DMT Beauty Transformation: A Week In New York, NY, On A $89,000 Salary
featured Khareem Sudlow

A Week In New York, NY, On A $89,000 Salary

April 12, 2020DMT Beauty

#DMTBeautySpot #beauty

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a lawyer who makes $89,000 and spends some of her money this week on COSRX Acne Patches.

Editor’s Note: Today’s entry was pulled from the Money Diary archives and was written before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

Occupation: Lawyer
Industry: Government/Public Interest
Age: 34
Location: New York
Salary: $89,000
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,360 (post-deductions)
Gender: Cis woman

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,200 + $1,050 coop maintenance fee (My parents gave me the downpayment for an apartment four years ago and I bought a one-bedroom in Harlem. I live alone.)
Student Loans: $0 (Scholarships covered most of college and law school. Parents paid for the rest.)
Utilities: $191 (varies by season)
Subscriptions: $126 (Hulu Live, Birchbox, NY Times, etc.)
Medications: $45
Metrocard: $127
Health/Vision/Dental: $0 (covers almost nothing)
Cell Phone: $0 (The family plan is such a good deal that my parents even kept it after they got divorced. I have offered to give them my $30/month portion and they’ve said no.)
Savings: $300 for fun stuff (vacations, etc), $1,000 for less fun stuff (emergency fund, long term savings, taxes, etc), and $300 for 401(k) (no employer match). I have around $250,000 left from my college fund. I keep around $10,000 in checking and $35,000 in a high yield savings account. I have about $50,000 in investments/other savings. I have $30,000 in my 401(k) and in a few years, I’ll have the option to use that money to buy back into the City’s pension plan.
Annual Expenses
Apartment Insurance: $600
New Yorker Subscription: $52
Donations/Charity: I usually give around $500-$750 in various donations throughout the year.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — I finally get up after snoozing a lot (I always falsely think I’ll wake up early on Mondays) and rush through 15 minutes of gentle yoga and stretching. I drink coffee and listen to The Daily while doing my morning skincare routine. I cleanse with Face Shop Rice Water cleansing oil, then I put on Skinceuticals C E Ferulic 15% serum (massive splurge but worth it if you can afford it because this stuff is magic), The Ordinary Caffeine Solution, Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate, Sunday Riley Tidal moisturizer, and Murad SPF 50 sunscreen. In between steps, I get dressed and put together my breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the day. I contemplate putting on makeup, but then decide I’m not feeling it today. I toss some concealer, foundation, and mascara in my bag in case I have a surprise meeting come up today and want to put makeup on for that. I fill up a coffee thermos and run out the door to take the subway to work (covered by monthly pass).

9:30 a.m. — Get to work and sift through emails. Normally I check these over the weekend, but I was out of town visiting my sister and turned off my work phone for a mental health break from work. I drink my coffee from home and eat a yogurt that I brought at my desk. I have a relatively slow morning so I can actually get through some phone calls and paperwork.

2 p.m. — I eat my lunch of leftover pasta salad with veggies at my desk and take a quick break while eating to do the NY Times crossword puzzle. My office mate has been meeting with people in our office for the past few hours so I have trouble concentrating. I give up and decide to go for a 10-minute walk outside of the office just to move around.

5 p.m. — Well, so much for a slow day. Something unexpected came up this afternoon and I’m running around trying to deal with it. This is a normal thing that happens in my job, but now I’m pretty behind on stuff I was hoping to get done this afternoon. I go to Starbucks for a pick-me-up iced latte. I reload my Starbucks card on the app ($20) on the way and pay with that. Then I head back to my desk to buckle down and finish up for the day. $20

9:45 p.m. — Leaving work. I snacked on carrots and hummus at my desk so I’m not really hungry for dinner. I take the subway home.

10:45 p.m. — I get home and watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek while texting with my brother and putting away laundry.. I do 15 minutes of gentle yoga/stretching. Then I do my nightly skincare. I cleanse with micellar water followed by Cetaphil cleanser. Then I put on Holy Snails Shark Sauce, Sunday Riley A+ Retinoid Serum, The Ordinary B Oil, and COS RX Honey Ceramide moisturizer. I take melatonin because I generally have a lot of trouble sleeping and then read Swing Time by Zadie Smith (I’m behind, I know) in bed for about 20 minutes. I fall asleep around 11:45.

Daily Total: $20

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up and am not happy about it. I slept really poorly and I have a headache. I take my medication (anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication and birth control) and decide to take an Excedrin as well. I chug a glass of water and go back to sleep for 30 minutes to see if that helps. What I’ve learned is that being in your 30s means you wake up feeling hungover sometimes when you haven’t had anything to drink the night before.

