A Week In New York City On A $40,000 Salary

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This week: We're looking at Money Diaries during the (often expensive) holiday season to see how people save up — and spend. Today, for the last entry of our holiday MDs: a film distributor who makes $40,000 per year. She spends some of her money on mini-chocolate champagne bottles.
Occupation: Film Distributor
Industry: Film
Age: 26
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck (Once Per Week): $598.07
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $550. I live in a family-owned apartment. My roommate and I each pay my parents $550 per month to cover the taxes, fees, and utilities my parents pay on the apartment.
Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses
Gym: $10.45
MoviePass: $9.95
Spotify: $9.99
Health Insurance: $179
Hulu & Netflix: $0. I use my parents' accounts.
Cable & Internet, Water & Electricity: $0. Included in $550 rent payment.

Day One

10:30 a.m. — I get out of bed after my Emergency Don't-Sleep-Later-Than-This alarm goes off, and am uncharacteristically energetic. I slip on jeans and a t-shirt, eat a hard-boiled egg, make a pot of coffee for my thermos, brush my teeth, and head out the door. Trader Joe's is packed, even though it's before noon on a Sunday. Last night, I babysat with my best friend and she told me about a “cleanse” she recently started. The dietary restrictions and required discipline seemed too farfetched for me, but my biggest takeaway was to try cutting my sugar intake. She says that doing so has worked wonders for her skin and energy levels. I normally spend $30-35 per week on groceries, but spend a bit more today. I buy Stevia packets, avocados, green peppers, bananas, Greek yogurt, spinach, three pre-packed salads, frozen chicken breasts, chicken sausage, brie, two boxes of pasta, and frozen berries. $53.37
1 p.m. — I take the subway (my company pays for my monthly MetroCard) to the Upper East Side to meet a college friend for bagels at H&H. I spring for lox and we catch up for a while before walking a few blocks north to see Coco! I have a MoviePass subscription so my ticket (normally $15) is “free”! We laugh, we cry, we leave, and it's dark out because winter is coming. $11.92
4:45 p.m. — Hop on the downtown subway and instead of going home, walk into DSW. I have $140 of babysitting cash burning a hole in my wallet, and I need a new pair of boots. I spend nearly an hour perusing, but nothing speaks to me, so I leave empty-handed and walk home. I get home and am craving something sweet, so I have a few too many pretzel M&Ms. Cutting down on sugar is going really well.
8:30 p.m. — After a few hours of catching up with my roommate, watching last night's episode of Saturday Night Live on Hulu, and journaling, I finally find myself a little hungry. I make organic tomato and roasted red pepper soup! (A.k.a., I heat up Trader Joe's soup on the stove.)
Daily Total: $65.29

Day Two

7:25 a.m. — I reluctantly roll out of bed after hitting snooze once and get in the shower. After, I pick my outfit for the day and put my Trader Joe's salad in my bag for lunch. I also remove a frozen chicken breast from the freezer to defrost. I'm not very hungry yet, so I consider waiting to eat breakfast until I get to work. After making a cup of green tea, chatting with the roommate after she returns from yoga (and sharing which T. Swift song is stuck in our heads — “Delicate” in mine, “Gorgeous” in hers), I get dressed and leave my apartment to take the subway into Brooklyn for work.
9:35 a.m. — I arrive, slap on a smile, make a cup of coffee from the Keurig, and raid the snack cabinet for a rice cake. I add peanut butter and honey on top. For the next few hours, I answer various emails, read a lot of tweets, and watch the number of “Articles You Have Left This Month” on The New York Times' website go down.
1:30 p.m. — Lunch time! I work above a food court, so I take my salad and a book downstairs to the big dining area, and use my full hour to eat, read, and scroll through Instagram.
6:01 p.m. — I am OUTTA there! I'm a firm believer in leaving work when you have no more work to do, so I'm saved by the 6 o'clock bell! I take the subway home, rocking out to a Christmas playlist I made in high school, and taking a detour at the Trader Joe's wine shop. Sometimes there is a line out the door to just get in, but fortunately it's pretty quiet. I grab two bottles of pinot noir because it's Monday — and hey, maybe I'll bring one to a holiday party! (Or not.) I walk home, feeling grateful the day's over. $12.50
8:30 p.m. — Finally feeling hungry, I make chicken, green peppers, and penne after briefly catching up with my roommate before she goes to a concert. I, on the other hand, have been parked on the couch in front of E! News since I got home.
9:30 p.m. — I'm two glasses of wine in, mindlessly swiping through Bumble (I'm newly single), and watching the hilarious Search Party. I'm also scrolling through Twitter (being a millennial is all about multitasking, isn't it?) and reading about the president's endorsement of a child molester for Alabama senator. Furious, I make a donation to Doug Jones' campaign before going to bed. $10
Daily Total: $22.50

