A Week In Boston, MA, On A $145,000 Salary

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

Today: a Product Manager working in Tech who makes $145,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Halo Top ice cream.

Occupation: Product Manager
Industry: Tech
Age: 25
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $145,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,500
Gender Identity: Cis Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,270 (My boyfriend, D., and I split a ~650 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment. He currently makes less than I do, and we’ve decided to always base our rent budget on the lower salary so we can each pay half comfortably. We love our apartment, location, and landlord, and this is a steal for our area.)
Utilities: $30-$70 (We pay for heat, hot water, and electricity; I pay up front, and D. pays me back for half.)
Student Loans: $0 (I received very generous financial aid that covered most of my undergraduate tuition, and I worked 20 hours a week on campus to cover the rest.)
Insurance: $2 (Company covers medical and dental and subsidizes vision.)
HSA: $150 (Pre-tax benefit; my employer also contributes $1,000.)
Public Transit: $90 (Pre-tax benefit.)
Internet: $29.99 (D. pays up front and I pay him back for half.)
Phone: $50 (I’m still on my parents’ plan and transfer this amount to them monthly.)
Netflix: $12.99
Spotify Premium and Hulu: $9.99
New York Times Subscriptions: $12
Amazon Prime: $119/year (My parents use my account.)
Savings and Investments: $4,500 (Medical bills have made a big dent in my savings lately, so I’m aggressively trying to replenish them. Currently I have about $5,000 in my emergency fund and $45,000 between my 401(k) and investment accounts.)

Day One

4:45 a.m. — I haul myself upright-ish in bed and smack my alarm clock into submission. I am a bona fide night owl and this is day three of my latest attempt to transform into an early bird. Ignoring the siren calls of my pillow and snuggles with D., I chug a 16 oz. bottle of water and take my medications while scrolling through Reddit on my phone. I have POTS, so a successful sleeping-to-standing transition requires 10 to 20 minutes of autonomic recalibration. Today it’s about 15 minutes before I feel ready to get out of bed, and I still need to lean on my dresser for an additional minute or two until the syncope recedes. I throw on my gym clothes, brush my teeth, and grab my pre-packed gym bag on my way out the door. I’m totally nailing this morning person thing. Clearly, bajillionth time’s the charm.

5:20 a.m. — I arrive at the T station, see that the next train won’t be arriving for another 17 minutes (dear MBTA: wherefore?), and opt to walk instead. I consider making a Dunkin’ pit stop for some caffeine, but force myself to walk away before I can succumb since there’s plenty of free coffee in the office.

5:50 a.m. — The gym is blissfully, incredibly bereft of human life; my only companion as I set up the squat rack is a wayward insect. I wish it would leave me alone, but I prefer it to people at this ungodly hour.

6:15 a.m. — Alas, people. I finish my sets, rerack, kick myself for not buying coffee earlier, and head to an elliptical for a few minutes of cardio before showering. Despite the persistently warm weather, my excitement for fall is expressing itself by way of aspirationally autumnal attire — today, a rust-colored jersey dress from Boden and Adidas Gazelles. I hastily apply serum and tinted moisturizer (I never really learned how to do makeup, and no matter how many times the kind, patient people at Sephora explain it to me I can’t seem to get the hang of it). On my way out of the gym, I head to the security guard’s desk to get his signature. My insurance offers a monthly $60 gym reimbursement in exchange for proof of at least 12 gym sessions or equivalent, so I need someone to sign a form every time I come here. We both agree that this is deeply weird, but who am I to turn down $60?

7:15 a.m. — As soon as I’m in the office I stumble, zombielike, toward caffeine. I pour a dangerously full glass of cold brew and make a quick breakfast of almond butter stirred into greek yogurt before plopping down at my desk. I love getting to work this early — the office is peaceful and because my days are so full of meetings, this is often the only time I get work done. I’m feeling musically adventurous this morning, so I start a promising Arab pop Spotify playlist and settle in to write some test proposals.

