A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $58,500 Salary

Refinery29
·23 min 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.

Today: a director working in education who makes $58,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

Occupation: Director
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $58,500
Net Worth: -$25,544. This is my total debt, minus my savings account and my 401(k). My partner and I split the cost of most living expenses (groceries, rent, utilities, household purchases) but do not share any bank accounts.
Debt: $5,167 in credit cards (I have been working really hard to lower this balance), and around $25,000 in student loans.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,600
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent $1,205 (utilities included). My girlfriend and I are subletting from one other person in a three-bedroom apartment until we move early next year.
Student Loans: $221 for my federal and school-specific student loans.
Apple Storage: $3
Autostraddle Subscription: $4
Griefbacon Newsletter Subscription: $5
Peloton: $13
New York Times: $7
New York Magazine: $5
HBOMax: $15
Hulu: $6
Spotify: $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?
Yes. Neither of my parents graduated from college, but education was always a big focus in our household — my parents weren’t shoving the idea of college down my throat, but they stressed that school was always supposed to come before sports or extracurriculars and we spent a lot of time at the library when I was growing up. I attended a small, private liberal arts college in the Midwest. I paid for school using mostly scholarships/grants, federal loans, and work-study. Every year I ended up paying about $3,600 in tuition costs and I covered that by working multiple jobs throughout school.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
When I was growing up, my family had a lot of financial problems (job losses, house foreclosure, medical debt) that my parents kept pretty well-hidden from us. I wasn’t under the impression that we were rich, but my parents worked very hard to make sure that money was something they worried about, not my siblings and me. Occasionally we’d talk about how money worked; for example, I shouldn’t buy a bag of Chex Mix from the cafeteria, because that would be an equivalent cost to five days of school lunch. Or, I would need to choose between going on a choir trip or an overnight swim team invitational meet. As I got older, I became more aware of the wealth disparity between my friends and my family, but still didn’t really have a grasp on the extent of my family’s finances until I was applying for college and doing financial aid applications with my parents. My uncle set up savings accounts for me and each of my siblings when we turned 13, and every year on our birthdays until we turned 18 he would match the balance. My parents really tried to get me to take advantage of that and stressed the importance of saving money, but in retrospect, I did not utilize that gift as wisely as I should have.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Besides one-off things like working at the concession stand while my brothers played baseball, or babysitting for my cousins, my first job was as a cashier at Target when I was a sophomore in high school. I absolutely hated it — why do they ask 15-year-olds to hawk credit cards? — but I wanted to have spending money, and half-heartedly tried to put some of my paychecks in savings.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not particularly. I was a very anxious child, but my parents effectively sheltered me from knowing specifics around money, so I directed my latent worry elsewhere. I definitely knew that my parents worked hard to stretch one salary between six people, and there were times I was disappointed by or concerned about our relative lack, especially when I was applying to college and realizing how much of the financial burden would land on me. But all in all, no, we always had what we needed, and I didn’t think much beyond that.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. All the time, every day, every night (I have so many money-related stress dreams). I worry about the fact that interest on my student loans keeps accumulating, to the point that I’ve accrued almost three times what I’ve paid off since graduating college. I worry about my tendency to splurge when I can’t really afford it. I worry about my credit card debt and its impact on my credit score. I worry about an inevitable emergency happening that I won’t be able to pay for. I worry about being laid off. I worry about being tied down to a job I don’t like forever for the sake of a safety net and health insurance.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was more or less financially responsible for myself when I turned 18 and went to college. I’m still on my parents’ health insurance (and want to Peter Pan my way into never turning 26), and on occasion my parents have helped pay for a big expense, things like emergency dental surgery or a few times I couldn’t cover my monthly tuition payment or a new pair of glasses. I have a financial safety net in the sense that if I absolutely needed my parents to spot me a few hundred dollars maybe once a year, they could cover it, and I know if anything happened like I lost my job or housing, I could move back home.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Besides the matching savings account from my uncle (which amounted in total to about $3,000 over five years), no.

