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A Week In Brooklyn On $10,596 Severance

Photo: Courtesy of Cheez-its.
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.

Today: an unemployed news producer collecting $10,596 in severance who spends some of her money this week on Cheez-Its.

Occupation: Producer
Industry: News
Age: 31
Location: Brooklyn
Salary: $0 (I made $96,300 until I was laid off a month ago. I’m collecting two months severance, which adds up to $10,596. It runs out at the end of the month.)
Net Worth: $49,353 (high-yield savings: $18,500; 401(k): $27,969; checking: $2,884)
Debt: $0 (I’ve already decided that I will let some credit card debt accumulate once my severance ends.)
Severance (2x/month): $2,649 (I have one month of payments left.)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,300 (for a one-bedroom apartment.)
Phone: $0 (graciously covered by my mother.)
Internet: $94.98
Utilities & Electricity: ~$130
Orangetheory Fitness: $187.73
Streaming Subscriptions: $30.11 (Paramount+, Peacock, and Prime Video. I use my family’s accounts for the others.)
Raya: $19.99
LinkedIn Premium: $39.99

Annual Expenses
Whitney Membership: $126
New York Magazine: $60
Tampa Bay Times: $124.10

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 absolutely an expectation that my siblings and I would attend college. My mother, who was single, set up a college fund for each of us. Florida also has a scholarship program called Florida Bright Futures that covers a portion of tuition and expenses if you meet certain academic standards and go to school in-state. My mother made it very clear that we were to qualify for that and keep the funding throughout university.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom did her best to educate us about finances, but I still wish she taught us more. She covered the basics, like getting us bank accounts and starter credit cards and teaching us all about balancing a checkbook and monitoring our savings. I still wish we had more conversations about incomes specifically. She always encouraged us to do what made us happy, and I love her for that, but I also wish she pushed me a bit more, especially when I decided to get an English degree and be a writer. I’m often jealous of my friends whose parents made them study business or finance or medicine knowing those fields would provide more reliable incomes.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job at a local smoothie shop when I was a senior in high school. I wanted extra money for going out with my friends but quit after six months because I didn’t like waking up early or working on weekends.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried about money growing up. My father was always on the poor side, and I remember worrying about him, especially around the holidays, but I didn’t live with him or see him often. My mom provided for us pretty well. I’d classify us as upper-middle class. For instance, I always had new clothes at the start of the school year but I had to share a car with my sister, and we ate out a lot but not at fancy restaurants.

Do you worry about money now?Yes. I was laid off a month ago and am already worried about paying rent once my severance ends at the end of this month. Even before that, I worried a lot about not having enough savings, never being able to buy a home, or afford children if I end up having any.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My mom let me live with her for a year after college and then gave me money to jump start my career and move to New York City. At 24, I paid her back and have held a decent salaried job ever since... Until now, that is. I’m optimistic that I will find a new job soon, but my mother would step in to help me if I asked her.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I got a little bit of money when my grandparents died, around $25,000 total. My mother will occasionally send me money (usually between $200 and $1,000).

Day One

7 a.m. — I slept with my bedroom door open, and the sunlight wakes me up early. Since I was laid off, there’s no reason for me to get out of bed yet, so I scroll through TikTok for an hour until the need for caffeine drags me out. I make an iced latte using my Nespresso and open my laptop to look for jobs. The stress is starting to get to me. It’s been one month since my last day of work, and I have no leads.
11:30 a.m. — I skip breakfast, and my stomach starts to growl. As I try to save money, I’ve started to feel guilty about eating meals when I’m not truly hungry, so I often put them off until the gurgling noises start. In my mind, skipping meals equals saving money. I grab a yogurt from my fridge and skimp on granola, only adding half of what I usually sprinkle on.
2 p.m. — After submitting a few applications, I try to watch Gilmore Girls and realize I’ve been kicked out of my family’s Netflix due to the crackdown on password sharing. I upgrade our family plan to include my apartment, which will be an extra $7.99 dollars a month. My mom will never notice it on the bill.
5 p.m. — I can’t afford to do anything fun so I do one of my favorite free activities: a walk in the park. I usually buy myself a beverage on these walks. A Diet Coke, maybe a Poppi, whatever speaks to me at the bodega, but this time I skip it.
6:30 p.m. — I get a notification from my Chipotle app offering me free chips and queso and decide to stop on my way home from the park to use it. I also order a burrito bowl with chicken and extra rice and beans. That will be two meals for me, so I don’t feel bad about spending the money (girl math). $12.63
8 p.m. — To fend off boredom, I swipe on Bumble and re-match with T., a guy I went on a date with a year ago. He really liked me, but I wasn’t into it. I start the convo and hope that he’ll offer to take me out for dinner or drinks this week.
Daily Total: $12.63

