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A Week In Jackson, MS, On A $55,000 USD Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Wayfair.
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Today: an oral historian who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a green velvet couch.
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Currency in USD.
Occupation: Oral Historian
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 31
Location: Jackson, MS
Salary: $55,000 + $7,595 (last year's guest lecture fees, honorariums, and transcription jobs)
Net Worth: ~-$256,220 ($14,000 in savings + $2,500 in checking + $5,773 in a brokerage account + 21,780 in my retirement plan + ~$12,350 in house equity - debt)
Debt: Student Loans: $74,623.17 (grad school loan currently in forbearance due to COVID, but my job qualifies for PSLF); Mortgage: $237,650
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,630.84
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,416.71 (I live alone in a recently purchased three-bedroom home; this includes homeowners insurance in escrow.)
Loans: $0 because of COVID deferment
Car Payment: $219
Car Insurance: $300 (I pay six months at a time.)
Utilities: ~$80
Internet: $50
Cell Phone: $0 (I'm on my family's plan and my parents pay.)
Health & Dental Insurance: $93.60
Netflix: $14
Other Streaming Services: $0 (I use my brother's Amazon Prime, my parents' Hulu, my cousin's Disney+, and my friend's HBO Max.)
Tithes: $326 (10% of each paycheck after deductions.)
Retirement: $412.50 (9% contribution pulled directly from my gross pay each month.)
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?
Neither of my parents finished college but it was always assumed I would not only attend but do so on a scholarship. My parents didn't have college funds set up for my brother and me so while I did receive some small scholarships and a hefty amount of financial aid, my private university was particularly expensive. My dad liquidated one of his retirement savings accounts to help pay some of the costs, but some student loans were still necessary. I opened my own checking account in high school and got a job as a writer for a local newspaper the summer before college that provided all of the spending money I used my freshman year. For the rest of college, I worked in the college admissions office, volunteered as a human research subject in the psych department (for small stipends), and took up part-time and summer jobs as a nanny, transcriptionist, and camp counselor. Afterwards, with some help from my parents, I was able to pay off all of my undergrad loans ($30,000) within three years of graduating. I recently completed a master's degree that I paid for using some savings and more student loans.
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Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
When we were kids, my dad created bank accounts for my brother and me at his credit union and taught us about the importance of saving money at a young age. My parents didn't talk to us very much about money directly but did discuss it amongst themselves often enough for me, a very nosey kid, to know that we couldn't necessarily afford a lot of the things other kids were asking for for Christmas. My parents were not financial experts and because money was pretty tight growing up, I developed a bit of a fear of debt as a kid. I eventually took some financial literacy courses in college and learned to take advice from friends and family more knowledgeable about finances.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I had done some babysitting and tutoring for my younger cousins and neighbours as a pre-teen but my first real paycheck came from being an after-school reading tutor at 16. I took this job because four of my best friends were doing it and I thought it would be a good way to start saving money for college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, at times. But, growing up in a fairly religious household, I also believed that God would always provide.
Do you worry about money now?
Not usually, but buying a house has definitely made me more aware of my finances.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I have been financially responsible for myself (aside from my cell phone bill) since college but my parents will probably always be my financial safety net. I know that if I ever lost my job or otherwise became unable to support myself, they would take care of me, not just because they have the capacity, but because they would insist upon it. However, I try to make sure that I am prepared to withstand financial hardship on my own.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and instead of hitting snooze, I turn it off, roll over and fall back asleep. I wake up 30 minutes later to find that I am going to be late for work and jump out of bed. Thankfully, I decided to shower before bed last night so that saves me ten minutes this morning. Before getting dressed, I run to the kitchen to put on the kettle for the thermos of hot water I usually bring to work for my jasmine tea. I put on a sleeveless grey dress, then move on to brushing my teeth and doing my skincare. My daily routine includes a rose water and witch hazel toner spray, The Ordinary serum and daily moisturizer, Neutrogena eye cream, and sunscreen. I don't wear much makeup but I do fill in my eyebrows using a drugstore brow pencil. I pack myself a lunch of a turkey sandwich, a couple of clementines, cherries, potato chips, and a refillable water bottle. I grab the iced coffee I didn't finish yesterday and load up my car to hit the road.
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8:05 a.m. — After a 30-minute commute, (listening to an audiobook, One Blood by John M. Perkins) I arrive to work late but before nearly all of my coworkers and consider it a win. I open up my computer and get to work.
10 a.m. — I switch right from a 8:30 a.m. meeting (that ran over) to a Zoom seminar. I have revisions for a book chapter due in four days, a two-day workshop to prepare for, and an in-person interview session lined up, so there's a lot to be done. While zoning in and out of this long meeting, I finally make the decision to purchase the Eginald Wide Velvet Sofa & Chaise I've been debating on from Wayfair. I've spent a week shopping for a green velvet couch online and have been reluctant to pull the trigger because of the high price tag. I don't usually make many purchases of this size, but I figure it's something I will see and use every day so it's worth it. I also opt to add the three-year protection plan. $1,740.87 yikes! $1,740.87
12 p.m. — I eat my packed lunch while watching YouTube videos. A coworker stops by my office to discuss her proposal for the students' welcome week event next Tuesday. I work on my chapter edits and swing by the printer to pick up some documents. Eventually I wrap up my work for the day and pack up my laptop and research notes since I will be taking a personal day tomorrow to rest and recover from my recent bout with COVID-19.
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5 p.m. — I say goodbye to my coworkers and get started on my commute home, continuing the audio book from this morning. When I arrive, I change into some workout clothes and head to my old apartment to pick up mail and clean it before the lease is up this weekend. The apartment complex also has a great gym so I plan to get one last workout while there.
7:25 p.m. — I head home and cook breakfast for dinner since I forgot to defrost anything. While cooking, I talk to my brother on the phone and watch an episode of Good Trouble. I read in a relaxing bubble bath before doing my nighttime skincare routine, brushing my teeth, and heading to bed.
Daily Total: $1,740.87