6:45 a.m. — I wake up to my reset alarm and am still not feeling great. I’m grumpy and feeling very anxious. I’ve had anxiety/depression issues for years and am working on finding a balance between a high enough level of medication to be helpful with a low enough level of medication that the side effects that aren’t too bad to be worth it. I used to go to therapy a lot more frequently, but now only go once a month because therapy is expensive (I have to pay out of pocket because my insurance barely covers it and most therapists in NYC don’t take insurance anyway) and also because my symptoms are mostly physical and are now managed pretty well with medication. I have the occasional bad day though and this is one of them. I decide to take some CBD oil to see if that helps. (It has no THC in it and is not intoxicating.)

7 a.m. — I force myself to go for a run because I know exercise can help when I’m feeling anxious/depressed even though it’s the last thing I feel like doing. I love living a few blocks from Central Park because it makes running in the morning feel so much more convenient. My parents told me a few years ago that they were giving me money to use as a down payment on an apartment. They didn’t come from money but started their own business and worked incredibly hard to provide for my siblings and me. Their financial and emotional support in things like paying for my education and paying the down payment on my apartment were fundamental in giving me the freedom to choose public interest/government work over Big Law and I’m very grateful. They’re now very comfortable in their retirement and I fully acknowledge that I would not be in the same place in life without them.

7:45 a.m. — Going for that run did not make me feel better and my headache is back. Why is this feeling like a second Monday?? I shower and go through my morning skincare. I pack up more leftovers for lunch, fill up my coffee thermos, and take the subway to work.

9:45 a.m. — Get to work and I know it’s going to be a crazy day. Things are non-stop for several hours. I have one of the granola bars I keep stashed in my desk for breakfast.

2 p.m. — I finally get a second to breathe and eat my lunch. It’s more leftover pasta salad with veggies. I’m fortunately capable of eating the same thing for several days in a row, which makes meal prepping so much easier. I take a break to order groceries online from Fresh Direct while I eat. I order a rotisserie chicken, rice noodles, cilantro, radishes, yogurt, frozen berries, spinach, almond milk, steel-cut oats, yogurts, oranges, and canned beans ($49.76 with delivery, tax, and tip.) I know this is more than I would pay at a grocery store, but it’s less than I would spend on delivery while avoiding actually going to the store and lugging my groceries back to my apartment. I’ve found that I will avoid going to buy groceries but if I can just make the groceries appear at my apartment, I will actually use them. $49.76

7:30 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is no less hectic than the morning. But, I’m meeting a friend for her birthday dinner so I need to leave work even though I’m not done with work yet. I subway to the restaurant.

8 p.m. — We get to the Italian place that my friend picked in midtown. It’s not that special, but she picked it because it’s in between pretty much everyone’s offices. The group consists of mutual friends I know and some of the birthday girl’s friends whom I’ve only met in passing before, but everyone is friendly and drinking and it turns out to be a really fun dinner! We share an appetizer and I get three glasses of wine, a salad, and a gnocchi dish. Someone throws it on her card and then texts out the receipt. We all pay for our own meals, split the appetizer, and split the cost of the birthday girl’s meal. $68

10 p.m.— I subway home after dinner and can tell I’ll regret having the wine with dinner because I’m already starting to get a headache and feel grumpy again. I’ve found that I don’t really have an emotional reaction to alcohol if I’m already in a good place emotionally, but that alcohol can make me feel really anxious or low when I’m already having an unusually bad anxiety/depression day. I drink like four glasses of water and watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek while telling myself that it’s okay to make room for my emotions and that I’ll feel better tomorrow. I do my nighttime skincare and go to bed around 11, but can’t fall asleep until after midnight.

Daily Total: $117.76

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up, drink several glasses of water, and take my medication. As expected, I’m feeling both a little hungover and also a little emotionally low. So, I also take some more CBD oil. My Fresh Direct order arrives right around 8 and I put the groceries away. I do 45 minutes of yoga with an ab workout. Then I do my morning skincare and pack up my lunch and coffee for work. I actually put on makeup today because I have a meeting with my boss and a few other supervisors this morning.

10 a.m. — I get to work and eat my yogurt from home while prepping for my meeting with my boss. I drink coffee and ignore my email and phone for a while so I can focus.

1 p.m. — I eat the final serving of the pasta salad. Thank god I’m done with it. I play catch up on my email and phone calls that I neglected this morning while I eat.