Day Two

7:20 a.m. — I wake up and scroll TikTok before freshening up, making my iced latte, and changing from pajamas to workout clothes just to feel productive. I scour LinkedIn for more jobs and submit a few more applications. I’m paying for LinkedIn Premium, which lets me message people I’m not connected with, so I also DM a few recruiters and hiring managers.
12 p.m. — The latte holds me over remarkably well, and I don’t even notice I haven’t eaten until noon. I make a fat turkey sandwich for lunch and wish I had splurged on chips or crackers at the grocery store last week.
1 p.m. — T., the guy from Bumble, finally messages me back and already suggests a date. I know I won’t like him any more this time around, but he was fun enough to hang out with, and he’ll pay for whatever we do, so I agree, and we make plans to meet at a brewery tonight. I have other matches now, too, so I send out a few messages.
4 p.m. — While going through my recent credit card transactions I notice a charge for my streaming subscription to Peacock. It’s not expensive, $6.81, but I can’t even think of one show that I watch on Peacock so I quickly go to my account and cancel it.
7 p.m. — My stomach starts growling again, but I know the beer at the brewery will fill me up, so I suffer through getting ready. I already know I don’t like T., so I put in half the effort I normally would. Bonus points for saving my makeup and hair product!
7:30 p.m. — The brewery is in my neighborhood, so luckily I don’t have to pay subway fare. I order an IPA and catch up with T. When the check comes, I do the awkward reach for my wallet move, but T. insists on paying. Pre-layoff, I would offer pretty aggressively to split the bill on a date, mostly because I hate feeling like I owe my dates anything. I can tell that T. is expecting a kiss or something when we say our goodbyes, so I give him one and thank him for the drinks. I head back home with the slightest of buzzes.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — Tragedy strikes again when I wake up to an email receipt for an auto-renewal of my Tampa Bay Times subscription. I’ve been subscribed to the paper for years and love supporting local journalism, but $124.10 for a yearly subscription is a lot for me right now. I login online to cancel but it says I have to call to request a refund and, well, I’m just too lazy to do that. I at least turn off auto-renewal.
8:30 a.m. — I get out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, and change from pajamas to workout clothes in hopes that it will make me feel productive again. I end up on my couch scrolling through TikTok. I follow up on my Bumble messages over an iced latte and yogurt with granola. Two of the guys have asked to hang out tomorrow. One wants to meet up at 6 p.m. and the other at 10 p.m., so I say yes to both. I don’t usually double book, but they suggested the same neighborhood, so I’ll save subway fare.
9:30 a.m. — I spend the rest of the morning — you guessed it — applying for jobs. No one talks about how exhausting it is to tweak your resume for every single application and write cover letters. Applying for jobs is starting to feel like a full-time job.
1 p.m. — I eat my leftover Chipotle while standing in my kitchen assessing my pantry and fridge. They’re pretty full from a recent trip to Costco, but I desperately need produce. I walk to the grocery store and am elated to be outside in crisp, fall weather. I don’t like to spend so much time in my apartment, especially since I live alone, but I’ve been forcing myself to stay inside as much as possible. Anyone who lives in NYC knows that just stepping outside means spending at least $20, and I’m obviously trying to avoid doing that. In summary: This errand feels like a treat. I buy four apples, asparagus, bok choy, romaine lettuce, five bananas, granola, vanilla soy milk, dish soap, and hand soap. I decide at the last minute to buy Cheez-Its to go with the sandwiches I’ve been making and then regret it when they ring up for $7 a box. I remind myself to start looking at the prices on the shelves. $45.34
2 p.m. — I eat a handful of Cheez-Its after unpacking my groceries and get right back to the job search. For the first month, I only applied to jobs I actually wanted. I even had a few promising interviews. Unfortunately, none of those opportunities panned out, and I’ve had to rethink my approach. Now, I apply for anything I’m even remotely qualified for and have submitted a total of 62 applications (I keep track of them all in a spreadsheet). This time, nothing jumps out at me, probably because I've applied to everything under the sun already, so I turn on Netflix and watch a few episodes of Gilmore Girls.
7:30 p.m. — I go to the kitchen and boil water for ramen. One of the worst parts about unemployment is how much I have to cook. I always ate out when I had my job, but it’s too expensive to do that now, so I’m finally putting my kitchen to use. I’ve probably used it more in the last month than I have in the two years I’ve lived in this apartment. I also sauté the bok choy I bought earlier with sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic. I end up with a pretty decent dinner, which I enjoy while watching Survivor, my guilty pleasure. I decide during this episode that I’m going to root for Kaleb.
9 p.m. — I do the dishes and crawl into bed early, exhausted from doing almost nothing all day.
Daily Total: $45.34

