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A Week In South Carolina On A $60,000 Salary

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: an account manager who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on sandals for a beach trip.
Occupation: Account manager
Industry: Marketing
Age: 32
Location: South Carolina
Salary: $60,000
Assets: $499 checking; $14,000 savings; $500 Roth IRA; $490,000 home ($70,000 equity).
Debt: $8,000 student loan; $236,000 mortgage; $50,000 HELOC; $1,000 credit cards.
Paycheck amount (2x/month): $2,065
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: $1,600 mortgage (paid bimonthly; my husband and I own our own home).
Loan payments: ~$450 HELOC; $200 credit cards; $75 student loans.
Gym (YMCA):
Monthly haircuts for three people: $70
Water & utilities: ~$200
Electricity: ~$400 
Internet: $120
Gas: $150
Phone bills: $150
Life insurance: $254 (policies for me and my husband).
Dining out: $300
Random stuff: $400 (Netflix, domain registrations for personal projects, software subscriptions).
Fun stuff: $500 (split evenly between me and my husband based on our budget. In real life...70/30 split?).
Nanny: $1,500
Emergency savings: $1,000-$1,500

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 the last of five children in a blended marriage and it was abundantly clear that out of all of my siblings who didn’t attend or graduate college that I was expected to be the Hail Mary. I also attended a charter school that had a 100% graduation rate, with all or most students headed off to college.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We had very few conversations about money that weren’t stressful. My family was a one-income military family. By the time I was 12 or 13, my siblings were all moved out and living on their own so the conversations about money worries fell to me instead of older siblings. We were all taken to the bank at 13 to open checking and savings accounts. We were also taught how to balance a checkbook by hand and the importance of being able to do so. While line items were tracked, I don’t ever remember being taught how to create a budget that would be flexible to changing needs.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a camp counselor at 15 to save money for a car and insurance. I applied after a family friend sent us the job posting — I worked with them in their class as an assistant. I had a job constantly in the summers after that, and during college. We were encouraged not to have jobs during the school year to focus on academics and extracurricular activities but the summers were fair game to save up for the things we wanted and needed.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. We had a very limited income and our parents weren’t super financially savvy or prone to saving so unexpected expenses caused a lot of worry for my parents and for me at a very young age. I was told early on that I would have to figure out how to fund college myself but it was still an expectation that I attend higher ed.

Do you worry about money now?
The worry is different now. I got my degree, built up experience and have a great job. Our bills are paid and recently we were approved for a HELOC. This gave us the ability to consolidate a lot of high-APR credit card debt. That gave us a lot of breathing room in our monthly budget so the worry now is that we want to pay off that HELOC early, need to save for retirement more aggressively, and want to fund long-term savings accounts for our children.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At 18 I moved out into the college dorms that were a year-to-year lease and took over all my own expenses. I had family friends that I could have turned to in emergencies but was stubborn about not wanting to have to ask for help.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

9 a.m. — I am a beekeeper and get a very exciting text — my friend has a swarm of bees and is ready to sell them to me! All my bees died last winter (huge bummer) so I’ve been waiting for months for his bees to swarm to rebuild my apiary. I hit the ATM and get my hives ready for him to drop off the bees. He shows up with the swarm trapped in a small nuke box and we leave them near my hive. I’ll come back out tonight and dump them in my hive so my friend can have his nuke box back. I want one more swarm so hopefully that will be available soon. $80
12 p.m. — After getting everything for the bees settled I head to my lunch date with a friend. She’s moving soon and I will miss her big-big! We chat about her upcoming two-day trip to scout out new homes in her new city. It’s a quick plane ride away but I will seriously miss having her so close. She shows me all the options they’re looking at and this completely incredible spreadsheet she’s built that has a link to each Zillow listing, the mortgage amount, monthly payment with a variable formula for down payment, interest rate, their personal score of 1-9 for commute and even one for general happiness. The mortgage rates even integrate the data from the bank’s interest calculator so that her margin of error on payments is less than $5 a month. She is seriously the smartest and coolest #girlboss. $19
6 p.m. — I get home and make dinner with the family. We have rotini with red sauce, one of our favorite weeknight meals. Easy, effective, beloved. While making dinner I put in a grocery delivery order for some staples we need for the coming week. We end the day with a regular lounge sesh, everyone sacked out on the couch after eating and washing dishes. We head upstairs to do our bedtime routines and pass out at 9 p.m. $44.95
Daily Total: $143.95

