A Week In New York City On A $50,000 Salary

Welcome toMoney 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 program associate working at a research lab who makes $50,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on red wine.

Occupation: Program Associate
Industry: Research Lab
Age: 23
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $50,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,450

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,525 rent for a studio apartment. Heat and hot water are included.
Unlimited MetroCard: $121
Renter’s Insurance: $6.91
Gas/Electric: ~$30
Wifi: $45
Flywheel Membership: $216
Phone: $0 (I’m on my family’s plan.)
Apple Music: $4.99
Netflix: $0 (I use my sister’s account.)
401(k): I contribute $50/paycheck and my employer matches 3%.
Roth IRA: $100 (I graduated from college, moved, and got a new job less than a year ago, so I spent a lot of my savings on moving and getting my new life together! I am planning to reallocate some of my paycheck to my 401(k) and Roth IRA once I catch up on savings.)
Savings: $500 (I spend a lot of money traveling, but to me it’s 100% worth it. I used to live in Germany and I like to visit once a year, and also I go on a trip once a year to somewhere new! After travel, I try to keep at least $3,000 per year in my savings for future rent, moving expenses, grad school, and an emergency fund.)

Day One

6:45 a.m. — Monday hits me like a ton of bricks. I “wake up” at 6:45 but don’t get out of bed until 7:20. Coffee, dry shampoo, light makeup, grab a piece of fruit for later, and I’m out the door by 7:45.

8:40 a.m. — Every Monday morning, I leave a few minutes early to stop at Trader Joe’s on my way to work. There’s a big fridge in my office pantry, so I buy ingredients to make my own lunch for the week: a bag of spring mix, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and balsamic vinaigrette. Five salads for the price of one at Sweetgreen! $12.04

10 a.m. — About once a month, I order a big box of oatmeal to be delivered to work and have a cup for late breakfast every day. I don’t get hungry until later in the morning, so I always have coffee early at home and bring fruit to have with my oatmeal mid-morning. The cost of each oatmeal cup is about 50 cents when I buy in bulk, and it leaves me full until lunch!

1:30 p.m. — I take a late lunch in our courtyard with a coworker. I’m glad to have found someone who’s an ice queen like me — I’m cold-blooded and love to sit outside when it’s freezing. I have my TJ’s salad and coffee (free from the lab). My job title is pretty ambiguous, but I’m essentially a lab/office manager at a hospital lab. After lunch, I go over a manuscript from my boss and submit it to a scientific journal for review.

6 p.m. — I work from 9 to 5, and go to a 6 p.m. spin class three to four times a week. I pay for an exclusive studio membership because I’m obsessed with Flywheel! I run two to three full marathons a year and do spin to supplement cross-training. I’ve made so many great friends here and I run outside for free on the weekend, so this expense for after-work classes is a top priority for me.

7:30 p.m. — A friend from spin wants to grab drinks after class. We pay for our own beverages (I have a glass of pinot noir), but my friend wants to cover the fries and shishito peppers we share. I have a slice of dollar pizza on the train platform on my way home. I get back around 9:30 and start my bedtime routine. $10

9:15 p.m. — I have created a great bedtime routine that takes about 45 minutes: I stretch and do a quick core workout on my yoga mat, shower, moisturize my whole body, put on Crest Whitestrips while I wash dishes and clean up, and then get in bed, where I write in my journal and check up on my daily finances for my budget spreadsheet. My downfall is falling asleep to an episode of The Office that I’ve seen 100 times on Netflix. I don’t pay for an account, but I use my sister’s literally only for this bad habit!!

Daily Total: $22.04

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I physically cannot get out of bed without snoozing my alarm. When I finally get up, I have coffee and leave around 8:15. I’m so excited because I have two new episodes of my favorite podcasts — This American Life and Crime Junkie — to listen to!

10 a.m. — More coffee (free from work) plus my oatmeal and a few clementines that I brought from home. I’m so excited because winter equals clementine and pomegranate season. I run a biweekly medical research seminar on Tuesdays, so I spend the morning going over the postdoc’s presentation, making sure catered lunch is on its way, and setting up the room. I end up staying for the presentation because it’s in a field that I’m considering for grad school. We get free catered lunch for these seminars, so I have a goat cheese and roasted veggie wrap and save my TJ’s salad for a late afternoon snack.

