A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $91,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a Registered Nurse who makes $91,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a pregnancy test.
Content Warning: This diary talks about the details of a COVID-19 unit at a large hospital.
Occupation: Registered Nurse
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 25
Location: Philadelphia, PA
My Salary: ~$91,000
My Husband's Salary: $0 (He is a full-time medical student)
Net Worth: $56,000 (~$36,000 in high yield savings, ~$19,000 in a 403(b))
Debt: $0 (I paid off my $17,000 in student loans. I had a half-tuition scholarship and my parents covered the rest.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): ~$1,900 for day shift months, ~$2,200 for night shift months
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,125 for my half of a one-bedroom condo in a gated community that I share with my husband, L., that includes parking, a pool, and a community gym.
403(b): 12.5% of each paycheck pre-tax, totals to ~$900-$1,000 per month. My employer matches 2.5%.
Utilities: ~$130
Health Insurance: $152.72 per paycheck, pre-tax, to cover both of us for medical/dental/vision
Car Insurance: $92 (car is paid off)
Renter's Insurance (annually): $262 (also covers our wedding rings and my engagement ring)
Cell Phone: $0 (still on my parents' plan, they've said no every time I offer to pay for my portion)
PureBarre On Demand: $30
Spotify: $10
Netflix: $0 (still use my parent's account)
Hulu: $40 (we have the version with live TV)
Disney Plus: $7.52
Apple iCloud Storage: $2.99
Savings: I transfer anything over $500 from my checking to my savings at the end of each month.
Note: My husband, L., will graduate next year with ~$130,000 in student loans. We have not officially combined finances yet but are planning too soon.
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Day One

5 a.m. — Alarm goes off. It's my first day back to day shift after a long stretch of nights and it's way too early. I leave my husband, L., asleep in bed, grab my coffee from my Ninja coffee bar (preset last night to brew this morning), and sip it while doing my usual morning skincare (Kiehl's calendula cleanser, Thayer's witch hazel toner, The Ordinary natural moisturizing factors, Cerave eye cream). For makeup, it's my usual — Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen (even though I'm in fluorescent hospital lights all day, I think this doubles as a great makeup primer), Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue tinted gel cream, Maybelline Instant Age Rewind concealer, Laura Mercier setting powder, Maybelline brow pencil, ABH brow gel, and Milk Makeup Kush mascara. I inhale a breakfast of scrambled egg whites on sourdough toast, put my hair up in a low loose bun, throw on my scrubs, and am out the door by 6:15.
6:35 a.m. — Arrive at work. I am a nurse on a designated COVID-19 unit at a large medical center. We are heading into our 8th week of caring for COVID patients. I get temperature scanned at the door, pick up my mask for the day, and head up to my unit. Today, I am not assigned to care for specific patients, but rather to act as a resource for other nurses by helping them with their protective equipment, bringing them supplies while they're stuck in patient rooms, and going into the room if they need a second set of hands. We normally don't have the budget to have extra nurses on hand like this, but our hospital has allowed us to do this since the beginning of the pandemic and the extra staff has been keeping us afloat (we've been utilizing staff from other areas of the hospital that are much emptier than usual due to cancellations of elective surgeries and planned admissions). I begin my day by wiping down every surface in sight.
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10 a.m. — Two of our patients have medical emergencies at the same time — one stroke and one unresponsive with a critically low blood pressure. I jump in with the team that helps with the blood pressure case. We are able to turn things around very quickly and the patient is okay. I keep an eye on the rest of the unit while multiple staff members are tied up helping with the stroke case, who unfortunately needs a lot of further medical intervention.
2:45 p.m. — We have struggled to catch back up since the craziness this morning and now my stomach is eating itself. I duck into the break room and quickly eat the food I brought from home — white rice with black beans, shredded chicken, and green chile hot sauce topped with cilantro and Colby-Jack cheese.
3 p.m. — I run out of the break room to join the dozens of staff members lining the hallway to clap and cheer for a patient who is being discharged home while we play Rachel Platten's "Fight Song." My mask catches all my tears.
