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: an editor who makes $94,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Dodge Charger rental car that smelled like cigarettes.
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $94,000 (combined full-time and part-time)
Net Worth: ~$30,000 ($18,890 in my previous 401(k), $20,499 in saving, $7,725 in an investment account minus debt)
Debt: $16,373 ($13,000 in student loans, the rest in credit card debt)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month and 1x/month, respectively ): $1,900 for my full-time position; $1,300 for part-time
Rent: $2,300 for a studio apartment. I live by myself. My rent was previously $1,950 but will increase this month.
Student Loans: $68 for my private loan (My federal loan is still on pause with no interest.)
HBO Max: $17
Apple Card: $83 (to pay off my computer)
Credit Card: $300
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, it was important to my parents that I attend higher education. I entered college during the 2008 recession, yet we were all under the impression that higher education was the only way to land a job and that loans were just part of the deal. I was 17 when I graduated high school and took time off to travel and live in the “real world,” then applied to a state school. My parents took out loans on my behalf.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents tried to shield my sister and me from their financial situation, so we didn’t talk much about money. My dad always told me “wealth is money in the bank,” so I was conservative with spending.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at our local movie theater when I was 15. Getting a part-time job as a teenager was what you did in my town. Most of my friends worked at the theater with me or at restaurants.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, in some ways. My parents struggled financially, but I knew they would always provide us with the essentials. They worked tirelessly, even if it involved night shifts.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, but I’m getting better. I have a financial advisor who is more like a therapist I discuss money with. She helped me set up a six-month emergency fund in case I lose my job.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became fully financially responsible at 30. Before then, my parents were still helping with my student loan payment. To me, they are too generous, so it was important to me to be independent. I do not have a safety net outside of my own savings account.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
10 a.m. — I wake up in the spare bedroom at my parents’ house; they still live in the house I grew up in, which I can get to by train from the city. My parents and I put coffee in to-go mugs and go for a walk around the neighborhood. We see a snapping turtle in the road during our walk and we’re not sure if it’s injured, so I call the local humane society and leave a message.
12 p.m. — My parents make gluten-free pancakes with blueberries for breakfast and we eat them on the porch. Their kitten has a little carrier that she likes to sit in and my mom brings it outside so she can join us.
2 p.m. — I have a number of weddings coming up, so my mom and I go shopping to find shoes. There are not a lot of options, but I find a pair of discounted gold Vince Camuto slip-on sandals. $39.99
4 p.m. — My mom drives me back to the train. I use my commuter benefits from work to pay for my $26 train ride back to the city. I read People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry on the train. It’s a nice, light read.
7 p.m. — Back home, I boil water for pasta from Trader Joe’s, which I top with their vegan bolognese sauce and some mozzarella. I have a glass of Surely, which is alcohol-removed wine. It’s very acidic, and kind of thick, but it grows on you. I’ve been abstaining from alcohol and it’s been 83 days so far!
11 p.m. — I eat an edible and watch Minx on HBO until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $39.99
8 a.m. — I wake up, throw on some clothes, and walk to the coffee shop on the corner of my block. I’ve accumulated points from buying coffee here every morning, so my coffee is free today.
10 a.m. — I get to my office (I live within walking distance from my office for the first time since moving here four years ago). Technically, I don’t need to be in the office today, but the new policy is to come in twice a week, so I try to abide. No one else from my team is in. I grab some power bars from the break room and make that my breakfast.
1 p.m. — I break for lunch a.k.a. take a trip to Sephora. I’m completely out of all makeup and have only been wearing tinted sunscreen lately and a little mascara, but I want to wear makeup to my upcoming weddings. A saleswoman helps me pick out a concealer that matches my skin tone. I also get some under-eye color corrector and a mini eyeliner and mascara to try. $106
1:30 p.m. — Lunch is a very sad Caprese sandwich from the deli and a Vitamin Water. $9
5 p.m. — Since the return-to-office policy went into effect, people have been leaving at 5 p.m. on the dot, so I feel no need to impress anyone by staying late (not that anyone is here). Most importantly, I want to get to a gym class by 5:30. After class, I try out the new spa that opened in the gym, which has a plunge pool and steam room. I take a dip and warm up in the steam room, then shower. I feel very zen.
