A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $156,000 Salary

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 writer/producer working in entertainment who makes $156,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Origins eye cream.
Occupation: Writer /Producer
Industry: Entertainment
Age: 35
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Salary: $156,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $4,085
Monthly Expenses
Rent: My husband and I split our $2,900 rent commensurate to our salaries. He makes a little less than half of what I do, so he pays $1,000, and I pay $1,900. I also cover cable/internet. All utilities and laundry are included in our rent.
Car Loan Payment: $183 (I usually pay between $200 and $500 per month.)
Student Loans: $0 (Already paid off.)
Cable & Internet: $172 (I'd love to drop cable this year, but my husband watches all the obscure sports and I watch (gulp) Bravo, so how?)
Donations: $30 to Planned Parenthood and Amnesty International
Car & Renters Insurance: $113
MetroCard: $121
Phone Bill: $88
Gym Membership: $75
Netflix & Hulu: $22 (My family — and some ex-boyfriends, I suspect — mooch from me.)
Stash Investment Account: $30
Credit Card: I have $7,000 in credit card debt that I'm aggressively paying down. We just got married last month, and that shit was not cheap. We got generous help from both sets of (wonderful) parents, but I still maxed out my credit card on all the unforeseen expenses of a wedding and honeymoon.
Advertisement

Day One

8:30 a.m. — Wake up to my husband, G., closing the door as he leaves for work. I usually like to wake up by 8, but I was up really late writing and I overslept. I drink a big glass of water, debate putting on a bra and decide against it, and head back over to my computer to complete the writing I was working on last night. I work in TV, and the deadlines never stop.
12:30 p.m. — Writing assignment is done, and it's time to head into the office. (My job is flexible with working from home, so I'm usually in the office about three to four days a week.) I shower and wash my hair (it's been three days and I can't push it anymore) and pack a lunch of peanut butter and jelly on wheat, a Siggi yogurt, and some grapes on the verge of withering to their death. I also pack a small amount of hazelnut coffee creamer to add to the free coffee at work. I'm only on decaf now — I was having chronic panic attacks last year, and cutting caffeine reduced them by about 90%! I still love the taste of coffee and crave the ritual, so I usually have decaf a few days a week. I spend the rest of the day making TV, which for me means working on scripts, sitting in on edits, and attending production meetings. I've been in this business for about 10 years, and I really love it.
Advertisement
7:30 p.m. — Head out of the office and home to my new husband. We got married four months ago and have been having some communication issues lately. We had a big blowup yesterday, and I'm still feeling kind of tender. I've learned that it's better in the long run to dig in than pull away. We will both have some time off for the holidays, and I want to spend quality time together and get back on track. I make Asian chicken thighs and rice using coconut amino, sesame oil, ginger, rice vinegar, and brown sugar. Throw in some red pepper and scallion, too. It's good, but I'll probably skip the sugar next time, because it's a little too sweet. We spend the night talking about lighter things and enjoying each other's company. I am reminded of how much I love him and end the day feeling calmer and optimistic. Even though I have chocolate in the house, I shock myself by not eating it.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Wake up to the sound of G. leaving. I dry shampoo my hair and do my morning skin care routine: Proactiv cleanser, Burt's Bees cleanser, toner, ferulic acid, moisturizer, under-eye brightener, sunscreen. (I'm back on Proactiv because I recently went off birth control, and I'm trying to keep my hormonal acne at bay.) Then I put on some minimal makeup, including eyeliner, because I have a special lunch today and I'm feeling wild. This entire process takes forever but is infinitely improved by watching Vanderpump Rules while I primp.
Advertisement
9:45 a.m. — Welp, I spent too much time with Jax and Lala, and now I'm late for work. I take a Lyft instead of taking the train, which saves me about 15 minutes. This is my most shameful expense. I know it's a total waste of money and a habit I desperately wish I could break...but I usually do this about once a week. I tip the driver $4 because it's not his fault that I'm running behind. $25.50
1 p.m. — Leave for a work lunch. We go to a new place and have the most amazing cocktails, hummus, fried halloumi, labneh, pita, sumac fries, kofte, merguez sausage, shrimp kabobs, and shakshuka. We share the plates and share ideas. It's all so delicious, and I feel so lucky to work with such bright people. The meal is expensed, and I don't see the check, though I think we did some serious damage. No one notices my eyeliner.
4 p.m. — I get back to work a little buzzed and try to get some writing done, but it's hopeless. The holiday break starts in a few days, and we need to manage our deadlines around it. I look at my bank account and mentally prep for the remainder of my holiday spending. Since I'm technically freelance, I won't be getting paid over the next two weeks, so I'm trying to keep an eye on my budget. Even though I'm not hungry at all, I have a banana.
7:30 p.m. — Leave the office and walk about a half mile to the train. I swipe my MetroCard, but instead of sailing through, I'm punched in the gut by the turnstile. My monthly pass has run out. Since I'll only ride the train for a few more days before the holiday break, I opt to add $25 to my card that I can use anytime, instead of paying $32 for a weekly card that will run out. I feel like a Suze Orman-level financial wiz. I meet my friend for a quick cocktail. We talk through the successes and challenges of our relationships, and the solidarity feels so good. We get together about once a week and usually trade off the bill. This time, she pays. When I get home, G. is eating leftovers. I'm still full from my lunch feast, so I just have some kale salad. $25
Advertisement
9:30 p.m. — There's a band playing nearby that G. wants to check out, so I freshen up my face, and we head out to a local bar. He gets himself a cider and me ginger ale while I secure a table. The band is great, and I congratulate myself for being out so late on a weeknight. We head home around 12. G. goes to bed while I stay up and watch an episode of 90 Day Fiancé while eating some (okay, six) cookies. As you can probably tell, snacks and trash TV are my vices.
1 a.m. — Head to bed, but not before doing my exhaustive nighttime skincare routine, which is: micellar water, Burt's Bees cleaner, toner, Drunk Elephant night serum (believe the hype about this), moisturizer, and some dark spot serum on some leftover acne scars that just love my face so much they don't want to leave it. A few years ago, I would wash my face with whatever I had lying around and call it a night, but now that I'm an elder, I really enjoy taking care of my skin, and I definitely see a difference, which is motivation to keep it up even when I'd rather skip it.
Daily Total: $50.50

