A Week In Arlington, VA, On An $81,600 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 policy analyst who makes $81,600 per year. This week, she spends some of her money a humidifier.

Occupation: Policy Analyst
Industry: Higher Education Policy
Age: 29
Location: Arlington, VA
Salary: $81,600
Paycheck (2x/month): $2,045

Monthly Expenses
Housing: $1,240. I share a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with my roommate. She has the master bed and bath, so she pays more.
Loan Payments: $0. I'm lucky enough to have gotten a lot of scholarships, and my parents were able to cover the rest.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Cell Phone: $45 to my mom; we split a family plan
Utilities: ~$300 for gas, electric, water, cable, internet, and parking. Since our apartment comes with a free spot, my roommate and I split the cost of the second. I pay upfront, and my roommate sends me half on Venmo.
Dropbox: $99/year
Medical Membership: $200/year
Amazon Prime: $45/year. I share with my brother and need to be careful not to buy anything embarrassing!
Netflix: I use my brother's account.
HBOGo: Use my boyfriend's account.
Yoga Download: $4/month. (I got an amazing deal during their Black Friday sale.)
Calm App: $40/year
ClassPass: I have a five-class pass for $55/month.
Roth 401(k): $680 plus $275 from my employer match
Roth IRA: $250
Travel Savings Account: $185
Emergency Fund: Since I hit my goal, I've stopped contributing.
Transportation: $100/month is taken out of my paycheck pre-tax
HRA: My job generally gives employees $3,000/year toward medical expenses and fully pays insurance premiums.

Day One

7:25 a.m. — I have a mostly regular morning routine. Each day, I wake up, feed the kitty, and drink coffee while watching TV. Then I do physical therapy exercises (I hurt my back last year, and it led to lots of other problems), get ready, and eat yogurt with homemade granola. I make the granola in huge batches, so it lasts me forever. Unfortunately, I burned the last batch, and I'm kind of regretting my strategy of making a ton at a time. After this, I take the metro to work.

12:30 p.m. — It's an unusually meeting heavy day, so I eat lunch at my desk. Today is tomatillo poblano pork with citrus rice, pickled red onions, and a vinegar slaw. It's my attempt at a more interesting taco bowl.

5 p.m. — I've just started using ClassPass because they had a great intro deal. I have a few days left on the membership, and one class to use up, so I look for last-minute availability and see a barre class at 5:30. I bounce out of work at exactly 5 to get there in time. The barre class is super fun but REALLY hard. Luckily, the instructors are good at paying attention to my form. The last time I tried barre, it aggravated my back. This time, they used all sorts of cushions for the ab exercises and it was much, much better. I leave, still shaking from how hard it was. On the bright side, I feel incredible.

6:30 p.m. — I meet my friends a block away from the barre class for our weekly happy hour before our weekly trivia game; this time we go to a pizza joint. Ravenous after barre, I order a fantastic meatball slider, fried calamari, a glass of sangria, and drink about 10 glasses of water. I'm a bit surprised at how expensive this happy hour is, but the food is definitely worth it. $32.50

8 p.m. — Trivia starts at 8 and I nurse one cider the whole night because happy hour was pricey. We end trivia solidly in the middle of the pack, which we are all pretty happy with. I want to take a Lyft home, but I decide to save money and take the metro instead. Once I get out from underground, I try to call my boyfriend. He is a freelancer and has been working early-morning call times all week. It's almost 11 at this point, so we literally talk for two minutes before he hits the hay. Even so, I'm thrilled to hear his voice. We normally hang out almost every night (except for my trivia night because it's very important for me to have friend time), and I'm missing him this week. Once I get home, I cuddle with the cat and watch The Good Place to wind down. The show is friggin' hilarious, so it's not exactly relaxing, but around midnight, I'm finally able to fall asleep. $8

Daily Total: $40.50

Day Two

7:25 a.m. — I wake up super groggy because I think I woke up a lot during the night. Once awake, I do my typical morning routine and go to work.

10:30 a.m. — I eat clementines at my desk and feel like I need caffeine too. Earlier in the week, I brought in a few bags of a new pomegranate, raspberry, and strawberry green tea. Excited, I make a cup and talk about how great it is to both of my coworkers as we wait for a call to start. As hardcore coffee drinkers, they both look confused that someone could be so excited about tea. Nevertheless, we have a very productive call and all leave it in a good mood.

