A Week In New York City, On A $52,000 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: a career readiness associate who makes $52,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on a 24k gold face mask.
Occupation: College & Career Readiness Associate
Industry: Education Nonprofit
Age: 26
Location: NYC
Salary: $52,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,307
Monthly Expenses
Loan Payments: $400
All Other Monthly Expenses
Netflix: $10
Travel Fund: $75. I pay myself each month so I can limit how often I dip into savings.
Emergency Fund: $210
Savings: $784
Gym Membership: $21
iCloud Storage: $0.99
Cell Phone: $50. I'm on a family plan, but I pay my parents.
403(b): $260 pre-tax
Transit: $160 pre-tax
Medical, Vision & Dental: $103.12 pre-tax
Yearly Expenses
Amazon Prime: $99
1 of 8
7 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm and try fall back to sleep. No luck. I drag myself out of bed and slowly start my morning.

8 a.m. — I run around trying to get out the door on time. I quickly pop a Nexium (only two more days!), pack some blueberries, and toast an English muffin with butter for my train snack. I'm trying to follow the prescriptions directions precisely, so I usually end up eating something on the subway to work.

9:45 a.m. — I'm wearing a pair of shoes I love that don't love me back. Despite the copious amounts of deodorant I put on the back of my heels this morning (I swear this normally works!), I have two massive blisters. I'm annoyed that I don't have any backup Band-Aids in my wallet or purse. No Band-Aids at the store, either, but I do buy a yogurt cup and a cheese stick. Yum. $2.78

11:50 a.m. — Meeting over! I limp to Duane Reade and finally buy Band-Aids and a giant York Peppermint Patty on sale at the register. I haven't had chocolate or dessert in a few weeks because I'm on an elimination diet of sorts due to health issues. Still, I woke up feeling okay and decide to treat myself. $4.85

12:15 p.m. — Apparently, I haven't finished treating myself, because I decide to spend TEN DOLLARS on a salad from Hale and Hearty. Who knew avocado, an egg, carrots, cucumbers, and chicken breast over spinach would be so freaking expensive?! (Spoiler: I did. I love Hale & Hearty — but sheesh!) I'm so glad that I work way uptown, far away from convenient, yummy lunch spots. $10.02

12:40 p.m. — On the subway back to my office, I remember that I need to reimburse a friend for a gift they bought on my behalf, for my significant other, B. My friend's been living in Germany for the past year, and B fell in love with a fancy, crazy expensive pen when we visited in April. He didn't want to buy it for himself, so I asked my friend to buy the pen for me. $35

2 p.m. — Today is a bad spending day. During some downtime, I buy myself a cute lunchbox and nail stickers. In my defense, I pack lunch at least four days a week, and I paint my own nails once a week. $18.67

3:45 p.m. — I wolf down my lunch and snacks. I'm full but I don't feel satisfied. My meeting is boring and I daydream about junk food. I think I have a yogurt from last week in the work fridge. 45 more minutes until I can go check...

5 p.m. — I've technically only been in the office for 3.5 hours, but it feels like an eternity, so I leave. I fight the twinge of guilt by reminding myself that I'll do more work when I get home. I usually work 55 - 60 hours per week during the school year. Leaving a little early in the summer all balances out, right?

7:30 p.m. — Despite major subway delays (karma?), I make it to Zumba. I haven't been in almost three weeks and end up a hot ass mess afterward — literally.

8:45 p.m. — Home for a quick dinner, a shower, and prep work for a book club with my kiddos tomorrow at work. I pass out watching Netflix.

Daily Total: $71.32
2 of 8
9 a.m. — Today is one of those days where I can tell I'm going to be annoyed and on edge all day. I wake up 45 minutes before my alarm, and then manage to snooze 30 minutes too long. I miss both my trains by seconds, and later, the new girl at work sends a text to our work group chat about an inane technique she uses for student engagement. I have no idea why she irritates me so much, but sometimes when I'm around her, I have to fight the urge to snap at her. I know this is her first big kid job and that things in the office have been a little hectic lately, but she's driving me insane. Normally, on a day like today, I'd treat myself to lunch or a cute nail polish. But after yesterday's impulse buys and with a planned dinner tonight, I don't. Instead, I grumpily eat my English muffin.

