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 data analyst who makes $122,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on rice wine.
Occupation: Data Analyst
Location: New York, NY
Net Worth: $154,000 (~$90,000 in various high yield savings accounts, ~$30,000 in a brokerage account, $18,000 in a Roth IRA, ~$26,000 in a 401(k))
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,061
Rent: $1,450 (I live in a one-bedroom turned three-bedroom flex — that’s New York for you — with two other roommates. My room is half of the original living room. It’s cramped and expensive, but the convenience of the location and building amenities made eating the cost worthwhile to me, at least for my first year adjusting to New York.)
Spotify: $5.34 (my sister and my portion of the family plan)
HBO Max: $1.88 (plan split between several of my friends)
Hulu: Free (courtesy of my cousin)
Internet: $0 ($30, but it’s covered by my company)
Phone: $0 (on a family plan. I send my parents $50 a month, but it is covered by my company)
Health/Dental/Vision: $0 (covered by my company)
Amazon Prime Student: $69
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, there was always the expectation for me to go to college. Higher education is important to my parents — my dad sacrificed his opportunity to go to college to work and pay for my mom’s education when they immigrated to the US, and it was expected that my sister and I would both attend. I have an undergraduate degree that my parents paid for. It was always a given that they would pay for college, but as a caveat, I could only apply to public state schools. Where I grew up, it was the norm that everyone’s parents paid for their college, so I was actually resentful of the restriction. It wasn’t until later that I realized how lucky I was when I met others for whom this was not the case. After working with people who have come from many different colleges, I know now that the school doesn’t matter so much as having a degree, so I’m happy I didn’t choose to take out any loans to attend a private school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I never had any real money conversations with my parents, but they taught me by example. They are not materialistic people and lead a frugal lifestyle — we ate out less than five times a year and every weekend I would accompany them grocery-store hopping to take advantage of all the various circular deals. Growing up this way conditioned me to reflexively think twice about my spending and make sure I’m getting the best deal. Also, though my parents didn’t discuss financial literacy with me, they did frequently stress the importance of pursuing financial stability over passion, which was advice I despised in high school but ultimately led me to change majors in college for higher earning potential.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Technically my first job was as a coach for elementary-level mathletes when I was 13, but my first official W-2 job was as a swim coach when I was 15. I got the first gig mainly for fun, but it inadvertently introduced me to the joy of having my own money (even though I never spent it), which became my motivation for being a swim coach.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Kind of. My parents were frugal, but I knew we were comfortably middle-class. Basic living expenses were never an issue, and my sister and I were able to participate in extracurricular activities and go on occasional family vacations. Relatively speaking, though, I lived in a wealthy neighborhood and grew up feeling financially insecure around my peers who had more affluent lifestyles and parents with more lucrative careers. My parents kept quiet about their finances, but I knew enough to understand that they were stretched more than they’d like to be by choosing to move to this area so that my sister and I could attend competitive public schools.
Do you worry about money now?
My day-to-day is comfortable, but I do worry a lot about my financial future. I want to provide for my parents when they get older and there is a strong chance my sister may need assistance as well. I worry that I’m not saving and investing my money in the most efficient way possible amidst rapid inflation. The financial advice I read online is so confusing (can someone please explain how to benefit from the HSA triple-tax advantages? Mega backdoor Roth IRAs?) and I wonder if I’m making poor long-term financial decisions due to being uninformed.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I only just started becoming financially independent this year when I moved to New York. I’m very grateful that my parents helped me out with tuition and rent during college and I stayed at home rent-free after I graduated amidst the pandemic, which allowed me to accumulate a large amount of savings. I also know if I ever needed to come back home my parents would welcome me with open arms (in fact, they’ve been trying to convince me to move back in!).
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents paid for my college tuition and gave me a monthly allowance of $200 during my first two years of college.
