A Week In New Haven, CT, On A $50,000 Salary

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This week, we're looking at Money Diaries during the (often expensive) holiday season to see how people save up — and spend.

Today: an account manager who makes $50,000 per year, and spends some of her money this week on a Christmas tree.

Occupation: Account Manager
Industry: Software
Age: 25
Location: New Haven, CT
Salary: $50,000
Paycheck (Biweekly): $1,397

Monthly Expenses
Housing: $675. My boyfriend and I split a one-bedroom evenly.
Loan Payments: $400 toward student loans.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Car Insurance: $91
Gym Membership: $34
Internet: $50
Streaming Services: $0. We use my boyfriend's Netflix, Hulu, and other accounts and call it even after I pay internet.
Cell Phone: $0. Lucky to still be on the family plan, which my mom pays for.
Health & Dental Insurance: $0; it's fully covered by work.
Credit Card Debt: $200. Some financially irresponsible decisions after undergrad left me with about $5,000 in credit card debt that I am trying to pay off. I put more money toward this some months if I'm able.
Savings: $300. I have an automatic transfer of $150 set up for each payday.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — Wake up to my kitty alarm and real alarm. I feed the kitty and make a large quantity of coffee in my Chemex, also putting together a quick breakfast of homemade granola, sliced banana, and a splash of almond milk. I recently started a new position where I work from home, and I have really loved the savings from not buying coffee or breakfast out.

9 a.m. — My boyfriend leaves for work and I get started with my day: reviewing and organizing my inbox, making a to-do list for the week, and starting some client outreach. I hunker down for a few hours of work.

12:30 p.m. — The morning went by fast! I love having consistent work and projects to do because my last job was pretty much the opposite and every day dragged on forever. I take a break for lunch and remember I need to order one last Christmas gift for my friend. I'm doing a "self-care" package for her, including her favorite nail polish and blooming tea. I complete the trio with an aromatherapy diffuser and set of eight essential oils. I love me some themed gifts! I'm not terribly hungry, so I snack on almonds and a few clementines. $37.04

5:30 p.m. — Done with work for the day. I drive to the gym where I do a bare minimum workout of running two miles on the treadmill and core work. I took an unintentional gym hiatus these past few months, so I'm trying to ease back into a routine without burning out.

6:30 p.m. — Before I head home, I text my boyfriend to see what we should do for dinner. We're both feeling lazy, so I place an order at Mamoun's for two falafel sandwiches, tabbouleh, and two mango juices and pick it up on my way home. We smoke a joint, eat, watch The Walking Dead, and are in bed around 10:30. $16.85

Daily Total: $53.89

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Wake up, feed the kitty, and go through my usual weekday morning routine of making coffee and a granola bowl. I listen to SZA's CTRL album to get the day started right.

12 p.m. — Break for lunch. I eat almonds and clementines again, but also mash up half an avocado I have in the fridge and put it over a toasted slice of Ezekiel bread. I call my mom to chat. I recently moved back to my home state, and a great perk is being able to see my mom way more than I have in the past few years living in another city. We make plans to go to dinner tonight.

6 p.m. — I meet my mom at Barcelona, a tapas and wine bar, for dinner. It's one of my favorites! We get a cheese and charcuterie board, and of course some tapas: patatas bravas, roasted cauliflower, and bacon wrapped dates. I offer to pay, but my mom insists on covering the bill because she's an angel.

9 p.m. — I drive home and stop for gas along the way. My car is small and gets great gas mileage, so pending any road trips I'm not aware of, this should last me at least two weeks. I head home and (tearfully) read some of my current book, A Little Life. Fall asleep around 10:30. $20

Daily Total: $20

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I have an earlier start today because I signed up for a Vinyasa yoga class at my gym (included in my membership). While I truly hate waking up any earlier than I absolutely have to, I come out of class refreshed and happy to have gotten exercise out of the way. I drive home to get started on work for the day.

1 p.m. — The morning and early afternoon flew by again, partly due to client fires that had to be put out. I feel super lucky to have a great group of coworkers that are knowledgeable and supportive, despite the fact that we all work remotely! I am also ravenous because I only had coffee after I got back from yoga. I toast two slices of Ezekiel bread, mash half an avocado on each, and poach two eggs to put on top. I garnish with Maldon sea salt and liberal amounts of sriracha.

5 p.m. — I wrap up work for the day and text my boyfriend; we are running pretty low on groceries. He offers to stop by the store on his way home from work, and gets more Ezekiel bread, avocados, eggs, pasta, crushed tomatoes, cheddar cheese, kale, sweet potatoes, bananas, clementines, tomato soup, and oatmeal raisin cookies ($51.29). We split the bill and I send him $25 via Venmo. $25

6:30 p.m. — My boyfriend makes one of my favorite comfort meals for dinner: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. It may be simple but it is delicious. We eat and watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead, and smoke a little on our weed vape pen. I read more of my book before bed and we fall asleep around 11.

Daily Total: $25

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Normal morning routine. I have a lot of work to get done today and tomorrow so I dive in.

