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A Week In Albuquerque, New Mexico, On A $60,000 Salary

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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 paralegal who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on tea infusers.
All currency in USD.

Trigger Warning: This Money Diary mentions an abusive relationship.
Occupation: Paralegal
Industry: Law
Age: 40
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: ~$613,000 ($1,100,985 minus debt. House one: approximately $75,000 for my part. My ex lives there, and our divorce agreement stipulates that in two more years, he's required to pay me half of the equity, plus the money I gave for the down payment. I don't know if this amount is even close to accurate because we don't talk. I know the house is worth nearly $500,000 and last I knew, we owed about $300,000. I don't pay any of the mortgage, so I don't know for sure. House two, a rental property: $259,000 total home value. House three, where I live with my three dogs: $237,000 total home value. Retirement account: $510,000, car: $17,230, savings account: $2,755.08)
Debt: $487,372 (student loans: $58,747, mortgage two: $222,000, mortgage three: $206,417, credit card: $208)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,892.91
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage For House Two: $1,383.69 (My tenant pays $1,500 per month for rent, which pays for the mortgage and management expenses.)
Mortgage For House Three: $1,079.35
Student Loans: $360.99 (paused because of COVID-19)
Health Insurance: $59.99 (deducted from my paycheck)
Utilities: $90 to $190 (varies by season)
Internet: $93
Streaming Services: $25.95 (I pay for Apple Music and Netflix, which I share with my best friend. I use another friend's Disney+ login and my parents' Hulu.)
Phone: $88.60 plus $1.07 for additional iCloud storage

Annual Expenses
Subscriptions: $181 (New York Times, Washington Post, Slate, and New York Magazine)
Amazon Prime: $118
Car Insurance: $563.76
HOA Fees: $450
Garbage: $140
Bar Licensure: $215 (inactive status in my prior state)
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?
My parents didn't go to college and didn't seem to care whether I went or not. They didn't help me prepare for college, we didn't do college tours, and they didn't help me with applications. The only reason I went was because I got a card in the mail for a program that was so irresistible, I had to apply. It was the only college I applied to. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise. I went to law school because, as much as I loved my undergraduate program, I finished with a fairly useless degree. I knew I needed a way to make money and I assumed that being a lawyer would do it. I paid for my education entirely with loans and graduated with $208,169 in debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents had no conversations with me about money. Everything I've learned about finances, which honestly isn't much, I've taught myself. I still don't thoughtfully make financial choices. I feel like I've tripped on every financial decision I've made and somehow it's all worked out.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I vaguely recall working for an elderly lady during one summer, making her lunch and reading Reader's Digest to her in the afternoons. I don't remember what it paid or how I spent that money, but I assume it was for gas and red slushies. My first “real” job was a work-study position in college that helped pay for living expenses. I did work-study throughout college and law school.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Constantly. We were poor growing up, and my parents didn't hide that. They fought about money a lot, so I knew my mom paid the mortgage with credit cards and paid credit cards with other credit cards. Also, my mom conspired with me to lie to my dad about money. Driving home from the grocery store, for example, she'd ask me how much we should tell my dad we spent, always shooting low so he wouldn't get angry. Through my dad's hard work, my parents have become very successful since then. They now own multiple businesses, multiple homes, and I believe they have a net worth of several million dollars, but we still rarely talk about money.
Do you worry about money now?
Constantly. I am severely underpaid given my education and experience, but I'm not licensed to practice in New Mexico yet so I'm basically begging for scraps in hopes that the firm I'm with will take me on as an associate when I am. That was the agreement when I started, but I don't know if I trust them enough to believe it will happen. I took a $50,000 annual pay cut when I moved back to New Mexico. I don't save money right now, so I'm constantly anxious about emergency expenses. I will say that if any lawyers out there plan to apply for reciprocal licensure in another state, start the process early. The background check takes ages. I applied eight months ago and am still waiting. I pray for a response literally every time I check my email.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out and went to college at 17. I was financially responsible for myself at that time. Most recently, I was unemployed for nearly a year and used every scrap of savings I had for living expenses. Thus, I presently have no financial safety net. If I face any unforeseen expenses, they'll go on my credit card.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have been fortunate in this regard, relatively speaking. My aunt and uncle, who had no children, died horrible and unexpected deaths when I was in law school. They left me a $60,000 inheritance. I used $40,000 of that to pay off my private student loans and the remaining $20,000 as a down payment for my first house. When I divorced my husband, he kept house one, and I moved into an apartment. I couldn't find an apartment that would let me keep my dog, so my dad generously gave me $25,000 for a down payment for house two. (After my divorce, my dog was my only friend in the world, and my parents knew and respected that. I am extremely grateful for this.) Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a very abusive relationship, and my dad paid $10,000 for me to escape to New Mexico. If he hadn't done that, I likely would have died, either at my partner's hand or my own. When I moved here, my dad knocked $35,000 off the value of one of the houses he owned, now house three, so I could afford to buy it from him. While I appreciate his help greatly, I resent myself for having to ask for so much because I had been so financially secure and my last relationship destroyed everything I had worked for. God willing, I'll never have to ask again.