12 p.m. — I thank the schedule gods for giving me an entire lunch hour today, as I am in desperate need of decompression following a morning of frantic meetings. We are spoiled with daily lunch in the office. I grab generous helpings of shrimp fajitas and refried beans and assemble a vaguely Mexican salad to accompany them. I take this hodgepodge back to my desk to enjoy some quality time with Google News and see a text from a close college friend, H. He’s in town for a conference and wants to know if D. and I are free to grab dinner, so I text him back to start planning.

4:15 p.m. — My last meeting of the day runs long, but I leave the office immediately after it ends. In my last job, I slipped into a pattern of 12-hour days in the office plus working on weekends, which wasn’t exactly optimal for my physical or mental health. My dysautonomic symptoms first manifested about a year ago, and my illness and path to recovery significantly realigned my priorities — thankfully, my current employer has a supportive culture that explicitly values work-life balance and helps me stick to a sane schedule most days.

6 p.m. — D. and I meet H. at an Ethiopian restaurant near our apartment. This place has been a go-to for us since college, and it does not disappoint today. We split spicy cottage cheese injera rolls and a veggie combo platter, and each of us gets a sweet barley shake. H., who lives in New York City, regales us with tales of his Boston transit mishaps, including the Green line at rush hour and a misguided attempt to walk to a venue that turned out to be several hours away on foot. H. offers to pay for the meal, as he’s traveling for work and can expense it. It’s hard to argue with that, so D. and I insist on treating next time.

9:15 p.m. — The rest of the night is relatively uneventful. D. and I fritter it away on the couch alternating between episodes of Silicon Valley and doing nothing on our computers. I’m paranoid about sticking to my new schedule and have trouble with mobility when I get too tired, so I kickstart my nightly routine while I still have some energy. I read a few pages of Robert Caro’s Means of Ascent before falling asleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I decide to walk to the gym again today. This shifts my entire schedule back a few minutes, but it’s worth it. I know I’ll miss these opportunities in a few months when the city is literally Hoth.

11 a.m. — Today’s lunch is lasagna, and I’m not feeling it. I always feel like such a brat considering lunch elsewhere when there’s free (and very good!) food on offer, but today I allow the brat to win and place an order for Sweetgreen through the app. I have a $9 credit, so I build a custom bowl —kale, quinoa, chicken, watermelon, peaches, and feta with green goddess dressing — that would’ve cost $13.38 with tax otherwise. It is delicious enough to silence my guilt. $4.38

12:30 p.m. — D. texts me to see if I’m free for a short lunchtime walk. I’m just returning from my Sweetgreen excursion and meet him at his office building, which is only a few blocks away from mine. We do a quick loop together and talk about our days, then he drops me off at my office so I can be back in time for my 1 p.m. meeting. It’s nice to spend a little extra time with him this week, since he’ll be flying out tomorrow to visit friends on the West Coast for a few days.

5 p.m. — I am home and hungry. Working out in the morning has made me feel better overall, but it has thrown my appetite completely out of whack. I text D. to ask if I should wait for him and he says to go ahead, so I heat up lentil and sausage soup I made this weekend. I grate a small mountain of parmesan on top to take it up a notch. I continue to grate more parmesan onto the soup as I eat it, because I am a cheese-loving child.

6:30 p.m. — D. is finally home and heating up his portion of soup — I’m very glad I didn’t wait for him. I’m slowly dragging him through all my favorite shows and tonight we watch a few episodes of Parks and Rec. We’re wrapping up the sixth season, and even though this is a rewatch for me, I wind up a teary mess. My friend, M., texts me asking if D. and I are interested in going to a concert with her and her boyfriend next week. Philip Glass will be performing with his ensemble, and tickets are only $38! I ask D. and he’s down, so I respond to let her know and we Venmo her for our tickets. $38

8 p.m. — Good citizens that we are, D. and I put on the Democratic debate. What begins as a serious exercise in civic engagement devolves (with the help of a can of Tree House beer we discover at the back of our fridge) into a game where we drink every time we hear a variant on “let me be clear,” but we pay attention and discuss the entire time.