Day One

8:50 a.m. — Actually wake up to my third alarm. I’ve been working from home since March and I am in total disbelief that I used to leave the house fully clothed and awake and made up at 8 a.m., given that I now drag myself out of bed and log on to Slack in pajamas every day. I look at my phone for a couple of minutes, then head down the hall to our office to say hello to my team and scroll through emails for a bit.

9:45 a.m. — My girlfriend, F., texts me, which is how I know she is awake and wants me to come back to bed. We moved in together in September after dating for about four months (insert U-Haul joke here) and it’s been, in a word, blissful. We were essentially living together for all of July and August, so it wasn’t a huge shift in terms of our routine, but it’s been interesting to adjust to the minute parts of living with a partner — splitting bills and groceries, arranging all of our books on the same shelf, merging our closets. This is the first time I’ve officially lived with — like been on a lease with — someone I’m dating. We were planning for a February move-in, but some roommate drama led to an earlier date, which, again, has been a delicious gift! Anyways, I go lay with her for five minutes and then we both get up and get ready.

10 a.m. — Morning skincare consists of Tower 28 Rescue Spray (gentler than a toner or actually washing my face), First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream (very heavy and meant for overnight, but my skin is always super-dry so I use a light layer in the morning), Krave Beauty The Beet Shield sunscreen (incredible). Morning makeup consists of Maybelline Full ‘N Soft mascara (I will never stop hyping this product) and Glossier Boy Brow. Make coffee, then sit down at my desk for some work.

11:45 a.m. — Take a break to sit out in the backyard with F. and talk about our dinner plans. We really need to go grocery shopping soon so it’s going to be a hodgepodge kind of evening. We have some veggies that are on their last legs and I made a batch of vegetable stock over the weekend, so I decide to make some tomato soup this afternoon that we can use for lunches. I prep veggies (onions, garlic, carrot, and canned tomatoes) then put them in the oven to roast. I wash dishes while I listen to the newest episode of Maintenance Phase, my podcast of the moment. I heat up rice and leftover soy-glazed green beans for lunch.

1:10 p.m. — Spend the afternoon alternating between Zoom meetings and attending to my soup prep (including immersion blending — I got one on sale earlier in the fall and I am deeply obsessed with it).

3:30 p.m. — Run to the deli down the block because we need eggs and butter before making a real grocery trip later. I also grab a bag of tortilla chips because I am a firm believer in having crunchy snacks. Pay with my debit card and put it in Splitwise, where F. and I settle up monthly. $15

5:15 p.m. — Do a 40-minute workout — I’m doing a four-week strength course. Before lockdown, I was finally getting to the point of working out where I actually liked it and felt strong, but that went to the wayside. I am trying to get back into it without veering into being obsessive, or tying it to food, or aggravating body issues, and I have to say, the Peloton workouts are legitimately great.

6:30 p.m. — F. has therapy, so I get started on dinner — salmon cakes, roasted potatoes, and a salad — while listening to my favorite Bachelorette recap podcast, Here to Make Friends (someday I will write a book about the intersection of queer theory and pop culture, and there will be a LONG chapter about The Bachelor franchise).

7:45 p.m. — Dinner and an episode of Schitt’s Creek. F. cleans up while I read my book, Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth. She wrote The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I’ve been holding off on reading this because I didn’t want to be disappointed after loving her first book so much, but I am absolutely not — it’s spooky and sweeping and incredibly queer.

10:30 p.m. — F. and I make a list of Thanksgiving recipes and she preorders a couple of pies for us to pick up the day before. We watch an episode of a food show on Hulu and then talk about our (collective and respective) futures — we’re both in jobs we don’t love and have qualms about whether or not we want to go down the career paths we initially imagined for ourselves.

11:40 p.m. — Nighttime routine, courtesy of Glossier: Milky Jelly Cleanser, Super Bounce Serum, Moisturizing Moon Mask (which I use as a night cream). Sex, snuggle, Tik Tok. Eventually we fall asleep around 1.

