How To Survive In NYC For Under $70K Per Year: A Realistic ‘Money Diaries’

I read a lot of disturbing shit these days, but recently I read an article that was more offensive than my current bank statement—and, no, I’m not talking about the Arie’s latest tweet about how everyone is just, like, out to get him. I’m talking about the latest in Refinery29’s Money Diaries, a recurring column where they tackle “the last taboo facing modern working women: money.” Yes, because gender norms, sexual harassment, and glass ceilings are certainly no longer issues for the modern working woman! Every new column they ask millennials living in cities all over America how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period—and they’re “tracking every last dollar!” K. First of all, I don’t trust the sociopath who decided to actively sign up to track their spending habits over a seven day period. I’d rather admit to my mother that she was right about something in my life than evaluate my finances, like, ever. Second of all, what is Refinery29’s idea of a “struggling millennial”? Someone who can’t afford to buy everything organic? Or someone who still steals toilet paper rolls from the company bathrooms?

Recently a New York City millennial was featured on the Money Diaries, and it… was extra. So let’s take a look at this basically homeless person that was picked to share how she toughs it out in the city.

“Today: a service coordinator who makes $67,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on makeup and a silk eye mask.”

*throws laptop against a wall* SIXTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS?? This is the struggling millennial who can barely make ends meet? AND SHE’S BUYING FUCKING SILK EYE MASKS?? Brb I think I just popped a blood vessel reading this.

Okay, well at least I can take some sort of solace in the fact that this person, this silk eye mask buying heiress, is definitely older than me. No way is this bitch younger than 26….

“Age: 25

Location: New York, NY

Salary: $67,000”

*starts to slip into a rage blackout* Okay, but maybe she, like, has student loans to pay off or pays a fuck ton of other bills? Is this where she struggles?

“Monthly Expenses

Housing: $900 for a one-bedroom apartment. I’m extremely grateful that my parents help me out with the rest.

Loan Payments: $0. I went to a CUNY school.

MetroCard: $121, but my job reimburses me

Cable, Internet & Power: $0 — thanks, Mom and Dad”

So, let me get this straight. Homegirl lives in a one bedroom apartment in New York City, but only pays $900 in rent? According to TimeOut New York the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in New York City is $3,100 a month. This means her parents are financing AT LEAST 75 percent of that rent—if not more—and she doesn’t pay for a Metrocard, student loans, internet, power, or cable. Tbh she could have led with “I have cable” and I’d know she was rich AF. But you’re right, Refinery29, she’s this close to being out on the streets and living in a cardboard box. I’m weeping for the injustice of it all.

Also, let’s take a minute to evaluate this interesting piece of information about her finances:

Paycheck (Biweekly): $928

Bonus (Monthly): $900-$3,000”

Wait, her paycheck per month is less than $2K? So her income is really somewhere around $35,000/year and not $67,000/year as previously indicated? And what are these monthly $900-$3,000 “bonuses” she’s referring to? She’s definitely a prostitute, right? Because the biggest bonus my boss has ever given me was the remaining money on her Starbucks gift card, so I can’t really fathom a $3,000 dollar bonus happening once a fucking month. If little miss service coordinator starts saying she just gets by with a little help from her friends then we’ll really know what’s up.

Here’s the thing about the “Money Diaries” that always sends me into a rage blackout: Refinery29 only ever interviews millennials who make between $70K-$100K, most of which is in the form of monetary support from their families, and then proceeds to condescendingly tell us how much these kids have struggled with their meager wages. When I first moved to the city over three years ago, I made half that salary and still managed to live my best a life. My parents support me in the sense that they still pay for my cell phone bill (#blessed) and occasionally send me care packages with K-cups in them that “mysteriously” go missing between the Brooklyn post office and my building. To this day, I still make significantly less than $70K and somehow manage to live a ratchet fulfilling life.

So in the spirit of debunking the Money Diaries once and for all, let me just get brutally honest with you on what my bills look like as per the Refinery29 equation:

The Basics:

Occupation: Book Publicist/Freelance Writer/Actively Trying To Marry Rich

Industry: Anything that will accept my creative writing degree

Age: 26

Location: New York, NY

Salary (combined with freelance gigs): $45,000

Paycheck (Biweekly): $1,425

Bonus (Monthly): Lol people actually get these?

Some Shit I Pay For:

Rent: $1,085/month for one bedroom in a three bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that my friends kindly refer to as “the last district in the Hunger Games.” So sweet.

MetroCard: $121/month (pre-taxed, but still)

Internet + Power: Cable is for rich people. I only have internet, which I pay $23 a month for (split between three people) even though it only ever works on a clear, cloudless day. I also pay anywhere from $50-$100 for my power bill (also split between three people) so that I can keep my room the temperature of Tampa, FL. What is life if you don’t continuously live it like you’re on your senior year spring break?