Day One

5:50 a.m. — Up! Take the dogs out, make coffee and log into Alcoholics Anonymous. I don't drink because I have bipolar disorder, PMDD, and PTSD and alcohol makes the rats' nest in my brain unmanageable. But I also don't have the strength to quit alone. It's not for everyone, but I love AA and how it's helped me to inspect the reasons for my drinking and recalibrate my brain away from it. After AA, I get up, get dressed, and head to the office.
8:15 a.m. — I hit my desk and immediately start blasting space heaters. This morning is Zoom-Zoom-Zoom. It flies by. I drink another cup of coffee, which makes it six for the day. Is there a 12-step program for caffeine?
12 p.m. — Our boss treats us all to lunch. I have a gyro, these yummy lemony potatoes, and a piece of cake with rose water and almonds. I never remember what it's called but if I see it on a menu, I get it.
1 p.m. — Surprise! It's another Zoom. After a two-hour meeting, I am toast and can't stay motivated, so I speed out right at 5 p.m.
6:45 p.m. — Get to my FWB's for tacos, TV, and cuddling. He buys the tacos, and they are absolutely terrible. How does a restaurant ruin a taco in the year 2022? I brought homemade chocolate chip cookies, which redeems the depressing meal. We watch The Love Boat for three hours. It is absolutely wild and delightful. As usual, FWB makes me laugh so hard my sides hurt. We fool around, and I fall asleep on his lap. I have complicated feelings about FWB. I don't feel infatuated with him, but I love spending time with him and miss him terribly when he's not around. Head home at 11 p.m., a little sad I'm not staying the night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — My oldest dog, R., does not let me sleep past 7 a.m., so I'm up letting the dogs out, feeding them, and downing my first cup of Nespresso. I practice my German on Duolingo. I have a plan to learn German, meet a beautiful German man, and move to Munich. It's a long-term goal, okay?
9:30 a.m. — I pay a utility bill for my rental. I didn't have a tenant for a month so it reverted to me while my management company found someone new ($138.28). I also buy four sleeves of Nespresso pods ($51.93) and a new pair of glasses ($56.90). I'm done pretending contacts are anything but horrible, so now I maintain a wardrobe of cute frames. $247.11
10 a.m. — I drop R. at the groomer and meet with my sponsor. I drink my third cup of Nespresso and a La Croix. We're working on step eight — making a list of all persons I've harmed and becoming willing to make amends to them all. It's so uncomfortable to account for the ways I've harmed people, but I can quite literally feel myself developing greater emotional maturity. Better late than never? Right? Afterward, I eat leftover Trader Joe's orange chicken and rice, along with two chocolate chip cookies.
12 p.m. — I pick up R. from the groomer. He looks so clean and handsome and he doesn't smell like butts anymore! We're on a six-week grooming schedule, and it's definitely worth it. $53.23
12:30 p.m. — I immediately hop in the bathtub to read. I'm not pretentious, I promise, but I only read non-fiction because I love history. Right now it's Someone is Out to Get Us: a Not So Brief History of Cold War Paranoia and Madness by Brian T. Brown. I drink a Topo Chico, the best of my beverage addictions.
1:45 p.m. — I have a date this afternoon, so I do makeup and hair while listening to Taylor Swift. My last two relationships have been back-to-back domestic violence, so as much as I want to find someone, I'm terrified of getting hurt (literally and figuratively). I tried to recover from those relationships by sleeping around, which destroyed my self-esteem. I'm trying to be braver and better to myself.
5 p.m. — We go to a winery and bistro. I get meatloaf, and he gets a burger with no condiments. Red flag. We're not politically aligned, and his beliefs are so far outside of what I consider reasonable (QAnon!) that I can't seriously consider him. We hug and part with vague let's-do-this-agains. He pays.
6 p.m. — I go to AA. I'm like 45% in love with someone in my group. We flirt constantly and talk about eloping, but he's significantly younger than I am and wants children, which I can't do for him. But he knows my entire soul, which is just a recipe for heartbreak eventually.
8 p.m. — I FaceTime with a dude who is identified in my phone as “C. Average White Man.” It's more enjoyable than that nickname would suggest, but he lives in another state. I don't even remember how we met. Immediately afterward, I hop into bed and eat cheese toast while watching true crime. I am sound asleep by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $300.34

