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A Week In Brooklyn On A $45,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

This week: a personal care assistant who makes $44,985 per year and who spends some of her money this week on a corn dog.
Content Warning: This diary contains a reference to assault.
Occupation: Personal care assistant
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 36
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $44,985
Net Worth: -$45,382.18 ($6,599.82 in savings, minus debt)
Debt: $51,982 (student loans: $51,239; personal loan: $550; credit card: $194)
Paycheck Amount (4x/month; 2x/month; 1x/month for both side gigs): $305 (agency one); $203 (agency two); $200 (side gig one); $100 (side gig two)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $650 (I rent a room from a friend’s townhouse. I have a floor to myself.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $100 a month on personal loan, $100 towards credit card.
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Amazon: $7.61 (discounted)
Classpass: $61
Renter’s Insurance: $9
Life Insurance: $75
Emergency Savings: $40
Patreon: $25
YNAB: $16.32
Tidal: $10.99

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
There was, but there was never any serious discussions about what that would entail. I felt like I was figuring things out on my own. I went to college and took out lots of loans and some grants. I switched universities after my first year, and ended up having to pay out-of-state tuition, despite being a state resident.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
There were very few conversations about money. My mother would show us how to save money with coupons, but that was the extent.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working at a fast-food restaurant. I worked for the summer because I wanted to pay for my class ring (which was $144).

Did you worry about money growing up?
I was constantly worried about money growing up. I feel like when I was a child, my worldview was shattered when my mother told me that we were poor. I didn’t ever experience dire poverty — I always had clothes, even if they were secondhand or tattered, and I never went hungry. But I was ashamed of asking for things that weren’t necessities.

Do you worry about money now?
I still worry about money now, although it’s not as bad as it used to be. I have been slowly working on building my emergency fund, and looking into getting into a new career field that could potentially be high paying.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out when I went to college. My parents would send me a few hundred dollars if I asked for it, but I always hated (and still do) asking for money. Currently if things were that bad, I could move home.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I make videos on the side, and if I don’t make any videos for the month, I still get residual income of a few hundred a month.

Day One

9:20 a.m. — I wake up at a reasonable time. I meditate and do mirror work. I brush my teeth and wash my face and slather on some moisturizer. While my yerba mate is brewing, I prepare for my weekly planning workshop. A research study calls me back for a study that I qualify for. When they ask me if my emergency contact is still a close friend who recently passed away, I tell them no, and realize I’m going to have to take it slow today. I also call my insurance to get my approved appointments discharged from a previous physical therapist and switch to a new one. I was assaulted at the last place and do not ever want to go there again. They tell me I will have to call them and have them cancel and then reapply? This sounds confusing.
1 p.m. — I walk to the eye doctor — it’s about a 20-minute walk, and it’s relatively nice out. While I wait to be seen, I catch up on Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come. I finished reading Year of Yes last week; there was something about the book that I didn’t like that and I’m still parsing through. I prefer this book more! The eye doctor sees me and lets me know that even though my eyes are dry and swollen, they are much better. She does another collagen treatment, which has worn off since last time. My eye drops have also run out, so I pick some up as I make my next appointment. $16 (Eye doctor covered by health insurance.)
3:20 p.m. — A friend calls and we talk on the phone for over three hours. We mostly talk about film and comedy stuff. I tell him about my crowdfunding efforts but I can’t bring myself to ask if he can help with an aspect of it, even though he says he wants to help out any way he can. Once we hit the three-hour mark, I let him know I need to take a nap before going to work.
7:30 p.m. — I am heading out to work. Before that, I stop by CVS and buy one of those convenient pasta dishes and grape juice. My main job is I work as a caregiver, and I have an overnight shift. It’s pretty chill — I catch up on some reading and prepare for bed. $6.48
Daily Total: $22.48

