I’m 28, Make $65k, & Spent $1.5k On My Wellness Routine This Week

Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.

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Today: One woman’s self-care routine includes natural wine, long walks, and hotel stay-cations.

Age: 28
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Freelance Journalist
Salary: $60,000

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up in a hotel in Chelsea and it takes me a minute to remember where I am. Eight months ago, I quit my full-time editorial assistant job, put everything I owned in storage, and began hustling as a freelance writer. I love the flexibility of freelancing, especially while I’m *nomadic* — but at the same time, it lacks all of the benefits, structure, and financial security of a full-time gig. I mostly stay in hotels for free in exchange for coverage.

One of my best girl friends from college is with me in my hotel room. Last night, I surprised her with a belated birthday dinner and a swanky hotel slumber party. Birthdays are hyperbolically important to me — one of my closest friends died in a car accident a few years ago and since then I’ve made it a priority to take any excuse to remind my friends how much I love them and how lucky I am to celebrate another year with them. I operate on an every-day-might-be-my-last mentality, which often results in reckless spending and prioritizing anything that makes me feel good in the moment over planning ahead for the future.

9:30 a.m. — My friend and I spend an hour talking in bed about my budding love life, and the house she just bought with her husband, then we head downstairs for complimentary continental breakfast.

10 a.m. — My friend heads home to Jersey City and I decide to walk 50 blocks uptown to my great aunt’s apartment on the Upper East Side, where I’ve been stashing some of my winter clothes. Since arriving home in New York — after a month-long stint in Southeast Asia — I’ve been using the cold as an excuse to put off the daily running and hiking routines I’d built while traveling. But moving my body — especially outdoors — is one of the ways I take care of my mental health. So, for the time being, I’ve been trying to take long walks whenever possible. They tend to give me uninterrupted time to think and take stock of where I’m at emotionally. 

Today, while I’m busy plumbing the depths of my psyche, traversing Midtown East, the guy I’ve been seeing texts me and my serotonin spikes. I’ve been mostly single for the last three years, and he’s the first person I’ve felt butterflies for in ages. Everything has moved lightning-fast between us in the two weeks I’ve been back in New York, given that I’m boarding a one-way flight to Mexico City in seven days. We’re both leaning in hard, and spending nearly every day together, knowing I have very few days left. In my fit of enthusiasm, I stop into Victoria’s Secret on my walk and pick up some strappy black lingerie to surprise him with. ($107)

3 p.m. — I grab the subway back to the hotel with my winter clothes in tow, and work on a city guide for a brand blog, which takes me about two hours and earns me $250 before taxes (figuring out my taxes as a freelancer has been a nightmare). ($2.75)

7:30 p.m. — I head to Brooklyn on the subway for dinner at a friend’s apartment, stopping to pick up orange wine and paper towels en route. We make Brussels sprouts and chicken for dinner while talking about her open marriage and my new fling — who she’ll meet later tonight at a party. ($22.75)

9:30 p.m. — From dinner, she calls us a car to a mutual friend’s birthday party in Williamsburg. He’s a wine importer, so the bottle lineup is fantastic and well-priced for the quality. My best friend meets us there, and she puts our tab on her card. I Venmo her for half. She and I always spend too much money on wine together, but learning about natural wine has been a full-fledged hobby for us over the last two years. Eventually, the guy I’m seeing arrives, and when we make eye contact across the room, I feel a little weak-kneed. ($90)

12:30 a.m. — After the party, I walk with him and my best friend to Nightmoves for some dancing. They’re fast friends and it makes me want to cry with happiness (is there anything better than your platonic partner getting along with your romantic partner?). The three of us buy more wine at the bar, but he pays since we covered him at the first spot. When it’s time to go, he and I take a Lyft back to the hotel. ($27)

Daily Total: $249.50

Day Two

12:30 p.m. — My crush and I sleep in, then grab brunch at Chelsea Market after checking out of the hotel. He buys us tacos at Los Tacos and I keep thinking that our whole situation feels so easy and simple, that it scares me (as much as it excites me). I chug my favorite sports drink, blueberry pomegranate BODYARMOR LYTE, to pack in some antioxidants and electrolytes (without artificial sweeteners) before tackling the rest of my day. ($3.25)

4:30 p.m. — We spend the rest of the day walking around together and before I know it, we’ve already passed 10,000 steps, which is my daily goal. He heads to work and I head to grab a slice of pizza ($7.48, which is enough to drive me out of the city all over again) on my way to meet a childhood friend at The Marlton Hotel in the West Village (my favorite place to work). It’s the first properly frigid day of winter so, after warming up by the fireplace, we bundle up and run to Raku for my favorite spicy miso pork ramen. We split dinner and then I take a car across town to the bar where my not-boyfriend works. ($61.22)

9:00 p.m. — He pours me a glass of wine (on the house) while he finishes up work, then afterwards, we bop around to various Lower East Side venues where his friends bartend. Conveniently, we drink for free. 

2 a.m. — When we realize what time it is, I call us a car back to his place uptown. We dance around his kitchen and lay on the floor talking about how we’re both scared and excited about one another. ($30)

Daily Total: $91.22

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — It’s Christmas Eve and I’m heading upstate to visit my little sister for the holiday weekend. He comes with me on the train to Port Authority — which feels like the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. I grab hash browns, a breakfast wrap, and a black iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, but the line takes way too long. Once I have my order, we end up sprinting through the terminal to find my bus ($118.18 round trip) just in time before kissing goodbye. ($128.18)

3:30 p.m. — My sister picks me up from the station in Saratoga Springs and I’m so happy to see her. It’s our first Christmas just the two of us: Our parents split during the pandemic and now, they’re both spending Christmas with their new respective significant others (honestly, I’m genuinely excited for both of them — I like both of their new partners very much and think they bring out the best in each of my parents). 