10:45 p.m. — I start to crash hard. I have a sleep disorder similar to narcolepsy that one of my medications helps mitigate, but even with treatment I tend to run out of steam relatively early. Morning person attempts notwithstanding, this is an unusually late night for me. I’m having trouble walking, so D. helps me to the bathroom, where I successfully complete my nightly routine (including flossing, somehow) before stumbling into bed.

Daily Total: $42.38

Day Three

5:35 a.m. — Despite hitting snooze one too many times, I’m showered, dressed (today in a plaid blazer from Mango and Madewell jeans and oxfords), and more or less ready for work. I make it to the T with six minutes to spare before the train arrives and consider this a successful honing of my morning routine. I swipe my prepaid monthly pass, so this is “free.”

7:30 a.m. — Once at work, I spend a few minutes planning. D. and I impulse bought cheap tennis equipment at the beginning of the summer and have taken to playing together on weekend mornings, but since he’ll be gone I need a more plausibly solo alternative. A yoga studio near my apartment has a promotional rate of $30 for a month of unlimited classes, and since regular drop-ins are $20 per class, I spring for it. I sign up for a 9 a.m. class tomorrow, hoping this will combat my tendency to sleep in on weekends. $30

11:30 a.m. — My schedule and the office are both bizarrely empty, so I decide to work from home this afternoon. Lunch today is sushi (!), so I have a couple of assorted rolls and a bowl of miso soup before leaving. I get a text from my friend and former roommate, T., asking if I’m free to hang out this weekend, and I suggest brunch tomorrow around noon at a diner near our old apartment.

12:15 p.m. — Before I can go home, I have a sugary pilgrimage to make. My favorite bakery and source of cannolis is closing, and I pay it a final visit for a farewell cannoli (chocolate dipped ricotta, of course). While I wait in line, I can’t resist grabbing a tub each of pistachio macaroons and frosted anise cookies to help me through my grief. I promise myself I won’t open these until D. gets back so we can properly mourn together. Good night, sweet bakery. $24.50

2 p.m. — Irony strikes: one of my engineers — the only one in the office today — needs to clarify some requirements with me, so I have to hop on a call. I feel guilty for abandoning him, and he feels bad for interrupting my heads down work, so we’re both very apologetic. I narrowly avoid meta-apologizing for my over-apologizing (personal development win!), and we clear everything up within half an hour.

4:30 p.m. — I am surprisingly productive for the remainder of the day, so I allow myself to transition gradually out of work mode by putting on The Great British Bakeoff while I wrap up some end of day tasks. A combination of my early lunch and choice of entertainment have made me very hungry, so I microwave my last portion of lentil and sausage soup and grate all of the remaining parmesan. T. texts me back to confirm for noon tomorrow; it’s been months since we’ve seen each other, and I can’t wait to catch up.

8 p.m. — The full weight of this week’s morning person transformation effort hits me all at once and I’m suddenly dead tired. I drag myself to the bathroom, using the walls and any available furniture for support. I’m just barely able to set my alarms and respond to a check-in text from my dad; then I’m out like a light.

Daily Total: $54.50

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — Perhaps predictably, I have overslept, and I awake achy and annoyed. Sleeping too much is almost as bad for me as sleeping too little; I’m like Goldilocks without the trespassing. The threat of my yoga class has its intended effect, though, and I pull myself upright to start the day. I leave my apartment early to grab a medium cold brew from Dunkin’ ($3.80) and drop off some packages at USPS. I pay for the coffee using my pre-loaded app.

10:30 a.m. — This was the first yoga class I’ve taken since getting sick and it was a doozy. My balance was never particularly good, but now it’s almost nonexistent. Despite my embarrassing performance, I feel great afterward and resolve to take full advantage of my 30-day trial membership —hopefully getting back into yoga will help me rebuild some of my lost balance and flexibility. I head home to shower before meeting up with T.