Day Two

7:45 a.m. — Even though I'm not going to work today, I decide to get up to mow my lawn before the weather gets too hot.
8:30 a.m. — I fill a huge cup of water to rehydrate and brush off all the excess grass clippings from my ankles before turning on the Roomba to vacuum it all up. I sit down in front of the TV to cool off and I watch an episode of the new Gossip Girl reboot before making myself a smoothie (spinach, banana, frozen mango, strawberries, and blueberries, with coconut milk) for breakfast. When I finish, I hit the shower and change into some Old Navy leggings and a matching sports bra. I climb back into bed to make a grocery list.
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11 a.m. — I head out for my shopping. I get a bunch of groceries and then head home to unload. $126.07
1 p.m. — My car has been due for maintenance for about two weeks but because of my bout of COVID, I had to reschedule. I make it to my appointment right on time. My car lease includes free regular maintenance so there's no charge.
1:45 p.m. — My massage therapist comes by for an hour-long full body massage at a discounted rate of $60, including tip. $60
3 p.m. — After the massage therapist leaves, I realize I haven't eaten lunch and fix myself a BLT with some leftover hashbrowns. I'm feeling super relaxed and decide to just chill for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Around dinner time, I have a video call with one of my oldest friends, T., which she takes while she cooks for her family; on the call, I thank her for the generous housewarming gift I received in the mail yesterday. I do my evening skincare, brush my teeth, take my daily vitamins and melatonin, then change into pyjamas. I climb into bed with my phone and continue reading a few chapters of Diana Galbadons' Outlander series (I'm currently finishing up book two, A Dragonfly in Amber). I'm asleep by 11:30.
Daily Total: $186.07

