A Week in Rochester on an $85,000 Salary

A Week in Rochester on an $85,000 Salary

Welcome to Spending Notes, where we do a weekly deep dive into how our readers spend their cash.

Today: a sociologist who makes $85,000 a year

Occupation: sociologist

Age: 49

Location: Rochester, NY

Salary: $85,000 (approx. $3,269 per pay period)

Day One


Sociologists work in a variety of different fields, but in my case, I work for a market research organization. Will Johnson of The Harris Poll is my hero! My work isn’t with the world’s leading public opinion firm (yet!), but I do get to study similar polls, analytics, and insights. For instance, I’ve spent my Monday determining the impacts of COVID-19 on U.S. mental health care. It’s almost 2022, so you might think this topic has been analyzed to death, but any researcher like me can tell you there’s still a lot to learn. After work, then, I pick up my son from soccer practice, and we go out for pizza.

Total: $22

Day Two


While we ate dinner last night, I found myself worried about my son, T. I know his behavior pretty well, and he really seems to be struggling between school, extracurriculars, and his social life. It’s sort of like a work project in that I need to figure out how to accommodate his evolving needs. To start, I’m browsing some of the health care options available to him. An intensive outpatient program, or IOP treatment, looks like it may be a good fit, offering personalized care for teens, young adults, and their families. For now, I’m going to keep an eye on him and try to get him to open up if he wants to. Then, if he’s on board, we can look into this sort of treatment program. Today, I’m not going to approach the subject—we’re just going to enjoy a tasty delivery dinner in.

Total: $34

Day Three


I’ve only been in my role for a few years, but I work with some serious veteran strategists, including those with backgrounds like Harris Poll and brand marketing with C-suite pros. This means I get to kind of indirectly work with some of the greatest business leaders in the marketplace today! My colleagues in more senior roles teach me a lot, so I try to make the most of their experience. Today, that means taking a few coworkers out for lunch. I bring home leftovers for T., too, and we eat our dinner accompanied by a new Netflix series.

Total: $61.50

Day Four


As usual, I pick up T. after work, and we grab something to eat. Today, though, he breaks down a bit and tells me how he’s been struggling at school. As a parent, it’s hard to hear! But I’ve done plenty of research already—a side effect of my line of work—and am ready to offer him some options. For the time being, he’s going to meet with a local psychiatrist to tackle some of these feelings. He’s also really interested in the idea of IOP treatment, so we’ll be discussing that with his new doctor soon. Right now, though, we’re just taking a moment for a big hug.

Total: $27

Day Five


T. has his first therapy session this afternoon, so we’re both taking a mental health day. I’m lucky in that my employer understands the importance of mental health and actually encourages us to take time off when we need it! We go to a local diner for a big breakfast and stop by the store afterward for snacks and a new video game. From the sounds of it, his appointment went well, too, so I consider today a win!

Total: $114

Day Six


My brother, K., is in town today and will be spending some time with T. He went through a lot of mental health struggles when he was T.’s age, so I’m grateful they can connect and support each other, even in small ways. While they do so, I’ll be cleaning the house, paying bills, and picking up some groceries.

Total: $421

Day Seven


After a busy week, I think we all could use some time to do nothing. So, save for meeting the delivery guy at the door, T. and I spend the day lounging around and giving our minds a much-needed rest.

Total: $47

Total for the week: $726.50