Money Diaries logo

A Week In Brooklyn On A $90,000 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.

This week: a marketing manager who makes $90,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a vegan chocolate cake slice.
Occupation: Marketing manager
Industry: Tech startup
Age: 26
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $90,000
Assets: Checking: $500; HYSA: $8,800; 401(k): $18,600; Roth IRA: $26,000; HSA: $1400; investments: $52,000
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,414
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs:
$1,800 (I split the rent for a one-bedroom with my boyfriend, O.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Gym: $80
Phone & Wifi: $177
Streaming: $5 (I get Hulu for free with my phone plan, mooch Netflix and Paramount off my dad, Max and Apple TV off O.’s friends, and pay for Crunchyroll, which O. and I split.)
Utilities: ~$180 (We pay for water, gas, and electric.)
Renter’s Insurance: $5.50 (split with O.)
Mattress Payment Plan: $60 (O. and I splurged on a fancy mattress with monthly payments at 0% interest.)
Apple Music & Storage: $20
NYTimes: $4
Substack Subscriptions: $15  (Maybe Baby, The Hyphen, and Postcards from Elle.)
Roth IRA: $250
HSA: $50

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?
My parents both have master’s degrees, and it was assumed from birth that I would attend a traditional college. I’m sure that if I had been really passionate about another path, they would have supported that, too. But I was book smart and attended a fancy private school K-12, where literally 100% of the senior class attends a four-year university. I only realized once I got to college how much of a privilege it was to not have to worry about the financial aspect of college when applying. My parents and grandma both had 529s for me. The money ran out by senior year, and it was stressful figuring out who was going to pay (my parents are divorced and fight brutally about money). I’m grateful that I didn’t have to take out any loans and that I had my parents’ full support.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We never spoke about money, besides various fights I sometimes overheard. I went to private school, but didn’t understand that we were wealthy until I started interacting with more people from outside our bubble. Everyone else at school was so rich that I thought we were maybe average at best. I laugh about it now, but I wish my parents had spoken to me more candidly about their finances.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was an unpaid internship at a non-profit when I was 16. Everyone at school seemed to be planning very serious summers, taking classes or interning for family friends to put on their college applications. I didn’t want to get left behind, so my dad’s friend found me something to do. I got my first paying job the summer before college, when I was 18, managing social media and marketing tasks for a small business. I made $10 an hour and felt so adult.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn’t worry about money. I received a small allowance starting in elementary school. In high school, my parents divorced and my dad gave me my first credit card (without guidelines for spending). I went sort of crazy buying myself anything I wanted at places like Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21 at the mall, since growing up I would get new things only for birthdays/holidays and for the back-to-school season. It seemed amazing to me that I could buy things any time, and I got in pretty serious trouble with my dad for my reckless spending. At the time, I obviously loved it, but looking back I wish he would’ve enforced some guidelines and taught me about responsible spending. I still struggle with spending too much money and telling myself “no.”

Do you worry about money now?
In the short term, yes. New York is such an expensive place to live, and it’s been hard to save since moving here. My boyfriend, O., has been dealing with medical issues and living off his savings while he doesn’t have a job. I’m worried about what will happen when his money runs out; I feel like I can afford my life, but I can’t support us both. His field also doesn’t pay very much. Thinking about our combined finances feels like a ticking time bomb.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I graduated into the pandemic without a job, so I moved back home until moving to NYC two years ago. Moving out meant I was pretty much on my own, though my dad paid for my gym and out-of-network therapist when I first moved. I’m proud that I pay for everything on my own now, but I know my dad would float me some cash without question if I ever needed it (my mom is a different story — she’s in a pretty bad financial situation right now and is living off her retirement). If I needed to, I know I could move back in with either of my parents.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When my grandmother died, I received $17,000. Eventually I’ll get more, though the exact amount is unclear. Over the years, my dad has also gifted me $20,000 in investments for various milestones like high school and college graduation.

