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A Week in NYC on a $210,000 Salary

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cortado, succulent, coffee shop, week in nyc

We all have different priorities, circumstances and money personas and this all gets reflected in the way we earn, spend, invest and feel about money. We are truly one of a kind! To complicate matters more, we most often don’t feel like we can talk about money and because we keep this very important relationship close to the vest, we don’t get to learn from the successes and mistakes of those around us. This is why I’m so excited to share a real life money journal with you. Enter a fab lawyer in NYC with a serious cortado habit.

INDUSTRY: Corporate Law
LOCATION: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
# ROOMMATES: 1 (live-in boyfriend)
SALARY: $210,000 (plus a year-end bonus)
$ PAYCHECK: $5,032 (2x per month)
AGE: 29

MONTHLY EXPENSES
Rent: $1200
Utilities: Included in rent
ClassPass: $120
Hulu: $7.99
Spotify: $9.99
HBO Now: $15
Showtimes Anytime: $11
Cell Phone: $37
Monthly Metrocard: $116.50 (taken out of paycheck before taxes)


WEDNESDAY 

My boyfriend left for a long business trip this morning. To cheer myself up, I cash in a full punchcard at MilkBar on my way to work for a birthday cake shake for breakfast. Think I notice judgy stares on the subway platform; eat half, toss the rest. $0.

Work through lunch, but duck out to grab a cortado and snack near the office in the late afternoon. $9.

Scroll through Twitter. My newsfeed is blowing up about the presumptive GOP nominee. Promptly make a donation to my candidate. $500.

So busy, forget to Seamless dinner. Work late and grab a car home at 11:30pm, paid for by the firm. $0.

Eat a sad dinner of an Amy’s burrito that I found at the back of my freezer. Watch an episode on demand and impulse on-line shop for a new suit. Buy a jacket, pants and skirt. $615. Plus it will need to be altered. Ugh. Bed.

TOTAL = $1,124

MY FEELINGS: I wish I hadn’t bought that suit. It was an act of desperation after a stressful day at the office. It would have been so much nicer to take a few hours and go shopping with a friend, try on different styles and make an outing of it. Also, I wouldn’t have had to pay shipping, and I could probably have gotten the store to handle the alterations at a discount.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Don’t you just love her?! She holds nothing back and is completely open and honest about her spending and the motivation behind it. This is HUGE. She touches on a very important topic – emotional spending. You can see in her recap and in your own self-reflection that so much of our spending is emotional. X feeling leads to Y expense which leads to Z experience. That Z experience is often guilt and regret. The first and most important step to making our spending more meaningful and impactful is to get conscious of it. She’s doing exactly that here! 


THURSDAY

Listen to podcasts and pick up a cortado and muffin on the way to work. $12.

Take a late afternoon break and cash in a full punchcard for a cortado near the office. Also grab lunch and a few bottles of my favorite coconut water. $37.

Duck out of work on the early side to go to therapy. Best money I spend all week. $75.

Order dinner by Caviar on the way home, which I eat over my laptop while finishing up some work. Fall asleep watching TV after midnight. $37.

TOTAL = $161

MY FEELINGS: I wish I kept food in my apartment so I wouldn’t have to buy breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. I should at least keep things on hand for breakfast.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Purchasing every one of our meals can be really expensive and often we don’t even have the time to enjoy them! It sounds like breakfast would be the easiest meal for her to have on hand and sometimes it just takes some motivation and planning to get the job done. What would she do with the extra $2,400 she’d save each year (an average of $10 for breakfast, 5 days each week for 48 weeks) by eating breakfast at home or packing it and bringing it to work? Then, once she’s excited about using that $2,400 for something else, we can create a plan for getting the food in her house and making it something she looks forward to each morning. How fabulously frugal!


FRIDAY

Wake up at 5:45am and log in to do work for a little while. At 7:30am, get ready quickly and hop in an Uber to go meet my parents for coffee. $8.

I have stopped trying to make plans in the evenings because work so often interferes. Instead, I have started going on “morning dates” with my parents and close friends. It leaves less time than a proper catch-up, but it brightens up my whole day and it’s better than never seeing anyone. Get an iced coffee, paid for by my dad. $0.

Listen to podcasts on the subway to work. I read somewhere that this is the “Golden Age of Podcasts” and that we should enjoy them while we can, because we will eventually have to pay for them. I listen to a dozen different podcasts and love them. Add reminder in my calendar to make my annual donation to NPR.

Run across the street from the office and pick up a Greek salad for a late lunch. $12.

