A Week In Astoria, Queens, NY On A $38,480 Salary

Getty Images
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.
Hey LGBTQIA++ Community! It’s almost Pride Month and we want to amplify the voices of LGBTQIA++ people. If you're a member of the LGBTQIA++/queer community and have ever thought about filling out a Money Diary, we'd love to feature you! Submit here.
Advertisement
Today: a photographer who makes $38,480 per year and spends some of her money this week on a birdhouse.
Occupation: Photographer/Retoucher
Industry: E-Commerce
Age: 26
Location: Queens, NY
Salary: $38,480
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $575 (after taxes)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,100 (I live with a roommate, and she also pays $1,100. We live in a two-bedroom apartment with a backyard, but I am moving out and she is renewing the lease.)
Student Loans: The minimum based on my income is ~$150, but when I move, I will up the payment to ~$600/month (I have $82,000 left).
Cell Phone: $67
Utilities: ~$100 for internet, gas, and electricity
Spotify + Hulu: $5/month with student discount
Netflix: $0 (my mom pays for it)
HBO Go: $0 (my boyfriend and I mooch off his friend)
CBS All Access: $0 (my boyfriend pays)
Amazon Prime: $0 (I am on my mom's family account)
Blink Fitness: $20
MetroCard: $127 (30-day unlimited pass)
Savings: $50 from each paycheck (I currently have about $2300 in savings.)
Therapy: $50 per weekly session ($200/month), but I'm still waiting to be placed with a therapist

