A Week In Brooklyn On A $55,000 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. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.) This week a researcher working in public health who makes $55,000 per year takes a birthday vacation to Vegas.
Industry: Public Health
Age: 34
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $55,000
Paycheck Amount (biweekly ): $1,550 Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $850 (My share, I live with my boyfriend)
Monthly Loan Payments: $297.50 for student loans. I qualify for loan forgiveness so my loans are income-based.
Utilities, Cable, Internet: $200 on average for my share
Netflix: $0 (use my sister's account)
Spotify: $10
Union Dues: $70 a month, taken out of my paycheck directly
Credit Cards: $200. I'm in the process of paying them off completely.
Cell Phone: $75. I get a 25% discount on my plan through my job.
Savings: $200 a month. I haven't set up a retirement account through my job but I have one at my bank and I usually make one big deposit at the end of the year to my IRA.

Day One

9 a.m. — Up and at home! Today is a three day weekend, so no work! I check my emails and see two new housing lotteries open. I qualify for one, so I apply. Rent in NYC continues to go up while my income doesn't. I have been applying for all of the affordable housing I can. 10 a.m. — I have a yoga class at 11, but my stomach is not agreeing with me today. I hop in the shower and get dressed, but end up back in bed. I don't lose any money because this was a “by donation” class and you pay what you want when you check in. I text my boyfriend asking for Gatorade. 2 p.m. — My boyfriend arrives and he wakes me up. He got Vitamin Water instead of Gatorade. Not the same, but I take a Tylenol and lay back down. 3:45 p.m. — I'm hungry and so is he. We decide to try a new burrito spot on Seamless. He gets two of their specials and I get a spicy chicken burrito. Once the food arrives, we eat and fall asleep. My boyfriend works nights so afternoons are normally when he sleeps. I treat. $27.53 9 p.m. — We wake up and I watch some TV. I feel better. He has to leave at 10, so he gets ready to go while I wash a small load (we have a washer/dryer in our place!) and heat up my food. He leaves and I window shop online. 11 p.m. — I purchase two sweaters and some socks from Express with a gift card my mom sent me for Christmas. It was a $100 card, but I only spent $55.07 on my purchase. After this I hop into bed because I have to be up at 6:20 a.m. Daily Total: $27.53

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Up for work and I feel off. I drink a big cup of orange juice and take an extra strength Tylenol. 9 a.m. — I stop by Starbucks to grab my free birthday item. I get a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. I drink a bottle of water I have at work with it. 11 a.m. — Drink a Pepsi a coworker gave me last week. I didn't drink coffee this morning, so I'm feeling sluggish. I'm actually busy today, but, thankfully, this is my only day at work this week. Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm going to Vegas the day after. YAY FOR ME! 3 p.m. — I finally get to grab lunch. I go to Subway and get a meal. I eat out a lot — it's a terrible habit that I'm trying to cut back on, but for now, fast food is what it is. $7.62 4 p.m. — Get a call about a job I applied to over a year ago. They want to know if I'm still interested. The job pays twice as much as I make but it's only 21 hours a week so my pay will end up being the same. I have to reapply, so she emails me the info. The job is also walking distance from my house. I definitely make a mental note that I need to weigh the pros and cons if selected. 7 p.m. — I am home and off the rest of the week! My boyfriend makes bratwurst for dinner before he leaves for work. I eat one and have some soda. Once he leaves, I finish packing for Thursday and watch T.V. Daily Total: $7.62

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — It's my birthday! I go to the grocery store to pick up some snacks and other items. It's my week to pay for groceries even though it's my birthday. Since I won't be home, we only get half the groceries we need. $48.08 12:30 p.m. — I really want a peanut butter and jelly, so I make one for myself. My boyfriend took the night off because it's my birthday. We hang out, watch TV, and smoke a little. I remind myself that this week will be my last week smoking weed until I get a new job. 8 p.m. — Lay around the house while my boyfriend cooks my birthday meal. He makes me a steak, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and mac 'n' cheese. We have red wine with our meal and eat by candle light. Money is a little tight, so I appreciate that he cooked for me. He also has taken off of work so we can spend some quality time all night. Daily Total: $48.08