7:15 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon flies by after we get a few admissions and it's time for me to go. I grab my stuff from my locker, then stop by the hospital cafeteria before walking home. The hospital has sectioned off part of the cafeteria as a mini store for essentials so that healthcare workers don't have to stop at the store on their way home. I grab some milk and head home. $4.50
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7:45 p.m. — Arrive at home and begin the post-work decontamination process. Strip off everything as soon as I step inside my apartment, scrubs go directly into the washing machine, Lysol wipe my ID badge/phone/headphones/pens/chapstick/keys, Lysol spray the tops and bottoms of my shoes, jump in the shower. Somewhere in there, I say hi to L., but don't hug or kiss him until after the shower.
8:15 p.m. — Heat up some leftover roasted veggie lasagna and eat while chatting with L. about the day. He is a medical student whose in-hospital rotations are currently on hold, so he's been heavily involved in the many research projects he juggles while completing some online coursework from home. We watch an episode of Ozark, then I stretch, complete my daily Italian lesson on the Duolingo app, and do some meditation on the Headspace app (highly recommend).
11 p.m. — Bedtime routine (same as the morning skincare plus I add in The Ordinary vitamin C suspension and The Ordinary B oil), then read the last few chapters of my book (The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson). L. joins me in bed and we don't fall asleep until almost 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $4.50

Day Two

9:45 a.m. — I wake up and head out of the bedroom to find L. on a call with his research team. I make myself some coffee, and curl up on the couch to crack open a new book — The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Goodreads tells me I'm two books behind my goal of reading 52 books in 2020 and I'm determined to catch up. I work every third weekend but this is one of my weekends off, and I always try to really enjoy them and be intentional with how I spend my time.
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11:15 — I change into leggings, a loose cropped tank, and sneakers and head out. There's a big set of stairs between a parking lot and a building right around the corner from my condo and it's almost always empty. I do a 40-minute HIIT workout, alternating between running up and down the stairs and doing some bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and push-ups. Its gorgeous outside and I'm a sweaty mess.
12 p.m. — I get home and down a bottle of water while stretching. After showering, I put on a sheet mask for 15 minutes (the To-Do List honey glow mask from Amazon, my skin is not well from the constant mask-wearing at work), followed by my usual skincare routine and what I'm calling my quarantine makeup — just concealer under the eyes and filling in the brows so I don't scare myself when I look in the mirror.
1 p.m. — It's getting a little late to be calling this brunch, but that's what I'm calling it. I make some bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches on everything bagels that I made from scratch a few days ago and get the stamp of approval from L. Cooking/baking/eating are top contenders for my favorite hobby and recently I've been trying to expand my repertoire in the bread department. I love the idea of being more self-sufficient and being able to provide for ourselves rather than buying everything from grocery stores. L. and I love to talk about the vegetable garden we'll have and the chickens we'll raise at our future dream home. I'm fiercely defensive of the fact that we were into this kind of thing pre-pandemic.
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2 p.m. — We deep clean the kitchen and it feels great. We got a Roomba last week using the discount on our Zola registry (20% off for six months after your wedding) and turn it on for the first time. I'm brainstorming names and calling it our son. L. says he really does not want to personify the robot (an hour and a half later, he says, “wow he did such a good job!”). After 10 minutes of watching our boy zoom around the apartment, I settle back on the couch to continue reading, enjoying the fact that I'm relaxing instead of pushing a bulky vacuum around.
5:30 p.m. — Start my day-off routine of doing at least one hour of Duolingo Italian, watching Italian TV shows (which are terrible), and reading Italian children's books. My in-laws were born and raised in Italy, Italian was L.'s first language, and his grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins all still live there. I am on a mission to become fluent so that I can better communicate with his family without needing him or his parents to translate for me. We hope to teach our future kids Italian as well.
6:30 p.m. — L. interrupts my Italian lesson and asks if I want to go for a walk before the sun goes down. We take a stroll around our neighborhood (masks on, crossing the street the few times we encountered others).
