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A Week In Upstate New York On A $46,000 Salary

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: a writer who makes $46,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Versed Mood Lighting Glow Drops.
Occupation: Writer & Content Creator
Industry: Media
Age: 28
Location: Upstate, NY
Salary: $42,000 + ~$4,000 freelance work
Net Worth: ~$38,986 ($43,536 in assets — car (owned): $14,000, savings: $4,200, 401(k): $15,489, Roth IRA: $4,684, company retirement plan: $3,690, investments: $1,473 minus $4,550 in debt)
Debt: $4,550 in credit card debt (0% interest)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,110
Pronouns: She/her/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $650 (I live with a roommate)
Health Insurance, Vision & Dental: $30 (taken out of check)
Car Insurance: $90
401(k): $140 (9% of my paycheck, company matches 6%, taken out of my paycheck)
Ellevest: $35
Phone: $45
Gas: ~$50 (my half split with roommate)
Energy: ~$50 (my half split with roommate)
Apple Plus: $30 (for iCloud, fitness, news, music & TV)
Funimation: $6
Hulu: $7
Crunchyroll: $8
Nintendo: $5
Manta: $4
Washington Post: $6.50
Gym: $90
Internet: $0 (comped through job)

Annual Expenses:
Amazon Prime: $119
Donations: $400–$500 (to different organizations usually for health/life equity nonprofits)
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?
I grew up in the child welfare system so there wasn't much expected of me, although the last family I lived with expected me to go to college. I did earn my bachelor's degree and I got a full ride with scholarships and grants. I also worked two to four jobs throughout college to pay for rent, food, and basic living expenses. I still ended up going into credit card debt because most jobs were part-time and didn't pay a living wage or have guaranteed hours.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Not really, but I moved around a lot and saw how different families and people interacted with money. I also knew from a pretty young age that I would be my main support at 18 so I learned everything and anything I could about finances — credit scores, paying for college, savings, investments, budgeting — before I moved out. I'm a big believer in financial literacy, but also aware that you can't work your way out of poverty. I realize how lucky I am and want to create more opportunities for kids who come from my world.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
A line cook at 16 and I got it because I knew I would move out at 18 and I needed money to support myself. I had a pretty complicated relationship with the family I lived with at the time.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, but it depended on which families or guardians I was placed with. My biological parents were teens when they had me and had (have) a lot of behavioral health and trauma to work through. I recall evictions, living in motels, and a lot of instability with them. My last family (which took me in as a preteen) was more financially stable and upper-middle-class, but they were impacted greatly by the 2000s recession.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I paid off my car, I don't have student loans (college was paid for by grants, scholarships, and multiple jobs), and I have decent savings. I am financially healthier than a lot of my generation, but I definitely have financial trauma to work through. Plus my industry doesn't pay well and is always unstable — every company I have worked for has had spontaneous mass layoffs.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent at age 18. I've been my own safety net since then so there's always this fear that something will go wrong. My last family recently told me I can move back in with them to get on my feet and save money when I move back west. I'm honestly relieved financially, but also anxious about this. Our relationship has been strained, though it is improving. There is also a lot of guilt and suspicion that comes with accepting anything from anyone in my personal life. I need to work through that.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, I received an $8,000 severance check a few years ago. That money helped improve my quality of life. I used it to pay off debt, create savings, get out of a bad living situation, and move for the job I have now.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up and check my bank account first thing because it's payday! Cha-ching. I immediately put $700 on my Apple card. I put all expenses on it and pay it off each month. I get cash back from the card and usually make an extra $20–$40 a month. Plus, having all my expenses in one place makes staying within my budget easier. I get up and make coffee with a Nespresso Hazelnut pod. Then, I read some webtoons on Manta and cuddle with the pup. I change into leggings, a crop top, a camel crop sweater, and some Calvin Kleins socks. I plan my day out and journal a bit then fill up my water bottle and get to work.
9:15 a.m. — I jump on a call (camera off) and do my morning skin-care routine — Tonymoly Mochi Toner, Cosrx Snail Essence, Goodal Green Tangerine Vitamin C, Glow Recipe Plum Plump moisturizer, and Missha Sun Milk. Then, I feed the pup.
10:15 a.m. — I bundle up with a Coach wool scarf, Patagonia puffer, and earmuffs and take the pup for his morning run and potty break. I get back to work: emails, writing, research, repeat. I snack on hummus and pita crackers.
12 p.m. — Since I started working from home, I don't get hungry until later. I'm also recovering from the flu. I'm vaccinated and boosted and tested negative for COVID. I eat a mango and banana and make another latte with the Nespresso machine. I also make ramen with tofu, veggies, egg, and kimchi. Then, I take cold medicine.
3 p.m. — I get edits back, finalize a project, and submit another. I cry a little bit as I write about the pandemic for a story. I have a homemade vegan matcha collagen latte and listened to my Sad Grl Playlist to try to calm down and refocus.
6 p.m. — I feed the pup and make dinner. I'm making a matzo ball kimchi jjigae recipe from chef Hwoo Lee. I'm in love with his IG account. My roommate comes back from work and eats it, too. I take the pup for his second walk and get the mail. I get a $420 freelance check! I put $250 into savings, $50 towards my Apple card, and keep $120 in my checking account. A family friend's parent died a few weeks ago from COVID. I can't be there but have been trying to support them through texts, letters, gifts, and gift cards. I buy a cute mug from Etsy. $30
8 p.m. — Shower. The full shower, iykyk. I have a Guinness and double cleanse: Juice to Cleanse Calming Clean Water and Saturday Skin Rise + Shine Gentle Cleanser, followed by Tonymoly Mochi Toner, Cosrx Snail Essence, Glow Recipe Plum Plump moisturizer, Saturday Skin eye cream, and a Laneige sleep and lip mask. I take cold medicine and drink tea while watching Dollface. I cancel my workout class for the morning because I still feel sick. Head to bed around 10.
Daily Total: $30