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I’ve been waiting for today! Finally, more gym credits hit my account, and I can sign up for a class. I go to Orangetheory Fitness but only pay for eight classes a month. I wish I could splurge on the unlimited membership but I couldn’t even bring myself to spend that much before I was laid off. It’s almost $300 a month! My limited membership is discounted a little thanks to a founder’s rate, but I still cringe thinking about how much it is. I schedule a class for noon.
11:30 a.m. — I change into leggings and a sports bra and have a pre-workout drink while I get my laundry together to drop off at the laundromat. I love my apartment, but it has zero amenities, not even a washer or dryer. That’s pretty standard in NYC, but I was hoping to at least have laundry in the building by the time I turned 31. The lady at the laundromat weighs my load. It’ll be $28.40 for 23 pounds.
1:15 p.m. — After my class, I shower and change into a different set of workout clothes — the productivity continues. I take some clothing I was planning to donate to a consignment shop to sell instead. I wander around the shop and talk to my sister on the phone while the clerk goes through my stuff. In the end, they only take one jacket in exchange for a whopping $5 in cash or $9 in store credit. I find a pair of earrings I like while browsing and use the store credit on them. After tax, I owe $0.92. $0.92
2 p.m. — I come home starving and eat another turkey sandwich and a heaping pile of Cheez-Its.
4 p.m. — I start getting ready for my double-header of dates. I’m meeting the first date at a wine bar. I do the whole nine yards: hair, makeup, a cute outfit and so on, simply because it gives me something to do. Once I’m ready, I take the subway and use Apple Pay to swipe in because there are too many cops at the station to slide in through the exit door. $2.90
6:20 p.m. — I arrive before him, which annoys me considering I’m 20 minutes late, and wait for him outside to avoid ordering and putting my card down for a drink. When he shows up, I find out he doesn’t drink anyway. I order a glass of orange wine, and he insists on paying even though I have my card out and ready. When I finish my drink, he asks if I want to go to his apartment to “check out the view.” I still have almost three hours before my second date and I know that I’ll end up spending money if I don’t have something to do, so I say sure. To my surprise, he actually does have a great view, and we just end up talking on his roof.
10 p.m. — I was hoping to be more buzzed for the next date. When I arrive, he’s already at the bar, so I join him and order a vodka soda. He asks for it to be put on his tab. He’s kind of a dud, but I always stick it out for at least one whole drink. He suggests we play some of the games scattered around the bar and chooses Big Buck Hunter. I hate this game but I play along. After a few rounds, he runs out of ones and asks if I have cash. I begrudgingly donate $2 to our hunt. When we finish our drinks, he says he’s tired and closes out his tab, and I don’t mind. I’m debating whether to subway or cab home when he offers to get me an Uber. I tell him that really isn’t necessary, but he insists because it’s so late. Sold! $2
12 a.m. — I debate ordering Taco Bell on my way home (this is 100% what I would do if I still had a job) but decide against it and eat a few more Cheez-Its before going to bed.
Daily Total: $5.82

