A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $60,000 Salary

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.

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Today: a publicist who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on rubber gloves.

Occupation: Publicist
Industry: Non-Profit
Age: 33
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: $25,174 ($42,954 in 401k/403b retirement and other savings minus debt)
Debt: $17,700 in student loans
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,410
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,575
Gas: $20
Electric: $45
Internet: $55
Student Loans: $194 (on pause due to COVID-19)
Netflix/Spotify (includes Hulu): $18.98
Cell Phone: $70

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?
I was told that the only way to make any money was to go to college and that it didn’t matter what I majored in, as long as I went to college I would make good money. I had good grades throughout my childhood so college did make sense. I got a number of scholarships for my freshman year, used my inheritance, and took out loans to make up the difference. Some of those scholarships disappeared after freshman year (they were only for incoming freshman and would not carry me through all four years) and I continued to apply to scholarships from freshman year through junior year but only received an additional one or two. Loans kept me in school.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents didn’t educate me about finances except that I shouldn’t get credit cards/take out loans of any kind. Guidance counselors and peers encouraged the student loans.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as an after school care counselor at a nearby church when I was 15. I got it because I didn’t come from a family with a lot of money and my father had recently died meaning we would have even less. My parents never gave me spending money or really bought me anything I wanted, especially if it cost too much. I thought having a job meant I could start taking care of myself to relieve my mom of the financial burden a little bit and have some spending money leftover and potentially start saving for college. (Yes, I was delusional and thought a PT job meant I would have money for bare necessities, fun stuff, and college LOLOL.)

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. I started off living in poor neighborhoods and we still struggled when we moved into a house in a nice neighborhood. Sometimes lights were cut off. And going from renting to owning a home meant frills weren’t really a thing. Lots of what others considered basic luxuries weren’t part of my childhood (regular vacations that didn’t involve visiting family, cable, visits to theme parks, etc.). When I started going to school with kids whose parents were better off, it made me more conscious of money and how much we didn’t have, like the fact that it was normal for them to go on vacation during every school break or casually spend money. Realizing we weren’t as financially stable scared me and I became semi-obsessed with becoming wealthy in adulthood.

Do you worry about money now?
I constantly worry about money now. For a long time, I was underemployed and regretted going to college since it wasn’t producing the ROI I thought it would. I also stress about my daily purchases as I feel a lot of guilt about spending beyond my means and thus don’t believe I should be spending beyond the bare necessities. I worry about taking on an unnecessary expense and then finding myself losing income or incurring an extra expense that makes it hard for me to live. Another source of stress is the fact that since I was in college, my mom would regularly demand money from me and I would be so confused about how she thought that I, a person in their 20s who hadn’t been working long and didn’t have a good job, could potentially have enough money to give her, a person who has been working her whole life and graduated into a better economy.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out at 24, so I guess that’s the age I became financially responsible for myself? My financial safety net is my mom’s house. If for any reason I couldn’t afford to live on my own, I could move back in there and relieve myself of the burden of monthly rent.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When my dad died I inherited a little bit of money but that went towards my freshman year of college tuition.

Day One

9:40 a.m. — I grab my tote bag, wallet, hand sanitizer, N95 mask, and keys and head out to go to a nearby stoop sale that’s about a 20-minute walk away. Now that we are stuck in the house 24/7, I’m inspired to redecorate without spending a lot of money. I’m early, but nothing catches my interest so I turn around. On the way back, I pass a homeless woman outside a grocery store asking for money. I empty out all of the change from my overstuffed wallet (about $5 worth) in her cup as she thanks me. I ask if she needs hand sanitizer and I purchase her a $2 pocket-size bottle from the grocery store. She’s again grateful and as I’m walking away I start to feel like maybe I should have offered her more, like non-perishable food from the grocery store or water? At this point, I’ve walked pretty far away so I make peace with what I gave her, but try to remember to be more thoughtful next time. $7

1 p.m. — I run down to the basement to do laundry. Since the pandemic started, I do my best to go at obscure times so I don’t have to run into anyone. The laundry room is empty I quickly get through two loads and put everything away while I listen to Still Processing podcast. I overloaded my laundry card last week so I don’t have to spend any extra money today. After I’m done putting away the laundry, I realize I missed the free live workout I was supposed to join. Oh well. I think about finding an alternative pre-recorded workout then decide I’m too tired and should take a three-hour nap instead. Up from my nap, it’s time to clean my apartment. As I’m finishing up, a college friend calls and we catch up a bit. Like most of my conversations these days, our chat revolves around how we’re managing during COVID.

