A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $288,000 Joint Income

Refinery29
·27 mins read

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.

You asked and we listened — this will be our final NYC Monday Money Diary. We have decided to diversify Money Diaries further and will no longer exclusively publish NYC diaries on Mondays. We will continue to include NYC diaries on a less frequent schedule. Thanks for your feedback, y’all!

Today: a software engineer has a joint income of $288,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on movers.

Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Tech
Age: 24
Location: Brooklyn, NY
My Salary: $121,000
My Partner’s Salary: $167,000
My Net Worth: ~$100,000 in savings, 401(k) + Roth IRA, and investments combined.
My Partner’s Net Worth: ~$350,000 split up similarly. (We considered getting a marriage certificate and combining finances formally but decided that since it wouldn’t make a huge impact on our tax brackets, we would save the hassle and maintain separate accounts. My partner also earns about $400,000 in company stock annually, but we consider it an extra nest egg that will go towards our first home when we are ready to buy.)
Debt: $0; went to college on financial aid that allowed me to graduate debt-free
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,385 (after taxes, 401k, health insurance, and ESPP deducted)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $3,100 (For a 1 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. We split rent proportional to our income, so I pay $1,300 monthly.)
Loans: $0
Health Insurance: $25
401(k): ~$1,200 (contributing aggressively to try and max out before I leave my current job)
ESPP: ~$1,300 (purchased at 85% market value)
WiFi: $42
Electric: ~$50
Lemonade Renter’s Insurance: $9
Credit Cards: $450 annually
Subway Card: $0; previously $127 (suspended due to COVID)
ClassPass: $0; previously $50 (Suspended due to COVID)
Spotify: $0 (on a family plan with my college roommates, subscription paid via my friend’s credit card cashback)
Netflix: $0 (sister pays for our family’s plan)
Amazon Prime: $0 (dad pays for our family account)
Phone: $0, still on my family plan, corporate line paid through work

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?
My dad is a professor with a PhD and my mom has a master’s, so there was never any question about whether I would go to college. In fact, I remember at my high school graduation my dad telling me that it wasn’t worth celebrating, and we would wait until I graduated from college to celebrate since it was such a banal expectation. I went to college out of state on heavy financial aid and worked as an RA to get the housing fee waived. I’m starting my master’s this fall and will pay for it with the money I’ve saved in the two years that I’ve been working.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents always emphasized frugality to my sister and I as we were growing up. They always taught us to live within our means, save for a rainy day, and not to place emphasis on luxury or name brands. My dad encouraged me to open my first credit card in college to start building credit, and taught me to treat it like a debit card and never spend money I didn’t have in the bank.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got two jobs my senior year of high school, one working retail and another as a tutor. Looking back, the retail job really paid nothing and I definitely only did it to work with my friends, but I managed to make a good amount of money tutoring that I used for gas, food, and clothing. I got these jobs because my sister had just started college and I saw how much it stressed my parents financially. We grew up in public school, so this was the first time our family had to pay for private school tuition. I wanted to be able to have my own spending money and alleviate some of the stress on my parents.

Did you worry about money growing up?
My parents are extremely frugal, so I was never worried about the day to day. We saved money by living in a smaller house, eating dinner at home every night, and shopping from stores like Ross and Marshall’s, which would free up money to enroll my sister and I in whatever extracurricular lessons we wanted. We usually took one or two family vacations a year, often to visit our relatives abroad or travel to other countries. The only time I worried about money growing up was when my sister started applying to colleges. Our parents sat us down and told us realistically that there was no college fund and that if we wanted to go to school out of state, we would have to find some way to pay for it. In the end, I followed my sister to her college knowing that our financial aid would multiply if there were two of us enrolled at the same time.

Do you worry about money now?
My starting salary when I graduated college was over six figures, so whenever I worry about money, I remind myself how privileged I am to be where I am at such a young age. I shed many, many stress-induced tears when I was calculating how much money I would need to pay for grad school, but have been less stressed after making the decision to go part-time instead of full-time.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents ceremoniously cut my sister and I off after we graduated college and now joke that we ought to start paying them back for all the money they spent on us while we were growing up. We have started paying for meals and family vacations now that we make our own money and are expected to provide for our parents in their retirement as well. I absolutely have many layers of safety nets. When I was contemplating grad school full time, my partner offered to pay my tuition and I know he would happily cover my living costs as well if needed. I know that my sister and my parents would support me if necessary, and I could move abroad to my relatives if the situation were really dire.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
In college, I worked a variety of work-study jobs on campus to help cover costs not covered by financial aid. My parents wanted to limit the number of hours I worked so that I could focus on studying and graciously offered to match the money I made through work-study to half the hours that I worked. This income helped me pay for things like student org dues and service trips and I’m very thankful for it.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling giddy — it’s moving day! After a year and a half of dating, five months of social distancing together, and one dog adoption later, my partner, K., and I have made the decision to move in and today’s the day!