7 p.m. — L. and I group FaceTime my parents and older sister while I make Marcella Hazan's recipe for bolognese, boil pappardelle, and sip some wine (Chop Shop cabernet). Both my parents and my sister live in different states, and although they aren't further than a couple of hours by car, I haven't seen them in person since we got back from our honeymoon in early January and we miss each other a ton. We update each other on our current quarantine activities, book and TV show recommendations, what we've cooked lately, and laugh together about an extended relative who is posting incessantly on social media about her #lifechanging success after three weeks in a pyramid scheme — I mean MLM company.
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9:30 p.m. — Dinner complete, dishes clean (L. usually does the dishes since I'm the chef), and we chat on the phone with our friend who is a Marine stationed in Asia. We end the night by play a few board games (Chinese checkers and Life).
12 a.m. — Headspace meditation, nighttime skincare routine, bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — Wake up and feel like I could sleep for five more hours, but force myself to get up so that I'll be tired enough to fall asleep earlier tonight since I work tomorrow. I make coffee and scramble an egg with leftover bacon, put it on sourdough toast, and sink into the couch to watch the livestream from the church in my hometown. I grew up going to church every Sunday with my family and grandmother and still do whenever we visit home, but L. and I don't usually go on our own here in Philly. On Easter, we watched the livestream from our hometown church (L. and I grew up in the same town and have been together since high school), and it was so great to feel that familiarity of home from our couch in our pajamas, so I'm trying to make it a more frequent thing. After church, I pick up my book and keep reading.
2:30 p.m. — I finish The Silent Patient and my mind is blown by that ending. What a ride. L. is getting research work done on his laptop. I make myself a cup of chai tea and browse through emails. Gap is having some sales so I decide I've earned some new additions to my lounging wardrobe. I order two pairs of joggers, a cozy knit quarter-zip pullover, and two workout tops. $111
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3 p.m. — Start a load of laundry and sit down at the table with L. to work on my Italian with a bowl of chips and salsa keeping us company.
5:15 p.m. — L. helps me fold the laundry and then I cook dinner, which is chicken and broccoli stir-fried in a sesame/honey/soy sauce. It's delicious and feels like we're eating takeout.
6:30 p.m. — I put leftover chicken, broccoli, and rice in a container to take to work tomorrow and decide that I desperately need to stretch. While I stretch, I turn on a random episode of The Great British Bake Off, which always makes me happy.
7:45 p.m. — I shower and put on pajamas, then head back into the kitchen to make hazelnut brownies (recipe by Half Baked Harvest) because Nutella is a staple in our house and brownies are always a good idea.
9:15 p.m. — The kitchen is clean, the coffee maker is set up for the morning, and I take melatonin just in case. I read the first few chapters of my next book, Normal People by Sally Rooney (told you I was serious about catching up to my Goodreads goal). I can tell I'm going to like it. I do my Headspace meditation, nighttime skincare, and lights out by 10:15.
Daily Total: $111

Day Four

5 a.m. — Ugh. Get up, grab coffee, usual skincare and makeup, and put my hair into a loose braid. Eat half of an everything bagel with cream cheese, grab my lunch from the fridge and I'm out the door by 6:15, walking to work while listening to my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder.
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7 a.m. — I'm settled at work and am getting a report from the night shift nurse. I only have one patient, but could get an admission from the emergency room at any time.
12 p.m. — The morning has flown by. My one patient has turned out to be quite the handful and I'm doing my best to keep it together and not get frustrated. I just got a report from the ER and my second patient of the day could roll up at any second.
1 p.m. — In a shocking turn of events, the emergency room has decided to keep my patient for "a little while longer" instead of sending them two seconds after the patient is assigned to a bed like they usually do, so I take the opportunity to eat lunch before they change their mind.
4:30 p.m. — New patient is stabilized and settled and our unit secretary rolls in a cart of Chinese food paid for by one of the surgeons that we usually worked with before we all became COVID nurses. Bless him. I already ate my lunch but let's call this an early dinner?
7:30 p.m. — I finish giving the night shift nurse a report on our people, clock out, and head home for the decontamination process. While in the shower, I get hit by a wave of nausea and I instantly blame the Chinese food. I hope it's nothing and will pass quickly.
