A Week In Brooklyn, NY, On A $17,700 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: an AmeriCorps member working in nonprofit education who makes $17,700 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on Narragansett beer.
Occupation: AmeriCorps Member
Industry: Nonprofit Education
Age: 23
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Salary: $17,700
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $738.13
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900 (I live with four other people, and I have the smallest room.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents are paying off my student loans. Thank you, Mom and Dad.)
Health Insurance: $0 (My employer pays.)
MetroCard: $0 (My employer reimburses me.)
Phone: $55 (I'm on my family's plan and pay my share, which covers the cost of the phone, the plan, and tax.)
Internet: $12.18 (My roommates and I each pay one-fifth of the cost.)
Utilities: ~$30 (It varies by month based on how much we use our heat and electricity.)
Netflix: $0 (I use my parents' account.)
Apple Music: $4 (I use my college email to get the student discount.)
Gym: $15
Yoga: $0 (Birthday present from my parents.)
Advertisement
Additional Expenses
Therapy: $15/week (This is my discounted cost with insurance.)

Day One

11 a.m. — I don't always sleep in this late on weekends, but last night I went to a warehouse show in Bushwick until 3 a.m. My friend who lives about an eight-minute walk away invites me over to make brunch. I bring an avocado and goat cheese as my contribution. We gossip over omelets and then play a rousing game of Monopoly, which we agree is the perfect escape from reality.
4:45 p.m. — I walk to another friend's apartment, which is only 10 minutes away. I'm going to get my ID and credit card, which I left in her wallet last night, but we inevitably chat and snack for a bit before I leave. Snacking really gets me through this Sunday, both emotionally and financially.
8 p.m. — I take a yoga class to rejuvenate after an expensive and unhealthy (albeit extremely fun) weekend. I'm not sure what “toxins” actually are, but by the end I feel like I've released them, and my body is reset. I go home, shower, and watch an episode of The Office before falling asleep around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — Thankfully it's light outside when my alarm goes off, because this is my first day back at work after spring break, and I've gotten very used to sleeping past 7 a.m. I prepared my breakfast and lunch last night, so I throw them in my L.L. Bean lunch box. I always make coffee at home to save time and money, and I drink it while I listen to a podcast on my commute. Today, it's an episode of NPR's Code Switch about an Afro-Latina musician named Amara La Negra.
Advertisement
9:45 a.m. — I'm trying to be more chill at work, since I have a tendency to overthink and overwork in order to make things perfect. I create a schedule for the week that allows me to just supervise and manage, which are the most important parts of my role. I eat the breakfast I packed for myself (Greek yogurt, Trader Joe's almond clusters, and a little honey) while volunteers tutor our students.
12 p.m. — My breakfast is never enough to keep me full for long. I eat my lunch (leftover Trader Joe's ravioli with roasted asparagus and eggplant that I made last week) while doing some data entry.
3:30 p.m. — I leave work shortly after the school day ends and sneak in a quick trip to the gym before my weekly therapy appointment in Soho. I started seeing my therapist about six months ago, and I seriously look forward to it every week.
6:30 p.m. — I get home and call my mom — it's her birthday! I'm heading to the grocery store and ask her if she's cooked anything especially good recently. She is basically paleo, and I am very much not, but she makes a lot of creative stuff, so I seek inspiration from her from time to time. She suggests I buy cauliflower to roast, and I do. I call my best friend in Chicago while shopping and charge the groceries to my EBT card. (I receive $194 per month in food stamps.) I head home to meal prep for the rest of the week with the items I just bought and stuff I already have from my last Trader Joe's trip. ($24.79 expensed)
Advertisement
8:30 p.m. — My roommate, A., and I watch an old episode of Are You The One, our second favorite MTV reality show, and I munch on pasta with roasted cauliflower, zucchini, and collard greens, topped with goat cheese and marinara. I save the rest in a Tupperware for a future lunch and head to bed by 10 p.m. feeling envious of the cast members of the show, who just won true love and their share of $750,000.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — It is so hard to wake up today. I leave with coffee in hand, but it feels like no amount of caffeine will be enough to enliven me.
10:30 a.m. — Yogurt and almonds time.
12:45 p.m. — Today I have to eat my lunch while tutoring a student. Usually they make fun of me for eating food that they think is weird. The best comment I've heard was: “Miss, why are you eating grass? That's soooo nasty.” But today the kids are unfazed by my mishmash of wild rice, lentils, Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala veggie burger, and roasted veggies.
3:30 p.m. — At the gym, I spontaneously decide to do the Arc Trainer, and then quickly realize I have no clue what it even is. Seriously, what is it? All I know is, my quads are burning.
5 p.m. — I shower and fry up Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza, which I eat with soy sauce and Sriracha for an early dinner before Hindi class, which is (unfortunately) in Midtown. I stop by the dry cleaner on the way to drop off two pairs of pants that ripped in the last few weeks. One tore when it got caught on a door handle. How does that even happen? The teller says they'll be ready by Thursday but charges me up front. The price you pay for buying cheap jeans. $36
Advertisement
Daily Total: $36

