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A Week In Houston, TX, On A $60,050 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 legal assistant who makes $60,050 per year and spends some of her money this week on a J. Crew blazer.
Currency in USD.
Occupation: Legal Assistant
Industry: Construction/Real Estate
Age: 35
Location: Houston, TX
Salary: $60,050 + $4,000 annual bonus
Net Worth: $136,239.83 ($3,299.34 in checking/savings, $18,721 in 401(k), $127,994.55 in home equity, $6,240.88 in car, $2,247 in investments, minus debt.)
Debt: $154,379.39 ( $132,105.45 left of my mortgage, $19,047.12 in a car loan, $3,226.82 of credit card debt.)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,895.85
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,211.16
Car Note: $395.18
HOA: $238.72
Church Donation: $100
Car Insurance: $116.76
Savings Transfer: $125
Electric: $41.48 (HOA pays for water.)
Cell Phone: $112.21
Internet: $70.52
Curbside Compost Service: $16.24
Streaming Services: $29.20 (Netflix and Hulu — I get HBOMax, Disney+, and Amazon from my friends and brother.)
Apple Storage: $2.99
Chewy Auto-Ship: $44.32 (Dog food.)
Credit Card Payment: $298 (This is a balance transfer that I'm paying off; my usual credit card balance is paid in full every month.)
The Sculpt Society: $99 annually
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?
Yes. Always. My parents immigrated here and went to college in the states. I knew from a very young age that college would be expected and I never thought anything different could be possible. I received scholarships for my first two years of college. My parents graciously covered the rest of my tuition and expenses.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Some. The biggest lesson they pushed was to live below your means. My dad works in finance and offered to teach me about stocks and investments when I was younger. However, my immature teenage self didn't have the foresight or interest to take it seriously.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at my mom's store when I was 13. My first official job was as a hostess at an Italian restaurant when I turned 18. I grew up in a very strict household and I understood at an early age that freedom comes with the ability to support yourself, so I started working as soon as I could. I only made enough for spending money but knew that work experience would be beneficial.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. We lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood and never went without. I wasn't able to have a lot of the nice brands or things that other kids had, but I just figured my parents were being frugal. I think there was a time where money was tight because my dad was laid off from his job, but he ended up finding something better, and my parents didn't really let us know.
Do you worry about money now?
In a sense, yes. Mainly because I don't have an emergency fund which is something I'm working on now. I also went through some financial trauma in my last relationship. Prior to this job, I was self-employed and in a toxic relationship where I was financially supporting both of us (also pretty sure he was stealing from me). After longer than I would like to admit, I accepted that I wasn't built for entrepreneurship, ended the relationship, and was left with a mountain of credit card debt. My parents helped me out of the financial hole and I am so grateful. After I was no longer supporting anyone else and my new job proved to be stable, I went through a bit of a self-care spending bender which didn't leave much for saving. I've spent the last six months sticking to a strict budget and am starting to think more about investments and putting money aside for my future. It's sad that it's taken 30+ years but better late than never!
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially stable at around 24. When I graduated from college, it was at the height of a recession so jobs were scarce. It took me about a year and a half to find a position with a semi-decent salary. It didn't pay a lot, but it was enough for me to move into my own apartment and support myself.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents graciously paid for my college education, helped me out of some credit card debt, and helped me with the down payment on my house. I definitely acknowledge that I am beyond privileged in having that support and I don't take it for granted.

Day One

6:40 a.m. — My first alarm goes off and I'm actually pretty awake (this never happens). It's about 45 minutes early and the bed feels safe so I stay put for another 20 minutes. Once I'm up, I listen to the latest episode of the U Up podcast while I brush my teeth and do my AM skincare routine: Cetaphil cleanser, No. 7 eye cream, The Ordinary vitamin C serum, a random moisturizer I got in a subscription box, and Neutrogena SPF. Makeup consists of Wet n' Wild foundation, Sephora powder foundation to set, TheBrowGal brow powder, Morphe bronzer for eyeshadow and contour, Maybelline eyeliner, L'Oreal Lash Paradise mascara, and Milani blush. I throw on a white silk button-up and cropped gray trousers that tie at the waist with tan pumps.
