A Week In Hudson County, NJ, On A $84,300 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a Speech Language Pathologist who makes $84,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on dog paw wax.
Occupation: Speech Language Pathologist
Industry: Education
Age: 30
Location: Hudson County, NJ
Salary: $77,000 base from the DOE, $4,000 from side job one, $1,300 side job two, and about $2,000 from side job three
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,981 after taxes, union dues, commuter pre-tax, TDA account, and pension taken out
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,400 for my half (includes amenity fees for pool, concierge, and gym)
Student Loans: $521 (I work in a Title 1 school, I'm halfway through Teacher Loan Forgiveness, I currently owe $25,300)
Dog Walker: $75-$90 (weekly)
Utilities: $40-$100
Optimum: $28 (for my half)
Netflix: $7 (for my half)
Stitch Fix: $50-$75 (I usually get one or two things each month)
Union Dues: $61 (deducted from paycheck)
Pension Contribution: $185 (and I contribute 4.5% extra to a TDA account — deducted from paycheck)
Commuter Card: $45/paycheck (deducted from paycheck)
Savings: I have about $5,000 in a mutual fund that I just started regularly making random contributions to, a Wealthfront account that has $2,500 but helps me understand the volatility of the market, and $5,000 in a CD. I have about $18,000 in a rainy day OSA and about $30,000 towards retirement in various places.

Day One

5:50 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I am shocked to open my eyes feeling well-rested. Melatonin, what is up. I snooze once or twice and start my routine. I wash my face with bar soap and Boscia coal cleanser. Coffee is preset so I hit the button. Lotion on face, basic makeup (I don't have a grown-up make up routine yet, most products are Almay or some other CVS brand).
6:35 a.m. — My normal routine involves cuddling my dog for five minutes but she is not interested in leaving her spot in the bedroom where my fiancé, R., sleeps, so I'm out the door a few minutes early. I bring a salad packed with leftover roasted veggies. I have a home health care patient after work so I bring my backpack for that along with my normal work bag. I feel like an Oompa Loompa with my coat and bags, and wonder how some ladies on the bus look so put together and elegant this early in this weather.
7:15 a.m. — Quick commute so I treat myself to a hot tea ($2 plus $1 tip) from the bodega near the elementary school (I am split between an elementary and middle school 2.5 days at each). Get to work and plan and organize a bit before students arrive at 8. As I work, I eat dry cereal from a bag I packed. $3
12:30 p.m. — The day has flown by. I get back from a classroom session and I'm locked out of my office because my three officemates all ran out to grab food and I didn't grab my keys. There are four of us in a room and it gets mighty noisy all holding speech-language sessions, but that is the life of a public school SLP. Many of us work out of closets, so I feel lucky enough. When they get back, I run out to grab a bag of honey BBQ chips and Snapple and go back to eat my salad. $2
2:20 p.m. — The kids leave. I stay to work on IEPs, Medicaid billing, and paperwork until 3:50. Then I jet out to my home healthcare patient on the Upper West Side: it's on the way home, so that's fun. Cool, there's a new pimple on my face and I will be entering their house in my snow boots. They should be excited to have me over.
4:15 p.m. — On the commute ($2.75 pre-paid Metrocard and pre-paid monthly bus pass), I miss my dog and feel bad that I'll be getting home late, so I watch videos of her playing in the snow for the first time last night. We adopted her over the summer (at age three) and she lived in a shelter in Tennessee so I don't think she ever saw snow before. She is the love of my life.
5:10 p.m. — I leave the patient's apartment. It was a good session and we made some good progress.
6 p.m. — Long, crowded trek home with all my bags. I arrive home and throw my things on the ground to immediately walk the dog. When I get back, R. is here. I tell him I have a boatload of work so we figure out dinner together (chicken, rice, veggie stir fry) and he cooks while I work and cuddle the babygurl (dog not real baby).
7:30 p.m. — We eat and I abandon my work. We watch an episode of West Wing. Our dog walker texts us about her concerns with all the salt hurting the dog's paws. I ordered some booties the other day but I get Mushers Secret on Amazon at her recommendation as well. $20.17
9:30 p.m. — Dog walk, shower, night routine of make up removal, Boscia face wash, and ELF night lotion. Bed around 11.
Daily Total: $25.17