Day Four

7:25 a.m. — I get to sleep in! Since most of my students are going on a field trip to the circus and the rest are doing state testing (#CynthiaNixonforGovernor), I'll be spending the day helping out at a different school that's closer to where I live. I still bring coffee.
10 a.m. — After tutoring an adorable student, I eat my yogurt and granola while catching up on the news. Paul Ryan announced he will not seek reelection, and I am ecstatic. Then I Google him and find out his sign is Aquarius, which is odd since he is a spineless sheep.
12:55 p.m. — I find it virtually impossible to meal prep enough for an entire week, so I try to keep a few pre-made lunches around. Today I'm microwaving Trader Joe's Paneer Tikka Masala, which is not the most filling, but is excellent as far as affordable frozen vegetarian meals go. As I eat, I buy bus tickets to go to D.C. with a friend this weekend! It's our last chance to see the cherry blossoms, and I've been itching to get out of the city for a night. Since we're going Friday to Saturday and booking last minute, tickets aren't the cheapest ($88 total). I pay, and he Venmos me his half. $44
3:15 p.m. — I get to walk home from work today, which is thrilling. (This is not sarcasm; April has been very cold.) I eat two clementines along the way and listen to DeRay McKesson's podcast, Pod Save The People. At home, I try to work on grad school applications, but mostly scroll through Instagram.
Advertisement
5:15 p.m. — Go to yoga. Sufficiently sore, I come home and watch an episode of American Vandal. (I've already seen it, I'm just rewatching it because it's the best television show created in the history of humankind.) For dinner I cook Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Morsels (orange-flavored fake chicken) and a scallion pancake.
8 p.m. — I'm going on a date! We matched on Tinder, and it's our second time hanging out. Dating is hard and second dates are scarce, so I'm excited. I chose a bar in my neighborhood last time, so tonight he picked the spot, and I make the trek into Manhattan. Last time, I introduced him to Narragansett, my favorite cheap beer (I'm biased because last year I lived in Rhode Island, where it's made). The bar has cans for $3, much to our satisfaction. He puts down his card, and there's a minimum; I tell him I'll get the drinks at the next spot. After two beers each, we walk to a nearby bar that a friend suggested. It's little more upscale, so we get the cheapest thing on the menu: $5 Tecates. We bond over our mutual disdain for olives, and he walks me to the train. $12.89
Daily Total: $56.89