4 p.m. — The afternoon gets hectic and I need more coffee. I run out to Starbucks as a break and buy a matcha green tea latte with the money I loaded onto my app earlier this week.

7 p.m. — Still at work. I make myself a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich from the little pantry my officemate and I keep stocked at work with snacks and quick meal ingredients because we often are improvising meals when we don’t have time. We both add things like peanut butter, etc when we are running low and just trust that it more or less evens out in cost over time.

12:45 a.m. — Finally leaving work. I take an Uber home because it’s later than I feel comfortable taking the subway by myself. On the ride home, I think about how this is something I would be able to expense if I had decided to work for a law firm. And also about how I would have a budget that would have allowed me to order a dinner that was better than a peanut butter sandwich…that would likely also have been expensed. I love my job, but that doesn’t mean that the compensation for public servants isn’t very frustrating sometimes. $28.60

1:15 a.m. — I get home and wash my face. My skin is feeling kind of dry because of winter. So, I take a break from the niacinamide and retinol. I just use the B oil and the Honey Ceramide moisturizer tonight. I drink a cup of Sleepy Time tea while reading for 20 minutes in bed to wind down. I fall asleep around 1:45 a.m.

Daily Total: $28.60

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and make a smoothie out of almond milk, frozen berries, spinach, and an apple. I do my morning skincare while drinking coffee and throw a yogurt and my coffee thermos in my bag. I take my smoothie to go and head to the subway.

9:45 a.m. — Trying to read on the crowded subway while holding a smoothie is something of an extreme sport. I get to work.

1 p.m. — Cobble together a desk lunch of a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt, and a granola bar. I only get halfway through my lunch before I get called away from my desk. I return and eat the other half around 3. My officemate is out today so I close the door and do a five-minute desk yoga video while telling myself I love my job, even if it includes days when I don’t even have time to eat a peanut butter sandwich in one sitting.

3 p.m. — I’m texting with a Bumble boy whom I matched with a few days ago. I was in a really bad, abusive relationship in college and spent most of my 20s in therapy and not really dating. I was in a not so serious relationship last year and, even though it didn’t work out, it was good just to have a healthy, adult relationship so I know it is something I’m capable of doing. I took a beat after the break up, but I’m trying to get back into dating again. I like that this boy asked to meet up right away as opposed to just chatting forever, but he asked to go to a whole dinner as a first date with someone he has never met before! Fellow big city millennials, this is crazy behavior, right? I talk him down to just drinks and we pick a cocktail spot in the Village.

8 p.m. — I put on some makeup, change into jeans, and head out to meet Bumble boy. I eat another peanut butter sandwich on the way there. Midway through the first cocktail, the date is not going great. Our personalities just don’t really click. There is physical chemistry though so we make out a little and get a second round. I know I don’t want to see him again…that being said, there’s nothing wrong with a meaningless, fun make out on a random weekday. After the second drink, I don’t want anything more from this so I tell him it’s too late for me on a school night. I insist on paying half of the bill because I know I’m not going to see him again ($34). He says he’ll text me later and walks me to the train station. If he texts me, I’ll let him know I’m not interested in pursuing it because ghosting is just rude. (Note: He never texted later. Typical dating in NYC.) $34

10:30 p.m. — I get home and drink some water. It took me over a decade to finally learn that if you’ve been drinking, you have to drink water AT NIGHT and not wait until the next morning when you’re already hungover. I eat an apple and watch the first half of this Monday’s episode of The Bachelor while making my lunch for tomorrow — shredded rotisserie chicken, rice noodles, cilantro, radish, peanuts, and a miso/mustard/garlic sauce. I save the bones from the chicken in the freezer to use this weekend. Oh my god, Peter is SO BAD AT THIS. Like, what is going on with his choices?? I feel better about my lackluster date because at least I feel more mature about relationships than Peter appears to be.

12 a.m. — I do my nighttime skincare (retinol and all) and take a melatonin pill. I try to read in bed, but I get caught up thinking about whether it was weird of me to insist on paying for half of the bar tab tonight. Is this because we think of men buying women a drink as “purchasing” the right to something with her? Did I insist on paying just because I didn’t want to sleep with him and that’s what I thought he was trying to pay for? He did not do/say anything to indicate this is what he was thinking, but there’s obviously a cultural context. But would letting him pay have been worse because it’s a stupid patriarchal norm that men pay on dates? Rape culture/feminism is weird and confusing. I fall asleep around 12:30 without making it through much of the book.

Daily Total: $34

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Wake up, take my meds, and drink two glasses of water. I’m tired but I tell myself I’ll feel better if I go for a run. During my sluggish and unhappy run, I tell myself that I have lied to myself about running instead of staying in bed longer. I switch over from my Science Vs. podcast to Spotify to try and pump myself up, but it doesn’t really work.