Day Two

5:50 a.m. — I wake up exhausted. I know the next three days are nonstop so here goes nothing. I do my morning routine and cuddle with N. for five minutes while I sip some coffee. My hair is curly and getting dirty, but I can manage another day, so I smoosh some curling oil and gel in it (Aussie brand and Deva Curl are my favorites).
7:45 a.m. — I get to work, let's do this thing. Dry cereal down the hatch as I get my act together for the day.
11:45 a.m. — I have an absent student, so I scarf down the salad (lettuce and leftover chicken stir-fry components) I brought in while I try to prep my lessons for the afternoon. I'm busy all day at work and rarely sit down, but I'm lucky because I love my career. I'm one of those people who went to school for something really specific and it all worked out the way I hoped. I find joy in it every day, even when I'm stressed and the system is a trainwreck.
2:30 p.m. — I rush out the door once the students leave because I have a jam-packed afternoon.
2:45 p.m. — I realize I got on the wrong train and I have to transfer at Bryant Park. This adds ten minutes to my commute, and I've done it before too many times to count.
2:56 p.m. — I sprint off the train to catch the 3 p.m. bus before I realize there is no 3 p.m. bus. Coolcoolcool.
3:03 p.m. — I buy an impulse mango smoothie at Jamba Juice to make myself feel better about this commuter fail. $5
3:10 P.M. — The next bus is late. Every minute counts here people!
3:35 P.M. — Finally home, I take pup for a quick walk and ten-minute dog park romp. Did you need that much detail? Nope. But here we all are.
4:05 p.m. — I get ready to drive up to the NY suburbs for a presentation. I'm the president of a young professional volunteer group (a junior board for a nation wide nonprofit) working for greater millennial involvement in fighting dementia and Alzheimer's disease. We started meeting in March and it's been a huge time commitment. Mainly because meetings are up by my parents, since that's where I first got involved with the nonprofit. My mom has had Primary Progressive Aphasia, a form of dementia, since I was 23. The disease is progressing at a glacial pace, so my dad and I are long term caregivers. He's the real MVP but I make a lot of assists. My brother is out West, so my dad and I lean on each other a lot.
4:30 p.m. — I leave for the presentation. There's about $18 in tolls round trip, but I'm borrowing my dad's extra car, so he pays the tolls.
5:45 p.m. — I meet up with the two other young professionals participating in our presentation. We are presenting to the board of directors for the nonprofit about what we've done as a group. I exclaim over D.'s ring because she just got engaged to her girlfriend, and ask L. how she's feeling because she is five months pregnant. Man, life is happening. All three of us are dementia caregivers in some capacity so I'm very aware of how impactful that is for all of us as we try to establish our lives amid the chaos.
6:56 p.m. — The presentation went great! The board was super impressed, and rightfully so, we've worked our tails off. I call R. and head home.
8:15 p.m. — I get home and make myself a grilled cheese. R. is out with the pup on a walk. When they get home, we catch up and hang for a bit before I decide I need to collapse into bed.
Daily Total: $5

Day Three

5:50 a.m. — I wake up tired but feeling okay. Tonight, R. and I are going to a concert in Brooklyn with friends. Another hectic travel-filled day but all good things. Pack lunch, coffee, and cuddle N. for five minutes and I'm out the door around 6:45. On my commute I think about what on earth to get everyone in my life for Christmas.
7:40 a.m. I arrive to work and feel sort of out of it but it's a busy day so bring on the tiny children.
10:30 a.m. — I quickly eat my sad salad during my weird early lunch time before packing up and leaving to go to my other school. Thursdays are the day I need to split my day between both schools. I hate the way it disrupts my day, and I always feel out of the loop. But I avoid getting caught up in drama at each place so that's nice.
10:50 a.m. — I grab a cup of tea on my travel and lunch break $2 plus $1 tip $3
2:05 p.m. — The kids leave and I hang around for about an hour to work and plan. I need to catch up on my Medicaid documentation, but not today, Satan.
3:10 p.m. — I head out. Much smoother commute home than yesterday. My Metrocard is running low so I'll have to refill tonight on the way to Brooklyn for the concert.
3:45 p.m. — Home. I make a frozen waffle. I take N. on a long walk and try to exercise her and tire her out because we are out tonight. I never go out during the week for fun so I'm trying not to feel guilty about leaving her. We hang for a few hours while I vacuum, send a few emails, and get ready.
5:45 p.m. — I head out for the concert in Brooklyn. I refill my Metrocard. $40
6:45 p.m. — We arrive at Barclays and find our friends. Yay! We get food (chicken fingers and fries) and a beer for a whopping $30. Sometime else during the concert I get a round of drinks for $57 and drink four beers in total, which is unnecessary but here we are. $87
11:50 p.m. — It's over! I'm mentally debating taking my first ever mental health day from the DOE tomorrow, but I'll probably just call to say I'm running late. Oof. R. and I decide to subway and bus home because Ubers are... $80. Super nope.
1:30 a.m. — Home! I take the pup for a quick walk. It's so quiet and still out and I don't really mind the walk despite my exhaustion. Asleep by 2 a.m.
Daily Total: $130

