A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $41,000 Salary

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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 editor working in news media who makes $41,000 per year and spends some of it on a margarita.
Occupation: Editor
Industry: News Media
Age: 26
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $41,000 (+ $2,000 annual bonus)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,200 (This can vary by ~$100 if I work overtime.)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $800 (I pay a third of the rent a one-bedroom apartment, and my boyfriend pays the rest.)
Utilities: $0 (My boyfriend covers these.)
401(k): $130 (I pay the maximum contribution that my company will match.)
Health Insurance: $64
HSA: $20 (My company puts in a decent lump sum at the beginning of the year, so this is just to supplement that in case of emergencies.)
Car Insurance: $63 (I cover this for both my boyfriend and myself.)
Hulu: $9
iCloud Storage: $0.99
Play! By Sephora: $10
Boxycharm: $20
Amazon Fresh: $14.99
Washington Post Subscription: $5 (I cover this and my boyfriend covers our New York Times subscription.)
Psychiatrist: $175 (This is per appointment, and I usually have one per month.)
Savings: $500 (Part of this goes toward my emergency fund and part goes toward "fun" things like travel.)
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Day One

6 a.m. — I finally get out of bed after hitting snooze a couple of times, only because my cat won't stop licking my face. I get in the shower, but it's miserable because my shoulders and face are still recovering from one of the worst sunburns I've ever gotten. To stop myself from buying coffee and breakfast this morning, I eat a fried egg on toast and have a cup of coffee with collagen peptides with my boyfriend, C.
2 p.m. — Work has been hectic today because we have a few editors out. I usually don't mind picking up the slack, and I know that my coworkers cover my work when I'm out too, but I've just been really unmotivated at work lately. I recently discovered that I am making less than a male colleague who's beneath me. I like my boss and the work that I do, but the salary situation, plus the regular mid-20s "what am I doing with my life" freaking out is pretty depressing. To distract myself, I take a walk outside because the weather is beautiful and decide to stop at Sweetgreen for lunch. I grab my usual order — the Harvest Bowl with tofu instead of chicken — because I have a reward for $9 off. I bring the salad back to my desk to eat it there because I feel guilty stepping away for too long. $2.28
6 p.m. — I get home around the same time as C., and we discover that our internet went out during the day. Great. We don't have time to deal with it because we're meeting some friends for the Washington Nationals baseball game. (They got tickets through work and generously shared them with us.) We don't live too far from the stadium, so we walk.
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7 p.m. — Turns out that the free tickets were actually in the VIP club section, which means free food and alcohol, which I'm pretty excited about because ballpark food is SO expensive. C. and I try to act casual about it, but really, I'm feeling pretty fancy. I don't really care much for D.C. sports, but baseball games are always so fun. And apparently, they're way more fun for rich people — I enjoy a beer and three glasses of rosé before heading home, still marveling over the fact that I didn't pay for any of it. We make plans to hang out with our friends again, and next time we owe them!
11 p.m. — I scarf down the rest of the Cali-style burrito I ordered last night and remember that I never paid C. back for mine, so I Venmo him $5. I pass out pretty immediately at 11 p.m. $5
Daily Total: $7.28