Day Three

7 a.m. — Let my dogs out, feed them, and drink coffee on the couch while doing my Duolingo lesson. I'm a little disappointed that Mötley Crüe didn't teach me how to properly pronounce the umlaut. I also draft a grocery list. I meal prep every weekend but never manage to finish what I've made for the week. I hate it because food waste is awful, but cooking for myself has been so hard since I got divorced.
10 a.m. — I go to mass. I spent a lot of time researching liberal Catholic churches when I started going again. Today, my priest advocates for the use of marijuana to maintain your physical and spiritual health and that we view the Holy Trinity as being non-binary.
11:30 a.m. — I take myself out to breakfast after church every Sunday. Today, I sit at the bar with my book and order carne adovada huevos rancheros. My breakfast congeals on the plate, though, because I strike up a conversation with one of the most engaging men I've ever met. After three hours of non-stop talking and four cups of coffee, I have well and truly developed a crush on this stranger. He doesn't ask for my number but instead gives me a “if you come here often, I'll see you again.” It's deeply unsatisfying. $23.32
3:30 p.m. — I do a Target and Trader Joe's run. At Target, I get sparkling water, gallons of regular water, dog food, makeup remover balm, eyebrow gel, and mouthwash ($50.50). The shelves at Trader Joe's are bare, but I get milk, yoghurt, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, bananas, frozen chicken nuggets, stir-fry, peas, broccoli, bread, English muffins, naan, oatmeal, and cacio e pepe cheese curls ($60.35). On the way home, I fill up my car with gas ($39.40). $150.25
5 p.m. — I have every intention of meal-prepping salads but instead I throw last week's neglected salads away, do a quick mop, and do laundry. I feel sad, and my stomach is upset. It's almost better not to meet great people because great people aren't for me. I text with FWB, and he asks how he can make me not feel sad and if there's anything he can bring me for my tummy. Maybe a great one is right in front of me, and I don't see it?
7:30 p.m. — I realise that maybe my stomach hurts because I didn't actually eat the breakfast I ordered earlier and I'm starving. I eat the leftovers from my date yesterday.
8:30 p.m. — After a quick bath, I am fully in bed covered in puppies. I start Wormwood on Netflix, which is about the subjects of the CIA's LSD experiments during the Cold War.
Daily Total: $173.57