6 p.m. — Spin (prepaid with my membership) and then a trip to my favorite place… The Container Store!!! It sounds lame, but I’m obsessed. I buy a few bins that will fit under my bed to get rid of some clutter on my bookshelf. Studio life is no joke — I love it endlessly, but you really have to optimize all your storage space!! I lived off campus during college with roommates, but had saved a lot by graduation and chose to make the leap to a studio apartment. Though my parents were incredibly kind in paying for my undergrad, I worked multiple jobs throughout school and have supported myself in every aspect besides tuition and my phone bill. Living alone in Manhattan with a 40-minute commute is 100% worth the half-paycheck price, and I relish coming home to peace and quiet every night. $21.40

8:30 p.m. — I get home and have TJ’s vegetarian chili for dinner. I’m a pescatarian, so though I take the necessary vitamins for iron, etc., I’m always looking for more sources of protein. I top the bean and red onion chili with a squeeze of lime and shredded Unexpected Cheddar (TJ’S GOLD MINE OF CHEESE). Plus I toast a slice of sourdough to dip into it. Then I do my bedtime routine and go to sleep by 11.

Daily Total: $21.40

Day Three

7 a.m. — I actually get out of bed at 7:25. I am fully aware of the sleep benefits of getting up at your first alarm, but it’s just never going to happen. Coffee, makeup, run a straightener through my hair, grab fruit, and leave by 8:15. On my way to work, I call my parents to catch up. I make a point to call them both at least once a week. My little sister is my absolute best friend, so we talk more often over text and FaceTime.

10:30 a.m. — Oatmeal and an apple for breakfast. I spend most of my day at work editing a grant proposal for my boss. I have my TJ’s salad for lunch and then some pita chips I left in my desk for an afternoon snack. I take a 20-minute break after lunch to work on Duolingo — I’m fluent in Spanish and German and try to practice both daily so that I won’t lose them! I also add a few lessons of High Valyrian…yes, I’m such a Thrones nerd that I am learning a completely useless fictional fantasy language.

6 p.m. — Day off from spin and I head to my friend’s apartment for a movie night. She’s making dinner, and I pick up a bottle of wine to split. We watch Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (though I’ve seen it a million times, as I’m a die-hard ABBA fan), and I stay to catch up after the movie. We are basically neighbors, so it’s just a 10-minute walk home. I listen to an episode of another great podcast — Guys We F****d — as I do my bedtime routine. Instead of watching The Office or going to bed right away, I read Michelle Obama’s new book, which just arrived in the mail! I like to utilize the library, but this was a book I knew I’d want to keep. Ugh. I miss the Obamas. $11.97

Daily Total: $11.97

Day Four

7 a.m. — Snooze my alarm, then have coffee. I leave a few minutes early because I have a Liquiteria coupon, and I order a half-priced Mean Green smoothie for breakfast on the way to work. $4.48

11 a.m. — Oatmeal. I’m a creature of habit. Today, I’m doing some general lab maintenance and meeting with our grants finance team. I get an hour lunch, so I do Duolingo after I eat my salad with coworkers. I also buy tickets for my mom and me to go to the Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. She took me to his concert when I was younger, and I can’t wait to surprise her with tickets to his last tour! I pay for nearly everything on a rewards credit card (and pay it off right away) — so I have plenty of cash back points to cover these tickets. I’ve had a few different cards for almost six years to build my credit score, but hate keeping a balance after the billing cycle. $425

6 p.m. — I meet a friend for a quick happy hour drink and snack before a 7:30 performance of The Office! A Musical Parody.(We bought tickets awhile ago.) It is LIFE-CHANGING!!!!!!!! I cannot recommend it enough. I’m still humming the soundtrack. Incredible. $18.25

10 p.m. — Get home late after the show but I’m starving, so I pop TJ’s frozen spanakopita in the oven while I do my bedtime routine — minus the Whitestrips. Asleep around midnight.

Daily Total: $447.73

Day Five

7 a.m. — Friday!! I am out of bed by 7:10 — truly shocking. I read more of Michelle Obama’s book on the train to work and am inspired to make a $20 donation to Planned Parenthood. I wish I could give more, but I like to believe that every little bit counts! $20

3 p.m. — We have a weekly afternoon lab meeting every Friday and I’m presenting a new strategy to my boss today, so I scarf down my oatmeal and then my salad as I prep. Everything goes well! I love my current job, but I am looking to head back to grad school in the next few years and my bosses are very supportive of my future plans. My work friends and I take a coffee break after the meeting and discuss our upcoming skiing plans. I’m from New England, so I try to ski as often as possible on winter weekends, but it’s tough when you’re car-less!