8 a.m. — I'm running about 15 minutes early so I take my time feeding/letting the dogs out (I have two, S. and A.). I put a few drops of CBD oil in S.'s food for her bad knees — it's made a big difference and I plan to keep up with it. Before I leave, I pour myself some cold brew with soy milk and a Splenda and grab my food for the day. I'm at the office five minutes earlier than usual but also right on time at 8:30.
11 a.m. — It's not my lunch break yet but I get hungry early when I'm at the office. I eat the wrap that I brought, which is a spin on Tinx's Erewhon collard greens wrap (turkey, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, dijon, avocado, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes, and my own personal twist, brie, all wrapped up in collard greens) and it's SO GOOD. Trust.
12 p.m. — The workflow is at a medium today so I'm able to update my budget spreadsheet. I also use it to plan what I want to spend a portion of my bonus on (coming later this month) and I regularly edit the list/price check online. One of the items I've been eyeing is a J. Crew blazer and I see that there's a friends and family sale going on right now. It's a few weeks earlier than I was planning to buy so I check to see when the sale is supposed to end and put a pin in it for now.
1 p.m. — Now it's officially my lunch break. I use the time to go home and check on the pups and love on them. Before I go back to work, I ask them if they want to go outside to potty and they barely bat an eye. As they've gotten older, the frequency with which they need to go has dramatically decreased. I could skip going home at lunch all together but past experiences have shown that they strongly dislike that and will likely show their displeasure by tearing up my things. The puppy breaks are also an amazing boost of dopamine so I'm not complaining.
2:45 p.m. — Not much work comes through the pipeline after lunch so I use the time to take surveys to earn points for gift cards.
3:45 p.m. — After doing some billing, submitting reimbursement requests, and scanning mail, I start to get hungry again. I eat the snacks I brought (grapes, cheese cubes, and leftover charcuterie) while I take an internet break and do mindless Buzzfeed quizzes.
4:45 p.m. — Quitting time! When I'm home, I feed the dogs and let them outside to do their business. I manage to do a workout from The Sculpt Society (I have the $99 yearly membership) and holy mother forking shirtballs, I'm sweaty! Thank god it's a hair wash day. After showering, I make a dinner of tacos with leftover Trader Joe's chicken shawarma, H-E-B keto tortillas (from their bakery section — 13/10 recommend them, so perfectly chewy), shredded lettuce, onion, tomato, Trader Joe's tzatziki, and Cholula hot sauce.
9 p.m. — The rest of the evening is spent prepping my lunch and snack for tomorrow, cleaning up the kitchen, and watching Alice in Borderland (think Squid Game but darker). I take the dogs on a walk and get ready for bed. My PM skincare routine consists of removing makeup with Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm, Cetaphil cleanser, Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner, The Ordinary niacinamide serum, The Ordinary Buffet serum, Neutrogena Hydro-Boost Gel, InfiniteAloe moisturizer, and Aquaphor on the lips. I read In Another Light until I fall asleep around 11.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:20 a.m. — After letting my first few alarms go off I finally get up. Again I listen to the U Up? podcast while I get ready. I have no desire to give up my singledom at the moment but I find this podcast to be hilarious and it often reinforces why I don't want to put myself through the anxiety of dating. Same skincare and makeup routine as yesterday. After a couple of outfit changes, I settle on a grey sweater half-tucked into black trousers with a black belt and black boots. It's kind of giving me TV detective vibes and I'm not mad at it. I feed and let the dogs out, grab a cold brew and my lunch/snack, and listen to a new audiobook, Rock Paper Scissors, on my drive to work.
8:20 a.m. — I'm at the office and catching up on some texts from my friend, L. She wants to plan my birthday which I hesitate to do because it's not for another four months!! I am honestly not that big into my birthday, but I recently mentioned using it as an excuse to do a girls road trip and I suppose that takes some planning in advance. I tell her I'm grateful to have a friend who doesn't mind taking the reins and I give my input on a few ideas. It's looking like a trip to Austin with a Hill Country BBQ & Wine shuttle. The whole thing might sound a bit cheugy (am I using that right?) but I'm always down for Salt Lick BBQ — IYKYK.
