A Week In New York City On A $286,000 Income

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Today: a software engineer working in tech who makes $286,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a yoga mat. This is one of the diaries that we considered including in the Money Diaries book, but ultimately didn't make the final edit — it wasn't an easy decision. (You'll notice the diary was written in winter.) Tune in tomorrow for a follow-up Q&A with the OP. (Or, if you're a member of our Facebook group, you can get a sneak peek at the Q&A this evening.)
Occupation: Software Engineer
Field: Tech
Location: New York, NY
Age: 24
Salary: $118,000
Total Comp (Salary, Bonus & Stock): $286,000
Paycheck Amount (Bi-weekly): $2,958
Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $1,400 for my half (I share an apartment with my boyfriend, T.)
Student Loans: $0 (I got full need-based financial aid.)
Cell Phone: $40
Utilities: Water and garbage are included in our rent. We've never gotten a bill for electricity or gas, so we’ve never paid.
Internet: $0 (comped by my employer)
Laundry: $80 (comped by my boyfriend’s employer when I submit receipts)
Spotify: $15
ClassPass: $0 (comped by work)
Cleaning Lady: $30 for my half
Health/Dental Insurance: I have a high-deductible plan that's covered by work, and pay $8 for dental insurance.
Savings: $7,000
Annual Expenses
Renter’s Insurance: $120
401(k): I max out at $18,000, with a 50% company match. I use my bonus at the beginning of the year for maximum compound interest. I have $220,000 combined in IRA, 401(k), and post-tax investments, plus $100,000 in company stock that I’m waiting to sell for tax purposes.
Health Savings: $2,300 pre-tax to my HSA

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up unexpectedly early before work, so I put on the clothes I laid out yesterday and head over to my usual coffee shop. I forgot my wallet, but the owner recognizes me as a regular and spots me a cold brew. I pull out my laptop and write for two hours. I’ve been working on a book for a little over a year. I just finished my sixth draft and am doing heavy editing. The coffee shop starts to get busy around 9:30, so I head into my office across the street.
9:30 a.m. — My company serves free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s an amazing perk! I have egg whites, zucchini hash, and fruit for breakfast. Then I head to my desk and get to work.
12 p.m. — I round up coworkers for lunch. It’s my mentee’s first day eating with our team. I get meatloaf, chicken breast, Thai chicken salad, and a little watermelon.
4 p.m. — We have a meeting with beer and empanadas. I skip the beer and opt for diet root beer.
6 p.m. — I grab two yogurts and a cup of protein powder I bought last week and stashed at work. Then I leave the office and take the subway to meet my boyfriend, T., for rock climbing (using my prepaid subway card). We bought a 10-pack of day passes at $12.50 each, so I use one of those. I'm using my coworker's old shoes, but I split the cost of T.'s rental shoes with him. We run into my friend from college, and I introduce him to T. T. moved to New York City for me, and I know a lot more people here than he does, so I’m trying to set him up with potential friends. They hit it off! We climb a bunch of routes together. $2.65
9:30 p.m. — How is it so late? We take the subway home.
10 p.m. — T. didn’t eat dinner, so he gets a slice of pizza.
Daily Total: $2.65

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Wake up early, before T. I usually get up before he does on the weekends, and I normally go to a coffee shop anyway. I put on the clothes I laid out last night and finish up the carton of yogurt in the fridge. Then I walk the two blocks to my regular coffee shop, where I get an iced coffee ($5), but only manage to drink about a third of it before I start shaking from the caffeine. I must be the most caffeine-sensitive coffee snob in the world. I work on my book for three hours, finish up my chapter, and bring the rest of my coffee home. $5
12 p.m. — Brunch time! We make brunch at home every weekend. T. and I trade off cooking for each other, and today I banish him from the kitchen. While T. cleans up our apartment, I cut up an onion and garlic, using the techniques from the knife skills class we took last weekend. I sauté it with a bag of brussels sprouts, plus egg whites for me and eggs for T.
1:30 p.m. — While T. cleans up the kitchen, I plan the rest of our grocery shopping list: egg whites, chicken breasts, arugula, and ingredients for a healthy chilaquiles recipe.
2 p.m. — Before the grocery store, we drop off some clothes at the thrift store and I buy a hard copy of the diet book I’m following ($6) and a yoga mat ($4). Then we drop off an old CFL bulb at Lowe’s and buy a new pot for one of our plants and a bolt to attach our shoe organizer to the wall ($3.50 for my half). $13.50
2:30 p.m. — We go to Trader Joe’s. It’s the UFC of grocery shopping! T. gets a cart and stands in the line (which already stretches all the way around the store). Meanwhile, I run around, filling my arms with stuff from our list. It’s always a race against the clock, but we find everything besides a few garnishes. I even find an orchid to replace ours that just lost its last flower! $88.50
3 p.m. — Home! We put everything away and then I prep a salad with half a bag of greens, a prepared Thai chicken salad, and cut up chicken breast that was in our fridge from last week. I make it look pretty in the bowls. After eating, we cuddle on the sofa and watch the snow fall outside.
5 p.m. — Time to leave for our date! We take each other on dates every few weeks or so. I bought corporate tickets to an adult-only night at the New York Botanical Garden that I just learned about a week ago, and thought it would be the kind of thing T. would like. I felt silly paying $50 for the two tickets, but the free corporate membership tickets were sold out. We take the subway to Grand Central and then Metro North towards Fordham ($17 for two round trip tickets). I’m trying to not tip T. off to where we’re going, but he knows it’s north. $17
7 p.m. — I take T. to an Italian restaurant off Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. We share gnocchi and a chicken parm pizza ($41). Then we take an Uber to the Botanic Garden ($7). I pay for the Uber, since it's my date. I buy him a gin and soda ($12 with tip). It’s super strong, so I help him by drinking half of it, and we’re both buzzed. We look at model trains looping through the plants. The real stars of the show are the replicas of NYC landmarks made out of materials from the gardens. $60
10 p.m. — We miss the Metro North train back, so we take the subway instead. I can use our extra tickets when we come back for the orchid show. On our way home, we stop by The Donut Pub and split a cronut ($4.75). Overall, it’s a successful evening! $4.75
Daily Total: $188.75