Day Three

8 a.m. — I sleep in a bit before finally getting up to brush my teeth, shower, do skincare, and dress. I pick a blush cotton blouse, black floral print high-waisted shorts, and pink suede booties that coordinate with a cute straw hat. I then head out the door by 8:40 to join some ladies from my church for breakfast and coffee. I stop for gas on the way. $28.27
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11:45 a.m. — Meeting up with the ladies is such a great way to spend this morning, as it has been so rare for me to meet new people since moving to Mississippi 18 months ago. After breakfast, I head to Costco to spend way too much money stocking up on paper products and other bulk items. On my way home from Costco ($225.60), I stop by the Dollar General to pick up a few items ($14.71), and Goodwill to drop off a donation of clothes that no longer fit. $240.31
1 p.m. — After putting away my purchases, I putter around the house organizing things, snacking, cleaning, and breaking down some boxes from the move. I take a little nap and contemplate staying in for the night again.
6 p.m. — I realize how important it is for me to keep working at making friends, and I meet back up with some of the same ladies from church for a mini-golf outing ($10.75) and a late dinner. I bring some ice water and a clementine in the car to snack on and listen to music with the windows rolled down to help wake me up from my nap. $10.75
9:22 p.m. — I pay for my cheeseburger and fries then drive back home in time to shower and promptly pass out by 10. $12.09
Daily Total: $291.42

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wind up sleeping in and decide to watch church service online, making a breakfast of cereal and almond milk. I find that I have four mosquito bites from mini-golf and decide to spend the day indoors out of frustration. I break down a few more boxes, unload the dishwasher, and walk around the house organizing, reorganizing, and making a list of things I still need for the house.
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12:30 p.m. — I fix myself a snack while I get some homemade chili started in the crockpot. I realize I don't have any canned black beans so over video call my mom talks me through prepping some dried ones. Due to the uptick in COVID cases in my state, I am attempting to limit the number of times I eat out during the week, so cooking big batches of food like this is a great help in that.
4 p.m. — I log into Zoom prepared to host my monthly meeting for Black oral historians, an initiative I started over a year ago, and it goes really well with a lot of generative new ideas.
5 p.m. — I dedicate the rest of my evening to washing, deep conditioning, and twisting my hair. I went natural about ten years ago and I almost always do my own hair instead of visiting salons or hiring a professional because it saves me a ton of money each year.
7:30 p.m. — I have some of my chili with half an avocado and shredded cheese for dinner, and later follow it up with my favourite Ben and Jerry's Americone Dream ice cream. While I eat I watch Manifest.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — I snooze my morning alarm since I will not have to commute into the office today. My boss allows me to work from home on days when I will be spending considerable time presenting on Zoom due to the inconsistent WiFi on campus. I turn off the beans that have been slowly cooking all night and boil some water for tea while unloading the dishwasher.
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8 a.m. — I log into my email and begin my work day by responding to some of the emails that have accumulated over the weekend. Due to my nervous stomach, I slowly drink my tea and nibble on a madeleine, while I prepare for this afternoon's workshop. Luckily I only have to dress nicely from the waist up, so I wear a light blue ribbed sleeveless sweater and pearl earrings with my pyjama pants and slippers.
11:55 a.m. — I log into Zoom early to make sure that my PowerPoint works before my workshop starts.
3 p.m. — Day one of the workshop is a success and I reward myself with a late lunch of chili and a glass of wine.
4 p.m. — I check back into my email inbox to respond to any requests made while I was teaching, then log off at the end of the work day. I do some gardening for fresh air before I eat more chili for dinner on the rug in front of the TV. Clearly, I'm the type of person who has no problem eating the same thing over and over, as long as it's tasty.
10 p.m. — Shower, skincare, brush teeth, vitamins, melatonin, reading in bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:15 a.m. — I wake up on time and brush my teeth, wash my face, and get dressed. I decide on black trousers and a white sleeveless button-down casually tied at the waist with a pair of black pointed-toe leather pumps. I make myself my usual smoothie and grab one of my prepared lunches and a water bottle from the fridge, then head out the door. Before pulling out of the driveway, I bring the trash and some broken-down boxes to the curb.
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8 a.m. — I get to work and fix myself some tea while I review emails. I then head to the campus security office to renew my parking permit and opt to pay extra for a reserved spot close to my building. The lady who handles this is exceptionally rude and accuses me of parking illegally previously, but I rise above and don't justify her remarks with one of my patented snarky comebacks. There is an option to pay all at once or in installments but I decide it'll be easiest to pay the full $200 fee all at once. $200
10 a.m. — I head down to the reading room to assist with the welcome week informational sessions for new freshmen students being led by my coworker.
12 p.m. — I quickly eat my packed lunch of salad with grilled chicken before attending a weekly Zoom meeting with a partner institution working on a grant project. As soon as this meeting ends, I log into the Zoom link for the second part of my two-day workshop. When my workshop is finally over hours later, I have a snack from my desk drawer emergency stash and start wrapping up for the day.
5:30 p.m. — On the way home, I stop at the grocery store for some tortilla chips to eat with my chili and see that fresh-cut Bloom Haus roses are on sale so I grab those as well. When I arrive home from work I immediately begin reheating dinner. $10.69
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6 p.m. — I change into some sweats and eat dinner, following it up with a slice of key lime pie that's technically past the expiration date (it's frozen so it still passes the taste test lol). When I've finished my dessert, I clean up, wash a few dishes, and load the rest into the dishwasher. I then talk to my mother on the phone and watch a few more hours of Manifest before bedtime.
10 p.m. — I don't do my skincare routine but at least remember to wash my face before bed. I read a few pages of Outlander on my phone before passing out.
Daily Total: $210.69