12:30 p.m. — Come up for air and take a break for lunch. I roast a sweet potato and eat it over kale with Caesar dressing. Gap is offering 40% all merchandise for a Cyber Monday and Black Friday deal, so I peruse and pick out Christmas gifts for my boyfriend — fleece-lined khaki pants, a sweater, and two pairs of socks. I have an online shopping compulsion (see credit card debt) that I've been trying to reign in the past year, but I justify this purchase because it's almost half off — and it's not for me! $85.51

5:30 p.m. — I finish up with work and try to decide what to make for dinner. I make a quick tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and spices, and put pasta on to boil. My boyfriend comes home just as I'm finishing up, and we sit down to eat the pasta with a finishing of pecorino Romano.

8:30 p.m. — Boyfriend and I are having strong ice cream cravings (despite the fact that it's really winter outside now). We cave and drive over to Arethusa Dairy, an amazing ice cream shop in town that also has a great dairy farm in the state and produces tons of milk, cheese, and ice cream. He gets a shake mixed with raspberry and chocolate ice cream, and I get one of their handmade waffle cones with two scoops of almond toasted coconut ($10.50). My boyfriend pays and leaves a $2 tip. We head home and enjoy our ice cream before bed like the heathens we are.

Daily Total: $85.51

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I go to the Vinyasa class again because I enjoyed it so much. I also have Friday Feels energy and surprisingly have no trouble getting myself up and out. The class is great again, but I forgot my water bottle and have to buy one at the gym. I feel guiltier about using a plastic water bottle than I do about spending the cash, but I'll make sure to recycle it later. Back home to start work. $2

11:30 a.m. — I take an earlier lunch break than usual because I'm super hungry. I make another avocado toast with poached eggs. Sometimes I feel like I eat the same three to five meals in rotation, but honestly, I'm fine with that.

5 p.m. — I shut down work a little earlier than usual and get ready to meet up with a friend for dinner at Mecha, an Asian-fusion restaurant. I change into something that's not my work-from-home uniform (Lululemon and sweaters) and put on makeup. Even when I go out, I don't tend to wear that much; just a few swipes of NARS Creamy Concealer and Benefit's Gimme Brow and GALifornia blush.

7 p.m. — Meet up with my friend at Mecha. Another great benefit of being back in my home state is meeting up with friends I haven't seen in a few years! She is the type of friend I can always pick up with right where we left off, so we have a great time eating delicious food and chatting. We get a few baos, kimchi fried rice, and Thai spare ribs. She gets a cognac Thai tea cocktail, but I don't drink so I stick to Diet Coke. We split the food and tip, and pay for our own beverages. $30

9:30 p.m. — I text my boyfriend, who is at a jazz show at a nearby bar. My friend and I meet up with him and watch the rest of the show. There's a $5 cover, which I pay for both of us because she doesn't have cash. ($10) I get another Diet Coke at the bar and enjoy the live music. My friend heads out, and then my boyfriend and I head home shortly after, around 12 a.m. It's past my bedtime so I fall asleep almost immediately! $12

Daily Total: $44

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — I wake up and sloooooowly make my way out of bed. I relish being able to sleep in on the weekends and take the day at a slow pace. I put water on for coffee, make pancake batter with our industrial box of Bisquik, and caramelize bananas for the topping. The coffee and griddle scents wake up my boyfriend, and he joins me in the kitchen for breakfast.

1 p.m. — We make our way out of the house to run an errand. This is the first apartment we've lived in together without roommates and I really want to get a Christmas tree this year! We go to Big Lots and get a tree stand and string lights. We debate the light colors, since I prefer the more classic, minimalist look of clear lights and he likes the colorful kind. I win the light color battle, with the compromise being that we'll also make a popcorn garland to string. Fine by me! $17.01

3:30 p.m. — By the time we're ready to head home, we realize the tree farm closes in 30 minutes. I really don't want to rush it, so we decide to wait until tomorrow. At least we'll have all the finishings and we can just drop the tree right in.

4 p.m. — At home, I make good on my popcorn-garland compromise and get started on that endeavor. We have a tub of loose kernels, so I put them on the stove in a covered pan and hope for the best. They shockingly don't burn or catch fire, so we string the popped corn with a needle and thread, and rinse and repeat until we have way more than we need. I carefully roll up the completed garland and put it in a box on the cabinet, far away from the prying hands of the kitty. We spend the rest of the day lounging and watching TV.

Daily Total: $17.01

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — Wake up and head out to find our tree! We first stop at Dunkin' for a quick breakfast of coffee and a bagel, which my boyfriend and I split. I pay and tip $2. $10.52

11 a.m. — We arrive at the quaint tree farm, a few towns over from where we live. They have complimentary hot chocolate, which makes this place a hit in my book already. We roam the grounds of the farm with a little saw they give us until we find the perfect Douglas Fir. My boyfriend saws it down and we carry it back to the car, strapping it on the roof with bungee cords I keep in my trunk. I am so happy we got a tree, and I can definitely feel the Christmas spirit building. $50

2 p.m. — We get home and put the tree in its stand, which is a little more difficult than I expected. Once it's secure, we add the lights and popcorn garland, and it looks amazing! Even though we don't have any ornaments right now, it still looks beautiful and I'm so happy to have my first real Christmas tree as an adult. It's only a matter of time before the kitty gets curious about it, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Daily Total: $60.52

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