Day Two

8 a.m. — Breakfast before heading to work is two packets of cheese grits and coffee with Starbucks creamer, all at home. I drop our son off at the nanny’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays so today we head to her house before I drive to work.
11 a.m. — A coworker reminds me it’s the Amazon Book Sale day and I browse my TBR list (private, ever-expanding) to see if anything is on sale. One title, Horse by Geraldine Brooks, is on sale for 75% off. A friend recommended it as a recent favorite so I snap it up without a second thought. I grab a few more books that are deeply discounted and a new bathing suit for an upcoming beach trip. I don’t buy a new bathing suit every season (as is customary where we’re from) but this year I have to buy a maternity suit. Our baby is due in October and my current favorite swimsuit just won’t cut it (or it does cut, in all the wrong places, and that’s the problem). $75.99
12 p.m. — I forget my lunch and I have a 30-minute commute to work so I don’t go home at midday like some of my coworkers. Ugh, spending money on food after a fun Amazon order feels so flippant but a girl’s gotta eat. I make a mental note to get back into food prep and make yummy lunches for the near future. I head to the taco place next door and get a chicken quesadilla with extra sour cream on the side. I sit by myself and read my current Kindle Unlimited title. It’s a cute vampire enemies-to-lovers set that is fairly popular on BookTok. After finishing lunch I head back to the office to catch up on emails and work. $12.96
Daily Total: $88.95

Day Three

8 a.m. — Wake up, get everyone ready, eat some grits/coffee and head to work. It’s payday, woot! Today is also a day that our nanny comes to our house to watch our son. We do three days a week at our house and two at her house. It’s what works for everybody and our son loves being at her house with her and her family. I head straight to work and knock out some immediate emails and tasks.
11 a.m. — My calendar reminder pings with a note to pay our son’s registration fee for school. He got a spot at a local charter school for kindergarten in the upcoming school year and we are thrilled. We think it will be a great fit. It’s taken me a few weeks to work through the paperwork to get him set up in their system (so much paperwork) and I set a reminder last week to pay this fee as soon as we got paid. It’s not due for a few months but I have an irrational fear that I’ll miss something and his spot will be revoked. With this last fee everything is locked in. Now to start looking at and budgeting for kindergarten uniforms, because of course there’s a uniform. We’ll tackle that this summer, though. $67.44
12 p.m. — Our bimonthly mortgage payment hits our account and I take a moment to be grateful for bimonthly payments! When we first moved in together we had a monthly payment always due on the first and it made budgeting a little challenging. About two years ago I finally convinced (bullied) my husband into setting up bimonthly payments. About three months after the change took place he said, “Man, I wish I’d listened to you sooner and done this. This is great!” I’m just a personal finance fiend, don’t mind me. $807 (included in monthly expenses).
12:30 p.m. — During my lunchtime scan of our account I notice that the electricity bill has also gone through. First, thank goodness for autodrafts and being in a place where we can set those up without much worry about overdrafts. That’s not always been the case and I had a lot of instances in college and early in my career where I had to log into a zillion different platforms to manually pay the bills. It was tedious and stressful but I didn’t want to set up autodraft and overdraft our account. About two years ago I set up a budget spreadsheet and tracked every penny in all of our accounts. Once I had about four months of data, I set up autodraft for everything we could comfortably have come out of our account at any time. This lightened the load and it also keeps everything humming (literally: nothing’s gotten shut off or had a late fee in years. Amaze.). $369 (included in monthly expenses).
3 p.m. — Take a break from work and check our account. My student loan payment autodrafted. I had four out of five years in undergrad with no debt thanks to the Pell Grant, work study funding and a scholarship. My fifth year I needed a boost to cover housing and a tuition balance that I couldn’t pay out of pocket at the time so I took out one federal student loan that’s locked in at 1-2% interest. I am very fortunate not to have more student loan debt and hope to pay off the rest of my loan with our next tax refund. I grab a snack and a Coke from the machine at work, which is a free perk. I spend a few minutes out in the sunshine reading my ebook then head back inside to wrap up tasks and answer emails before the end of the day. $75.73 (included in monthly expenses).
6 p.m. — I head home and get hug-mauled at the door. There are some great perks of working in an office and coming home to little kiddo hugs is one of them. The nanny and I chat for about a half-hour before she heads home. I start dinner — tonight it’s a shepherd’s pie from scratch that my husband loves. We get lost in routine and all of a sudden it’s bath, books and bedtime. We read my son a story and tuck him in, then head to our bedroom where I have almost the exact same routine: skincare, brush teeth, put on pajamas and then read for several hours before passing out face-first into my ebook.
Daily Total: $67.44