Day Four

5:50 a.m. — Alarm. nope. I email the principal and secretary to say I will be late. I don't really fall back to sleep, but I snuggle in my covers and feel bad for R. as he leaves on time. You have permission to yell at me in the comments for being irresponsible. I get out of bed by 7:30 and am on the bus by 8:15.
9:15 a.m. — I get in and I've only missed one session that I should be able to make up next week. The day goes by smoothly but slowwwwly.
12:15 p.m. — I eat while chatting with the other middle school SLP and complaining about the challenges of our jobs. She's an awesome clinician. We both work really hard to provide evidence-based services and align it to the curriculum without any support from admin, plus having the schedule change constantly with push back from well-meaning teachers. It just feels like a losing battle.
2:05 p.m. — The kids leave. I work on my schedule with the other SLP for an hour. We had to change some of our groups around and so our whole schedule is on fire.
3:30 p.m. — I head out and scoot to my home care patient's apartment. He did well today and was much more verbal. His wife is such a great caregiver and clearly overwhelmed, I always can relate to caregivers and try to say things I would like to hear. I think healthcare providers forget that there is a relationship before caregiver and care-needer. Commenting on what they're doing right to help their loved one goes a very long way.
4:40 p.m. — I head out and realize I won't make it home before therapy to let out the pup. It's only an hour before R. will get back, so I text him to apologize for bad time management and ask him to take her out when he's home.
6 p.m. — I make it to therapy on time. It's a good session and I really really like my therapist. Third try was a charm after two not great clinicians. She's so great for making a space to talk about mostly mom-related things, like anticipatory grief (I think that's what they call it?) about grieving the loss of someone who is still alive. She also happens to help with everything else in life. It should cost $95, but I have a balance from some insurance reimbursement, which is SUPREME. So I don't have to pay.
6:45 p.m. — Some of R.'s friends will be coming over tonight. I had initially planned to go see a friend, but I rescheduled because of the 2 a.m. bedtime last night. The group that's coming over is fun so I don't mind, although I'd be lying if I didn't want to fall asleep watching Christmas movies quietly tonight.
7:30 p.m. — R. orders pizza and wings for us before his friends arrive and he pays.
1:30 a.m. — About four beers and two pizza slices later I'm out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

10 a.m. —R. walks N. around 7 a.m. and I am dead to the world. I get up at 10. We take our time getting ready for the day. I eat leftover pizza for breakfast and we talk about looking for wedding venues. R. is a little more into the planning than I am, but it's good that he gets the ball rolling. I didn't think it would feel so taboo, but I've never pictured a big fancy wedding and it's annoying that it's all anyone wants to talk about. So many of my friends have gotten married recently, and I sat through their wedding-obsessive time with a smile on my face. And now it feels like everyone wants to project what they wished they could've done onto me. It's really sweet that R. is so into it though. Eff gender norms, he can plan the thing!
12 p.m. — Lazy morning comes to an end and I start cleaning. This is long overdue, and we usually get this done by putting on some music and tackling whatever needs cleaning for a few hours. I do the floors, our closet space, change sheets, and wash the duvet. He does the kitchen and bathroom. Quick break to walk the pup. Side note: We moved in together about a year ago and I had a lot of commitment fears. Most notably, my mom worked full-time, raised us, and cleaned the house all on her own. My dad is an amazing spouse and caregiver, but he had no idea how to take over and run the house. For example, he had no clue she cleaned out the old food from the fridge each week. It took weeks of stinky food before we figured out that she had stopped. Each chore was so effortful for him to learn. So with my own relationship, it's been super important to me that we both know how to do everything in the house, with the bills, etc. I just refuse to singlehandedly carry that mental load like she did.
2:30 p.m. — We decide we deserve a lunch date. We shower and head to a spot about ten minutes away. I get red wine and he gets a beer. We split a pasta dish and Brussels sprouts since they only have their dinner menu and we don't need a full dinner now. I pay $63.58 with tip. $63.58
4 p.m. — We stop off to get beer to bring tonight for Friendsgiving and cookies/brownies/more cookies for tonight and tomorrow's plans. $30 for the cookies, R. covers the beer. $30
5:45 p.m. — We get home and I realize I never wrote my session note from home healthcare yesterday so I do that quickly. We decide to pop over to the building holiday party since we have some time and there's a #openbar. It ends up being really fun and impressive. We stay for a drink and head back to our apartment. One more doggie walk and we head out.
7 p.m. — I drive us to our friend's place for Friendsgiving. She is the ultimate host. We both decided we didn't want it to be a late night, but R.'s having too much fun. I start to worry about the dog, plus I'm sick of talking about weddings. Every woman there is engaged, recently married, or about to get engaged. I just wish there was one meaningful conversation about work or family or hobbies or literally anything other than invitations, venues, videographers, etc. Is that so much to ask? I have a beer and a half, but I'm driving so I nurse it.
9:30 p.m. — My wish for non-wedding conversation comes true and I remember to be careful what you wish for. I get trapped in a conversation about politics with a conservative person who is a little too young (25) and privileged to have any meaningful discussion with. I ask R. to head out, so he finishes his game of pong and we leave around 11.
11:30 p.m. — Home and R. takes the doggie out. When he gets back, we put on Love Actually and I have a glass of whiskey since I drove us home and could use another bev. Lights our halfway through the movie around 12:30.
Daily Total: $93.58

