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A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $50,000 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.
Today: a customer success specialist who makes $50,000 per year and spends some of their money this week on a Lush shampoo bar.
Currency in USD.
Occupation: Customer Success Specialist
Industry: Technology
Age: 24
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $50,000
Net Worth: ~$500 ($2,200 currently in checking account, $432 in savings, $6,700 in retirement, $10,000 in car equity, but this is minus my debt, below) My partner has a yearly salary of $90,000 + $7,000 worth of bonuses. He and I do not share accounts, but we share certain expenses. How this works is that I usually purchase the item and he Venmos me. We split rent/utilities and groceries relative to our incomes.
Debt: $18,825 ($4,511 in credit card debt, $7,014 in student loans, $7,300 in car loans (no interest, paying back to my grandparents))
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,600
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900 (We pay $2,135 total for a one-bedroom apartment, not counting utilities. I pay $900, my partner pays $1,235 plus however much utilities are.)
Loan From Grandparents: $300
Spotify Duo Subscription: $14.03
Credit Card Debt: $200
Car Insurance: $113.14
College NPR Station Donation: $6
Dollar Shave Club: $26.50
Fitness Program: $12
Phone Bill: $34.05
Dollarbird Spending Tracker: $4.99
Barbell Gym Membership: $75
Student Loans: Currently paused
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?
There was not an expectation for me to attend higher education. In fact, the original plan was for me to join the military as I did not do well on my SATs, then decide after that if I wanted to go to college. My mom has an associate's degree but earned that and her GED later in life. My dad did one semester at the community college I ended up attending, then joined the military. My parents did not have any money saved for me to go to college, nor did I. However, as my grandparents' first grandchild, they had been contributing to a college fund for me since before I was born. I found out about this right before I enlisted in the military and took full advantage of the fund. I attended a community college first, where I received both a Pell grant and scholarships. I absolutely thrived there, then transferred to university and sunk. I didn't receive any scholarships and only had a Pell grant and college fund assistance, neither of which covered my fees outside of tuition, so I also had to take out student loans. I worked three jobs and had a traumatic incident occur, so I just did my best to get out as soon as possible. I graduated in three years with a horrible GPA, but I did it AND earned a double major. I have an A.A. and a B.S.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up, I knew that my dad struggled a lot with money and I knew this by comparing his household with my mom's household, where I had a well-off stepdad. Despite being a part of two different financial worlds, neither party talked with me much about money, which almost led to my arrest due to hot checks (no one told me that floating checks was not okay). After that, my mom took a very strict approach to budgeting my money and kept tight control over it. I didn't get to do a lot of things growing up, such as field trips or summer basketball leagues, because of the cost. I miss these aspects of my childhood often and have a lot of financial trauma that I still hold on to today. My grandparents have done their best to educate me on finances since I graduated high school, but they mostly talk about investing and I just don't feel that I'm at that level of financial understanding yet.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first real job was at 16, working at a fast-food restaurant. I had to get this job to pay for my marching band fees and to buy my first car, as well as any other miscellaneous spending I wanted.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not so much money, but my family's attitude around spending money. I would hesitate before asking my mom for money for a field trip or activity, for fear of setting her off.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, absolutely. My partner and I both have a good income, and realistically, I'll be debt-free in the next 10 years. But it's still something that keeps me up at night and I'm constantly working on my budget and my bank account to make sure I don't overspend.