Gym Membership: $59.00/month. Tbh this just feels like throwing 60 dollars down the drain each month, but whatever I’ll include it.

Alcohol: $15 – $30/week

(And for those of you who might not view this as a “necessary” cost of living, I literally just had to buy a bottle of wine to get through through this evaluation of my finances so, yeah, I think it’s pretty fucking necessary. Also, this doesn’t cover what I spend at bars/happy hours/really horrible Hinge dates. Obviously.)

Starbucks: Not a real criteria, just felt like I had to include this one in here. Can you put a price tag on being emotionally dependent on your barista? For the sake of being honest, let’s round this one up to $30/month?

Savings: Alright, is this absolutely necessary to disclose?

Credit Card: K, well now I’m just feeling personally victimized.

To further my point here, I’m going to paint a picture for you of what a day in the life of It’s Britney, Betch is really like. Hold onto your matcha teas, betches, cause this won’t be pretty and might make you mildly concerned for my health is about to get real. Now, The Money Diaries usually outlines all seven days of the person’s spending habits. I don’t have enough alcohol in my system emotional maturity to delve that far into my personal finances so I’ll only be outlining a typical weekday so you can get a sense of my struggles.

A Day In The Life Of Me:

7:00am: Wake up. Briefly consider taking everything in my 401K (spoiler alert: there’s barely anything in there) and quitting my job to become a Lady of Leisure. Or at least a SugarBearHair model. If the professional twins from Ben Higgins’ season can do it, so can I. Realize I am a single mother to a dog, and also someone who also likes to brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Selling hair vitamins would barely cover my mimosa habit, much less my dog’s affinity for, like, eating. Accept my fate and decide to go to work.

7:45am: TRAIN FUCKING DELAYS. Is the grass green? Is the sky blue? Is today just another day in which the MTA is going to rob me fucking blind? Wait 35 minutes for an M train and realize it might be faster if I walked to Manhattan with one broken leg while carrying everything I own on my back than to actually use public transportation even though I pay ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-ONE DOLLARS A MONTH to do just that. Give up for today and call an Uber. Spend 40 minutes and $45 dollars to go four miles down the road in a car that smells like the backroom of a Hollister store. Only die a little inside.

9:00am: I’m late for work, but not late enough that I don’t have time to visit my boyfriend Starbucks barista. It’s important we make time for each other, you know? I spend $7.00 on a breakfast sandwich and iced coffee and whisper “treat yo’self” under my breath as I exit the building. 

1:00pm: I brought my lunch, but it is a sad sandwich that I don’t really want to eat. Think about how skinny I will be if I just forgo lunch all together. Perhaps I will be skinny enough to fit into my freshman year crop top! Resolve to never again eat lunch.

1:03pm: Eat the sad sandwich and also an entire bag of Cheez Its because they were the last ones in the vending machine and that feels like a sign from God. I feel God here in this break room today.

5:00pm: Congrat-fucking-lations. I made it through one entire day of work and I didn’t even set fire to the building! What a feat! Now, I should go treat myself by sweating out all the frustrations of the day at the gym.

5:02pm: Walk by the gym. Briefly consider how I spend $59 a month there and how I’ve been wanting to get back into shape, and also the frustrations thing. Walk right past the gym and head home.

5:10pm: Spot a wine store directly by my subway stop. Another sign from God! Maybe you should pick up church instead of rewatching Criminal Minds from the beginning. Spend $15 on chardonnay. Remind myself that that’s $5 more than I was willing to spend on myself in college and reflect on how far I’ve come in this world. Namaste.

7:00pm: I consider ordering Seamless but show some actual fucking self-restraint and decide instead to cook myself a grilled cheese and soup. Boys, if you’re reading this, I’m single. Feed my dog. Open the wine. Re-watch old episodes of Riverdale and internally debate with myself if I should start giving redheads a chance. 

Rinse and repeat for five more days give or take one Uber ride or Seamless order.



Obviously, after reading my Money Diaries, you can tell that I’m a walking cry for help not the best with my money. But, you know, I still make it work. I still make enough money to pay for rent, feed my dog, and occasionally treat myself in the Forever21 sales section. Blessings. The point is that this is a more realistic look at what life in New York City is like for most people those of us who don’t make $70K a year. So to the service coordinator who makes $67,000 a year, I salute you for the trials and tribulations you must bear. Like being able to spend your paycheck on silk eye masks and makeup that costs more than $7 at CVS. BYE.

Images: Giphy (9); 


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