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up on time! It's a Christmas miracle. I put my hair in a side braid, skincare it up, don my finest flannel, and pack my lunch: another PB&J and yogurt. My commute involves about 25 minutes of walking, and I try to keep up a brisk pace to try to get my blood flowing.
Advertisement
11:30 a.m. — I wrote all morning since I have another deadline to hit before the week is up. I notice my sis Venmo'd me $70 for a joint gift we are going in on for our dear cousin. Transfer it to my checking and make a mental note to settle up with the myriad family members who also owe me some cash.
11:52 a.m. — Starved, since I skipped breakfast. I eat my PB&J and text with my three best friends. We're on a group chat that's always lit like the 4th of July. They all live near each other, but I'm about a two-hour drive away, so I don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. We make plans to spend a few days together next week, and I draw a heart around my mental calendar.
6:30 p.m. — Head home a little early and spruce up the house a bit when I get there. I turn on the Christmas lights and feel all cozy. Then I break out the juicer and make two kinds of juice. The first one has turmeric, ginger, and lemon and we add cayenne and oil of oregano. We take "shots" of this daily, and I think it's great for the immune system. The other juice is a big batch of beet, orange, pineapple, carrot, and ginger. Once the juice mess is cleared (which takes a lifetime), I make spaghetti carbonara for dinner. I first cook down some bacon with garlic. While that's working, I boil the spaghetti and whisk three eggs with lots of freshly grated parmesan. I add the pasta to the cooked bacon pan, add the egg mixture, and add some starchy water to make the sauce stick to the pasta. Then G. comes home with cookies for me! He know the way to my heart. We eat dinner while watching old Christmas cartoons and the nostalgia is almost too much to bear.
Advertisement
1 a.m. — I have a few of the cookies, wrap some presents, and research recipes to make for Christmas. I told my sister I'd prepare the main meat dish for 15 people, and I'm thinking about going balls out and getting a filet mignon. I'm also preparing the entire Christmas Eve meal and want it to be really special. I love cooking, but I'm not always successful with my kitchen experiments. Shower, nighttime skin care routine, and off to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — Wake up with a scratchy throat and drink a tall glass of water, a ginger shot with lots of echinacea, and then some of the beet juice I made last night. I let that all sink in for a few minutes and start to feel better. I make some avocado toast and eat while I watch 90 Day Fiance, fast-forwarding through the couples who are too upsetting to enjoy. Because I showered and washed my hair last night, I just need to dry it a little more and put some waves in. I throw on a black polka dot dress, a cardigan, and some brown booties, and head into the office.
9:30 a.m. — Walk past a construction site and a worker comments on my "tight little ass." I don't know how he can make it out under my layers of wool, but I feel #blessed regardless...
1:20 p.m. — Feeling so hungry, but I try to hold out for 2 p.m., when we'll be having a casual holiday party. I know there will be a spread of delicious food and treats. I have a seltzer and a granola bar to tide me over.
Advertisement
6 p.m. — The party was great! No one can really get much accomplished afterwards, so I head home a little early and stop at the pharmacy to buy wrapping paper and ovulation tester thingies. Basically a stick to pee on which will tell you if you're ovulating. I'm trying to get knocked up. As I go to pay, I actually run into my husband, who is there to pick up a prescription. I show him my pee sticks, and we grin at each other. We talk about dinner, decide we're both not very hungry, and head home to reheat some butternut squash soup and watch Homecoming. I hate supporting Amazon, but I'm loving this show. $39.57
11 p.m. — G. and I snuggle on the couch until we both fall asleep (#everynight). I drag myself to the bathroom, do an abridged version of my skincare routine, and head to bed.
Daily Total: $39.57

