A Week In The Metropolitan New York City Area On A $355,000 Salary

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 a vice president of research and development who makes $355,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Ouai leave-in conditioner.
Occupation: VP of Research and Development
Industry: Medical Technology
Age: 50
Location: Metropolitan New York City Area
Salary: $355,000 salary (+ $180,000 bonus + $225,000 LTI (long-term incentives) with a four-year vesting schedule, both contingent on performance)
Net Worth: $2,945,000 (IRA: $1,900,000 (I recently cashed out most of my long-term incentives and rolled the money into my existing brokerage account), 401k: $385,000 (will be rolling this into my existing IRA due to a job change), LTI: $380,000 (will be cashing this out before mid-December, also due to the job change), Savings/checking: $320,000, Pension:$180,000 (this has been dormant for years) minus debt ($220,000 mortgage))
Debt: Mortgage: $202,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $13,653
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,302
Property Taxes: $1,200 (escrowed, so a nice round number)
HOA: $418
Cable: $260 (includes Netflix in this cost)
Cell: On a family plan with my partner, he pays for us and his kids
529: $600 (split between three kids)
Car Lease/Insurance: $800 (insuring two cars (one owned) and my annual premium is paid over nine months, not 12)
Utilities: $350 (averaging the hot as balls summer with keeping my house coolish in the spring, fall, and winter...this includes gas, electric, water)
Hulu: $9
Color & Co Root Touch-Up Kit: $22
Coffee Auto-Delivery: $35
Various Donations: $500
Medication: $39
SiriusXM: $12
401(k): $1,600 (pre-tax, but not shown in gross pay above...I haven't gotten my new paycheck yet, but I divide the max contribution across my 26 paychecks)
Health Insurance: $330 (pre-tax, but not shown in gross pay above)
Tax Payments: $2,000 (in excess of paycheck withholdings)
Advertisement
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?
My dad was the first (and only) in his family to go to college (both undergrad and grad paid for through military service) and my mom was a nurse, so I guess I just never considered not doing it...I guess it was an unspoken expectation, but we were all on the same page.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Not really, unfortunately. My parents are post-depression-era and were great savers. While my brother and I weren't spoiled, per se, we were able to participate in extra-curricular activities before and through college and they paid for both of our undergrad degrees. As a result, I am not sure how much it occurred to either of us how much my parents actually saved for those things (as opposed to them making a lot of money). I got my first credit card near the end of college and I was a little too fast and loose with it for years.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Waitress in high school. First job out of college, engineer. The former was to have gas and "going out" money. The latter was because that is what I studied in school.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Kind of answered this in the education question. No, not really...by the time I was in high school, I had a better understanding of the sacrifices my parents were making to ensure we had meaningful experiences. Honestly, it took until I started working to have a full appreciation for that (and seeing them enjoy themselves more without us on the payroll).
Advertisement
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, perhaps a bit irrationally. I got divorced in my mid-30s and...wow...I wish I could talk to me, back then. I had basic savings practices (401k) and we sort of just split household expenses, with my ex paying the mortgage. I spent a lot of my income on things for us like fitness memberships, trips, etc...and was just not disciplined. I didn't get much in the divorce (no kids) and had a RUDE awakening. I racked up probably $30,000 in debt to have an "awesome" home (which I overbought because I just wasn't doing the math) and finally got out from under it by consolidating it, paying it off with a home equity loan, and paying that off when I sold the house I bought. So, yeah. That stays in my mind.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
25, after finishing grad school. I would say I do have a financial safety net in that I have a decent amount of money saved. My parents are also in their 80s and have always been savers. My brother and I will split their estate when the time comes (which I hate to think about, especially during the pandemic!).
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