5:30 p.m. — My sister bought groceries for me to make her favorite dinner: lentil soup. I miss having a kitchen of my own and revel in how meditative it feels just to chop vegetables. Since I’m on the move so much these days, I try to cook whenever I’m in a home or an AirBnb. Not only does it save me money, but it’s always been a form of self-care I’ve particularly enjoyed. It feels soothing and contemplative, and it’s nice to have full control over what I’m consuming (rather than eating out). We eat and binge season 3 of Emily in Paris.

Daily Total: $128.18

Day Four

9 a.m. — My sister wakes me up with a cinnamon bun in bed and I feel so grateful for her. It doesn’t really feel like Christmas, but we have a lovely, lazy day together, lounging around, doing a puzzle, eating more soup, and watching more TV.

4:30 p.m. — We go for a walk that turns into a light jog on a nature trail near her house around sunset. When we get back to her house we have more soup and hydrate with a BODYARMOR LYTE. ($3.25) 

Daily total: $3.25 

Day Five

9 a.m. — My sister goes to work at a package shipping center and I write two articles about recent hotel stays. I struggle with balancing work, self-care, and travel — which, in all honesty, means I’m essentially spending everything I make at the moment. It feels relieving to be in one place for a beat so I can buckle down on my to-do lists. 

4 p.m. — I pace around her apartment for an hour to get my steps in, while using DuoLingo on my phone to brush up on my Spanish before I head to Mexico in a few days.

7 p.m. — I grocery shop when my sister gets home, so I can make sure she has some essentials and more soup for the week. She’s a creature of habit and likes to eat the same thing all the time, so it brings me a lot of joy to be able to feed her. ($28)

Daily total: $28

Day Six

9 a.m. — My sister and I have a sweet and sleepy goodbye before she heads to work — we’re both sad to leave each other so soon. 

11 a.m. — The bus back to the city takes about four hours, so I go on a run beforehand to expel some energy before sitting still for ~four hours. Back at her apartment, I have some toast and another BODYARMOR LYTE — this time peach mango — and pack up my things. ($3.25)

2 p.m. — My bus is running an hour late, so I pace around the station and tackle some more DuoLingo until it arrives.

8 p.m. — I get back even later than expected due to traffic, so I take the subway straight to my dinner plans with my crush, his friends, and my best friend at Wu’s Wonton King, a BYOB dim sum spot. I arrive with my suitcase in tow (lugging it around New York has become a primary form of exercise for me), feeling exhausted but happy to be there. I cover dinner for him, my best friend, and me. ($92.75) 

Afterwards, we go to a natural wine bar nearby with all of our friends (and my suitcase), and he pays the tab before we call a car to his apartment in Harlem. ($24)  

Daily total: $120

Day Seven

1 p.m. — Since I’ll be flying to Mexico tomorrow (for an indefinite amount of time), my crush and I spend a lazy, languorous half-day in bed. Eventually, around 1 p.m., we hop on the train downtown for brunch at Thai Diner. ($77) 

3 p.m. — I have my annual check-up today. I go to Tia, a boutique women’s health membership clinic with plush orange velvet chairs and Recess drinks stocked in the fridge. The subscription costs $15 per month — but I began subscribing when I was still fully employed, with health insurance. I’ve been having breast pain for a few weeks and I really want to get it checked out, but I’m worried about how expensive it’s going to be. I panic a bit when I learn the cost of the required virtual and in-person check-ups ($295 and $195), plus the basic lab testing ($250, whittled down from the proposed $700). The good news is, the doctor tells me she doesn’t feel anything out of the ordinary when she examines my breasts. ($740)

4:30 p.m. — I sit in the lobby of the Ludlow Hotel to write for a few hours. An overpriced tea feels worthwhile for a cozy spot by the fire. Beyond writing for the internet, journaling is a primary pastime of mine. It’s a crucial way for me to process how I’m feeling on any given day, and an important aspect of my wellness routine. ($7.50)

7 p.m. — My mind’s still buzzing after I finish journaling, so I walk around for half an hour to clear my head, before ending up at Somm Time, a natural wine bar on the Lower East Side, to meet up with my former roommate. She still lives in our old Clinton Hill apartment and has turned my room into an office. She’s subletting the apartment for January, in order to come spend the month in Mexico with me, so we’re giddy discussing our trip. The bar has a great happy hour so we share a $30 bottle, which she pays for.

9 p.m. — We head to the bar where my not-boyfriend works to drink more and grab a bite to eat. He joins us when he’s off and we all bar hop together again at places where his friends work. Overall, our nightly tab is manageable, split between the three of us. ($92) 

2:30 a.m. — My crush calls a car back to his place for the two of us and we order Checkers on the way (a bad late-night habit of mine). We chug sports drinks knowing it’ll aid our hangovers in the morning. I’m sad to be leaving him but we both know it’ll be good for us to see how some time apart feels. ($33)

Daily Total: $949.50

Total : $1,569.65

Reflection: I prioritize my day-to-day sense of happiness over just about everything, including…financial security. Waking up around people I care about, drinking good wine, writing, and moving my body are all ways that I take care of my emotional well-being. Health care would probably be a solid addition, but in the meantime, I’ll try not to injure myself too irreparably while falling in love (or, whatever it is that I’m doing).

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