Day Six

8:50 a.m. — Up and taking the pup out for a walk. Feeling tired, but good overall.
9:45 a.m. — I decide I want to cook something for breakfast and we have almost no food. I get the muffin tin and put together eggs, tomato, leftover chicken, avocado, and cheese to bake little egg bite things. I serve R. and myself with coffee and we relax a bit.
12:30 p.m. — I walk the dog again and we head out to a family friend's house for an early dinner. She is my mom's BFF from growing up and probably recognizes how my mom can't celebrate the engagement how she once would have, so she has invited us over for an early dinner. It's up by my parents so it's another hour in the car. We drop the dog at my parents' house and play with her a bit in their fenced-in yard that she loves before we all head over. $15 tolls in R.'s car so he pays it with EZ pass.
2:30 p.m. — It's a fun evening with their family (her daughter and her husband are there too and I adore them. She's expecting, which is very exciting!). They treat us like guests of honor and it's so sweet. We really haven't had a day of celebration since we got engaged in October, other than the day of. As much as I complain about the wedding industry brainwashing all of my friends, I am very excited for this chapter. We eat a ton and I have two glasses of wine. We head out around 6.
7 p.m. — Back to my parents, grab the pup, play for a bit, and head home. I chat with dad about some plans for mom's care. I watched her take a shower last week because her hygiene is fading. She managed fine on her own, but we are monitoring these things. Those mother-daughter boundaries blur real fast with diseases like this.
7:55 p.m. — Home and drop off the pup. R. reminds me that we need to grocery shop and we almost definitely won't do it if we don't go tonight. Ugh, he's right and it's annoying.
8:15 p.m. — Off to the store. We buy a hefty haul which includes ingredients for stuffed peppers, ingredients for shrimp tacos, breakfast foods, salad mix, tomatoes, broccoli, Swiffer refills, bathroom cleaner, bacon, popcorn, seltzer, milk, eggs, turkey meat, and a few other odds and ends. I pay for the total $130.54. It's a lot, but we usually just alternate and it's my turn. $130.54
9 p.m. — Home and we decide to veg out for another hour. We have sex and call it a night. Whew, that was a busier than average weekend but I didn't spend a ton of money so hey, I'll take it.
Daily Total: $130.54

Day Seven

5:50 a.m. — Up and snooze. I get up, do my morning routine with pup cuddles and coffee. Hair in a braid because that's all I've got for you, Monday.
7 a.m. — I catch a super late bus. Pouring rain. Will I be late? Tbd. I eat some dry cereal and a banana as I walk throughout the commute.
7:55 a.m. — I waltz in five minutes before being officially late. Quickly look over my plans and start the day.
10:30 a.m. — I reply to a few emails about the young professional nonprofit group between sessions. We have a meeting tomorrow for a committee and a board meeting video call on Thursday so there's a lot of balls in the air this week.
12:30 p.m. — The day goes by quickly and I head to the bodega for Snapple and a small bag of honey BBQ chips to go with my lunch of a packed salad with leftover egg muffins from Sunday chopped up. Shrug emoji about that. $2
4:15 p.m. — I head out and see emails from the nonprofit have piled up again. My liaison to the nonprofit, F., asks if we can chat by phone tonight to touch base. I'm busy with tutoring plus it would be lovely to get some gym time in. I tell her I don't have much time, but offer a quick chat. That's as close as I can get to setting boundaries for myself/saying no these days. I know I'm going to make time for the call and then spend the entire evening working and on the phone for my various jobs. My brain is just fried trying to find balance. Anyone else a member of the over-committers anonymous?
5 p.m. — I'm home and take the dog out immediately. It's raining so she's hiding under things to stay dry. She ensures the walk is quick and I am not complaining.
5:30 p.m. — I have my call with F. We chat for a half-hour about the upcoming meetings and try to make some plans.
6:10 p.m. — R. comes home and we quickly say hello as I get ready for a virtual tutoring. I spend 45 minutes with both of the students so I'm on from 6:30-8. Once I get off, I immediately throw together dinner. Frozen shrimp tacos, and the seafood is as fresh as it sounds. I'm here to say they ain't bad though.
8:45 p.m. — After dinner, R. offers to walk the dog for the night walk (he does morning, I do afternoon and night) since I was hoping to get a quick jog in to clear out my brain. I go down to our gym and feel much better.
10:30 p.m. — Bedtime routine, shower, reading on my phone until about 11 when lights are out.
Daily Total: $2
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