A Week In New York City On A $78,000 Salary

Welcome to Money 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 manager who makes $78,000 per year, and spends some of her money this week on a manicure.

Occupation: Program Manager
Industry: Philanthropy
Age: 28
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $78,000
Paycheck Amount (4x/month): $878

Monthly Expenses
Housing: $1,715 for my portion of the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. I pay more since my room is bigger than my roommate’s.
Loan Payments: None

All Other Monthly Expenses
Subway: $30 – $40/month (I don’t have a consistent MetroCard payment)
Roth 401(k): $300 from me, plus $140 in matching funds from my employer
Emergency Fund: $80
Utilities: Usually $60 for my share of the electric and internet bills, though it varies
Renter’s Insurance: $19.75, split with my roommate
Credit Card: $200 (toward about $3,000 of credit card debt)
LearnVest: $19
Gym: $104
Netflix & Hulu: $20
Travel Fund: $80
Wedding Gift Fund: $40

In New York and want to talk about Money Diaries IRL? Lindsey Stanberry, R29’s Director of Work & Money, will be chatting about all things money and taboos with writer Helaine Olen and photographer Brittany Powell on Wednesday, September 27 at the International Center For Photography at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to Confessing Money: Stories of Spending in America Today are free, you just have to register in advance. More information here. And if you do stop by, please say hi! We always love to meet a Money Diaries fan.

8:30 a.m. — Today, I’m playing hooky from work to study for the GMAT! I meant to wake up earlier and maximize the day, but I’ve had a long, stressful week, and I think I was overtired. Find some berries in the fridge and nosh on those while reading the news. Get sucked into a work issue and spend time settling that before heading out.

10:20 a.m. — Let too much of the day got away, and my body is wondering why I haven’t had coffee yet. I pack my laptop and study guides before heading to a coffee shop down the street. Feeling wild, I get a lavender doughnut in addition to my iced coffee. Remembering you can’t bring liquids into the New York Public Library, I choose to sit and eat quickly. $8

10:45 a.m. — FINALLY on my way. Take the subway to Grand Central, using the ride as a moment to vent to my mom over text about difficult personalities I’ve had to deal with at work. Venting leads to me crying on 42nd Street, but the beauty of New York is that crying in public isn’t unusual. (Also, crying just feels good!) Feeling better as I enter the library and push through the crowds to the main reading room. $2.75

1 p.m. — Quietly eat the peanut butter RXBar I smuggled in. Hoping this holds me over for a few more hours.

4 p.m. — Officially too thirsty to continue studying. Decide that I’ve given it a good go for the day and head to Blue Bottle for a New Orleans iced coffee. Walk past a group of people giving away free Noosa yogurts and decide against fighting the mob for one. Immediately regret this decision as I walk away. $4.25

4:30 p.m. — Walk from Midtown down to Union Square to check out the farmers’ market for plants. I really want a fiddle leaf fig but am worried that it might be too big for my room, and I don’t want to drag it through Whole Foods. (Here’s where the idea of having a partner to help carry stuff is most appealing.) Go to Whole Foods and buy cherry tomatoes, red lettuce, apples, sharp cheddar cheese, pancetta, pasta, scallions, salad dressing, baby wipes, and a six-pack of Montauk Ale ($50). I also get $20 cash back for a manicure. $50

5:30 p.m. — Walk to the nail salon down the street for a regular manicure ($13 + $4 tip). Select a cute new Essie color (“Excuse me, sur”) and make it home without smudging. Hooray! $17

7 p.m. — Make a Greek farro salad with tomatoes, broccolini, red onion, cucumber, and feta. Have this for dinner and save plenty for leftovers. I also have a couple of the Montauk Ales I bought today. Pack for the wedding I’m traveling to tomorrow and decide to be responsible and go to bed early instead of going out to meet friends.

Daily Total: $82

6 a.m. — Wake up super early and see that my flight is delayed, meaning I don’t have to rush this morning! Watch Netflix and doze, and let my roommate know I’ll be around to let the cleaning lady in before I leave. We trade off paying for this once a month.

9:30 a.m. — Buy a bagel with cream cheese and an iced coffee. I use the cash I had leftover from yesterday as well as a few singles floating around in my purse. $6

10:30 a.m. — The cleaning lady arrives, and I’m free to head to the airport. I take a Lyft to LaGuardia and on the way, I learn my flight is even further delayed. I’m hoping I’ll make it in time for the ceremony, and am thankful it’s a super-short flight. $30

11 a.m. — Knock out some emails to people I’ve requested letters of recommendation from for my b-school apps. In a fit of boredom, and giving into a craving, I order a very overpriced Bloody Mary. It’s a little strong but helps me fall asleep on the flight. $15

2:30 p.m. — Finally, I make it to the city where the wedding is. I take a Lyft to the hotel (which I prepaid for) and hang out in my room. I find out that a number of friends who were supposed to come had last minute conflicts or were held up by bad weather. The realization that I’ll know about two people at this wedding has put my social anxiety level at HIGH and makes me regret not dragging a friend as my date. $10

5 p.m. — The wedding ceremony was very sweet and I love to see my friend so happy. Simultaneously, a guy I used to date is here (surprise!) with a new girlfriend, pushing that anxiety level a little higher. Thank god for open bars. I end up being seated at the singles table…there’s really nothing that can better highlight singledom than a singles table at a wedding. I have one too many white wines and skip the after party, but it was overall a fun time.