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 19 after I moved out of my grandfather's household and closer to the college I was attending. From high school graduation to a year later, when I moved out, my grandpa paid for rent, utilities, and groceries. I do have a financial safety net in my partner, C., and his mom if I ever need it, as well as my grandparents.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received the college fund mentioned above from my grandparents, and I currently receive $100 every other week from my dad as an 18th birthday present that he “forgot” to stop doing.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — Get woken up by my Fitbit. I'm tempted to wait until my back-up alarm on my phone goes off, but my partner, C., would not be happy about that. Get up and hop in the shower, where I realize my Lush shampoo bar is almost in pieces, so I take a mental note to replace it. Then I go through my morning routine outside of the shower: do my face stuff (The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, followed by Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, and finish off with Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA) while listening to a Headspace meditation. I make it appear like I have defined features, then take my vitamins before rushing out of the bathroom to the living room where I find my backpack packed and ready to go. Thanks, me-from-last-night. I head out the door and begin my 15-minute walk to the office. I stop by Dunkin' to try their Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew ($3.24) before masking up and heading into the office around 8:45. $3.24
12:30 p.m. — I typically work from home on Fridays, but we're at the height of our busy season right now, so I need a few hours for concentrated work. Highly recommend the Headspace Focus playlists for this. I pack up my equipment and head out of the office, making a quick stop at Lush across the street to pick up a new shampoo bar. $15.07
12:45 p.m. — I then go in search of food. I stop by Honeygrow and order a salad with arugula, roasted tofu, crab meat, and a few other items ($17.88 with tip). Then, as I walk home, I get a sudden craving and hop into a nut store to pick up a bag of French burnt peanuts and rye chips ($6.98). As I walk into the store, a kid outside shoves his baby snake in my face. I'm fine with it, as I love snakes, but it's odd. I pet the little boa constrictor, then go inside. The lady at the counter says I'm way too brave. $24.86
1 p.m. — I finally make it back to my apartment and see that our hazelnut coffee syrup has arrived! I drink non-dairy milk, and C. LOVES dairy milk, so it's easier/cheaper for us to buy our own milk and use syrup to flavour our homemade cold brew in the morning, rather than separate creamers. I take apart the package and see that we were actually given vanilla syrup instead of hazelnut. Bummer. I let Amazon know and they give me an account credit so I can purchase the replacement, but of course, they're going to charge shipping. C. Venmos me for it, but I pay a little bit still ($.24). Then, as soon as I've made the purchase, I find out that you can add household members to an Amazon Prime account for free to take advantage of the benefits. That would have been great to know before I made the purchase. I work on adding myself to C.'s Prime account so I never have to pay for shipping again. $0.24
5 p.m. — An afternoon full of meetings and support requests, I close up shop for the week, turn off my work email on my phone, and hang with C. on the couch for a little bit. He decides to go for a short outing to grab coffee and picks one up for me. How sweet. We go up to the roof deck for a little bit to talk about our days and enjoy the sunlight. We discuss going out to eat tonight rather than cooking, but when I check my budget and bank account, I see that Blue Apron charged me twice! It seems that something got messed up when I changed my delivery day earlier in the week, so I'm scheduled to receive two boxes in one week. I clear it up with their Customer Support team, who refunds me for both boxes while still shipping the box we wanted.
6:30 p.m. — We return from the roof deck and I relax for a little bit before cooking while C. goes to work out. We have grilled chicken and creamy lemon mayo with salsa verde potato salad while watching Rick and Morty. This one's a winner! I make C. a chocolate banana smoothie while I eat some French burnt peanuts. C. puts on a relaxing campfire sound on the TV around 10:30 p.m. and we both relax until bedtime. At bedtime, I do my skincare routine (same as above, just add a drop of Virgin Sea-Buckthorn Fruit to the Niacinamide + Zinc) and brush my teeth. Lights out by 12 a.m.
Daily Total: $43.41

