A Week In New York City On A $34,800 Income

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Today: a freelancer and bar waitress who makes $34,800 per year and spends some of her money this week on an umbrella.
Occupation: Freelancer/Bar Waitress
Industry: Writing/Service
Age: 23
Location: New York, NY
Income: $34,800-$42,000
Serving Paycheck Amount (Weekly): $600-$700
Freelance Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $500-$700 (No taxes are taken out — I have to do them myself.)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,100 (My share for the apartment I live in with three roommates.)
Student Loan Payment: $100
Taxes: $900 (on average)
Phone: $99
Streaming Service: $10
Utilities/Wifi: $40 for my share
MetroCard: $121
Savings: $100

Day One

9 a.m. — It's Wednesday. The best part of pursuing your side hustle full time is that you can make your own hours, so I sleep until 9. I live with three roommates on a fifth-floor walk up (but hey — at least we get the rooftop access!). My roommates are: 1) S., who keeps to herself unless she thinks someone ate her food, 2) J., who is very well-dressed and overall pleasant, but always hogs the living room TV, and 3) M., my best friend — she's funny, sweet, and sassy.
9:30 a.m. — I finally get out of bed after browsing Reddit a little, and make myself breakfast. I split half an avocado on two slices of bread, top each half with a fried egg, and squeeze on some lemon. Delicious!
10 a.m. — I check my email to see if there's any new work for me on my freelancing platform…and there isn't. I'm a freelance writer and web developer (self-taught, so my rates and demand are lower than that of other freelancers). I rent a “studio” (more like, I pay a friend to sometimes use his loft space), so I'm heading there, since it's too hot to work in Central Park. He's kind enough to let me keep all my stuff there, even though I only go once a week, so I don't need to lug any supplies. I take some tuna and avocado for lunch, and I'm out of the apartment.
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10:02 a.m. — There's this really weird old woman who always sits on the steps between the third and second floors of my building. She once told me that women are the spawn of Satan. Needless to say, I've kept my distance since then.
11:15 a.m. — I get to the studio, put on a Backstreet Boys playlist (I'm feeling nostalgic), and pull out my notebook. I'm in the mood to handwrite today, so I start the third chapter of my novel-to-be by hand.
12:30 p.m. — My boyfriend, J., texts me and asks if I'm awake. J. and I have been having problems lately, mostly because he thinks I'm wasting my finance degree. I've always wanted to be an author, so I'm giving myself a year post-grad to test out pursuing a career in writing. We had plans to move in together, but when I decided to postpone a “real job,” I realized I couldn't get into a full-length lease obligation in the price range he wanted.
1:45 p.m. — I'm getting hungry, so I eat my packed lunch with a Coke Zero from the studio's fridge and leave a note saying I'll replace it.
5 p.m. — I made some good headway on my writing and decide to wrap up for the day, but not before checking my freelance email. FINALLY I have another inquiry. This one is to develop a website, and the person has a “limited budget.” Not a great sign, but money is money. I don't have any other work coming in, so I ask them more about that they need. I stick around for 15 minutes to see if they respond but they don't, so I pack up my things and head out for a long walk.
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7 p.m. — I end up in Chinatown, and it starts pouring. I don't have an umbrella, so I buy one from a man selling them on the corner. I head home. $5
8 p.m. — I'm home and settled now, and so are all my roommates. M. and I go to the rooftop and see how much of our stuff got soaked. Surprisingly, most things are okay. Afterwards, M. orders Italian and asks if I want anything. I'm tempted to get a pizza, but I decline and instead pop some rotisserie chicken in the microwave and make some rice and steamed spinach. I add salt, pepper, and hot sauce, and I'm set for dinner.
9:30 p.m. — I decide to go to my boyfriend's apartment. He calls an Uber for me, and I grab a change of clothes and head out.
10 p.m. — I get to his place, where I'm greeted by his doorman (who hands me some of J.'s packages for him), and head upstairs to find him catching up on some reading for work. I pull out my laptop and notice the freelance client who inquired earlier answered, so J. and I spend an hour being productive doing our own work.
11:30 p.m. — We talk a little and both apologize. He asks me why I don't move in anyway and continue to pay what I'm paying at my current apartment while he carries the bulk of the rent. (He is older and makes more than I do.) I tell him that would make me uncomfortable. He huffs, and we go to bed.
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Daily Total: $5

