A Week In New York City On A $68,224 Salary

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Today: an engineer working in architecture who makes $68,224 per year and spends some of her money this week on Tums.

Occupation: Engineer
Industry: Architecture
Age: 24
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $68,224
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,624

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $200 (I live at home in Queens, where I was born and raised, and pay my mom a small amount every month.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I had about $35,000 in loans after graduating. I paid for $15,000 and my mom paid for $20,000.)
Netflix: $10.99 (I share with my mom, sister, and boyfriend.)
Weights Class: $25 per week
MetroCard: $200 (pre-tax)
Savings: $1,200 (I automatically transfer $600 to my savings after every paycheck.)
401(k): $1,469.44 (I’m maxing out contribution. My company matches 50% of the first 6%.)

Day One

6:25 a.m. — I wake up and lie in bed for a few minutes to enjoy the comfort of all my little pillows. Then I hop into the shower, and put on a tank top, long sleeve mock turtleneck, short sleeve shirt, and jacket — all to prepare for a potential seasonal crisis. I go to the kitchen and drink Danimals children’s yogurt (my mom randomly bought this because it was on sale) and head to the Queens/Manhattan Express bus stop ($6.75 with my MetroCard).

8:05 a.m. — I arrive in Manhattan and get off one stop early in order to get in some early morning walking. I head towards my building, say hi to the doorman, and get to my desk. Today I am trying to finish my design for some steel column connections. I set up the structural analysis model yesterday and hope to run the analysis today.

12 p.m. — I attempt to research a side-face blowout of concrete, but instead Google shows me a YouTube video of a woman trying to blow-dry her hair sideways. I immediately close the window out of fear that someone will think that I am loitering on YouTube. I then have an hour-long meeting with a colleague to discuss my design.

1 p.m. — My coworker spots free sandwiches leftover from a meeting that just ended and encourages me to take one before anyone notices. We immediately help ourselves to sandwiches and highly coveted 40% less sodium potato chips.

7 p.m. — I finally head home and opt to take the train and bus home instead of the express bus ($2.25). It takes an hour and a half, but that’s the sacrifice you make when you live with your parents.

9:30 p.m. — After taking the subway, I wait for the regular MTA Queens bus to get home. I end up bumping into a lady from my weekly yoga class, and we discover that we work a few streets away from each other in the city. She tells me about her grown kids and we both complain about our commutes. I love randomly bumping into people on public transportation; one of the best ways to reconnect with people is when you are both trapped on the bus or train. When I get home, I eat bean soup (courtesy of my mom) and we split an orange. We watch an episode of Perry Mason together. I eventually get into bed and fall asleep watching a Bon Appétit YouTube video. I’m asleep by 10 p.m.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:25 a.m. — I wake up and hop in the shower, only to find that the water won’t get hot. It barely reaches lukewarm, which is a form of torture on this cold day. I change, grab a banana and umbrella, and am out the door. The express bus is packed ($6.75). It’s also raining like crazy outside, so everything in the bus is wet. I read a book on my Kindle about a man who quits his 9-to-5 job in order to hike the Appalachian Trail.

8:05 a.m. — I get into the office and have to work extra hard this morning — we have some drawings due that are in bad shape. I make green tea in the kitchen. In general, I don’t drink coffee because it makes me more nervous than I already am.

12:30 p.m. — My supervisor tells me that actually we have until tomorrow morning to work on the drawings. I tell him that I have dinner plans, so I need to leave the office by 6 p.m. That’s considered early if there’s a submission due, but he says it’s okay. I eat my packed lunch from yesterday and hide out on a different floor to avoid seeing my coworkers. I really like them, but sometimes I need my alone time.

5 p.m. — I start to get stressed because in doing the submission, I neglected other work that had to get done. I need to finish the steel design as soon as possible, and my boss says I can charge as many hours as I want because this week I am allowed to get overtime.

