A Week In Brooklyn, NY On A $70,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
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Today, we're really excited to share a follow-up diary from our very first diarist — the OG OP, if you'll indulge us. She wrote this diary in December 2017, almost two years to the week that we published her first diary and launched this little series that has become something of a phenomenon. You can check out her diary below, and click here for a Q&A about how her life has changed in the past two year — and how it hasn't — and what she thinks about being the first OP.
Occupation: Designer
Industry: Creative
Age: 29
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $70,000
Paycheck Amount (2x a month): $1,855.80
# of roommates: Hopefully 1 soon
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,350 (The total rent is $2,600 for the whole apartment; I pay more because I have the larger bedroom.)
Gas: $16.64
Electricity: $38.82
Internet: $45.99
Transportation: $121 for a monthly Metrocard
Loan Payments: $0 (I had over $17,000 in loans when I graduated but I finished paying them off two years ago. My parents helped me with them a bit, but I basically just put large chunks of my income towards paying the loans off instead of starting any savings.)
Cell Phone: $40 (I pay my mom, who has a family plan.)
Health Insurance: My job is fairly new, so my health insurance doesn’t start until next month.
General Financial Info:
Savings: I have had a 401(k) for 3 years and Roth IRA for something like 10 years. My mother set up the Roth IRA, and now I contribute to it myself and try to contribute the maximum $5,500 per year.
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Other: I currently have way more money in my checking account than I need to, but am trying to decide if I should just set aside savings or invest some of it (or both). I have over $15,000 even after maxing out my Roth IRA contributions, but part of why I haven’t moved the money yet is because I had severance money, unemployment benefits, and freelance income this year and I don’t know how much I’ll need to pay in taxes.
Day One
9:30 a.m. — The first thing I do this morning is re-post to the Listings Project. My roommate is moving out today because she can’t afford the rent anymore, so I need to find someone to take her place. I guess I saw it coming because she was kicked out of her PhD program, which means she lost her stipend, but I was in a similar boat, having just gotten laid off around the same time. I was fortunate to have gotten a substantial severance payment, and a bonus for staying through the completion of my former company’s merger.
I eventually got the job I have now, but she has yet to find anything steady and can’t collect unemployment benefits because she missed an appointment at the Department of Labor. Anyway, as daunting as it is to have to find someone new, I’m also relieved she’s leaving because I think her situation is making her unhappy and she was starting to come home really angry — stomping around, slamming doors, and muttering to herself.
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I know it’s a very common renter’s problem, but I am really stressed out about it because I’ve listed the room for the last two weeks as well, but people keep canceling their appointments to see the apartment because they agreed to move in somewhere else. To make things worse, the roommate let me know after the first week of November that she would be moving at the end of the first week of December, which is a weird time to have to find someone to move in, on top of being right around the holidays when people travel a lot. The Listings Project charges for every post, but it’s better than Craigslist, in my opinion. $30
11 a.m. — I meet one of my closest friends for brunch near my apartment. I actually just had her over for dinner last night, but we’re so in friend-love that we have no problem with back-to-back hangouts. Also, having plans to get out and do stuff is good for taking my mind off the roommate search. I wish I had happier or funnier things to talk about than my dilemma though. I notice I’m so preoccupied with trying to come up with more positive topics of conversation that I am not listening as closely as I should be to what my friend is saying. Thankfully, my friend is very understanding and patient. I order a sandwich, coffee, and we split an apple and radish salad. $26.13
2 p.m. — We walk over to Sprout Home and I get a new plant (a 4-inch Calathea for the plant enthusiasts who might be wondering), plus four air plants to replace the ones that died a while ago. $40.56
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2:30 p.m. — I make an impulse purchase: a leather tassel bag charm/key ring by a vendor I came across at a craft fair in Greenpoint a while ago. I think they’ve stopped making them so I jump at the last one in stock at a cute home goods store in Williamsburg, especially because it’s on sale. $30.49
3:30 p.m. — We were planning to see Lady Bird at Nitehawk, but the tickets sold out, so we decide to get mimosas at a divey spot nearby. Super cheap! 2 mimosas at $3 each plus $2 tip = $8
4:30 p.m. — We decided to pre-order the Lady Bird tickets for the next day, and just make a bit of a staycation out of our weekend. My friend Venmos me for hers. $13.35
5 p.m. — The impromptu staycation continues: we get pizzas and split a beer at a popular spot in Greenpoint that has a long wait for seating unless you get there right when it opens. It works out for us because we’re both already hungry, and the pizzas are delicious. $24.50
Daily Total: $173.03
Day Two
9:30 a.m. — I’ve been awake for a while because I didn’t feed the cat on time, and she’s punishing me by yelling at me. I get out of bed and make myself some coffee and thoughts start filling my head about the roommate search again. I can feel my heart start to race, and I have to take deep breaths to calm myself. I list the room on some Facebook groups and Craigslist so I can at least feel like I’m being as proactive as I can.
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10:30 a.m. — I do some yoga at home. I don’t really like classes — I find that I get very self-conscious about how wobbly I am in yoga classes, so it isn’t as calming as it’s said to be at all. I use an app called Asana Rebel that has workouts for 15 minutes each. Plus, it’s free.