9 a.m. — K. takes our puppy out for his morning potty and I pull the sheets off the bed. I’ll throw them in the laundry and have K. wash them in the new apartment while I finish packing so that they’re ready to go by the time I get there this afternoon. I grab my thredUP bag of clothes that aren’t moving with me and leave it by the front door for USPS to pick up.

9:30 a.m. — We grab the laundry, day pack for the dog, and my bag of miscellaneous valuables, and hop in an Uber to the new apartment. $14.07

10 a.m. — I turn right back around to head back since I only came to provide extra hands and decide to save some money by taking the subway. I’m still not 100% comfortable on public transit yet, but I’m not expecting too many people to be on a Brooklyn bound subway Monday morning. Sure enough, I’m the only person in the car. $2.75

10:15 a.m. — On my way out of the station, a woman asks if I have an extra swipe. I haven’t had an unlimited metro card since WFH started, but would much rather offer the $2.75 than risk someone getting arrested or fined for literally $2.75. Personally, I think public transportation should be completely free, but that’s a separate conversation. $2.75

10:20 a.m. — I pop into my local cafe for a decaf iced coffee as a little goodbye to the neighborhood. $6.25

12 p.m. — I spend the rest of the morning finishing packing the odds and ends in my room and bathroom. Then, I head to the grocery store to pick up some water and Gatorade for the movers. It’s a disgusting New York summer day and I already feel bad that they’ll have to work in this heat, so I’m hoping that refreshments will ease the pain just a little. $7.90

2:13 p.m. — I scroll on my phone and catch up on the news (still holding onto my free New York Times subscription from college) while waiting for the movers to arrive. When they get here, they move astonishingly quickly and I make a mental note to tip well and never live on the top floor of a walk-up again.

3:44 p.m. — I call a Lyft to the new apartment, hoping to get there before the movers do, but my driver makes a few wrong turns and we end up stuck in traffic. Luckily, K. is able to let the movers in, and they’ve already made good unloading progress by the time I get there. $15.17

4:30 p.m. — We did it! I owe the movers a flat $475 since I got a deal as a returning customer. I add a 20% tip as appreciation for moving in the summer. $570

6:30 p.m. — After spending two hours unpacking and putting together the new apartment, K. and I are tired and hungry. Our friends (and new neighbors!) S. and T. bring over banh mi and Champagne to celebrate and I pop over to the corner store for drinks. I grab a 12 pack of Bon & Viv spiked seltzer and two iced teas for T. since she doesn’t drink, and run back across the street. $21.20

9 p.m. — K., S., and T. take the dogs while I hop on a Zoom birthday call for one of my best friends from college, M.

11:30 p.m. — After showering and putting the dog to bed, K. and I decide we’re still a little hungry and venture to the McDonald’s up the block. He gets a McChicken, I get some nuggs, and we split a large fry. We head home to eat, and pass out immediately afterward. $8.47

Daily Total: $648.56

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Despite our west-facing windows, enough sunlight streams in to wake me up before my 8:45 alarm. I definitely didn’t drink enough water last night and am paying the price for it now.

9 a.m. — Our window faces out onto the notoriously busy Trader Joe’s and we’re sad to see that there’s already a line to get in. We walk across the street and get in line, but luckily it moves pretty quickly. We pick up some kitchen staples like eggs and milk, lots of produce, and decide to try out the TJ’s brand soup dumplings and chicken tikka masala. We end up throwing anything that looks appealing into our cart as we walk up and down the aisles, and head home with our treasures. $92.70

9:35 a.m. — I preheat the oven to make the biscuits we just bought, but it starts smelling weird and emitting a huge amount of smoke. After the fire alarm goes off, we decide not to risk suffocation and make the biscuits in the toaster oven instead. I also make myself a matcha latte using matcha powder, milk, and a little sugar.

9:45 a.m. — First meeting of the day! I didn’t sleep well last night and already know it’s going to be a low productivity day. My company is WFH through the end of the year so I remind myself that it’s okay to not be 100% on 100% of the time.