1:30 p.m. — My high school kids were pretty good in book club, but the middle school kids were a nightmare during lunch. Can't win 'em all! I take a break from the office and walk to the supermarket around the corner to buy two yogurt cups and a pack of string cheese to snack on for the next few days. I pop into Duane Reade and stare longingly at the candy, but ignore my impulse to self-soothe with spending and snacking. I trudge back to work to eat my boring lunch of tuna and crackers. $7.82

2:15 p.m. — I've been looking for a new psychiatrist for a while now. After nearly four years without treatment, my anxiety and depression have started to negatively impact my personal life, health, and even my work. I get a call setting up an evaluation for next week! I celebrate by scarfing down two string cheeses. The evaluation will cost $100 and it is not covered by insurance; the sessions will be an additional $20 once I start.

6:30 p.m. — I meet a friend for dinner at a cute Mexican place in the Heights. Good company, good conversation, and good food. The portion is so big that I pack it up. I'll have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and maybe even dinner. $19

8:15 p.m. — We're back at B's place to catch up with him and his roommate. I'm spending the night, so I settle in on the couch with a few spoonfuls of pumpkin pie Talenti. Yum.

11 p.m. — Pass out without taking off my makeup or brushing my teeth. I manage to drag myself out of bed long enough to do that.

Daily Total: $26.82
3 of 8
7:15 a.m. — B's alarm doesn't go off, but the cat makes sure we are up super early. He's very excited that I spent the night, and he shows that he's pleased by poking us until we wake up and playing with his loudest toy. I run around trying to get ready. It's hard being mad at the cat when he's so cute, but I'm exhausted and feeling slightly nauseated, so I leave without petting him.

8:15 a.m. — Out the door! I grab a few slices of toast at the apartment and bring my leftovers from last night with me. I still have yesterday's egg whites in my work fridge, plus string cheese and one of my yogurts. (The other was spoiled. I'm a little mad about that.) I should be able to make it through today without spending money on food!

8:25 a.m. — I'm mortified. I scooped the cat litter before I left, and instead of throwing the bag out, I instinctively stuck it in my purse. I won't be at work for another hour. Ugh.

10:25 a.m. — Check my graduate loans servicer and see that my final payment on one of my two loans has gone through! I still have one more grad school loan totaling about $16,000, but I've successfully paid off the smaller, higher-interest loan. It cost about $13,500, plus interest, and it's gone after a year of aggressive payments and scrimping. $4,883.31

7:30 p.m. — Today has flown by! My pollo al aguacate leftovers made for a delish lunch, and string cheese always makes me happy. I'm slightly annoyed that only two families came to my meeting today at work (especially since we invited all 35), but the silver lining is that I got to have individualized meetings with those two families. I'll take it. I finally leave work at 6:45, and I'm so happy to be close to home. My mom texts to tell me that she's cooking, so at least I won't have to scrounge around in the pantry.

8 p.m. — On my way out of the subway, I stop to buy a new weekly unlimited card since mine has expired. I'm traveling for work in 13 days and I figure I'll wait to use the card until next week, when I have a ton of running around to do. I swipe my new benefits card (I get money deducted pretax for transit), but it doesn't work. Annoying. I pull out my credit card to pay and submit the receipt via the mobile app as I walk home. I should be reimbursed the $32 next paycheck.

9:45 p.m. — So, here's a thing that happens: I get a phone call from someone purporting to work at a magazine to which I subscribed. They know my address and ask for my credit card number, and distracted, I give it to them. It isn't until I hang up that I realize this is definitely a scam! I immediately log into my bank account and lock my card. I call the magazine's customer service line and they confirmed that they don't make outgoing calls. UGH. I go back onto my bank's website and report my card stolen. How could I be so stupid?!

12:15 a.m. — I finally go to sleep, much too late. Aside from my credit card snafu, I have a pretty good evening! Dinner is delish — rice and beans and pork chops — and we also have ices because it is h-o-t right now. After dinner, I head up to my room to do work but end up folding laundry, watching Criminal Minds (my guilty pleasure show), and snacking on Dang coconut chips — my new fave snack. They're so good, but are seriously overpriced on Amazon!

Daily Total: $4,883.31
4 of 8
7:30 a.m. — I pack most of my food and snacks; this morning, I quickly make egg whites and an English muffin before I run out the door. I'm not going to lie: a big perk of living at home is typically having a fully-stocked fridge. I do contribute to groceries sometimes, especially for things that mostly only I eat, but I don't contribute on a regular basis. My parents have made it clear that it's fine for me to live at home rent free — if pay off my loans ASAP. They can be overbearing at times, but putting almost $21,000 toward my loans in 14 months would have been impossible without their support. I lived at home after undergrad, too (my undergraduate degree was completely paid for with a scholarship). We had the same agreement then: no rent or regular financial contributions on my part — if I saved up what I'd need pay for grad school — which I did.