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Getting out of bed is so hard today. It didn't help that I was in the middle of a stress dream when my alarm went off, so I start my day in a weird mood. I hop into the shower, get out, chat with my roommate (she is the absolute best and we love each other very much!), and she leaves early so she can walk to work. I'm not very hungry, so I make a bowl of Greek yogurt with granola and a little honey before I leave.
9:40 a.m. — I get to work a few minutes late and immediately make a coffee from the Keurig. Perhaps the yogurt wasn't as filling as I thought, because the coffee goes right through me and I am jittery AF. The most exciting email I receive is an invite to go into my boss' office to pick a name for Secret Santa. I'm excited that I pick out the name of a girl I know fairly well! I brainstorm what to buy for her, feeling grateful for the $20 limit.
1:30 p.m. — A new employee joins me for lunch, and we go downstairs with our lunches from home. I have a different Trader Joe's salad today that is purely vegetables and I am nervous, but it ends up being pretty tasty and very filling! Maybe what they say about vegetables is true — that you should, like, eat them.
5:55 p.m. — My to-do list has shrunk, and I'm really excited about my evening plans. I leave the office and take the subway to the Greenwich Village. I have a major pizza craving, so I stop into Joe's Pizza but it's cash only. Double ugh: I left my wad of babysitting cash on my bedside table. I withdraw $20 (with a $2.75 fee) from the ATM outside of Joe's, and eat the most delicious slice of cheese pizza ($3) I've had in a long time. $5.75
6:50 p.m. — I walk two blocks through the rain to meet my friend at a cool Belgian beer bar. We haven't seen each other in a few weeks, so after I order a beer (she's been there for a few minutes and already has one) we quickly catch up, commiserate about work, and brainstorm festive Christmas-y things to do together. At 7:30, we realize we're running late to our big event, so we ask for the check and split the bill. I insist on paying for half of “her” fries because I definitely ate half of them. $13
8:15 p.m. — We wait outside in the pouring rain for 30 minutes before finally being let into the movie theatre to see World of Tomorrow 2, a short film by one of our favorite filmmakers! We are surrounded by fellow film nerds and it is glorious, and the Q&A with the filmmaker is an added bonus. Well worth the $15 I spent on the ticket I ordered two weeks ago. After the movie, we split ways and I take the subway home, chat with my roommate, and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $18.75

Day Four

7 a.m. — I'm up earlier than usual today because I have a pre-work coffee meeting at 8. I roll out of bed, change into appropriate attire, and eat a banana. Somehow this takes me 55 minutes, and I realize I'm going to be a few minutes late. So, I power walk up the street to the café where I'm meeting someone for the first time in two years; he messaged me on LinkedIn last week asking to catch up. Networking is so awkward, but it's vital in my industry.
8:15 a.m. — He is running a few minutes late, so I buy myself a coffee to end the awkward stare down I'm getting from the barista. $2.75
9:15 a.m. — The meeting goes really well! He basically tried to offer me a job interview, which was flattering. I would have liked to stay longer but I'm running quite late to work, so I head out and take the subway into Brooklyn. Once I get to the office, I resist taking a free doughnut from one of the FOUR boxes on the kitchen table, and opt to make a rice cake with peanut butter and honey.
1:30 p.m. — I'm borderline hangry after a company-wide “Investing 101” meeting. I eat lunch by myself today, and it's my last Trader Joe's salad of the week. I take my full hour, then come back upstairs with just a few emails to answer. I make a cup of tea in the office kitchen, and get back to work, which consists of emailing a few people and FedExing a couple Blu-rays.
6 p.m. — The workday is done! I take the subway into Manhattan and walk through Washington Square Park to watch the Christmas tree lighting. About 200 people are crowded around the giant tree, singing carols along with a brass band. I stay for about 10 minutes, reveling in holiday cheer, before walking to a bookstore on a mission to buy a Secret Santa gift. I spend 45 minutes wandering the aisles, and end up getting a 2018 planner for myself and a mug for my Secret Santa. $33.86
7:45 p.m. — I walk home and heat up leftover chicken from two nights ago. My roommate comes home from yoga a little after 8, and we catch up and watch Elf together while I paint my nails.
Daily Total: $36.61

