A Week In New York City On An $85,500 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.
Today: a server at a five-star testaurant who makes $85,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on Lean Cuisines.
Occupation: Server at a Five-Star Restaurant
Industry: Hospitality
Age: 29
Location: New York, NY
Salary: ~$85,500
Paycheck Amount: Slightly varies, but $4,180 was my exact take-home pay last month. Some background: I'm a lead server, so I have a higher base pay than other servers since I'm half managing, half serving. All tips are given via paycheck (with tax taken out because of the nature of having it pooled). It varies week-to-week, but my base pay is $19/hour, which comes to around $650-$700/week pre-tax, depending on the hours. The rest of my income is tips — but isn't always evenly distributed. I get paid bi-weekly for base pay and dining room tips. We have a bar/lounge area that I also work in, and they are on a weekly pay schedule.
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Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,700 (I live alone for the first time. I'm too old to deal with roommates.)
Student Loans: $712 (This is taken directly from my paycheck through wage garnishment. I have $220,000 worth of private student loans which ballooned with interest, and a monthly minimum payment of over $2,000. I can't keep up with payments, so I'm in default and they take 10% of my gross pay. TBH, I don't mind it that much. It's better than paying $2,000 into a bottomless pit.)
Health Insurance: $150
Commuter Benefits: $121
Utilities: $80
Wifi: $45
Subscriptions: $30
Phone: $99
Ipsy: $10
Credit Card: $500 (I accrued $7,400 in credit card debt when I first graduated and tried to keep up with my loan payments. Now I'm down to $1,250. No interest, though, thanks to balance transfer).
Savings: $100 (I'm currently trying to build up an emergency fund. I only have $1,300 in one now.)
401(k): $700 with 3% company match. (This reduces how much they can garnish.)
Annual Expenses: I usually end up owing a little in taxes each year. Last year it was an additional $2,000. (I haven't received this year's bill yet, though.)

Day One

10 a.m. — I start my day by watching hours of 90 Day Fiancé. I'm behind on season six. Can't wait for the tell-all. Larissa is crazy.
12:30 p.m. — I place a Seamless order for vegetable spring rolls, drunken noodles with shrimp, and a ginger ale. $23.57
2 p.m. — I'm eating and chatting with a couple guys from Tinder and Bumble. One guy says he's from New York in his profile but is actually moving here in two months. For some reason, I'm annoyed he lied in his bio, so I unmatch him.
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4 p.m. — Haven't found anyone interesting today but I've been talking to a guy, E., from Bumble for a while now, so I text him to see if he's around. We plan for drinks at 8. We've met up for coffee a couple times, but our schedules have never synced up for a date date because as a server, I never have work off Thursday through Saturday. And as a 9-to-5er, he can't usually have a late night date during the week. I requested today off for a concert that I ended up changing my mind about, though, so we can finally meet up for a real date. I spend a few more hours watching Hulu before getting ready around 6:30.
8 p.m. — E. and I meet at a bar near his apartment that I've never been to before. We have a few drinks, and I mention the new Marvel movie coming out. Turns out, he's Marvel-obsessed and he takes me through comic book history. It's kinda cute, but I'm going to need a couple more drinks. At the end of the night, he picks up the tab.
Daily Total: $23.57