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Last day before TWO WEEKS of holiday break. I scream/sing "One Day More" from Les Misérables to my husband, who does not get the reference and does not seem to enjoy my rendition. In fairness to me, it's hard to nail all nine parts at once. Also, just to clarify — I will be working over this break. I find it impossible to keep up with deadlines without putting in some extra time at night and on weekends. And this week is especially unproductive because of all the (fun!) holiday interruptions, so I'll probably work the equivalent of three full days to catch up. I pack my last PB&J of the year and the rest of the beet juice and get ready for the day. It's pouring, so I do minimal hair and makeup and put on my least exciting clothes. I also dig out my raincoat that I got in Iceland earlier this year — their weatherproof gear is legit. I head out to work.
Advertisement
11:30 a.m. — Wrote all morning and worked up an appetite, so I eat the PB&J and a banana I snagged from the office kitchen. There are holiday treats around, so I take a pear and a bag of chocolate-covered popcorn to give to my dad.
12:17 — Purchase the Les Mis original cast recording soundtrack on iTunes. I just...had to. $16.99
1:49 p.m. — Venmo my coworker $20 for the joint holiday gifts we ordered for the staff. I already gave her $80, but she needs a bit more since the taxes and fees were factored in. $20
4:30 p.m. — Champagne has been flowing since noon, and people are quietly disappearing. I put on my rain gear and head out into the deluge to run some errands I've been avoiding all week. First stop, eyebrows. I have thick, unruly Armenian eyebrows that have a mind of their own. I now get them done every few months by this amazing and very blunt woman. Last time I saw her, she said I had waited too long and had to start again "from the ground up." She costs an astronomical $85, but she's a magician. She's done Rihanna's eyebrows! $85
5:15 p.m. — Next, I go to Madewell to return three items I purchased online last week during a big sale. The dress was too big, the top was too tight, and the pink turtleneck gave my skin a cholera-esque hue. $131 back on my credit card. Then I hit up Breads Bakery for a couple chocolate babkas to bring to some family celebrations ($24.95). Finally, I hit Sephora to round out my Christmas gifts for my sisters. They are getting First Aid Beauty cleanser, serum, and moisturizer and GinZing undereye cream from Origins. I also throw in some mud masks and pick up a YSL highlighting pen for myself. We all have the same skin tone/issues, so shopping for them is so easy. I have to stop myself from spending millions on my sweet sisters every year. I have a $50 gift card, so the balance for this haul is $165.87. I listen to the Les Mis soundtrack throughout my journey and, I'm sad to say, it does not hold up. $190.82
Advertisement
7:30 p.m. — I meet up with G., and we're both thrilled that the holiday break has begun. We head to our favorite local Italian restaurant and order mussels in red sauce, lemon pasta with ricotta, and a pasta with sausage and broccoli raab. I go ham on everything. We split the bill — this place is cash only, and between us we have just enough to cover it. We head home and G. sweetly plays Christmas carols on the guitar while I sing along. My voice is truly terrible, but his is very nice, and I'm feeling so content that this is how we're spending our first married Christmas. I put on Broad City, and we are both asleep on the couch in 10 minutes. We somehow make our way into bed, and I somehow wash my f'ing face beforehand. $35
Daily Total: $347.81

