A Week In New York City On A $77,000 Salary

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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 director working in higher education who makes $77,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on fries.
Occupation: Associate Director
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 26
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $77,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $4,180
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $3,584 for the mortgage, plus ~$2,000 for various taxes (town, village, school). I split these costs with my husband.
Car Lease: $270 (My husband pays.)
MetroCard: $130
Utilities: ~$150
Cable & Internet: $120 (My husband pays.)
Spotify: $10
New York Times Weekender & Digital Subscription: ~$30
Retirement: $270, which my company matches
High-Yield Savings: $200
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Day One

8 a.m. — I decide to work from home today. I usually work remotely on Fridays, but we have a big conference meeting I'll need to be in the office for then — plus I'm exhausted from a long few weeks and could use a quieter day. My husband and I recently bought a house that needs a lot of...love...before we can move in, so we've been doing the work ourselves in the evenings after work. I start checking and replying to emails on my phone from bed and end up working for about two hours before getting up! I finally make a cup of tea and some toast with peanut butter and get dressed, but still feel out of it, so I continue to work from my couch under a layer of blankets and my dog.
3 p.m. — I'm done with most of my work and calls for the day, so I run to the grocery store to pick up some chicken. I'm going to cook dinner and pack it up for later tonight to take out to our house, where we'll be working after work. I get a pack of six organic drumsticks — the rest of the ingredients I need I can rustle up at home. When I get home, I sear the chicken and then add garlic, herbes de Provence, and balsamic vinegar to simmer and reduce to make a sauce. I sauté some haricots verts and peas I had in the freezer. I want to get moving so I can work at the house, so I add a cornstarch slurry to the chicken to thicken it faster. But I was overzealous and made it gloopy. Oh well, we'll still eat it! I eat a quick slice of leftover pizza, pack up the dinner and dog, and hit the road. $7.84
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9 p.m. — I drive to our new house about 20 minutes away in bad traffic (so it takes almost 40) and get to work caulking some molding. My husband takes a train from work to meet me and joins in the fun. We eat the gloopy-sauce chicken (which tastes fine but not great) and keep working. On the way back to our apartment, we stop at Carvel for ice cream to make up for a less than satisfying dinner — and a hard night's work! Husband picks up the tab. $8.38
Daily Total: $16.22

Day Two

8 a.m. — I wake up at the last possible moment and get ready for work. I'm out the door about 20 minutes later and am able to get coffee, a bagel, and some sliced fruit at work. Yay, free stuff!
2 p.m. — I have a really full day of meetings and calls, so I'm not able to step out for lunch. I usually try to take a walk and pick up a salad or sandwich. Luck is on my side, though, as there was a lunch event as well that had some leftovers. I grab a salad and chicken.
7 p.m. — My husband and I meet at our apartment after work and drive to our house with our pup in tow. She loves having space to run around the house, even if it is full of construction items! She's been known to leave a paw print of paint here and there...but we love having her around. During our work, I take a quick drive to a nearby Mexican restaurant and pick up dinner: chicken, carnitas, mahi mahi tacos for me, and a steak rice bowl for my husband. We sit on paint buckets and eat our dinner in the middle of our living room. $24.87
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10 p.m. — On the drive back to our apartment, I scroll through Instagram and get hit with a targeted ad from J. Crew (I'm such a sucker, I know). Pants that I've been eyeing are super on sale, and I have a few bucks on a gift card, which will cushion the blow a bit. We've been trying to curb unnecessary spending since money is tight with our new home, but sometimes you have to indulge a little. I order two pairs and will return if they're not perfect. I am a serial returner! $88.42
Daily Total: $113.29

Day Three

8 a.m. — This morning I'm feeling a bit more energized — it's nearing the end of the week, and I'm seeing my out-of-town best friend for lunch today. I grab a yogurt on my way out the door and drink a huge glass of water to curb my coffee cravings.
12:30 p.m. — I meet my best friend for lunch at a nearby restaurant that has a nice courtyard. I order a lemonade cocktail and a Cobb salad, and we split fries. We have a great time catching up, and although neither of us wants to leave, I have to get back to the office. We split the bill, which ends up being pricey, but I rarely go out for expensive meals so I don't mind. $52.08
4:30 p.m. — My husband and I leave work a bit early to meet my dad at a local home-supply store near our new house. He's helping us with a lot of the renovations since he's in the business, and he and my mom live really close by. We would never be able to swing this without them, so I'm grateful for all of his help! We pick out some bead board to cover over old broken tiles in our master bathroom. It is very much a temporary fix, but we're doing what we can on a budget to get by until we can afford pricier fixes (like new tile). Between the boards and the installation supplies, we shell out $240, which is including my dad's contractor discount (woof!). $240.59
8:30 p.m. — On the way home to our apartment, we stop at McDonald's. I probably haven't eaten fast food in a few years (it's just not my thing!), but we are starving and exhausted, and we have the dog in the car so we can't stop anywhere else really. We both order a crispy chicken sandwich with no mayo and split fries and a diet soda. My husband pays, and we eat in the car while tossing fry bites to the dog in the back seat. $16.42
Daily Total: $309.09

Day Four

9 a.m. — I get into the office a bit later than usual this morning, and I stop on the way to pick up some breakfast pastries for our big meeting and a coffee for myself. I'll reimburse this expense later. ($12.57 expensed)
12:30 p.m. — Since our meeting runs all day, our manager orders in lunch from a local restaurant.
4 p.m. — We call it an early day after our long meeting, and I meet my husband and our friend at a bar nearby to celebrate the end of the workweek and a night off from working at our house! We each order a drink, and I pick up the $30 tab. Our friend has been a great sport helping us at the house on the weekends, so I feel like it is the least I can do! After drinks, we head to a Mexican restaurant and get carried away with ordering — (many) tacos, spicy margaritas, queso fundido, and corn esquites. We all split the check, and in my margarita haze I start to realize how much I've been spending this week and vow to cool it for the next few days! $81.07
Daily Total: $81.07

