A Week In New York City 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.
Today: an associate producer who makes $55,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on Luden's cough drops and refrigerator magnets.
Occupation: Associate Producer
Industry: Journalism & Media
Age: 29
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $55,000
Paycheck (2x/week): $963
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $1,250 for a studio. I live alone after having lived at home and saved up for two years.
Loans: None, thanks to my parents for paying for college.
All Other Monthly Expenses
Utilities: $50-$60
Internet: $50
Transportation: $121 for an unlimited MetroCard
Health Insurance: $200/month. I'm currently freelancing at my job, and health insurance is not provided
Investments: $100/month to a mutual fund and $500 quarterly to a Roth IRA (I'll add more at the end of the year to make the maximum contribution of $5,500.)
MyTherapist.com: $45/week not covered by insurance

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off for the second time, an hour earlier than I need to be up. My boyfriend works farther downtown and needs more time to get there. Out of solidarity, I get up and commute with him in the mornings. We've only been dating for five months, so I'm chalking up this extra effort to the being in the new relationship honeymoon phase. One benefit is that I'm not late for work anymore!
8:45 a.m. — Still a few minutes to kill before I have to head into work, so I stop at Starbucks and get a tall sugar-free vanilla iced coffee and do a quick walk around Bryant Park before going to the office. $3
9 a.m. — One enormous benefit of my job is that breakfast and lunch are provide. Since I am not a morning person or a very good cook, this has been an awesome perk. The downside is that I've already gained five pounds since I started working here six months ago; I'm trying to be better about snacking and piling on the meals. Start the day with a bowl of Raisin Bran.
12:30 p.m. — Time for lunch (and feeling proud I made it through the morning without unnecessary snacking). Make my usual salad with tuna, carrots, broccoli, and olives, and snag a bowl of seafood paella from the hot food station. I consider the risk of eating mussels from a corporate cafeteria ... but it smells (and tastes!) delicious. End lunch with a packet of mini-M&Ms and dark chocolate. Free snacks are tempting!
3 p.m. — Getting the 3 p.m. slump, so I take a quick break and walk around Bryant Park. Not a fan of this office location as I have to walk through Times Square to get anywhere. Overall; it's a small thing to complain about. I love the work, the people, and the hours. Sigh. So much for "fresh air," although I do feel better after moving around.
4:45 p.m. — Heading out of work early to get a manicure before I meet my boyfriend for date night. I used to work much longer hours, and I'm enjoying the flexibility of leaving at a normal time. Still, I feel guilty heading out before 5 and slink to the elevator bank, hopefully unnoticed.
5:30 p.m. — Time for my first (and only) manicure of 2017. I have a horrible nail biting habit but have managed to grow my nails out enough to warrant treating myself. The salon is completely empty and the manicurist finishes in 20 minutes. I kill time drying my nails for longer than necessary because I'm not meeting the BF until 7. Not something I would want to spend my time on every week, but my nails do look good. $14
7 p.m. — Meet up with the BF outside of his office, and then take a nice walk through the Village. The weather is finally nice and the sun is out. We're attempting to get $20 tickets to see Avenue Q as part of a Broadway promotion I saw online. We take bets: I think we won't get them, he thinks we will. Fingers crossed! Since the show starts at 8 p.m. we don't have time for dinner beforehand; he buys a granola bar, and I snack on trail mix I took from work while we walk to the train.
7:45 p.m. — We got in! Great seats, and BF pays, since he still owes me $70 from a trip we took earlier this month. Apparently he's on an installment plan... $20
10:30 p.m. — The show was hilarious! So happy we got to see it, and psyched we got the discount. We walk around Midtown and settle on a Japanese dive bar that serves katsudon. I order a rice bowl with salmon and crab, and we split sake. We split the bill and head back to Astoria to stay at my BF's place. Shockingly, the trains run smoothly, but it's a very late night. I'm dreading tomorrow's alarm. $21
Daily Total: $58