Day Two

6 a.m. — Yet another early wake up call from the cat. C. gets up to feed her so I can stay in bed, but I can't get back to sleep. I've been feeling pretty anxious lately, and my mind is just racing. I scroll through Pinterest for a while — I'm someone who still uses Pinterest as a mood board for pretty much everything in my life — and am inspired to buy a beginner's kit for cross-stitching. Maybe a new hobby will help my mind relax. I also buy a book of feminist icon cross-stitch patterns, because duh. $30
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8:30 a.m. — I'm out the door a little later today thanks to my anxiety-fueled online shopping (Amazon makes it way too easy to impulse buy), but I make time to drink a cup of coffee with Califia mocha cold brew and collagen peptides mixed in. When I moved to D.C., I made a concerted effort to stop buying my morning coffee, since life is so expensive here. It's become a really nice way for me to take a minute for myself and to slow the hell down sometimes.
12 p.m. — I think about running to Starbucks for a second coffee, but I settle for our subpar office coffee machine because I really need the pick-me-up. I'm not feeling too great after drinking more than I usually do on a weeknight last night, and I'm also feeling depressed and anxious. My social anxiety often causes me to overthink and rehash conversations and interactions I have for hours, and especially compounded with alcohol, I tend to get depressed about it. It's something I'm always trying to work on. I'm not feeling hungry enough for lunch, so I snack on some cashews at my desk while browsing job postings online and drinking my coffee. Journalism jobs are a hard to come by. I immediately get overwhelmed and decide to get back to work and focus on my current job, which I am lucky to have.
6 p.m. — Home! I'm not too hungry and don't want to ruin dinner, so I eat a rice cake with peanut butter and jelly. My cat wants to sit in my lap (read: steal my peanut butter), so I let her and use the time to order a few things from Amazon: new filters for my cat's water fountain and cat toys and treats ($45.56), and a charcoal teeth whitening scrub ($20) I've been wanting to try because white strips are too intense for my sensitive teeth. $65.56
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8 p.m. — It's such a nice night out that we decide to eat dinner outside on the balcony over the romantic glow of citronella candlelight with mosquitos buzzing around. My boyfriend makes a new vegan coconut milk and curry tofu ramen recipe, which is delicious despite how weird it sounds. We each have a beer with dinner and enjoy the quiet time to catch up, with my cat staring creepily out the window at us the entire time.
11 p.m. — My usual nighttime routine consists of washing my face and then applying The Ordinary serums and moisturizer on my face and Aquaphor on my lips (I swear by this). Tonight I add a Glow Recipe watermelon sleeping mask. It's super moisturizing and I'm hoping it's just what my skin needs to quickly heal itself after a terrible sunburn. After I've spent way too long in front of the mirror, I read a couple chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (sorry to say I'm a Slytherin according to Pottermore) before falling asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $95.56

Day Three

8 a.m. — After I get to sleep in 30 minutes extra, I eat toast with jam and C. makes me a cup of coffee with our Chemex. I really appreciate that he does this for me every morning. It's the little things! I'm out the door and headed to the Metro by 8:15, and of course my train stops inexplicably in the tunnel several times and I'm a bit late to work. At least I have time to listen to an episode of My Favorite Murder.
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11 a.m. — I make a cup of vanilla-flavored coffee in the office. I appreciate that we have free coffee here, but it isn't very good and some days I just want something more. If Google employees can get nap pods, why can't the rest of us lowly office workers get decent coffee?
3:30 p.m. — Another beautiful day in D.C. and I've spent all day cooped up in the office, so I give into my cravings and go to Starbucks for a grande iced caramel macchiato with almond milk and a peanut butter Perfect bar. I have a reward, so the coffee is free. I sip it outside, enjoying the slight breeze and warm sun. $3.50
5 p.m. — My afternoon has really slowed down, so I peruse Scott's Cheap Flights for a bit and daydream about a vacation. I end up somewhat impulsively upgrading to a premium membership ($39), but I'm tentatively planning some international travel next year and know it'll be worth it if I can find cheap airfare. I show C. some of the great flight details I've found and we decide to spontaneously book a trip to the Virgin Islands. It isn't until early next year, but the prices were too good to pass up at the thought of clear blue water in the cold of winter! We put the $595 expense on A.'s travel credit card and I'll Venmo him my half later. $39
6:30 p.m. — I get home and spend way too long procrastinating going to the gym because I get sidetracked by a bunch of packages that were delivered. One of them is my Stitch Fix box. This is the first time I've tried it, mainly out of curiosity because I know I tend to impulse shop (evidenced by aforementioned bunch of packages). I like most of the items, but after I try them on and think about the costs versus practicality, I decide to just keep one cute work top.
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7:30 p.m. — C. gets home and we decide to go swim some laps. It's been awhile and the pool is so cold that we don't last very long, but I haven't worked out at all this week and the movement is welcome. We're lucky enough to have a great gym and a lap pool in our apartment building, so I luckily get to save money on an expensive gym membership.
9 p.m. — We heat up the leftover ramen and open a bottle of wine from our Winc membership, which is an expense C. pays for because he's into wine. I'm just into drinking it. Our internet is STILL out, so we watch one of those old-fashioned DVDs of My Cousin Vinny while we eat. I head to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $42.50