Day Two

10 a.m. — I wake up at E.'s apartment. I guess the comic book thing worked out for him...and me :). He doesn't have to go into work today, so we spend the day together.
10:30 a.m. — E. makes us breakfast: omelets with milk and cheese, and asks if I wanted to stick around or go home, a question I find very awkward. I say I'd like to spend the day with him, but I don't feel very fresh and want to shower. He hands me a towel, and I ask him to run to Duane Reade to buy me a pack of granny panties while I get ready, since I don't want to wear last night's pair all day while we're out and about. He looks at me like I'm from Mars, but hey, if we're close enough to hook up, we're close enough for you to go on an underwear run for me. I give him $10 in cash and don't bother asking for change. $10
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12 p.m. — E. and I end up walking around his neighborhood downtown, which I'm not too familiar with since I hail from the Upper East Side. We pop in and out of shops and he tells me a little history of the area — he's so proud of it, you wouldn't guess he just moved here nine months ago.
3 p.m. — After two train transfers, I'm finally home. I have to be at work at 4, so I rush to change, steam my uniform, and grab a granola bar for the trip. E. texts me saying he hopes I have a good shift and to try to hook him up with a reservation. I work at a five-star restaurant that usually takes at least a couple weeks of waiting to get into.
6 p.m. — I'm training a new server who isn't new to the industry but is new to our restaurant. She's really excited to work here since our company gives better benefits, and she's clearly eager to please. She trails behind me for the rest of the night.
12 a.m. — Finally home. I have a washer/dryer in unit, so I run some laundry and grab Breyers cookies and cream ice cream from the freezer and a can of whipped cream. I text E. to see if he's awake and wants to go for a drink, and he's game. I ask him to make the trek to the UES and try to guilt him with the fact that I worked late today. After a few cheeky texts, he tells me he's on his way.
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1 a.m. — We go to The Penrose but I have a drink at home first so I can just buy one drink and sip on it instead of three to get a buzz. I order a vodka tonic, and E. gets a beer with a shot, a special they have going, and another shot after that. We start telling stories about our childhoods, and I tell him about my multiple degrees that led to no real passion. I realized I was going to school as a filler since I was always a good student, but didn't actually find what I wanted to do in school. I really enjoy what I do now — it's just a shame I had to go get all this debt first. C'est la vie.
3 a.m. — He ends up covering the whole tab – lame, I could've gotten two drinks. Le sigh. He comes home with me but we don't hook up because I'm exhausted. He jokes that he expects fresh boxers waiting for him in the morning from Duane Reade. We laugh and go to bed.
Daily Total: $10

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up to pee and find E. on the couch scrolling through random shows on my smart TV on mute. I tell him he can watch a show if he wants – I'm a VERY heavy sleeper. I pee and go back to bed and he joins me with the TV still on, this time with the volume on. I turn my back to him and he keeps his hand on my hip. I like him.
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9 a.m. — Now I'm awake but E. is asleep. I don't wake him up. I switch out my laundry and pray my clothes don't smell, since I let them sit for hours. They don't smell, but they don't not smell. I put in extra dryer sheets. Then I make myself a bowl of Cheerios with almond milk and and cut-up banana.
10:30 a.m. — E. wakes up, and I ask him if he wants breakfast. He says no but wants coffee, so I make him some. He's not pleased when he sees I only have almond milk. I don't even like almond milk that much, but I've never been able to buy regular milk that didn't have an expiration date in three days, so I gave up. I let him use my toothbrush because that sorta thing doesn't gross me out, and he takes a shower while his coffee is brewing.
2:30 p.m. — E. heads out after we lounge around, and I nap until 2:30 before getting ready to head to work. I bring a change of clothes because I have drinks with another Bumble guy, G. (Sorry E., he and I planned it last week when we had only had coffee!)
5 p.m. — Work is busy as usual, and I'm still training the new server.
12 a.m. — I change and decide to leave my work clothes at work for the night so I don't have to lug them around. G. and I go to a comedy show that starts at 12:30. It's late, so it should be a raunchy one! He bought the tickets in advance and told me it was his treat.
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1:30 a.m. — The show is over, and G. wants to head over to a nearby bar, so we do. We both order a couple drinks and I pick up the tab, since he got the comedy tickets. He's a little self-absorbed and keeps telling me about his undergrad accomplishments and athletic record. Bro. We're both almost 30. Time to switch up your strategy. I'm out of there after the second round and don't plan on seeing him again. $45.50
3 a.m. — Off the train and home. I text E. a dancing girl emoji and ask him if he's free tomorrow. He starts typing immediately but then stops and doesn't respond. I suppose that's karma for going out with another guy.
Daily Total: $45.50