Day One

7 a.m. — My first alarm goes off. I snooze for about five minutes, then spend 10 minutes looking at my phone. Today is my long distance best friend's birthday, so I shoot her some texts. She is vehemently anti-gift giving and getting. I respect that. I get up, shower, ask Alexa to play The Daily, make pour-over coffee for me and my sleeping boyfriend, get dressed in a pink button up and purple trousers, and do my skin and makeup routine (marula oil, mascara, eyebrow gel, blush).
Advertisement
8:15 a.m. — I head out for my 70 minute commute. I remember that my MetroCard needs to be refilled. At the end of April, the city raised the price of a 30 Day Unlimited MetroCard from $121 to $127. I purchase one (noted in monthly costs) and I am pleasantly surprised to see that my train is coming in one minute. I listen to a podcast (Comedy Bang Bang) for the next hour.
9:30 a.m. — I grab coffee and water from the work kitchen and sit down at my desk to read the news, check my e-mail, and wait to be delegated images that need creating or retouching. I photograph and retouch e-commerce products for a jewelry company, and I work primarily by request, based on what the salespeople are selling that day.
12 p.m. — I grab my salad from the fridge (romaine, feta, dried cranberries, roasted chicken, walnuts). I made this last night and it'll last me for two days. I prefer to make my own lunch because it is much cheaper than trying to find something healthy around my office. I recently learned that I LOVE dried cranberries.
12:30 p.m. — I forgot to bring tea bags from home, so I have another coffee and a mango seltzer. I read the news again.
1 p.m. — Someone comes in the photo room to let us know there is pizza and french fries in the kitchen for someone's birthday. I recently started eating sugar again after six months of limiting it, so I pass on the birthday food. I know it'll end badly (poop-wise) if I overindulge at this point.
Advertisement
2:45 p.m. — I photograph and start retouching images of seven different products. We are starting to get a bunch of new samples for the second quarter of the year. I'm excited for the impending productivity. This is my first job out of grad school, and if I'm not super productive the monotony of adulthood starts eating at me.
4:15 p.m. — Time to go home! I head out for my second 70 minute commute of the day. I swipe my pre-paid MetroCard and continue listening to Comedy Bang Bang podcast.
5:30 p.m. — I open a hard seltzer and start on dinner. I get home earlier than my boyfriend, L., every day and I really enjoy cooking. Tonight I'm making stuffed bell peppers, one of L.'s favorites.
7 p.m. — I have been slowly moving into L.'s apartment by way of Uber and Lyft for the last few weeks, and I am almost finished. Because I opted to move only my small items, I sold all of my furniture in my old place and need to buy myself a dresser for L.'s place. I got a $200 vintage walnut dresser delivered yesterday from Craigslist, and I spend tonight folding and putting away bags of clothes that I moved last weekend. I have paid my $1,100 rent for the month of May, but starting in June, I will save almost $700 a month between rent and utilities by living with L. He makes over twice what I make, so I will pay $566 of the $1,700 rent for his one-bedroom, and he will pay $1,134.
10 p.m. — We spend the rest of the night watching Gentleman Jack and Chernobyl on HBO. I perform my bedtime routine (brush teeth, wash face, put on random face oils/moisturizers) while L. does the dishes and we hit the hay.
Daily Total: $0
Day Two
6:15 a.m. — Ugh. My alarm goes off and L. and I head to the gym. We have been slacking this week because on Sunday we went to Vampire Weekend's seven-hour show at Webster Hall, and it took a couple of days to recover. L. does weight training, and I row and hop on the elliptical.
7:10 a.m. — I shower while L. makes coffee. I put on marula oil, Drunk Elephant moisturizer, sunscreen, eyebrow gel, mascara, blush, and some red lipstick. I wear dark denim wide leg jeans and a yellow, long-sleeve shirt with a corduroy blazer and green suede boots.
8:10 a.m. — I head out for the 70 minute commute. Again, my train comes in one minute. Nice!
9:20 a.m. — Out of breath from taking the stairs to the sixth floor. I get coffee and water from the work kitchen and start my morning by reading the news. It is especially depressing today. I check my credit card account and see that I have $25 in rewards points. I have been thinking about using these points for a Glossier purchase, so I peruse the website a little before my coworkers get here.
11:05 a.m. — I pull the trigger and buy a Glossier set: Boy Brow and Generation G lipstick. It was $32.66, but I used $25 in CC reward points. I also remember that I forgot to take some meat out of the freezer for tonight's dinner. Darn. $7.66
12 p.m. — Lunch time! I finish the salad from yesterday. I browse some NYT Cooking recipes (free trial) for dinner inspiration. I realize, again, that I forgot to bring tea bags to work, so I make coffee instead. I also realize that I have a pimple on my chin. I ran out of face masks a while back, so I buy some Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay on Amazon ($10.95). I've used it once before and liked it — I'm hoping it gets rid of the clogged pores on my chin. $10.95
2:20 p.m. — Today has been pretty slow, work-wise. I text for a little while with long-distance best friend. I am going to see her in 16 days and I'm very excited. We used to live together, and she moved back to her home state right around the time I graduated from grad school, got my first full time job, and moved to a new neighborhood. I miss her a lot, and the quick succession of big transitions has been hard on me. I have been feeling pretty lonely, but thankfully, I am starting therapy again next week (after almost a year without it, due to losing my school insurance), so I think that will help.
4:30 p.m. — Leave work and and start on the commute home. I hit 7,000 steps today (not including the gym), which makes me feel accomplished.
5:45 p.m. — I get home and start on dinner: mung bean pasta (still working on introducing carbs back into my diet), sausage, broccoli, butter, onions, garlic, with a quick creamy sauce. I will pack the leftovers for L.'s lunch (I can't use the microwave at work because it's a kosher kitchen and I'm not kosher, so I will make myself a salad). L. starts on the laundry.
7 p.m. — We watch another episode of Chernobyl. It gives me a lot of body anxiety, imagining something invisible like radiation slowly poisoning you. We have some wine. L. folds the laundry.
9:30 p.m. — Wash face, brush teeth, and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $18.61

Day Three

7:10 a.m. — My second alarm goes off and I get up. I take a body shower, make coffee, dry shampoo my hair, and put on skin care items and make up. We listen to The Daily, then play a bit of R U Talkin' R.E.M. RE: ME, because Ezra Koenig is the guest this week. L. really likes Vampire Weekend.
8:10 a.m. — I head out to the train. It is late and the platform is packed.
9:20 a.m. — Take the stairs again, six flights. Whew. Grab some coffee and some ibuprofen because I have a headache. I read the news. No one is really in the office yet. Did I miss the memo?
12:10 p.m. — Lunch time. I brought a roasted-then-shredded chicken thigh, raw broccoli, and some mozzarella. I am craving sushi (haven't had it in eight months or so) and I Gchat L. and ask if he wants to go try some in our neighborhood tonight. We usually don't eat out on weeknights, but he agrees. We are trying to connect more with our neighborhood by going to new places.
4:30 p.m. — I spend the afternoon creating images for a French website. I have been thinking about this sushi all afternoon.
5:45 p.m. — I get home and L. is here! We start putting away the folded laundry from last night. I also see that my clay mask arrived. I order sushi and L. goes to pick it up, as well as a bottle of wine. He vocally requests $7 from me and I venmo him. $7
6:30 p.m. — The sushi is great. I put on the clay mask and we settle in. We watch some old GOT episodes and end up going to bed around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $7

