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.
Today: an HR specialist who makes $82,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on chunky loafers.
Occupation: HR Specialist
Industry: Digital Marketing
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Net Worth: -$115,540.67 (checking account: $1,400, 401(k): $2,000, minus student loans: $111,340.67, car loan: $5,600, and credit card debt: $2,000)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,333
Rent: $1,890 (This includes rent, parking spot, cat fee, and sewage/water. I rent an apartment alone.)
Car Loan: $309
Student Loans: $275 (only paying private loans until federal loans kick back in)
Car Insurance: $122
Health Insurance: $0 (my premium is fully covered by my job)
Phone: $35 (I just switched to the new iPhone so I pay the monthly installment, and my job covers my plan of $70)
Amazon Prime: $15
iCloud Storage/Pet Camera Monitoring/Apple Music: $16
Netflix/HBO: $27 (I split HBO with my mom and my family uses my Netflix password)
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?
There were no graduate education expectations, but I did choose to get my MBA during the beginning of COVID — I was mostly bored, didn’t want to pay loans just yet, and wanted to give myself leverage while looking for a new job in 2021 to make more money. My parents definitely believe in getting a really good education and pushed me to get my bachelor’s degree, which I happily did, but they never pushed for anything more. Coming from a family of mostly immigrants that didn’t have the same opportunities as I did, it was a huge milestone that I even completed my undergrad degree. They absolutely want me to succeed in life and land a high-paying job, but they let me make my own choices and try not to pressure me. My parents paid for my first semester of undergrad and I received a few scholarships and grants. My MBA program and the rest of my undergrad/room and board were both paid via private and public student loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never spoke to me or my siblings about money until very recently. My parents became very fiscally responsible once my sister and I left for school and we moved out. They have established 401(k)s, stock investments, real estate investments abroad, and a nice savings account. My sister and I share the same concerns that my parents never passed their financial advice to us, almost letting us fend for ourselves once we moved out. We recently brought this up to them but the conversation didn’t result in much. We are teaching ourselves how to manage our money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at 17, the summer before my freshman year at college, strictly for spending money at school. I worked at a movie theater and can’t remember how much I made, but I worked overtime often and my paychecks were about $600-$1,000 every other week. The next summer I landed a server job, which I had up until undergrad graduation (during summers and winter breaks).
Did you worry about money growing up?
It was definitely tough for my family as they settled into a new country and had to start over. Moving to the US from the Caribbean and living in poverty (imagine a family of 10 living in a one-bedroom apartment) was really hard for them. My mom was born here but came from a poor neighborhood. She got pregnant with my sister really young so my dad worked many long and overnight hours to support the family. Eventually, after my mom had me and my younger brother, she also got a job. By the time I was in middle school we were middle class. We always got birthday and Christmas presents and were able to go on a few trips. My dad used to be a bigger penny pincher, but now he’s relaxed and goes on vacation with my mom a few times a year.
Do you worry about money now?
I definitely do, especially recently. I have horrible spending habits and buy many unnecessary things out of impulse. Since I now live in a more expensive apartment alone and I’m paying student loans, I realize I can’t spend as much as I used to. I’ve been hyper-vigilant about my spending and have been trying to be more financially responsible. My rent will increase next year (I snagged a good deal with my 15-month lease) and it will make it very hard for me to live comfortably. I am relying on a significant pay increase next year (my manager spoke of setting me up to make about $90,000), but that’s not guaranteed. I may have to move to a more affordable apartment once my lease is up. I have no established savings account which really worries me and lately, I’m very close to living paycheck to paycheck. I worry I moved out of my parents’ house too early without allowing myself any time to build savings and set myself up for the future.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself once I moved out at 22. My parents slowly set me up to be more independent before I left home (I paid my own phone bill and sent them rent once I got my first “big girl job”). My parents are my safety net; if anything were to happen I could easily move back home and if I really did need money, they would send it to me. My sister is also my safety net; if I needed money, she would help me out and vice versa.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
8 a.m. — I wake up and reach for my phone, checking the news/social media for general updates. I have to go into the office today, but otherwise I’d roll out of bed at 9:30 or 10. My job has a hybrid working model so I usually go in twice a week. I went in yesterday for a volunteering event and free manicures in the office so it’s a pain to get up early two days in a row. I’m also sore from an hour of raking a park. I pet my cat for a bit until I feel panicked enough about the time to actually get up.