6 p.m. — I finally escape the office! I am meeting up with my boyfriend at a restaurant on the Lower East Side. We’ve been trying to get reservations at this place for a while, so are excited to finally get a spot. My boyfriend also lives at home with his parents. We’re on that money-saving grind so that one day we can buy property in the city. We meet up at the restaurant and order an heirloom tomato salad, mussels for an appetizer, filet mignon, and a whole trout for our main course, but we’re slightly disappointed. The food was good, but a little lackluster, and we felt like we were swimming in mashed potatoes for most of the meal. We split the check and head out. $72

8:30 p.m. — My boyfriend waits for me to get an Uber home because I’m too tired to take public transportation. Uber Pool costs $28, which is really cheap considering how far out into Queens I live. The ride is actually so far that my Uber driver doesn’t even end up picking anyone else up along the way. I use my $200 Uber gift card, so essentially it’s a free ride. I got this gift card for being a tester for a program a few weeks ago, and I will savor it for as long as possible. I eventually get home, get ready for bed, and immediately pass out.

Daily Total: $72

Day Three

6:20 a.m. — I wake up, take a shower, rush to put on my office attire, and then go downstairs to make lunch. I pack rice, leftover bean soup, and some pieces of beef, but I don’t eat breakfast because I’m still full from yesterday’s dinner. I hop onto the express bus, which is packed ($6.75). I sit next to someone who sort of smells, and immediately regret this decision.

8:05 a.m. — I get into the office and make my usual green tea. Then I get started on the work I had put off yesterday, only to be told by another engineer that there is another submission for a different project that I need to work on. This project is fun, though — it’s for a restaurant.

12:15 p.m. — I eat outside of the office with my older sister who works nearby. She also lives at home, but we don’t always commute or eat together because we have different schedules. We take a stroll during lunch and she buys an empanada (and I eat her leftovers). We then discover a nice church, and while we’re not particularly religious, we make plans to go back because it’s so peaceful. After an hour, we go back to work.

4 p.m. — Later in the day, I help my desk neighbor with a structural analysis program. I have spent many long nights trying to understand the workings of the program and am glad to help. We end up discussing his model for about an hour, and he shares some cookies with me.

7:30 p.m. — I finally leave the office, feeling worried about the work piling up but ready to get out of there. I take the train and then the bus, but end up missing my stop, so I have to walk additional 15 minutes to get home. My mom brought leftover food home from her office, so I eat that for dinner. She always tries to bring home food from work when she can. I watch an episode of The Good Place on Netflix and fall asleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:25 a.m. — I wake up feeling really tired. I take a shower, quickly put on clothes and light makeup, pat my mom on the head goodbye, and walk to the express bus. I stop at Essen near my office and get a small breakfast wrap that has turkey, avocado, and egg whites. The price is per pound and ends up costing $3.59. $3.59

8:15 a.m. — I get into the office, grab some tea, and begin to work. I notice that one of my desk plants now has two flowers, and I’m immensely happy about it. I have so many plants at my desk that I think the air quality around my desk is better. I get to work on the submission for the restaurant project.

12 p.m. — We have a meeting with free pizza! I sit and eat with some of my friends from the department. I get a grandma slice and a chicken slice.

4 p.m. — Steal some cookies that are leftover from a meeting.

7 p.m. — I head out of the office with my sister and we take the express bus home together ($6.75). We get home to find that my mom bought chicken from a Chinese restaurant, so we eat that and leftover vegetable soup for dinner. I fall asleep watching a YouTube video called “32 Ways To Cook Chicken Breast.”

Daily Total: $3.59

Day Five

2:45 a.m. — I wake up in a panic, mostly about work and also some personal stuff. It is raining really loudly outside. I fall asleep but continue to wake up nearly every hour.

5:30 a.m. — I decide to just get up early and start getting ready for the day. I feel anxious about everything. I go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet, only to feel droplets of water dripping on my head from above. Our house is pretty old, so the roof leaks when it rains really hard. Usually the basement also floods and I really do not want to deal with that right now. I get changed and eat roast pork, plantains, and rice for breakfast. I don’t pack lunch because my sister and I are planning to go out for lunch. I hope onto the express bus ($6.75).

8:15 a.m. — It’s still pouring but I make my way into the office. I check my email and start to feel worried — I have a lot to do. I really enjoy being an engineer, but sometimes the stress can get intense. I glue my butt to my seat and haul ass. I produce drawings, respond to emails, and coordinate with architects.

12 p.m. — Come lunch time, my sister says that she brought food after all. I am annoyed and still stressed, so I end up eating nothing for lunch.

5 p.m. — I am almost ready to submit and am starting to feel better about life. I am thinking that maybe I won’t have to work this weekend. I ask a senior engineer for advice on these calculations I am working on, and he reaffirms my design intent. Before submission, I ask another engineer to back check my work. He has a few minor comments but says that overall it’s okay. I submit!