Order Vietnamese food for dinner by Seamless. It’s not very good, but at least it’s paid for by the firm. $0.

I work straight through the class I had booked through ClassPass and am charged a penalty. UGH. $20.

Around 9:30pm, I spend some time looking up flights. Long workdays are mostly worth it for the vacations they pay for. Consider flights to Curaçao over Memorial Day Weekend. Consider flights to St. Thomas over July 4 weekend. Consider flights to Bermuda for my upcoming birthday. Consider flights to Pittsburgh to visit friends. Book nothing.

Take car home at midnight, paid for by the firm. $0.

Fall asleep watching TV, cursing myself for having literally nothing in my apartment to eat.

TOTAL = $40

MY FEELINGS: I didn’t spend much today, but I didn’t get much value out of the dollars I did spend either. I hate it when I have to miss fitness classes.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: “Morning dates” put her money where her heart is because she’s able to get quality time with friends and family despite her busy work schedule. Why not enjoy a cortado and scone with friends instead of on the go? Same cost, more meaning = win-win.

Her day also highlights one of the most common emotions we have around money – guilt. You can tell that the ClassPass charge made her feel guilty. To get rid of that guilt, she has some options. She can work to get rid of or minimize the fees by booking her fitness classes last minute. The downside is that it would probably limit the classes she could go to. Another option is to build the late-cancel fee into her budget, almost like a cost of doing business. Given the nature of her work, this just might be something that she factors into her weekly spend so she can still go to the classes she loves. We often think of budget or planning as restricting or limiting, but it’s far from it. It allows us to spend money on what we want and value, guilt-free!


SATURDAY

Oversleep by an hour so I wake up at 8:45am, run across the street to my coffee shop and grab a cortado and scone. $9.

Yesterday was pay day, so while I wait for my coffee, I use my financial planning apps to do some housekeeping. Move $1,500 to my brokerage to invest and $1,000 to my high interest savings account. I do this twice a month, religiously. I took Ashley’s Savvy Investor course and am really making an effort to actively manage my financial wellness.

I’m already behind with work for the day so I log on from my home office. Find a little note that my boyfriend hid under my keyboard before he left for his flight earlier this week. Frugal joy!

Housecleaner comes, and I run out for some groceries. $139, all together.

Now that spring has sprung, it is time to buy my annual new pair of Toms. $65.

Drop off dry cleaning. $150.

Try to take the subway, but Brooklyn weekend service is a nightmare, and there are no trains. Hop in a cab to Manhattan instead. $14.

Meet my sister for a fitness class. I pay for her class, and take her to lunch after, because she’s a graduate student on a tight budget. $97.

After lunch, we go shopping. Pick up a replacement for a broken wine glass and Le Labo body wash (which is insanely expensive, but we love it). $62.

My dinner date is feeling under the weather so she cancels. Instead, I have a lovely dinner solo at the bar at one of my favorite restaurants. $50.

Head home to work for a bit and rent a movie on iTunes. $6.

TOTAL = $592

MY FEELINGS: Yikes. I definitely underestimate how much money I spend on average, and seeing the numbers start to add up like this is really shocking. I spend a ton on dry cleaning every month and would love to cut that number down.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Many of us can relate to today’s reflection. Even though she did some shopping, it was all to replace broken or worn out items, rather than get something new. This type of shopping can often feel like an errand. Normal, “everyday life” things can really add up without the day feeling frivolous or expensive. That being said, it’s not bad or wrong to spend $592 on a Saturday. We just want to make sure of two things: (1) This $592 is bringing the most joy to her life (happiness bang per buck), and (2) It works within her saving goals for the short or long term. The only point of money is to have and experience anything and everything we truly want, and if our spending gets in the way of that, it’s not workable.

As you can tell from her money journal, she’s extremely generous in her charitable contributions and often pays for things. Many of my clients who earn above a certain amount, or who are in prestigious careers, feel pressure or are expected to pick up the tab when they are with friends and family who earn less. This is a real pressure that permeates dining out, gift giving, travel, etc. Like with anything, it’s important to figure out which parts you value and which you are ready to let go. There are a multitude of options and it’s a lot of fun to create win-win scenarios with those close to you.

You can also see that she has bi-weekly money meetings where she tackles her financial well-being to-dos. This is an incredible practice that I recommend for each and every person I work with. Sounds like she’s actively using the work we did together during the Savvy Investor. This will make all the difference!

Also, love that she highlighted a frugal joy. These are free or inexpensive things that make you truly happy. These are the magical things that we want to add to our lives because they bring more joy for little or no cost!