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I try to go to the gym before work at least once a week, and today's the day. Out the door at 6:45, I walk to the gym and spend about 45 minutes there. I walk home, say hey to my roommate who has the day off, and hop in the shower.
8:30 a.m. — I am running ahead of schedule for the first time since my first week at my job six months ago. I use that extra time to make a smoothie with soy milk, nonfat Greek yogurt, half an avocado, spinach, and a frozen berry medley. After one sip, I confirm that I am a smoothie genius. I take it to-go, and head to the subway. On my commute, I listen to a “Before a Difficult Conversation” meditation tape.
10:15 a.m. — I've been at work for 35 minutes, and it's time to do something I've been planning for months. I quit my job. Well, I put in my two weeks notice. But yes, I quit my first ever full-time job with (minimal) benefits and a steady salary. It is terrifying and I may have cried a little, but I am so relieved when it's over. I've freelanced in the film industry for the past four years, and while the salary ranges from $10,000-$20,000 per year, my happiness pursuing my various passions fulfills me beyond belief. I text approximately a million friends and receive a wave of congratulatory messages. I absolutely do not need coffee, because between working out this morning and quitting my job, I am feeling energetic AF. Eventually, though, the smell from the coffeemaker in the kitchen draws me in, and I give in.
1:30 p.m. — Thursdays and Fridays are generally the days I treat myself to lunch from a nearby food hall. I stroll inside with a coworker, and we decide on sandwiches. Normally, their wraps are an obscene $14, but on Thursdays, they have an $10 special on everything. Of course, I pick out the wrap that is $1 extra. After tax, my bill comes to $11.98. My coworker and I eat together and dish on my resignation. I am relaxed at lunch for the first time in months. After eating, we take a look inside the chocolate shop in the food hall. They have the cutest chocolate mini-champagne bottles that I've always needed an excuse to buy, and I decide that there's no better day than today to buy them. I pick up two ($6 each) - one for me, one for my sister, who I'm visiting this weekend. $25.05
5:30 p.m. — Everyone in the office ducks out early for a holiday party hosted by the building for all the tenants. There's loud music, dancing, and most importantly: free food and drinks. I have a white wine, a mulled wine ... another mulled wine, and two pieces of pizza. I'm skeptical this will fill me up for dinner, but it's certainly delicious. An hour into the party, I call it a night and take the subway into Manhattan.
7:40 p.m. — My roommate and I meet at our favorite Mexican place for a celebratory drink. Me quitting my job is almost as exciting for her as it is for me, because she's had to spend the last six months consoling me. I order two tacos and a Paloma, and she gets a taco salad and tequila on the rocks. We split the bill and walk home. $29.22
Daily Total: $54.27

Day Six

8 a.m. — I'm taking a mental health/work-from-home day. I love how getting up at 8 feels luxuriously late. I chat with my roommate as she gets ready for work, and I make a cup of tea, eat a banana, and take a shower.
10:45 a.m. — After reading a few emails, I walk around the corner to CVS. I pick up makeup, deodorant, toothpaste, and movie theater candy for my Secret Santa. Normally, I have a bunch of coupons, but today I'm coupon-less and paying full price. Damn. $33.12
12:10 p.m. — I'm starving and a little headachey. I realize I haven't had any coffee yet, so I make a cup from our Nespresso machine and my headache dissipates. Last night, my mom texted to say that she and my dad have a box of cookies for me at their apartment. I walk over to pick them up since they live a few blocks away from me. On my way home, I stop in Pret A Manger to buy a sandwich, as I don't have any lunch food at home. $8.15
2 p.m. — After a 30-minute work conference call, I take the bags I packed this morning and walk to the subway to get to Penn Station. I get there with about 20 minutes to spare before my train, and it's a nice change from frantically running through the station. I buy a one-way NJ Transit ticket to Philadelphia. Off to see my big sister! $26
5:30 p.m. — I get to Philadelphia, and per my sister's instructions, take a trolley to meet her at a restaurant. The trolley ticket is $2.50. The trolley system is so confusing compared to the New York subway; there is no way to know where you are because they don't announce each stop! I somehow manage to get off the trolley at the right stop, and walk across the street to meet my sister and her coworkers for dinner. Two glasses of wine and a few slices of pizza later (the four of us split the bill — $29.56 each, including tip), she and I walk back to her place. $32.06
Daily Total: $99.33

Day Seven

9 a.m. — We sleep in a bit and wake up to a winter wonderland! We each have a bowl of cereal in my sister's kitchen, get dressed, and decide to walk through the snow to get coffee. When we get to her favorite coffee place, there are no seats available; looks like everyone in the neighborhood also wanted a picturesque morning! We walk a few more blocks to a vegan doughnut shop and each get a coffee. I also order a cinnamon sugar doughnut, and she orders a lemon raspberry. I pay for both of us. $9.18
10 a.m. — We make a few stops on the walk back to my sister's place, including to a little bookstore, a pet store (sooo tempted to adopt one of the kittens in the window), and her food co-op. She buys groceries so we can make lunch, and insists on paying.
2 p.m. — After we make lunch (rice, beans, and veggie stir fry) and eat a few too many of the cookies my parents gave us, we walk around the corner to watch a free choral performance in the outdoor pavilion of a gardening store. Super cool!
6 p.m. — We spend a few hours warming up in her apartment, then take the trolley ($2.50) into downtown Philly to check out a huge ice rink and winter lodge set up by the river. It is so beautiful and festive, and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” plays about three times in a row. I am in heaven. We warm up next to a fire, then walk into the most Christmas-y looking pub we can find for dinner. Feeling a cold coming on, I order a hot toddy (sister does, too) and am shocked at the low price of $7.50. “Welcome to Philly!” my loving sister taunts. I get a hamburger, she gets fish and chips, and we each get a drink called “Festive Fashioned” after our hot toddies. This spin on the Old Fashioned is a price I'm more used to, $11. Totally worth it. We split the bill. $40.70
8 p.m. — I need to buy another ride on the trolley to get home, and my sister suggests I buy two trolley tokens for $4 instead of one trolley card for $2.50 in case we ride the trolley tomorrow. I'll say it again: the Philly subway/trolley system is confusing. $4
9 p.m. — We get home after an extraordinarily snowy and festive day, and call it a night — happy to be cozy and warm together.
Daily Total: $53.88
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