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A Week In Oklahoma On A $42,000 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 administrative assistant who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a set of Gilmore Girls DVDs.
Occupation: Administrative Assistant
Industry: Government
Age: 32
Location: Oklahoma
Salary: $42,000
Net Worth: $23,000 ($20,000 in Fidelity Retirement account + $38,000 Edward Jones Account + $6,000 savings - $26,000 student loans - $15,000 car loan). My partner and I keep our finances separate, and we split things almost 50/50, but he will occasionally pick up something extra because he makes more than I do.
Debt: Student Loan: $26,000, Car Loan: $15,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,165 (Medical, dental, retirement, and vision insurance is automatically deducted from my paycheck. My employer matches my retirement.)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $550 a month for my share (total rent is $900 for a three-bed, two-bath house)
Car Loan: $350
Student Loan: $140 (currently paused due to pandemic)
Car & Renter's Insurance: $68
Internet/Cable: Free through my partner's work. We get all the good channels too!
Gym Membership: $35
Netflix, Disney+: $22
Amazon Prime: Partner pays
Cell Phone: I am STILL on my parent's plan. They paid for my sister until she was in her 40s, so I think they feel like they should pay for me. I plan on upgrading my phone in the next year, which I will pay for, so this topic will be revisited.
Savings: I put $25 per paycheck into my emergency fund. Then I also sock away as much savings as I can for a new bed, travel, and any other goals I have.
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?
There was never any question about whether I would go to college. It was always expected. My grandparents did not finish middle school, so my parents wanted better for me. I was the first generation in my family to go to college. I won scholarships and took out loans for my undergraduate degree. My parents also pitched in as much as they could. For my master's degree, I worked at the university so I received half-off tuition and fees and my parents paid the rest up-front.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't have many conversations about finances at all, beyond them telling me if I wanted something I would have to purchase it myself. I quickly learned that if I wanted something I had to figure out a way to pay for it. I learned how to balance my checkbook and budget from my home economics class in high school.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job when I was 10 and I started cleaning the neighbor's horse barn. My first legitimate job was at 15 at a dog boarding kennel. I got it because I needed to be able to afford the gas in my car and any extras I wanted, as well as saving for travel.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, because my mom is a worrier, and I picked up on that vibe.
Do you worry about money now?
All the time. It is expensive to be healthy and it is hard for me to keep up with my partner who makes significantly more. I often remind myself that I am very privileged and grateful for what I have. I try to focus on having experiences rather than things. My situation is a lot better at my current job than my previous one. My previous one pushed me to get a master's degree, then only paid me $29,000. The low pay affected my housing situation and caused me to be depressed for a few years.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would argue that I am still not financially responsible for myself because my parents pay my phone bill. I have two savings account, one of which is an emergency fund of $2,200, another which is savings for goals, and my retirement accounts. If disaster struck, my partner could float me for a while and I know my parents would always help me as well. I do feel like I need more money in my emergency account.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I was 15 my mom gave me her old car so I could make it to work and back. When I left for college at 17, they bought me a newer used car because the first car wouldn't make it.