SUNDAY

Wake up and have to work for a few hours, which unfortunately means I miss a fitness class I booked through ClassPass. $20 penalty.

Get a cortado and banana bread at a coffee shop. $9.

Buy a new book for my Kindle. $14. Make mental note to figure out how to check out ebooks from the library.

Pick up pastries to take to a friend’s house for brunch and Uber to her place because it starts to rain. $34.

Meet mom and sister for dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day. $75.

TOTAL = $145

MY FEELINGS: All things considered, this is a reasonable Sunday expenditure, especially since we took my mom out for a much-deserved treat. And as a post-script: It turns out borrowing ebooks is easy, and amazing, and I’m never buying a book again. Here are instructions from the New York Public Library.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: You can tell she felt good about each item in her money journal today. That’s winning the game! Reflecting on her Kindle purchase, she was able to figure out a way to borrow books from the library and shared how to do it with us (thank you!). This will save her hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars going forward.


MONDAY

Have a breakfast meeting, where food is provided. $0.

Have another meeting at lunch, where food is provided again! $0.

I actually make it to my fitness class this evening, which I booked through ClassPass. $0.

Swing by my parents’ apartment on the way home and eat dinner with them. $0.

TOTAL = $0.

MY FEELINGS: Today was what I call a “Unicorn Day.” Rare and magical.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Love the “Unicorn Day.” I also call these types of days mini-spending fasts, although you can’t always plan for them. We are very much in the habit of spending and consuming multiple times a day. It can be a great reset to take a day where you spend absolutely nothing – one of the benefits of a 30 Day Money Cleanse. It’s abundant and freeing!


TUESDAY

Have coffee at home this morning. $0.

Grab a late lunch near the office. $9.

Ugh. Miss ClassPass again. $20.

Work is so busy, I forget to order Seamless for dinner, take a car home after midnight and go to bed hungry. $0.

TOTAL = $29

MY FEELINGS: I spent very little today, but I don’t feel great about the day’s choices. On days when I work this much, I need to make sure that I am eating well, even if that means spending more money to buy convenience.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Even though she didn’t spend much, you can tell that her value of well-being wasn’t honored today. I’d have her define what “eating well” means and see how we can create strategies that would support her in that even when she has a crazy work day. That might mean having her desk stashed with healthy snacks, getting food delivered or having emergency lunches in the freezer at work.


BY THE NUMBERS

Monthly fixed expenses = $1,401
Monthly income = $10,064
Monthly savings goal = $5,000
Monthly discretionary budget = Income – Fixed expenses – Savings Goal = $3,663
Weekly discretionary budget = $814
This week’s spending = $2,091

MY FEELINGS: My spending this week was more than twice my budget, which is not sustainable if I want to hit my savings goals. Several weeks have passed since I kept this spending journal, and I have noticed that my spending has dropped quite a bit, even though I have not made a real effort to cut back. Keeping the journal reminded me to try to try to align my spending with my values, so I find myself pausing to think about each purchase for just a fraction of a second before I throw down my credit card—just like Ashley said it would.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: As you can tell, she has some big awesome savings goals that she’s serious about achieving. I have no doubt she will get there. I’d say 95% of the people I work with, realize that what’s currently happening in their money lives doesn’t work with their savings goals. That’s okay! That’s the point of this entire process. When we see what’s actually happening, and even better, how we feel about what’s actually happening, we can take steps to do something about it. I’d encourage her to keep up the money journal for a few more weeks to gather even more of this precious data!

10 Comments

  1. Either her salary is wrong, or her paycheck is wrong. $5032 x 2 x 12= $120,768, not $210,000. (Plus bonus!)

    • Hi Lisa! This is her after-tax pay that hits her bank account each pay period. It’s after taxes, health insurance, social security, 401-K contributions, etc. come out.

  2. Hi Ashley!
    You shared this great post in Dreamers//Doers and I loved it! Not to be “salesy” but I’m passionate about the service the company I just joined offers and I really think we can help you get that vacation planned while saving you time and providing peace of mind (as well as incredible savings, right on topic)!
    Check out http://www.skylark.com and send us an email (or call/chat) if you have any questions, we’d be happy to help you have what sounds like a MUCH deserved vacation!
    Warm Wishes- Sierra

  3. No internet bill? How does she pay so low for cellphone? And no student loans? That’s wonderful

    • Just asked her! She is on her parents’ family plan and the $36 per month is what she pays Apple for the phone itself. Internet bill and other utilities are included in the rent number.

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