10:30 p.m. — Narrator: but it does not pass quickly. After spending an hour or so on the bathroom floor waiting for the vomit that never comes, I take some nausea meds and make my way to the couch. L. is bringing me all the seltzer we have. Not sure if it's the bubbles or the medication, but eventually, the nausea subsides and I limp through my skincare routine before climbing into bed. I don't fall asleep until 11:30.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5 a.m. — My first thought when I wake up is how desperately I do not want to go to work today. I lay in bed until 5:15 having a pity party for myself. I am exhausted and there isn't enough coffee in the world to revive me. I also still feel queasy from last night. I do the usual morning routine and force down some cereal. I leave for work around 6:25, listening to the Brené Brown podcast because she always makes me feel a little better about having negative emotions about things I'm supposed to love and be grateful for, like being a nurse and taking care of others and having a job during a time when so many people are losing theirs.
8 a.m. — Still nauseous, sipping on a seltzer, and trying to get out of the awful mood I'm in. My two patients are sleeping, and for that, I am grateful.
10:30 a.m. — One of my patients becomes unresponsive while working with physical therapy and it goes from 0 to 100 very quickly. It's all hands on deck to get things stabilized and figure out what's going on and now I'm sweaty and tense and stressed. And I'm still exhausted, which means I'm also on the verge of tears.
2 p.m. — I eat a sad work lunch, but instead of the infamous sad desk salad, my version is crying and venting to my favorite coworker while simultaneously eating lunch because there's no time to do these two things separately. Lunch is leftover chicken and broccoli, same as yesterday. On the bright side, my stomach is feeling normal again.
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8 p.m. — I'm home, decontamination and shower complete, and I'm rehashing my day with L. over leftover pappardelle and bolognese. Pasta makes everything better, and L. being super loving and supportive and knowing exactly what to say when I'm feeling like this also helps. My coworker posts a heartfelt message on social media about being grateful for her coworkers and I cry again. My work pals have been my lifeline throughout this chaos and I remind myself how lucky I am to work with such incredible people who never hesitate to help each other out when things get tough.
9 p.m. — I watch the newest episode of Vanderpump Rules while painting my nails, another one of my go-to mood boosters. I have never been more grateful than during this pandemic that I am highly skilled in the art of the home manicure. While waiting for my nails to dry, I order a new bottle of one of my favorite colors, Essie Ballet Slippers, on Amazon since mine is running low. $7.98
10 p.m. — I guilt myself into doing 20 minutes of Duolingo since I did none yesterday. Headspace, skincare routine, lights out by 11.
Daily Total: $7.98

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Wake up early even though it's my day off because we want to get to the grocery store early to avoid crowds, and also L. has a Zoom call scheduled for 10. Coffee, skincare, makeup, and a quick breakfast of toast with peanut butter. I throw my hair into a bun and put on leggings, sneakers, a loose sweater, and my fuzzy L.L. Bean vest and we're off. We put on our masks as we walk out the door.
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8 a.m. — There are almost no other customers in the store so we are easily able to maintain social distancing. We quickly weave up and down the aisles, following the taped one-way arrows on the floor, and are so excited that we find everything on our list.
9:30 a.m. — I Lysol wipe everything before putting it away. We are trying to go three weeks or longer between grocery trips and it feels so good to be fully stocked again. We got a bunch of dairy, produce, meat, and cooking/baking staples with long shelf lives. We also get hand lotion, hand soap, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, and a birthday card to send to L.'s dad. After the nausea I had the other night, we decide to buy a pregnancy test as well. I have been getting random bouts of nausea for a couple of weeks and I've been more emotional than usual (hello being a frontline nurse during a pandemic). Even though I'm on birth control and take it correctly, we decide it's best to officially rule it out before I continue to drink wine. Our total is $417. I pay because L. paid last time. $417
10 a.m. — Pee on the stick. Not pregnant and very relieved. I'm so excited to have kids in a few years, but L. starts his residency next year and between him working 100 hours a week and us potentially having to move to a new city, we'll be stressed enough. I'd really like to not also have to worry about caring for a five-month-old during that time.