Day Two

8 a.m. — Same old, same old. There's a new webtoon on Manta, so I binge read it before getting out of bed. Make a coffee with a Nespresso Hazelnut pod. Cuddle with the pup. Change into leggings, a crop top, a Gojo Satoru sweater from Etsy, and some Calvin Kleins socks.
9:15 a.m. — I have a meeting and do my same skin-care routine. I then plan the day and journal. I make a vegan egg scramble for breakfast. Then it's time for cold medicine, edits, emails, writing, and repeat.
2 p.m. — I order my dog a Busy Buddy plus more treats on Amazon Prime. $27.08
3 p.m. — I call Nespresso. An order I placed a month ago hasn't been updated since it said it shipped so I think it's lost. They replace it and ship it for free!
4 p.m. — I've been chipping away at this big project for a while but I don't feel like it's what I wanted to do and I'm not feeling supported at work. I've been remote for over two years since the start of the pandemic and I moved here from out west. I stayed on because media is such a tough industry to break into and I get paid decently, but I think it's time I move closer to my support system when my contract ends. I drink a homemade vegan matcha collagen latte, eat a big bag of organic popcorn, and put on a playlist to power through today. At some point, I cave to a deal and buy Versed Mood Lighting Glow Drops and at-home dermaplaning tool. Skin care is my weakness, and I rarely wear makeup because I'm home alone all day. I drink a Health-Ade Bubbly Rose Kombucha. $37.19
6 p.m. — I read the beautifully written "Why Everyone Should Have Access to Self-Care" in Cosmo about Beauty 2 the Streetz. I follow them on IG and add to the list of organizations I want to donate to. Then, I shut the laptop and cancel the workout classes I booked for tomorrow. Normally, I go to dance/mobility class four to five times a week and do Apple Fitness+ five to six times a week, but this cold is kicking my ass. I take the pup for his second walk and pick up a package that has the Ouai detox shampoo and body/scalp scrub. They last forever and make my 3C curls and skin the happiest. I eat instant ramen with vegan cheese for dinner.
8 p.m. — Shower. Same nighttime skin care but with The Ordinary retinol in Squalene. Wash hair, detangle, condition. Then it's time for cold medicine, Immunity and Stress Yogi tea, Dollface on Hulu, and an Instagram scroll. In bed by 11.
Daily Total: $64.27

Day Three

8:15 a.m. — I wake up and go immediately back to sleep. Yay for the weekend. Boo for having a cold. My roomie let's me know they're taking the pup out and feeding him. Soooo much gratitude.
11 a.m. — Finally get out of bed and make a Nespresso with oat milk, take cold medicine, watch Dollface, and snuggle with the pup.
1 p.m. — I eat instant ramen with Miyoko's vegan cheese. I text my best friend who lives in LA about outfits to wear for her date with a cute guy/life goals/the weirdness of being in your late 20s throughout a pandemic. I order the Boy Smells Lanai candle, Sichuan chili oil, and Gochujang from Amazon. I can't find those ingredients locally but use them all of the time. $53
3:30 p.m. — Crawl out of my bed and actually do my skin-care routine and change into sweats. Then, I order extra-spicy red curry with tofu on DoorDash. I don't feel well enough to cook tonight. $28
5:30 p.m. — I feed the pup and myself. I check Instagram, and this guy I've had a crush on forever (and he's had a crush on me but our timing has always been off) responded to my DM about a cute video and, ugh, I hate that we live on opposite sides of the country. I take the pup out. Once I get home, I shower, do my skin-care routine with a Laneige sleep mask, and take cold medicine. I drink tea and watch Dollface while I go on Hinge and Bumble to see new matches. I was in two long-term monogamous relationships from the time I was 18 until last summer so I'm out here trying to date casually and heaven help me. In bed and asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $81