10:50 a.m. — The morning is semi-slow with a few minor issues to address. I'm already starting to get hungry so I grab my lunch (same as yesterday) from the breakroom.
1 p.m. — I go home to check on the dogs as usual. While I'm home, I get a text from my attorney asking me to call him. I respond by saying I can call him when I'm back from lunch as I'm not by a computer and also because, boundaries.
3 p.m. — It gets semi-busy after I get back to the office and now I'm hungry again. Same snack as yesterday, I'm a creature of habit.
5 p.m. — Home from work and the dogs happily greet me. After feeding them/letting them out, I do a TSS workout and shower. For dinner, I cook up some ground beef for tacos while I enjoy a glass of wine and listen to my audiobook. I use the same fixings from yesterday's tacos (including the tzatziki since I don't have sour cream) and add jalapeños. Bomb. I eat while watching Bob's Burgers and then an episode of Alice in Borderland — I'm jumpy and screamy, which makes A. jump up on the couch. He tries cuddles up once I've settled down.
8:30 p.m. — After prepping tomorrow's lunch/snack, I walk the dogs and then get ready for bed. My skincare routine is the same except I swap the Buffet serum for The Ordinary retinoid serum (I alternate days). I also decide at the last minute to curl my hair since it's all bent out of shape from being in a bun during my workout. Then it's reading until I pass out around 10:45.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I've let all of my alarms go off and the last one forces me out of bed. I can hear the rain pouring outside. My morning routine is quick and I throw on a black and tan sweater with skinny black pants and black boots. I take out the dogs then grab the usual coffee, lunch, and snack and head out.
8:35 a.m. — Even though I left the house on time and it's only drizzling when I leave, the traffic is heavy. Luckily Waze pulls through and I make it to the office at a reasonable time.
9 a.m. — I hear a couple of assistants discussing the Rittenhouse trial. I should note, I don't really socialize much at work. Luckily there is absolutely no pressure to do so here. Don't get me wrong, I'm friendly and always happy to help but this is a largely conservative firm and I have figured out that some of my coworkers don't share my values. I also hate small talk and have a mild case of social anxiety which doesn't help. My coworker later stops by my desk to ask my opinion and I am honest in my answer. It becomes clear that we get our information from very different sources so I don't want to engage further as there is clearly no point. I switch the conversation to something else while I silently work out my frustration and make note of it for my next therapy appointment.
5 p.m. — The rest of the workday goes as expected but it really drags. Finally home and grateful to be happily greeted by A. and S. after a long and slightly annoying day. I take care of them first and then eat a quick meal of tacos using leftover ingredients. I'm visiting my mom around 7 so I kill time by watching an episode and a half of Alice in Borderland.
7 p.m. — My mom had major surgery this past weekend and since I wasn't feeling well at the time (I took a COVID test and it was negative), I felt it was better to postpone my visit. I head over to see her for a bit and what was meant to be a quick visit turns into a two-hour conversation about investments with my dad. I regret not showing more interest in the past because I could have really benefited from his expertise. I was a rebellious teenager, which strained my relationship with my conservative Baptist parents. I often don't feel like I fit in with my family. At least not in the way my brother does. If there ever was a black sheep in the family, it is me, so it is nice to have these moments now as an adult.
9 p.m. — I have plans to work remotely (yay for WFH Fridays!) from their house tomorrow to help my mom, so before I leave, I preemptively set up my laptop and check the connection so I don't have to think about it in the morning.
9:45 p.m. — When I'm home, I take the dogs on a walk, watch the last episode of Alice in Borderland (so many questions), and get ready for bed. Pass out around 11:45.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:20 a.m. — I'm up slightly earlier than usual this morning since my parent's house is farther from me than my office. The morning routine is the same. I put on a cream sweatshirt, black sweatpants, and black tennis shoes. I plan to come home in the middle of the day to eat and check on the pups so I don't bother bringing lunch with me, just cold brew.
