A Week In Washington On A $87,950 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.

This week: a program manager working in nonprofit who makes $87,950 per year and spends some of her money this week on a new tire.

Occupation: Program manager
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 33
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $87,950
Net Worth: $22,215 ($4,400 in savings account, $550 in HYSA, $140 in HSA, and $26,800 in my 401k and Roth IRA, minus $9,675 in credit card debt)
Debt: $9,675
Paycheck Amount (Every 2 Weeks): $2,200
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1700 (I rent a one-bedroom basement apartment on the outskirts of D.C.)
Utilities: These are included in the rent.
Loan Payments: $900/credit card debt
Car Insurance: $220
Health & Dental Insurance: $48
401(k) Contribution: $604 (My employer matches any contributions up to 6%.)
Subscriptions: Patreon: $25; Spotify: $10.99; NYT Cooking: $4.99
Annual Expenses:
YNAB: $99
Nintendo Switch Online: $59.99
Antivirus: $165
Rental Insurance: $112
Dropbox: $125

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?
I think most of my expectation to attend college came from being motivated in school and having school counselors come and talk to you every year about going to college. I do know my parents wanted their kids out of the house right at 18! I had a college scholarship that completely covered my first year. My parents paid for the rest of my undergrad, but my tuition was highly subsidized. I also have a master’s degree, which was paid for by a program for teachers and my school district.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I did not have many conversations with my parents about money. We talked loosely about saving up for things and donating money to our church congregation, but I didn’t know how we were doing financially or how to set aside money every month for big expenses. When I was very young, my family was on food stamps, but we always had enough to eat and I did not pick up on any stress. I now talk with my parents about money a lot more since I have had a lot of unexpected expenses and am trying to figure out how to save for retirement.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working at a summer camp. I need something to do during summer between semesters of college. I applied to be a camp counselor and was accepted. I worked with seven- and eight-year-olds and took them hiking, did crafts, and played games. Dream job!

Did you worry about money growing up?
I did not worry about money growing up. Even when we did not have a lot, I was taken care of.

Do you worry about money now?
I do worry about money now. It seems like every time I manage to get on top of my expenses and start saving, I have another emergency pop up that I cannot cover. It is really discouraging. I also stress about having the money for retirement because I keep having to divert money to other things. I also love to spend money on travel and sometimes am not the most responsible.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible when I graduated with my undergrad. I do not have a personal financial safety net and am trying to finish paying off my debt so I can have a six-month emergency fund. I am grateful to know that if something happened, my parents could help me out.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have not received any passive or inherited income.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — I sleep in a little and read on my phone when I get up. My sleep is usually pretty hit or miss. I read for a few minutes and then wash my face and put on some lotion. I use Glymed facial cleanser and the Vitamin C cream. I drink a Fairlife chocolate milk and then head to pick up my dog from boarding. It takes me 30 minutes to scrape all the snow off my car and I am covered in ice. My dog is so happy to see me! We head to the dog park and play in the snow for a few minutes to get his energy out. $604

9 a.m. — I stop by PetSmart for much-needed supplies. I splurge a little because I have room in the budget this month. I get a few cans of cat food, cat litter, raw dog food, Purina, a new cat toy, some bones, dog treats, cat treats, salmon oil, and cat grass. $212.40

10:15 a.m. — I switch my laundry that I started last night, feed my sourdough starter, and take some meals out of the fridge to defrost. I usually do a big meal prep about twice a month to help save money and make eating vegetables more accessible.

11 a.m. — Now it’s time to pick up the cats from boarding. I am sure they will be glad to be out of there, but I bet dog-free play is a nice break for them. I stop by Raising Cane’s on the way because I am slightly obsessed with their chicken tenders. $15.00

11:30 a.m. — I pick up the cats. They are going to hate the drive home. $365.00

1:30 p.m. — I head to my bed to read for a while. I am currently in the middle of the Murderbot series. My taste in books is all over the place, but I like to read books where I connect with the characters. My apartment is really small and my bed is the only place I have to hang out, so reading turns into me taking a nap. I am hoping to move into a bigger apartment soon, for my sanity and the sanity of my pets!