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — J. is already up and looking over work documents in the living room. I figure I should start my day as well, so I get up and shower. I borrow his razor (even though he hates it when I do this, but I only keep short dresses at his place and I haven't shaved in days!) and then I realize he used my VERY expensive shampoo on his guy hair that clearly doesn't need fancy shampoo, so I don't feel as bad.
8 a.m. — After the shower, I make us smoothies with banana, almond milk, spinach, cucumber, and lemon. J. asks if I want to walk to work with him, so I do. He's going in early today (usually he starts at 10), so I can get a tour of the office, which is exciting!
8:45 a.m. — We're at his office and I meet a couple of his early-bird coworkers. I hang out there until 10 while working on my writing and head out when the rest of his coworkers start arriving.
10 a.m. — I head to Washington Square Park to get some writing done, but eventually I lose steam and walk over to Chelsea for an art gallery crawl. I'm seeking inspiration.
3 p.m. — My art crawl was SO interesting (and free), but I still have writer's block, so I hop on the train and head back to my side of town.
3:40 p.m. — I go to the park, pick a bench, and start on my freelance work. I negotiated a rate with the client (even though it's a couple dollars less than what I would normally ask for per hour, but figure I'll do a good job and get another good review to justify my rates in the future).
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6 p.m. — My laptop dies, so I head home. That weird old lady is now on the steps on the first floor and asks me to carry her groceries up. I oblige, and head up to her floor and leave them in front of her door. For some reason she doesn't follow me up and instead stays downstairs — weird.
9 p.m. — J. just got off work, so he comes uptown to grab dinner with me. We go to a delicious Italian spot and order a baby artichoke salad to share for an appetizer and a bottle of red wine. For my main, I get veal topped with eggplant and mozzarella, and it's to DIE for. J. gets short ribs, which also taste great. (We always end up sharing our mains.) For dessert we share an almond tart with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. This may just be my new favorite restaurant! He picks up the bill (like he usually does, to be honest).
11 a.m. — He walks me home and comes upstairs for a little. I ask if he wants to spend the night but he says he doesn't love sleeping here because of my roommates and how small it is (and because we all share one bathroom). He sticks around for another hour and then gets himself an Uber home. I'm too lazy to do my full skincare routine, so I just wash my face, put on Kiehl's serum, and call it a night.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Three

10 a.m. — I'm up and running, so I do my full skincare routine and I'm feeling good. I'm working at the bar tonight and my shift is from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., so I try to make the most of my morning. I'm not in the mood for breakfast food, so I make a sandwich of whole wheat bread, Swiss cheese, tomato, and avocado smushed in a panini press. Then I work on my web design project for a couple hours.
3 p.m. — I'm done with most of my web work and I'm now waiting for client feedback. I pick out an all-black outfit as per the bar's dress code, do my makeup, pack a handbag with mouthwash, makeup remover (in case I eat and my lipstick smudges), lipstick, and some cash, and I'm on my way by 4.
4:30 p.m. — I arrive at work and have half an hour before I start. I use this time to eat my free meal of the day: chicken Caesar salad with no Caesar….so just lettuce and chicken :-). Then I start my shift.
9 p.m. — My boyfriend arrives with a couple of his coworkers. They hang out until midnight, and I comp their tab. One of his coworkers insists on leaving a cash tip, but I decline. (It'd be like my boyfriend leaving me a tip, lol. Weird.) I hug them all goodbye and check in with my other tables. When I circle back around to clean up their table, there's $40 on the table. Nice of them…but still weird.
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2 a.m. — It's 2 a.m. and things are not dying down. A table of regulars comes in and puts me in a great mood — we always joke around (and they always buy me shots to do with them!). I'm a little tipsy by my third shot of tequila, so I tell them no more shots…at least until I'm off the clock!
3:30 a.m. — It's my turn to head out! I circle around, do some cleaning, and go through my tips for the night. $280…not bad. I call a Lyft home (no train past 11 p.m. for me!) and take one more shot on my way out. $11
4:30 a.m. — I end up Lyfting to my boyfriend's because I miss him. He's definitely asleep, so he doesn't answer, but his doorman lets me up without a problem. I use my key, let him know I'm there, hop in the shower, and then snuggle up with him.
Daily Total: $11

