A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $45,000 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: an assistant to a VP working at a think tank who makes $45,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on sushi.
Occupation: Assistant to VP
Industry: Think Tank
Age: 22
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $45,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,413.20
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $946 for my bedroom, plus utilities. (I live with two roommates in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. We just renewed our lease, so my share of rent will go up about $40-50/month.)
Student Loan Payment: $298.14
Health Insurance: $0 (I’m still covered under my parents' insurance. Thanks, Obama!)
Dental Insurance: $4.68
Aaptiv: $9.99 (I'll likely switch to an annual subscription to save money, since I use it often!)
Spotify: $9.99
Savings: ~$250
YNAB: $15 (I pay for an annual membership, but budget monthly so that the annual renewal isn't it a shock.)
Amazon: $15 (Same as above.)
Metro Pass: $99 (My work reimburses $65 at the end of each month.)
403(b): ~$75 (My company matches 6% of my salary each year.)
Advertisement

Day One

9 a.m. — Wake up time! I spend some time on my phone, catching up on social media and lounging, but my LSAT is next week, so I want to spend today studying. After a quick shower, it's time for breakfast! I fry eggs, toast Trader Joe's Tuscan Pane bread, and toss on some garlic salt. With a banana, it's a really filling breakfast. I put frozen ground beef in the fridge to defrost for lunch and dinner.
11:15 a.m. — I grab a venti chai from Starbucks using my reward. Then I head up to my building's lobby, which gets great light, and is usually quiet except for the dogs that walk past on their way out to the park. I spread out my books and get to work.
1 p.m. — I've done a good hour of studying and a good 30 minutes of goofing off and catching up with friends. Oops! I try to make this break a productive one and check my budgeting app, YNAB, to make sure all my upcoming bills are scheduled or paid in advance. I'm really trying to save up, since I have law school applications and some financial fogginess coming up next year. I'm paying off my student loans with my parents' help, so I don't want to ask them for anything once law school comes around. My mom texts me a "good luck studying" note, and I smile. I'm heading home this month for a shore/beach weekend with my family, and I'm very excited.
Advertisement
2:40 p.m. — My roommate joins me to study, since she's taking the LSAT, too! I need a quick break after all these practice sets though, so I head to our apartment, use the bathroom, and make a quick snack of toast, goat cheese, and an apple. Yum.
6 p.m. — Way too hungry, so I make a big batch of pasta! I toss together mushrooms, garlic, onions, ground beef from earlier, sauce, and spinach leaves I have in the fridge so that I can eat them before they get too wilted. I eat dinner while watching A Series of Unfortunate Events, which was my favorite book series growing up. My roommates are cleaning the kitchen while I eat, and it's kind of annoying me — I don't know what it is, but I'm annoyed by everything today! I'm also only on week one of my birth control pills, which might be part of why I'm sitting here stewing.
7:45 p.m. — I head to my room to finish cleaning out my closet. I still can't figure out what's going on in my head, so I text my all-knowing best friend, my mom. It's scary how mom powers work even hundreds of miles away. She helps me figure out why I'm stressed and reminds me to journal more often. We talk about the breakup I just went through a couple days ago and how disappointed I am, because I really liked him and saw so much potential in us. It turns into a fun talk about my sex life (like actually, fun!) and how she's proud of me for initiating conversations when I'm not enjoying sex. It's a really good talk, and I miss her a lot. Before I know it, an hour passes by.
Advertisement
10:30 p.m. — Done cleaning out my closet! I vacuum, iron, and then start winding down for the night. I do my usual night routine of micellar water, double cleansing, and brushing my teeth, but throw in a face mask too, since it's Sunday night. While my mask is on, I turn on my humidifier and add tea tree oil.
11:15 p.m. — Time to sleep! I have an early start tomorrow, so I pass out much earlier than usual.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Okay, time to get up. Vitamin time! I'm super stressed, so I make sure to take extra vitamin B and C. I get dressed and head to my building's gym for a quick workout.
7:35 a.m. — Finish my workout a little bit earlier than expected, so I have time to eat breakfast. I fry an egg, make toast, and cut up mangoes. Then I prepare my lunch for the day, hop in the shower, and get ready.
8:20 a.m. — Out the door! I can take my building's elevator straight down to the Metro, so it's a quick walk. My ride is covered by my monthly Metro pass, which I've already purchased for the month.
1:20 p.m. — Whoops, the morning flies by! We have an all-staff meeting and then I pick up a venti latte ($4.25, my usual from Starbucks on really busy days). For lunch, I have leftovers from last night, plus a banana, and go into one of our quiet rooms to study for the LSAT. $4.25
Advertisement
5:30 p.m. — And I'm out! I told myself I'd leave at 5:30 p.m. every day this week so I can study and get in some downtime. It's been a very busy but productive day, and I wonder if it's because I worked out this morning.
7 p.m. — Old Navy is having a sale, and I find that their petite sizes usually fit me very well, so I pick up a summer romper, a light jacket that I can wear to work, and two white tops! If they don't fit me well, I'll return them later. $84.78
7:40 p.m. — Roommate is home, and we catch up while heading over to Chick-fil-A for dinner! We get back just in time to watch The Bachelorette. We're not fans of this season, but that doesn't stop us from watching and dishing. $7.12
9:35 p.m. — The Bachelorette always takes too long, so I get up and listen from the kitchen as I prep lunch for tomorrow! I chop up mangoes as a snack, and check through the produce I bought to decide what to eat first. I also put frozen chicken in the fridge to defrost overnight so I can put it in marinade tomorrow morning.
10:50 p.m. — In bed and ready to knock out. Talking to a cute boy from Tinder, but I think I'll leave it to him to ask me out.
Daily Total: $96.15

