A Week In New York, NY, On A $15,000 Income

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.
Calling all entrepreneurs: We want to hear from you! If you’re a freelancer or self-employed, we’d love to feature your Money Diary. Submit here.
Travel Diaries: We're looking to get the inside scoop on when, where, and how our peers are using their vacation days. Open to tracking your travel expenses during an upcoming trip? Email us at traveldiary@refinery29.com.
Advertisement
Today: a student in NYC who makes $15,000 per year and spends some of her money on broccoli.
Occupation: Student (and Resident Advisor, Intern, and Research Assistant)
Industry: Education
Age: 20
Location: New York, NY
Salary: last year it was around $15,000 but it fluctuates
Paycheck Amount (depending on the job, 1x or 2x/semester, my allowance is 1x/month): ~$500-$1,000 from my parents; $3,000/semester from various jobs; around $7,000 from summer jobs
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (I get housing for free during the school year because I work as a resident advisor.)
Student Loans: $0 (I have $12,000 in student loans, I don't expect to borrow any more, and I don't have to pay them off yet.)
YouTube Red: $6.99
Spotify: $14.99 (I pay for my little brothers' Spotify accounts — it was a gift)
iCloud Storage: $1 (back-up of my MacBook)
Google Drive Storage: $1.99 (photo storage)
Cell Phone: ~$100 (varies depending on data usage)
Therapy: ~$80 (more if I need it)
Annual Expenses:
Headspace: $9.99 (with the student discount)
Amazon Prime (in US and Canada): $88
LoseIt!: $24.99 (I use this to track my macros)
Strava Premium: $59.99 (for tracking runs & bikes)
Costco: $60
New York Times Cooking: $39.99 (I use their recipes ~all~ the time)
Website Hosting/Domain Name Registration: ~$20