Daily Total: $15

Day Two

8:20 a.m. — Wake up before my alarms! It’s raining again today and my room smells like wet leaves, which does not sound appealing but is very autumnal and something I would buy as a candle scent. F. has a tendency to slowly scoot over throughout the night, almost pinning me against the wall. I try to wake her up so she will move over. Alas, my attempt is futile.

8:55 a.m. — Get out of bed, walk down the hallway, and log on to work. It’ll be a stacked day, so I get all of my data ready to present at today’s directors’ meeting and then go wake up F.

9:40 a.m. — Coffee, face, makeup, dressed, back to my computer. “Dressed” is a generous term, since I am wearing exclusively Girlfriend Collective loungewear, but it is what it is.

11:15 a.m. — Short break between meetings. Catch my breath and make toast.

11:45 a.m. — Dive into my afternoon of 1:1 meetings with our CTO, COO, CEO, my direct reports, and a new hire. Contemplate getting a ring light because I look incredibly corspe-like in this lighting.

4 p.m. — BREAK. FINALLY. Chug a bottle of water, eat some leftover salmon, and read my book. Usually Thursdays aren’t quite this busy for me, but I’m taking tomorrow and Monday off so I’m smushing things in.

5:45 p.m. — Finish up some emails, put up my away responder, and I’m done! I eat some Ben & Jerry’s and return to my book.

11:45 p.m. — I consume the rest of this 650-page book in one sitting. It is so good I feel as though I am on drugs. Text my best friend, N., and tell her she needs to read it immediately (mostly because I know she’ll love it, only slightly because I want to discuss it with someone). Open up Twitter to see that Phoebe Bridgers and Maggie Rogers released a cover of “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls and shriek. I go show it to F., who is wisely in bed.

1 a.m. — Book-induced adrenaline eventually settles enough for me to sleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9:15 a.m. — Wake up with dread about going to the dentist today. Lay in bed before doing an abbreviated version of my morning skincare and walking to the train in the rain (boo). Metrocard machine is not accepting cards (boo). I miraculously find just enough cash in my pocket (yay) and reload the card. $3

10:15 a.m. — Subway and Ariana Grande to calm myself. I miss taking the train.

12:15 p.m. — Dentist is done. Unpleasant, but manageable! However, I have 11 cavities. I make an appointment for a week from today to get started on my fillings. They’ll email me later about my payment options. I stop at an ATM for cash to put on my Metrocard. $20

12:25 p.m. — First train car has a man smoking a cigarette on the other end. Get out at the next stop and walk into a car with a man masturbating. What a joy today has been! Step off and wait for the next train.

2 p.m. — Home. Get the email with my payment plan for the dentist and filling my cavities is going to be an obscene amount of money, even with insurance. F. comes to talk me out of my shame spiral: I can’t believe I have so much credit card debt, I’m so stupid, I feel incompetent and irresponsible, I’m too impulsive and undisciplined to stick to my budget, what if my credit score tanks us getting a new apartment, ad infinitum. I have a lot, a lot, a LOT to deal with emotionally around money. My therapist and I discuss it often. After some tears, I feel better. F. leaves for her dentist appointment and I sit down with my bank account and my budget. Ultimately, I decide to pay in one go, so I don’t have monthly payments hanging over my head. Ughhhhh. $645.62

4:30 p.m. — I watch TikTok, text my mom to commiserate about healthcare costs, and email my grandma to ask for a recipe. Eventually, I walk around the corner to a wine store I like to pick up a couple of bottles and add the ones we’ll share to the Spliwise. $38.11

5:15 p.m. — F. texts me to order dinner from this queer-owned cafe we both love that is closing in a few weeks, her treat. My angel. We both get fried chicken sandwiches and share crispy potatoes, mac & cheese, and a piece of sno-ball cake (yes, like the Hostess dessert). I cover tax + tip since she got food. $20

7 p.m. — We eat our (insanely delicious) dinner and watch some TV before she goes to FaceTime her best friend while I hang out in the living room and watch GBBO and stare at my phone. Kind of zonked from my meltdown earlier.

12 a.m. — Nighttime skincare, crawl into bed, snuggle, Twitter, sleep.