Day One

7 a.m. — It's payday Friday, my favorite day! I am off work today. I shower and do my skincare routine. I wash with a salicylic acid cleanser, use toner, serums, moisturizer, and finish with SPF 50 sunscreen on my face, neck, and chest. I love my skincare routines, and it has enabled me to stop wearing a full face of makeup every day, which is a huge time saver. I pull on some leggings with a T-shirt and make my one cup of coffee for the day. I move a majority of my paycheck into savings for rent ($550), travel ($50), and my emergency fund ($25), and pay off one credit card. I always write out a budget for each paycheck. As soon as I am paid, I pay my bills, move money into savings, and whatever is leftover is my fun/gas/eating out money.
8 a.m. — My mother picks me up because today is the city-wide garage sale. Cheesy I know, but we enjoy bargain hunting together. We visit 13 garage sales and I end up buying 15-pound weights for $5, three seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD, a home beer-brewing kit for $5, and two gardening books with a flower-grow kit for $7. I also buy us doughnuts for breakfast ($4 with tip). $21
12 p.m. — We meet up with my dad at Whataburger for lunch. My dad pays. Then my mom drops me off at home and we unload my finds.
1 p.m. — My partner, L., drives me to Walmart to pick up my grocery order. I always do my big grocery orders on paydays, so twice a month. I started placing my order online and picking up curbside during the pandemic and I will never go back to shopping in the store for the big orders. I get bacon, watermelon, cilantro, gravy mix, Clorox wipes, broccoli and cheese, cubed sweet potatoes, pineapple juice, zero sugar fruit punch, bread, low sodium lunch meat, sliced cheese, a hair mask, laundry detergent, shave gel, eggs, lemon, asparagus, biscuits, taco seasoning mix, garlic, Rotel, collagen, protein waffle mix, beef, butt wipes, toothpaste, string cheese, Lean Cuisine pepperoni pizza, Mio electrolytes (berry flavor), and coffee. $136
1:30 p.m. — I fill up my gas tank for my day trip tomorrow. $25.75
2 p.m. — We decide to try a smoothie place nearby. I get a Lean Machine smoothie with a vitamin C booster. We curl up on the couch together with our smoothies and watch Big Brother. My smoothie is not very good and I only drink half. $7
4 p.m. — I clean the kitchen, do the dishes, start my laundry, organize and sort through my baking supplies, and organize a shelving unit in the garage. The house we rent was built in 1960 and has not had any major renovations since then. While it looks old and worn, I still try to keep it looking as clean and nice as I can. Around 5:30, I eat a dinner of leftover ham, stuffing, and broccoli with cheese, with a few chips and the fresh salsa I made this week. I water my garden, bathe the dog, clean the bathtub, sweep the house, and put on a hair mask.
8:30 p.m. — I shower, shave, and do my skincare routine, which tonight includes tretinoin. I lay out my clothes for tomorrow and go to sleep at 9:30. I am wiped!
Daily Total: $189.75

Day Two

5 a.m. — I am up super early for a Saturday because I am visiting an elephant sanctuary for retired circus elephants! It is a three-hour drive away, but worth it to see the second-largest herd of Asian elephants in the U.S. I pack my water bottle and a Kodiak bar for a breakfast snack on the way. My ticket for the sanctuary was $25, which I purchased two weeks ago.
6:30 a.m. — My friend T., who is going with me, arrives late, but she brings me coffee. We load up in the car and hit the road!
9:30 a.m. — We arrive at the elephant sanctuary! There are elephants everywhere. I get to feed one and touch her trunk.
12 p.m. — We stop for lunch at a circus café, which is filled with, you guessed it, circus paraphernalia. I have a club sandwich with fries and water. $11
1 p.m. — We fuel up for our drive back and head home. We pass the time by listening to true crime podcasts. $17
2:30 p.m. — We stop at a gas station and T. grabs us Starbucks drinks to keep us awake.
4 p.m. — I'm home! T. comes inside to say hi to L. and our little dog.
5:30 p.m. — I run to Target for some Olive & June nail polish I have been wanting and I end up leaving with nail polish, salad, champagne, and greek yogurt ($28). Darn you, Target! Then at L.'s request, I run by Homeland and use his credit card for chili, brats, hot dog buns, and chips. I make chili cheese dogs for dinner with my homemade queso. I have mine with a side salad and some chips. $28
7:15 p.m. — I shower, do my skincare routine, brush my teeth, and lotion my body. I upload the day's receipts into the Amazon shopper panel and Fetch apps, and I'm in bed by 7:45, asleep by 8:30.
Daily Total: $56