Day One

6 a.m. — I wake up to the doorbell ringing… And it turns out it’s my Thrive Market delivery? We don’t live near a reasonably priced grocery store, so I usually order pantry items from them each month for big restocks. This time, it’s shelf-stable nut milks, Poppi, Banza pasta, canned beans, lots of tea, chocolate, quinoa, and a few shelf-stable snacks. I let the delivery guy in and go back to sleep, apologizing to my boyfriend, O.
7 a.m. — Up for real now. I eat a banana with peanut butter and make myself an Earl Grey tea with lavender syrup and a splash of soy milk to drink while I write in my journal and read a bit of my book, A Court of Mist and Fury.
8:30 a.m. — It’s a rest day from the gym, so I take a long walk through the park sans headphones until some of my existential dread goes away. Today is the first day of the month, aka the day my monthly performance, and bonus are assessed, so I’m pretty stressed. O. helps talk me down a bit.
9:30 a.m. — I make some veggie sausages to eat with avocado and green beans, quickly check Slack, then get ready for work. My job is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a flexible start time in the office, so everyone rolls in at around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m.
11 a.m. — I always get a seat on the train since I’m kind of far from Manhattan, and I read more of my book on the way to work. I don’t totally get the hype for the ACOTAR series, but I’m enjoying it enough to request the next book in the series from the library. $2.90
3:30 p.m. — I’ve been grinding all day, just to be told by the CEO that we can move my assessment meeting to next week. Okay, I guess? I haven’t eaten yet and feel generally unwell, so I grab my lunch from home and read in the park for 45 minutes. The hustle culture men in my office eat at their desks without fail, but I find that depressing, and also I can’t multitask like that. None of them seem to drink water, either?
4:30 p.m. — Since my meeting was cancelled, I lose all motivation after lunch and putter around on my computer trying to look busy. The CEO tells us he won’t be in until next week, so my coworkers and I will probably WFH the next few days, since we go in for his benefit. Yay!
5:15 p.m. — I have trivia nearby at 7 p.m., so I do my fave activity: browsing at a bookstore. I mostly get books from the library, so this is a window shopping-only visit. I find two self help-ish books that I’m convinced I need, so mission failed. But I’ve been feeling a little lost and aimless lately, so I delude myself into thinking the purchase is a huge success. $39.10
6 p.m. — Next, I try a new matcha spot. I stopped drinking coffee for my anxiety (game changer), so my personality now hinges on my matcha consumption. There are tourists in the shop who are fascinated by the whole pink aesthetic, taking pictures of everything in the store. It makes me happy seeing people look at things with such wonder, so I kind of like all the tourists in NYC (don’t tell). I take my strawberry matcha with oat milk ($8, plus a $1 tip) to the park to read for a bit before walking to trivia. $9
7 p.m. — Trivia time! I go most weeks with a group of friends from college. I venmo the host $5 for the entry fee and then order chicken tenders and a club soda since I haven’t eaten yet ($15.23 plus tip). We get third place! $22.97
9:45 p.m. — I call my long-distance BFF, L., on the walk to the train. I convince her to go to trivia tonight like me and we do a quick check in (her: craving a relationship and arguing with insurance; me: filled with ennui about my life’s purpose). $2.90
10:30 p.m. — Stop at 7-Eleven for some toilet paper and a coconut water. $9.18
11:45 p.m. — Talk to O. for a bit before bed. I’ve been a little down the past few days and just feel lost (see: ennui). O. reassures me before going to bed. I stay up past my bedtime to play Cozy Grove on my Switch.
Daily Total: $86.05

Day Two

8 a.m. — Up with my alarm! I send a message to my coworker to confirm my assumption that we’re working from home, and he says yes. I’ve been going in four days per week for the last year. Being remote wasn’t the best for my mental health; the routine of having somewhere to go every day has been good for me, even if I complain about it. Plus, it makes the WFH days like these extra sweet! I promise I’m not an industry plant. I make a matcha lemonade to go with my veggie sausages, green beans, and avocado with nutritional yeast and eat while I read more of A Court of Mist and Fury.
9 a.m. — I jump on my first meeting of the day and do a few work sprints (Pomodoro Technique forever). I hear O. talking to his mom in the background about insurance. He turns 26 this year and doesn’t really have a job, so he’s trying to sign up for Obamacare. I eavesdrop and text him encouragement from across the room.
12:30 p.m. — It’s so nice outside! Another matcha lemonade, then I eat an apple and a piece of matzo with vegan butter while I read on our patio.
1:30 p.m. — My manager and the CEO are both on PTO, so I take it as a sign to take the rest of the afternoon off. I walk to the library to pick up the next book in the ACOTAR series and Alone With You in the Ether and grab some poster boards and a green juice from CVS. It’s nice and sunny out, so I take a stroll around the park while drinking my juice and finishing up my audiobook of The Argonauts for book club later. $9.18
3 p.m. — Time for the gym! Today is back and biceps day, aka my least favorite. I speedrun it and then finish up my audiobook while I’m in the sauna, then head to the grocery store for some fruit and sandwich ingredients. $35.51
4 p.m. — I make a tofurky sandwich and cut up some strawberries to eat while I read my book in the sun. I LOVE having an outdoor space — we really got lucky with this apartment, and I hope they don’t raise the rent too much this year.
5 p.m. — Time to shower and get ready for book club! My friend S. and I are making signs beforehand — our other book club friend is running the half marathon in a few weeks. I grab the poster boards and some markers and hop on the subway. $2.90
8 p.m. — Our signs turned out great! We head to the building’s common area to meet the other members of the club and talk about The Argonauts. S. made vegan wraps and brought bonbons from TJ’s, so we snack on those while we discuss the book.
9:45 p.m. — Back on the train to head home, where O. and I cuddle on the couch to debrief our days. We do our nighttime routines and climb into bed. $2.90
Daily Total: $50.49