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up, make some coffee and eggs with spinach and Swiss cheese, clean up the apartment, and put folded laundry away. I spend the day watching reruns of Happy Endings while browsing through FreshDirect. I schedule my next grocery delivery of Lean Cuisines, frozen chicken strips, frozen salmon, frozen spinach, frozen cheesy broccoli, minute rice, bread, chocolate treats, condiments, these oatmeal cookie sandwiches I grew up eating, yogurt, chai latte K-cups, and coffee K-cups. After a glance at my card, I decide to add some soup, too. After driver tip, my total comes to $160
1 p.m. — I double text E. (gasp). I tell him I'm heading into work soon and to let me know if he's free before his upcoming trip to see his family next weekend. He responds almost immediately apologizing for not responding last night and says he was asleep. I decide not to call him out on him opening my text. He follows up by saying he's free tonight, but something about yesterday makes me want to have a few more PG dates with him. Starting to feel a little like a booty call. I tell him I'll be too tired after work, but I'm up for drinks on Monday. He agrees.
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3 p.m. — On my way to work wearing my freshly steamed uniform. I stop by Dunkin' Donuts and get two Wake-Up Wraps with turkey sausage. Then I hop on the train for work. $2.12
8 p.m. — On break, I check my phone and find that E. texted me. He REALLY wants to see me tonight. I decline and ask him if Monday drinks still works. Back to work.
12 a.m. — Home! I'm tempted to see E., but I have to set my boundaries. Instead, I FaceTime my mom. I wake her up, but she doesn't mind. We chat until 1 and then I soak in a bubble bath with a glass of wine to loosen up before bed. I've had trouble sleeping lately, and apparently a warm soak helps.
Daily Total: $162.12

Day Five

10 a.m. — I wake up and stay in bed on Twitter/Insta/Hulu taking on-again, off-again naps until late afternoon. I munch on snacks throughout the day.
4:30 p.m. — Getting ready for drinks with E. at 6! I take a shower, put on some makeup, and toss on jeans and a sweater.
8 p.m. — Drinks are fun, and I'm really reminded that I like him. Tipsy me asks him to go out on Valentine's Day even though it's way too early for that AND I have to work on V-Day anyway. He laughs and reminds me that I am in fact working, but we make plans to celebrate Tuesday or Wednesday. Not convinced it'll happen though.
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12 a.m. — Home and in bed. I wish he wasn't so particular about not spending the night out of his apartment on work days. I pass out almost immediately.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

11 a.m. — Awake. Browse social media and watch Hulu and Netflix while lounging in bed. I browse e-books, too, but can't find anything I want to dive into right now.
2 p.m. — Going to yoga. I'm on a free ClassPass month trial. I won't renew because the credit system is way too confusing. (I can't help but feel like I'm getting ripped off when the same class fluctuates in price.) I'll rent a mat. $2
4 p.m. — Back from yoga. I browse through Bumble since E. hasn't texted me to hang out today. Not looking for a date, just trying to pass time.
6 p.m. — I go to a friend's apartment downtown, and we chat over homemade cocktails. We keep on Beauty & the Briefcase as mindless background TV while we talk.
9 p.m. — E. texts me, but I'm having too much fun with my friend. He asks if I'm up for a V-Day celebration tomorrow, and I say yes, but he doesn't tell me what he has in mind. I'm home and in bed by midnight.
Daily Total: $2

Day Seven

10 a.m. — Awake doing nothing. I'm not a morning person.
12 p.m. — Yoga again. Another $2 mat. I also pick up a water bottle on my way to class for $3. $5
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2 p.m. — Back from yoga. I check in with E. and we plan to meet at his apartment at 7.
6 p.m. — Heading out! I look a little nicer than usual since it's for V-Day, but I hope I'm not overdressed. I have a cardigan over my dress to hide under in case I did go a little over the top.
7:30 p.m. — E. has dinner reservations for us at 8:30, and we have some drinks beforehand. He bought my favorite Cava, which is really sweet. Dinner is great, and we go to a bar after.
12 a.m. — We're back at his place, and he's breaking his no sleepover on a work day rule for the occasion. I spend the night and offer to Venmo him for half of the festivities since he paid for everything, but he says not to worry about it, and I can foot the bill next time.
Daily Total: $5
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