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — L. wakes me up as he is getting ready for work. I'm sad I am up early on my day off, but I cuddle our little dog in bed. I hear thunder outside, so I know I can't do my weekly trail hike. Instead, I get dressed, brush my teeth, and head to the gym.
7:45 a.m. — I arrive at the gym and the parking lot is almost empty. I have just recently started going back to the gym, as I had my membership on hold during the pandemic. I power-walk on the treadmill for an hour then I do the upper body circuit on the weight machines. I am proud of myself! I am overcoming my gym anxiety. I finish with a 10-minute stationary bike ride and use the hydro massage chair, which feels great on my back.
10 a.m. — I get back home and make my morning coffee with collagen powder and some café latte protein shake as creamer. The dog and I curl up on the couch together and I alternate reading and watching the rain fall on my garden through the sliding glass doors.
11:30 a.m. — I finally have to start being productive, so first I wash my face. I need to meal prep my breakfast for the week, so I chop up bell peppers and poblano peppers from my garden and add some spinach, cheese, bacon, and egg whites to bake my breakfast egg muffins. I make myself a lunch of leftover chili cheese brat with watermelon and asparagus.
1:30 p.m. — I make myself a Hawaiian mimosa, turn on Netflix, and paint my nails with my Olive & June manicure set. The rain has stopped and the sun comes out, so I go outside and sit in the sun for a few minutes to let my nails dry. A pet-sitting client texts me to confirm I will be staying at her house next week. I pet-sit and house-sit on the side, and this summer has been the busiest I have ever had since I started doing it six years ago.
5:30 p.m. — L. comes home. I make us dinner (chicken sandwich and sweet potatoes with watermelon for me; a chili cheese dog, chicken sandwich, and watermelon for him) and we catch up over the past two days. We watch another episode of Big Brother, and afterward, I shower and we go to sleep at 9:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up and my arms are sore from yesterday. I get ready for work, pack my breakfast and lunch, and head out the door at 7:45. I have been working in the office throughout the pandemic, and I am secretly jealous of people who can work from home.
8 a.m. — I arrive at work and make my coffee. My boss is gone today, so I work on smaller projects.
10 a.m. — I eat my breakfast egg muffin with my homemade salsa. I take my morning break and walk outside for 15 minutes while chatting with my mom about my upcoming trip to Hot Springs National Park. One of my life goals is to visit all the national parks and I am finally getting to start! I had to postpone this trip because of COVID, so I am so excited it is finally happening this fall.
12 p.m. — I take my lunch break. I eat in an empty conference room because my desk is in a hallway, which offers no privacy. I have leftover ham, stuffing, salad, with a clementine and a peanut butter protein bar for dessert. I log all my food into MyFitnessPal. I watch a Netflix show while I eat.
3 p.m. — I take my afternoon break and go outside to walk, but it's so hot I only walk for a few minutes. I return to my desk and have a cheese stick and a protein shake for my afternoon snack. I fill out surveys online for cash.
5 p.m. — I am off work! I go home and decide to grill a burger for dinner. I have sweet potatoes and asparagus with it and watch Netflix while I eat. Afterward, I cuddle the dog for a while, then shower, use a hair mask, and shave. L. comes home around 7 and we discuss our days. His birthday is next month and he wants to go on a weekend trip somewhere, so we discuss where we should go. We decide I will research it this week because I love trip planning.
8:45 p.m. — I go to bed and treat myself to some TikTok scrolling. L. comes in at 9:30 and we go to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6 a.m. — My alarm starts going off, but I am lazy and snooze until 6:30. When I finally do get up I use my elliptical for 15 minutes then scroll on my phone.
7 a.m. — I get dressed for work, do my skincare routine, and pack my lunch bag. I take out the trash and recycling and leave it on the curb for trash day. I leave for work at 7:45 after smacking L.'s butt. I'm at work by 8 and I make my coffee, check emails, and decide to look up resorts within an eight-hour drive for L.'s birthday. I see that my friend, T, has CashApped me $10 for gas from our elephant sanctuary trip.
10 a.m. — I take my morning walk outside and chat with my mom on the phone. I come back to my desk and eat my breakfast egg muffin with my salsa. Honestly, my weekdays at work are much of the same. Rinse and repeat!
12 p.m. — I take my same lunch as yesterday in the same conference room. I read my book, get fed up with how slow it is, and digitally return it to the library and start the next one, which seems intriguing. The older I get the less patience I have for slow books. Life is too short.
3 p.m. — I take my afternoon walk outside and then have my afternoon snack of a cheese stick and a protein shake.
5 p.m. — I get off work and go to Walmart to buy a few school supplies to donate. $10
5:30 p.m. — I see the Walmart gas station has gas for $2.63 so I whip in there to fill up. I get half a tank of gas. I get home and I water my garden. I throw some asparagus and a piece of garlic bread in the oven to roast, then heat up a single serving frozen meal of lasagna because I feel too lazy to cook. $16
7:15 p.m. — L. comes home and we chat. I put on an under-eye hydration mask that I received in a BoxyCharm subscription box. I also put on another top coat of polish on my nails. I feel like something sweet, so I melt some chocolate chips and drizzle it on some graham crackers. Sweet and crunchy!
8:30 p.m. — I get ready for bed and do my skincare routine. I cancel my strength training workout subscription, which was $20 a month. From the soreness I am experiencing from using the gym's equipment, I don't think I need to pay for another subscription for strength training. I frequently cycle through different subscription boxes and programs because I like to try new things. I read the new book I started and it's so good I don't want to stop reading. Finally lights out at 9:30.
Daily Total: $26