Day Three

6:35 a.m. — Wooo, vitamin and workout time! I do a quick 10-minute HIIT run on the elliptical because I feel especially tight and need to focus more on stretching today.
Advertisement
7:30 a.m. — Breakfast is Greek yogurt, strawberries, honey, and chocolate almond granola — all Trader Joe's, unsurprisingly. I toss Soyaki sauce in with the defrosted chicken to marinate for dinner tonight and grab my lunch on my way out the door.
11 a.m. — This is the first time I've sat down all day! I snack on a muffin and drink coffee, all free from work.
12:45 p.m. — Lunchtime! I have more leftovers from Sunday, plus the mango. And the office has cookies, so I nab some. More studying.
4:30 p.m. — I eat a bite of another cookie. I've only had four sips of coffee today, which really surprises me, since I usually need more. I chalk it up to my early morning run and yoga. I also ask this Tinder boy out, because why wait if I know I'm interested??
5:30 p.m. — I feel so great and productive today! I knock out a to-do list and feel like my boss and I got a ton done on projects. She compliments me for taking the lead on finance-related problems we've been facing. Perfect time for my feel good playlist as I commute home.
6:45 p.m. — After an hour of chilling, I stir-fry the teriyaki chicken and add in some bok choy. Yum. I eat quickly and settle down to study more.
9:50 p.m. — I'm pretty mentally exhausted, so I head to my room to relax before bed but realize my laundry basket is overflowing — so I start a cycle that I can dump out when I wake up tomorrow morning.
Advertisement
10:15 p.m. — Time for a luxurious shower and mask! I also check my budgeting app and update it with expenses from the weekend. So far, so good.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:25 a.m. — I beat my alarm! Time for a quick run and rooftop yoga, and lots of stretching. I'm feeling tight all over.
7:35 a.m. — Breakfast time: eggs and toast with garlic salt — the kind from Trader Joe's is killer. I also pack snacks and my lunch: the last of my leftover pasta, cheddar, an apple, salami, and more bread to toast.
8:25 a.m. — Off to work! The Metro is running on time today, thankfully.
9:45 a.m. — My boss let me know she'll be late, and a good third of our team is out sick today! It's gorgeous out so I take a walk with my best friend, who I recently hired to join our team. We grab iced mochas from my favorite coffee shop. $4.38
2:45 p.m. — So a guy I dated for a bit just applied for a job at my organization...and wrote in his application that one of my coworkers referred him. I go over to have a quick talk with my coworker, because the guy in question ghosted me and then resurfaced months later to ask me if I could help him get a job here. No way in hell.
3:20 p.m. — I stress-eat a cookie.
5:30 p.m. — My eyebrows look terrible and I need them threaded, STAT. The closest eyebrow place to me is super expensive, and the next closest is the cheapest, but worst quality. So I take a 20-minute walk to a quality one that also doesn't charge too much. $17
Advertisement
6:30 p.m. — My best friend lives nearby, so we catch up over dinner at McDonald's! She just started a new job, so we talk about that and just life in general. She makes fun of me for already having a date set just two weeks after my break up...oops. But she also tells me that that dude lost out because I'm more attractive than him. Yes, I am shallow, and yes, I thank her for that compliment. What else are friends for? $7.74
8:47 p.m. — Time flies by way too quickly, so I grab an Uber home! I'm exhausted. $4.12
9:15 p.m. — I have just enough time to get another load of laundry in, so I take out last night's and toss another in. I set it out to hang dry before I go to bed. I watch Sex and the City and promptly fall asleep at 11:30.
Daily Total: $33.24