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up to clock out of one of the agencies that pays me, and clock in to another one. I check Snapchat and Reddit to see if one of my friends, who I haven’t heard from in a week, has shown any signs of life. Nothing. I peruse Reddit before going back to sleep.
7:50 a.m. — I wake up again. It’s snowing pretty hard! I get dressed and make up the bed as I wait for the next person on staff. I contemplate ordering a cab, but decide to walk home. It’s not snowing as hard as previously. When I arrive home, I try to meditate, but my room is a mess and I’m feeling pretty down.
11 a.m. — I make breakfast — a breakfast burrito, peach yogurt, and blueberries during a session of London Writers’ Salon. I tackle some emails to prep and ask some people to follow my film page. Sometimes it feels disheartening to be left on read, but I try not to let it get to me too much.
1 p.m. — My financial counselor calls me and I give her some updates — I won my case against my ex-roommate who never gave me my security deposit back. She sends me a list of collection attorneys. I let her know that I’m looking into a program for low-income people to buy a home in NYC, and I want to get my finances in order from a previous boss who did not report taxes. She thinks that’s a great long-term goal and tells me I should get in contact with a labor law attorney. I also let her know that one of my credit cards has been paid off and I’ve been taking her advice of putting away a small amount of money towards my emergency savings each paycheck. She tells me she’s proud of the progress that I’ve been making, and we schedule another appointment in a few months.
2:30 p.m. — One of my friends calls to check in with me. I had told her previously that I was feeling overwhelmed with the crowdfunding stuff and not hearing back from my friend (the friend is strictly online but we were making tentative plans to meet). I tell her I’m worried because there have been a lot of floods and earthquakes and I’m afraid that they might not be alive. I jokingly call my friend “Worried Brown Auntie” for fussing over me and making sure I’m getting enough sleep and eating. She tells me she loves me and lets me go because I have to prepare for therapy.
5:30 p.m. — Therapy is... Therapy, lol. I do not think I like my therapist all that well, which is a shame because she’s the first WOC therapist I’ve ever had. It feels like every time I relay something to her, she follows up with something else she’s going through. Ma’am, this is for me! (Therapy covered by health insurance.)
6 p.m. — After therapy I take a shower and put on a sweater and sweatpants to go to see Adulting at The Bell House. I would have dressed up nicer, but it had snowed a lot, and it’s still cold. The special guest is Vanessa Williams! After the show, it’s past 10 p.m., and I don’t want to take the train home and risk slipping on ice, plus I’m starving. I take an expensive Lyft back home and fall asleep playing Skyrim. $54
Daily Total: $54

Day Three

8:51 a.m. — I wake up and have my usual breakfast — breakfast burrito, yogurt, and blueberries. I head into the city to do trailer checks for Bob Marley: One Love and Madame Web (this involves making sure that the proper trailers are playing at the correct times, and that the sound and videos are playing correctly). I catch up on Sorry I’m Late... in between showings. Afterward, I head to Whole Foods to stock up on burritos and yogurt. $43.05
2 p.m. — At physical therapy. I like this place much better than the other, plus it’s only a few blocks away from where I live. Today we focus on my neck and shoulders because there’s some stiffness there. While I’m there I keep thinking about how safe I feel. (Physical therapy covered by health insurance.)
7 p.m. — I get ready to go to my first ever burlesque show! I invited a friend, and we hang out before the doors open. I spot a guy there who was at a film mixer last year. I am nervous to approach him, but I remember my Year of Yes, and I say hi. Turns out, it is him! The show itself is fantastic. It's hosted by Venus Cuffs, someone who I greatly admire. I love all of the performances, and I love the spoken word poet. I order a corn dog and a watered-down pineapple soda (that is marked as a “mocktail” on the receipt), and my friend orders deviled eggs and a mocktail. I pay for the whole thing, and he sends me half of his payment. We talk about how glad we were to go to this. After the show, I speak with Venus and let her know how much she’s helped me. Years ago, she had a shopping spree with a few Black sex workers, and I was one of them. We cry, and she keeps touching my face. She tells me to email her because she wants to connect. $70
11 p.m. — While I’m on the train with my friend, I start not to feel well. I am not in any pain, but I feel... Off. When I get home, I proceed to vomit at least three times. It’s awful.
Daily Total: $113.05

Day Four

4 p.m. — I am finally awake. I have thrown up two more times in the morning, and I think I have fully recovered. Apparently, I’m on the work schedule today, even though I’m not supposed to be. I slowly get up and head to the store to pick up some store-brand Pedialyte, applesauce, crackers, and fruit cups. I’m supposed to see a screening tonight, and I’m worried that I might throw up again. I keep updating my friend, M., who I’m meant to be going with. I feel extremely weak, but I don’t think I have any more vomit in me. When I get back home I down a Pedialyte and crackers and apple sauce. $24.60
6 p.m. — I'm supposed to have a group call with fellow creatives at 6 p.m., but it’s canceled because the facilitator is not feeling well. I tell the group chat that I’m also not feeling well but I was going to push through. The facilitator tells me that “it’s not the season to push through!” (She recently released a video about working with the seasons, and winter is really all about hibernation. I’ve been slowly incorporating some of this into my work). An hour later, I’m in the writers’ room. I haven’t been very active over the past few months, and they’re excited for me to be back. I tell them I won’t be able to stick around long because I’m not feeling well, which they understand.
8 p.m. — I take a shower and put on a sweater, leggings, and boots. I wanted to go to a vintage store earlier, but that is off the cards. I take a cab to the movie theater. I reason that if I start feeling bad afterwards, I’ll just go home instead of spending the night at said friend’s place. Also yes, the friend, M., is a “friend.” We’ve been casually dating for nearly three years. One of the reasons why I was adamant about going is because I wanted to have a bit of the “define the relationship” conversation. I tell him I only want a ginger ale. The movie is great! We watch Thomasine & Bushrod. We get to talk to the hosts after the show before we go back to his place. I’m better, but still want to take it easy. $34.81
Daily Total: $59.41