Day Four

5:15 a.m. — I manage to hit snooze before R. wakes me up. I make a pot of Bustelo [coffee], feed the guys, and meal prep salads to throw away next weekend. Orzo, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, fresh mozzarella, and salami on a bed of romaine. They look so good! It's a shame I'll eat one and waste the rest. I log into AA, drink coffee on the deck, and watch the sunrise for a minute.
7:30 a.m. — Out the door for work with a travel coffee. I'm wearing a purple pencil dress with blue and white Ruby Shoos with pink flowers. I throw on an eggplant trench coat. Very matchy-matchy. I cry a little on the way because sometimes I'm overcome with waves of sadness and regret — it feels like my heart will never stop breaking. I stop to buy cigarettes on the way in and an adorable elderly lady compliments my outfit, which makes me feel marginally better. $14.82
10 a.m. — I eat a banana and gossip with my coworkers about the mystery man from the weekend. One of them starts plotting my outfit for the next time I go to the restaurant. Another says she thinks he didn't get my number because I'm “too young and beautiful” for him (he's 52). I laugh at that suggestion. One of my coworkers, T., has a ton of connections in mystery man's industry and says he can track him down and get a last name. Not that it matters because I would never in a billion years reach out to him. But it is turning into an actual Hallmark movie, which is fun for a Monday.
12 p.m. — I virtuously eat my salad and a pear at my desk. Then sainted T. brings me a taco, which I also eat.
2 p.m. — I'm feeling sleepy so I drink a cup of black coffee and casually search Airbnbs in Omaha. FWB and I are taking a road trip there in the spring to go to a museum. I would love a hot tub but they're so expensive! I flag a couple to send him.

5 p.m. — I spend all afternoon transcribing audio so my brain is trash by the end of the day. I head home and take the dogs for a little hike. It's 30 degrees outside, and I forgot my headlamp, but they have a great time playing in the snow. I also get a text that T.'S FRIEND KNOWS MYSTERY MAN. Oh noooo, I'm getting invested in the drama!

7 p.m. — I'm not very hungry so I have sunflower butter toast and grapes for dinner. My head is pounding, but I gotta keep up that Duolingo streak, so I practice my German in the bathtub. I don't do very well. My dreams of Munich are slipping away.

8:30 a.m. — Why, yes, I am in bed watching The Love Boat at 8:30 p.m. I text with FWB, who is also watching TLB.

Daily Total: $14.82

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — The dogs let me sleep so late this morning! I let them out, feed them, and sit on the couch drinking coffee and mindlessly scrolling Twitter. I log into AA eventually and pack breakfast and lunch for the day. I take an oatmeal packet, banana, one of my ill-fated salads, a to-go coffee, and a Thermos of tea. Makeup, hair, a black-and-white polka dot dress, pearls, and black velvet high heels. I throw on a vintage wool trench coat. I look and feel very old this morning.
9 a.m. — I eat my oatmeal and, because it's payday, pay half of my mortgage payment and $50 to my credit card while waiting for a hearing. I also learn that Amazon has refunded $23.19 for dog food that was allegedly lost in the mail (little do they know it was delivered yesterday) and $4.32 for a movie I rented that didn't play properly (little do they know it was because of my garbage internet service). I am never going to refuse an Amazon refund. I promptly spend $62.93 on Amazon on tea infusers, a pill case, a travel mug, gel nail polish remover, and a copy of Twenty-Four Hours a Day. Amazon giveth and Amazon taketh away. $112.93
12 p.m. — I cave and order green chile stew for lunch. In! My! Defence! My office doesn't have central heating or hot water, it is cold, and a salad is not going to warm me up. I also order enchiladas for my coworker, and she Venmos me her share. T. gets sopaipillas with honey, so obviously I have one. I also call Walgreens about one of my prescription refills that's been delayed for a week. It's for my dumb, malfunctioning brain so I'm really worried about running out. $17.68
3 p.m. — One of my exes texts and asks if I would be supportive if he moved closer to me. He's deeply problematic, but our sexual chemistry is unreal. I steel myself with a cup of black coffee and reply that I would be, with butterflies in my stomach that should really be moths.
5:30 p.m. — I get home and immediately clean up dog puke. Then, I head to AA. I wasn't going to go, but 45%-in-love boy got a haircut and he looks so handsome when he's all cleaned up. I'm only human.
7:30 p.m. — I am hungry after AA, so I have chicken nuggets and the sad salad I rejected earlier. This is financial responsibility right here! Unfortunately, it's pretty gross, and I regret it. While I eat, I practice my German.
9:30 p.m. — C. Average White Man FaceTimes me without provocation. Video calling someone without warning should be a crime. I drink a giant mug of tea while we talk and then exaggerate some yawns. I don't know what his angle is. After we hang up, I read for a while and fall asleep with my book on my face.
Daily Total: $130.61