Day Five

6:40 a.m. — Ugh. Going to work after a night of three beers is the worst. Once I get to my desk, I munch on a granola bar in the hopes that it will revive me.
9:45 a.m. — Coffee saves the day again. I only had a little yogurt left for today and tomorrow, so I eat the mini portion of it I threw in a Tupperware this morning.
Advertisement
11:25 a.m. — Clementine snack. I am a snacker.
12:20 p.m. — A student and a tutor who are working together have the same name, and they are loving it. I observe their lesson while I eat my lunch (pasta with the same vegetable mix from earlier in the week).
3 p.m. — Grateful I made it through the day, I head to the gym. I'm making myself go because I know I won't have time tomorrow between work and catching the bus to D.C. I do a lackluster workout and walk home, where I find my roommate made chocolate chip cookies! I immediately snack on them, as well as Salt & Vinegar Kettle Chips (my favorite food of all time, probably), and continue working on grad school applications with The Office playing in the background.
7:20 p.m. — A. and I are lounging on the couch and she makes a box of bowties. I already had pasta for lunch, but I can't pass up an opportunity to avoid cooking, so I eat it anyway, with marinara and goat cheese.
8:25 p.m. — D., another roommate, and I go to trivia at a bar around the corner from our apartment. We love it there because it's so low stakes — there are only four rounds and the guy running it asks the question through a megaphone. I stick to water to save money for the weekend and make it to bed by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — That extra hour of sleep seriously makes all the difference. I wouldn't say I feel lively, but I feel like my normal self. I grab my lunch box and coffee and head out for the day.
Advertisement
10 a.m. — I eat the last of the yogurt and granola.
12:50 p.m. — Okay, so I experimented with a new lunch today and it was...disappointing. The idea was a DIY burrito bowl: a combo of rice, black beans, corn, avocado, Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo, chile lime salt, and oven-baked tofu. Where did I go wrong? It definitely wasn't bad, but, how can I improve this meal? Lettuce? Lime? Skip the tofu?
4 p.m. — After dropping my laptop at home and grabbing my bag for D.C., I hop on the train to meet my friend, V., in Midtown for our bus. I get there early and run into Duane Reade for snacks: Clif bar, mini pack of Milanos, and a lime seltzer. (I pay using food stamps.) V. and I meet on 7th Avenue and wait for our steed. ($11.89 expensed)
6 p.m. — Things take a turn. Turns out, buying the cheapest Friday afternoon bus tickets from New York to D.C. is not a wise spending choice. We haven't even made it to the Lincoln Tunnel yet when we get into a fender bender. We're waiting on the street for upwards of an hour with no information, so V. and I call the bus company to try to get a refund. They pretend they can't hear us and hang up — a bad omen for Friday the 13th — and the driver shuffles us back on the bus. We think we're finally leaving, until we realize the driver is not on the bus and has locked us in. Nightmares become reality. The emergency exit is locked, too. Some other passengers are freaking out with us, but others still have their headphones on and are pulling out their dinners. It's bizarre. Eventually, V. slams on the horn until the driver comes back and lets us out. We run out and eat the cost of the bus tickets in favor of not being trapped in a moving vehicle for five hours.
Advertisement
9:30 p.m. — Safely back in Brooklyn, we buy two bottles of wine and bring them back to my apartment, where A. and her friend are also hanging out and drinking wine. My appetite returns; I eat a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and we chat until our anxiety subsides. $13
Daily Total: $13

Day Seven

8:45 a.m. — I wake up early for a Saturday, since I crashed by midnight last night (thank you, half bottle of rosé). It's a beautiful day — the first real day of spring we've seen in NYC — so I drink coffee and go for a run outside (!) around Prospect Park. I'm back by 10:45 a.m. to wash my face and grab my wallet for brunch.
11 a.m. — A friend from college who lives in Boston is in town for a hot sec, so a bunch of us catch up over brunch at Barboncino, our favorite bougie pizza place. I eat half of a pear and gorgonzola pizza and save the rest for a lunch next week. My friend puts down her card and we Venmo her. After brunch, we take advantage of the warm weather and walk to the park. I end up playing Spike Ball for the second time ever, which is a very fun game, even if you suck at it. $19
5:15 p.m. — V. and I are hanging out tonight to make up for our D.C. dreams being crushed. We head to the East Village for an early dinner with another friend. She does theater and works weird hours, so we're meeting her during her break before a rehearsal. We wander around 2nd Avenue and eventually settle on Mighty Quinn's Barbecue, even though two of us are vegetarians, because the sides are delicious and the windows are open. We gossip over mac and cheese, kale slaw, and sweet potato casserole before she goes back to rehearsal. $11.05
Advertisement
7 p.m. — V.'s been wanting new clothes, so I decide to be his personal shopper for the evening. We go to Muji, where he gets an amazing pair of navy linen pants, and Uniqlo for basics. I see a short-sleeve tan linen button-down that I know will look amazing on him and buy it for him as an early birthday present ($19.90). Our last stop is & Other Stories, where we try all the perfumes and lotions, and I buy a much-needed pair of sunglasses ($20.69). $40.59
9 p.m. — Since we're in SoHo, I realize I know a great bar — the one I went to on my date on Wednesday! I feel a little weird going back so soon after, but it's the only good spot we know in the area, so we do it anyway. V. gets a Dark and Stormy and I get a $3 can of Narragansett (plus a $1 tip). He heads uptown for a party, and I go back to Brooklyn. $4
11 p.m. — I meet my friends at Crown Inn and decide to save money and skip the drink. I sip on water while we have a rousing discussion about cultural things that are over- and underrated. I make it to bed shortly after midnight.
Daily Total: $74.64
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.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
Advertisement
Have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following theme:
Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs
Wedding season is upon us, and we want to know: Are you saving up for it? Going to weddings can cost a lot. From the flights, to clothes that fit the dress code, to the hotel or AirBnb stays. So how do you afford it? Do you cut costs elsewhere to keep up? Would you go into credit card debt to be there for your friend on their special day? Fill out this form, and we might feature you on our site!
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Fashion
A look at the subcultures around the world that color what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Travel
Explore the world's most most vibrant cultural and culinary centers—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
Beauty
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.