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — I wake up to M. getting... handsy. He gets me off and we have sex and fall asleep again.
10 a.m. — He’s officially working. He takes a break and makes breakfast — tofu scramble with pita bread and orange juice (he’s vegan). I’m still checking Reddit to see if my friend has posted anything, and has he! He’s posted a dick pic. How lovely. I keep eyeing the clock because I have to leave in a bit. I ask my friend if he’s considered being in a relationship with me. He says yes. This breaks my brain. I tell him my NPC dialogue tree broke. I had this whole improvised speech prepared, but for some reason I had always expected him to say no. I ask why, and realize that’s not what I wanted to ask. I tell him I’d like to have a deeper discussion about this later.
1 p.m. — I head home and take a quick nap before going to physical therapy. I really like this place. Afterwards I go home and take another nap, then get some more cleaning done. I decide to watch I’m A Virgo. I keep adding and re-adding my Reddit friend on Snapchat like a monster.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8:22 a.m. — I wake up and meditate. I have my usual breakfast of a burrito, yogurt, and blueberries. Post VomitGate, I still don’t feel at 100% just yet.
12 p.m. — I head to work. I should have taken a sick day, but I don’t want to ask anyone to cover my shift. I let the client know that I need to take it easy today. I go to the bodega and grab a bag of chips and juice. The guy behind the counter smiles and says hello. We’d been doing this for months, and up until recently I would fantasize about this man, until he cut his hair. Work is pretty chill. During some down time, I post a story-time to my “close friends” Instagram. I try to do this about once a week, as I figure out what to do with these stories. I would like to tell them to a wider audience. I had an idea to recreate them with dolls. This particular story is about an ex’s racist dad. People really enjoy it. $5.50
8 p.m. — Heading home. I buy a $5 ticket to see the Bob Marley movie. I take an edible and play more Skyrim. Another friend, C., calls me and we talk for a few hours. I let him know about how my brain broke about the relationship conversation. I’m nervous because even though I want to be with M., I’ve been examining things with myself and have become more comfortable knowing that I’m not monogamous — with every relationship I’ve had, I’ve always tried broaching this subject. C. is polyamorous, so I ask for some suggestions. While I’m blathering on, C. interrupts me and asks me if I love M. I choke up. Maybe? I feel like I love him in the sense that I love everyone. I’m still pondering if I’m in love with him. I do know that I deeply care for him. I’m worried about once we’re in a relationship (or even prior to that), all of the conversations that need to be had. We’re both in our mid 30s, and while his life seems pretty solid, I feel like I’m just now getting a grasp on it. $5
Daily Total: $10.50

Day Seven

8:49 a.m. — I am awake! I attend a group meditation circle. Afterwards, I do the Human Library, which is a project that started in Denmark where people — the “human book” — talk about an aspect of their lives, and “readers” (which is what I do) can ask them questions about it. The two human books are very interesting.
3:30 p.m. — I head to the movie theater to watch Bob Marley: One Love. The audience is filled with Black people and a few white people who don’t seem to understand Patois, lol. I order a pepperoni pizza and lemonade with light ice. My stomach wants to disagree but it ultimately doesn’t. When the movie is done, I feel inspired. Some girls outside start singing “Three Little Birds” and it’s beautiful. $34
7 p.m. — I head to Target and buy some toilet paper, wipes, and soap. I want to spend more time in Target, but I keep checking my phone to see when the next bus is leaving. While on the bus, I read Song of Solomon, and I realize today is Toni Morrison’s birthday. I also think about an IG post I want to make about James Baldwin moving to Paris, and his impact on me. I brainstorm as I get off the bus. $18
Daily Total: $52

The Breakdown

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