8:15 a.m. — I get home, chug some water, and lay on my kitchen floor for a few minutes, wishing the whole “running” adventure had been skipped. I finally convince myself to be a grown up and go take a shower. I run through my morning skincare and pack up my lunch and coffee thermos for the day. I make the same smoothie as yesterday and take it to go. I head to the subway to go to work.

10 a.m. — I get to work and am very happy it’s Friday. I drink my smoothie and have a morning full of paperwork. My officemate is back and we close the door so that we can give ourselves a Taylor Swift soundtrack for our work.

1 p.m. — Eat my lunch of the chicken/rice noodles at my desk while doing the NY Times crosswords from Tuesday and Wednesday that I missed earlier in the week. I then have to run back and forth between meetings all afternoon. I have *one square of dark chocolate* from our office stash….and then have like five more squares of chocolate.

7:30 p.m. — Wrapping up at work when my work friend from a different part of our office asks if I want to grab a drink. I doom myself by telling her I’ll have “only one or two drinks and head home early.” I meet up with my friend in the lobby and we head out.

2 a.m. — I’m heading home…oops. We went to a cocktail bar walking distance from our office and I had two martinis ($30). People kept coming and meeting up with us and we eventually left to grab pizza because no one had had dinner. I got two slices ($5). I then was very easily persuaded into going to a dive bar where we ended up drinking and dancing until 2 a.m. People were taking turns buying drinks and I think it more or less evened out? At least, I hope it did because I was not trying to mooch off of others, but I was not keeping track either. A lot of the people there work in Big Law though, so I don’t feel that bad if I ended up underpaying a little bit. My tab was $45 at the end of the night. $80

2:30 a.m. — I take an Uber home. I drunkenly call my sister during the ride home. She’s in college and is at a frat party, but she still answers and talks to me. I’m really close with my family and wish they lived closer to me. $31.40

2:45 a.m. — I drunkenly get through washing my face and just put on moisturizer because I’m too drunk to go through the whole routine. I take off my jeans in my kitchen while drinking water and thinking about how I need to do the dishes, but actually don’t have to do them for a while. I love living alone. I fall asleep half-dressed, but with a clean face.

Daily Total: $111.40

Day Six

9 a.m. — Ouch. I’m too old for tequila shots, as it turns out. Chug water, take my normal meds, take a handful (okay four pills) of Advil, and try to go back to sleep.

10:30 a.m. — I start to accept that more sleep is not going to happen. I watch the second half of this week’s The Bachelor on my iPad in bed and judge Peter and his choices some more. I give in to my hangover and order a greasy breakfast of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, home fries, and a Diet Coke from a diner in the neighborhood. I know the delivery fee is crazy, but I will not go anywhere right now. $17.53

11 a.m. — I eat on the couch and then take a nap. When I wake up, I do my morning skincare routine. I’m starting to recover a little.

12:30 p.m. — I’m awake and feeling a lot better. I decide to go outside. I take a little walk while talking to first my mom and then my dad on the phone. I get another Diet Coke from the bodega on my corner ($1). I rarely drink soda, but I NEED it when I’m hungover. $1

1:30 p.m. — I shower and throw on leggings and a baggie sweatshirt. I pack up some of the chicken/rice noodles from earlier this week and go get on the subway and head to work.

2:15 p.m. — I get an iced coffee on my way into the office ($3.47). I do some desk work for a few hours and eat my chicken/rice noodles at around 4 p.m. because my meal schedule is totally thrown off for the day. I get another Diet Coke from the vending machine because hungover me must be appeased ($1). $4.47

7:15 p.m. — I leave the office and head back home on the subway. I eat a yogurt, an apple, and some other random snack things because my body is not in a normal place. I want another Diet Coke, but I make myself drink water instead.

8:30 p.m. — My youngest sister texts me about a big zit that she has on her cheek. She is in her freshman year of college and has never really cared about her skin or taking too much care of herself before, but I think now that she’s going out with friends and wearing make up more, she’s going to have to start taking a little bit better care of herself. As you can tell, I really love skincare. I talk to her about some things she should try to deal with the zit and order her to not pop it. I suspect she won’t take this advice and also won’t get any of the products I’m telling her to get, so I decide to just order stuff for her. I order her a bottle of Shark Sauce and COS RX Acne Patches to be delivered to her at school. $47.86

9 p.m. — My friends are having a party at a bar in Brooklyn to celebrate getting engaged. I toss on jeans, sneakers, and a plain t-shirt. (It’s a bar crawl through Williamsburg. I’m not putting in a lot of effort to get fancy.) I hop on the subway and head down to Williamsburg.