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — Beat my alarm again! I don't think I can exert a lot of energy today, so I compromise and do yoga and stretching outside. My upper body is super tense, so I remind myself to get a massage this weekend.
7:20 a.m. — Breakfast of eggs and toast. Yum! And I get a notification that my order from Old Navy from earlier this week has shipped!
8:20 a.m. — My boss texts to let me know that she'll be out sick today, so today will be chill, which I'm happy about.
Advertisement
9:15 a.m. — Just remembered it's our intern's first day, so actually — not that chill of a day. But our internet is down, so I get to spend 45 minutes studying!
12:15 p.m. — Lunchtime! I grab lunch from a nearby Japanese place with coworkers. I get baked chilled salmon with brown rice, furikake, seaweed, pickled onions, and some sweet potatoes. I cover my friends' bills, and they Venmo me for their shares immediately. I love friends like that. $12.15
4:30 p.m. — I hit a wall and I'm nowhere close to productive, so I head home. I take a quick nap and then it's dinner time.
7 p.m. — I pull out my LSAT book and do more practice. It's hard — I'm not totally mentally there, and my score is atrocious.
9:15 p.m. — Time flies by super quickly when you're freaking out about your future! I text my best friend, who calms me down and provides updates on the Caps game. We could win the Stanley Cup tonight, but I'm not too big of a hockey fan, so my excitement over this is quite low.
11:30 p.m. — I fold up my clean laundry and watch more Sex and the City. I hate that I'm into this show, because I disagree with so much of it. I knock out shortly after. Oh, and the Capitals win!
Daily Total: $12.15

Day Six

6:35 a.m. — I'm a bit late to my alarm today, but remind myself that I need a cardio day…so up I get! I do a HIIT run on the elliptical and my heart is beating so fast that I lift a little bit while I'm at it too. I leave the gym feeling exhausted but accomplished.
Advertisement
7:20 a.m. — Roommate is in the bathroom, so I head to the living room with my laptop and catch up on bills. I set up auto pay on my credit card, and it pays my bill off entirely each month. This month, I paid $1,345. I also see that I was refunded returns I sent back two weeks ago from Old Navy and J Crew (+$164.57). I take the time to update my YNAB app with transactions, and then transfer funds over to my savings account with enough leftover for my automatic debit to student loan payments.
8:20 a.m. — I have just enough time to fry an egg for breakfast! I don't worry about lunch later today, since I have plans with a coworker.
8:40 a.m. — Head over to my new optometrist for my annual exam. It's a five-minute walk away, which is super convenient. I finish up an hour later with no change in my prescription, an $89 copay, and a quote for $140 for an annual supply of contacts. I pay the copay, but tell them I'll call back if I don't get a better price on contacts. They tell me that if I get my contacts through them, I'll receive a $50 rebate — so $179 in total for my annual exam and a supply of contacts. Not too bad, especially since it'll be covered by my FSA. I get the contacts. $179
9:45 a.m. — Finally get to work! I already know it'll be an insane day, so I pick up Starbucks before I get in, which I pay for using rewards on my app.
Advertisement
1 p.m. — Yep, confirmed to be a crazy day! My boss and the team have a trip to New York on Monday, which I won't be joining because of the LSAT. We're pulling together memos, briefings, travel, and all sorts of logistics documents. My coworker graciously pays for my lunch, as we took on a lot of her work this week while she was out sick. I get a mushroom melt.
4:15 p.m. — My boss brought in Krispy Kreme, and I saved my favorite kind of donut for my afternoon sugar rush. YUM!
5:45 p.m. — I'm heading out on a date with the guy I asked out earlier this week! I'm running late, but luckily, he is too. My work BFF laughs at me because she can tell I'm hiding that it's a date. I walk over, because it's nice out and I need air. I meet him at the bar, and he doesn't look like his photo. Hmm... He covers our drinks.
8 p.m. — I take him to my favorite bar in the city because fuck it, I want a good cocktail. He recently moved to the city and is impressed by my career. Then he starts complimenting me, and goes in for the kiss — but I don't do well with compliments or kissing in public, so I'm a little put off.
10 p.m. — Well, I'm not so put off anymore, because I take him to another bar, where I have a breakdown about the LSAT. Oops...I think I've decided that I just want to hook up with him, so I ask him to head back to my place. I know I shouldn't have had this much to drink before the LSAT next week, but I'm stressed and kind of just need to indulge in some physical stuff.
Advertisement
11:50 p.m. — In the Uber back to my place, he breaks to me that it's his birthday — um, what??? At this point I kind of just let it pass. I don't want to spend too much time thinking about that, and honestly, it's just a hook up.
Daily Total: $179

