Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we're tracking every last penny.
This week we're with a 26-year-old woman in New York City who is paying off her student loans by still living with her parents. But with a job she doesn't like, will she manage to keep her good intentions going?
Occupation: Careers Advisor Industry: Education Nonprofit Age: 26 Location: NYC Salary: £40,215 Paycheque (twice a month): £1,010
Loan payments: £309 Netflix: £7.70 Travel fund: £58. I pay myself each month so I can limit how often I dip into savings. Emergency fund: £162 Savings: £607 Gym membership: £16 iCloud storage: £0.76 Mobile phone: £38.67. I'm on a family plan, but I pay my parents. Pension: £201.11 Transport: £123.75 Medical, vision & dental: £79.75
Day One 7am: I wake up before my alarm and try to fall back to sleep. No luck. I drag myself out of bed and slowly start my morning. 8am: I run around trying to get out the door on time. I quickly pack some blueberries, and toast an English muffin with butter for my train snack. 9.45am: I'm wearing a pair of shoes I love that don't love me back. Despite the copious amounts of deodorant I put on the back of my heels this morning (I swear this normally works!), I have two massive blisters. I'm annoyed that I don't have any back-up plasters in my wallet or purse. No plasters at the store, either, but I do buy a yoghurt and a cheese stick. Yum. £2.15 11.50am: Meeting over! I limp to the pharmacy and finally buy plasters and a giant mint chocolate on sale at the register. I haven't had chocolate or dessert in a few weeks because I'm on an elimination diet of sorts due to health issues. Still, I woke up feeling okay and decide to treat myself. £3.75 12.15pm: Apparently, I haven't finished treating myself, because I decide to spend £7.75 on a salad. Who knew avocado, an egg, carrots, cucumbers, and chicken breast over spinach would be so freaking expensive?! I'm so glad that I work way uptown, far away from convenient, yummy lunch spots. £7.75 12.40pm: On the subway back to my office, I remember that I need to reimburse a friend for a gift they bought on my behalf, for my boyfriend. £27.08 2pm: Today is a bad spending day. During some downtime, I buy myself a cute lunchbox and nail stickers. In my defence, I pack lunch at least four days a week, and I paint my own nails once a week. £14.44 3.45pm: I wolf down my lunch and snacks. I'm full but I don't feel satisfied. My meeting is boring and I daydream about junk food. I think I have a yoghurt from last week in the work fridge. Forty-five more minutes until I can go check... 5pm: I've technically only been in the office for 3.5 hours, but it feels like an eternity, so I leave. I fight the twinge of guilt by reminding myself that I'll do more work when I get home. I usually work 55-60 hours per week during the school year. Leaving a little early in the summer all balances out, right? 7.30pm: Despite major subway delays (karma?), I make it to zumba. I haven't been in almost three weeks and end up a hot ass mess afterward — literally. 8.45pm: Home for a quick dinner, a shower, and prep work for a book club with my kiddos tomorrow at work. I pass out watching Netflix. Total: £55.17
Day Two 9am: Today is one of those days where I can tell I'm going to be annoyed and on edge all day. I wake up 45 minutes before my alarm, and then manage to snooze 30 minutes too long. I miss both my trains by seconds, and later, the new girl at work sends a text to our work group chat about an inane technique she uses for student engagement. I have no idea why she irritates me so much, but sometimes when I'm around her, I have to fight the urge to snap at her. Normally, on a day like today, I'd treat myself to lunch or a cute nail polish. But after yesterday's impulse buys and with a planned dinner tonight, I don't. Instead, I grumpily eat my English muffin. 1.30pm: My school kids were pretty good in book club, but the younger kids were a nightmare during lunch. I take a break from the office and walk to the supermarket around the corner to buy two yoghurt cups and a pack of string cheese to snack on for the next few days. I trudge back to work to eat my boring lunch of tuna and crackers. £6.04 2.15pm: I've been looking for a new psychiatrist for a while now. After nearly four years without treatment, my anxiety and depression have started to negatively impact my personal life, health, and even my work. I get a call setting up an evaluation for next week! I celebrate by scarfing down two string cheeses. The evaluation will cost £77 and it is not covered by insurance; the sessions will be an additional £15.47 once I start. 6.30pm: I meet a friend for dinner at a cute Mexican place. Good company, good conversation, and good food. The portion is so big that I pack it up. I'll have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and maybe even dinner. £14.70 11pm: Pass out without taking off my makeup or brushing my teeth. Total: £20.74