6 p.m. — I leave the office to meet my boyfriend at 34th Street for some Korean BBQ. We go to Jongro and get in line for the hour-long wait. When we’re finally called for a table, we get the beef platter and all the little free side dishes it comes with. By the end, my stomach has expanded and I am thankful for the comfortable pants I chose to wear today. $54

9:20 p.m. — I say goodbye to my boyfriend and get on an express bus home ($6.75). Once I get on the bus, I tell my boyfriend to look at the moon because it is extremely large and yellow. I wonder if there is moon eclipse/holiday today that I am unaware of. After I get off the bus, I walk to Rite Aid and buy Tums ($2.47) with my debit card so that I can withdraw $20. $2.47

Daily Total: $56.47

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for my Saturday morning yoga class ($15). The studio is a few blocks away from where I live, so I get ready and walk over. The teacher is the best yoga instructor I’ve had. We are all friends in the class, which is comprised of mostly women of all ages (me being the youngest) and a sprinkling of older men. $15

9:30 a.m. — I have a dentist appointment right across from the yoga studio afterwards, so I head over and get a cleaning and a few X-rays. My teeth are in good condition and the dentist asks if I got my teeth whitened. This surprises me because I’ve always felt like my teeth aren’t very white — if anything, they’re more on the gray side. I am still on my mom’s insurance, but it doesn’t cover dental, which is why the bill ends up being a bit pricey. $150

10:15 a.m. — I quickly hop on a bus ($2.75) and head to the optometrist. I now have an eye check-up, which I scheduled because I want new glasses and may need contacts. I don’t normally wear contacts, but I’m going to a wedding in Atlanta next weekend, and the bridal party is supposed to wear fake eyelashes (which I have never worn before in my life), so I might want to wear contacts with them. I pay the co-pay ($30), which is cheaper because it’s covered by my mom’s insurance. $30

11 a.m. — The day is so nice and sunny that I decide to walk the 30-plus blocks home from the optometrist rather than taking the bus. When I get home, I eat a small bowl of roast pork and rice. I chop garlic for my mom and we wait for my dad to get back home so I can borrow the car to drive us to get groceries. First we go to Key Food, and next we go to the Chinese supermarket to buy vegetables. I really don’t drive that much and have only been on the highway a few times, so I try to practice when I can. My mom pays for the groceries.

5 p.m. — My mom is going to a retirement party for one of her coworkers, and I tag along. It’s a potluck, so we bring some shrimp that we cooked earlier. My dad drops us off, and there’s a lot of food. I talk to some of her coworkers but mostly do a lot of observing because these women gossip like crazy!

9 p.m. — My dad picks us up and we head home. I am really tired, but stay up later to finish watching the first season of The Good Place on Netflix.

Daily Total: $195

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for my weights class. The studio is in the same location as my yoga class, so I walk there. My teacher is a bald, meaty guy who sometimes talks too much but means well. A few of my friends from yoga are also in the class. I deadlift 95 pounds, which technically is not a lot compared to others, but is a lot for someone of my size. After class, I go and help my mom prepare some food.

11:30 a.m. — My sister and I head to the city because we’re meeting up with my cousin and her girlfriend, who are visiting for the weekend. We hop onto the bus and train ($2.25) to meet them for brunch on 53rd St. On the train ride there, a homeless man sitting next to my sister starts touching himself and, needless to say, she is not in a good mood afterwards.

12:30 p.m. — We finally meet up with my cousin and her girlfriend. I get avocado toast with a poached egg ($29). Everyone gets mimosas except for me, because I only drink every once in a while. Afterwards, we walk to Columbus Circle and loiter around. I buy fake eyelashes ($18) and eyelash glue ($9) for the wedding next weekend. $56

4 p.m. — My sister and I catch the express bus home to avoid the subway ($6.75), which has essentially failed us at this point. I get home and do some laundry. I also make avocado, scallion, tomato, and red onion salad with fish sauce. Today is a Filipino holiday (well technically it was yesterday), so my mom has cooked quite a few dishes. We eat noodles, mussels, crispy pork, salad, and rice. Afterwards I have some grapes and prepare lunch for tomorrow with leftovers.

7:30 p.m. — I am actually in bed already. The earlier I’m in bed, the happier I am. I proceed to watch YouTube videos and mentally prepare myself for another week.

Daily Total: $56

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