Day Three

9:45 a.m. — Wake up and tuck T. back into bed. I don’t feel like getting dressed, so I drink my coffee from yesterday while working on the sofa. Then I go back to bed for cuddles.
12 p.m. — We dress up in matching outfits and walk to lunch with two friends we don’t get to see often. They’re big foodies. We each get a sushi bowl and split the homemade tofu ($35 for my half). Then we walk to Eataly and have gelato ($3). Afterwards, T. wants to get fresh pasta, so we get it with tomato sauce and olive oil. He pays. $38
3 p.m. — I stop by Duane Reade for a Greek yogurt and a bottle of water on our way to pole dancing. $3
3:15 p.m. — I convinced T. to sign up for the 50%-off special for three months of ClassPass with me. Last week we went to Row House, and this week it's Intro to Pole. His ass looks great in my black spandex. He’s basically Magic Mike.
4 p.m. — I drink one scoop of vanilla whey protein blended with cinnamon. It’s kind of like horchata. Then I work on my book on the sofa. T. reads and edits the chapters I just finished and then he makes dinner.
7 p.m. — As I start cleaning up, I see a mouse run out from under the sink. I scream really loudly and spend the next five minutes thinking we should move into a newer building when our lease is up. This is our third mouse sighting in three months, in addition to one we caught. I’m fine with a mouse every month in the abstract, but it still makes me question why I live in New York.
9 p.m. — We study Chinese before bed. We usually work with a teacher on Skype who charges $20/hour, but she’s out this week, so we work through online videos and learn some grammar. Every time I hear Mandarin, it sounds so good I feel like my brain is being massaged.
Daily Total: $41

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Three day weekend! I didn’t sleep well last night because the heater in our bedroom makes a loud whistling sound. I wear ear plugs, which dulls the noise. I promise I’ll ask the landlord to fix it. I eat a yogurt on the way to the coffee shop, where I get a cold brew. $5
10:30 a.m. — I stop by my office and print out discount movie tickets for $9.25 each. $18.50
11 a.m. — I’m starving! We have a lunch date with a friend at noon, but in the meantime I chop half an onion, sauté it with spinach, and cook a carton of egg whites to eat as a snack. Then, I make three baggies with 1.5 scoops of whey each to eat later.
11:30 a.m. — I refill my subway card, and we hop on the train to Long Island City. $20
12:15 p.m. — We find out the restaurant we wanted to go to isn’t open. I’d heard the $18 weekday lunch special is incredible, which is why we made the trip. Instead we go to Fresh Kitchen, a much more casual place. I get shrimp, sweet potatoes, veggies, and naan ($11). After we say goodbye, I get a decaf iced coffee at Dunkin' ($3.79). I’m surprised by how expensive it is, and it doesn’t taste good either. $14.79
1:45 p.m. — We use a day pass for climbing and pay half for a shoe rental ($2.65). We meet up with my college friend again. $2.65
5:30 p.m. — I want to surprise T. with a movie date, so I take him on the subway to Union Square instead of home, but the 6 p.m. showing is all sold out. We decide to go tomorrow, so I trade in my printouts for tickets. Turns out there’s a Manhattan surcharge, so I have to pay an additional $3. We're making chilaquiles for dinner, so on the way home I stop at the bougie grocery store nearby for garnishes. I get serrano pepper and cilantro ($1.75), but all the cotija cheese is past due and pricey. I ask the cashier if I can get a discount, but it’s a no-go. $4.75
8 p.m. — Chilaquiles are a success. While T. cleans up, I place an Amazon order for sponges and a Chinese cookbook ($15 for my half). We do some planning and booking for future trips. Hotel in Puerto Rico ($350 for my half). $365
Daily Total: $430.69