12:30 p.m. — K. heats up the soup dumplings for lunch. They are underwhelming but what can you expect from frozen dumplings? My team asks for an apartment tour during one of our meetings and I am happy to oblige. This is by far the nicest apartment I have ever lived in (I have never had a closet in NYC, so the bar was not high) and I really feel like it’s coming together.

3 p.m. — The building repair man comes and cleans out the bedroom AC as well as the oven. It’s perfect timing because otherwise we would have had to cook dinner in the toaster oven as well.

5:30 p.m. — K. and I dial into a ConBody workout organized by my company. It’s a workout coached by formerly incarcerated people and it completely kicks our asses.

6 p.m. — I leave the call a little early and subway to Petco to pick up some treats for the pup. K. pre-orders the treats online to use up some rewards points, so I just walk in and pick up the order. I walk back to my old apartment to bring some leftover furniture to the curb. I manage to wrestle the hanging rack and rug on my own and end up enlisting my former roommate, H., to help me carry the mattress down. $15.75

7 p.m. — As I head out, I notice that the rug is missing from the curb. I chuckle and hope that whoever swooped it has a powerful vacuum to get out all the gunk that’s soaked into it over the year. I check Uber prices, but decide to save the money and subway. When I get home, I immediately shower to wash off the sweat and potential exposure from the subway. $2.75

8:30 p.m. — K. makes miso-glazed salmon with sushi rice for dinner and it’s YUM. Afterward, H. comes over to pick up his AC unit (he loaned it to K. since our last apartment had central) and K.’s old microwave since our new apartment has one built in. H. and K. hop in an Uber to H.’s new place, which is just three blocks away but the AC is HEAVY. I loved living with H. and A. last year, so I’m happy that H. will still be in the neighborhood.

10:30 p.m. — My mail-in ballot arrives, so I take some time to look up the candidates and fill it out. I’m still registered to vote in my home state, which I feel a tiny bit guilty about, but I do technically still retain the address and justify it by telling myself that my vote matters more in a swing state than it does in NYC. K. and I eat some TJ’s mochi ice cream and then brush our teeth and call it a night. We’re swapping sides of the bed tonight to see if it helps us sleep any better, fingers crossed!

Daily Total: $111.20

Day Three

8:45 a.m. — Tempted to snooze my alarm this morning, but remember that T. is coming over to pick up a couch from one of my neighbors at 9. He and another friend, Q., show up already sweaty and I’m a little concerned about the couch being super heavy, but free is free! K. also wakes up to join us and we head upstairs and pick up the couch.

9 a.m. — As I mentioned, T.’s new apartment is only three blocks away, but Uber isn’t an option this time, so after taking the elevator down to the lobby, we go on an adventure to walk this couch down the street. T. and Q. carry the couch and K. and I carry the seat cushions and help call out any steps or obstacles on the way. Turns out it actually takes a while to walk a couch three avenues and I dial into my morning meeting masked and sweaty-faced. My team has a video on policy, so they get the full video of our morning adventure.

10:30 a.m. — I leave the boys to wrestle the couch up three flights of stairs, and head back home. I make it back with just enough time to take the dog out, feed him breakfast, and switch into a clean shirt before my 10:30. This meeting is a 1:1 with a colleague who’s also super passionate about racial justice, so we spend some time drafting a survey to gauge interest in anti-racist programming for our org.

12:00 p.m. — K. and I realize that we didn’t really think through our grocery trip yesterday, so we end up eating ramen that I brought over from my old apartment and toast the focaccia as a side. We love a double carb meal! Afterward, we decide to make a quick Marshall’s run to see if we can catch any sales and end up buying some wine glasses, a dishwashing pad, some dog treats, and a little shower caddy. $24.08

1:30 p.m. — I tune into a webinar hosted by my company and listen in while I hang up a painting above our bed. I spend the rest of the afternoon struggling to wrap my head around my team’s newest project, so I give up and decide to work on it tomorrow morning. I snuggle with K. for a bit before he leaves for Manhattan to finish cleaning his old apartment.

5:30 p.m. — In an attempt to get some of the dog’s energy out, we head to a nearby dog park. There aren’t any dogs at the first one, so we head to another one a little bit further away. No dice at the second dog park either and it starts raining as we head home. It’s a little refreshing given the heat of the day, but we’re soaked through by the time we get home.