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Happy Friday! My job has turned me into a corporate cliché. More matcha lemonade, veggie sausages, and avocado with strawberries and some peanut butter toast. I read more of A Court of Mist and Fury.
9:30 a.m. — O. is up so we talk for a while before I hop onto the first meeting of the day.
12 p.m. — Meetings done! I eat a snack of matzo with vegan butter and fruit while I read, then O. and I discuss our respective health concerns (me: my torn meniscus; him: mysterious symptoms) before I head to the gym for leg day.
2 p.m. — Quick shower and protein smoothie and then hop on the phone for therapy. My therapist doesn’t accept insurance, so my dad pays for my sessions. I’ve been seeing this therapist for four years and he’s the best!
3 p.m. — Hop on the subway to the orthopedist ($2.90). My knee has been bothering me for a year and a half, but I’m terrified I need surgery so I’ve avoided the doctor until now (I know). The copay for today is $60, and I get a prescription for an MRI. $62.90
4 p.m. — Trader Joe’s is right nearby, sooo… I grab a few TJ’s-specific items (mostly premade stuff and a few sauces and dips) and spot my fave niche internet microcelebrity, Pigmami. I don’t say hi because this TJ’s is chaotic and she looks locked in, but I text O. about my exciting encounter. $33.21
4:30 p.m. — Next stop: bookstore! I preordered 1000 Words, so I browse and then pick that up. I’m so hungry, so I eat half a TJ’s wrap outside before subwaying home. $2.90
5:30 p.m. — Fridays are always slow work days at my company, so I wrap up a few tasks and close my laptop. I hang with O. for a bit and then spend some time rotting in bed watching YouTube videos.
7:30 p.m. — Tonight is cozy date night. We start a new anime, Solo Leveling, and order Sweetgreen since O. has a discount code. I get a kombucha and the shroomami bowl with spicy broccoli ($19). They forget a few things, so we report it and get a $7 credit, which O. sends back to me since he ordered from his account. $12
10:30 p.m. — 7-Eleven run: We get slurpees and a few snacks. O. pays — so chivalrous.
12 a.m. — We talk for a bit and then lights out.
Daily Total: $111.01

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — Wake up without an alarm! I eat some fruit and leftover TJ’s wrap with a protein shake while I continue reading A Court of Mist and Fury.
12 p.m. — O. is feeling pretty worried about his mysterious symptoms, which he thinks might be something more serious. I cancel my plans to go to my friend’s darty and opt for a cheer-up day at home with O. We play some board games and then get into a heated debate about when he bought his razor. I’m so sure that I’m right that I put $20 on it… And lose. The price of hubris. $20
12:30 p.m. — O. reminds me that I owe money for our Passover Seder last week to him and our other friend who cooked ($34). I settle up Splitwise expenses with O. while I’m at it ($62.80). We occasionally treat each other, but mostly we do 50/50. $96.80
2:30 p.m. — Make a sandwich and watch more Solo Leveling with O. before we decide we need some fresh air. We walk past my fave cafe, and I can’t resist trying a decaf cherry blossom latte with oat milk. It’s not really giving spring, but c’est la vie. $8.16
3 p.m. — We walk past a guy with a bag that says “Free comic book day,” so our next destination is obviously the comic book store. We each get to pick out five free comics!
3:30 p.m. — There’s a cute craft fair on the walk home, and I can’t resist buying a candle ($28.18) and a slice of vegan German chocolate cake ($10.61). O. gets a cute crocheted chicken! $38.79
4 p.m. — Back home to watch more Solo Leveling. It’s true what they say about spending $50 every time you leave your house.
7 p.m. — Heat up a frozen TJ’s meal (vegan green Thai curry is the best) and order a birthday gift for S. on Amazon. I find a cute flower vase that looks like a book! I’ll buy flowers on the day, too. $31.52
8 p.m. — Head out to my friend E.’s housewarming party on the subway. O. has to hype me up since I’m feeling tired and not in the mood to socialize with new people. I bring a bottle of wine for E. from our collection of wine people have brought us. The circle of life! $2.90
11 p.m. — My rule with big social events is that I have to at least show up, then I’m allowed to leave whenever I want. Like tonight, I usually end up having fun and staying a while. My phone is telling me to wait for a train that isn’t coming for another hour, so I DIY my way home. The trip takes 50 minutes, then I hop into bed around midnight. $2.90
Daily Total: $201.07