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — Both of our internal clocks wake us up, and he heads home to pick up his car and then drive to another town an hour away. It's kind of a boring goodbye. I'm not sure that I want to see him again.
8 a.m. — After I sleep a bit more, I debrief with my friend about everything that went down. We decide that I should give him another chance, maybe post-LSAT, but in all honesty, I kind of just want to get laid and I'm not really into the dating thing right now. This is also the first time in almost a year that I'm not dating someone, so it's a very needed break.
10 a.m. — I finally roll out of bed and decide to scrounge around for breakfast, and then make a note to treat myself to lunch or dinner. The pool in my building is open today and I still haven't gone since it's opened, so I change into a new bikini I got last month and eat apples, cheddar, goat cheese, and bread for breakfast.
12:45 p.m. — After spending a couple hours at the pool, I'm starting to get hungry. I was planning on grabbing sushi for dinner, but my favorite sushi place by my apartment closes at 4, so I decide to switch it up and grab sushi for lunch instead. The rolls are cheap by D.C. standards, so I grab a special roll and a salmon/avocado roll. $15.85
Advertisement
6:35 p.m. — I take a quick nap on the couch after my sushi. I feel guilty about not studying, but I'll catch up later tonight. I text my friends a bit and then microwave leftovers from earlier in the week.
8:35 p.m. — I've given up on studying, so I plop on the couch and plan for the week ahead and my post-LSAT life. I snack on dark chocolate-covered mangoes, which I bought in bulk from Costco. I forgot that I have a birthday party to go to tonight, but I'm so exhausted, that it's out of the question. I also text the dude from last night, asking him to come over…
9:45 p.m. — Whoops, he comes over to hang out! We end up not doing anything and just talk for a couple hours or so. He presumes that he's sleeping over, which I find a bit weird. I'm not sure, but I can tell that I'm not feeling it, so I make my feelings clear to him.
11:30 p.m. — He heads back home and I thankfully get my bed to myself for the night. I take some time to meditate and journal, since I feel antsy and I know this will help me chill out. I also make a plan for the last day before my LSAT — I know I'll feel nervous and will likely want to do some practice, so I make a note to allow myself an hour to do a couple practice sections, but nothing more!! Then I watch Parks and Rec, my favorite cheer up show.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $15.85
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
In addition to our Money Diaries, we're looking for people who want to talk to us about the following topics for other stories on Refinery29:
1. Have you ever been in a job you couldn’t stand but couldn’t quit? Did you write an elaborate quitting fantasy in your mind to pass the time? Maybe you’d finally tell your boss your honest opinion. Perhaps, you daydreamed of finally calling out your co-worker who takes credit for your ideas. If this is you, we want to hear from you! Email us here to share your most elaborate quitting fantasy and how you actually quit.
2. If you decided a spur of the moment trip the court house was more your vibe than a traditional wedding, we want to hear your story. More specifically, how much did eloping cost you? We all know that today’s weddings can range from a sweet, backyard ceremony all the way to costing than a law degree. Tell us why you chose to elope for a chance to be featured on the site.
Advertisement
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Fashion
A look at the subcultures around the world that colour what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Travel
Explore the world's most vibrant cultural and culinary centres—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
Beauty
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.