11:30 a.m. — I'm so hungry I can't wait until the normal time to eat lunch, so I eat more of the tomatillo poblano pork rice bowls. After lunch, I am still starving and try to think of a snack supplement. I see that my favorite dessert food truck is in the area and go with a coworker. She asks me to buy her pie, so I'm guessing money is tight for her. I oblige and buy three slices, one for me, one to take back for my boyfriend (this is also his favorite pie shop), and one for my coworker. After I've already paid, I realize that the food truck guy looks like death (sweating, coughing, mentions he's closing the truck despite a long line), and probably has the flu. Since I'm a super hypochondriac, I decide not to risk eating the pie. However, because my boyfriend is fearless, he happily volunteers to eat both pieces so they won't go to waste. I'm super annoyed I spent so much money on snacks and am still hungry. $22

2:30 p.m. — After a few hours of conference calls, I'm still starving. I go down to the mini-mart in my building to get popcorn. When I get back on the elevator, a sweet elderly gentleman tells me he likes my shoes. I'm sure he's just making conversation, but it's nice to get a compliment. I make a mental note to compliment random folks more often. Half an hour later, I'm still hungry. I remember that one of my coworkers (who usually works remotely) keeps Luna bars stocked in her desk for random times like this and makes it known that we are welcome to take one. I take her up on the offer thanking goodness that she is so thoughtful. $1.67

5 p.m. — I have time to kill before my book club (which is just me and two friends who have similar taste in books) meets for dinner. After work, I browse H&M, Gap, and Loft. I don't see anything of interest, so I go to the restaurant about 30 minutes early and luckily they can seat me. I order a sour cider (holy shit it's good!) and wait for my friends to arrive. I order crab-and-corn hushpuppies to share and a personal pizza for dinner. Since I'm still craving pie, I order the key lime pie for dessert. It's actually the size of a small pie and not a slice, so I take most of it home. Dinner takes an hour longer than I thought due to a very slow waitress, but I still metro home instead of Ubering. When I get there, my boyfriend comes over for the first time this week. We are both beat, so we watch The Good Place and go to bed. $54.20

Daily Total: $77.87

Day Three

9 a.m. — At 9, I wake up, drink coffee, eat a yogurt, and go to the Kennedy Center for free Saturday yoga. The class isn't particularly hard but since I'm getting back in shape after my back injury, it's nice to go slow and focus on form.

11:30 a.m. — I rush back home to take my cat to the vet. I quickly heat up an Indian food TV dinner from Trader Joe's. Then, I spend the next 15 minutes chasing her around the house. Every time I get her and put her in her cage, she manages to get out of my grip. Once I've finally gotten her in the cage and the car, the cat is not happy and won't stop meowing. Still, kitty and I must have the same taste in men because the second the very attractive vet walks in, she stops meowing and starts hamming it up, rolling around on the examining room table. I, on the other hand, get nervous. A good-looking dude who is good with my cat? Swoon. With my cat behaving, the vet can give me good news: She is totally healthy and her pooping on the floor (why I brought her in) is likely behavioral. She's also lost an impressive amount of weight since I first started fostering her. (She's an elderly kitty and after three months of fostering — and not a single person coming to see her — I fell in love and adopted her). $71.50

1:30 p.m. — I give the cat a ton of treats at home in the hopes that she'll start associating vet visits with treats. Then I take a long shower and watch a bit of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend while eating the rest of yesterday's key lime pie. By 2:30, the BF comes over and brings with him a spur-of-the-moment McNuggets meal, which he and I split. We usually don't eat fast food, but I'm glad he got it since the TV dinner was not particularly filling.

3:30 p.m. — After eating, we rush to the metro to catch the "Murder Is Her Hobby" exhibition at the Renwick Gallery; it's basically miniature houses of crime scenes used for police training. When we get there, the line is out the door. We eventually get in, and it's super cool. Unfortunately, as I go to take a picture, I realize I don't have my phone. I momentarily worry that I lost it, but my boyfriend sends a Facebook message to my roommate, who lets me know I left it at home. I hate to be one of those people who feels naked without her phone, but I totally do.