6:23 p.m. — I’ve recently started ordering groceries instead of going to my local grocery store. It’s slightly more expensive, but what’s a few extra dollars if it reduces my exposure to this scary, deadly disease? This week’s order includes rubber gloves, six cartons of oat milk, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, two packages of low sodium Goya yellow rice, three frozen pizzas, two frozen vegan breakfasts, two packages of frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pasta, two Talentis, a bottle of Bacardi, and a bottle of Leblon. Frozen meals are helpful for when I don’t have the energy to cook and the liquor was a last-minute addition in hopes that I’ll finally get around to developing bartending skills during quar. I take advantage of a promotion that gives me half off of a delivery pass subscription for free unlimited deliveries. I choose the cheapest option — six months of deliveries made Tues-Thurs (normally $39, now $19.50) and schedule the delivery for two days from now so that I have time to make changes if needed. $185.86

Daily Total: $192.86

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I start my day polishing off the last of my Cheerios and almond milk. Maybe I should have had that grocery order delivered today instead of tomorrow? After eating, I log into my computer and start work. I save a plum for my mid-morning snack as I work through a tedious project. Once I’m done, I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and eat it with an orange and a glass of water. Since today’s workload is pretty light, I decided it’s okay to have a 45-minute siesta! After my nap, I power through the rest of my workday.

7 p.m. — I log into my weekly virtual session with my therapist. My therapist has been very helpful as I try to deal with all the anxious and depressive feelings I’ve been having through the pandemic. Feeling blessed to still have insurance and an FSA account to handle the copay. ($25 expensed)

8 p.m. — As soon as my therapy session is over, I open the Seamless app to order a cashew nut dish from my local Thai restaurant. Seamless offers me $10 off a $30 order so I add a hot and spicy curry dish that I’ll save for lunch tomorrow. I add a few extra dollars to the tip because, you know, COVID. Once the order is confirmed, I soak in the bathtub while I wait for my food. When the food arrives and I eat the cashew nut and rice while watching 90 Day Fiance. I normally don’t indulge in this much reality TV but I’ve found it somewhat comforting during the pandemic. $28

Daily Total: $28

Day Three

9 a.m. — I heat up some oatmeal made with hot water, a ripe banana, and orange juice for breakfast. I don’t have any deadlines coming up so I spend my morning reading online articles — which is an important part of my job — before my 1 p.m. Zoom meeting.

2 p.m. — After the Zoom meeting ends, I heat up the leftover hot curry and rice for lunch. After lunch, my FreshDirect order arrives and I tip the delivery person in cash so that the service doesn’t take away some of her earnings. I sanitize all my groceries before putting them away and take inventory of what I have. Combined with what’s already in my fridge/freezer and pantry, I should have enough food to last for the next three or four weeks. $10

7 p.m. — My mom calls and we check in to make sure we’re both doing alright and make plans for my next visit. She’s a short drive away and neither of us are essential workers nor do we go out, so we’ve deemed visits safe and worth the risk. After she hangs up, I eat the rest of my leftovers then sit down and rewatch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Yes, there is so much new TV I could be watching, but I don’t have the energy to make a decision right now. I just want to relax!

Daily Total: $10

Day Four

10 a.m. — Slept in this morning… oops! The bright side of shelter-in-place is the flexibility that comes with not having to physically report anywhere. I figure I can easily make up for lost work time by signing off a little later than usual. When I finally get out of bed I make oatmeal using oat milk, my last ripe banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

2:45 p.m. — After I get enough work done to feel less guilt over being “late,” I take a break to cook rice and eat it with the remaining leftover veggies for lunch. Another thing I am enjoying about shelter-in-place is being able to stop in the middle of the day to cook the food I already have at home instead of spending so much money on takeout.

6:30 p.m. — I’ve been pretty sedentary these past few days so I’ve decided it’s time to get moving again with a free YouTube class from Dance Theatre of Harlem. Since I’m carrying way too much debt for someone with my income, I’m taking advantage of all the free and donation-based workouts available right now. I see this as the perfect time to try classes and workouts that I would be too intimidated to try if they were in person. The class leaves me feeling energized so I decide to finally try the 7:30 Soca Twerkout class I’ve been hearing about. Turns out 15 minutes before class is too late to sign up! Oh well, maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

7:45 p.m. — After showering, I make a PB&J sandwich to eat with a plum as my dinner. My friend calls me to talk about what else but coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement. We stay on the phone until 3 a.m. — good thing I don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow morning!