Day Four

12:30 p.m. — While J. is at the gym, I take a bath. (My apartment's bathroom isn't bath-friendly, so I take advantage of any alone time at my boyfriend's to soak!) I have work again tonight at 4, so I hope my boyfriend hurries home so we can have some time together.
2 p.m. — My boyfriend walks in while I'm raiding his fridge. He wants to go to brunch but I have to head to work soon, so we just run to the bodega and pick up some fruit and deli sandwiches. J. pays. We bring our food back home, and I make him watch The Bold Type with me. I know it's a corny show, but I love it! This week's episode is about Me Too. I understand they were trying to say that speaking up is important and could prevent the same from happening to someone else, but it's a very personal choice to reveal sexual abuse, and guilting a woman for not being ready to come out with her story is not my cup of tea.
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3:15 p.m. — I'm on my way to work and don't need to worry about grabbing food — I get two free meals since I'm working a 12-hour shift. My boyfriend texts me asking if I can try to head out a little early, because he doesn't love it when I get home at 5 a.m. I tell him I'll try, knowing very well that there's no chance I'm heading out early on a Saturday night.
5 p.m. — Things at work are slow. The other server and I are killing time by wiping down tables for the 30th time. At least we'll be the cleanest bar in the city!
8 p.m. — It's getting a little lively, and I definitely should've eaten at 6 when my manager asked if I was hungry. I know I'll be starving soon, but I probably won't get a break until midnight. I chug Diet Coke, which tends to hold me over (or at least tricks my tummy from all the bubbles, lol).
11 p.m. — My phone has been buzzing like crazy. I duck underneath the bar and check my phone quickly. Turns out J. is out and is VERY drunk — great. He asks if he can stop by (which is weird, because he usually just shows up). I reply yes and say it's too busy for me to text. I also hint that maybe he should have some water.
1 a.m. — J. strolls in, thankfully not as drunk as I thought he was from his texts. He sits at the bar while I try to find him a table in my section, but the only free ones are in a coworker's area. She see's J. and his friends waiting, so she offers to seat them. She transfers me their tab and says I can serve them, but I feel bad because she'll have one less table to get tips from, so I give her one of my newer tabs and all is well. It was SO nice of her, so I thank her again.
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3 a.m. — A server accidentally drops drinks on my table on her way to the back. I apologize to my table, help her clean up, and give them a round of free drinks and replace their now liquor-soaked food. They were nice about it, but I still let my manager know in case she wants to comp their food altogether, and she agrees that that's the right move.
4 a.m. — It's closing time. J. is still around but I kick him and his friends out so I can get to cleaning. He lets me know he'll wait around for me and to text him when I'm done.
4:30 a.m. — I grab my un-eaten free dinner from the bar fridge and text J. He's on the corner with his friends, so he walks over to pick me up, and we ride home together in a cab. He pays. We get to his apartment, shower, and head to bed. We both plan to sleep in and wake up for a late brunch!
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