10:45 a.m. — My attorney has been awfully needy for a Friday. His deposition was canceled last minute and it's like he's decided to catch up on ALL the work while he's at the office. In between tasks, I confirm a coffee date with my friend, B., for tomorrow morning.
11:30 a.m. — Finally I have a moment to breathe and I start thinking about the J. Crew blazer again. It might not seem like much but I've been so conscious of my spending lately, it pains me to make any purchases over $100. However, I remind myself that I'm investing in higher quality rather than quantity and there's the added bonus of a 40% discount, so I do the thing. While I'm thinking about money, I also remember the conversation I had with my dad last night and email a request to increase my 401(k) contribution to 6% (the max amount my company will match) starting January 1st. $148.09
12:30 p.m. — My mom has been pretty self-sufficient all morning and only needs my help with minor things. She says her pain level is much lower than yesterday which is great. I make sure she's good before I go home for an hour.
1:10 p.m. — There's traffic on the freeway for some reason and it takes me almost double the time to get home. For lunch, I make a breakfast taco with two eggs, bacon, pepperoncini, mayo, and hot sauce (don't knock it until you try it). I'm just now realizing that I've been eating some sort of taco or wrap for every meal since Monday. The drive back to my mom's house is much quicker.
3:30 p.m. — Not much to do work-wise for the rest of the day so I help mom make Chinese fishcakes and she gives me some to take home. We chat for a bit until the conversation starts to turn a little too preachy and I leave around 5.
5:30 p.m. — I eat the fishcakes for dinner because I'm lazy. Also getting tired of tacos. I start a new Netflix movie but I'm not into it and pause halfway to make a batch of peanut butter brownies while I listen to my Rock Paper Scissors.
9 p.m. — Feeling exhausted for some reason so I walk the dogs and get ready for bed. I scroll Instagram until I fall asleep around 11.
Daily Total: $148.09

Day Five

8 a.m. — I wake suddenly and sit straight up with the realization that I forgot to set an alarm. I'm not meeting my friend until 10:30 and I tend to wake up naturally early but I don't trust myself. Since I'm not quite ready to leave the bed yet, I set my alarm to 8:45 just in case I happen to fall back asleep.
8:30 a.m. — Nope. Didn't fall back asleep and A. keeps staring at me, hinting that it's time to get up. After I feed the dogs and let them out, I get ready for the day. Same skincare and makeup as usual. I touch up my hair with lots of dry shampoo, a curling iron, and texture spray. OOTD is a cropped black tee, black leggings, and a grey/black shacket. I accessorize with a chunky gold ring, black beanie, black Adidas shoes, and a grey fanny pack worn across my body.
10:20 a.m. — I arrive at the coffee shop early but so does B. Since she ordered her coffee already, I go in to order a cortadito cubano and meet her back outside to sit on the patio. The weather is chilly but sunny and we talk for about an hour and a half about family, plans for the future, work, life, death, all the things. $4.98
12 p.m. — Before I head home, I do some grocery shopping. Each week I plan out my meals and use the H-E-B app to help me stay within my budget. Some items are cheaper at Trader Joe's so I stop there first. At TJ's I pick up sliced turkey meat, feta, sweet potatoes, a bag of small avocados, garlic, wine, and salmon ($30). Then it's H-E-B for grapes, half & half, cream cheese, cherry tomatoes, coffee, pasta, sliced pepperoncini, and tampons ($18.37). $48.37
1 p.m. — I also notice I'm low on gas so I stop to fill up. $25.36
1:30 p.m. — Finally home and I make lunch with the last of the leftover tacos. I eat while I start the new season of Gentefied on Netflix.
3:45 p.m. — I normally work out on the weekdays and leave my weekends free but I skipped the last two days and I'm feeling antsy with no big plans ahead of me this weekend (being a hermit to avoid spending money). I do a TSS workout and some headstand work. It's been a random goal of mine to master a headstand and after a few months of working against the wall, I'm able to hold a freestanding one for about a minute or so. I shower and wash my hair.