Day Four

8 a.m. — After feeding the cat, showering, and doing my usual mascara/concealer/eyebrows makeup routine, I head down to a coffee shop on our block for a breakfast sandwich. I debate getting coffee too, but I figure since I'm already buying breakfast I should just make a cup once I get to work. C. and I take the Metro in together; he spends most of his time on the Hill, but he's going to his office today, and it's close to mine. $5.20
1 p.m. — It's been a busy day and I've barely come up for air today. C. and I always get lunch together when he's in his office, so we go to Sweetgreen today. What's new! I get a Harvest Bowl and he gets the Spicy Thai salad, and I pay for both of ours so I can get the reward points. It's so nice outside, and even though we spend our lunch break talking about depressing politics and how hard it is to get away from it all when you live in Washington, I'm grateful. $22
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6 p.m. — My crazy day leads to me leaving work an hour late, but it's Friday and nothing can squash my mood. After dropping my stuff off at home and meeting up with C., we head over to a beer garden to meet a friend for his birthday. We take the Metro and enjoy the chill vibes and company. There are a lot of other journalists there, and while we can sometimes be an annoying bunch, it's also nice to talk to other people who just get the 24-hour news cycle. I buy two of my beers and my boyfriend gets another for me. $15
12 a.m. — After three IPAs and realizing I haven't eaten much today, I cut myself off. C. and I are the only ones left with the birthday boy and his very drunk friend, so we head out to look for something to eat. The very drunk guy turns out to to work for the Trump administration; I'm immediately turned off. I try to remain objective, but it's hard to listen to a bro who not only supports Trump but enjoys working for him. I just can't understand or tolerate it, especially with all the heartbreaking immigration issues going on right now.
2 a.m. — I can't stand the Trump staffer any longer and we haven't found any food, so I'm hangry and decide to just head home. While wandering and ordering an Uber for C. and me, I meet a girl on the street who offers me some of the joint she and her friends are smoking. I say sure, why not, and make myself a new friend. Gotta love D.C. #legalize $12.40
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Daily Total: $54.60

Day Five

8 a.m. — I'm surprisingly not hungover, though I'm super tired. Someone (finally!) comes to fix our internet around 9 a.m., and my Amazon Fresh delivery that I scheduled earlier this week arrives at around the same time. I got tortilla chips, jalapeño white cheddar popcorn, cucumber kiwi popsicles, cashews, fresh strawberries, limes, eggs, Oreos, lemon elderflower Italian soda, a pint of Ben & Jerry's dairy-free PB & Cookies ice cream, bananas, bread, mushrooms, and spaghetti. My card is charged and I add a $5 tip for the delivery driver. After the internet guy has worked his magic, we take full advantage of our renewed access to Netflix and start The Keepers while we eat breakfast — mini waffles with strawberries and chocolate sauce, because yolo. I love true crime, and The Keepers does not disappoint. $57.30
11 a.m. — We hang around the apartment a bit and play with the cat. C. does a lot of cleaning, but I fall asleep and take a nap. Oops. I love lazy Saturdays with the morning light streaming through the window, but I always feel guilty if I'm TOO lazy.
4 p.m. — C. and I head out to meet some friends for a drink. Today is D.C. Pride, so we pick a cool bar nearby the parade route so we can watch it go by. I pay for the Uber there, and C. gets my gin and tonic at the bar. I've never lived in a city as liberal as D.C., and it's so heartwarming to see all the Pride festivities and how many businesses support it. The energy is contagious. $8.75
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6 p.m. — After grabbing a drink, we're all hungry, so we head to another bar and share a plate of nachos. They end up having undisclosed meat on them and three of us are vegetarians, but we decide it's not worth the hassle or the food waste to send them back. I pick around the meat instead — it won't kill me. My friend pays for our drinks and the nachos because it starts raining and things get hectic, but I venmo her my portion, and C. covers his own. $15
8 p.m. — It's pouring out, and I don't have a rain jacket or umbrella because I wasn't expecting the sudden downpour. Typical D.C. summer weather. We duck into another bar to stay dry, and I order a glass of rosé while we chat about life and wait out the storm. $8.32
11 p.m. — C. and I head back to our friends' apartment, where they graciously make us Dark and Stormys and share scones with us. These friends are politically active and very socially aware, so I always enjoy the thought-provoking conversation we have even if it makes me feel a little self-conscious about how #basic I truly am. You just gotta own it. The night ends with an impromptu midnight HQ game (does anyone ever actually win?) before we head home around 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $89.37