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

9 a.m. — I start my day scrolling TikTok before I head to the bathroom to wash up. I make plain oatmeal and have it with a glass of orange juice as I continue scrolling. What can I say? TikTok is addictive. After I’m done, I open my laptop and get ready to start the workday.

3:45 p.m. — When I’m ready to take my break, I heat up yesterday’s rice with the last bit of leftover veggies from my Thai order. After a few bites, I realize I’m not as hungry as I thought I was so I wrap the bowl up and put it in the fridge for dinner. Instead, I use my break time to window shop. Since we’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, I decide it’s time to invest in a proper chair to go with my desk. I start searching for articles with recommendations and, whew!, nice office chairs are EXPENSIVE! At least the good ones are. I decided to wait until I find out when my job expects us to return and if there’s any chance we’ll get a stipend before I make such an investment.

7:30 p.m. — Time for Soca Twerkout! What I love about online classes is that I don’t have to make a fool of myself in front of others. I’m not the best dancer so I would probably be intimidated by others if this class were in person. Today I’m feeling extra confident though so I even turn on my camera as we work through the routine. As we get towards the end I start to mess up a bit and decide to turn off my camera for the last few minutes. Class ends with a few volunteers allowing the teacher to shine the spotlight on them and I enjoy watching, knowing I’ll never volunteer myself. Class is donation-based but they hint that they’ll start charging soon so since this is my first class I forego the donation today and consider this my “free trial.”

8:45 p.m. — After class, I heat up the leftovers that I didn’t finish at lunch and wash dishes before taking a shower. I put on my PJs and watch two episodes of Unsolved Mysteries before I start yawning and decide to head to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up and have a plum to get something in my stomach before work. I have an important call this morning so I hustle to get all my notes together and make sure I’m ready to share my report. After my call, I’m starting to get hungry and realize it’s because I didn’t eat a real breakfast! Perfect time to take a break and make pasta with broccoli and marinara sauce. Once I get back to work, I try to focusing on writing pitches. Since the pandemic began, I have general anxiety that looms over my head and makes it hard for me to focus on writing. It’s not my best work so I don’t send the pitches out immediately, but rather sit on them hoping a few hours away will help me edit later. Luckily, I’m ahead of schedule and there’s no rush to get the pitches out.

5 p.m. — I haven’t left the house in almost a week so I consider going for a walk but quickly change my mind. Instead, I decide to get lost in a book. Instead of buying new books during the pandemic, I’ve decided this is the time I can get around to finally finishing (or starting!) all the books on my bookshelf. After about two hours of reading, I hit the shower and sit down to watch more episodes of Unsolved Mysteries.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:45 a.m. — I wake up feeling really good and instead of putting this good mood to use, I scroll TikTok before getting up for a breakfast of oatmeal with strawberries. I do a little Netflix binge before taking a few minutes to tidy my house. Once the apartment is tidied, I start a live workout on YouTube.

2 p.m. — After my live workout, I have a phone call with an interior designer from West Elm. New furniture isn’t in my budget right now but the interior design consultations are free so I decide to take advantage of the expert advice that I’ll hopefully be able to apply one day. Her suggestions don’t match my personal style so I’m a bit disappointed. Some of the pieces she’s chosen are cute but I feel like I can get similar items elsewhere for cheaper. I let her know how I feel about each piece as I search Walmart.com for dupes. That phone call bleeds into my lunchtime and I’m too hungry to wait for a home-cooked or delivered meal. I use the last two slices of bread to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then add bread to my FreshDirect cart since I’m clearly eating a lot of it these days.

4 p.m. — I decide to go for a walk and get some fresh air. Since most businesses besides grocery stores and restaurants aren’t open yet, I don’t really have a destination so I just wander around the borough. After an hour and a half, I’m back home and drenched in sweat! I guzzle water and take a quick shower. Note to self — carry a water bottle on your next walk! I start to make Brussels sprouts and frozen chicken nuggets as my dinner. I take a look at my finances and set my budget for the week ahead. Since I spent a lot on groceries this week, I won’t need to spend much more so maybe I’ll have a few extra dollars to put towards my debt.

8 p.m. — It’s time to watch a Dance Theatre of Harlem performance on YouTube! Another thing I’m taking advantage of during quar is all the free access to culture. I try to catch as many performances as possible, especially ones that I wouldn’t be able to see normally due to finances or location. After the 30-minute performance, I fall down a YouTube rabbit hole of other professional dance performances that I’ve never been able to see in real life.

Daily Total: $0

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