5:15 p.m. — I text with B. about stuff we forgot to talk about earlier while I make tomato feta pasta, and I enjoy a glass of wine. I crave this pasta at least once a month and it's so easy to make.
9:45 p.m. — Watched The Voyeurs on Amazon and holy crap I did not expect that twist! I have a bit of FOMO at the moment watching Instagram Stories. I remind myself that self-discipline is necessary after all the fun I had in my 20s. I go into hibernation mode with my weighted blanket and watch the Generational Wealth documentary on Amazon (fitting) until I go to bed around 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $78.71

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up in a weird mood and scroll through Instagram for about half an hour. Of course, it makes me feel worse. I get up because the dogs need me and when I see them (they slept downstairs last night) it instantly boosts my mood. Hot coffee is made and I watch a couple of episodes of Gentefied while I ease myself into the day.
11:30 a.m. — I make scrambled eggs, bacon, and Trader Joe's hash browns for lunch. Reminders start popping up on my phone to check the mail, wash the dogs' bowls, and clean the floors.
3:30 p.m. — Eventually I get restless and do all the chores. Then I spend too long scrolling Instagram. I can feel it affecting my mental health and think I need to unplug for a week.
4 p.m. — I'm hungry again so I eat the leftover pasta from yesterday and pour myself a glass of wine.
5 p.m. — The avocados I bought yesterday are very green and rock hard even after storing them in a paper bag. I need one for tomorrow's lunch and according to YouTube you can speed up the process by wrapping it in aluminum foil and sticking it in the oven. I'm desperate and I figure an air fryer would be the same thing. It doesn't work and I basically waste a whole avocado. There's another hack where you bury it in some flour for 24 hours. I only have nine hours and hope it's ripe enough in the morning. I already constructed the rest of the wrap so I cover it and stick it in the fridge.
9:45 p.m. — I spent the rest of the day on the couch watching movies, eating popcorn, and cuddling with the pups. Not too bad for a Sunday. My friend sends me a cute video announcing that her son is going to be a big brother! I feel simultaneously ecstatic for her and uncertain for me. I don't want kids but it makes me wonder if I will ever have another big milestone (I also don't think I want to get married). Go to bed around 10:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:50 a.m. — After getting up and going through my usual morning routine, I go to check on the avocados. I can feel that they're a tiny bit better but still not enough. I debate just buying my lunch today but decide to throw in more turkey meat and call it a day.
11:15 a.m. — Work is relatively slow so I take a lot of internet breaks between tasks. I eat my wrap and it's a bit salty without the avocado to balance it out. Really hoping the flour trick works so I'll have some for tomorrow.
1 p.m. — Home to see the pups as usual. I take a much-needed 20-minute nap with A. on the couch.
2 p.m. — My energy is very low today so I grab a Coke Zero from the break room fridge along with my usual snack of grapes, cheese, and charcuterie.
4 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is spent researching recipes and planning my grocery list. I want to try Smitten Kitchen's pecan pie recipe which calls for golden syrup instead of corn. The reviews say it makes a big difference and I check a few grocery apps to see if any stores near me have it in stock. I'm not having much luck so I order it on Amazon. $8.17
6 p.m. — For dinner, I make pan-seared salmon, creamed spinach, and roasted sweet potato. I listen to a new audiobook, Normal People, while I cook. I would have preferred to read this one but the audio version became available on my library app first.
7 p.m. — Burying the avocados in flour actually worked! They're still a bit firm but ripe enough to use and better than the ones I only stuck in a paper bag. I make the usual wrap for tomorrow's lunch — still not sick of it, which is amazing.
8:45 p.m. — Two of my friends FaceTime me and we catch up for a bit. I also watch a few episodes of random shows: Bob's Burgers, The Simpsons, and The Real Housewives of Potomac. Then I walk the dogs, do my nighttime routine, and start reading a new book Dark Matter until I fall asleep around 10:45.
Daily Total: $8.17
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