6 p.m. — My boyfriend worked on a project that is debuting tonight. To celebrate, all his colleagues are meeting for drinks at a bar. Although I have a friend's birthday event that night, I stop by for a bit to support everyone and say hi. Luckily, I genuinely like all my boyfriend's friends. I get two drinks and split chicken wings with the BF. He pays.

7:30 p.m. — I take the metro home to get my phone before going to my friend's birthday event. It's a good thing I went to get my phone: the original location, a bar with board games, was way too packed, so she moved the party to a nearby burger place. It's not far but metro is slow and I'm already running late. I take an Uber there ($6.30). At the burger place, I order a sour beer, and what turns out to be a gigantic bowl of fries. (I figured it was a small side.) I also get a piece of cake for the birthday girl because everyone else got her drinks already ($27.60). Since none of my friend's friends know each other and my friend is a new momma, we all leave fairly early. I Uber home ($5.48). $39.38

Daily Total: $110.88

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up and drink coffee while I finish watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. When I'm done, my little brother calls, and we catch up for the next hour. We are very close but since he works a lot, we don't get to talk as often as we'd like. After the call, I go to make breakfast, only to realize I have literally no food in my fridge — just milk and the flu pie. I dig through the freezer and heat up a few veggie samosas from Trader Joe's. After eating, I go back to watching TV and cuddle with the kitty. She's abnormally cuddly today, and I'm loving it. When the BF texts me that he has woken up, it takes me an extra half an hour to get to his place because I can't bear to disturb kitty's resting place.

12:30 p.m. — Once I get to my boyfriend's, he gives me a smoothie, and we read The Washington Post's Date Lab. It's our tradition to read and then guess how the daters rated each other, and if they'll go out again. Since we missed last week's, we have two this week! As per usual, I nailed my guesses. An hour later, I'm so hungry I feel nauseous. My boyfriend also has no food at his house, so we go out to a diner that just opened. I order a traditional breakfast (turkey bacon, pancakes, hash browns and toast) and he gets hot dogs. I cover the tab and leave a nice tip because our server was so sweet and the bill was so small. $25.70

3:30 p.m. — After lunch, we go back to my boyfriend's place and watch High Maintenance. Then I head home so I can cook for the week. I go grocery shopping and am clearly craving veggies. I buy salad mix, green beans, onions, broccoli, hummus, a piece of cake (I still have a sweet tooth), yogurt, milk, clementines, blueberries, and a few frozen meals. When I get back, I eat a giant salad for dinner and the cake for good measure. I half-ass the meal prep I planned on doing because I'm not in the mood. I marinate a flank steak in a white balsamic vinaigrette, brine pork chops, steam green beans, and pop a few frozen salmon filets into the oven. I decide to finish cooking tomorrow and spend the rest of the night watching TV. $98.69

Daily Total: $124.39

Day Five

7:25 a.m. — Normal morning routine and then metro to work. Throughout the morning I snack on orange slices and clementines.

12 p.m. — At noon, I head across the street to my weekly physical therapy appointment. My physical therapist is around my age, and we wind up chatting the whole session, so it's actually enjoyable. The session is $100, but I put it on the HRA card that work provides.

1:15 p.m. — When I get back from physical therapy, I quickly eat lunch before my staff meeting.

5:30 p.m. — Once I get home, I force myself to work out. If I sit on the couch, I'm never getting up again. I do 30 minutes on the elliptical machine in my building while listening to the Modern Love podcast. I round out my workout with squats and a few upper-body and ab exercises. After, I cook the meats I marinated yesterday and roast broccoli. For dinner, I eat the broccoli and the leftover salmon. I spend the rest of the evening watching TV and do a meditation session since I'm feeling pretty stressed about work. I briefly chat with my boyfriend before I hit the hay around 11:30.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:25 a.m. — I have my annual checkup this morning and blood will be taken, but I've learned that the nurses can't get any from me unless I eat more than usual. I have my regular coffee, followed by two pieces of naan and hummus. I also do my PT exercises and hop on metro. A few months ago, my doctor and insurance got into a fight, and now my office is out of network. But since I had difficulty finding a new doctor who seemed decent and was available at reasonable timeframes, I'm sticking with my current practice. My work gives us $3,000 towards medical expenses anyway. I did pick a new primary care doctor because my last one left in the hullabaloo. I'm very pleased with the new doctor. She says things like, "I want you to feel like you can always reach out," and "I don't like to let things fall through the cracks." After the appointment and blood work, I'm told I will get billed later.