Day One

7 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm and get out of bed to turn it off. I take my morning meds, grab my phone, and crawl back under my weighted blanket. I check my notifications, social media, and then read the New York Times and the local newspaper from my hometown.
Advertisement
7:45 a.m. — I get out of bed for real now. I don't shower because I didn't work out this morning. I put on some clothes and make breakfast. I'm a creature of habit and have been eating oatmeal with craisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar for breakfast for almost two years now. As I make breakfast and wash dishes from last night, I watch The Great British Bake Off.
8:15 a.m. — I bring my oatmeal back to my room, and continue watching GBBO as I check my email on my laptop. After reading the book Make Time, I deleted the Gmail app on my phone, to help rid myself of distractions. I can only check email on my iPad or laptop. After checking my email, I begin to do my reading for my first class of the day. I get through as much reading as I can before heading off to class.
10 a.m. — I walk back to my room after and go back to bed. My body is aching, presumably from yesterday's workout. I have a neuromuscular disease, so I'm constantly sore and in pain, especially when I workout. Paradoxically, working out is supposed to be good for me (according to my doctors), but it completely wipes me out.
12 p.m. — I wake up from my nap feeling marginally better and head out for a meeting with my supervisor. It is short and sweet, and then I head back to my room.
12:10 p.m. — I warm up a chapati for lunch (or early snack), and begin to do my reading for my next class.
Advertisement
1:45 p.m. — I am mildly hungry and decide to eat a Krispy Kreme donut that one of my roommates bought for the suite. Not the healthiest option, but I was craving something sweet. After I eat, I decide to turn off my phone in an effort to stem any distractions.
4 p.m. — It's time to head out to my next class. I throw on my sweater on and walk/run to class.
5:30 p.m. — After class, my good friend, B., and I do an interview for my school's media team on my class. As we wait around for them to set up and do other interviews we catch up.
6:15 p.m. — B. and I chat for a bit afterward, then I head off to the admissions office where I write postcards for admitted students from Canada. It's yield season, which is my favorite time of year. I really love my college, so I help with the recruitment of students, including interviewing and helping out with the all-important yield season. I eat an oatmeal raisin cookie from Insomnia Cookies as I write postcards.
7 p.m. — I walk back to my suite and warm up leftover pasta with shredded chicken and cheddar cheese and my last chapati. I make a cup of tea and then head to my room. I watch GBBO, and read the CBC as I eat. After I'm done eating, I do a couple of sessions of Duolingo to brush up on my French.
7:30 p.m. — I walk out of my room to refill my water bottle and run into some of my suitemates. I chat with them for a bit, before heading back to my room to finish the episode of GBBO. As I watch, I fill out my overly detailed spending track sheet for March. I have been meticulously tracking my spending since 2017, and this year my monthly spending has been ~too high~. Last month was an exception because I went on a trip for spring break. I think this month will be better, because I have no more purchases I need to make and should get my tax refunds (last year + this year in US and Canada) which should total around $3,000+ dollars.
Advertisement
8:30 p.m. — I am finally done filling out my expenses. My spreadsheet was very buggy, so I had to fix it. I pay my bills for last month and then move onto my homework. I'm super exhausted, but I'm trying not to take a nap because 1) I already took one today and 2) napping a lot is a surefire way to end up in another depressive episode.
8:40 p.m. — I have tried reading, but I'm too tired and distracted, so I do my taxes instead. I forget my password to log into the portal to get my W4s for my school. I complete my Canadian taxes and get around $150 as a refund.
10 p.m. — I head off to a staff meeting. After the meeting, I check in on my friend K. who has been feeling sick for the past week. After chatting with him for a bit, I walk back upstairs and do my nighttime routine: brush my teeth, floss, and clean my room as I watch more GBBO.
12 a.m. — I hop into bed before journaling, which is something I usually do every night. As soon as I lay down, I realize how tired I am and go immediately to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:45 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of New York City and light streaming through the window, and immediately check my phone fearing that I slept in. I didn't, so I get back into bed and do the regular (read NYT, local news, social media).
Advertisement
8:45 a.m. — I hop out of bed, change, and start my workout. I'm doing the seven-minute workout thing to ease myself back into it, after being very sick last semester and losing all fitness motivation I had. After my workout, I meditate using Headspace, and then take a quick shower.
9:30 a.m. — After the shower, I get dressed and then I head out to the kitchen to make my oatmeal and wash dishes from yesterday. As I watch, you guessed it, GBBO.
9:45 a.m. — I bring my oatmeal to my room and eat it as I read through emails and continue watching GBBO.
10:07 a.m. — I'm running late to class. For this particular class, we are attending a conference about inequity in criminal justice and health. The conference is really good, but I have to leave before it's done due to the insurmountable pile of homework I need to do.
1:30 p.m. — I am H U N G R Y, but before I eat I go to the package center to pick up some mail. I take that time to think of what to make for lunch. I pick up stuff that I ordered from Amazon last week (face brush thing, a new face scrub, face lotion, and Canadian Nestle Smarties).
2 p.m. — I decide to make ramen noodles with a sweet pork meat sauce that I have in my fridge and an egg for lunch. As I cook and eat, I watch more GBBO.
Advertisement
2:20 p.m. — More homework! As I work, I eat the bag of Smarties.
8:20 p.m. — Somehow I have found myself reading up about Canadian extradition law? No idea how I got here, but it's time to take a break, so I can refocus. I walk to the kitchen and chop up a pear as a snack. After eating it, I decide to watch YouTube videos instead of continuing to work.
11 p.m. — I start getting ready for bed and decide to buy Spider-Man (12.99) and rent Get Out (4.99). I brush my teeth, journal, and take my medication. Afterward, I decide to watch Get Out. I don't find it at all scary or really thrilling, but it is a very good movie. Once the movie is done I fall asleep at around 1:30. $17.98
Daily Total: $17.98

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — I wake up and my phone is in my bed, which is not where I left it last night. I assume I slept through my morning class, which thankfully I didn't. I then read the Times as per usual and check social media as I try to convince myself to get out of bed.
8:30 a.m. — I'm finally out of bed. I'm a morning person, so having a hard time getting out of bed is usually a red flag for my mental health. I take a very quick shower and eat a chocolate macadamia nut Clif bar as I get dressed. Then, I head to class.
Advertisement
8:40 a.m. — In class, I check my emails while I half pay attention to the lecture. I get an email from the National Loan Service Center which handles loans in Canada informing me that unless I re-enroll in school next year, my loan repayments begin on Dec 31. I don't have that many student loans, and they won't begin collecting interest until December, thanks to the wonderful Canadian government. That said, I'm taking a leave of absence next year, so I think I may take a course or two in my hometown to avoid interest collecting/loan repayment beginning. I also update my spend track sheet with the movie purchases and also interest from one of my credit cards. I'm waiting for reimbursement for a large purchase, and I'd rather carry the balance than ask my parents for more money.
10 a.m. — After class, I head back to my room and decide to go back to bed and take a depression nap. It's a depression nap because I'm not actually tired, just not ready to face the day.
12:45 p.m. — I wake up feeling worse and also in more pain, which is sad. I have a lot of work to do, so I get out of bed and make oatmeal for lunch. I bring my oatmeal to my room and watch the Christmas specials of GBBO. After eating, I clean my room and then begin to do homework.
3 p.m. — I walk to a discussion section for one of my classes. During the class, I panic slightly because my Apple Pencil isn't working, and I spend the entire section texting back and forth with Apple support. I make an appointment at an Apple Store in Grand Central tomorrow morning.
Advertisement
4 p.m. — Time for my next class, which is only a few buildings over. After class I chat with B. for a bit and then head back to my room. Once I get back to my room I realize that I am HUNGRY. So, I make a small bowl of oatmeal to hold me over until dinner. As I eat, I chat with some of my suitemates.
6:45 p.m. — I walk into my room and can't motivate myself enough to do work. So, I just browse the internet, check my credit score, and answer my emails. Also, I realize my Apple Pencil is working? I realize that the problem is my tip has worn down, so I swap it out with a spare one I have.
7:45 p.m. — One of my clubs is having a dinner for former and new staff. I walk to the location, which is just a couple of blocks up, and meet up with one of my colleagues along the way. The restaurant has this quaint aesthetic. I eat some garlic bread with goat cheese and an entree of chicken with kale, tomatoes, lemon, and quinoa. For dessert, I split a tiramisu. The food is fairly good. The cost is covered by the club, and I have no idea how much my meal actually cost.
8:30 p.m. — I walk to campus with some of my colleagues, then once I get to my suite I stop in on K. We chat for a bit about our days, and then I head upstairs to my room to grab my computer. I have a computer science project due at midnight, which I work on with two of my suitemates. I mindlessly munch on cookies as I work.
Advertisement
2 a.m. — Finally done my project (two hours late), I head back down to K.'s room to chat some more.
3 a.m. — I'm shocked that I'm up this late, but I think I'm getting a little manic again. I brush my teeth, wash my face (cleanse and exfoliate), and journal. I finally get into bed at around 4 a.m. I'm going to regret this late sleeping time tomorrow morning.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