8:50 a.m. — I finish getting ready for work, I put on a semi-cute business casual outfit (after three outfit changes, of course — I’m reminded why I should play my outfits the night before). My friend, M., is meeting me after work for drinks. I usually get Starbucks before heading into work but I’ve been trying to be responsible about money so I make my coffee at home. I make my own version of an iced shaken espresso using my Nespresso — two shots of espresso, almond milk, and tiny bit of Starbucks pumpkin spice creamer. It’s super yummy. I order an Uber to take me to the train station ten minutes away; it’s covered by my company via Uber for Business so it’s free for me. We have a $200 per week stipend for commuting which is really great and I take advantage of it whenever possible. I feed my cat, give her goodbye rubs, then head out the door. ($17 expensed)
9:15 a.m. — I get to the train station and fill my MetroCard with $10. I only have to wait two minutes before it pulls up. Once I’m in Manhattan, I make a last-minute decision to grab a croissant from Starbucks. Luckily, I have enough points to cover it so it’s free. I walk into my building and chat with the office manager for a bit, then head to my desk. The office isn’t too busy, which I love since I tend to get a bit anti-social at work. $10
12:30 p.m. — Stomach growls just in time because it’s lunchtime! My job orders food for everyone in the office on Thursdays. I load my plate with chicken fettuccine, roasted chicken thighs, and salmon, grab a berry La Croix, and run back to my office to munch. While I eat, I FaceTime my sister, B., and send a photo of my lunch to my boyfriend, K. I really appreciate when my job allows me to save money, so I always come in for Thursday lunch. Other days I’m in office I survive on coffee and my morning croissant alone and don’t eat until dinner time. I remember I didn’t tip the manicurist from yesterday so I quickly put her number into Zelle and send her $5. I ask my friends that I went on a trip with about a week ago for the money they owe me. This is the third time I’m asking them so I’m a bit annoyed. $5
1:30 p.m. — I am still slowly eating, but I get an email that my new iPhone is arriving tomorrow so I quickly order a case for it. Luckily it’ll also arrive tomorrow! $18.22
4 p.m. — M. and I head to my apartment to get ready to go out. I use the leftover money on my MetroCard to get home. On the train I get a notification that I got a package so I go to my concierge to pick it up. I’m surprised and get emotional; it’s flowers and a vase from my team at work. My lizard passed last weekend and I mentioned it very briefly to them. I send them a quick message with my gratitude and I’m reminded of how much I love my job and the people I work with.
6 p.m. — I shake off the emotions and M. and I head out to bar we always to go to on Thursdays since they play latin music. We have a really great, fun night. I buy the first round, a guy buys us the second round, and she gets the third round. We head home when it closes at 2 a.m. and I’m so happy to have my head hit my pillow. $31
Daily Total: $64.22
10 a.m. — I wake up to a text from UPS — my new phone is here! I geek out over new Apple phones so I call my mom, who also pre-ordered it to share the excitement with someone. I feed my cat and log into work. It’s super slow today and I have no meetings thankfully. I spend the next few hours setting up my phone and testing out the camera.
3 p.m. — I realized I didn’t have breakfast or coffee since I was excited about the phone. I decide not to order food and make an egg sandwich with smoked salmon and avocado — it’s delicious. I get nervous afterwards since I recently came to the realization that I may have an egg allergy/sensitivity. M. texts me; we were supposed to have a night in but I’m overwhelmed from this week and all the interaction and talking I’ve had to do, so I cancel and she understands. I close my eyes for a nap.