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up and absentmindedly scroll through Instagram. This might be the first time it's actually productive, though — I find out one of my friends who lives in NYC is down for the weekend for Pride! She doesn't have plans today, so we decide to meet up for brunch.
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12 p.m. — Since Sunday brunch is a full-on event in D.C. and we haven't made reservations, we end waiting for an hour and a half. We grab iced chai in the meantime. I haven't seen her in forever and she is definitely one of those friends with a glamorous lifestyle that's fun to hear about. $5
1 p.m. — We get a table sooner than expected, but at this point we're starving. I order a raspberry bellini and a veggie eggs benedict, which comes to $30 with tip. This place is known for its boozy milkshakes, but I exercise great willpower and refrain. $30
2 p.m. — Not ready to part ways yet, my friend, S., and I decide to check out the latest Burning Man exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. We split an Uber Pool on the way there. One of my favorite things about D.C. is all the free museums. And though I always thought Burning Man was strange, the exhibit is fascinating and we find ourselves entertaining the idea of going with some of our mutual friends because we're young and why the hell not? $5.10
4 p.m. — We walk around the city for a while, smiling at all the tourists trying to get a picture in front of the White House. Sometimes people here are really rude about tourists, but even the people who say they're from here are never REALLY from here, so I find it stupid and pretentious to complain about people who are just here for vacation. Take a deep breath, y'all.
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5 p.m. — S. wants to get a little shopping in before her train back up to NYC, so we split another Uber Pool to Georgetown. She doesn't find anything, but we do get more iced chai while she gives me a pep talk and some great career advice. I'm so thankful to know strong, smart, and kind women who support one another. $4.28
6:30 p.m. — After parting ways with S., I take another Uber Pool home, thanks to Georgetown's dismal public transportation access, and snuggle with C. on the couch for a while. It's been such a busy week for us socially, and as an introvert, I'm feeling pretty drained even though it was so much fun. It's hard for me to sometimes keep up with social plans because of my bipolar 1 disorder, which is often triggered by unexpected change. I'm always proud of myself when I do okay. $9.45
10 p.m. — We make dinner — noodles in a thai peanut sauce — and C. and I split half of the Ben & Jerry's that I got yesterday. It's heaven. We watch a few episodes of Seinfeld and head to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $53.83

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Early wakeup call from the cat; how can she tell when it's a weekday? I feed her before heading back to bed for another hour. I'm exhausted after my extremely social weekend (for me, at least).
7:30 a.m. — I decide to make a little extra effort today because we have a company event tonight, so I put on some eyeshadow and highlight. I eat a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and peanut butter while I get ready and down a cup of coffee. I drop a check for my psychiatrist in the mail on my way out the door. It's always a tough expense to stomach, but I know that it's worth it for my mental health at the end of the day. After my bipolar diagnosis, I went back on medication after years of telling myself I could handle what was going on alone, and it's been life-changing to finally have the help I was too scared to ask for. The check won't be cashed for a while, so I try to remember to be conscious of the $200.
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11 a.m. — I have an an upcoming trip for work that I need to book a hotel for. I find a cheap one that's within walking distance of the office I'll be working out of and pay for it with my company card. It should be a fun trip and I'll get to catch up with some coworkers I haven't seen in a while. ($179.58 expensed)
12 p.m. — I order a pair of Madewell sandals I've been eyeing, even though I know I shouldn't. While I'm perusing the Madewell site, I check Twitter (another part of the journalist life you can't tear yourself away from) and can barely stand the horrifying things I'm reading about immigration, so I make a list of charities to research and donate to tonight. $62.92
5:30 p.m. — I stay a little late at work to buckle down on some extra editing projects I have, but I don't last very long after I hear my stomach rumble (loudly and embarrassingly to the reporters who sit around me). I grab a banana from the office kitchen and head home on the Metro.
7:30 p.m. — On my way home, my friend, O., texts me and asks if I want to meet up for a drink. I say absolutely yes, as she's one of my few good friends in the city and has really been there for me over the past year when my mental illness has caused some lows. We meet at a bar halfway between our Metro stops and have three margaritas each for Margarita Monday. She tells me about a hilarious Tinder date she had this weekend. C. and I started dating as soon as I got out of school, and sometimes I wonder if I missed out on something. But hearing everyone's crazy dating stories makes me glad to have found someone who loves me and who I love back. O. and I also talk about mental health awareness and how important it is that we're visible with our own mental illnesses. It can often feel like you need to hide it, and sometimes you really do have to, but in general, I think being open about my bipolar disorder can help destigmatize it by showing that it's normal and okay. $21
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9:30 p.m. — I finally head home, late for a Monday, and make a quick salad for dinner with baby spinach and arugula, strawberries, goat cheese crumbles, chopped almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette. I watch an episode of Queer Eye with C. (it is giving me LIFE and also all of the tears) before heading to bed, full and happy.
Daily Total: $83.92
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 behaviour.
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