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — It's Friday! We start the morning by going to the gym.
7:10 a.m. — We're back home, I shower while L. makes coffee. I dress in an orange sweatshirt and jeans. I'm not going into work today so I can finish moving the last of my things from my old place and into L.'s apartment. I don't wear makeup, but I do put on various moisturizers. I'm excited that my Glossier is scheduled to arrive today!
9 a.m. — I take the train to my old place and gather up a mirror, a box with a quilt and a pillow in it, an old portfolio, and a folding chair. Very random. I also go through the house and make sure I'm not leaving a bunch of things that my roommate will have to throw away. I call an Uber XL, and I'm slightly worried the driver will be annoyed because the mirror is long, but he is super nice. It costs $33.91, but L. has been splitting these moving Ubers with me since I am moving in with him, so he pays half. $17
10:45 a.m. — I get home and I feel such a release knowing all of my things are finally here — it has been hard living in two places. I spend time unpacking, washing all the bedding, and cleaning the house. I realize that I don't have enough quarters to dry the laundry, so I take my only cash ($1, lol) and go to a corner store to change it out for quarters. $1
12 p.m. — I head to the market to get a few odds and ends for the weekend. I got a lot of groceries on Monday, but I need some fresh veggies, and L. requested that I find his favorite hot sauce for him. I pick up a daikon radish, bunch of kale, Louisiana hot sauce, Zevia cream soda, and black bean spaghetti noodles. What I did not realize is that the six-pack of Zevia costs $9. Jeez. The total is $28, and I venmo request $14 from L. $14
2 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon food prepping and cooking. I make a batch of beans for L.'s lunches in the Instant Pot, bone broth in the Instant Pot, prep some hot wings for dinner tonight, peel and chop up the daikon to make "french fries" for the wings, boil some eggs for egg salad for my lunches next week, and wash and chop up the kale. I love doing this type of stuff. I feel really happy to be living here officially.
6:30 p.m. — L. gets home! We have some wine, wings, and watch The Good Fight. All is well in the world.
9:30 p.m. — We are both super tired from this week, so we head to bed.
Daily Total: $32

Day Five

8 a.m. — And I'm up! I start making coffee and L. moves from the bed to the couch. I start roasting more daikon radish that I prepped yesterday. The daikon radish became my potato substitute when I stopped eating sugar last year. If given the chance, I would eat potatoes for every meal, but I know we are going out tonight, and I will likely eat something heavy then. I make bacon and scrambled eggs too. Yum.
10 a.m. — I use the clay mask again, and this time I put it on my scalp too. I read in the reviews that it can get rid of build-up and curb irritation, but to my horror, it is extremely difficult to wash out in the shower. Whoops. I spray in some dry shampoo to try to soak it up. It is moderately effective. I put on some make-up, including the boy brow and lipstick from Glossier.
12 p.m. — I remember that tomorrow is Mother's Day and I order a cute birdhouse for my mom off of Amazon. $20.56
1 p.m. — L. and I go on a walk and stop by a discount store. We get a mason jar, some rubber bands, an extension cord, and dry erase markers. We split it, and I venmo L. $5
1:30 p.m. — L. is hungry again, so we walk a few blocks to this noodle place in our neighborhood. L. gets a beer and a bowl of beef noodles, and I get salty chicken wings, a papaya salad, and a watermelon margarita. I am excited for seasonal cocktails! I venmo him $18.50 for my share. $18.50
3 p.m. — We go back home and watch an episode of GOT. I eat some cheese, cucumbers, and a boiled egg. I get dressed in a plaid linen tank top and some vintage jeans with a white cardigan. I put on a new pair of yellow suede heeled sandals.
4:20 p.m. — We are meeting some friends at a marina in midtown, so we walk to the ferry. L. buys a can of wine on the way and we split it. He pays. He also already bought some ferry tickets last time we took it, and it seems we never activated them, so we do so now. It's just two stops to 34th Street and it's a much lovelier transit than the subway.
5:30 p.m. — A few times every summer, we go on this small yacht (more like a boat) with our friend group. It's pretty cheap ($30), and L. and I bought our tickets for it last week. We stop by an ATM first to get cash for the bar. We both take out $40. Our friends happen to be standing outside of the bank, so we walk to the boat together.
6 p.m. — We are on the boat for three hours, and L. drinks gin and tonics while I have wine ($40). It's probably the most fun I've had on the boat. There are snacks and I eat some cheese, bread with butter, and a cookie. We were going to go home after, but I'm having too much fun, and I don't want the night to end. Someone calls an Uber and we head to a bar in the East Village. I'm sure they will venmo charge me sometime within the next few days. $40
9:30 p.m. — We get to the bar, and I realize that I'm too drunk and I want food! Our friends want to stay at the bar, so L. and I head across the street to a pizza place. I get two slices (my eyes are larger than my stomach) while L. gets one. He pays, then calls an Uber to take us home. We hit the hay immediately.
Daily Total: $84.06