8 a.m. — I start a new job tomorrow and have been making sure I don't get too comfortable sleeping in for the past two weeks between jobs. I have been working from home since March, but I will be going into my new office for the next five days. I make myself coffee and head out to get gas, a car wash, and a bagel. I have a fierce case of "first day of school" jitters! $56
Advertisement
12 p.m. — I'm emptying out/organizing my work backpack and purse when I get a call regarding my recent COVID test. It is negative. My long-term partner, V., and I don't live in the same state, so I have been quarantining there off and on since March. Normally, it was okay to come home and isolate for 14 days by myself, but since I am starting work in an office tomorrow, I waited 10 days from my last return and then got tested just to confirm everything was good. Pretty sure being a super spreader at a new job would not be a good look.
2 p.m. — In a lucky coincidence, I have a hair appointment scheduled for today. It feels great to get my color and highlights done for the first time since March. I colored everything myself in June and decided I would have it done professionally after Labor Day. Perfect timing and the salon is empty. They have done so much work to keep people safe and separate. Also, all payments are done through an app, and stylists are tipped using Venmo. Seems like all-around good changes, and my colorist said he actually thinks he will be sick less this winter than he would be normally because of the protections they put in place. Hair is $85 and I tip $30. $115
7 p.m. — Hop on my Peloton and take my exercise medicine. Interestingly, I bought my bike when Peloton was a Kickstarter campaign (years ago), but got really into barre and abandoned it in the corner of my living room. My excuse for not using it (or, let's be honest, the barre workout too, after a while) was work. Too busy, the commute, etc...I feel like most Money Diarists are super-diligent with exercise, so I kind of hate admitting this. After I started working from home, I couldn't reasonably use that excuse anymore and I try to ride five days a week. I don't love the ride, but I do love my instructors.
Advertisement
9:30 p.m. — Shower and hop into bed. I browse Twitter and remember I need to order some more disposable masks. I keep them in my car, purse, everywhere. I have some great masks from Athleta that I re-wear, but if I am in public for an extended time (i.e. grocery shopping, hair appointment), I feel more comfortable throwing them out. Lights out around 11. $18
Daily Total: $189

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off (ugghhhh), I drag myself to the shower and rest my head on the wall while the water works its wake-up magic. I turn on some hype music to help get my butt in gear. I am out of the rhythm of hair, make-up, clothes, coffee, keys, so it takes me longer than I remember to get ready and out the door.
8:30 a.m. — Get to my new office and am met by the person who will be onboarding me today. It's a little stressful going into a new building — thermal scan, masking, and strict social distancing requirements everywhere (i.e. one person in the elevator at a time). After a couple of face to face meetings from across a conference room, I need a breather and grab some lunch. The selection is limited for all the COVID reasons, so I grab a cobb salad and a cup of broccoli cheddar soup. I also realize what a luxury it has been to eat while working from home...and real food too (like hot breakfasts, which are my favorite), not just grab and go stuff. $8.50
Advertisement
4 p.m. — This is the first time I have worn a mask for such an extended time. Between not sleeping well, being anxious about my day, and meeting people only from the nose up, I am feeling exhausted. I get some alone time and head out around 5:30. I want to express my greatest appreciation for people who have been working like this since March (and may be doing so for the foreseeable future). It is hard and you are incredible.

6:30 p.m. — Turns out, I am not out of practice when it comes to making excuses. I am too tired to work out or make dinner. It feels like I am slipping on an old shoe when I convince myself I need to DoorDash something. My laziness is rewarded though and I stumble on a new poké restaurant in the app. I order marinated ahi tuna on brown rice with cucumber, avocado, scallion, edamame, cilantro, and sides of spicy mayo and coconut-lime sauce. I eat it like someone is going to take it from me. #nomnomnom $21

8 p.m. — Have a video call with my common-law stepchildren (nicknamed this after more than 12 years with their father) and their dad, V. Two of them are in college and one had their first day of high school today (all are in hybrid class situations). These are objectively the greatest kids in the world and their words of encouragement make me tear up. We all complain about video etiquette (meetings, classes...it's all the same), what it's like to start classes and work with masks and social distancing, and what excites us about the coming months. I can't wait to see them all in person again. I've actually seen them more than normal because of the time I spent quarantining with them and I am actually very grateful COVID afforded us this time together. My post-call joy turns into a $100 Venmo for each of them to buy themselves something special for back to school. $300

11 p.m. — I am not making the same mistake tomorrow, so I try on a few things and actually pick out an outfit. I don't think I've done this in years and I am reserving the right to change my mind tomorrow. It is a "non-wash" hair day, so I will have a little more time, either for sleep or getting ready. Still, it feels productive to at least have something lined up. Definitely didn't have time to squeeze in any exercise today (cough, cough).