6 p.m. — I stop to get my eyebrows done on the way to spin. Last year for Christmas, my mom got me a yearly pass for unlimited eyebrow waxing, and I go every two weeks because my my eyebrows somehow grow at 100x the speed of the hair on my head! I tip 20% ($4). Right after spin class, I head to Trader Joe’s and buy multiple cheeses, vegetarian chili, tofu, orzo, rice pilaf, avocados, pomegranates, clementines, shishito peppers, coffee, garlic parm pita chips, and cod fish ($46.21). $50.21

9 p.m. — At heart I am 23 going on 40: On Friday nights, I almost always just workout, grocery shop, and then have a date night in with myself. While I’m generally somewhat extroverted, I really feel the need to take time to relax after the work week and recharge for the weekend. I make rice pilaf and cod with garlic and lemon, and then fry shishito peppers with olive oil and sea salt. I have two glasses of red wine and watch an episode of MasterChef while I eat. Then I FaceTime my sister before doing my bedtime routine, reading more of Michelle Obama’s book, and falling asleep by midnight.

Daily Total: $70.21

Day Six

9 a.m. — I sleep in until 9 and then have a pomegranate for breakfast — messy, but worth it. I head to 10 a.m. yoga at a studio near my house. There’s an amazing studio near me that’s only $8 a class. I love this teacher and go two to three times a month if I have a free weekend morning. After yoga, I drop my mat at my apartment and go on a quick 30-minute run on the river. I have two half marathons and one full marathon coming up between February and April. In summer/winter, I spin more than I run, but as the races get closer, I will spin two to three days a week and run three to four with a track workout once a week and longer weekend runs. $8

1 p.m. — I hop in the shower and then head to the laundromat across the street. It’s $3.75 for a medium wash/dry and the machines lock, so I can set a timer on my phone and head back to my apartment while my clothes are in. While I wait, I clean my bathroom and vacuum. $3.75

3 p.m. — I have an early dinner/late lunch of tofu, broccoli, and orzo with garlic salt and parmesan cheese. I always have a minimum of three cheeses in my fridge at any given time. (Currently it’s feta, cheddar, and parm.) I make two portions and put the second in a plastic container for my drunk self to have later tonight.

6 p.m. — I’m meeting my old boss for drinks — I worked full time at a restaurant nights/weekends throughout college, and made some incredible lifelong friends there! We mean to get a glass or two of wine, but end up with three glasses of wine each and a cheese board?? Whoops. Can’t have enough cheese in my opinion. I try to split the bill, but she insists it’s on her.

9 p.m. — I stay too long at the bar and sprint to my friend’s apartment nearby where I am late for game night. We play Settlers of Catan and various trivia games. I Venmo them for some wine/beer/snacks that they already bought. Then I take the train home around 11:30 and thank my past self for the leftovers in the fridge. Pass out around 12:30 a.m. sans bedtime routine. $10

Daily Total: $21.75

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I don’t usually sleep this late, but then again, I rarely ever stay out as late as I did last night. I have fruit, toast, and coffee for breakfast, then head out on a long run down the river.

1 p.m. — I babysit occasionally as a side gig, and today I am picking up the girls from dance and then taking them to a birthday party — super easy. I can use the extra cash, but I also do like spending time with kids. It really makes me miss my little sister, even though she is not so little anymore!!

5 p.m. — I get home and call my sister, pay some bills online, and flag some flights on Hopper for my spring trip to Germany. I’m inspired to do extra German Duolingo, which leads me to put on a German news podcast while I cook dinner. I make more vegetarian chili for dinner at home — of course, with a mountain of cheddar. Then I do a long stretch while I listen to another German podcast — my hips get really tight from running.

9 p.m. — I get out a face mask and hop in bed early with a glass of wine. I order a few household items on Amazon than I replenish in bulk every few months, and then I text a friend about visiting her back in New England after the holidays. Though I love New York, I ache for wide open green spaces. I try to spend the majority of weekends hiking upstate or racing and skiing. I have enough points on my Amtrak credit card to book a roundtrip ticket to see her in a month for a ski weekend! She’ll pick me up from the train, and I’ll pay for a single day lift ticket when I get there. $51.88

Daily Total: $51.88

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