9:45 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for the day. Thankfully, I work from home, so this doesn’t involve much besides washing my face and changing out of my “in bed” pajamas and into my “out of bed but still at home” pajamas. I’m very lucky in that my team works flexible hours and most of them are on the West Coast, so my mornings are slow. I’ve just returned from a week-long work trip and my fridge is mostly bare minus two pastries. I heat up one of the pastries and fix myself an instant coffee, then get to work.
5:30 p.m. — The work trip was honestly 50% drinking, 45% karaoke, and only 5% work, so the first day back is naturally very busy. It’s not until 5:30 that I feel like I’m at a good stopping place and I realize I’m super hungry. My fridge has not magically stocked itself since the morning so dinner is whatever I can find, which happens to be tofu stew using a pack of ramen, a box of tofu, some napa cabbage, and an egg. I eat half of it and save the rest for tomorrow.
7:30 p.m. — I’m not fully done for the day yet but I leave to meet a girl, G., for a comedy show at 8. We’ve been chatting on Bumble BFF and she happened to have tickets and invited me to be her plus one. I moved to New York knowing less than a handful of people, so Bumble has been a huge help in starting my social circle here. It’s a 15-minute subway ride. I accumulated a lot of commuter benefits at my previous job and I made sure to cash out by buying stacks of MetroCards before my last day. I still try to walk whenever I can, but they should last me at least eight months of free rides.
9:30 p.m. — The comedy show is fun, and afterward, we stop by a boba place to grab a drink. I get a jasmine green tea with grass jelly. It’s alright —I had a lot of boba growing up so I’m a bit of a snob. I have yet to find a place in NYC that can compare to my favorites back home. $4.50
11:30 p.m. — I arrive back home via subway in high spirits after talking and meandering the Lower East Side streets with G. I am always anxious to meet new people, so I’m proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone today and happy that it went so well. I did get home later than expected, though, and I still have some work I want to finish before tomorrow, so I quickly shower and get through my nighttime routine. After showering, I work for another hour before finishing up around 1 a.m. It’s nights like these when I am especially grateful that my work is mostly heads-down and on my own schedule. I still feel pretty awake, so I watch the latest John Oliver episode on YouTube before going to bed at 2.
Daily Total: $4.50
9:15 a.m. — I wake up, wash my face, and change into my middle-tier pajamas. Breakfast is the remaining pastry in the fridge and a simple shake with soy milk and frozen strawberries. Last week I made a pit stop to visit my family before my work trip, and while I was there I made sure to pack my Magic Bullet that I was constantly regretting not bringing with me when I first moved. No more smoothie withdrawal! I prep breakfast then start working.
12:20 p.m. — A month ago a friend introduced me to an app that lets supermarkets and restaurants sell surplus food at a steep discount that would otherwise go to waste and I’ve been obsessed with it since. There’s a grocery store near me on the app that I’ve bought from a couple of times. Unfortunately, they’re very competitive, and when I go onto the app I see that they were sold out just two minutes ago — sad. I set a reminder to myself for tomorrow to make sure I book on time.
4:30 p.m. — I take a break from work and take the subway to SoHo. I need to visit a few stores to return some clothing items. Thankfully all three stores happen to be on the same block and I’m done earlier than expected, so I stop at Target. I’m excited about being reunited with my blender, so I get a giant bag of frozen berries along with Greek yogurt, spring mix, and a carton of eggs. I get home at 5:15 and immediately make a smoothie with berries, Greek yogurt, and soy milk before going back to my desk. $26.85
6:30 p.m. — I remember I have a Barry’s class in an hour, so I need to eat dinner now. I reheat the tofu stew from yesterday on the stove and bulk it up with another egg and some frozen shrimp I forgot I had. I also add more water as well as some gochujang to replenish the flavor. I eat about half of it and then start walking over.