Daily Total: $726.73

Day Four

11:30 a.m. — Blissful sleepy Saturday wakeup. Snuggle with F., which turns into blissful sleepy Saturday morning sex. Afterward, we’re discussing our breakfast options and when I say that I want grits, she (a born-and-bred Texan) seizes the moment and offers to buy brunch from a spot we’ve both wanted to try. I cover the tip and we laze around while waiting for the food to arrive. $11

1 p.m. — Outdoor dining! In our pajamas, in the backyard. F. got a fried chicken biscuit with honey butter and a side of kale, I got a pork hash situation, we both got some boozy brunch beverages, and we split the aforementioned grits.

3:30 p.m. — F. decides to nap for a bit and I decide to indulge even further. I take a bubble bath, do a hair mask AND a face mask, then aggressively moisturize every part of my body. (Glossier Body Oil — I like the product, but the packaging is NOT GOOD. Glass bottle + slippery oily hands = me dropping this at least twice every time I use it. I follow it with my standby Goldbond Aloe Vera lotion. It’s basic but perfect.) I go wake her up around 5 and we lay around for a bit.

6 p.m. — I migrate to the couch again, pour myself a glass of wine, and settle in with Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden. I’ve read it before and would rank it among my top 10 favorite books, but I’m a big fan of re-reading in general — I grew up going to the library all the time, and now I tend to only buy books if, one, I’ve already read them or, two, I like the author. Honestly, I’m still on the comedown from Plain Bad Heroines so I decide to buy a new copy of The Miseducation of Cameron Post (I have a copy somewhere but haven’t been able to find it in a while and think I may have lost it in our move). $15.50

9:15 p.m. — Find The Devil Wears Prada on some streaming service I have access to through my parents’ cable and start watching it. F. joins me for a bit after her workout but eventually leaves me to watch her own show. Tragic.

12 a.m. — Skincare, snuggle, TikTok. I should really go to bed but, instead, I stay up until after 2, doing absolutely nothing.

Daily Total: $26.50

Day Five

10 a.m. — Wake up earlier than I would have liked because someone is buzzing our doorbell. Turns out to be a package delivery for the neighbors. I get up to make my breakfast (reheated leftovers from yesterday’s brunch) and coffee for F. and me. Our French press broke recently, and we’ve been drinking these delicious individual pour-overs from a company I really like, Copper Cow, but I can’t really justify spending this much on them as often as I have been. I order us a pour-over and reusable filters and put it in our Splitwise. $29

12:30 p.m. — It’s chores day since yesterday was laze-around-day. F. takes the kitchen/living room; I tidy up our office and sort the laundry. The building next door to mine (owned by the same person) has laundry that we use, so I go over there only to realize the dryer is broken. Walk back to our apartment to swap these clothes out for a load that won’t go in the dryer, go back over only to have the machine stop accepting coins. Excellent. The landlord happens to be there, so we fiddle around with the machine for a while until I finally decide to just take my clothes to a laundromat down the street. On my way back from dropping them off, I see our landlord who tells me that the machine is working now. Perfect timing. I am very annoyed. $1.75

2:55 p.m. — Fume about my laundry, wonder if my runny nose is COVID or allergies, worry about my family in various parts of the country and their respective risk levels for getting sick. Rouse myself from the spiral to go get the laundry.

3:10 p.m. — Hang up one hundred million clothes and work out in an attempt to calm myself down.

4:15 p.m. — It works. It’s so annoying that exercise is actually good for you because I do not ever enjoy it while it’s happening.

5 p.m. — Shower, then start making dinner. I offer to make F. some soup (that I actually cannot eat, since I recently learned I’m allergic to squash after chopping one up and my hands reacting like I’d stuck them in hot oil) since she’s having a quiet day and I’m in the mood for a project. I make myself a quick sandwich then start on her butternut squash curry soup using, you guessed it, my immersion blender. I just love this thing.

7:10 p.m. — Take F. her soup and then sit down with my dinner (roasted sweet potatoes and tilapia). It’s not great but it’ll do. Pour a glass of wine, start kitchen cleanup, and send a couple of Marco Polos to my group chat and finish this week’s episode of Bake Off. I miss Lottie.