Day Six

5:30 a.m. — My watch alarm vibrates me awake and I groggily get up to get ready for the gym. I brush my teeth, throw my hair in a bun, put on some clothes, and I am out the door before 6.
6 a.m. — I get to the gym and I powerwalk on the treadmill for 35 minutes. I am doing a routine I saw on TikTok called 3-3-30, which is an incline of three at three miles per hour for 30 minutes. I can feel it in my calves. Afterward, I reward myself with a session on the hydro massage chair.
7 a.m. — I am back home and I shower, take my vitamins, do my skincare, and get ready for work. I am in a good mood this morning — probably because I worked out. I have extra time, so I make a fruit smoothie for work. I use plain greek yogurt, frozen fruit mix, and water. I make a mental note to research protein powders. I pack my breakfast and lunch and am out the door at 7:45 after smacking L.'s butt. While I drive, I listen to a super interesting audiobook about big pharma called Empire of Pain. I arrive at work at 8 and I make my daily coffee. Yum!
10 a.m. — I go for my morning walk and chat with my mom. I return to my desk and have my egg white breakfast muffin.
11:30 a.m. — I leave for lunch early to run some errands. I visit a medical spa and drop off the school supply donation. In return, I get to enter my name in a drawing for a facial. Next, I run by Sam's Club and get my protein shakes and impulsively grab two premade salads for my lunch this week. I eat lunch at my desk of ham, salad, broccoli with cheese, clementine, and my fruit smoothie. $23
3:15 p.m. — Afternoon walk followed by a snack of a cheese stick and a protein bar.
5:15 p.m. — I'm home from work and I heat up some leftover taco meat and have a taco with some chips for a quick snack. Tonight is L.'s burger night, a weekly ritual he has with his friends. I promised to go with him once a month, and tonight is that night. I play Super Mario Bros on my Switch and then I read some more of my book.
8 p.m. — We switch it up and go to a sushi place for burger night. I get a salad and some gyoza, which I love. I'm back home by 9:15. $11
Daily Total: $34

Day Seven

5:40 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up and I really don't want to get up. I get ready and hit the gym. I power-walk on the treadmill for 32 minutes then use a massage chair. When the weather is cooler I will walk or run around my neighborhood, but I love how safe I feel in the gym.
7 a.m. — Back home, shower, and get ready for work quietly since L. is sleeping late. No butt smacks this morning.
8 a.m. — Arrive at work and make my coffee as usual with collagen powder and café latte protein shake. I check my email and realize my debit card information was compromised. Someone tried to order an iPhone, AirPods, and a wireless charger from Walmart for a pickup order this morning. Thankfully my bank's fraud company denied the order and locked my card. I cancel my card. This card only lasted me three months since my last card was compromised.
10 a.m. — I take my morning walk and fill my mother in on my card drama and a weird dream I had; I follow this up with a delightful breakfast egg white muffin. I love making and eating food with veggies I grow in my own garden. I have a 10:30 finance meeting that I am dreading.
11:45 a.m. — I leave for my lunch and get a new debit card at my bank. Then I stop by the tag agency and get a new tag for my car ($101). I saved money for my tag from my last pet-sitting gig, which really comes in handy. Today's lunch is a prepackaged salad from Sam's with a PB&J that I eat at my desk. $101
3 p.m. — I am so sleepy that I make myself a hot tea for the caffeine. I take my afternoon walk and have a cheese stick with a protein shake.
5:15 p.m. — Once I'm home from work, I water my garden. Our lawn guy came and mowed, so I send him $35 because it's my turn to pay. L. and I have sex, and then we go to his sister's for the weekly family night dinner. We stay until 10:15 catching up. We go home, cuddle in bed, and I am asleep by 11, which is late for me. $35
Daily Total: $136
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