Day Six

7 a.m. — L. wakes up to go to a boot sample sale. He has been hyped about it for weeks. I sleep for another hour, then get up, shower, make coffee, and chew on some Tums. I don't feel *too* hungover. I watch the new Ted Bundy movie on Netflix. Dang, Zac Efron. I also end up cooking the rest of the daikon with sausage and scrambled eggs.
12 p.m. — L. gets home with two new pairs of boots. I'm happy for him and I'm content knowing that we are going to veg out for the rest of the day.
1 p.m. — I float the idea of getting Wingstop, and L. agrees. I love their fries. L. wants to get it delivered since it's raining, but it adds over $10 to the total, so he resigns to walking the three blocks to pick it up. He pays the $35 for the wings, and I order a few bottles of wine off of Minibar because I have a credit. I pay $21.37 for the wine. $21.37
1:30 p.m. — We eat the wings and watch the new episode of SNL. Then we move on to watching old episodes of GOT. At some point I clean the kitchen, and we split a bottle of wine.
9 p.m. — We veg out until the new episode of GOT is available, then get in bed after we finish it. L. reads aloud people's social media reactions to the new episode.
Daily Total: $21.37

Day Seven

7:10 a.m. — My alarm goes off, I put a kettle on and hop in the shower. I do my makeup and skincare routine, and put on some navy wide leg pants and a blue short-sleeved turtleneck. I make a quick lunch with egg salad, kale, and baby carrots since I was too tired to cook yesterday.
8:15 a.m. — I grab an umbrella and head out to conquer this rainy Monday. I had a really good weekend and I feel hopeful that my recent loneliness-induced-depression might be on its way out. I play Pokemon Go on the way to work, while listening to Crime Junkie and To Live and Die in LA.
9:30 a.m. — I go to the office kitchen and grab a water and a coffee and read the news while waiting for my coworkers to arrive. I chat with L. and our friend from college on Gchat about the GOT episode last night. They both have some strong opinions.
12:40 p.m. — I eat my lunch. It's kind of a sad lunch. I make an earl grey tea and work on retouching a set of watches. I get paid today, and I feel pretty solid about my finances at the moment. I also still am feeling very happy to have finished moving in with L. In April, I got paid five times since there were five Mondays in that month, and that's going to happen again in July. I'm going to visit my friend over Memorial Day, then in June I'm going to NOLA with L. and our friends from college. I feel a sense of optimism for the future today.
4:30 p.m. — I leave work! Cue the 70 minute commute. I wish the sun was out.
5:45 p.m. — I get home and start on dinner. I'm making roasted chicken thighs with brussels sprouts and cabbage. I cook an extra chicken thigh for my lunch salad tomorrow.
6:30 p.m. — L. gets home and we round out the night by watching old GOT episodes. He does the dishes and I make my salad for tomorrow. We have some tea because it's kind of chilly out tonight. We make plans to go to the gym in the morning and head to bed around 10.
Daily Total: $0
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.
Weddings are expensive. In 2018, the national average wedding cost in the US was $33,931. Sure, weddings are supposed to be the best day of your life, but how are you supposed to finance it? We want to know how YOU paid for your wedding. Please out this form for a chance to be featured in upcoming Refinery29 wedding stories!
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