Daily Total: $329.50
Advertisement

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I wake up a little before my alarm to a text telling me my grocery order being delivered tonight has been charged to my credit card. I have been trying to cook more fish while working from home so my order includes cod fillets, scallops, spinach, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, English muffins, baby potatoes, coconut milk, lentils, half and half, strawberries, blueberries, yogurt, eggs, and a couple pre-assembled green salads that this grocer does SO well (this is my rationalization for not making them myself). I sort of panic-ordered this week and don't really have a great plan for any of it. We'll see what happens. $162
7:30 a.m. — Throw on the planned outfit and only switch out part of it. Hair goes up, which I am thinking I will prefer with my mask, and on top of it being a hair color preservation day, it is going to be about 85 degrees. I make my coffee and head out.
12:30 p.m. — The morning flies by and I am hungry. My boss is coming in from out of state today and I am excited/anxious to see him. I know him from before this job and he is a big part of why I took it. He is great, but did I mention he is a close talker? I will need to remain vigilant. I grab a lunch of rice, grilled chicken with balsamic roasted tomatoes, and a side of mushroom bisque. $9
4:30 p.m. — The afternoon goes very quickly and my head is spinning. There are quite a few people in the office, so we have some multi-person meetings. We all sit far apart and wear our masks, so it feels a little like everyone is yelling at each other.
Advertisement
6:30 p.m. — I get home right as my groceries are being delivered and this keeps me from getting comfortable on the couch. I decide on a pretty simple preparation of the scallops and get a cast iron skillet with ghee heating up on the grill. I love the high smoke point of the ghee and the awesome sear on the scallops from the red-hot cast iron! On my "more fish" quest, I have been using my grill more. It is nice to keep the mess outside! I use a box grater to shred the zucchini, which I sauté on the grill's side burner, adding onions and some Parmesan. I add an ice cold glass of sauvignon blanc (generous pour) and enjoy the beautiful weather while dining outside. *chef's kiss*
8:30 p.m. — I continue my binge-watching of Kim's Convenience as a way to avoid exercising and wind down before bed. It takes a few episodes to get into it, but the show is proving to be funny and sweet and touching. Is it still a thing to talk about personal care products in a Money Diary? Yes, you say? Okay, I take out my contacts and wash my face (I swear I do these things every night) using the Beauty Pie Japan Fusion cleanser and a silicone face mitt. I apply Murad's Hydrating Toner, Sunday Riley A+ retinoid serum, and after that soaks in, a Youth to the People dream mask (their words, not mine). Into bed I go, to browse social media and fall asleep around 11.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $171

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Same drill...except it is beyond strange to be getting so formally ready for work a third day in a row. My morning product line up starts with spritzing on the Murad toner again (it has a good wake-up feel and smell), the Ordinary amino acids+B5, Sunday Riley Good Genes, and Herbivore Lapis Facial Oil. The air has pretty suddenly lost its humidity and my skin knows it. I am ditching the foundation because it makes a mess on my mask and the mask covers a lot of skin. I do make sure I have glamorous, mostly work-appropriate smoky eyes above my mask though. Charlotte Tilbury lip oil to keep me from licking my lips under my mask (they feel dry due to the contact and lack of water), make my coffee, and off I go.
8:30 a.m. — My boss is here, so we grab coffee (his treat) and get down to business. There is a lot of work to be done and I already feel like I am behind. There is so much to learn and the clock is ticking on some big decisions I need to make soon. So much of my previous job can be leveraged in this one, but I need to build new social capital and figure out how to get things done. Timing is also such that I will need to move with incomplete/imperfect information.
12 p.m. — More meetings, more tours, and it is lunchtime. My boss buys lunch. I am grateful that the weather has been gorgeous this week so we can eat outside. The tables and chairs are set up in such a way that any potential close-talking is thwarted. So, phew.