9 p.m. — This was my first Barry’s class and I have so many friends who rave about it, but I was underwhelmed. I came with high hopes, but honestly, the workouts are too similar to what I can do by myself in any gym for me to see its value. It could just be a one-off, though, as I didn’t find the music too motivating and I spent an embarrassing majority of the class wondering if I should be concerned about how noticeable my veins look in the red light. The class was free through a ClassPass bounce-back offer for a month’s worth of free classes. I pass by Whole Foods on the walk home and go in just to see what’s up. I’m still in the honeymoon phase with my blender, so I peruse the frozen fruit section where I regrettably discover that I’ve overpaid for my frozen berries at Target. I buy the frozen tropical fruit medley and go home. $6.99
10 p.m. — I shower and consider making a third smoothie, but decide that it’s overkill and settle for a bowl of Grape Nuts (a cereal that deserves more respect) with soy milk before FaceTiming my friend back home. We have weekly calls to discuss the latest episode of 90 Day Fiancé and generally catch up on life. It’s a sacred part of our week and we both plan our schedules around it.
11 p.m. — We hang up after an hour. I make plans for tomorrow to meet my bestie, B., who just flew back from vacation. The plan is to try this dessert spot and get dinner beforehand since her fridge is also empty. After some back and forth, we agree to a no-frills dinner as it’s just a pre-game for dessert, so I reserve two meals from a sandwich place on the food waste app to pick up tomorrow and B. Venmos me her half. The hours tick by unnoticed as I browse Reddit and watch YouTube before coming to my senses and rushing to bed at 2:30. $4.99
Daily Total: $38.83
9:45 a.m. — Get up and go through my morning routine before starting work. Breakfast today is (you guessed it) a smoothie. I break out the tropical fruit medley and blend it with some Greek yogurt and soy milk. Amazing.
12:15 p.m. — The reminder I set for myself to reserve a bag of groceries goes off and I rush to book — success! The pickup window is tomorrow morning and I’m excited to see what I’ll get. Since it’s surplus food, the bags are always a surprise, which is fine for me as I’m not a picky eater and figuring out what to make with the hodge-podge of ingredients makes me feel like I’m on Iron Chef. The thought of groceries has me feeling hungry, so I add an egg and a few frozen dumplings into the leftover stew. You’d think I’d be a little sick of the stew by now, but I keep adding different things to it so it still hits. I finish it off for lunch. $4.99
5:40 p.m. — My last meeting ends earlier than expected and I take the opportunity to dash over to the library before they close at 6 to return a book (The Guest List — I recommend to any Agatha Christie stans) and pick up Crying in H Mart. The book is super popular and I was in line for almost two months, so I’m eager to finally get to read it. On the way back, I pick up the dinners I pre-ordered for B. and me yesterday. It ends up being a sandwich of my choosing, fruit, and a liter of SmartWater — fancy. Usually you don’t get to pick what you get, so I’m in crisis mode since I did not do my normal extensive menu research and I have no time to ask B. what she wants. I go for the chicken parm and turkey avocado in a panic as both of those are sandwiches I think I’ve seen B. eat before. I also stop by Target to grab hummus and baby carrots. I use a shopping app that occasionally has cash-back offers for certain items, so the hummus is free. $0.99
6:30 p.m. — B. comes over and we watch an episode of The Leftovers while eating our dinners and munching on carrots and hummus. She’s exhausted after her trip and so am I, so we decide to table our dessert plans and end up staying at my place. We share stories of our recent travels and she gives me the Everlane turtleneck sweater I ordered. They recently had a huge sale and one of their promotions was 30% off orders above $200, so we combined our carts. I also bought some shorts, but she informs me that they weren’t able to fulfill the order. I put on a quick fashion show and we debate on whether I should keep it, but then she discovers that it’s now on sale for even cheaper so I decide to return it and repurchase at the new price. I Venmo her for the sweater and I’ll return it later. $27
10:30 p.m. — B. leaves. I’ve been going to bed way too late the past few days, so I resolve to be asleep by 1. I take a shower and go through my nightly routine, but of course my brain decides that midnight is the perfect time to get an idea for work that I must test out right now. I end up going to bed at 1:30 (still progress, I guess?).