10 a.m. — I wake up feeling down, but I have a therapy appointment in an hour. I get dressed and grab a Clif bar to eat for breakfast. Then, I hop on the subway. Each swipe is $2.75, but I still have money on my MetroCard. I load it each month with around $40.
12 p.m. — Therapy went okay. I head back to school for a team meeting but when I get there, my boss tells me it was canceled. Since I don't check email on my phone, I never realized. Nonetheless, I have a short meeting with him and do some work on my projects, so the time wasn't wasted.
1 p.m. — I head to health services for an appointment. After a long wait, I get a referral for my EMG in a few days and my next HPV vaccine. Then I head to my room and make ramen noodles with two poached eggs for lunch. I'm feeling ~very very down~, but I don't want to sleep the day away. I compromise and decide to lay in bed watching Netflix until I can surmise some energy to do something else. I snack on two Clif bars at some point during the afternoon.
Advertisement
1:30 a.m. — Good news: I started and finished season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Bad news: I spent all day in bed watching Netflix. But sometimes you just have an off-day. I brush my teeth and head to bed. Tomorrow will hopefully be better.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

10 a.m. — I wake up later than usual, and do the regular — read articles in my bed, take a shower, and sit at my desk to start working for the day. A day of non-activity yesterday means I need to be productive today. Before I get settled, I make oatmeal.
1 p.m. — Today is the day of a music festival at my school, and as an RA, I do rounds every hour or so in my building. When I'm not doing rounds, I'm tackling the unending amount of reading I need to do for the upcoming week. For lunch, I have (get this) ramen with a sweet and spicy pork sauce.
10 p.m. — I meant to go to bed early tonight, but I instead end up helping my friend with job applications. I get some job apps done for the upcoming year as well. I also, at some point in the evening, impulse buy a new domain name for my personal website. $100
1 a.m. — Time to go to bed. I brush my teeth, floss, mouthwash, and fall asleep without journaling.
Daily Total: $100