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Arghhh. I begrudgingly get up, shower, and get out the door at 8.
8:45 a.m. — Falling into the Starbucks trap: sugar-free vanilla iced coffee. I justify it with my lack of spending on other meals (even though I know these coffees add up). $3
9:15 a.m. — Feeling especially crummy today. I've been fighting a sinus infection or some other ailment for the last month, and I think it's time to go to the doctor. I have my own health insurance since I freelance, but the plan is terrible and nothing is covered — my excuse for letting things go this long. I book an appointment for tomorrow morning and grab a bowl of cereal and orange juice from the office kitchen. Maybe some vitamin C will cure me?
12:30 p.m. — Time for lunch. I get my usual salad from the office cafeteria and a cup of green tea. Hoping this is the magical elixir that will save me from tomorrow's doctor's appointment and the heavy price tag.
2:30 p.m. — Take my afternoon walk and stop by Duane Reade to pick up a generic sinus medication ($4.50). I also buy a coconut water ($2) since I think I might also be dehydrated and can't stand the taste of Gatorade. I take a sip of the coconut water and decide that Gatorade would have been preferable. Yuck! $6.50
3:30 p.m. — Head to our weekly staff meeting, where my boss tells me I look like I've been punched in the face. He sends me home for the rest of the day. I feel too sickly to be offended. I go home and crawl straight into bed.
7 p.m. — My refrigerator is empty, save for a bag of carrots and salsa. I used to be much better about cooking, but now that I no longer have to worry about breakfast and lunch, I've fallen into the bad habit of buying dinner multiple times a week and scrounging for unsatisfying meals the rest of the time. I need to be better about this, but for now, carrots will do. My head is pounding, so I snack a little bit and and then hit the sack by 8:30.
Daily Total: $9.50

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up and can barely swallow, and my eyes are practically sealed shut. Obviously time to visit the doctor. I shoot my boss an email telling her I'll be working from home after I get back from my doctor's appointment. She works from home on Fridays, too, so my work guilt is at a minimum.
8:30 a.m. — The doctor doesn't open until 9 a.m., so I make a smoothie with frozen berries and the rest of the coconut water from yesterday. Hoping the fruit disguises the taste. The smoothie isn't bad and soothes my throat. I also make coffee and decide against showering. Fully embracing this sick day.
10 a.m. — I have strep throat! Semi-relieved to finally know what's been wrong with me for the past few weeks. This office doesn't take my insurance, but it's the closest to my apartment. The visit costs $125, and I wasn't charged anything extra, which is a relief. Because my insurance is so terrible, I was convinced the appointment would be $500, so I feel like I saved money. Mind over matter. $125
11 a.m. — Wait over an hour for my prescription to get filled ($4.80), and grab a bag of cough drops that are on sale to see if they'll help my sore throat. I'm bummed about the turn of events for this weekend, and I call my mom to tell her I can't meet my family for dinner or the concert tonight. Looks like my busy weekend is going to turn into something much more low-key, but obviously I need to start listening to my body a little better. Back home to bed I go. $6.50
1:30 p.m. — I work from home for about an hour, finishing up a project I need to send over to my boss. Once that's done, my boss tells me to get some rest. BF calls to see how I'm feeling, and we talk for a few minutes. It's gorgeous out and I could use the fresh air, but I burrow into my covers and try to get some sleep.
3 p.m. — So much for sleep. I'm already bored and antsy. Time for some self-soothing Amazon shopping. I impulse-buy a pair of black joggers I've been eyeing, two tubes of whitening toothpaste since I'm running low, and buy refrigerator poetry magnets as a gift for my boyfriend; he's mentioned wanting a set for his place. We'll be celebrating our six-month anniversary next month. Do couples give each other gifts for that?? If not, I'll put it aside for the holidays. The total comes to $35, but I have $34 in rewards points on my credit card. Since I don't really "need" any of these things, I use my points and the total comes to 84 cents! What a deal. $0.84
5 p.m. — Scrounge together another pathetic dinner of jarred cabbage and scrambled eggs. Make a mental note to recipe hunt and start making some real food. I need to start treating my body better, as is evidenced by my current health.
9 p.m. — Head to bed feeling sufficiently bummed that I'm missing family night, but my throat is painfully sore and my head is pounding. Fingers crossed a long night's sleep will restore me and the antibiotics will eventually kick in.
Daily Total: $137.14

