery so that softens the blow a bit? $21
11:30 p.m. — More of the Duggars docuseries while I edit the event photos so I can send over my selects first thing in the morning. Then nighttime routine and bed.
Daily Total: $21

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Wake up prepared for another expensive day. It's my best friend F.'s birthday and our friend group is treating her to a spa day — we're all getting massages and splitting the cost of her treatment. This expense and the hair appointment are both splurges and way outside of my usual weekly spending but I knew about them far in advance and have budgeted for it in my spreadsheet.
9:15 a.m. — Send the photos from last night over to my client and exchange some back-and-forth emails about the event. Then I pack my spa bag and hit the road.
11 a.m. — WOW, the spa is beautiful. The amenities are so over the top, the staff is amazing and it's only slightly giving me Nine Perfect Strangers vibes. We bounce around from the saunas to the steam rooms to the pools while we go off one by one for our massages.
1 p.m. — There's a café on the spa grounds so we help ourselves to soup and salads and place an order for a carafe of mimosas. We're chatting and enjoying the sunshine — it's really a perfect day. The food is included in the cost of the treatments and we split the price of the mimosas. $13
4 p.m. — I inadvertently double-booked myself today (no idea how, because I was the one who organized everything) so I leave a little early to go meet my family for a cooking class. Feeling very relaxed as I pay at the front desk for both my massage and F.'s (my other two friends have already sent me their portions of her treatment). $332
6 p.m. — Make it to the cooking class just in time. So much fun to bring our familial Food Network obsession to life, and the meals turn out really tasty! The class was paid for last month. Afterward, we go for a stroll along a nearby lake.
9 p.m. — Decide to make my drive home an hour longer than necessary because I truly hate driving on back roads in the dark. I stop for gas on the way to top off my tank just in case… Can you tell I really hate night driving? $21
11:30 p.m. — Home and immediately going to sleep.
Daily Total: $366

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Wake up to see the brunch plans I tentatively had this morning have been rain-checked and honestly I'm not too mad about it. I have spent and done so much this week and feel overdue for a Nothing Day. I roll back over and go back to sleep.
12 p.m. — Okay, up for real now. I make a bagel with avocado and fried egg and decide I will be spending the majority of the day in bed. I put on a movie while I get to work on a freelance piece. I also send some emails, one to a potential new client and a few others to set up interviews for another story I'm reporting on this month.
3:30 p.m. — I can feel my mattress forming to the shape of my butt so I decide to get up and go for a little walk after I throw my bedding in the laundry. I would usually be working out more frequently but I'm recovering from an ankle injury and forcing myself to prioritize rest and healing (which is so boring but apparently the grown-up thing to do).
6 p.m. — Omg I think it's going to be a zero-spend day. I make Trader Joe's fish sticks and a little salad for dinner. I play the NYT crossword and then my dad and I compete in a game on the Scrabble app. We pretty much always have a game going — he's a Scrabble legend but I think I'm going to win this one!
9 p.m. — Get up from a seemingly endless TikTok scroll and pull a pint of sorbet out of the back of the freezer.
11 p.m. — I'm still scrolling on various apps and realize that my sleep will be wonky since I slept in so late today. Pop a melatonin gummy and do my nighttime routine, then pull out an outfit for tomorrow. Review my to-do list for work tomorrow and it's off to bed.
1:30 a.m. — Still up... Won the Scrabble game, though!
Daily Total: $0
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