6:45 p.m. — K. picked up roast pork over rice from our favorite hole-in-the-wall place in Chinatown on his way back from Manhattan, and S. and T. join us for dinner. After eating, we’re stuffed but there’s always room for dessert, so we head to a nearby bakery under the guise of supporting small business, and grab some cookies. T. pays after we insist on not paying us back for dinner. $28

8:15 p.m. — WhatsApp call with the fam. I give my parents some life updates before my sister joins the call (she already knows everything about me since I tell her everything first), including my recent promotion, decision to start grad school part-time instead of full time, and an apartment tour. My parents are in Florida where COVID cases are skyrocketing, but they reassure us that they are staying home and spending their time playing lots of tennis.

10:30 p.m. — I text my college besties asking if anyone is interested in a book swap as a way to diversify our libraries and support the USPS. F., who is our resident Type A organizer, decides to set up a spreadsheet to organize it all. I have fun filling in my reviews of the books I’m offering and reading everyone else’s reviews. I text F. asking if I can borrow two of her books, and then call it a night.

Daily Total: $52.08

Day Four

8:45 a.m. — K. takes the dog to the dog park this morning, which means I get to snooze my alarm and get up slowly.

10 a.m. — The blender that we ordered last week comes in, so we decide to make smoothies to try it out. We add banana, frozen mango and berries, matcha powder, and milk, and we are very impressed with the blender’s power. We aren’t super hungry at lunchtime because of the smoothies, so K. makes some TJ’s orange chicken and we eat that with the leftover char siu rice from last night.

6 p.m. — K. and I log off our work laptops and head to the grocery store down the street in search of something to cook for dinner. We decide on tortellini and also pick up some ingredients for lasagna for this weekend. I will admit we are very guilty of always grocery shopping on empty stomachs and end up leaving with mangoes, avocados, grapes, frozen shrimp, and cookie dough. $91.44

7 p.m. — We get home, feed the pup dinner, and then make ourselves the tortellini and roast some Brussels sprouts for #health.

8 p.m. — We run through our list of things we still need to gather for the apartment and end up ordering a water kettle, paper towel holder, serving bowls, and a dish rack off Amazon. I have some ethical qualms with Amazon, but K. reminds me that one of his credit cards has 10% cashback on Amazon purchases through November, so I resign and remind myself that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. $103

8:15 p.m. — Reminded by our Amazon order, I remember that I need to Venmo a friend my portion of the birthday present we’re getting another bestie. We’re ordering her an Instant Pot in hopes that it will free up some of her time once she graduates nursing school and starts working and we were shocked to discover that Instant Pot’s direct retailer is actually Amazon. No ethical consumption! $12.33

9 p.m. — K. and I shower (we shower together to save water/time, gross I know) and then he calls some high school friends while I watch AOC’s response to Rep. Yoho’s remarks to her on YouTube. I am once again reminded that men are trash.

10 p.m. — I read a little bit of The New Jim Crow (digital copy free through my college’s library) and then fall asleep but tell K. to wake me up at midnight for the new Taylor Swift.

Daily Total: $206.77

Day Five

8:45 a.m. — K. did not wake me up at midnight for the new Taylor Swift.

9:45 a.m. — Another smoothie this morning, this time with chocolate protein powder instead of the mango, and a little spinach thrown in as well. Stand up and a few other meetings take up the rest of my morning.

12:30 p.m. — K. makes the rest of the tortellini for lunch. After we eat, we peep out the window and the Trader Joe’s line looks manageable, so we decide to pop out for a quick mid-day grocery run. We grab more focaccia, more Brussels sprouts, salmon, beef, cheeses for the lasagna, and some super yummy watermelon soda. $64.44

2:15 p.m. — Our new TV is here! We pick up the package from the lobby and then set it up on our TV stand. K. has had this TV stand for three whole years and it’s never held a TV until today, so it is a very big deal for him. The TV is actually comically large compared to the TV stand, but we have no regrets.

5:15 p.m. — We get a call from the front desk about an alcohol delivery. I am very perplexed because we definitely are not alcohol delivery people. I grab the package from the lobby and see that it’s a lovely bottle of scotch. I am still confused. K. tells me that our friend had it delivered as a housewarming gift. I’m touched!