10 p.m. — I arrive in Brooklyn and meet up with my friends. I get two beers at the first bar ($15). $15

11:30 p.m. — We wind through various neighborhoods in Brooklyn and eventually head to a bar with a $5 cover and a cover band playing 2000s pop music. We end up dancing and drinking. I don’t buy any more drinks, but accept a beer at one of the bars and a beer/shot combo at the last bar that one of my friends buys me. We have been friends since forever so we buy each other drinks sometimes and assume it’ll all even out over time. I bought most of his drinks last time we were out together so he said he felt like this weekend was his turn. $5

1 a.m. — The group is still going strong, but I’m done for the night so I head home. Because it’s Brooklyn on a Saturday night, there are a lot of people out and about. So, I take the subway back into Manhattan. I have to transfer trains though and because it’s so late, it would be a 25-minute wait. I give up and take a cab the rest of the way home. $17.50

2 a.m. — Tired, but not that drunk. So, I get myself through my whole skincare routine! I drink a bunch of water and then go to bed feeling very proud of myself.

Daily Total: $108.36

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — I’m so happy I slept in!! I drink water, take my meds, and just play on my phone in bed for a while. I wake up, do my morning skincare, and then get back in bed. I read in bed for about an hour.

12 p.m. — I make myself a smoothie and coffee. I put the chicken bones from earlier this week and the vegetable scraps that I save up in the freezer as I go in my InstantPot. I top it off with water and toss in some garlic cloves. I set it to cook at high pressure to make chicken stock.

1 p.m. — I go for a quick run…which turns into a half run, half walk home because I’m just not feeling it after going out drinking two nights in a row. I do 20 minutes of yoga when I get home and then take a quick shower. I eat some of the chicken/rice noodles.

2:30 p.m. — The electrician gets to my apartment. My kitchen lights have been flickering for a while and now half of them are just out. I’ve tried changing the bulbs and it’s clear there’s a bigger problem. I neglected to fix it until it got to a point where half of my kitchen is just basically dark so now I have to get it looked at asap. I log in remotely to do some work on the couch while the electrician is working. After two hours of replacing a lot of scary-looking boxy things with wires sticking out in the ceiling, the electrician has the lights working again. It’s $453.80, which I pay on a credit card and then immediately transfer the money from my savings account. I think about how expensive homeownership is and wish I could just have called a super and paid nothing extra…but then I remember how lucky I am to own something in NYC when I know that’s unattainable for so many people who don’t have family help. So, I tell myself to shut up and just not worry about this expense. $453.80

6:30 p.m. — Done working. I roast some sweet potatoes that I had in the pantry, drained canned chickpeas from my grocery delivery, and some vegetables lingering in the fridge that looked like they needed to be used soon. I make quinoa with the chicken stock and then freeze the rest of the stock to use later. I mix all of this together with spinach and a balsamic vinegar, olive oil dressing. I eat some for dinner and box up a few portions to eat as lunches during the coming week. I take a load of laundry to the laundromat near me. I’ve gotten to know the woman who runs the place so I feel safe leaving my laundry there while it’s running if she’s there. $4.75

8 p.m. — I’m still hungry so I order sushi. I make myself at least walk the three blocks to pick it up instead of paying a delivery fee ($12). I grab my laundry on the way back. After eating the sushi, I’m very happy with my second dinner decision. $12

9:30 p.m. — I shower and then start to realize that the weekend is over and I need to prepare to be a grown-up this week. I finally do all the dishes I’ve been avoiding and tidy up the apartment. I do a charcoal face mask, a pore strip, and then do my nightly skincare routine. I skip the retinol tonight because I don’t want to do too much to my skin in one evening. I put away around half of the laundry and then just scoop the rest of it onto a chair to be future me’s problem. I make a to-do list of all the life admin stuff I’ve been putting off, like scheduling a therapy appointment, checking in with my psychiatrist about a refill on my meds, going to the dentist, and mailing my brother a birthday card…oh, and finishing putting away the laundry. I text with my best friend who still lives in California about how these small personal life tasks can add up and feel more intimidating than work tasks, which for some reason feel way easier to do even though they’re actually harder.

11:30 p.m. — I drink some Sleepy Time tea and take a melatonin. I set the alarm for 6:30 because I continue to lie to myself about getting up early on Mondays. I read in bed and fall asleep around midnight.

Daily Total: $470.55

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