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Wake up. Drink coffee from Saturday. I grab a quick breakfast of egg whites, potato, and kale, and then slay some emails before anyone gets in. Then I hit the gym for leg day and have a protein shake and some strawberries. It’s my coworker's birthday, so I eat a mini black and white cookie at the office. First day back from the long weekend. Work is lethargic.
12 p.m. — Someone from my college who I don’t remember talking to pings me to get a meal before he leaves New York. I don't reply. Then I stalk him and find he’s won a prestigious award, so I agree to meet. He agrees to come to my office for lunch. It turns out he wants love advice. I feel like a superstar. I have a huge lunch of two chicken breasts with a bit of brisket, clams, polenta, and kelp noodles. I take what I can’t finish in a to-go container.
4 p.m. — My stomach feels like the bottom of the ocean. I swear never to eat again.
6:40 p.m. — I eat my leftovers from lunch before heading over to the movie with T. I decide to walk, even though it’s raining and I have no umbrella. I sneak in two cans of La Croix from the office to share with T. during the film.
9:30 p.m. — We walk home. It was a good movie, but now I wish I had done cardio and worked on my book instead. I’m hungry again, so T. makes me egg whites and green salsa while I sit on the sofa.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:35 a.m. — Wake up! I drink half the coffee left over from Sunday while I haul ass over to Peloton. Before this month I wasn’t doing any cardio, but now I’m pretty addicted to spin classes! I was hoping to shower, but I realize I won’t have time, so I put my clothes on over my sweaty workout clothes and rush to the office.
9 a.m. — Grab egg whites, kale, and a mini bagel to eat while I prep for my 9:30 meeting. Afterwards, I finally have a break, so I take a shower and wash my hair. I wash my hair, at most, once a week. It saves a ton of time, and doesn’t look bad either. Back to work.
11 a.m. — I make myself an iced Americano with a yogurt and some fruit I didn’t finish from breakfast.
12 p.m. — Lunch with coworkers. Chicken breast, seaweed salad, and fried plantains.
2 p.m. — I signed up to be a hair model. I really want to cancel because I’ve got a lot of work to do, but T. convinces me to go. I show up, and they don’t need me anyway. On the way back, I duck into Lululemon. I try on a bunch of stuff, and am pretty tempted by a wool sweater. I love anything that’s textured grey wool. $78
3 p.m. — Back at the office, I’m getting hungry, so I have four egg whites, turkey breast, chips, and half a cheese wedge from the fridge.
7 p.m. — I’m in a writing club, and I offered to host this week's meeting, so I prep myself a chicken breast and make a bag of sweet potato fries, then set out fruit and open a bottle of wine. People end up being hungry, so I also make a box of chicken burgers.
Daily Total: $78

Day Seven

4:30 a.m. — I wake up and have a hard time falling back asleep, so I have a snack of Greek yogurt, an apple, and a little peanut butter. I work on my book. This happens more often than I like, but I try to just accept it.
9 a.m. — Wake up again, feeling groggy. By the time I get going, I need to grab breakfast to-go before my one-on-one with my manager. We decide I’ll try to get promoted in this quarter.
12 p.m. — I’m still full from breakfast. While others go to lunch, I stop by the Duane Reade next to the office. T. needs decongestants and tissues, and we desperately need batteries for our body hair trimmer. (The struggle is real.) $5.50
3 p.m. — I’m slaying my work but am still shaky from the caffeine. While I wait for my code to compile, I sign up for a new credit card. It’s my sixth since I graduated college. When I get close to hitting the minimum spend for the signing bonus, I start looking for a new card. I’ve collected about 500,000 miles from this and haven’t hurt my credit score. I order a bag of protein powder for my trip to Puerto Rico ($27 for my half) and a brass remover treatment to extend my highlights ($7) on Amazon. $34
5:45 p.m. — I head to my office gym for shoulders, abs, and 20 minutes of intervals on the assault bike. I definitely feel turnt. My muscles are looking good. Afterwards, I grab turkey meatballs and veggies from the cafeteria and eat with colleagues before more work and ski trip planning.
8:10 p.m. — I get home and ask T. about his plans to go to Europe for work. We go ahead and buy flights for nine days together in London. Tomorrow, I’ll see how it affects my project schedule and ask my manager about working remotely. If I need to go for a shorter time, I’ll just rebook, since I have 24 hours. $649
Daily Total: $683
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