Day Five

10 a.m. — I don’t know how I slept in this late. I’m an early riser, even on days when I’m hungover! And after only two drinks I’m not even that. I make an iced latte and eat yogurt with granola before signing on to LinkedIn and perusing the new job listings.
11:30 a.m. — I run out of jobs to apply for so I switch the TV on and let Gilmore Girls play in the background while I clean my apartment. I scrub the toilet, shower, and bathroom sink with bleach, clean my kitchen, dust, and vacuum. After all that, I feel accomplished enough and plop down on the couch to rest before I remember that I need to pick up my laundry.
1 p.m. — My laundromat is right across the street, so I throw a hoodie over my pajamas and run to pick it up. It’s $28.40, and I give her $30 and tell her to keep the change. It’s a pretty shitty tip, but I always let them keep the change, and they end up with way more than 20% or 25% when I don’t have small bills. I know them pretty well, so I like to think they realize this, too. $30
1:15 p.m. — I come back home, make macaroni and cheese and finish off the Cheez-Its. I wish I had a Diet Coke or something bubbly, but refrain from going to the bodega to buy one.
4 p.m. — I get two texts from friends asking what I’m doing tonight. It’s pretty typical for me to go out for dinner and drinks on Friday nights and drop $200 or $300. I have a birthday party for my friend over the weekend that will set me back, so I lie to both of them and say I already have plans. They know I’ve been laid off, but I’m not comfortable telling them I can’t afford to go out just yet. They’ll probably see me at home on Find My Friends later and know I lied but they won’t care. An evening with Lorelai and Rory it is.
7 p.m. — I’ve been sitting on my couch scrolling on social media while Gilmore Girls plays in the background for hours now and I’m so bored. I entertain myself by cooking. I’m not a chef, and everything I cook comes partially prepared, but it’ll take up an hour at least. I roast asparagus and make chicken meatballs in marinara sauce. The meal makes me miss the nice restaurants I used to go to for Italian food.
8:30 p.m. — With nothing else to do, I turn to the dating apps for entertainment. I go through my recent likes on Hinge, start conversations with a few guys on Bumble, and completely ignore Raya, knowing nothing will ever come from that. I want to set up dates for next week. I don’t typically go on so many dates, but I’ve been turning down weekday happy hours and dinners with friends to save money, and this is the only way I can still go out without having to pay. I’ve been kind of inspired by @ohuprettythings on TikTok. She posts all about her NYC dating life and says she only does dinner for first dates. She never offers to pay and instead overly expresses her gratitude and thanks. Maybe I’ll try to pull that off next week.
9:30 p.m. — I’m tired of looking at my phone screen and am starting to get annoyed by the banter on Gilmore Girls so I go to sleep early just to kill time.
Daily Total: $30

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — It’s disgusting out and supposed to rain even more this afternoon, so I quickly get up and throw on workout clothes. I have two massive bags of compost I’ve been meaning to drop off and a couple of bags of clothing that need to be donated. I rush to Prospect Park where there are drop-offs for both at the morning market. I walk right past most of the farm stands. I would typically treat myself to fresh produce and flowers or sample the cheeses and ciders. This time, I know it’d be too tempting. I do, however, stop at the bread stand because I need a new loaf. I pick a seeded sourdough and throw in a small pastry because why not? I see the price on the iPad and cringe. When did bread get so expensive? $21.67
9:15 a.m. — I take a long walk back to my apartment and make an iced latte. I eat yogurt and granola, then sit down to read when I get a call from my mom. We catch up, and she tells me she’s just deposited $5,000 into my bank account. This is a lot, and I’m shocked. She will occasionally send me $1,000 for a birthday or if she got a good bonus, but this is the most she’s ever sent. She doesn’t relate it to my layoff or anything, but I’m sure she’s worried about me. I thank her profusely.
12 p.m. — I read Severance by Ling Ma for most of the morning. When I take a break to scroll through social media, I see pictures of my friend’s baby shower. I RSVP’d no a while ago but realize in this moment that I totally forgot to send a gift. I usually spend $100 on shower or wedding gifts, but decide to spend just $50 this time around. I scan the registry and settle on a tummy time play mat, maracas, and a baby book from Amazon. $52.25
1:15 p.m. — For lunch, I make toast using my fresh loaf of sourdough. I keep it simple with just butter and marmalade. I can’t do anymore Gilmore Girls so I watch When Harry Met Sally, occasionally pausing to scroll through TikTok. I’m really leaning into the fall vibes over here.
5 p.m. — When I had a job, a rainy day would almost always consist of ordering a cozy meal for dinner, but I suck it up and make ramen noodles instead. I also stir fry frozen vegetables in soy sauce and sesame oil and eat standing in my kitchen before going back to reading and scrolling on my couch.
9:30 p.m. — I call it an early night again and rest up for tomorrow’s birthday brunch.
Daily Total: $73.92