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12 p.m. — Mix together the ingredients for Half Baked Harvest's no-knead bread and leave it in a bowl covered by a warm dish towel to rise. I love that this recipe uses beer to give it a light sourdough flavor — I want to venture into growing my own sourdough starter, but after seeing and hearing so many stories of sourdough starter failures, I've decided that I'm not willing to risk wasting that much flour at a time like this. While my bread is rising, I throw together some scrambled egg whites with the last of the leftover bacon and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar on marble rye toast with a bowl of blueberries and strawberries. After I'm done eating, I start a load of laundry and set up at the table for my daily Italian studying with a cup of tea. I pause a few times to preheat the oven, put the bread in, and take it out. I've made this bread a few times, but each one comes out more beautiful than the last. I take a pic for the 'gram and set it out on a rack to cool.
4 p.m. — While my bread is cooling, I make another meal that will last us for the next day or two — red curry with chicken and zucchini over jasmine brown rice. I let it cool and then put it into containers in the fridge, making a separate one for lunch at work tomorrow.
5:30 p.m. — I roll out a yoga mat and do a 45-minute PureBarre class using the back of a chair as my barre and cans of black beans as my weights. My quads and abs are now on fire. After, I shower and put on a sheet mask (the same one as a few days ago).
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7:30 p.m. — For dinner, L. and I have the leftover bolognese with pieces of the bread I made today since there's no more pappardelle. We eat brownies while watching another episode of Ozark, then FaceTime with his parents and brother.
10 p.m. — After reading a few chapters of my book, I do my daily Headspace, nighttime skincare routine, and head to bed. I'm asleep by 11.
Daily Total: $417

Day Seven

5 a.m. — The usual morning routine before work. Coffee, skincare, makeup, put hair into a braid. I make some scrambled eggs with tomato and green onion on toast. Put my scrubs on, grab my lunch, and head out at 6:20, listening to My Favorite Murder on my walk.
7 a.m. — Settled on my unit, I sip a free iced Starbucks coffee from the hospital kiosk while listening to a unit leadership report on all the patients. I'm the resource nurse again today, so helping out wherever I'm needed rather than being assigned to specific patients. I'm relieved — my shift on Tuesday was rough and I'm ready to be a busy helper while having a break from owning the responsibility of having my own patients.
12 p.m. — We've made it through a whole five hours without any major emergencies! Applause applause applause. We get pizza and salad donated by a local restaurant for lunch, so I have that and keep my packed lunch to bring home and eat for dinner. The outpouring of support that we've received via free lunches and dinners has been incredible…these people truly know that the best way to the nurses' hearts is through their stomachs.
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3 p.m. — We have our weekly staff meeting with our team of managers and discuss new developments in our hospital's COVID-19 plan. We've reached our plateau in terms of our COVID numbers and it sounds like we may begin resuming some surgeries as early as next week, which would increase our patient census on the non-COVID units of the hospital. I'm optimistic about this, as I have spent the last eight weeks worried about the patients that I normally care for, who I know are at home and probably getting sicker and need care but are too scared to come to the hospital because of the pandemic. I'm glad that these people will start to be seen again, but I'm nervous about how this will affect our ability to utilize staff from other parts of the hospital.
7:30 p.m. — I clock out and head down to the main entrance of the hospital. L. comes to pick me up because there is a literal monsoon outside. I get home, decontaminate, shower, and eat the curry that I had packed for lunch with a glass of wine, followed by a Nutella brownie for dessert.
9 p.m. — I complete my daily Duolingo and then curl up on the couch with a second glass of wine and my book. I'm hearing call bells and alarms from work ringing in my head so I turn on a random chill hits playlist on Spotify to drown it out.
11:30 p.m. — Headspace, nighttime skincare routine, and climb into bed. L. joins me. We fall asleep by 1:00, and I'm looking forward to the three-day weekend I have ahead.
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Daily Total: $0
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
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