1 p.m. — I eat a pork bun my mom sent me home with the last time I visited (the weekend before). I ate these growing up and I still love them.
4 p.m. — A (different) friend texted about a free surprise set Moses Sumney is playing at a church near me. I need to get out of the apartment, and he’s a great artist. There’s a line to get in and I explain to my friend about the roommate search. Once we sit down inside, I still find myself unable to stop thinking about it and actually tear up and start silently crying in a pretty packed crowd. I was religious until only a few years ago, and I think being in a church for the first time in so many years brings up some weird feelings as well. I apologize to my friend, who shows me pictures of puppies on Instagram to help me stop, which proves effective. Then the set starts, and it’s great! The church is beautiful and the set is very stripped down, just vocals, piano, guitar. It feels very intimate and special.
6:30 p.m. — I pick up some groceries for the week: a big bottle of seltzer, some arugula, a pack of Kirby cucumbers, avocados, a salami, and some tortilla chips. On a whim, I also pick up a tub of rice pudding. $34.91
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7:30 p.m. — Nitehawk to watch Lady Bird, which is SO GOOD. I think I was expecting a sadder movie overall, but it was incredibly funny and heartwarming. I’m definitely grateful for the laughs. I pay for my beer and my friend’s pear cider because she came all the way to Brooklyn from Murray Hill three days in a row just to hang out with me. $16.25
Daily Total: $51.16
Day Three
7:15 a.m. — I’m up early so I do another 15 minutes of free app yoga, and make myself coffee. I’m trying to make myself coffee more often, but a lot of mornings, I hit the snooze button and end up buying it on the way to work instead. Especially in the winter…
1:30 p.m. — A freelancer on our team gives me a bowl of soup because she brought more than she could eat herself! It’s hearty and homemade with potatoes, tomatoes, and beef broth. I post my room listing on Craigslist and a few Facebook groups to cast a wider net.
7:30 p.m. — Soba noodles for dinner. I improvise a sauce with peanut butter, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and rice vinegar. Then top it with julienned Kirby cucumber and slices of avocado. I also have a glass of seltzer with a splash of Aperol.
Daily Total: $0
Day Four
9 a.m. — Coffee and a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks. I am a sucker for savory breakfast foods. $8.93
2 p.m. — I get Korean food with the freelancer at a cafeteria-style place a few blocks away. It’s a LOT of food. Brown rice, japchae, cucumber salad, spicy seafood, and green beans. The Rockefeller Center tree lighting is tonight, and on the way back, we run into a bunch of roadblocks that were just put up and the police direct us to take a very roundabout route back to the office. The office is only a few blocks away, but it takes us almost 20 minutes to get back. I only finish half of the food and save the rest for another day. $14.10
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7:15 p.m. — A potential renter comes over to see the apartment. He’s moving here from France for a job. He smells like booze when he comes in and gives me an air kiss. I can’t tell if he is a little drunk, very French, or both. We chat, and he sounds like a partier. He would be traveling for work quite a bit and plans to Airbnb the room while he’s away. I’m not crazy about the idea of him as a roommate, but try to hide it during the conversation. He keeps calling my cat “Monsieur le chat.” She’s a mademoiselle, but he doesn’t hear me correct him. Poor Roo. He says he’ll let me know if he wants to take the room in two to three days, and I hope I meet someone better in the meantime. More air kisses, and he leaves… I feel relieved he’s gone. Not the strongest candidate.
8 p.m. — Last night, I made more noodles than I could finish, so I just make more sauce and slice up more cucumbers and avocado. The sauce isn’t as successful this time. Too much peanut butter in the ratio. I’ve been watching Friends on Netflix because it’s pretty light-hearted, and I realize that a lot of this went way over my head when I was a teen. Now that I’m living and dating in New York, it’s actually very relatable and therefore even more charming and funny.
9:30 p.m. — I read a chapter of a book my friend lent me: Ready Player One. It’s pretty good. I tend to enjoy sci-fi/fantasy as a genre, also anything that takes place in a dystopian future. This novel ticks all those boxes. Pretty soon I fall asleep.
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Daily Total: $23.03
Day Five
8:45 a.m. — I get some coffee and a jalapeño cheddar bacon corn muffin on the way to work. I don’t think this muffin has any nutritional value but it’s so tasty. $5
1:45 p.m. — I forgot I had some leftover Chinese food in the work fridge from last Friday. It’s been in the refrigerator for four days, but smells okay… I microwave it very thoroughly just to be safe.
3 p.m. — I work for a luxury retail company. We all got an email at the beginning of the week from HR saying that we can purchase items at 50% off for the next week or so. I order a warm pair of silk and wool blend leggings, and some Aesop products. I have this weird aspiration to have all my bath products be from one brand with gorgeous minimal packaging, purely for aesthetic reasons, but since I’m worried about losing rent money, I just get some hand soaps, body wash, lip cream, and hand sanitizer. I think the Aesop soaps will be a nice upgrade to my bathroom and kitchen sinks and might positively affect a potential roommate’s impression of the apartment. I’m a firm believer that details matter. I also opt for my tried and true Fresh face wash. All-matching packaging dreams on hold until I find a renter. $146.42
5:15 p.m. — I let my boss know that I needed to leave work a little early to show another potential roommate the apartment at 6.