Daily Total: $61

6 a.m. — Oh… My body is not-so-kindly reminding me why I don’t have more than two or three drinks in one evening anymore. I also see that I texted friends for emotional support last night (they’re amazing) and that I WhatsApp-ed a guy I’ve had a weird on-off thing with. Good job, self! I want to crawl into a hole, but I need to get to the airport, so I hail a Lyft instead. $10

9:30 a.m. — Back at LaGuardia. Consider taking the bus and subway route home, but I’m not feeling fantastic and splurge for a cab. The air is cool, and I keeping the windows open helps me feel a tiny bit better. I get home and proceed to crawl in bed and watch Unsolved Mysteries, napping off and on. $37

6 p.m. — Finally feel hungry. I make bucatini with crispy pancetta and scallions, coated in egg. I also eat a salad and a couple of dark peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s. Kick myself for wasting the day, but I’ll make up for it over the week and next weekend. Watch the new Wet Hot American Summer, deal with some emails, and then call it a night.

Daily Total: $47

7 a.m. — Up and at ’em! I have a day full of meetings today and need to be sharp. I shower, eat some berries, and pack my lunch. Walk to work and buy an iced coffee on the way. $3.75

12 p.m. — I’m starving and remember I didn’t eat much of a breakfast. I eat some of the Greek farro salad I made the other day while I work on the organization’s finances. It’s a very small outfit, so I have taken on several operations tasks, which I’m chalking up to good experience I can share on my school applications.

3 p.m. — Most of my meetings are done for the day, but I need a caffeine boost to get me through the rest. Head to Gimme Coffee and buy an iced coffee. The sunshine also helps boost my energy level, and I wonder how I can convince my boss to let me work outside more. $3.75

7 p.m. — Walk home from work and make the adult decision to skip my weekly Bachelorette viewing party and catch up on GMAT studying instead. (Plus, it’s the “Men Tell All” night, which is never exciting.) I make what I call an “adult lunchable:” crackers, salami, cheese, and an apple. Stress over geometry problems before going to bed at 10.

Daily Total: $7.50

7 a.m. — Up, shower, lunch prep, coffee. $3.75

12:30 p.m. — While eating my lunch, I realize I forgot to order a wedding gift for my friend from this past weekend. I order a serving bowl and a $100 Crate & Barrel gift card off their registry. I’m thankful it will get to their apartment before they return from their honeymoon. I pay for the card out of my wedding gift fund. I love weddings…but they are expensive. $180

5:45 p.m. — Sneak out of work a little early to get to Midtown for a school admissions event. I’ve read everything about the schools I want to go to and have had numerous conversations with current students and alumni, but these events boost my excitement and commitment to studying. I see a girl from my MBA women’s peer group and catch up on all the hustling we’ve been up to. Seeing so many great women breaking into great MBA programs is also a real boost. $2.75

8 p.m. — I have an INTENSE craving for chicken tikka masala. I cave to the craving and order from my favorite, super-cheap Indian spot. I get chicken tikka, basmati rice, cucumber salad, chickpeas, and garlic naan. I study and catch up with my roommate while I eat, and then head to bed at 11. $15

Daily Total: $201.50

7 a.m. — Different day, same routine. Coffee on the walk to work. $3.75

12:30 p.m. — After spending the morning putting together a 65-slide PowerPoint (my boss thinks someone wants to sit through this?), I feel a little brain dead. I grab a coffee to wake me up and eat lunch from home. $3.75

6 p.m. — Head to the gym to use the elliptical and do a Tone It Up video. I decided to switch to a way cheaper gym starting next month since I don’t go enough to justify the cost. The trainers are also super aggressive at trying to sell sessions. Trust me: If I had $160 a week to pay for a trainer, I’d be all over that.

8:30 p.m. — While eating more leftover salad, I re-download Bumble to see what’s up. I want to do a little something to boost my dating efforts, so I spring for the Bumble Boost option for one week, although I’m not very optimistic. The few single friends I have all gave up on apps, and I’m starting to see why; it’s ephemeral. I see some cute guys but don’t have the creative juices to write something clever at the moment. Head to bed around 11. $2.99

Daily Total: $10.49

7:30 a.m. — I go “wild” this morning and decide to get coffee from a different coffee shop and walk a different route to work. I get bummed out by too much of a routine. (I also forgot to bring my lunch. Oops.) $4

1 p.m. — So. Many. Meetings. I love my job, and I get to hear from interesting people, but sometimes it’s exhausting. I pre-order a Mexican corn elote bowl from Sweetgreen and cross the street to pick it up. It’s okay, but is any salad really worth more than $10? $13.15

3 p.m. — My boss is out of the office for the rest of the day, so I read some news, flick through Bumble, and then head to the post office to mail some self-care goodies to a friend who just started her residency and sounds (understandably) very stressed out. $5.60

6 p.m. — A friend bought tickets for a group of us to go to a drag brunch next month. I Venmo her for my ticket. I also arrange to meet up with some girlfriends tomorrow night to see if we can meet real guys in real life. Sounds mythical, I know. I’ve felt like such a shut-in recently and it’s bumming me out, so it feels good to have plans lined up. $44

Daily Total: $66.75

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

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