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up, make my iced latte, and settle into a chair for a scheduled FaceTime with two friends. We’re planning a bachelorette trip, and I’ve been dreading the conversation because I know it’s going to drain me financially. One of the friends is the bride, and the other is my co–maid of honour. We’ve already decided on the Virgin Islands for the destination because we want to escape the cold this winter. When we get on the call, the bride tells us she’s already put down money for a villa that comes with a driver and a chef. She doesn’t tell us the exact price but she says it’s a great deal. She’s actually pretty frugal herself, so I believe her and decide not to worry about it until the Venmo request comes through. We move on to flights, which are more expensive than we anticipated. I refuse to do a layover or spend 12-plus hours traveling, so we end up spending over $600 each. Luckily, I have credit card points that will cover half. $321.54
10 a.m. — Brunch isn’t until 1, and I’m hoping to put off eating until then, but my stomach is already growling. I make a couple of pieces of toast and then hop in the shower. I get ready slowly, taking breaks to scroll, talk to my sister on the phone, and read up on the news. It’s a big news day, and I miss my job as a producer. I really loved covering such important stories. I get a little annoyed about the breaking news unfolding, knowing that I won’t have any coverage of it to use in my portfolio.
12:30 p.m. — Brunch is in Flatiron, so I head for the subway and use Apple Pay to get in. $2.90
1:15 p.m. — The birthday brunch is well underway by the time I arrive. Everyone has ordered Aperol Spritzes, so I do the same. I also get a pizza. When the check comes, we insist on covering the birthday girl’s meal and split the bill evenly. $84.77
3 p.m. — We head over to the next spot, a bar and putt putt golf course. The birthday girl apparently made the reservation. She mentions it’s only $25 a person. I assume she’ll Venmo us for it later, but I secretly hope she doesn’t. We order drinks and start golfing. By the end, I’m three beers deep. $35.45
5 p.m. — We Uber to another bar. Luckily, another girl in the group orders the car, and I know she won’t ask us to pay her back. When we get to the bar, I order a cheap beer. The rest of the group orders cocktails, and I regret not doing the same because I know we’ll be splitting the bill evenly. When we order a second round, I switch to Ketel One and soda.
7 p.m. — A couple of people trickle out, and I get annoyed that they are leaving before the bill has come. We’re all friends, and I wouldn’t have thought twice about this before my layoff. Now that I’m saving, though, I find it rude. The bill comes and those remaining split it evenly. $50.90
7 p.m. — The bars are oddly empty, so we hangout at a friend’s apartment. The same woman who ordered the first Uber orders one again. And when we get there, she also runs to the bodega to buy a few cases of High Noons. When she returns, she tells us she also bought $20 in lottery numbers because the Powerball is so high. She writes all of our names on the ticket, and we go around saying how we’d spend our winnings. We all say we’d buy a house in the city and debate which would be better: a chic, modern apartment or a classic brownstone. I feel bad for not pitching in, so I give my friend $40 in cash. $40
11 p.m. — I’m too many drinks in to subway home so I order an Uber. Thankfully, it’s pretty cheap. When I get home, I shower and contemplate ordering a drunk snack. I decide against it and tell myself I can get a bagel in the morning instead. $22.72
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