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — We sleep in a tiny bit, and then: You guessed it! Pack up the car and doggo to head to our house. We'll have a full crew today — both of our parents will be joining us to help paint. We stop on the way to fill the car up, which my husband pays for. $32.58
11 a.m. — I head to the local hardware store to pick up paint supplies for the house. We spent weeks picking a color, and I am so excited to finally see it up on the walls! I pick up two gallons of wall color, one gallon of trim, extra rollers and trays, and one last bucket of primer for random spots we missed previously. I also grab a couple more pint samples for the kitchen, which we're painting a different color than the rest of the house. I make sure to mention our contractor discount again — but home ownership is expensive, even with that 10% off! $249.61
12 p.m. — I completely forgot that I have a haircut scheduled, so I sneak out for my quick 30-minute trim, which sets me back another $50. On the way back, I stop at a favorite deli and pick up sandwiches and chips for my crew of workers at home, which comes to $52.75. I'm so used to cooking most of our meals that these expenses are really starting to make me cringe, but I know it's temporary until we move and have our kitchen and normal schedule back in order. Plus, I am happy to treat all of our free labor to lunch! $102.75
8:30 p.m. — When we finally get our paint color up, it's looking a little off. It is golden hour, though, so we can't tell if it's just this time of day with super yellow-orange light streaming through the windows. I'm feeling a little defeated as we leave for the day. We shower up and head to dinner nearby with my husband's parents, and I order a huge bowl of pasta and a glass of wine to indulge after a long day. My in-laws treat us to dinner after working at the house with us all day. We lucked out with both our in-laws (who are clearly total gems!).
Daily Total: $384.94

Day Six

10 a.m. — We get a slower start this morning after staying over at my parents' house. I can tell I am super cranky — nothing seems to be working out. We forgot our house key, the paint color we put up still looks yellow (it was supposed to be gray...), and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I offer to do a coffee run to clear my head a bit and to make sure we're well caffeinated. I pick up large coffees for everyone from a 7-Eleven nearby and get myself back in the home-reno spirit. The whole family and our good friend are at the house to help us today. We toss up about five more paint samples in big swatches on the wall and identify where we went wrong with our first choice. We make a new choice, cross our fingers, and go forth. $15.74
11 a.m. — Back to the hardware store! New paint, deep breaths. I'm annoyed I have to shell out more money on paint when I already bought some yesterday, but we will put that to use somewhere less obvious like the basement or a guest room. Luckily, I only have to replace the two gallons of wall color, and I pick up some ceiling paint as well — four gallons in total. $140.77
2 p.m. — The new color is awesome! The whole crew loves it, and we're all rolling away covering as much of the house as we can, listening to an eclectic playlist of Led Zeppelin and Lizzo. Everyone is in better spirits, and my in-laws treat us all to pizza and salad delivered from our favorite local spot. Our dog is spoiled by her grand-pup-parents with pizza-crust bits, even as we repeat over and over that dogs don't eat pizza crust...
6 p.m. — After a long day, we shower up and have dinner with my parents at a sushi restaurant. Our home-renovation process has meant SO much time with our parents (and in restaurants!), which again is unusual, but we're enjoying the time together and feeling like we're kids again being treated to dinners, ha! My parents kindly pick up the tab, and I soak it in because I know this gravy train is ending once we're out of the woods on home costs in a couple weeks. After dinner we drive back to our apartment and immediately fall asleep while trying (and failing) to watch an episode of Billions. Starting a new binge-able show during this hectic time was not our best idea.
Daily Total: $156.51

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Back to my other day job! I haven't done a proper grocery shop in ages, but I rustle up a questionable yogurt from our fridge to take for breakfast. I crumble in a granola bar from my desk when I get to work and make a coffee in our office pantry.
12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime rolls around, and I remember I have my leftovers from our meeting on Friday, so I heat that up and shadily watch an episode of The Office and zone out for a bit while I eat.
3 p.m. — I have a call with a consulting firm that is doing research in my area of work. They reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked if I'd be interested in participating in their compensated study. I was a psych major in college and loved jumping into studies (paid or unpaid) — so I agreed immediately! They're paying me to do a one-hour call, and I won't have to share any proprietary information. I've been in the same industry for a while, so I enjoy feeling like I'm putting my knowledge to good use, and the call is actually really interesting. They pay me $125 for the hour.
6 p.m. — After work, I take a solo drive with the pup to meet my dad at yet another home-supply store. Tonight we're buying supplies for the electrician to finish some work on our (very) old electrical system. We buy two bathroom fans, outlet casings, outlet faces, pigtails for lights, duct work and duct tape, and some contractor bags for all our messy adventures in home ownership. I put the items on my credit card, which my husband and I will even out based on our joint income at the end of the billing cycle. After the store run, we head to my house to haul out the construction trash (including an oven!) for recycling pickup in the morning. I'm kicking myself for not waiting for my husband to be done with work to help us, but we get it done. $196.22
8 p.m. — Afterward I head back to the apartment for dinner with my husband. He makes cacio e pepe pasta with ingredients we miraculously had in the house, and we finally (finally!) get around to watching a whole episode of Billions with our sort-of night off. Looking forward to more nights in with a home-cooked meal in our new house soon.
Daily Total: $196.22
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