Day Four

9 a.m. — Another day, another autodraft. This one is our YMCA membership. We have a family membership and we love that my son can go and play in the kids’ zone while we get a workout in. $62.10 (included in monthly expenses). 
11 a.m. — Sorting through work emails I realize our upcoming beach trip is tomorrow and I don’t have any sandals to wear. I’m 100% a Chacos girl but my ride-or-die pair is sitting in tatters. I decide to treat myself during lunch and head to the local Outfitters store for a pair of Chacos for the trip. I grab those and a pair of Tevas that are on sale/very cute. I head back to work to eat leftovers at my desk while I work on some tasks. $113.39
3 p.m. — I take a quick brain break and check our account. HELOC time, baybees. We have a monthly HELOC payment that, right now, is the minimum. Once we get our emergency savings up to six months of expenses, we will switch the mass of savings from the emergency account and start aggressively paying off the HELOC. $469 (included in monthly expenses).
6 p.m. — Dinner tonight is leftovers out of the fridge since we’ll be at the beach for the next couple of days. This is a quick trip so nothing will really go bad before we come back but I don’t feel like getting groceries for one night of cooking.
Daily Total: $113.39

Day Five

8 a.m. — We eat a quick breakfast at home: grits and coffee for me, cheese toast for the little man. His overnight bag is packed for the nanny’s house as he’ll stay with her for the two nights we’re at the beach for this company retreat. I drop him off and we have lots of hugs, kisses and smiles.
12:30 p.m. — I leave the office around noon as this is a half-day for everyone going on the retreat. Our destination is within driving distance so we work until noon then have to meet up at our location between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. I get gas on the way home and then frantically pack a bag and fix the hem on a beach coverup I want to wear (sewing is magic). $29.04
1:30 p.m. — My husband is coming on this trip so after he logs off and packs a bag we realize we’re hungry. Rather than stopping at a drive-thru window we decide to do a quick lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. It’s filling and fast, which feels like such a luxury. Now we’re on the road to the beach! $51.36
7 p.m. — We arrive and hang out with the group for a while. Everyone breaks off for separate dinner plans so my husband and I get dinner at a beachy restaurant nearby. We opt for the first-floor dining room instead of the crowded upper bar. The service is quick and the food is great. I have an excellent shrimp Caesar salad and he has a po’boy and fries. I order a slice of chocolate cake and we end up splitting it. $84.09
9 p.m. — We head back to our hotel (booked by the company) and get ready for bed. We watch some TV and I read for a while before nodding off.
Daily Total: $164.49

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I wake up normally between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m.; unfortunately today’s no exception. I need to eat immediately before the morning sickness kicks in. I’m almost halfway through this pregnancy but still have morning sickness fairly frequently. Good times. I rouse hubs and we get breakfast at the only place that’s open nearby. There’s a breakfast buffet that’s got a good selection. We eat and then head back to our room for a two-hour nap. There’s no schedule for this retreat, which is wild and very cool. The only semi-planned activity is that there will be a tent at the beach at some point today and all the employees will congregate there to hang out for the majority of the day. $41
11 a.m. — We wake up, get showered and hit the nearby grocery store for a few beach snacks. We get fresh fruit, a 12-pack of soda, some Cheezit Grooves (the best, I will fight about it) and some chocolate-on-chocolate whoopie pies. We throw those in the cooler then take everything down to the beach. $35.17
3 p.m. — It started to rain around 2 p.m. (boo-hiss) so we left the beach and headed back to the room. We have ghost tour tickets tonight and want to eat a solid lunch soon so we have room for dinner later with some of my colleagues. We go to a local place at the beach. Hubs gets a fish plate and I have chicken fingers and fries. I asked for them to be tossed in lemon pepper wing sauce and that decision was one of the best I’ve recently made. Delish. $57.05
6 p.m. — We head to dinner at a local hipster restaurant. We order an app to share because we’re still full from lunch. We also spring for a fried Oreo dessert that is a hit. $80.07
8:30 p.m. — We head over to the ghost tour meeting spot. I prebooked these tickets several weeks ago so there’s no expense for us right now (#girlmath?). The tour is a blast! We climb back into the car afterward and head back to the hotel.
11 p.m. — A bunch of people are still hanging around by the hotel pool so we stay out later than we mean to and socialize. After an hour or so we head back to our room, flop on the bed and pass out for the night.
Daily Total: $213.29

Day Seven

8 a.m. — We’re heading home today. We hop in the car early and stop at Burger King for a drive-thru breakfast. I had my doubts but the croissant breakfast sandwiches honestly slap. We drive the three-hour journey and go straight to the nanny’s house to pick up the kiddo. After that we make a beeline for our house to lounge on the couch for the rest of the day. $15.71
1 p.m. — We got home, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then everyone napped. Afterwards we’re refreshed and spend time playing outside together.
6 p.m. — Dinner is pulled from the freezer and pantry. It’s spaghetti and meat sauce. We all snuggle up on the couch and watch cartoons after dinner and dishes. After cartoons and more playing outside we head up for bedtime routines. It’s nice to be home and sleep in our own bed, even after only two nights away.
Daily Total: $15.71

The Breakdown

Weekly Total $$ Spent: $807.22
Food & Drink: $441.36
Entertainment: $80
Home & Health: $0
Clothes & Beauty $189.38
Transportation $29.04
Other $67.44
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