Day Six

4 a.m. — G. is thrashing around in his sleep, and now I'm wide awake. All I can think of is...lemon pasta. I turn up the noise machine so he can sleep through the microwave, and heat up the lemon pasta without incident. But then I elbow the dish rack and suddenly pots, pans, plates, and glasses go crashing all over the floor. G. somehow sleeps through it. I eat my lemon pasta and the popcorn I was planning to give to my dad (whoopsies) while watching (what else?) 90 Day Fiancé. The anguished tones of ill-matched couples arguing lull me back to a peaceful slumber.
Advertisement
9 a.m. — Saturday morning — time to catch up on some housework. We do laundry, change the sheets on the bed, and wrap the rest of the Christmas presents. I sit down and map out a grocery list for the upcoming days. Later today, we're heading to my cousin's for yet another wonderful meal, and I told her I'd go over early to help. I gather some platters and pull out some wine in preparation.
2 p.m. — Pick up a couple of bottles of South Australian Shiraz at the liquor store for tonight's dinner. I don't know a thing about wine, but a friend recommended this one. $39.17
4 p.m. — Head to my cousin's, put on an apron, and get to work. There is a lot to do to get her one-bedroom apartment ready for a dinner party for nine (plus two adorable babies — my nieces!). We set the table and mix up the cocktail, a Bourbon Smash. It's muddled orange, lemon juice, maple syrup, bitter, and bourbon. When the guests arrive, I'll mix with lots of ice and top with seltzer and an orange peel. Highly recommend if you love an Old Fashioned.
6 p.m. — The guests (my extended family and my husband) arrive, and we chow down on appetizers: crab dip, stuffed mushrooms, olives, charcuterie, and cheese. The cocktails are a hit. For dinner, we start with a green salad, and then have my cousin's specialty — spaghetti in red sauce with seafood. Today she made clams, mussels, snapper, and scallops. One of the two babies is screaming throughout the meal, but my sister gives her something called baby paper, which is essentially crinkly paper that's safe to chew on, and then we just hear crinkling and cooing the rest of the night. We also have bread with Kerrygold butter, and this is probably the single best thing I have eaten all week. My mom gives me $240 — $100 of it is a belated wedding gift from a family friend, and the $140 is payment for some gifts I purchased for her. I'm rich!
Advertisement
12:30 a.m. — The babies and their tired parents leave, and the rest of us sip port and eat cookies until midnight. G. and I head home, put on a South Park episode, and fall asleep while visions of Cartman dance in our heads. I did not wash my face and will surely pay.
Daily Total: $39.17

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up, wash up, and now it's go time. It's the day before Christmas Eve, and I have a billion errands to run. I first head to a cafe to get a decaf coffee, a slice of zucchini bread, and a healthy chicken and rice plate to eat later. I eat my breakfast while finishing up Calypso by David Sedaris. I never wanted this book to end. $19.50
10 a.m. — Errand-a-palooza continues! I pick up toothpaste and makeup remover at the pharmacy ($16.34). Then I head to a cute housewares store to try finish up my Christmas shopping. I end up getting a fancy tobacco candle for myself and an ornament for my brother-in-law ($53.35). Walk in and out of a half-dozen other shops and end up in a kitchen store, where I pick up a spice grinder and a flight of salts for my culinarily-inclined cousin and a few magnets for my sister ($69.63). I then head to the butcher to pick up the beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner. The line literally snakes around the block, so I listen to a podcast, Armchair Expert, while I wait. The seven pound tenderloin is a staggering $159. Pressure is on to cook that puppy perfectly. $298.32
Advertisement
3 p.m. — I come home, and G. and I exchange small gifts and big hugs. He's about to get on a plane to spend the holiday with his family, and I'll join them in a few days. We do this every year, and although it stinks to be apart on Christmas Day, overall, it works for us. We eat the rice bowl I picked up this morning, and I make a big bunch of kale because my body is craving vitamins. After G. leaves, I gab on the phone with my best friend for two hours. Magically when we hang up, the entire apartment is sparkling clean.
8 p.m. — Now that the crowds have died down, I head out to the grocery store to get the provisions for Christmas Eve dinner. I'm making cod with white beans, olives, and kale, lemon pasta (I just can't get enough), and olive oil cake with pears. At the store, I pick up sour cream, white beans, heavy cream, vanilla extract, fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, kale, cod, cake flour, a baguette, lemons, olives, shallots, fresno chili, spaghetti, and olive oil. I also buy some eggnog. I just love that stuff. I'm having a mild heart attack about all the money I spent today, but I remember that some of my family still owes me some $$, and I try not to dwell on it. $77.31
11 p.m. — I spend the rest of the night prepping food and texting with my people. I do a charcoal mask so my pores don't offend anyone tomorrow. G. lets me know that his flight landed, and I head to bed, dreaming of a white Christmas.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $395.13
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.
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. Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs
Have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following themes:
Women over age 45: We want to read your Money Diaries! Submit here.
What's your sign? Are you a strong-willed Taurus? An always tidy Virgo with a perfectionist streak? Or maybe an adventure-seeking Sagittarius who always sees the glass half full? If you strongly identify with your astrological sign and want to write a Money Diary, get in touch with us here. (Get excited star gazers: We're looking to run one diary from each sign!)
Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series