Daily Total: $32.98
10:30 a.m. — I am a terribly deep sleeper so I usually set two alarms: one that I unconsciously snooze to pull me out of deep sleep, and the other half an hour later to actually wake me up. It turns out that I’ve forgotten to set the second alarm today and I wake up in a panic once I check the time. Thankfully, I’m not behind due to working last night, but this is quite the L for someone who wanted to get their schedule back to decently normal. The pickup window for the groceries I ordered yesterday is in 30 minutes, so I get dressed to go grab them before logging on.
11:15 a.m. — I get home and start working for a couple of hours until my stomach tells me it’s time for lunch. The mystery grocery bag ends up being two chicken breasts, a package of Rana four-minute ravioli, a bag of sugar snap peas, fresh basil, a pint of heavy cream, two cans of La Croix, two bananas, and a peach — all for $4.99! The peach is a little bruised so I eat it right away. I’m not feeling inspired right now so I throw one of the chicken breasts in a pan with pesto to have with some spring mix salad. I use a milk frother to thin out the hummus with water and lemon juice for a salad dressing. I refrain from making another smoothie since my roommate, F., is working from home today and I don’t want to disturb him. I make a virgin spritzer with some orange juice and a can of La Croix.
6 p.m. — I walk over to meet a friend, R., for dinner at a Korean restaurant. I haven’t seen R. in almost four years. We actually had no idea the other moved to New York until we added each other on BeReal. I dislike most social media and mostly stay away from it, but I can’t deny that it does have its benefits sometimes. The food is amazing — we split a seafood ramyun carbonara and a rose tteokbokki (rice cake) along with some drinks. Conversation flows smoothly as we swap stories from the past four years and our moves to the city. $38.17
9:45 p.m. — I get home and see a message from B. I was originally supposed to meet her and her boyfriend at our favorite restaurant that makes makgeolli (rice wine) slushies that are to die for, but she asks if I can order the slushies to-go as they want to meet at my building’s rooftop lounge instead of at the restaurant. Unfortunately, they don’t do takeaway orders, but have no fear, my blender is here! I run to H Mart to buy a bottle of makgeolli and use up the rest of my tropical frozen fruit to create a homemade version before they arrive. $8.70
10:30 p.m. — B. and her boyfriend arrive and thankfully they like the drink— it seriously tastes very similar to the restaurant so I’ll definitely be making it again. We play a board game and they leave around 1 a.m. I planned a solo trip upstate tomorrow so I hurry to get ready for bed and fall asleep at 2.
Daily Total: $46.87
10:30 a.m. — I wake up to a cacophony of shouting and what sounds like taiko drums outside. The noise is typical for where I live but still grating. Thankfully I’m too excited for my trip upstate to be too bothered. I pop a bagel I froze months ago in the toaster oven to reheat. While I wait, I look up train times for Metro-North and have a berry smoothie for breakfast. I slather the bagel with hummus and saran-wrap it to have for lunch later, then I head to Grand Central.
12 p.m. — I board the Metro-North train just in time. The train is free via the commuter benefits from my previous job. I’m going to Dia Beacon, an art museum known for its large-scale contemporary pieces with galleries tailor-made to house the installations. I’ve been planning on visiting since I decided to move to New York. The train ride is over an hour; I use the time to read Crying in H Mart.
1:30 p.m. — I get to the museum. Admission is $20, well worth it for all there is to see. I stay until closing at 5, stopping at 3 to buy an iced coffee ($3.78) and eat my bagel in the museum cafe. $23.78
6 p.m. — I explore a bit of downtown Beacon after the museum closes before boarding the train back. I get home around 8 with a craving for tuna mayo rice balls. I start the rice cooker before having a low-key meltdown searching for the canned tuna for two hours to no avail. I even check my wardrobe and empty out my storage bins, but it seems to have disappeared for good. For some reason, this leads to me deciding to ignore the rice completely and have a bagel with peanut butter for dinner instead. I spend the rest of the night reading more of my book and going to bed at 1.