Day Four

8:45 a.m. — Wake up feeling much better, but still going to take it easy: Nespresso, read webtoons, watch My Dress Up Darling on Funimation. I mindlessly scroll through skin-care Instagram and see a pretty good review of the K18 hair mask. I've been looking for a new one, but I still need to do more research. Feed the pup, change into joggers and a leopard print sweater, and bundle before taking him out. It's cold and windy so it's a short trip. I'll have to take him to daycare to burn off energy later this week. I decide today will be a no-spend day. I've been doing this for a few years, and it helps me be intentional about my finances and avoid mindlessly buying things.
12 p.m. — I eat leftover curry, read The Complete Persepolis, and drink tea. Start making a list of things I need at the grocery store. I want to buy more books and refresh my work wardrobe but have been holding off because I'll be moving at some point in the near future. Instead, I just make a list of things I would like for my workout and summer/spring capsule and books I can borrow from the library. I make a vegan BLT and French press coffee. Clean the apartment. Cuddle with the pup. Watch My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU on Crunchyroll.
6 p.m. — I SAT ON A SPIDER. I scream, my roomie performs a mercy killing, then I hide in the corner overcome with fear and guilt.
7 p.m. — I eat dinner: rice, instant miso soup, and mango gelato. Then, I take the dog out, shower, skin-care routine, tea, and bed by 9.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Guess who got their period? UGHHH. Drink water and take cold medicine. Then, I do a hot compress on the tummy and make a coffee with a Nespresso hazelnut pod. Cuddle with the pup. Then I get dressed, do skin-care, get out of bed, and take the pup out.
9:15 a.m. — I have a meeting and plan my day while I feed the dog. I put on a budget hearing for the state — I'll be watching this all day. I snack on hummus and pita chips.
3 p.m — More coffee, make a Vegan BLT, eat a banana. And back to it.
6 p.m. — The budget hearing is finally over. Feed the pup and take him out. Make a list of groceries I'll need to get tomorrow and text the roommate for things they need. Shower, skin care, tea, and in bed by 9.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — Up early and out the door to take the pup to daycare and splurge for a little spa day for him (teeth cleaning and nail trimming). I'll pick him up at the end of the day. $65
8:20 a.m. — Back home, coffee, and skin-care routine with the Versed Mood Lighting Glow Drops. My skin looks like I'm an heiress with a mansion on the beach in Malibu. Put on joggers, turtleneck, coat, scarf, and mask. I double-check the grocery list and grab two reusable totes before heading to the co-op.
8:55 a.m. — Back from the market. I got avocados, tofu, Impossible meat, potatoes, peppers, carrots, two things of oat milk, coffee, instant ramen, bananas, two different kinds of mushrooms, kimchi, kombucha, hard kombucha, popcorn, honey, tea, chai tea mix, vegan chocolate cups, vegan cheese, hummus, Buffalo tofu, bread, dog food, dog treats, a sponge, latkes mix, tortillas, soyrizo, and a vegan oven pizza. My roommate will venmo me for their stuff later. $153
9:15 a.m. — Lots of meetings. I miss my dog. I was alone throughout the first half of the pandemic, and it really messed with my overall health, especially with New York winters. Getting my dog from the shelter was the one good thing that happened in 2020. He's been in training and at this daycare since then and loves it. I spend the day writing, editing, and answering emails. I make my annual OBGYN check-up appointment for next week. I check the mail and both my Nespresso and Versed orders came in. I feel like a kid at Christmas. That meme about existing for packages hits a little too close for comfort.
6 p.m. — Pick up the pup and take him home. He is always so tired after daycare but so happy to be with other dogs. I drop him at home and then turn right around and head out to dance class with my mask on. Guess this cold really knocked me out, I'm winded after the choreo.
8:30 p.m. — Home, shower, full-body routine: shave, exfoliate, and lotion. Nighttime skin-care routine using the Versed dermaplaning tool. Is this love? In bed by 9:30 with tea and honey. I take cold medicine and watch Tokyo Revengers until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $218

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I make a coffee with a Nespresso double espresso pod, oat milk, and saffron syrup. I have a nice latte, read webtoons, and cuddle with the pup. I definitely appreciate these little moments.
9 a.m. — Meetings. Plan the day and journal. Skin care. Feed and take the dog out.
11 a.m. — I am not feeling today at all. I decide I should just rest and take the day off; I have a bunch of time accrued that I need to use anyways. I put on My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU on Crunchyroll, cuddle with the pup, and doze off for the rest of the day.
5:30 p.m. — I feed the pup and take him out. I have an event on Friday, and my current mani is rough. I won't have time to go to the salon so I buy cute press-on nails online. They're half off. $8
8:30 p.m. — I drink a hard kombucha, shower, do skin care. In bed with tea and honey by 9:30. Take cold medicine and watch Tokyo Revengers before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $8
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