Day Three 8.15am: Out the door! I grab a few slices of toast at the apartment and bring my leftovers from last night with me. I still have yesterday's egg whites in my work fridge, plus string cheese and one of my yoghurts. I should be able to make it through today without spending money on food! 8.25am: I'm mortified. I scooped the cat litter before I left, and instead of throwing the bag out, I instinctively stuck it in my purse. I won't be at work for another hour. Ugh. 10.25am: Check my graduate loans servicer and see that my final payment on one of my two loans has gone through! I still have one more grad school loan totalling about £12,379, but I've successfully paid off the smaller, higher-interest loan. It cost about £10,445, plus interest, and it's gone after a year of aggressive payments and scrimping. £3,778.26 6.45pm: I finally leave work and I'm so happy to be close to home. My mum texts to tell me that she's cooking, so at least I won't have to scrounge around in the cupboards. 8pm: On my way out of the subway, I stop to buy a new weekly unlimited card since mine has expired. I'm travelling for work in 13 days and I figure I'll wait to use the card until next week, when I have a ton of running around to do. I swipe my new benefits card (I get money deducted pre-tax for transit), but it doesn't work. Annoying. I pull out my credit card to pay and submit the receipt via the mobile app as I walk home. I should be reimbursed the £24.76 next paycheque. 9.45pm: I get a phone call from someone purporting to work at a magazine to which I subscribed. They know my address and ask for my credit card number and, distracted, I give it to them. It isn't until I hang up that I realise this is definitely a scam! I immediately log into my bank account and lock my card. I call the magazine's customer service line and they confirmed that they don't make outgoing calls. UGH. I go back onto my bank's website and report my card stolen. How could I be so stupid?! 12.15am: I finally go to sleep, much too late. Aside from my credit card snafu, I have a pretty good evening! Dinner is delish — rice and beans and pork chops — and we also have ices because it is h-o-t right now. After dinner, I head up to my room to do work but end up folding laundry, watching Criminal Minds (my guilty pleasure show). Total: £3,778.26
Day Four 7.30am: I pack most of my food and snacks; this morning, I quickly make egg whites and an English muffin before I run out the door. I'm not going to lie: a big perk of living at home is typically having a fully stocked fridge. I do contribute to groceries sometimes, especially for things that mostly only I eat, but I don't contribute on a regular basis. My parents have made it clear that it's fine for me to live at home rent-free — if I pay off my loans ASAP. They can be overbearing at times, but putting almost £16,254 toward my loans in 14 months would have been impossible without their support. I lived at home after university, too (my degree was completely paid for with a scholarship). We had the same agreement then: no rent or regular financial contributions on my part — if I saved up what I'd need to pay for my MA — which I did. 12pm: Munch on string cheese while I heat up my egg whites. Today, I've had an English muffin, grapes, and a yoghurt cup with a little bit of granola on top leftover from the kids' breakfast this morning. I'll eat my real lunch in a couple of hours, and then finish off my snacks right before I leave the office. 6pm: Finally leave work. The afternoon went by fast after all the prep work for my end-of-year convo and catching up on administrative work. Time to buy my little sister's birthday gift. 6.45pm: I manage to make it out of Target relatively unscathed. My sister has been on a beauty kick lately so in addition to a bracelet I bought her a week ago, I'll give her a nail polish, a grey lipstick, a 24k gold face mask, and a shine-reducing concealer. I also bought a card for her, a birthday card for my boyfriend's mum, and a new baby card for my BFF. £35.33 8pm: My dad picks me up from the subway so that I can grab ice cream and chips for the family's celebration. £6.56 9.45pm: Birthday and family time over! I head to my room so that my boyfriend and I can watch something "together" on Netflix. (What that means is we'll watch the same show and text about it.) I'm not in the mood for House of Cards, though, so I watch an episode of Criminal Minds and pass out around 11. Total: £41.89
Day Five 6.45am: Wake up 45 minutes before my alarm. I'm VERY anxious about my evaluation at 10am today. I know I work hard, and that I'm damn good at my job, but I dislike and distrust my manager. There are projects I've wanted to do that I haven't taken on because I don't feel like I can go to him for help, advice, constructive feedback, etc. Plus, the rumour mill has been churning for weeks about the organisation's financial health. To put it mildly, I'm concerned about how everything will go. 8.45am: I eat my English muffin on the subway. It is so hot today. 9.15am: I swing by the good grocery store around the block from my office to buy yoghurt cups; they're five for £3.87. I'm a total creature of habit (and I'm lazy), so it's common for me to eat the same breakfast, lunch and snacks for days — or even weeks — in a row. It all depends on the groceries I have at home and what I decide to supplement them with. This week, we've had English muffins, egg whites, and blueberries at home, so I've run with that and mostly eaten dinner leftovers for lunch. £3.87 11am: My evaluation went so well! My offer letter for next year isn't great, but I got the best that the organisation is offering so I'm happy. I got a lot of very positive feedback, plus my manager gave me the green light for a massive, time-consuming project I've been mulling over in secret for months and quietly started yesterday. I'm so happy. 