8 p.m. — Start rewatching Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift documentary. I love Taylor Swift. I have never and will never hedge on this. N. and I have been to three of her concerts and I will devote a different chapter of my book to the queer theory around her persona/music/fandom. I text N. about it, who reminds me that tonight there’s a new episode of The Undoing on HBO!! I would die for Nicole Kidman’s terrible American accents, and Hugh Grant’s poorly aged face, and most HBO dramas. I watch that while F. is in our room watching The Queen’s Gambit and it’s raining outside and we’re both drinking a couple of beers. Quite cozy!

11 p.m. — Skincare, sex, snuggle, TikTok, sleep (but not until, like, 2:30, whoops).

Daily Total: $30.75

Day Six

10:45 a.m. — Day off!!! Lazy wakeup, quick shower, and then off to do the remainder of laundry. Stop for a bagel (meh) and a latte (delicious) and go for a walk while I wait to swap the clothes. $10.81

1:30 p.m. — Laundry is done. Do the dishes, then put away all of our clothes with Schitt’s Creek on in the background. Text N., lay around, read The Secret History by Donna Tartt (another re-read), watch The West Wing, briefly check my work email to filter through the extra messages so my inbox won’t be too daunting tomorrow morning, eat the other half of my bagel, mostly just bop around the apartment while F. works.

5:15 p.m. — Discuss dinner with F. and come to the conclusion that we’re ordering in again. We’re going grocery shopping tomorrow, so I can justify it. F. is still working and later has a meeting about her work for the co-op she belongs to, so I schedule the order to deliver at 7:30ish and put it in our Splitwise. $84.50

8 p.m. — Dinner and Schitt’s Creek. I spend the rest of the evening not really doing anything, half-watching an old episode of Steven Universe and talking to F.

11 p.m. — Skincare, snuggle, TikTok, asleep around 12:30.

Daily Total: $95.31

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

9:15 a.m. — Zero out my inbox, make a to-do list, and get started on coffee.

11:30 a.m. — Quick break after plugging through most of my work to get dressed and put on makeup, then hop on a call with our CTO.

12 p.m. — Lunch! Leftover arepas from last night. Scroll through Twitter, browse my daily personal emails (Poem-a-Day, Literary Hub, Pitchfork, The Cut, Vulture), watch Adrianne Lenker’s Tiny Desk video.

1:30 p.m. — Zoom for basically the entire afternoon. Daily meeting with my team, weekly meeting re: hiring, weekly meeting with another colleague, and a phone call. The job posting for a new member of my team just went live, so I do a preliminary sweep of résumés and flag a couple of potential candidates.

5:15 p.m. — Finish up emails and log off for the day to head to the grocery store. I loved grocery shopping pre-COVID, but now it is just a stress dream come to life. Get mostly perishable stuff: bread, onions, garlic, bell peppers, kale, apples, lemons, yogurt, ice cream, beer, popcorn, dish soap, toilet paper, and a Kinder bar for F. plus some crispy M&Ms for myself. (M&M ranking order: crispy, mini, peanut butter, regular, everything else is irrelevant.) Pay and put it in our Splitwise. $98

6 p.m. — Haul my tote bags home and listen to You’re Wrong About. Unpack groceries, then lay on the couch in our office and basically just stare at the ceiling and decompress while F. talks to her mom in our bedroom. She comes in and we talk about our days and plan for dinner — she offers to order us Chipotle, which is my comfort food. We do eat out a fair amount as we both love to try new food, but this week is really aggressive, even for us. I order it on the app, she pays.

8 p.m. — Showered, Chipotle in hand, time for The Bachelorette. I text my friends throughout the show as if we were all watching together, which is not the same but still fun. This show is such a bizarre exercise in heterosexual masculinity. Tonight they had a wrestling match? And said the phrase “grown-ass man” no less than 30 times?

11 p.m. — Talk about Christmas plans with F. She looks at ornaments, I read for a bit, and eventually we both go to bed around 1.

Daily Total: $98

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