Day Four

11 a.m. — Rise and shine after 14 hours of sleep! Throat feels worse than yesterday, so I gargle with salt water, make a pot of coffee, and another smoothie with my frozen fruit and yogurt. Hydrating! My mom calls to see how I'm feeling, and we chat for a few minutes about the concert last night. As soon as I hang up with her, my sister calls. Lots of family catch-up time.
2 p.m. — Attempt to feel more human before I meet up with the BF. I feel better after a shower, and decide to walk the 50 or so blocks to his parents' apartment. I stop for more cough drops because the menthol ones I bought yesterday are too strong, and I can't stand the flavor. Trying cherry this time. $2
5 p.m. — Spend an hour helping the BF self-address envelopes for co-op applications. Even though he's explained the process to me many times, it still sounds overly confusing. All I know is that if he successfully applies, he'll own an apartment in NYC for much, much less than if he buys it outright. He makes an offhand comment about us living there together someday; I don't know if it's just because I'm sick, but it throws me for an overwhelming loop. I laugh it off and make a mental note to bring this up when we're not sitting in his living room with his parents and sister.
6:30 p.m. — BF and I take his family dogs around Central Park for a walk. The fresh air feels good, but I'm especially quiet after the housing talk before. I love him, but we've been together for five months! It seems speedy, and I'm feeling caught off-guard. I make the mistake of bringing it up when we have a few blocks to go, which leads to an awkward conversation about "our future." It's nice to hear he's so sure about this relationship and where it's going. I'm a much more tentative person and just don't feel ready to think about living together and planning a future. It's not exactly the way I saw this night going, and I suddenly regret leaving my bed!
8:30 p.m. — After tabling our big talk until we can be alone, we go to a Puerto Rican family restaurant in the neighborhood. His sister joins, and I order chicken mofongo, which tastes amazing. Considering this is the first real meal I've eaten in two days, it's salty and so delicious. Steal a few bites of the BF's steak, and his sister offers her chicharrones around the table. Leave the restaurant stuffed, and BF pays for dinner since it's cash only. I'll get the next thing.
11:30 p.m. — Finally back in Queens after lots of subway delays. BF and I hang in his room and continue our (long) convo about where we are. He admits he's been feeling pressure from his family, and apologizes for rushing things along. We agree that the pace we're at is good for us, and the co-op discussion will get tabled for much farther down the line. Whew! This is my first real relationship, and I'm feeling emotionally exhausted from this talk. We watch Netflix but I fall asleep 10 minutes in.
Daily Total: $2