7 p.m. — I begrudgingly make a trip to Trader Joe’s for groceries. I buy vegan ravioli, tomatoes, and basil. Like many of my peers, Trader Joe’s is my personality, I guess. I also buy flowers and a few more meals for the week. $56
11 p.m. — I have the worst headache (steam room?), so I smoke some weed, read a bit, then fall asleep.
Daily Total: $171
7:30 a.m. — I wake up earlier than usual. My coworkers and I are on an assignment for a fun story about roller skaters, and I have to get to a skatepark by 10 a.m. I want to look decently professional but not completely out of place at the skatepark, so my morning is split between answering Slack messages and figuring out what to wear. I get an iced coffee and book it to the train. $5.33
10 a.m. — After two trains ($2.75, but reimbursed from work) and a long walk, I get to the skatepark in Brooklyn. The woman we’re interviewing cancels on us, but we find someone else to talk to for the story. My coworker even throws on her roller skates and braves the pavement. My job feels simultaneously cool and completely made up/pointless. ($2.75 expensed)
4 p.m. — My coworker and I grab a much-needed lunch: agua frescas, tacos, guacamole, and esquites. Since we’re on a shoot, we can expense the meal. ($28.78 expensed)
5:30 p.m. — We walk to a nearby park. There’s a truck selling weed and edibles which I didn’t even know existed in NYC, so we buy some chocolate, then sit by the water in the shade. $20
8:30 p.m. — The trains are running on different lines, as they are wont to do, so I eventually get off and walk home. I shower and change, then go to my coffee shop (which is also a bar), and get a non-alcoholic watermelon gose which is pretty good! I sit in the window with my laptop and finish an article for my part-time job. $6.44
10 p.m. — My boyfriend, F., lives on the West Coast and he’s coming to visit in a few weeks. Flights are outrageously expensive, so we FaceTime while I help him look for plane tickets. We finally find an okay deal, and I’m so relieved that I can start to look forward to his trip here. I give him $300 towards his ticket, which is less than half. $300
11 p.m. — More Minx. More weed. More sleep.
Daily Total: $331.77
8 a.m. — I’m awake after several alarms, including my Hatch lamp which simulates sunrise (my apartment gets virtually zero natural light). Is this week over yet?! Coffee from the corner. No breakfast. I walk to the office. It’s a beautiful day. $5.33
1 p.m. — Some of my coworkers are in today. We go to a salad place for lunch and sit outside, talking candidly about our levels of satisfaction at work. I’m lucky to have such down-to-earth and caring colleagues. $15.70
1:45 p.m. — We avoid the office for a bit longer by getting some ice cream. $5.09
5:30 p.m. — I walk to the gym after work, then into what I think is going to be Pilates, but is some sort of strength training/abs class. Sure, fine. I do some cardio after the class, then sit in the sauna, then shower.
7:30 p.m. — I walk to the park and take it all in, which has become a bit of a post-work ritual for me. Just looking at a body of water can be therapeutic.
9 p.m. — Dinner is just scrounging leftovers. My appetite has been very off lately. THC dependency? Depression? COVID? Who’s to say.
11 p.m. — Yep, you guessed it: Minx. Then sleep.
Daily Total: $26.12
9 a.m. — I snooze my alarms and eventually wake up to answer Slack messages from bed. I feel exhausted and incredibly unmotivated today. Nevertheless, she persisted. I grab my reusable coffee cup and head to my spot on the corner for an iced coffee, then sit outside for a few moments. $5.33
11 a.m. — I’m working from my apartment today. I have a bowl of almond butter puffs cereal from Trader Joe’s.