Day Six

7 a.m. — I have to run an early check-in space for the Admitted Students weekend. I get up, read articles in bed, change, and then walk over to the building where check-in is happening.
Advertisement
7:30 a.m. — I missed the memo that I was supposed to be here at 7 not 7:30. I help with the breakfast delivery (bagels, coffee, juice), and eat a bagel without butter. Regardless, I talk to the prospective students, and then at 9:30 show them to check-in. At check-in, I grab my shirt and then head back to my room.
10 a.m. — I decide to take a nap and miss church because I am tired.
1:30 p.m. — I wake up from my nap and start working. I first refund the domain name I bought last night. Then, I continue working on homework. (-$100)
2 p.m. — One of my good friends N. calls and we make plans to chat in-person immediately. She walks over to my suite from her apartment and we catch up. We haven't seen each other in weeks and weeks, so we have a lot to talk about. After an hour and a half, she heads out, and I get back to work.
4 p.m. — I head out into the kitchen to get more tea, and I run into friends making mochi balls. I sit around with them at chat, as I try to do some work and taste their creations.
6 p.m. — I head over to pick up my prospective student F., who I'm hosting for the night. Once F. and I are back in the suite, I head out to the kitchen and chat with other prospective students as I try to get some work done.
Advertisement
8 p.m. — I make some oatmeal to eat for dinner. I stay in the kitchen and continue studying with my suitemates. As I work, I snack on M&M's and Smarties.
1 a.m. — I head back to my room, as F. gets back. I set up her air mattress and chat with her a bit. Then I brush my teeth and head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6:48 a.m. — I wake up, and tip toe over F. to grab my phone. I don't use alarms (unless I think I'm going to sleep in), which is a dangerous game, but it rarely fails me because I'm a morning person. I scroll through the Times and my various social media accounts before finally getting out of bed to take a shower.
7:15 a.m. — I take a shower and come back into my room. I get dressed discreetly and then head outside to make my breakfast. I eat oatmeal and also make a cup of peppermint tea while watching the latest John Oliver clip on YouTube.
8 a.m. — I realize that I'm running late and I head back into my room to say bye to F. and grab my wallet. Then I walk quickly to the subway to take the train uptown (swipe is already paid for).
8:20 a.m. — Even though I work up at the medical center, and go here often for doctor's appointments, I. Always. Forget. The. Subway. Closure. As soon as I get off the subway, a bus pulls up and I take it the rest of the way. In my rush to get to the right building, I accidentally tear my favorite jeans on some scaffolding.
Advertisement
8:30 a.m. — A little late I arrive for my EMG. I get them semi-regularly because of my neuromuscular disease to monitor its progression. The clinical fellow is friendly, and it goes by relatively quickly. He said that I shouldn't expect anything new or alarming in the results, which is good news. The co-pay is $20. $20
10 a.m. — I take the subway downtown (swipe already paid for), because I need to run errands.
10:30 a.m. — I go to the movie theater to get two tickets for Avengers Endgame. The seats are crappy-ish, but I got the time I wanted. The tickets are already paid for by Undergraduate Admissions for doing the most prospective student interviews. Then, I head across the street to the Apple Store to buy new tips for my Apple Pencil. I got it in January, so I'm surprised it wore down so quickly. After a small wait, they say they're out of stock and give me one for free.
10:50 a.m. — I walk down to Whole Foods to grab butter, broccoli, pears, lemons, unsalted butter, and cucumbers ($12.56). Afterward, I take the train back home. $12.56
11:45 a.m. — Once I get off the subway, I call my mom to chat about when I'll be flying home. Some of my friends are graduating this year, so I want to stay past commencement, which will give me a grand total of 24 hours at home before I head off to a wedding, and then my summer job. We iron out the details of my flight, and then catch up.
Advertisement
12:20 p.m. — I head downstairs to see K. and chat with him as he votes in our student council elections online. Afterward, I take a quick nap to refresh myself before diving into homework.
1:15 p.m. — I wake up after 20 minutes, but stay in bed until F. comes in to get her stuff. I say goodbye and wish her good luck with college decisions, then get out of bed. I check my email and starting doing some banking stuff. I check my credit card balances and pay some off, and then update my spending tracking sheet.
2 p.m. — I make lunch, which is a pear and ramen with a poached egg. I eat small meals because of some minor GI issues.
3:30 p.m. — After I eat I decide to get into bed and read because it's a high pain day, and I don't want to completely give up and sleep. I keep accidentally falling asleep because of fatigue, but I slowly but surely get through my reading.
6 p.m. — I have a dinner that I'm supposed to attend, but I decide against it because of pain and the homework I still need to get to. I get out of bed and sit at my desk to work.
7 p.m. — I realize that I didn't need to do 200 pages of reading (that I have done) because I read the syllabus wrong. I decide that there is no time like the present to eat dinner, so I reheat the last of my sweet and spicy pork sauce and eat it with chapatis. I also check my patient portal to check if my blood work has come back. It has, and the results are confusing. As I eat, I go talk to K. and complain about my day.
Advertisement
8 p.m. — I'm back in my room, drinking tea, and reading through the literature on the blood work results. As someone with a chronic disease (or multiple depending on the view), it is a slippery slope to get lost in the literature concerning my diagnosis and prognosis, which is relatively unknown. I constantly tell myself that just because one article or case study shows X, it does not mean that will happen to me.
9 p.m. — I chat with some of my suitemates on the way to make tea in the kitchen about the perils of artificial intelligence. Then, get back to work.
11:30 p.m. — I'm done with all the work I need to do for the day, so I start winding down. I brush my teeth, floss, mouthwash, wash my face, and exfoliate. Then, I journal for a bit before going to bed. By 1 a.m., I am fast asleep.
Daily Total: $32.56
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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.
Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement