Money Diaries logod

A Week In Virginia On A $80,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks.
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 Licensed Clinical Social Worker who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino.
Currency in USD.
Occupation: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Industry: Behavioural Healthcare
Age: 30
Location: Virginia
Salary: $80,000
Net Worth: -$70,400 ($5,000 in an IRA, $2,600 in my 401(k), $18,000 in home equity which I own with my husband, minus debt. I used to have more, but I had to take some out for a hardship during the pandemic. My husband and I keep our finances separate and pay the bills about 60/40 since I make more than he does; my husband receives a stipend of $30,000 through his PhD program. We have a joint account that we both contribute to for paying bills, but keep our spending money in our own accounts.)
Debt: $80,000 in student loans ($70,000 on pause due to COVID), $10,000 in credit card debt, $161,000 left of our mortgage, $6,000 left of my car loan
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,500
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $626 for my half (we pay a total of $1,252)
Utilities: $300
Childcare: $1,500
Streaming Services/Subscriptions: $90
Car Insurance: $285
Home Security System: $15
Home Warranty: $50
Car Payment: $369
Credit Card: $366
Student Loans: $257
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, I was never given any other option. I went to college and got a master's degree. My husband is currently working on his Ph.D. I took out student loans, won scholarships, and my parents helped out. My husband gets a stipend and tuition assistance because he works in a lab as part of his doctoral program, so school isn't costing him anything right now.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents advised me to save and to never get a credit card, but that was pretty much the end of the conversation. I have credit cards and do not currently have savings other than my retirement, so clearly I didn't heed their advice all that well. It was taboo to discuss the household finances and my dad still gets uncomfortable around discussions of money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was when I was 17, between my junior and senior year of high school, scooping ice cream at a local place. Previously, I had worked for my dad here and there and babysat. I did it to have spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. Although my dad didn't discuss it, I could always tell when money was tight and it made me anxious.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. Until my husband finishes his degree, things are very tight.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I got off my parents' cell phone plan and insurance at 26, so I guess I'd say then. Though they still help out from time to time, as do my in-laws. If a big emergency happened, I'd have to withdraw from my retirement accounts or rely on them for help.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — My alarm has been going off since 6 a.m., but I ignore it until my son wakes me up. When I hear him crying on the monitor, I go to his room to get him out of his crib. As soon as he sees me, he starts to smile. I know it will be a good Monday. I bring him back to my bed to nurse and snuggle before we start our day. My husband wakes up and we have some family cuddles, then I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, and apply serum and moisturizer, change the baby's diaper, and head downstairs for breakfast.
7:30 a.m. — My son has Cheerios, a banana, and peanut butter toast for breakfast. I have half of a banana and a homemade iced coffee with French vanilla creamer. I sing nursery rhymes to my son while I pack our lunches.
9:30 a.m. — After dropping my son off at daycare, I stop at Wawa. I have a coupon for a free Refresher, so I choose a mango dragonfruit green tea one. It's a little sweet for me, but I still drink the whole thing. I also grab some cheddar cheese cubes and a bag of pretzels to have for a snack later. $3.46
12 p.m. — I take my lunch break. I brought a peanut butter banana sandwich, an apple, a yogurt, and some Sun Chips. I also eat the cheese and pretzels from earlier. I've had a quiet day and could use the energy boost, so I make a cup of hot green tea.
5 p.m. — I've spent my afternoon at a virtual conference. It was informative. I'm a therapist, so I have to stay on top of my continuing education and am constantly learning and growing within my field. After the conference, I head out to get my son from daycare and go home.
7 p.m. — My husband has dinner ready when I got home. He used a recipe from a meal kit. We've been loving those lately. Normally, I'm the cook, but ever since we had our son it's harder for me to find the time. My husband usually gets home before me, so he's been using meal kits to cook our dinner. He likes them because he loves to follow a recipe, and I never use recipes. Tonight, it's pork tacos. I put my son to bed around 7, then clean up the kitchen, take a shower, apply moisturizer and vitamin C, lotion my body, put on pyjamas, and lounge on the couch with my husband. We watch a few rerun episodes of The Office and I scroll on my phone. I'm in bed by 10.
Daily Total: $3.46

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — Every morning is pretty much the same. I get up when my son does, get him ready for daycare and myself ready for work, and we head out.
1 p.m. — I almost never eat fast food, but I'm craving a burger. I use the app to order a Dave's combo from Wendy's and go to pick it up. $5.78
3 p.m. — Today I have a home visit with a client and I bring my intern with me. On the way back, I treat us both to Starbucks. I get a Kiwi Starfruit Refresher and she gets a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. I love that the fall drinks are back, but I'm allergic to cinnamon so no pumpkin spice for me! $9.75
7 p.m. — My parents are arriving tomorrow for a visit. After a dinner of fried chicken sandwiches made by my husband, I do some last-minute cleaning then try to get to bed by 10:30. I have a hard time sleeping because I'm excited. My entire family hasn't been together for almost three years (thanks, pandemic) and we're finally all getting together for my son's first birthday.
Daily Total: $15.53

Day Three

6 a.m. — I get up early today in anticipation of my parents' arrival. They are making a 10-hour drive to be here. My youngest brother is coming with them and my middle brother will fly in later this week. I can't wait! I do some tidying in the kitchen, drink a coffee with creamer, and eat some watermelon while I wait for them to arrive. When they do show up, they have donuts and a caramel macchiato for me! We all exchange hugs (yay for vaccines) and catch up for a little bit, but then I have to leave for work. There is some debate about whether my son should go to daycare or stay with my parents and we ultimately decide he should go to school today so they can rest. I stop at Starbucks and get a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino on the way to work. $5.78
12 p.m. — I decide to order sushi for lunch. My order of sweet potato tempura maki, eel avocado maki, a house salad, and miso soup comes to $26 and I have it delivered to my office. While I eat, I call my husband so we can discuss our options for when we travel for my grandfather's funeral in a few weeks. We have to figure out where our dog will stay. We decide she should stay with our regular sitter, so I book her through Rover for $96.30 for three nights. $122.30
6 p.m. — I get home and my house smells amazing. My brother made kale soup for dinner. My son is extremely fussy and tired, so we pretty much skip his dinner and I put him to bed before digging into a bowl. After dinner, my mom and I clean up and we watch football as a family before each wandering up to bed. I fall asleep around 11.
Daily Total: $128.08

Day Four

7 a.m. — Today, my parents want to babysit and I can't argue with them. The morning is a little chaotic with three extra people in the house, and I leave a little late. I want to avoid stopping for coffee today so I make a point of making iced coffee with creamer at home. I also have a slice of lightly toasted Portuguese sweet bread for breakfast.
11:30 a.m. — Today for lunch I have some leftover soup, as well as a salad I made at home with local greens, couscous, and feta cheese. I put the soup and the salad in similar-looking containers and when the office kitchen began to smell like vinegar, I realized I had accidentally microwaved my salad! Facepalm! My boss is on her way out to Costco, so I give her my card and ask her to grab me a Caesar salad. I feel so dumb, but at least I still have my delicious soup. $7.77

3 p.m. — The salad is huge, so I only eat about a quarter of it. I'm still hungry, but I don't want more salad, so I make a bag of microwave popcorn. We keep the office stocked with snacks and seltzers, which is a nice perk.

6 p.m. — I arrive home, and my dad has made another Portuguese specialty for dinner: caciola, Portuguese-style pulled pork. I have telehealth clients tonight, so I won't be able to eat until after I see them. My first two clients are no-shows and I sit at my kitchen table online shopping. My uncles each sent me some money for my son's birthday — I have $100 to spend, so I buy a pair of customized Converse low-tops with his name on them, a toy drum set, and a musical book. The total comes to $106.53 and I pay the difference. This also gives me time to eat dinner. I see my third client, then shower and spend about 30 minutes watching TV with my family before I go to bed at 10. $6.53

Daily Total: $14.30

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I have a super-busy day today. I let my mom take most of the morning baby duties so I can get out of the house as quickly as possible and make it to a 9 a.m. meeting. That is followed immediately by a 9:30 meeting. When that's over, I run across the street to Publix for some chicken and croutons to top the rest of my salad from yesterday. I also take out $40 in cash for my son's birthday cakes. I eat the salad super fast before heading out. I have a half-day today! $8.59
12 p.m. — My parents and I have a meeting with a local photographer. Last week, I won a social media giveaway for a free photoshoot and print and we took the pictures earlier this week. The photographer wants to meet with us to look through the photos. I know there will be a sales pitch, so I ask my dad to come with me. He's better than I am at setting boundaries and I know I can't afford this photographer's work without winning it. On the way to the studio, I stop for gas and fill one of my tires, which looks low. $31.31
2 p.m. — The photos are absolutely amazing and my dad ends up spending $1,000 on photographs. He tells me, "Merry Christmas," but he got plenty for my mom and himself as well. We spend two hours at the studio looking through photos. The photographer is a really nice guy and we socialize a bit too. He has homemade chocolate chip cookies out and my brother and I have two each. I share a bite with my son. He spends the two hours walking around charming everyone.
3 p.m. — After the photography appointment, my mom and I go shopping. But first, we stop at Panera. I have a half sandwich and soup and an iced green tea, and my mom has a whole sandwich; she also pays. My son sleeps through our late lunch in his stroller. I don't buy anything while out shopping, but my mom buys my son a ton of clothes, a pair of shoes to celebrate his new skill of walking, and a toy. She loves to spoil her only grandson!
5 p.m. — I have a volunteer position as an advisor for a chapter of my sorority at the local university. They have an event tonight and my mom and I cut it really close with our shopping trip. My mom and I rush home, I change, then rush to the event. I am a little late, but the women are fine with it. After the event, I come home and the house smells amazing once again. My dad has made one of my favourite dishes; his famous spicy chicken cacciatore. My other brother is now here too. After dinner, we drink wine and talk about my brother's upcoming wedding plans. My husband gives the baby a bath and puts him to bed.
9 p.m. — While wrapping presents, I realize we are out of tape. I don't feel like going to the store, so I order some on GoPuff. Since there's a minimum charge, I ask everyone if they'd like any dessert. My dad, brothers, husband, and I each get a pint of ice cream. My mom gets a candy bar. I pay. I stay up until 11:30, pretty late for me, visiting with my brothers. $37
Daily Total: $76.90

Day Six

10 a.m. — It's my son's birthday! My husband and I are out and about getting things for his "party" later. We wanted to have a big party with all of our friends, but because COVID numbers are still up we decided to keep it low-key with just my family and one of my good friends who lives close by. We have a lot of errands to run. First, we go to Party City and spend $83.73 on decorations and paper plates. Then, we pick up the cakes. The cakes are $40, and I pay the baker from the cash I took out yesterday. Next, we head to the grocery store for milk, creamer, vanilla frosting, sprinkles, and beer, which comes to $43.62. We go to the liquor store across the parking lot for cake vodka and Bailey's for birthday cake shots. My husband gets himself a bottle of whiskey and he pays for all the alcohol. We stop at Starbucks on the way home, where I get a Matcha Frappuccino and he gets a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew for a total of $10.81. $178.16
12 p.m. — My husband suggests we go now to pick up the BBQ we want to have for dinner. We're getting it from this amazing Texas-style place in town and once they run out for the day, they close. He has the right idea because we wait in line for 30 minutes before even getting into the building. We order brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausage, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, baked beans, and cucumber salad. It comes to $228, which my dad pays for.
3 p.m. — After decorating and wrapping the last of the presents, it's time to party! My son is super overwhelmed by everyone wanting a picture with him, so he and I take a little breather to nurse and play quietly for a few minutes. When we return to the party, it's time for cake. I manage not to cry while singing "happy birthday," which I consider to be an accomplishment. He opens his presents, which really means I open his presents while he becomes overstimulated with all his new toys. By 5, he is so exhausted and overwhelmed that he screams through his BBQ dinner. I put him to bed and he goes out like a light. The adults eat dinner, then we watch college football while having birthday cake shots and beers. I haven't drunk much since my son was born and it's kind of nice to let my hair down with my family.
8 p.m. — Our city has a really cool shuffleboard bar and my youngest brother loves it, so I made a reservation earlier this week for the four of us (me, my husband, and my two brothers) to go while my parents stay home with my son. My friend drops us off, but she doesn't feel like coming inside. We play shuffleboard for two hours (my husband and I win!). I have a cocktail, two beers, and my brother and I split an order of spicy fried cauliflower. I'm feeling tipsy but not drunk and it's the most fun I've had in a while. My middle brother pays the tab and I venmo him for our drinks. My youngest brother offers to foot the bill for shuffleboard. My mom comes to pick us up and my husband Doordashes McDonald's. I'm too tired to eat the fries and shake I ordered so I give it to my brother and go to bed at 11:30. $60
Daily Total: $238.16

Day Seven

5 a.m. — The baby is up at 5 this morning, so on top of going to bed so late and the drinks, I am beat. My family is all preparing to leave so I entertain my son with his new toys after breakfast. I have a piece of toast and a lot of coffee with creamer. My parents leave around 9:30 and I immediately go upstairs for a nap while my brother babysits. Two hours later, I feel refreshed. I have a bologna and cheese sandwich and an orange soda for lunch.
2 p.m. — It's time for the final family member to head home. I drop my brother off at the airport. My son is fast asleep, so I drive around a while to give him a good long nap. While we drive, I listen to an audiobook about the history of American restaurants. It's interesting, but a little dry. I'm a foodie and I love to cook, so I like to learn about this kind of thing.
4 p.m. — My husband and I don't feel like cooking, so I order a pizza, some wings, and a big Greek salad. We eat while watching football. We play in a fantasy league together so there is plenty of playful banter. I still have a lot of cleaning up to do from the party, but I really just want to relax. $49.89
7 p.m. — After putting my son to bed, I scroll Facebook. I see that a local photographer is doing mini pumpkin patch sessions and the setup is too cute. I can't resist getting professional photos of my son done! The photographer still has openings for the mini session, so I Venmo her a $5 deposit. Then I head over to Amazon to buy my son a cute fall-ish cable-knit sweater to wear for his photos. I also buy him some more infant Tylenol for the teeth he's cutting. The total is $30.51. $35.51
11 p.m. — I finally get the motivation to clean the kitchen. While I do so, I listen to music and talk football with my husband. He does his part by tidying up the playroom and organizing my son's new toys. He got some outside toys and we agree that we'll set them up in the backyard next week. After cleaning, I have some ice cream and reflect on the weekend; it was busy and fun and exciting! After I shower and do my skincare, I watch a few TikToks before going to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $85.40
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience 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.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money