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7 p.m. — Pretty much as soon as I walk in the door, the girl who is coming texts me to say she needs to postpone by an hour. Honestly, I’m a bit annoyed. When she shows up, she seems nice, but she’s very young (7-8 years younger than me) and new to the city. She says she (her parents) can pay the rest of the rent for December but move in January, which sounds too good to be true… For now she’s the strongest candidate though.
8 p.m. — I make a salad with arugula, cucumbers, avocado, feta cheese, and some slices of salami. I’m very rarely in the mood for salad at dinnertime, but when I do make myself one, I tend to like it. Some balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper go a long way. Another seltzer and Aperol tonight.
Daily Total: $151.42
Day Six
8:45 a.m. — Coffee and a pepper, pear, and goat cheese scone. Savory breakfast foods really are my biggest food weakness. $5
2 p.m. — I eat the rest of the Korean food from two days ago for lunch. We’re all pretty used to eating at our desks at work, and a coworker comes to my desk to help me look over a presentation I’m working on for the SVP of Creative. She tells me my food looks good but I’m pretty sure the spicy squid tentacles and smell of kimchi would gross a lot of people out, so I feel kind of self-conscious despite her effort to be nice.
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8:45 p.m. — I get out of work late because I needed the SVP to make some decisions about what they wanted in the presentation, and I didn’t hear back from them until very late in the day. On the way home, I buy two bottles of red wine. They’re a little pricier than I usually go for, but I decide to try them because sometimes red wine gives me migraines, but these are organic and don’t contain sulfites. $29.37
9 p.m. — I make another arugula salad and have a glass of wine and watch a movie.
9:30 p.m. — With the movie playing in the background, I open up the order of stuff I bought with my employee discount. The leggings were kind of expensive, even at 50% off, so I question the purchase. The Aesop products smell amazing and I like how they look on my sink, so I’m pretty happy I bought them, especially given the discount. I struggle with anxiety, and I find that treating myself to something that smells nice, like a candle, or in this case, soap, is a good way to help me feel like I am at least being proactive about managing how I feel in a given moment even if I can’t control the circumstances.
10:30 p.m. — I decide that the leggings will get a lot of use this season, and I don’t really want to shop around for a different pair because I’m pretty picky about materials and quality. This is my second year of limiting myself to 10 new shoe/clothing purchases per year, not counting basics. The leggings are technically a basic but because of the price, I am going to count them toward my 10 item limit. It will help discourage me from buying expensive basics in the future. Full disclosure: I finish a second glass of wine before the movie ends.
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Daily Total: $34.37
Day Seven
7:15 a.m. — I’m up kind of early so I make myself some coffee and do 20 minutes of app yoga.
11 a.m. — The presentation goes pretty smoothly. No issues in my file, and people seem to respond well to the visuals so I’m pretty relieved.
2 p.m. — I go to Dishes because they have pretty decent fried chicken every Friday, but at the last minute, I change my mind and get some sushi and salad instead. Since you’re charged by weight, it’s really cheap for sushi. $6.42
7 p.m. — I get home, and I'm really glad the week is finally over. It was busier than usual toward the end. I’m in a very small art department and work on all printed collateral, and any week with a presentation is especially harrowing because I’m working on designing the actual catalog pages and making sure the most up-to-date artwork is going in the presentation at the same time. I also have to give art direction to our freelancer, who is really helpful because she’s taking care of all the miscellaneous stuff like ads and signage. However, she’s very junior, so I’m also teaching her about the Adobe software and trying to make sure her work is in keeping with our styles, which feels a bit like playing goalie at times. I really like her and want her to get something out of freelancing with us, but I worry that all my minute revisions to her work might make her feel like she’s being micromanaged. But as I said earlier, details matter, especially in graphic design.
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I make myself some whole wheat pasta, and experiment with adding a splash of Aperol and seltzer to a glass of red wine. It tastes a bit like sangria, so I’m pretty pleased. I remember the rice pudding I had bought, so I sprinkle a bit of cardamom on some and eat it for dessert.
8 p.m. — I’m playing with the cat and realize I need to buy her more treats so I order a four-flavor pack on Amazon. I toss the treats at her, and she enjoys chasing them around and can sometimes catch them in midair. It always makes me smile to see how urgently she tries to catch the treats. $13.99
9 p.m. — I finish reading Ready Player One, and spend some time reposting my apartment listing to Craigslist and Facebook groups, and confirm two more people to come see the apartment this weekend. Despite busier days at work, I’m a little less anxious than I was at the beginning of this diary. I spent a bit more than usual socializing during the weekend, but I think it was worth it to not be alone with my thoughts in the apartment and distract myself from the roommate search. I might not have a roommate yet, but I’ve still got the best friends.
Daily Total: $20.41
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