12.30pm: I decide to save my egg whites for tomorrow and eat my pork chop and rice and beans instead. I've eaten this three times in the past few days; not mad about it, though! 2.15pm: I fell into a data entry hole and am six minutes late for a meeting in our building across the street. Oops; today is a wash. I gossip with coworkers post-meeting and then head back across the street to my office. I'm still trying to build work bonds! I have RBF and am typically an anxious, antisocial kind of gal (plus, I work in an office full of strong personalities), so I try my hardest to bond when I can. I eat one of the yoghurts I bought this morning with blueberries and Cheerios. 4.45pm: I give up for the day and leave with a coworker. I planned to go to Target to return a bottle of nail polish I bought for my sister, but it's too hot to walk 15 blocks out of my way. I finally get home around 6, and decide the perfect dinner is leftover birthday cake and ice cream, pea crisps, and crackers. Sensitive stomach be damned! I settle into bed to binge-watch at least four episodes of Criminal Minds on Netflix until I pass out. It's a terrible show but I love it anyway. Total: £3.87
Day Six 4.23am: I pay for my dinner choices with terrible stomach cramps. #NoRegrets — but ouch. 7.45am: I come to terms with the fact that my body is making me atone for yesterday's eating choices and text my boyfriend that I can't join him and his mum for the pesto-making party today. I'm sad but try to comfort myself with an alternate plan. I run over the things I want to do: clean my room, maybe go to the gym and take a stroll on a treadmill (Fitbit challenges are big in my fam, and I've been slacking lately), watch more terrible Netflix, do a face mask, paint my nails, and tan in my garden. This feels ambitious. It's likely that all I'll do is watch Netflix. I'm okay with that and try to lie very still in bed so that I can fall asleep again. 11am: After dozing for a few hours, I finally drag myself out of bed. I text my boyfriend because he's been feeling a little down lately, and we decide to go to Philadelphia in a couple of weeks for a long weekend. I look up train tickets and Airbnbs and see some good options, so I send him the links and start to clean the bathroom. My boyfriend says that pesto has been delayed until tomorrow, so we decide to meet at the Met. 3.45pm: I get to the Met before him and buy our tickets. I figure a £7.75 "donation" is good enough for each ticket. We spend the afternoon at the Met on 5th Avenue (the rooftop exhibit is great) before going to the Met Breuer to check out the video exhibit. £15.50 8.30pm: Finally home! I make hamburgers and my boyfriend and I chat with my family before we finalise our weekend getaway. The trains I looked at this morning still have cheap seats available. We also decide to spend a little more money for a townhouse on Airbnb instead of staying at an apartment. I send him my share. £189 10.45pm: I'm exhausted and am starting to feel a little gross again, probably because I ate cake and ice cream. When will I learn? I drag myself up to my room to touch up my nail polish and watch Netflix until I fall asleep. Total: £204.52
Day Seven 7am: Randomly wake up and decide Reddit is a good way to spend some time. Ladies and gents of r/laqueristas, you are magical. I tried out the nail vinyls I bought on Amazon earlier this week and let's just say I need some more practice. 9.15am: Finally decide to get my butt into gear. I have to get ready to meet B and his mum to make pesto today! I think about making Kodiak cakes for breakfast but syrup is probably a bad idea, so instead I scramble two eggs and eat them with toasted mini-naan and a decaf iced chai latte. 11.38am: My boyfriend is late to meet me. I am seriously annoyed and I have to wee. I head into a Dunkin' Donuts to buy a bagel I don't want so I can use their bathroom, but there isn't one. Lovely. £2.15 3.50pm: Pesto party is a blast as always. Lunch is fresh pesto over pasta, which is delish. The trains are a hot mess today and I remember that I haven't taken an Uber in almost three weeks. I order a car. £16.78 6.30pm: Family dinner time! We eat rice, peas and steak, since everyone's anaemic. As much as I complain about how overbearing and intrusive my family is, it's definitely nice to have family dinner. I've been trying to have them more often since I'm moving out in a few weeks. 11.45pm: I always swear I'll go to bed early on Sunday nights, only to stay up late. I think it's because I secretly hate my job — maybe I delay going to bed so that I delay having to wake up on Monday morning. That — or it's some sort of weird, passive-aggressive way to self-sabotage since I'm grumpy AF without sleep. Total: £18.93
The Breakdown Food/Drink: £43.22 Entertainment: £15.50 Clothes/Beauty: £0 Travel: £205.78 Other: £3,858.86 Total: £4,123.36