11:30 a.m. — T. texts me that her train was delayed so she’ll be slightly late; the MBTA has not been my friend lately. Still, I’m grateful for the extra time, as the residual fatigue from yoga has made showering slightly more difficult than usual.

12:30 p.m. — I meet T. in front of the diner, but there’s a fairly long line. It turns out the restaurant next door does brunch as well and has no wait, so we try it out. I’ve been to this place for dinner, which was amazing, but pricey. I’m relieved to see that brunch isn’t quite as expensive. T. just went through a bad breakup, so she catches me up and we spend our time excoriating her ex over cocktails (a red sangria for her and a dark rum/rye whiskey concoction for me), huevos rancheros, and curry goat chilaquiles. We fight over the check, but I insist on treating given the circumstances, and we agree to plan another brunch for her to get me back. The bill comes to around $52, and I tip 20%. $65

2:30 p.m. — T. and I walk and dog-watch around some local parks for a while before parting ways, and I decide to run some errands before I lose all motivation. I’m nearly out of one of my medications, so I go to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. For some reason my HSA debit card doesn’t work, but I keep the receipt to file a reimbursement claim later. $33.23

3:45 p.m. — My parents still live in the suburb where I grew up, so I get to see them often. My dad’s check-in text reminds me that we haven’t hung out in a while, so I ask if he’s free for brunch tomorrow. (A note to the reader: I love brunch.) I recommend the diner I originally suggested to T.: he’s game, and we agree to meet around 11 or 11:30. I have an ulterior motive of getting us back to my apartment in time to catch the start of the Pats/Dolphins game. While we finalize plans, I scan through the New York Times cooking app for recipe ideas and settle on a pressure cooker coconut chicken curry by my all-time favorite contributor, Melissa Clark. I recently bought myself an Instant Pot and have been very pleased with the results so far (like the lentil soup I made last week).

4:30 p.m. — I chose this curry recipe in part because I had so many of the ingredients on hand, including exactly the right amount of frozen chicken (thanks, past me!), but I still have to make a quick grocery run. I pick up a can of crushed tomatoes, cumin seeds and garam masala, a sweet onion, baby spinach, frozen peas, and cauliflower rice. I also make the mistake of noticing that Halo Top is on sale for $3 per pint, so I buy an approximate metric shit ton, which makes this a much more expensive trip than I’d intended. $42.37

5 p.m. — The second I get home I realize I forgot to buy a can of coconut milk for my coconut curry, like an idiot. I check my pantry out of sheer laziness and desperation before heading back to the store and find a lonely can on a shelf where it doesn’t belong. What a time to be alive.

7:45 p.m. — Dinner takes longer than planned because I forgot to factor in onion caramelization time (rookie mistake), but I finish and help myself to a serving over cauliflower rice. It is very tasty and much more filling than expected, so I portion out the rest and pop them in the fridge.

9 p.m. — I file my prescription reimbursement claim and then call it a night.

Daily Total: $140.60

Day Five

8:45 a.m. — Now I’ve really overslept. This is actively bad for me. I have an awful headache and everything hurts as I push myself into a seated position. Due to my history with migraines, I take a precautionary Excedrin along with my regular medication.

11 a.m. — I was less than useless this morning and am still not feeling my best, but my dad’s here! I meet him at his car, and we walk to the diner together. We get counter seats and coffees immediately and split duck hash with poached eggs and banana chocolate chip pancakes. I treat, since I try not to let my parents pay for anything anymore. The full extent of their financial sacrifice on my behalf only became clear to me in college and I’ve done my best to help pay it back ever since. The bill comes to $26.41, and I tip 25% since the waitress was kind enough to laugh along with my dad’s eyerolliest of jokes. $33

1 p.m. — We make it back to my apartment in time for the start of the Pats game, per my masterminded plan, and watch the first half together. Spoiler alert: it is a blowout. He decides to leave at the half since we both have stuff to do at home, so I hug him goodbye and set about trying to choose something productive to do with the rest of my day.