Day Two

9:20 a.m. — Time to wake up and go to the farmer's market! C. goes with me, mostly because he wants coffee. We stop at Dunkin' on the way and I purchase a pumpkin iced coffee with oat milk ($3.77). I stop at an ATM to withdraw cash, since most of the producers only accept cash. We finally make it to the farmer's market and C. dips off into a nearby Barnes & Noble. I take my time walking through the vendors and ultimately walk away with a quart of potato and leek soup from the first tent, one pound of ground pork, four large cucumbers, a baby watermelon, two peaches, and two purple bell peppers, oyster mushrooms, hot peppers, a head of Russian red garlic, and a bunch of kale. I meet up with C. to lug our haul home ($29 for my half). $32.77
12:45 p.m. — I'm supposed to meet with a second-hand clothes seller at 12 p.m., but I end up getting home late from the farmer's market, so I send them a quick message to apologize and arrange for 1 p.m. instead. I arrive around 12:45 p.m. and search for the bag of clothes on her front porch, but it's not there. I send her another message, as well as the money I owe her ($55), and wait for about 15 minutes in my car, eating potato salad. By 1 p.m., I decide to run other errands in the area and return later. $55
1 p.m. — I head to a second farmer's market. Here, I grab a bunch of carrots, a bundle of discounted mint, a bunch of kale, a half-gallon of discounted dairy milk, a half-gallon of discounted vanilla oat milk, and a single-serve bottle of chocolate dairy milk (my weakness) ($15). The clothes seller gets back to me and lets me know that the clothes are ready to be picked up now, so I drive back to her house to grab them before stopping into a traditional grocery store to purchase a 24-pack of bottled water for C. He'll reimburse me for half. (I tried to convince him to get on Team Brita! Don't come for me!) ($1.15) $16.15
2:30 p.m. — Lifting time! I have a membership at a local barbell gym and plan to make time for compound lifts every weekend. I also get to break in my new Metcons today! I thankfully have an empty gym to myself, so I don't have to wear a mask. I struggle with setting up for bench press, then fail at said bench press, but give myself grace as I haven't worked out as much this week due to a knee injury and discouragement. I take it slow and surprise myself with how well I do, especially on my squat! After I lift, I pick up C. and we stop in at the ice cream shop connected to our complex so I can buy us some canned coffee. $8.10
6:30 p.m. — C. and I are cooking our own dinners tonight since it's fight night and C. usually prefers to eat something spicy for dinner when watching boxing. I do some recipe research and find an air-fried hen of the woods mushroom recipe on TikTok that looks absolutely amazing. I don't have any hen of the woods mushrooms, but I have oyster mushrooms! I also decide to air-fry some chicken legs while I'm at it. This dinner is soooo good, I love when I can just freestyle in the kitchen and pick my own spices and flavours. C. settles down for fight night and I start working on organizing my loose recipes, as well as typing up a few of my handwritten recipes on my decorated recipe paper. Cooking is one of the few things my mom and I bonded over when I grew up, so I hold it dear to my heart as an adult. C. finishes fight night around 1:30 a.m., and we go to bed immediately.
Daily Total: $112.02

Day Three

10:30 a.m. — I wake up from an odd dream to C. playing on his phone. We both take showers and get ready to go to Atlantic City, NJ for the day, as it's our 18-month anniversary and there's a huge arcade we want to visit. When we go downstairs, I see that our Blue Apron box was delivered! We grab that, go back upstairs, unpack it, then get on the road. On the way there, I buy us coffees and donuts. $9.99
1 p.m. — We get to Atlantic City around 1 p.m. and try to find reasonable parking. We can't find anything cheaper than $25 that isn't a mile away, so we go with that, and C. pays for half ($12). We head into the casino and go straight for the arcade. C. purchases a game card for us, and we go to town! $12
2:45 p.m. — Well, this was easily the most expensive arcade I've ever been to, and very oddly priced. The hype isn't really worth it. We stop in at a burger joint and C. buys us lunch. I pay him back half ($18). I give my dad a call while we wait for our food to check in with him. I call him once a week and really cherish these conversations. I wrap up with him and finish eating my burger. We notice there's a break in the rain on the boardwalk, so we walk a little bit to another casino. There isn't much to see there, so we decide to call it a day and head back to Philadelphia. Since it's relatively early, C. recommends that we go to an arcade/bar and I'm all for it. He tries calling a friend that lives in the neighbourhood to join us, but to no avail. No worries! We stop in at Dunkin' again for a quick refresh ($8.31). $26.31
4 p.m. — We make it to the arcade/bar and realize we need cash to get our tokens. Dang. C. offers to pay for us. We end up with $20 worth of tokens. The place is fun and some women at the bar cheer me on when I beat C. at car racing. We head out around 7:15 p.m.
7:30 p.m. — We stop in at a hot pot place in Chinatown. The server gets into an argument with C. about his allergy to lamb and why we need a divided pot if we are only getting one broth type (I love lamb, so it's a good compromise if we can't get two separate pots). This ruins the mood for a bit, but then we start to perk up once we eat more and stop thinking about her (we think she has a bias against interracial couples since she always gives us trouble when we go). C. pays and I reimburse him for half with tip. $38
9:15 p.m. — Finally home! Annnnd the Sunday scaries start to kick in. I put on my Beats and scramble to get laundry done, prep cold brew, make a pitcher of southern sweet tea, and clean up any remaining dishes before I sit on the couch and catch my breath. C. and I relax for the rest of the night and go to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $86.30