Day Six

5:10 a.m. — Unnnggghhh. I promised the dogs a morning hike, so I down one quick cup of coffee, bundle them into their winter coats, pop on my headlamp, and head out the door with Stuff You Should Know. As I'm walking to the trail, for no discernible reason, an old man driving by flips me off. My guy, it's 5:30 a.m. Let's take things down a notch.
7:30 a.m. — Out the door with a to-go coffee and a banana. Today's outfit is a brown plaid pinafore with a brown turtleneck and tights, brown oxfords, and a burnt orange pea coat. There are three accidents on the way in. Burqueños, this wouldn't happen if you didn't tailgate all the time! I drink my coffee while I wait in traffic and make a big mug of orange spiced tea as soon as I get to my desk. I read reports all morning.
12 p.m. — We're out of plastic cutlery at the office, so I run to the corner market. I also have a raging headache so I pick up ibuprofen. T. and I walk over to a gas station and see a lady with aggressive eyebrows and no car dancing by the pumps, and a man offers to sell us a horse. We return to the office, and I eat my leftover stew from yesterday. FWB and I text about Super Bowl plans. I'm meeting his friend group for the first time, which makes my introverted heart panicky. I promise to bake something for the party so I research two-bite desserts. Mini-cheesecakes? Tiny key lime pies? $7.09
4 p.m. — I finally receive notification that my meds have been refilled. I've been feeling increasingly awful as the day has gone on, with a headache that turned into neck pain, dizziness, trembling, and nausea. I text a medical friend about it and learn that these are side effects of withdrawal from my medication. It's only been two days since I took it; I had no idea withdrawals could happen so fast! I'm counting the minutes until I can pick up my prescription and go to bed.
5:20 p.m. — I pick up my prescription and pop one in the parking lot because I don't know when the sads will kick in and I don't want to find out. $2.89
6:30 p.m. — After a much-needed rest, I make grilled cheese and tomato soup. It's exactly what I need. I dump half a bag of melatonin Epsom salts in the bathtub and camp out in the dark with R. snoring on the mat beside me. The worst part about living alone is not having anyone to care for you when you don't feel well.
8 p.m. — I muster the energy to finish my book! Is there anything more gratifying than putting a book back on the shelf? What a joy. Now it's on to So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. I need something lighthearted after so much Cold War. I read just a few chapters before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $9.98

Day Seven

5 a.m. — Unnnngggghhhh. I get the dogs into their coats for our morning hike. Apparently, no one wants to be out, though, because it's more of a dawdle than a hike. When I get home, I log into AA and pack up tamales with red chile and a little side salad, plus yogurt and a banana for breakfast.
7:30 a.m. — Hair, makeup, and out the door with a cup of coffee. Today's outfit is a black sweater dress with leggings and tall black boots, along with a Walter Mercado–style knuckle buster of a ruby ring. Part of my inheritance was a pile of jewellery, including emeralds, rubies, jade, amethysts, pearls, and diamonds. I could probably count them in my assets, but I'm not so precious about it. I just wear them and hope I don't get robbed.
9:30 a.m. — T., an actual gem of a human, brings me a bacon and green chile breakfast burrito. The yoghurt goes in the fridge and the banana is ignored.

2:30 p.m. — T. informs me that he also brought me a carne adovada burrito for lunch. What did I do to deserve such a friend? Our boss's son then delivers us Starbucks. He brings me my beloved pistachio latte. Then the office receives a homemade pie as a thank-you gift. I have been showered with delicious riches today and am feeling so grateful!

5:30 p.m. — I run home and change into leggings and a sweater before heading to FWB's house. I also spend time cuddling with R. so hard that his tongue falls out of his little toothless mouth. I love all of my dogs, but R. is my whole heart. I drive to FWB's house listening to The Mountain Goats and admiring the gorgeous sunset.

7 p.m. — I get to FWB's house, and he immediately hands me pizza, a glass of ginger ale, and the blanket that I've claimed as my own. We plan our Omaha trip a little, watch TLB a little, and make out a little. I fall asleep on his lap, as usual. I rouse myself at 10 p.m. and head out, stopping for gas on the way. I text him when I get home to let him know that I made it safely. $38.50

Daily Total: $38.50
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