6 p.m. — We want to make a Hong Kong-style soy sauce chicken recipe for dinner, but realize we’re missing a few key ingredients. We head to the bodega down the street and pick up gochujang, ginger, and cooking wine. I spy my favorite green tea ice cream and decide to buy a pint. K. spies well-priced new flavors of La Croix and decides to get a box as well. $26.42

6:15 p.m. — We take the long route home and stumble upon a cute Japanese mart. We’re super surprised to find that Asian groceries are available in the neighborhood and decide to pop in to take a look. In the end, we walk out with onigiri, Calpico, fish cake, udon, and red pepper powder. Did I mention we’re notorious for grocery shopping on empty stomachs? $24.55

7 p.m. — We feed the dog dinner and K. starts the rice while I get the chicken started. We also steam some bok choy.

10 p.m. — We eat some mochi ice cream and then vid call one of K.’s best friends, B. She currently lives in Singapore and tells us that the government there is trying to encourage domestic tourism to stimulate the economy. K. and I lament the US’s awful handling of the pandemic. After we say goodnight to B., we brush our teeth and go to bed.

Daily Total: $115.41

Day Six

9 a.m. — Time is a social construct and days don’t seem to matter anymore, so sleeping in on weekends is no longer a thing. We brush our teeth and then take the dog to the dog park to let off some of his seemingly endless energy. It’s a pleasant morning with a nice cool breeze, so we enjoy the time playing with the dogs and chatting with the other dog owners. Someone once told me that the kindest people in NYC are the dog owners, and I really, truly believe that.

11:30 a.m. — We stop by a cafe to grab coffee on the way home, and then head home to make avocado toast. Our avocados are tragically not ripe enough and I also break the eggs when I try to flip them, but it’s too late to turn back so we eat our sad avocado toast and contemplate all the roads that led us here. $8.58

1 p.m. — We pop out for a liquor run for our housewarming tonight. We would have liked to have a big party with all of our friends, but given the pandemic, we invite just our quarantine pod of friends. We decide to make frosé and Moscow mules, and make yet another TJ’s visit for frozen strawberries, limes, and ginger beer. I also grab some pita crackers, salsa, and more mochi ice cream. $18.49

1:30 p.m. — At the liquor store, we pick up Tito’s vodka, a bottle of rosé, and a bottle of red wine for the wine purists like K. $64

2:30 p.m. — We eat the leftover soy sauce chicken from last night for a light lunch to tide us over until lasagna time. After eating, we get start on the meat sauce for the lasagna, combining Italian sausage, ground beef, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes (unclear why this recipe calls for such tomato diversity but we’re here for it), as well as onion, parsley, and some seasoning. K.’s parents call and we show off our sauce proudly before covering and letting it simmer.

6 p.m. — We put the lasagna in the oven, do a quick Chloe Ting workout video, and shower before our guests arrive.

7:30 p.m. — Our friends arrive bearing the holy trinity of housewarming gifts: charcuterie, cookies, and alcohol. We have them wash hands, put face masks in plastic bags, and distribute alcohol wipes to wipe down their phones. Then, we serve the lasagna, toast some focaccia, and have a great night warming up our new home with our closest friends.

Daily Total: $91.07

Day Seven

2 a.m. — We say good night to our friends as they call Ubers home, chug some water, and pass out.

9:30 a.m. — I did not drink enough water last night and regret everything. K. is still sleeping peacefully so I brush my teeth and take the dog out for his morning potty. The sun is aggressively bright this morning and I continue to regret everything.

11 a.m. — After K. wakes up, we both take two Advil and heat up some of the leftover lasagna from last night in an attempt to clear up our hangovers.

2 p.m. — I take a nap and wake up feeling like a new woman.

4 p.m. — I shower and then pop across the hall to the laundry room and start a load of laundry. I’m still dreaming of one day having the luxury of in-unit but am thankful that laundry is now on the same floor and no longer five flights of stairs away. $2.50

5 p.m. — While the washer runs, I decide to treat myself to some boba and look up nearby options. I can either walk two minutes for a mediocre chain or walk eight minutes for my favorite chain. I decide that it is just going to be a low step count day and resign myself to a green milk tea boba that is just okay, but will still satisfy my craving. $4.75

5:15 p.m. — K. decides that he wants a pastry, and heads to a bakery one more block up. I ask him to also pick up a loaf of milk bread so that we can make french toast this week. $8.08

6 p.m. — I fold laundry while K. makes dinner. Tonight he’s doing a sous vide steak and kale salad, YUM.

10 p.m. — We have a quiet night and go to bed early to recharge before a new work week.

Daily Total: $15.33

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