Day Four

8:20 a.m. — How is it already time to wake up?? I did not get a good night's sleep last night, probably from drinking coffee late in the afternoon. I flounder around in bed for about 20 minutes while C. does his morning bathroom stuff, then I finally pull myself out of bed. I see that Instacart has approved me to be a full shopper — hooray! I don't need the additional funds, but I LOVE grocery shopping and I got stuck on financial freedom TikTok last night, and it seems irresponsible to not have a second stream of income with the debt that I have. I fill out their forms, do my morning routine, and get started on work.
11 a.m. — I have a break in my work this morning and start sorting through my budget and our Blue Apron order. My refund for this week's BA mishap comes through, yay extra money! I finish up budgeting then start on Blue Apron planning. I decide to change from the meals to the butcher bundles, as I want more freedom in the kitchen. C. agrees with this decision and I finalize it ($6.07, have a credit on the account). If this goes well, I may look at boxes like Butcher Box instead — good test run! $6.07
12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime. I reheat two chicken legs from the dinner I made Saturday night and make a quick fruit salad using the watermelon, mint, and peaches I purchased over the weekend. I have to cook the peach (I'm allergic otherwise) and let that cool before I can chow down, but once I do, it's quite satisfying. I regret not adding fresh basil to it. Back to work!
5:15 p.m. — Work is done for today. I put away my workspace since I'll be going to the office tomorrow, and now it's time to work out. It's leg day. I finish up around 6:10 p.m. and talk to C. about dinner. We've been playing “Will we or won't we?” with going out for dinner tonight, but due to the impending rainstorm, we decide to stay in and cook. C. cleans up the kitchen for me and I cook glazed beef with brown rice, bell peppers, and green beans. I reserve some for my lunch tomorrow and then serve up the rest. We love it, but definitely not a large enough portion. C. eats the leftover chicken legs we have and I eventually grab a bowl of cereal.
10:30 p.m. — We're so exhausted, so we head to bed early. Skincare routine, retainer, and lights out.
Daily Total: $6.07

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — Up and at ‘em! I feel refreshed this morning and decide that I definitely need to go to bed early more often. I do my morning routine and head out to the office. I'm at my desk by 8:45 a.m.
11:45 a.m. — I'm done with all of my concentrated work for today and I have several meetings in the afternoon, so I decide to go home. My shoes are giving me horrible blisters, so I form them into some type of mule and put my headphones on so I don't hear or notice people judging me. I stop by Dunkin' to grab a coffee for Transit Tuesday ($1.62) and make it home around 12:15 p.m. I put together my work station and get back to work! $1.62
2:30 p.m. — Disaster has struck. I took a short break and now my laptop won't turn on and I have a meeting to get to! I try every trick in the book, but it still won't turn on. I quickly grab my personal laptop and sign in to the meeting, hoping I can get my work laptop to come on afterward.
3 p.m. — Laptop is still not working, so I message my boss to let her know. Of course, 20 minutes after I message my boss, the laptop is working again. I curse the laptop a few times, then get back to work.
5:15 p.m. — I start prepping for my workout, but then get a last-minute work assignment. Ugh!
5:45 p.m. — OKAY. My time. I go to the gym and work on upper body. I get my workout done by 6:45 p.m., then I go back to the apartment to clean up and go out to eat with C. We really want to eat some rice noodles, but on the way, we find out the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and then get into an argument and must find a private spot to finish the conversation. I don't feel the best about this, but we'll see how it goes.
8:30 p.m. — We finally finish talking and we don't break up! We're both really good at voicing when our needs are not being met, but I have trouble with being controlling and C. has issues with being defensive. We all have our faults. We finally seek out food and head to a restaurant that has never done us wrong. C. orders and pays for us and we take it to-go. I hop into a small dessert restaurant around the corner and grab a slice of hazelnut cake ($8.64). We finally get home around 9 p.m. and immediately chow down. $8.64
10:45 p.m. — Time for bed! C. soaks his feet to relax for a bit and I hang out on TikTok, then go do my routine and lay in bed. We're asleep by 11:15 p.m.
Daily Total: $10.26