2 p.m. — I finally have some time (and the tools) to do much of the new job nonsense. Lots of paperwork. After finishing that, we do some light-duty bullshitting and I leave around 5:30.

6:30 p.m. — I am regretting my large grocery order for this crazy week. I also feel how quickly I am willing to give up on any sort of exercise routine, but I'm able to knock out 30 minutes on the bike. After my ride, I sear the cod fillets, adding the cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, scallions, dill, and spinach. I take the easy way out with Trader Joe's frozen brown rice and call it good. This is a one-skillet meal, so clean up is quick and easy.

8:30 p.m. — Most of my evenings are the same during the pandemic. Some combination of cooking, video chatting with friends and family, and watching something on TV or reading. V. and I like to do crossword puzzles together too, which is actually not that hard to do, even if you aren't together (something we were surprised and delighted to learn). I did some cleaning of drawers and closets in the past few weeks, so tonight I have boxes to pack for ThredUP. I have two friends with whom I exchange clothes/accessories (especially those fateful "non-returnable" impulse purchases), so I also have stuff to ship to each of them. I pack four boxes, print labels, and set them by the door so I will remember to put them out for pickup in the morning. Nighttime routine and into bed. Electronics down after my turn in three in-process games of Scrabble. $32.17

Daily Total: $32.17
Advertisement

Day Five

6 a.m. — I am going to a different office location today and it is further away, so I am up earlier. And I am dragging. I have a lot of 1:1 meetings with my new team, a long staff meeting with the team (mix of people on-site and on video), and the day will end with dinner with my boss. He is leaving town tomorrow and won't be back for about six weeks, so I need to soak up as much as I can!
8 a.m. — Traffic is better than I expected, so I have time to grab some breakfast before my day ramps up. Limited options, but the cafeteria makes the hell out of an egg and cheese bagel sandwich for me. It's the first day this week I have had breakfast and I think it will be a game-changer. I regretted the decision to skip it on prior days. I scarf it down and am off and running. $4.50

12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime! The days are flying by, mostly because everything is so new and I am in serious intake mode. At any rate, lunch is a sad salad. $9.75

5:30 p.m. — After a full afternoon, we are off to dinner. It is a beautiful night so we are able to eat outside and on the water. We have a good debrief on what I've observed in my first four (!!) days. We agree the end of next week will be the time for us to align on immediate priorities. I was on auto-pilot in my old job, so although this week has been a whirlwind, and the job overall will be very challenging, it feels good to use my brain in new ways. For dinner, I order a salad from local greens and local beef hot dogs with spicy chili, onions, and cheddar. There is a side of paper-thin sliced pickles that makes me think I have been doing pickles wrong my whole life. Woof. What have I done? I also have a glass of cabernet.

7:45 p.m. — We part ways — my boss is flying home tomorrow and I will be working from home as well. I stop for gas on the way home. First time in forever I've gotten gas twice in a week! I do some good phone call with V. multi-tasking on my way home. Today's excitement: his high schooler was contact traced to a classmate who tested positive for COVID and had to be picked up at school. And thus begins a 14-day quarantine! $22

9:45 p.m. — I am scrambling to wrap up all the admin stuff associated with my old job and my new one. It dawns on me that I have an HSA with money sitting in, so I go long on contacts (four boxes) and make an eye appointment for next week so I can get new glasses. So, not a work expense, but an expense that will be reimbursed. My panic-induced adrenaline rush makes it hard to fall asleep. I am happy to be working from home tomorrow and realize I feel as though I've been holding my breath all week. I decide a hot shower before bed will help me sleep and it feels delicious when I slide into bed. Zzzzzzz. ($333.11 expensed)