12:30 p.m. — Wow, I wake up before J. for once. I let him sleep and go to the living room to go over the client feedback. A few minor changes, and I'll be done in an hour or two. Then it's brunch time!
4 p.m. — J. and I are both finally showered and ready…but it's a little too late, because I'm working again tonight at 6, so instead we go to Chipotle (so much for a New York brunch!). I get a salad bowl with no rice and no dressing, black beans, chicken, all the salsas, and guac! We eat there and then J. walks me to work. I pay for both of our bowls. $26
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5:45 p.m. — I walk into work, and it's so busy that they ask me to clock in early. I don't get a moment to rest except for one 15-minute break at 11 p.m. (and I'm on until 4).
12:30 a.m. — My roommate, M., drops by with a Tinder guy for a first date! He's nothing like his photos (they've been talking for a week now), but he seems like a nice guy. First round is on me.
1:30 a.m. — First three rounds for M. and her date are on me, lol. I'm bad at charging friends, but the managers know J. and M., so they don't mind. I can't comp anyone else without asking, though.
3:30 a.m. — The bar dies down and M.'s date has left, but M. is pretty tipsy and has been flirting with one of the bartenders ever since. I guess she didn't love Tinder boy! I hang out with her a little until my manager gives me a look to get back to work. It's time to clean anyway, so I start rounding up loose darts in the dart board area.
4:30 a.m. — M. sticks around and then we both head home together. We split an Uber. $7
5:10 a.m. — M. is drunk crying on the first floor of our building. She really doesn't want to walk up all those stairs. I try to motivate her but she refuses to get up, so we both sit and talk on the steps for a little.
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5:20 a.m. — M. is ready to brave the stairs. I carry her stuff and hold her shoes. She's crawling up the stairs at this point…I of course take a Snap. We get upstairs and go to bed.
Daily Total: $33

Day Six

1 p.m. — It's Monday! I'm dressed and ready to get some writing done at the studio. I stop on the way to pick up a Coke Zero to replace what I drank last week and some popcorn to munch on. $8
2 p.m. — I arrive to the studio and get a ton of work done. I stay until 6, since my friend will be coming home from work soon. I leave $60 on the counter and a thank you note to cover my apartment use for the next two weeks. $60
7 p.m. — I head to my boyfriend's apartment. I'm in a good mood, so I pick up a bottle of wine for us to share. $18
8 p.m. — I'm at J.'s and cleaning up a little. I also run some laundry for him, as he requested. He shoots me a text saying he should be home by 9:30, so I set out some wine and make some dinner from the scraps in his fridge: chicken cutlets with linguine and capers in a butter-lemon-garlic sauce. I pop some frozen cheese broccoli in the microwave and make a quick salad from pre-packaged romaine. I toss in some cheese, raisins, and cucumbers, and ta-da: dinner.
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11 p.m. — J. and I are a little wine-drunk, and after we toss the dishes in the dishwasher, we cuddle up in bed. All in all, I had an amazing day.
Daily Total: $86

Day Seven

7 a.m. — J. is awake and in the shower. I keep him company while he gets ready but decline coffee because I plan to sleep in a little more when he leaves.
9 a.m. — I'm up and running and start folding J.'s laundry from yesterday while drinking the remainder of his morning smoothie. I head home at around 11.
11:30 a.m. — I feel like I haven't given much love to my apartment this week, so I start cleaning the common areas. Afterwards, I pour myself some peach-flavored seltzer, spike it with vodka, and head to the rooftop to get some writing done.
3:30 p.m. — I'm starving, so I head down to the kitchen and make the saddest meal ever: chicken broth bulked up with some frozen spinach and chicken strips cut up and tossed in the bowl. It's cheap and delicious.
5:30 p.m. — I decide to go on a walk to the park with my iPad to browse the internet in the sun. I hang out there until 7.
8 p.m. — I text J. to see if he wants to grab dinner. He says he's going out with his coworkers and invites me. I decline and instead see what M. is up to. We decide to get street cart food: cheap and yummy! We meet near our local cart, head back to the park, and eat there. $8
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10 p.m. — M. and I get home and lounge in the living room for a bit before calling it a night and heading to sleep. I ask to shower first, promising to be quick. I towel-dry my hair, text J. good-night, and finally get to sleep at a reasonable time.
Daily Total: $8
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