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I don't want to get upppppp. I roll around in bed, terrorize C. for a bit, and answer a few emails from bed. I finally force myself up because I can't keep working from my phone and take a seat at my desk. Then I realize I haven't brushed my teeth or done any type of routine yet. How gross. I take care of myself, grab a cup of tea, and get to work.
12 p.m. — I take a break from work to eat the soup I bought at the farmer's market last weekend. It's potato and leek, and I add a handful of cheddar cheese to add a bit more oomph. It's SO good, but not enough to keep the hunger at bay, so I grab a slice of watermelon too. Just as I finish up, I get a notification that our new coffee syrup was delivered. Hooray! I run downstairs to grab it… and it's not here yet. I decide to wait until later this afternoon, just in case.
2:30 p.m. — I have a break in work and decide to search for the syrup again. Finally found it and lug it upstairs. The moment of truth, is it hazelnut??? NO. It's not. It's peach! What is going on??? And Amazon won't let me do an easy return like last time, so I hop into the chat with their customer support team, who gives me a refund along with the cost of shipping. I place ANOTHER coffee syrup order with a different company (but still fits my syrup bottle pumps) and hope that they actually send me hazelnut syrup ($9.52 with credit). I ask C. to get rid of the peach syrup because I don't even want to look at it, and he sets it on a table in one of our common areas for someone else to have. Back to work I go. $9.52
5 p.m. — Work is over! I typically go straight to the gym after work, but I'm feeling really bad right now, so I take a nap until 6:30 p.m. to see if that helps. It does, slightly, but I still have a pretty bad headache and lethargy. C. fills up my water bottle for me, and I take a couple of Aleve. Within about 20 minutes, I'm feeling much better. I chalk it up to dehydration, as my water intake hasn't been as good as it normally is. I refill my water bottle and head to the gym for hamstring and ab day.
8 p.m. — Make it back home after some triggering movements at the gym (lying leg curl is a really vulnerable position for me, and I had a lot of reps of that). I jump straight into cooking tilapia and creamy curry sauce with sesame and bok choy rice. C. helps me with the prep to make it go along faster, and as a thank you for his assistance, I add in the farmer's market carrots to the dish. This dish is surprisingly filling and so so yummy. After dinner, I start prepping for tomorrow, then relax on the couch until bedtime. Skincare routine, retainer, and PJs by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $9.52

Day Seven

12:20 a.m. — I wake up in the middle of the night because I keep thinking about my mom. I recently went no-contact with her due to issues in our past and it has been really hard. I get up and sit on the couch for a while, staring out at the moon and reading through past texts with her. Eventually, I drag myself back to bed.
7:40 a.m. — Time to wake up and take a shower! I do my skincare routine, makeup, and take my vitamins, then head out the door for a busy day of work.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime. I take a break from my desk and heat up leftover vegetable rice from last night, along with two small bags of peanuts for protein. I mindlessly scroll through TikTok while I eat and text C. about setting up a time to hang out with some of his friends. Scheduling with them is always difficult, but we get it done! After I finish eating, I head out for a change of scenery and to grab a coffee ($4.81). Back at my desk by 1 p.m. for a jam-packed afternoon. $4.81
3:40 p.m. — My sister texts me about going no-contact with my mom and tells me how proud of me she is. I appreciate it but can't help but feel guilty about it, especially because I did it with no notice, but this is what is best for my mental health and I need to stick to it until my mom gets help. Back to my meetings.
5:20 p.m. — I wrap up the workday and head out to a nearby grocery store to buy a head of lettuce and a half-gallon of milk for C., since his milk has gone bad. While I'm in the store, I also spot a honey and cream Greek yogurt cup that I want to give a try ($8.47). I load everything into my backpack and go to the nearby bus stop since my feet are hurting and I don't want to walk home. The money for the bus is already loaded onto my transit card. $8.47
7:20 p.m. — Workout is done! I immediately wash my hands and get started on dinner. We have caramelized pork and cucumber stir fry, with a cucumber and red onion slaw on the side. Gotta put these five cucumbers to use. It's a yummy dish, but I add a bit too much mirin to the slaw, so it's a little difficult to stomach. C. and I relax on the couch for a bit and watch an old Japanese show about kaiju, and we happen to be watching the episode where a turtle family is attacked. I cry, because how could you not?? Afterward, C. cleans up the kitchen, and I continue to relax until we head to bed around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $13.28
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