Daily Total: $36.25
Advertisement

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I get up and hit the bike then take a quick shower. I get video-ready from the waist up, make my coffee, and get the day started. I am waiting on a FedEx shipment with my home office equipment and around 10, I get a text telling me it is close. Yay!
11 a.m. — I am eating breakfast when my work items show up. I have tried two different office setups since March and am about to give a third configuration a shot. Today is a comparatively light day and I am happy to have some time to start sketching out some ideas. I have a couple of local friends who have been okay with getting together (as a group of three) as long as we can be outside and separated, so we are planning to do that this evening. A sort of happy hour/dinner scheme, if you will. After today, we are getting a bit of a cold front, so it will be a "keep to myself" weekend. I am going to make a pulled chicken in my Instant Pot, along with coleslaw for sandwiches.
3 p.m. — I have things set up and am close to wrapping up for the week. I run to Whole Foods to get a few things for dinner. Brioche buns, chicken and (shhhh...) a bagged coleslaw mix (I will make the dressing). $26
5:30 p.m. — With the chicken (preliminary assessment: it's delicious!), buns, coleslaw, and a bottle of pinot noir in hand, I head over to dinner. I walk the 15 minutes and am already appreciating that the walk back will be pretty much empty-handed. Dinner is nice, but I am happy it is a relatively early night. I start the walk home around 7:45, call V., and we finally have a good chance to catch up on things.
Advertisement
10:30 p.m. — I do all the "ready for bed" stuff, including cracking my bedroom window. It is going to be quite a bit cooler tomorrow and I love a chilly bedroom for a great night's sleep. I squeeze in one full and one partial episode of Kim's Convenience on my iPad. I wake up when the iPad smashes into my face because I fell asleep and lost my grip on it. I have accidentally liked things on Twitter and the 'gram this way, sometimes very awkwardly! It never stops me from doing it again though. Nighty-night!
Daily Total: $26

Day Seven

8:15 a.m. — Ahhhhh...such a glorious sleep and sleep-in! I get up and hustle through a bike ride. I sit down with coffee and start a to-do list. In classic fashion, the list starts with a few things I've already done, just so I can cross them off the list...plenty of new items though, booooo. Since the Instant Pot is already out, I decide to make lentils. I sauté onions and garlic, add crushed tomatoes, garam masala, lentils, and water. Once the lentils have cooked, I wilt in six or so handfuls of spinach and stir in some coconut milk. This is more of a stew consistency than soup and is so delicious served with plain Greek yogurt.
11 a.m. — I have run through my hair care products over the last six months, so I decide to stock up at Sephora(.com). I get Ouai leave-in conditioner, volumizing spray, detox shampoo, and the rose body and hair oil. This will last for a (long) while based on my current hair washing pattern. Crossing this off my list! $132
Advertisement
12 p.m. — I can't believe how much laundry piles up for one person in a single week, ugh. Today is also sheets and I am inexplicably going to do my duvet cover and shams as well. I know this is a lot of excitement to force on you all at one time, I apologize for letting things spiral so out of control. One thing I have been doing a better job of during the pandemic is setting specific times for calls (FaceTime) to catch up with friends. I have two of those today and am excited to get an update. They both have picked up new hobbies and I love getting a progress report!
6 p.m. — After getting my bed completely remade, I watch The Challenger on Netflix and work on those "must have" salads from earlier in the week. They seemed like such a good idea at the time. I am one and a half episodes in, and just...wow. The amount of backstory and actual footage shown is unbelievable. Chilling too, since you know where things are headed. I am going to binge this and go to bed when I'm done. Tomorrow will consist of some work prep for the week, and I am taking a moment to be grateful for my new job, the flexibility that comes with it, and that my friends and family are all safe and healthy!
Daily Total: $132
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience 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.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series