8:15 a.m. — Work. The kids are going to a college fair today, so a coworker is leading a workshop on what to expect. The kids are being sassy and terrible; it's a little funny but I do feel bad for her.

12 p.m. — Munch on string cheese while I heat up my egg whites. I've been snacking and eating smaller meals since I've been sick. Today, I've had an English muffin, grapes, and a yogurt cup with a little bit of granola on top leftover from the kids' breakfast this morning. I'll eat my real lunch in a couple of hours, and then finish off my snacks right before I leave the office.

3:30 p.m. — Time for lunch! I miss my pre-restricted diet life, which was only six weeks ago. The lack of nausea, reflux, and other GI distress related to my GERD and IBS is worth it, though.

6 p.m. — Finally leave work. The afternoon went by fast after all the prep work for my end-of-year convo and catching up on administrative work. Time to run to Target to buy my little sister's birthday gift.

6:45 p.m. — I manage to make it out of Target relatively unscathed. My sister has been on a drugstore beauty kick lately (perfect for my budget), so in addition to a bracelet I bought her a week ago, I'll give her her a nail polish, a gray lipstick, a 24k gold face mask, and a shine reducing concealer. I also bought a card for her, a birthday card for B's mom, and a new baby card for my BFF. $45.65

8 p.m. — My dad picks me up from the subway so that I can grab ice cream and chips for the family's celebration. $8.48

9:45 p.m. — Birthday and family time over! I head to my room so that B and I can watch something "together" on Netflix. (What that means is we'll watch the same show and text about it). I'm not in the mood for House of Cards, though, so I watch an episode of Criminal Minds and pass out around 11.

Daily Total: $54.13
5 of 8
6:45 a.m. — Wake up 45 minutes before my alarm, no bueno. I'm VERY anxious about my evaluation at 10 a.m. today. I know I work hard, and that I'm damn good at my job, but I dislike and distrust my manager. There are projects I've wanted to do that I haven't taken on because I don't feel like I can go to him for help, advice, constructive feedback, etc. To further complicate matters, his manager will be there because he's leaving in a few months, and we may not find a replacement before he goes. Plus, the rumor mill has been churning for weeks about the organization's financial health. To put mildly, I'm concerned about how everything will go.

8:45 a.m. — I eat my English muffin on the subway. It is so hot today.

9:15 a.m. — I swing by the good grocery store around the block from my office to buy yogurt cups; they're five for $5. I'm a total creature of habit (and I'm lazy), so it's common for me to eat the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks for days — or even weeks — in a row. It all depends on the groceries I have at home and what I decide to supplement them with. This week, we've had English muffins, egg whites, and blueberries at home, so I've run with that and mostly eaten dinner leftovers for lunch. $5

11 a.m. — My evaluation went so well! My offer letter for next year isn't great, but I got the best that the organization is offering so I'm happy. I got a lot of very positive feedback, plus my manager gave me the green light for a massive, time-consuming project I've been mulling over in secret for months and quietly started yesterday. I'm so happy.

12:30 p.m. — I decide to save my egg whites for tomorrow and eat my pork chop and rice and beans instead. I've eaten this three times in the past few days; not mad about it, though!

2:15 p.m. — I fell into a data entry hole and am six minutes late for a meeting in our building across the street. Oops; today is a wash. I gossip with coworkers post-meeting and then head back across the street to my office. I'm still trying to build work bonds! I have RBF and am typically an anxious, antisocial kind of gal (plus, I work in an office full of strong personalities), so I try my hardest to bond when I can. I eat one of the yogurts I bought this morning with blueberries and Cheerios.

4:45 p.m. — I give up for the day and leave with a coworker. I planned to go to Target to return a bottle of nail polish I bought for my sister, but it's too hot to walk 15 blocks out of my way. I finally get home around 6, and decide the perfect dinner is leftover birthday cake and ice cream, pea crisps, and crackers. Sensitive stomach be damned! I settle into bed to binge watch at least four episodes of Criminal Minds on Netflix until I pass out. It's a terrible show but I love it anyway.

Daily Total: $5
6 of 8
4:23 a.m. — I pay for my dinner choices with terrible stomach cramps. #NoRegrets — but ouch.

7:45 a.m. — I come to terms with the fact that my body is making me atone for yesterday's eating choices and text B that I can't join him and his mom for the pesto-making party today. I'm sad but try to comfort myself with an alternate plan. I run over the things I want to do: clean my room, maybe go to the gym and take a stroll on a treadmill (Fitbit challenges are big in my fam, and I've been slacking lately), watch more terrible Netflix, do a face mask, paint my nails, and tan in my yard. This feels ambitious. It's likely that all I'll do is watch Netflix. I'm okay with that and try to lay very still in bed so that I can fall asleep again.