2 p.m. — I was supposed to have a job interview on Zoom, but they need to reschedule, which throws me for a bit of a loop mentally. I microwave a frozen paneer tikka meal from Trader Joe’s.
5 p.m. — My friend, J., is flying in from D.C. late tonight to be my plus-one to a wedding, so I’m frantically trying to clean my apartment while I work. I change my sheets (I live in a tiny studio so guests have to share my bed), scrub the bathroom, do the dishes, and put up the murphy bed which is almost always down.
6:30 p.m. — I have a photography class in Manhattan. Sometimes I bike there, but today I leave in a hurry so I catch the train ($2.75, paid with commuter benefits). I’m about 10 minutes late. We’re photographing models today and it’s a little overwhelming in the studio, but I get some good shots.
10 p.m. — One of my classmates convinces me to go out for some food after class. We sit outside at a wine bar and I order food and a low-sugar mocktail, which is pretty good. $25
11:59 p.m. — J.’s flight got canceled until tomorrow. I’m thrilled to be back in bed. I do some doom-scrolling, text with F., and crash.
Daily Total: $30.33
8:30 a.m. — TGIF. I wake up kind of fired up, determined to ask my boss for a raise. I Slack him to ask if he has time to chat, and he agrees to meet over Zoom in an hour. I jump out of bed and get my iced coffee from across the street. The conversation goes well, but I still don’t have a clear answer on a promotion that has been alluded to for months. Still, I feel a sense of relief after speaking up and I’m finally looking ahead to the weekend. $5.33
12 p.m. — J.’s flight gets canceled AGAIN — what is going on with the airline?! — so she books an Amtrak ticket instead. Seems too risky to try and get another flight in time for the wedding. I’m insanely hungry so I walk down the block to one of my favorite pizza spots for a slice of pepperoni. $6
6 p.m. — J. finally makes it! I meet her at the subway, then we go back to my apartment.
8 p.m. — We sit outside at a restaurant in UES and order fried zucchini, a burger to split, cornbread, and Brussels sprouts. I also get a non-alcoholic beer that I can barely drink because it tastes absolutely vile. $49.91
10 p.m. — J. and I get ice cream (my treat) and walk around. $12.52
11:30 p.m. — We watch Younger in bed, specifically the episode where (spoiler alert) Hilary Duff’s character has sex on the Roosevelt Island tram which I’ve never seen. Scandalous. We eventually crash out.
Daily Total: $73.76
8 a.m. — We’re exhausted but awake, with lots to do in order to get to the wedding. Eventually, we get ready, shower, and pack.
9:30 a.m. — It is definitely way later than it should be. We get coffee (J. treats) and begin our journey. We need to take the subway to the PATH train to New Jersey to pick up our rental car as the Hoboken Enterprise is the only place with availability.
11 a.m. — We are late to arrive at the rental company and they’ve canceled our reservation. Luckily, they say they have a minivan on the way if we’d like to rent that. Yes, anything!
11:30 a.m. — While we wait, J. gets us more coffee and snacks from nearby. The Enterprise rep informs me that they have an alternative to the minivan: a sedan that smells like cigarettes. I tell her, we will take it! We need to get on the road.
12 p.m. — The “sedan” arrives, but it is not a sedan, it is a white Dodge Charger, which was on the website in its own category of muscle cars. This weekend just got a lot more interesting. $245
3:38 p.m. — After a harrowing drive we get to our hotel with exactly 22 minutes before we have to be at the wedding. The venue is only one minute down the road, so I feel confident that we can make it. We get dressed and primped. I think we actually look pretty damn cute. We split the cost of the room. $259
11 p.m. — The wedding is very small, but lovely. It is heartening to catch up with high school friends and see that the important stuff hasn’t changed. I hope I don’t have to wait another decade to see everyone again.
11:59 p.m. — J. and I get back to the hotel and feast on gummy bears and popcorn in bed.
Daily Total: $504
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