3:30 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning the apartment a little, playing with my dog outside, and trying to plan for the week ahead. I also play some games online with a friend. She accidentally gets us in a fight against the good guys and I take the chance to tease her about the massive mess she got us into trying to show off her magic skills.

9 p.m. — I get into bed early, snuggle my dog, read for a bit, and eventually fall asleep while listening to an audiobook.

Daily Total: $1,196.40

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up and then go back to sleep. I had every intention of going to church today, but I feel kind of weird and sick and so I spend the morning sleeping in and watching TV.

11 a.m. — I finally get up and start feeling somewhat human. I take my dog on a short walk to get some energy out and then make him a lick mat.

12 p.m. — I do some shopping on Amazon for necessities. I get a couple of new umbrellas because my always seem to break and it is going to rain this week. $21.00

12:30 p.m. — I eat a granola bar and feed the cats some wet food. I head to Aldi for some essentials. I get a crown of broccoli, olive oil, eggs, popcorn, chives, garlic, ginger, limes, kiwi, flour, toilet paper, soap, plain Greek yogurt, mozzarella, and salami. $56.30

5:30 p.m. — I stop by the UPS store to drop off a return. I bought a couple work shirts, but they are too big and I didn’t love the fit. They charge me a processing fee. Lame. $10.95

6 p.m. — I feed my dog and go play with him in the backyard. I make some snowballs and throw them for him to catch in his mouth. I don’t love snow, but my dog loves it and that makes me happy.

6:30 p.m. — I start to prep dinner. I am really proud of myself for making cooking a priority while I am trying to improve my finances. I am making tilapia. Fish is still a thing I am not sure about, but this one seems yummy. I coat it in a ginger and teriyaki marinade and put it in the fridge to soak in the flavor.

7 p.m. — I preheat the oven and season some broccoli. While it heats up, I play on my Switch for a few minutes. This can only happen because my dog has actually relaxed and chewed on his bone, which is a rarity for him. I put the broccoli in the oven and cook the tilapia on the stove.

8:30 p.m. — I wash my face, clean up dinner, and watch about 10 minutes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I fall asleep pretty quickly.

Daily Total: $77.30

Day Three

6 a.m. — I wake up and have the normal case of the Mondays. I throw on some work clothes and take my dog on a 15-minute walk. I eat a Kodiak muffin for breakfast, scoop the cat litter, and head to the Metro station. Work gives us money for the Metro every month, which saves me a lot of money. $2.25 expensed

8 a.m. — I get to work and respond to some emails. I plan a few professional development events for the upcoming months and work on some other tasks. I also chat with the few coworkers on my team that actually come in to the office.

11 a.m. — I usually eat lunch early to avoid other people in the kitchen and to not snack as much. I am eating leftover cauliflower rice and Hawaiian pork. I have a Diet Coke and a few pieces of chocolate as well.

1 p.m. — I outline some notes for a mentoring program I am participating in. I have a meeting coming up with the person I am mentoring. I think the program will look good on my resume and it gives me the chance to stretch myself professionally and socially.

4 p.m. — I walk to the Metro station and head home. I always try to time it right so that I get the 4:30 p.m. bus, or else I end up having to wait forever. $2.25 expensed

5 p.m. — I check the mail and see that I got my last reimbursement check from last year’s therapy sessions. My therapist is out-of-network, but she has great experience that meets my needs and sees clients after work hours, which is so convenient! Luckily, my insurance starts to cover 70% of out-of-network mental health claims after meeting the deductible.

5:30 p.m. — I take my dog out on a walk and let him sniff a lot. We have been taking it easy because he is limping a little. I am not excited for another vet expense. I finalize some travel plans to visit a friend in March. I notice that Southwest is having another sale and so I change my flight to a different time, which credits me $77 for a future flight. I love Southwest!

8:30 p.m. — I get in bed and play a few games of Wingspan on my Switch. I am so addicted to the game and it is my go-to activity for a brain break. I then read for a few minutes and fall asleep.