Day Five

10 a.m. — Sleep in 'til 10. I love Sundays when we're not rushing around for work! We laze around chatting for a half-hour and decide to get brunch in Astoria. It's my turn to pick the place, so I search Google Maps for a spot I've passed on my walk to the subway. We can't find it and decide to just walk around and pick something.
11:30 a.m. — We find the spot, and the brunch deal is great! It costs $14 for brunch with coffee and a drink; we're definitely not in Manhattan. We both order the same thing: omelets with cheddar and onions and arugula salad. BF orders a Bloody Mary, and I watch jealously as he drinks it. Since I'm on antibiotics, I stick to an iced cold brew which does wonders for my throat. We have the back patio completely to ourselves and enjoy the gorgeous weather. I pay for brunch since he got dinner. He leaves the tip ($6) in cash. $30
2:30 a.m. — We decide to walk off our brunch with a trip on foot to Astoria Park. It is hot! Already sweating, and we're only halfway there. We finally get to the park, and BF treats me to an ice cream cone since he feels bad about drinking the Bloody Mary. I tell him to not feel guilty, but I still take the cone! We find a shady spot and people watch in the grass. I snooze for a bit, and then we brainstorm plans for the rest of the afternoon.
3:30 p.m. — After running through our apps and Googling various goings-on about town, we decide to walk to Manhattan from Queens. It seems like a good idea at the time.
5:30 p.m. — BF and I joke about the extreme things we will do to avoid using the MTA on the weekend. After walking over the Triborough Bridge, around Ward's Island, and over the pedestrian bridge into Manhattan, we make it! We stop at a bodega for two giant bottles of water and walk to Central Park to see the Conservatory Gardens. $3
6 p.m. — The gardens are gorgeous, and I'm feeling a lot more upbeat after our long walk. We pick a park bench and watch a couple take engagement photos. The light is absolutely gorgeous, and it's so nice to be out in the sun the entire day! BF is in the mood to see a movie, but nothing good is playing, so we decide to "treat ourselves" and go to a comedy show. Downtown we go!
7 p.m. — We make it to the show after (more) subway delays. It's $10 apiece to see comedians try out new material. The BF pays, and it's surprisingly not as awkward as we anticipated. The headliner used to be on The Daily Show and does some hilarious bits. We head to Madison Square Park for dinner and basically attempt to reenact all of his jokes.
9:30 p.m. — The BF wants Shake Shack, but I'm not a fan, so I stop at a Mediterranean place and get a kale salad with falafel and roasted vegetables. BF changes his mind about Shake Shack and gets a wrap with meatballs and vegetables. I pay for dinner, and we walk to the park to sit outside. $20
10:30 p.m. — BF is again tempted by our proximity to Shake Shack and considers buying a burger for the ride home. Considering the line is still so long at 10:30 at night, he decides against it, and we head to the R train to go back to Queens. Fingers crossed the train runs smoothly.
11 p.m. — Shockingly, the train got us back to his apartment with no issues! My boyfriend's roommates give him some flack for not being home for a while, so we hang out with them so they can get in some "bonding time." My BF has tomorrow off, but I have to go to work, so we get ready for bed. Lights out by midnight!
Daily Total: $53

Day Six

8:15 a.m. — Here we go again: Alarm goes off, and I begrudgingly get up and ready for work. My boyfriend is still snoring away as I kiss him on the cheek and head out.
8:45 a.m. — Workday means Starbucks vanilla iced coffee. Old habits die hard, but it's still hot out and the cold coffee helps soothe my sore throat. Still waiting for those antibiotics to kick in; I'm getting tired of feeling so crummy. $3
9:15 a.m. — Slightly late to work, but I beat my boss in, so I'm safe. No one actually keeps track; I'm just stuck in the habit of being paranoid about working hours after working at much more intense jobs. I grab my usual bowl of Raisin Bran from the office kitchen, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of green tea. I will beat this strep!
12:30 p.m. — Fading fast after a busy morning catching up. I hope lunch, another coffee, and antibiotics will revive me. Make my salad since nothing else looks appetizing. I grab a bag of veggie chips from the snack area and work at my desk through lunch.
3 p.m. — Drag myself outside for a walk around Bryant Park. It's hot, and I come back to work sweaty. Grab a bottle of green tea and repurpose my Starbucks cup from this morning with fresh ice. I also add honey to help my throat, and grab a bag of edamame crisps to snack on. These things are addicting, although I can't decide if the flavor is all that pleasant.
5:15 p.m. — Leaving work. I have to go back to my apartment uptown before my band rehearsal tonight, since I stayed in Queens and didn't bring my instrument to work. I play in an adult wind ensemble, which is way cooler and more fun than it sounds. But the rehearsal is all the way in Brooklyn, and I live all the way uptown, so I cross my fingers for a speedy express A train.
5:45 p.m. — Home! I have 15 minutes before I need to head out again. I should straighten my apartment, but I instead lay on my bed and play Candy Crush for 20 minutes. Going to be late, but I make a berry and yogurt smoothie for the subway ride down. We usually go out for drinks after band practice, and I'll grab something else to eat post-rehearsal.
7:15 p.m. — Late for rehearsal. I clamor through 20 people to get to my seat in the middle of the stage; that never gets less embarrassing. It's such a stress reliever to play music for a few hours each week, and I've made some great friends! Once a band geek, always a band geek.
9:30 p.m. — Decide to head to the bar after rehearsal with some of the guys in my instrument section. I get a water since I shouldn't drink while I'm on antibiotics. Decide against ordering food because the wait is usually long, and I don't want to stay out too late. Chat for a few and then head to the subway for the hour-long trek back home.
11 p.m. — Home at last! I find a fruit bar in my work bag and eat that even though I'm not hungry. I call my BF to catch up on our days, but he's half asleep and the conversation is lagging. We hang up and I get ready for bed. I try gargling with salt water, a trick my mom had recommended every time she's texted me, and it works for five minutes. What is it like to swallow without stabbing pain? I go to bed and cross my fingers that tomorrow will be better.
Daily Total: $3