12 p.m. — For lunch, I eat flank steak with roasted broccoli and a white bean puree. I made the puree a few weeks ago and was smart enough to freeze a few portions for weeks when I wasn't as into cooking. During lunch, I realize I'm out of cat supplies and place an order on Chewy.com for food, litter, a few cheap cat toys, and a new water fountain (my cat refuses to drink water). I also buy a humidifier on Amazon because my bedroom is so dry, and I wake up incredibly congested every morning. I spend the rest of the day working on a big report and snacking on peppers, blueberries, and clementines. $126.59

5:45 p.m. — At home, I eat a pre-made salad from the supermarket for dinner, as well as coconut rice from the freezer. Then, it's time for my therapy session. I see a Canadian therapist via Skype. It was fairly random, but while traveling, my mom started talking to my now therapist and realized she was in school for therapy. My mom had a feeling that we would be a great fit, and it turns out we were. She has helped me through a lot of the health anxiety I developed after I got an undiagnosed tropical illness last year after a trip and hurt my back shortly after. Plus, since she isn't yet licensed and gets paid in Canadian dollars, she's super cheap! (It was so difficult to find an affordable one here since most "good" therapists tend not to take insurance.) After my session, I do a quick, 30-minute yoga class because I feel like I haven't moved much today. It wasn't hard but something is better than nothing! $41.25

Daily Total: $167.84

Day Seven

7:25 a.m. — Typical morning routine: coffee, yogurt, and PT.

10 a.m. — It's the last day of the month, which means it's time to pay my bills. I check my bank account, and my paycheck is $100 higher than usual. I realize the new tax bill must have kicked in. Since the vet mentioned that the cat would need dental work and quoted me $750-$950, I decide to use the extra money for a kitty fund. It's easier for me to keep track of saving for specific things by having separate accounts, and I spend a few minutes looking into the costs of starting a separate savings account at my bank. Since I can get a savings account for free if I have a certain amount in other accounts, I quickly get the account and transfer $200 to start. Then I set up a recurring transfer of $85 a month.

12 p.m. — I try to meet a friend who works in a nearby office building at least once a week for lunch. Since we both tend to bring our lunches, we found an office building that has a basement with tables and is open to the public. However, my friend is super busy at work today, and she asks if we can reschedule. I eat the same steak/broccoli/beans at my desk and later snack on the same peppers/blueberries, clementines. Since I'm still hungry despite all the snacks, I take one more Luna bar from my coworker's stash. I'm worried this is becoming a habit, so I buy a box of my own Luna bars on Amazon and pledge to also share with the office. Bonus: I realize I can have them delivered to work. No schlepping for me! $12.97

6 p.m. — I get home and open my mail. One letter is from the vet with the name of a pheromone spray I can use to try stop the cat from pooping on the rug. I buy the spray on Amazon and pray that it works. I'm beyond tired of picking up poo every day. The other letter is from Chase, confirming that I applied for the Sapphire Reserve. It has an amazing sign-up bonus and I have two international trips planned this year, including one to a close friend's wedding. The card has a $450 annual fee but comes with a $300 travel credit, lounge access, three-times the miles on all the spending, and about $700 worth of travel from the sign-on bonus. I'll probably cancel this card next year, but after doing a lot of research about the card and how applying would impact my credit score, I decided it was worth it. I call to say I did apply and I'm approved on the spot. $16.85

6:30 p.m. — I do a yoga and barre combo workout at home, and around 7, my boyfriend comes over for dinner. I reheat the brined pork and serve it with green beans, cranberry sauce I had in the freezer. I'm feeling super achy today, so the boyfriend generously gives me a long massage. Then we watch a few episodes of Episodes (yes, that's the name of the show) and head to bed.

Daily Total: $229.82

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following theme:

Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

Tell Us Your Salary Story: It's one thing to look at your current salary in isolation, and quite another to understand how it has ebbed and flowed over time. We want to talk to hear about your salary trajectory over time, from the biggest drops to the biggest increases — and in honor of Black History Month, we're keeping an eye out for submissions from black women in February! If you've been in the workforce for at least 10 years, email moneystories@refinery29.com.

Show Action Button
Load more...