Day Four

4 a.m. — I didn't sleep well (or at all). I get up, shower, and call a cab to the airport. I learned long time ago that taking a cab or Uber to the airport is much more relaxing than taking public transportation, so I make it a point to include cab fare in my travel budget. The cab is $35 and I tip $5. $40 6 a.m. — I grab a fruit cup when I get to the airport. I still don't feel good. I only ate half of my dinner last night so I am slightly hungry but also tired. $7.57 12 p.m. — I land in Seattle and I'm hungry again. I go to Wendy's because it's the easiest choice. I only eat half of my food again. My flight to Vegas is delayed twice, but I finally hop on the final leg of this flight! I am so ready to gamble! $8.42 3:30 p.m. — I finally arrive. I get my bag and grab a shuttle to the hotel. It's $15 roundtrip. This is cheap to me coming from NYC, so I pay even though I'm not sure I will take the shuttle back to the airport. $15 4:30 p.m. — I take a nap while waiting for my friends to arrive. I have a room to myself so I don't have to worry about being disturbed when they finally arrive later tonight. 9 p.m. — Everyone has arrived! We all change and hit the casinos. 10:30 p.m. — I play the slots and I keep losing. My best friend plays blackjack and she's up $200. I stop playing and watch her and drink all of the free drinks I can. $60 12:30 a.m. — Pretty wasted and hungry. We grab some wings at Buffalo Wild Wings in another casino. My best friend's boyfriend pays for all of the food. Lucky me! Then more gambling. Of course, I just watch while I eat. Daily Total: $130.99

Day Five

11 a.m. — Drag myself out of bed. I shower and we go to a breakfast spot off the strip. I get pancakes, eggs, and bacon. It's so good. My best friend's boyfriend pays again. When he goes to get the car, I buy him a birthday cake (his birthday was the week before mine). $16.21 12:30 p.m. — We go to the Bellagio to gamble and shop. I mainly window shop. We stop by Fat Tuesday and I get big drink and two jello shots. The hurricane shots prove to me a bit much for me. I only drink half. We go to the casinos and gamble some more. $15 5 p.m. — My other best friend arrives. Now it's a real party. 7 p.m. — More of a blur. We grab some food from Coney Island Hot Dogs, a place my best friend loves. She generously pays for everyone's food. I am sure when she sees the receipts the next day she will learn to leave her cards at home. 11 p.m. — After a quick nap we go hit a night club. It's free entry and open bar until 1 a.m. The club is nice but I'm not feeling the crowd. I love the DJ and the free drinks, though, so we stay until the open bar is over. Daily Total: $31.21

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — I need coffee and Starbucks is in my hotel. They won't accept my free drink coupon so I have to buy my iced macchiato and croissant. We decide to hit the strip today. Yesterday it rained all day so we weren't able to really enjoy Vegas. $11.57 12 p.m. — We take a limo down the strip because we have to be fancy. He only charges us $45 and we split that six ways. My friend's boyfriend covers the tip. $7.50 2 p.m. — All of the window shopping yesterday has my whole body aching to spend money. I see some Tiffany sunglasses I really like. They are "on sale" for 50% off. I quickly Google the pair and find them for $400. So the sale price isn't really 50% off, more like 40% but I still purchase them because my stepdad had sent me $500 for my trip. Does birthday money count as spending real money? $233.45 5 p.m. — We decide to see a Cirque du Soleil show. Half of us want to see the Michael Jackson show and the other half wants to see the Avatar show. We decide to split up. I buy my ticket and finish shopping with my group while the other group decides to see a time share presentation to get $100. $147.30 6 p.m. — Two refills on drinks from Fat Tuesday for me and my best friend. I treat . $18 7:30 p.m. — Drinks from The Cosmopolitan. I get one. My girl gets two. $16 8:30 p.m. — Cab back to the hotel to see our 9:30 pm show. $10 9:30 p.m. — We see the show. It is amazing! I don't buy any souvenirs but I have a great time singing and dancing along. 11:30 p.m. — Very late dinner at an Italian place in our hotel. I get the spicy prawn dish. The food is delicious. $45

12:30 p.m. — After eating I am super tired, so I go back to my room and crash. I'm actually ashamed of this. I watch TV and play around on Twitter for an hour or so. I FaceTime my boyfriend while he's at work then fall asleep.

Daily Total: $488.82

Day Seven

11:00 a.m. — Check out time at the hotel. I pre-paid for my room but I still owe the "resort fees." Such a scam! Vegas is expensive, and I decide the next time I come will be when my friend gets married. $109

11:30 a.m. — We grab the champagne brunch in our hotel and eat $35 worth of crab legs and drink $50 worth of mimosas. They are a little watered down, but we keep drinking them and the waiter keeps filling up our cup. My friend's boyfriend tips him $20 before we leave. I pay for the crab legs. $35

1 p.m. — We sit in a sports bar and watch the game. I wanted to bet on the Packers but I am so glad I didn't. They are losing horribly. I sip on some wine courtesy of my best friend. My flight is delayed three times, so I get to see the whole sad game. 5 p.m. — Cab back to the airport. I wasted $6 getting the roundtrip shuttle. $10 5:30 p.m. — I grab a sandwich from Quizno's for the plane ride back. I'm not really hungry, but I know I will be halfway through the flight. $10.42 7:30 p.m. — Flying home. I watch two movies on the flight. Delta lets you watch movies for free! I make a mental note to fly with Delta more often once they get their act together. 1:30 a.m. — Back in NYC and I hop in a cab home. I am beyond tired and when I get home I pass out because I have to be at work at 8 a.m. in the morning! $40 Daily Total: $204.42
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