Daily Total: $23.78
9 a.m. — I wake up earlier than I have all week. F. is asleep, which means no smoothie, so I have Grape Nuts with soy milk for breakfast.
12 p.m. — This morning is quite the lazy one. I spend it binging Los Espookys on HBO Max and browsing Twitter. I still have the rice I made last night, so I make a quick shrimp and egg stir-fry and have it with rice for lunch with spring mix on the side. My bag of Japanese black Kit Kats (aka the superior Kit Kats) resurfaced during yesterday’s tuna search, and I have three.
4 p.m. — I meet up with my friend, K. We met on a Facebook group for people looking for roommates and were originally going to live together. It didn’t work out, but we still stayed in touch and are now friends. Both of us are avoiding eating out too much, so our activity of choice is exploring Roosevelt Island. I am excited to take the aerial tram from Manhattan to the island, but it’s too crowded and sweaty to enjoy. The island itself is pretty, though, and we do a loop of it while catching up.
7 p.m. — We opt to take the subway back to Manhattan instead. I go home where I discover that my other roommate, N., has returned from her trip. Now that she’s back, we can finally watch the last two episodes of Stranger Things. I make dinner to eat while we watch — rice with a quick pad krapow gai using some basil, an egg, and the last chicken breast, which I marinated earlier with oyster sauce and soy sauce. N. and I also munch on carrots and hummus. We complete the first episode at 9:30 and are about to start on the final one before realizing it’s literally the length of a Marvel movie. N. talks about how she has no food in the fridge (a common theme this week) and we spontaneously decide to do a sashimi night tomorrow while we watch the last episode. I order the sashimi from a fish market in the East Village to pick up and pay for tomorrow.
10 p.m. — I do my nighttime routine while mentally preparing myself for the new week ahead. I also give myself a mental pat on the back for being so active this week and making plans for the weeks to come. I was originally moving here for my job before changing jobs last minute to a remote one, so there is constantly this nagging in the back of my mind (and from my parents) that I’m wasting my money by still going through with the move. I definitely had my lonely recluse moments, but I’ve been pushing myself more to build a social circle and take advantage of what the city has to offer and now I’m finally starting to feel comfortable and at home here. The next thing I need to tackle is having a proper sleep schedule… I go to bed at 1:30.
Daily Total: $0
9:15 a.m. — I get up and make breakfast, which today is half a bagel with some strawberry chipotle fig jam I snatched for 80% off at a closing sale of a grocery delivery business a couple of weeks ago. On my trip last week, I tried the Starbucks chocolate cream cold brew and really liked it, so I make a poor man’s version to pair with my bagel. I melt down some chocolate and use my milk frother to whip it with heavy cream and spoon it on top of instant coffee. Not really at all the same, but it’ll do.
2 p.m. — Working from home can get pretty lonely, so I’m glad N. is back. We both don’t have meetings until later in the day, so she invites me to her room and puts on episodes of The Nanny to play in the background while we work. We snack on chocolate churro-flavored Turtle Chips.
7 p.m. — I wrap up work and take the subway over to the fish market to pick up the sashimi. We get a half-pound of salmon toro, a quarter-pound of tuna toro, and a quarter-pound of yellowtail, all for just over $60. Food is definitely one of the main ways I indulge financially, but this fish market makes me feel better about doing it since it’s relatively affordable. I tell N. the price and she Venmos me for half. $31.25
8 p.m. — Tonight we are eating good! N. wants to try this TikTok hack to make little poke cups. She cuts rice paper into quarters and fries them so they fluff up and become like chips. We ordered enough fish for two meals, so we use half the fish for the poke cups and I mix up a wasabi mayo to drizzle on top with some ponzu. I also use the wasabi mayo to dress some spring mix for a side salad. We eat while watching the Stranger Things finale.
11 p.m. — We finish watching and I am emotionally drained. Afterward, I browse through the articles and Reddit discussions about the finale for an hour, then go through my nighttime routine and am asleep by 1.
Daily Total: $31.25
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