Day Seven

6:15 a.m. — Alarm goes off and morning routine goes down. I put on a coral sleeveless dress with flat sandals and a flowy printed duster. I make a smoothie, grab my salad for lunch, and head to work.
8 a.m. — I park in my new reserved spot, feeling like yesterday's purchase was well worth it. Before settling in at my desk, I take a new coworker to tour the center's newest exhibit in the art building. Afterward, I return to my office, fix tea, finish my smoothie, and start work preparing for today's interview. I complete my list of sample questions and charge the batteries for my camera and audio recorder, install new memory cards, and make sure I have the correct tripod and extra double-A batteries.
10:00 a.m. — I log into a long-awaited telehealth appointment with a psychotherapist in order to get a prescription for antidepressants. I've been in therapy for a few months now and my therapist has recommended this as the best course of action for me.
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11:20 a.m. — It takes me two trips to load my equipment into the car then I head off campus to conduct the oral history interview I've been preparing for. Since COVID, I've had very few opportunities to do any in-person interviewing so I'm a bit more nervous than usual but it turns out better than expected. When I return to campus, though, it's to find somebody parked in my newly reserved spot. Very annoying! I park somewhere else and leave the equipment in my car until after I eat lunch. When the other car leaves, I move my car, then check in with some coworkers before going back to my office to decompress.
5 p.m. — I call my grandparents from the car to check in on them and catch up on family gossip on the drive home. I make a pit stop at Walgreens and pick up the new prescription. It's a generic brand and the price is drastically reduced by insurance. I avoid the temptation to buy candy or nail polish. $13.54
6 p.m. — I arrive home to an Amazon package at the door addressed to the house's previous owner and call my parents for advice on what to do. While on the phone, I fix a snack and clean the kitchen. I heat up more chili with shredded cheese and after hearing the therapist's voice in my head, I decide against alcohol to drink, opting for some cranberry juice instead. I eat on the living room floor in front of the TV again. In between episodes of Manifest, I upload some old interview audio to my computer and finally finish breaking down all the boxes in my garage. Having worked up a sweat in the garage, I have the great idea to take a bubble bath (does anyone else shower before/after bubble baths in order to actually feel clean?).
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10 p.m. — I put on one of my favourite silky nightgowns, brush my teeth, take a melatonin and Tylenol PM to ensure a full night's sleep, and read more Outlander until I fall into sleep's sweet oblivion.
Daily Total: $13.54
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