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — Wake up STARVING. I have brunch plans in a couple hours, so I just eat some peanut butter toast with tea. Play around on my Switch a little before I have to get ready.
11 a.m. — It’s raining, so I spritz on my favorite rainy day fragrance, Replica’s Lazy Sunday Morning. I have a pretty sizable perfume collection, and I always match my scent to the vibes of the day. Tap into the subway to head to brunch. $2.90
11:30 a.m. — Brunch time: This is one of my favorite spots, since everything is vegan. I get a decaf oat milk latte and a breakfast burrito. S. recounts some stories about the ridiculous rich woman she dog-sits for, and shows me some of the jewelry the woman made. One has a penis-shaped charm as the centerpiece — veins and everything! $24.91
12:30 p.m. — Walk with S. to do some window shopping at Target and what we refer to as the “cute stuff store”. I stay strong and don’t get anything.
2 p.m. — We’re brave and hit TJ’s. It’s so busy on the weekends. I resolve to “just get a few things”, which turns into a full bag. The haul includes avocados, Jicama wraps, some frozen meals, berries, a salad bag, canned eggplant, vegan sausages, nutritional yeast, peanut butter, and some fruit ($52.31). S. and I part ways and I grab the bus back home ($2.90). $55.21
6 p.m. — Spend the afternoon being sad with O. about his health issues, which could potentially be pretty serious. His next appointment is tomorrow and his mom is coming into town to take him. We cry a lot and then try to find a new show to watch to cheer us up (everything seems lackluster after Solo Leveling, though).
8 p.m. — I make myself a quick pasta and salad dinner and offer some to O., who declines. We tend to do our own thing for meals, since we eat pretty different things. After din, I run out to get O. some water and other drinks from 7-Eleven so he stays hydrated. $12.51
10 p.m. — I take a scalding hot bath and read some of the self-help book I bought, Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies. I like the vibes, but the advice is kind of generic so far.
Daily Total: $95.53

Day Six

8 a.m. — Up with my alarm. I cuddle with O. for a bit and try to reassure him about today’s appointment before getting ready for work.
9 a.m. — I make a few Jicama wraps for breakfast with avocado, veggie sausages, and other random ingredients. O.’s mom comes to pick him up, and I eat my slice of vegan chocolate cake since I’m still a little hungry and am definitely about to get my period.
9:30 a.m. — Hop onto the first of three morning meetings and generally try to distract myself from worrying about O.
12 p.m. — Quick strawberry snack, then I jump onto my psychiatrist appointment. I’ve been struggling with dissociation for the past six months or so, and I feel pretty defeated at this point. The doctor ups my dose of Zoloft and suggests a more intensive approach to therapy, which means I need a therapist who specializes in that treatment. The copay is $30, and we plan to meet again in two weeks. $30
12:30 p.m. — Lunch is the same pasta and salad combo from last night. I watch a few tapiocapress YouTube videos while I eat, then get back to work with some productivity sprints.
3:30 p.m. — It’s beautiful outside, so I take a walk around the neighborhood and call my dad to catch up.
6 p.m. — Done with work and O. is back from the doctor! No news yet, but trying to stay positive before we know anything for sure. He brought me an orchid, too :) I read more of Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies and try to follow some of the advice by writing a gratitude list.
8 p.m. — Dinner is the rest of the pasta and salad since I’m not in the mood to cook. O. and I watch the second episode of 3 Body Problem. I read the books, and the show condenses so much that happens; I’m really liking it so far!
9:30 p.m. — Read a few more pages of A Court of Mist and Fury before going to bed.
Daily Total: $30

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Up with my alarm! I don’t lift right before or on my period, so I start the day with morning pages, a gratitude list, and a Yoga With Adriene video.
8:30 a.m. — Quickly eat some peanut butter and banana toast while watching some YouTube, then hop on my 9 a.m. meeting.
10:30 a.m. — O. is up and his test results are in. He still has more tests and a procedure later this week, but it’s nice to have some answers.
1 p.m. — The day is flying by. I make some tteokbokki from Trader Joe’s for lunch.
5 p.m. — I feel like there’s a lot more to do, but I log off until tomorrow and do some needlepoint while watching YouTube.
8 p.m. — Get totally immersed in finishing Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies. None of the advice is groundbreaking, but I’m feeling inspired! I make a quick sandwich for dinner since I’m not in the mood to cook, and spend the rest of the night reading before bed.
Daily Total: $0 

The Breakdown

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

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