Daily Total: $4.50 (expensed)

Day Four

6 a.m. — Tuesday morning is pretty much exactly the same as Monday morning. Put on work clothes, walk the dog, drink a Fairlife chocolate milk, and head to the Metro station. $2.25 expensed

8 a.m. — I check my emails, hang out in my coworker’s office, and work on organizing an upcoming conference. I also brainstorm some ideas for my work objectives for the year, since my boss and I are meeting to talk about them later today.

11:30 a.m. — My coworker and I go to Whole Foods so she can get some tzatziki sauce. I buy garlic bread, a chocolate parfait, and some empanadas for lunch. I really wanted to get some clotted cream, but I couldn’t find it in the store. $15.59

1 p.m. — I reach out to some speakers to see if they are interested in presenting at an upcoming event. I hope I hear back from at least a third of them.

2 p.m. — I meet up with a team of employees working to plan some events for increased engagement in the workplace. We check in about each of our individual projects and what our next steps will be. Immediately after, my boss and I meet to discuss my objectives for the year. I talk about some ambitions I have and we make a rough draft for the year.

4 p.m. — I take the Metro home. I drove to the station today, so I have to pay for parking. Our work Metro card only covers transportation, not parking at the Metro. $6.95 (plus $2.25 expensed for the Metro)

5 p.m. — I take my dog on a short walk and then soak his paw in Epsom salts to see if his limp could be caused by a cut or irritation on his paw. Getting him to stay still enough is a chore and I feed him dinner while soaking to keep him busy.

5:30 p.m. — I take a few minutes to make plans for some upcoming fun things. I book a parking spot at the airport for a future trip and a campsite for the Perseid meteor shower in August. I figure I will take my dog with me — we have not camped together yet, but hopefully it will be fun! I hope there will be clear skies. Last time I tried to camp, I got rained out. $48.75

9:30 p.m. — Bed time! I am tired tonight so I quickly brush my teeth and put an audiobook on to fall asleep to. All the animals want to snuggle, so I have two cats on top of me and my dog at my feet.

Daily Total: $73.54

Day Five

5:45 a.m. — I wake up a little early today. While I am cooking eggs, I spill a little bit of egg on the burner. It smokes a little. My landlord immediately calls me, wondering if everything is okay. She lives in the house above the apartment. She then texts me three times. I am very annoyed that she is freaking out over a small amount of burning smell. She then proceeds to tell me that she needs me to tape the vent covers over the vents because she shouldn’t be able to smell anything. I refrain from mentioning that we have a door at the top of the stairs to her house with a gap that any smells could get through, but I am starting off my day very annoyed. This shows in the fact that I find at least three new places I could rent that allow pets. I even apply to one.

7 a.m. — I head to the Metro to get to work. While doing so, I continue looking for other places to rent. $2.25 expensed

11 a.m. — I have a meeting with my team and we lay out some baseline info that we plan to share with our governing board. Our coworker tells us about a crazy birthday party her six-year-old went to and I question the profession of the entertainer they brought to the party. Let’s just say several six-year-olds probably left that party scared.

1:30 p.m. — I’ve been working on some odd work tasks and I get bored. I start daydreaming of future trips I want to go on and try to contain myself.

4 p.m. — Head to the Metro to get home. I look for some more new places I could live and then take the dog out. He surprises me by actually walking and not just trying to play fetch. He then finds a burrito half that someone could not be bothered to throw away and gobbles it down. Thanks, neighbors. That signals the end of our walk. $2.25 expensed

5:30 p.m. — I heat up some leftover Indian food and eat it along with a leftover shortbread cookie. I clean a little bit more than normal — wash all the dishes, start a load of laundry, wash my bedding, and scoop the cat litter. Pets are messy and cleaning up after them can feel like a full-time job!

7:30 p.m. — I head to therapy. It can be so hard to go, but it is almost always rewarding and definitely helps me stay focused and not drowning in despair. I leave feeling a little more hopeful and healed. I am usually starving after therapy — it is hard work! I eat a bowl of cereal when I get home and head to bed. $200.00

Daily Total: $204.50

Day Six

7 a.m. — I sleep in a little because I have the morning off for a doctor’s appointment. I take my dog out and then get back into bed to scroll on my phone. My cats also come to snuggle.