4 p.m. — Nothing productive occurs until the game is over; I can’t tear myself away. When it ends, I decide to run an errand that forces me out of the apartment to get my glasses adjusted.

5:30 p.m. — It’s a picture perfect late summer afternoon, so I take a meandering walk to soak up some end-of-season sun. Newbury Street is pedestrian-only today, and I walk along it for a little while before strolling through the Public Garden and the Common. I wish I could spend my entire life in an endless loop of August through December in New England.

7 p.m. — I heat up another serving of curry for dinner and realize that I won’t need dinners at all this week. I have events every day after work at which meals are provided. I throw the remaining refrigerated portion in the freezer and stew a little (pun intended) in frustration at the fact that the only productive thing I accomplished this weekend was for naught. I get a short burst of energy that I use to put away some clean laundry, but it fades quickly. I pack my gym back and get ready for bed, making sure to reset my alarms for weekday times before I fall asleep.

Daily Total: $33

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Week two of Operation: Lark is off to a great start. I sail through my sets at the gym, try my hand at the erg and fail miserably, as usual, and do a few perfunctory minutes on the elliptical instead before showering in record time.

11:45 a.m. — A new product manager started on my team today, so we take her out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. I order a spinach and strawberry salad with feta and almonds ($9) and add salmon (+$7). Because this is a team welcome lunch, it is expensed. ($16 expensed)

5 p.m. — I end my day with two hours in a fascinating cross-functional workshop and emerge in something of a daze. As soon as I collect myself I change into a company t-shirt and head to a recruiting event at my college. This is the first time I’ve taken the T at rush hour in ages, and it only takes a few elbows to the face to remember why. As usual, I pay with my monthly pass.

6:30 p.m. — The event begins. I’m speaking on a panel in front of a full house, but any nervousness quickly fades — I actually love speaking in front of big groups. I feel even better after getting a few laughs out of the room, and I end up staying long after the panel ends chatting with students.

9 p.m. — I finally leave campus and walk in the direction of my apartment until the bus catches up to me. I swipe my prepaid pass and am home within an hour. I completely forgot to grab dinner at the recruiting event, so I do the adult thing and eat a pint of Halo Top before bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

5:45 a.m. — Yesterday was more exhausting than I realized, and I sleep through all my alarms and wake up in a panic. Since it’s too late to go to the gym without feeling rushed, I shower at home and pack my gym bag to go right after work instead. I’ll need to shower twice since I have another recruiting event in the evening, but that’s life. On the bright side, D. is back! He had a rough flight, even by red-eye standards, so we sneak in some morning cuddles before I leave for work.

6:30 a.m. — It’s the kind of morning that makes me wish I liked running — crisp and clear and heartbreakingly gorgeous, with a hint of autumn chill. I’m glad I threw a denim jacket over my dress at the last minute, but even more glad that fall is in the air.

7 a.m. — Somehow, despite the temperature, I arrive at the office a sweaty mess. For this and many other reasons, I’m glad to be the only one here. I try to recapture the autumnal spirit by grabbing a Pumpkin Spice Rx Bar for breakfast, but it is deeply disappointing and only adds sticky insult to sweaty injury. I eat the whole thing anyway. I pour my customary cold brew and prepare for my first meeting.

4 p.m. — The day flies by, and I rush to the gym to beat the post-work crowd and have enough time before recruiting panel take two. I do some light weights and about half an hour of cardio, then I shower and run back to the office to grab dinner so I don’t forget and end up hangry two nights in a row.

8:30 p.m. — I had planned to walk back to my apartment, but I’m exhausted and my legs are shaky, so I hop on the T instead. Once home, I try to stay awake with D. to catch up and hear about his trip, but I’m fading fast, and he helps me get ready for bed. I collapse onto my pillow and am asleep instantly.

Daily Total: $0

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