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Alarm goes off, but without the BF here to drag me out of bed, I fall back asleep until 8:30. Yikes! Take a quick shower and am out the door in 20 minutes.
9 a.m. — I stop at a coffee shop in my neighborhood for an iced Americano. I love the people who run this place; they're an Italian couple, and they sell the BEST pastries. My punch card is full with this purchase, so next time I come in, a free pastry will be mine! $2.50
9:30 a.m. — Late to work, and my boss is already at her desk. She says hello, and I relax. I need to either take a chill pill or stop over-sleeping. Raisin Bran and a glass of OJ from the office kitchen for breakfast.
10:30 a.m. — I clean out the email address I use for coupons and other junk mail, but see a deal for a $35 hot stone massage. I've never had one done, so I decide to treat myself. I'm usually pretty careful with these type of expenses since these coupon sites are like a black hole for me, but it's the end of the month, and I always get a little looser with the discretionary spending then. $35
12:30 p.m. — Lunch time. Grab my usual salad, and a bowl of coconut soup with lemongrass and shrimp. It's delicious. Top it off with dark chocolate from the office kitchen and another cup of green tea.
3 p.m. — I mix up my walking route and decide to go around Hell's Kitchen. It's not relaxing because the traffic is horrible. Definitely not a fan of this office location, but I make a mental note to try a few of the restaurants around Ninth Avenue. There's great happy hour specials around here!
4 p.m. — The end-of-the-day slump is happening! Time for green tea, and a KIND bar from the office kitchen. I can't even tell if I'm hungry or just bored. It's been a long day.
5 p.m. — Head out at 5 on the dot and try to get myself amped to go for a run once I go home. My BF is eating dinner with his parents tonight, so I have some downtime before we meet up. I'm running a half-marathon next month, but since I've been under the weather, I am way behind on my training. Hopefully I can get at least five miles in tonight.
7:30 p.m. — Made it five miles! Wasn't the best run, but I'm glad I went out anyway. Time for a shower.
8:30 p.m. — Literally no dinner food in this apartment. I will shop this weekend and get myself together! I decide to order sushi from a new place in my neighborhood that's part sushi restaurant, part hookah bar — but isn't very expensive. I order an eel roll and a spicy tuna on Seamless and hope for the best. $13.50
9:15 p.m. — Sushi is good! I'll keep this place on my list. BF is on his way; we're watching Curb Your Enthusiasm together so I get Amazon Prime teed up.
10 p.m. — BF arrives; we catch up on our days, and he tells me about his family dinner. I'm feeling congested and still under the weather, so we crawl into bed for a low-key night of Curb. I make a cup of chamomile tea to fully embrace this homebody evening. Lights out by 11:30!
Daily Total: $51
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