8:15 a.m. — I head to my appointment. I am seeing a new psychiatrist for my medication because my insurance randomly stopped covering my other one. I have not had great luck with psychiatrists in the D.C. area, so the fact that she is compassionate, solutions focused, and takes the time to listen to all my symptoms makes me feel really hopeful. I am proud of myself for being able to advocate for my needs. I don’t pay anything today, as I need to wait for insurance to process the claim. It will probably end up being about $175.

10:30 a.m. — I head home to work, only to realize I left my laptop at the office. I drive to work to go pick it up. Since I am out, I decide to treat myself to some Panera Bread because I have a gift card. I get a panino and squash soup. $14.38

1:30 p.m. — I take a quick power nap before I start working for the day. I love my naps and will probably never be able to break that habit.

3:30 p.m. — I head out to my dog training class. It is the first week, so the instructor just wants to give us some guidance without bringing our dogs. We talk about positive training techniques, how to hold the leash, and making sure that there will be no on-leash interactions between dogs during the training class. I have done some training with my dog already, but figure this will be a good way to engage his brain. The class was already paid for ($250 for eight sessions).

6 p.m. — While driving home from the dog training class, I hit the curb and get a flat tire. I call roadside assistance to get support. I sit in my car for an hour and then they call and tell me they won’t be able to send a tow truck until tomorrow morning. Lovely. I call my mom to vent about the situation. I give up and take an Uber home because I do not want to walk to the Metro station and then walk home. The flat tire feels like another stab in the gut — another thing preventing me from paying off my credit card. $11.00 (plus $2.25 expensed for the Metro)

8 p.m. — I unwind by gaming with a friend. I feed my dog and cats and they get extra love and pets because I am stressed. I practice clicker training with my dog. He doesn’t seem to understand the cue, but he does love getting the treats.

10 p.m. — Bedtime! I am so wound up that it is hard to slow my brain down. I let myself scroll mindlessly on my phone and then put an audiobook on to fall asleep to.

Daily Total: $25.38

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I wake up, take my dog out, and get online to rent a car for the day. I have too many places to go that take too long to get to on public transport. I hop on the bus to get to the car rental place with a Fairlife chocolate milk for the road. While doing so, I call the auto repair shop to let them know my car will be coming in. $69.13

10:30 a.m. — I take my dog to the groomer for a much-needed refresh. When we leave, he looks nice and clean, but upon getting home I notice they did not give him much of a trim at all. I was super specific about what I needed cut as well! I may need to find a new grooming place, but I like the prices at this one. I am also considering investing in a grooming kit and learning to do it myself. $85.00

1 p.m. — I head to Target to pick up my meds from the pharmacy and get a few groceries (Kodiak cakes, cereal, milk, shredded cheese, avocados, lotion, and cream cheese). $52.92

3:30 p.m. — My car is done! I take the Metro to go pick it up after returning the rental. I am relieved that it was not more than $300. I had planned for the worst. I sincerely hope this is the last unplanned expense for awhile, since I had to cut back in other areas to cover this. $224.53 (plus $2.25 expensed for the Metro)

5:30 p.m. — I head a local bakery to pick up some snacks I ordered for this week’s groceries. I am especially excited for the s’mores cookies. $15.00

7 p.m. — I am still feeling really anxious from all the money and car surprises that happened. I decide to clean my whole house to unwind and also to feel better. It helps a lot when things are clean. We also got a lot of rain, so I mop as well to remove all the muddy dog prints.

8:30 p.m. — I eat half of a s’mores cookie and play some video games. I deserve it after two stressful days! I will get my reading in tomorrow — I am trying to read 100 books this year. I am in a good spot because I am already on book number nine.

Daily Total: $446.58

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: $169.19
Entertainment: $0
Home & Health: $221.00
Clothes & Beauty $0
Transportation $313.86
Other $1326.10

Weekly Total Spent: $2027.90

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