11 a.m. — After dozing for a few hours, I finally drag myself out of bed. I text B because he's been feeling a little down lately, and we decide to go to Philly in a couple of weeks for a long weekend. I look up train tickets and Airbnbs and see some good options, so I send him the links and start to clean the bathroom. B says that pesto has been delayed until tomorrow, so we decide to meet at the Met.

12 p.m. — Cleaning the bathroom made me hangry! My stomach is feeling a little more settled, so I eat this week's go-to: an English muffin and yesterday's egg whites. I also decide to pack a turkey and Swiss sandwich on mini-naan from the freezer.

3:45 p.m. — I get to the Met before B and buy our tickets. I figure a $10 "donation" is good enough for each ticket. We spend the afternoon at the Met on 5th Avenue (the rooftop exhibit is great) before going to the Met Breuer to check out the video exhibit. $20

8:30 p.m. — Finally home! I make hamburgers and B and I chat with my family before we finalize our weekend getaway. The trains I looked at this morning still have cheap seats available. We also decide to spend a little more money for a townhouse on Airbnb instead of staying at an apartment. I Venmo him my share. $244

10:45 p.m. — I'm exhausted and am starting to feel a little gross again, probably because I ate cake and ice cream. When will I learn? I drag myself up to my room to touch up my nail polish and watch Netflix until I fall asleep.

Daily Total: $264
7 of 8
7 a.m. — Randomly wake up, and decide Reddit is a good way to spend some time. Ladies and gents of r/laqueristas, you are magical. I tried out the nail vinyls I bought on Amazon earlier this week and let's just say I need some more practice.

9:15 a.m. — Finally decide to get my butt into gear. I have to get ready to meet B and his mom to make pesto today! I think about making Kodiak cakes for breakfast but syrup is probably a bad idea, so instead I scramble two eggs and eat them with toasted mini-naan and a decaf iced chai latte.

11:38 a.m. — B is eight minutes late to meet me so far, and he hasn't even gotten on the subway yet. I am seriously annoyed and I have to pee. I head into a Dunkin' Donuts to buy a bagel I don't want so I can use their bathroom, but there isn't one. Lovely. $2.78

3:50 p.m. — Pesto party was a blast as always. B's folks are great, and his mom's friend was also over, so it was kind of a fun, family gossip session that I could eavesdrop on. Lunch is fresh pesto over pasta, which is delish. The trains are a hot mess today and I remember that I haven't taken an Uber in almost three week. I order a car; at least I have fresh pesto in my purse! $21.67

6:30 p.m. — Family dinner time! We eat rice, pigeon peas, and steak, since everyone's anemic. As much as I complain about how overbearing and intrusive my family is, it's definitely nice to have family dinner. I've been trying to have them more often since I'm moving out in a few weeks.

8 p.m. — I'm going to the UAE with my mother in a couple of months. Right now, I'm trying to figure out why the travel agent booked me in a window seat for both legs of the trip, when we specifically asked that I get an aisle seat. This makes me sound high maintenance AF, but I would rather be stepped on, climbed over, and asked to move 1,000 times on a flight, than have to sit in the window or middle seat. Lately, I've been getting claustrophobic when I fly — something that never, ever happened in the past. My mom and I spend 25 minutes trying to determine if there is a seat-change fee before finally giving up. I ask my mom to email the travel agent on my behalf — since this is a business trip for her and I'm just tagging along.

11:45 p.m. — I always swear I'll going go to bed early on Sunday nights, only to stay up late. I think it's because I secretly hate my job — maybe I delay going to bed so that I delay having to wake up on Monday morning. That — or it's some sort weird, passive-aggressive way to self-sabotage since I'm grumpy AF without sleep.

Daily Total: $24.45
8 of 8
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Have a money diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following themes:

1. Singletons: Whether you're currently dating, are happily solo, living it up with your best friends, or still figuring things out, we want to know how you spend without a romantic ride-or-die. Submit it to us here.

2. Back-to-School Moms: Are you a mom preparing for the back-to-school hustle? Submit your diary about all that entails here!

3. School Daze: Are you a college student? We want to hear from you. We'd love to read entries from women paying their own way, who are working full-time or part-time, have work-study programs, or simply want to share what it's like to be an undergrad today. Submit it to us here.

More from Work & Money


R29 Original Series