6:30 p.m. — I wake up a little disappointed in myself — I didn’t expect to be asleep for so long. My boyfriend, K., calls me to tell me a dramatic story about his doctor’s appointment and his plans for the night. We chat for a bit then say our goodbyes. I realize I didn’t prep any food for dinner and groan. That means I have to order food. I drive over to a Chinese restaurant. I order a large chicken and broccoli, pork lo mein, and a side order of fried chicken wings. I definitely eat with my eyes (but also I’m preparing for leftovers). $26
7 p.m. — I go on Amazon to buy a few things from my cart: a candle-making kit (I recently started making candles for fun and it’s been great), a new top for work, two sets of press-on nails, a tennis skirt (I play tennis pretty regularly and I like to look cute for it), a fabric shaver, a puffer vest, and a wipes dispenser for my bathroom. I used Klarna to pay for it so I don’t pay a big lump sum all at once. I’m surprisingly very responsible using Klarna — I have a high purchase power and a very small balance. I only use it when making big orders on Amazon. Since it’s a payment plan, it doesn’t hit my pocket so hard. This and yesterday took up a bit of my budget for this week so I tell myself to be cautious about my spending money for the next couple of days. $37.46
Daily Total: $63.46
11 a.m. — I wake up a little late, but very well-rested. I feed my cat and chat with my mom for bit. I’m hosting a step challenge with my family that starts today, so I get dressed for my hot girl walk.
1:30 p.m. — I park and pay for parking. I walk three-and-a-half miles along the waterfront. I don’t exercise often but I haven’t been in the best mood lately and I know exercise does help that. I head directly to my parents’ house after my walk. $2.35
2 p.m. — I get to my parents’ house and we gush over my mom’s new phone — she ordered the same one as me. We spend the next few hours setting her phone up and transferring my dad’s information to my mom’s old phone for him to use. My dad makes dinner (short ribs on the grill), and it’s super tasty. I love being home and I especially love my dad’s cooking. I hang with my brother for a bit. I give my parents’ dog all the rubs then head out.
9:30 p.m. — I get home and clean up a bit. I feed my cat and relax in the living room. K. is still in the city so I settle into the Kindle book I’m reading while sipping on a glass of rosé. I read for the rest of the night then head to bed. I let K. in a few hours later and we sleep.
Daily Total: $2.35
9:30 a.m. — K. and I wake up a little excited; we do our thing then force ourselves out of bed. We’ve been trying to take advantage of our mornings by waking up early and staying up. I ask him if he wants to go on a hot couple walk, and he excitedly says yes. I do a couple of outfit changes and make us each iced coffee drinks. He reminds me I owe him for half of dinner last weekend so I Zelle him $40. I feed my cat and we head out. $40
11 a.m. — I drive us to the waterfront and we start our walk. We talk the whole way and I’m happy to finally be spending time with him. We’ve been a bit rocky, but trying to make it work. We walk two miles and stumble onto the pier. We decide to get a drink. He gets me a beer and we chat for a bit then walk back towards the car to get lunch.
2:30 p.m. — We pick a restaurant on the waterfront and sit outside. He says he’ll pay which I’m surprised about; he usually makes me pay half everywhere we go and in the past has told me to pay for my own food and he’ll pay his. Buying me the drink and paying for breakfast has me a bit confused, but I go with it. I like being treated like he’s still trying to win me over, like when we started dating. We chat and joke around. I order steak and eggs, a little nervous because of my newfound egg sensitivity. He orders a breakfast skillet. He pays and we leave. We head back to my car to go back to my place.
4 p.m. — We get to mine and I suggest hanging on my rooftop and reading a book. He agrees, but we accidentally fall asleep on my couch. We wake up about an hour later then finally head to the roof. It’s a little chilly so we only read for an hour before heading back in.
7 p.m. — We get hungry so I heat up my leftover Chinese for both of us. We watch the movie Old while we eat. He makes a weird face when he gets up to put his plate away because there’s rice and he didn’t have any. I say I offered him some and he didn’t respond. I try not to look annoyed.
9 p.m. — He gets ready to leave and we say our goodbyes. I clean up for a bit, FaceTime my sister, and continue reading my book until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $40
9:30 a.m. — I wake up and immediately check my emails for work. Thankfully, not too much going on, so I take my time going through my morning routine. No meetings until later in the day so I decide to get dressed and work from a coffee shop and go on a hot girl walk. I make my own coffee since I’m not a fan of the coffee at this spot.
1 p.m. — I park at the waterfront and pay for parking ($2.35). I buy a croissant to munch on since I didn’t have breakfast, then get some work done. I am physically unable to NOT select tip since the worker is staring at me so I tip an extra dollar. I take my one meeting of the day there and promptly close my laptop. I drop my things off at my car then pay for another two hours of parking. I walk along the water and do a bit of a different route on the way back to my car, walking through the main street to people watch. I do about three miles and get back in my car. $7.35
5:30 p.m. — I get home and shower before spending some time giving my cat belly rubs.
7 p.m. — I make dinner. I use leftover rice and short ribs and have a big tasty meal. I have it with a glass (or two) of wine. I spend the rest of the night watching Netflix and reading.
Daily Total: $7.35
9 a.m. — I wake up and check emails for work. Not much going on. M. is meeting me at Starbucks to get work done for a few hours so I get dressed and head out. I fill my Starbucks card so I can order a venti iced shaken espresso and a croissant. We catch up while we work. She takes a couple of meetings while I look for dresses online for my holiday party at work. We only see each other for a few hours before she heads out and I leave to get ready to hang with another friend. $10
3:30 p.m. — I hop back in my car and drive to my friend’s town, where we meet to play tennis. We have a good hour session, but are exhausted and realize not playing for a few weeks really took a toll. We decide to go to Target after and I pick up a couple things: non-dairy pumpkin pie ice cream, alfredo sauce, Starbucks Nespresso pods, cat food, avocados, and broccoli. I get nervous about how much I spend but I tell myself I need these few things. We say goodbye and I drive home. $51.24
8 p.m. — I get home, feed my cat, and put away the groceries. I clean up a bit then make dinner — chicken and shrimp cajun alfredo pasta. I settle in for the night, FaceTime my sister, and watch Netflix until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $61.24
7:30 a.m. — I wake up early since I’m going into the office. I shower and get dressed. I call an Uber (expensed by my job) to the train station and feed my cat before running out the door. Today is a fun day at work — we’re having massages in office and it’ll feel good since I’ve been so sore from being more actively lately. ($13 expensed)
10 a.m. — I get into the city and immediately fill my Starbucks card to cover my iced shaken espresso drink and my croissant since I didn’t have time to make coffee before I left. I head over to work and the day goes by excruciatingly slow. I get my massage at work which feels amazing then stick to myself for most of the day. I chat with a close work friend who’s moving so we won’t see each other for a while. We say our goodbyes and I head out from work a little earlier than usual. $10
4:30 p.m. — I get to the train station and realize I need to refill my MetroCard. I wait on a very long line before finally refilling it and hopping onto the train before it leaves. I read my book on my phone as I ride home, feeling very tired and hungry. $10
5:30 p.m. — I Uber home from the train station, using my company’s account, and immediately make dinner: ramen noodles with leftover chicken and shrimp and had a big glass of wine. It’s really good and I’m so full by the time I’m finished. I have a quick call with K., who catches me up on work and we chat. I’m giggling a lot on the call since the wine made me a bit buzzed. ($16 expensed)
9 p.m. — After watching a bit of Netflix, I decide to buy these chunky loafers I’ve been looking at for a couple of days. Excited and not feeling guilty at all, I purchase them and already start putting together outfits in my head for work with the help of Pinterest. I am a bit bored so I spend the rest of the night on a group FaceTime call with my mom and my sister, and then end the night laughing on a group call with my brother and my sister. $54
Daily Total: $74
A Week In Jersey City, NJ, A $82,500 Salary
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