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A Week In Baltimore, MD, On A $43,000 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: an administrative coordinator who makes $43,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Taylor Swift album.
Occupation: Administrative Coordinator
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 23
Location: Baltimore, MD
Salary: $43,000
Net Worth: -$4,500 ($800 in savings, $1,700 in checking, minus debt)
Debt: I have $8,000 in credit card debt. I also have student loans, but my parents took them out and pay for them.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,350
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $565 (I have two roommates)
Electricity: $60
Wi-Fi: $20
Water: $5
Student Loans: my parents pay.
Gym: $10
AMC Stubs: $25
New York Times: $10
Peacock: $5
Netflix: $18
Patreon: $10
Audible: $16
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 an expectation for me to attend college but my parents never made me feel suffocated by it. They both went to college (and met in college) so a higher education was always something I wanted to do. I went to a small private school. They allowed me to major in something I was passionate about rather than what would make money. It wasn't a question to my parents that they would pay for my undergrad, but I worked two jobs in college for petty cash, my textbooks, and anything else I could help with.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents are vehemently against credit cards and racking up debt and they made sure my brother and I knew that. They had a bad experience with debt when we were babies and ever since, my dad has hated the idea of credit cards. We never really had discussions about finances, but my parents always wanted us to know how to spend our money wisely.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at my college's on-campus library when I was 18. I got it because I wanted to begin to experience the "real world." About a year in, when I realized my paychecks amounted to almost nothing, I got my second job as a host in a restaurant downtown. That was my first off-campus, actual job.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I suffer from an anxiety disorder and it really came to fruition in my childhood surrounding the idea of money and spending money. My parents never gave us any reason to be worried about our finances but certain comments did start to affect me. Around the age of 12, I started to believe I couldn't spend any of their money. I started to freak out about pretty much anything that wasn't a necessity. Growing up with a brother who never asked for anything, I started to see myself as a burden because I had interests that cost money. As much as they told me we were fine and that we had the money, I never believed them.
Do you worry about money now?
All. The. Time. The anxiety surrounding money hasn't gone away. When I moved to Baltimore two years ago, I paid for most of the move myself, got a part-time job, destroyed my savings, and racked up $6,000 of credit card debt. That led to some rough, anxious nights when I got a salaried job and realized it would take years to pay off the debt. I know my debt is extraordinarily low compared to others but it doesn't stop my mind from running amuck and telling me I've ruined my life. With my debt and bills, it's very hard to save money as well.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I am not financially responsible yet. My parents help me by paying my car insurance (MD car insurance is super pricey) and anything related to car maintenance when needed. They also pay my cell phone bill. I also have student loans but thankfully, my parents are paying for those. They will always be a safety net but I would never want to use it. I got laid off from my first salaried job in Baltimore in March of this year and they immediately offered to help but I was able to get unemployment so I did not need to ask for money. If I ever had to move home, they would let me.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave me $3,000 to help pay off my credit card about a year into living in Baltimore. It killed me to take it but we all knew my mental health would thank them later and they were finally in a place in their life where they could offer it to me.

Day One

7 a.m. — I snooze my alarm a few times before I get out of bed. I quickly get ready, throw on some mascara, e.l.f. camo concealer, and e.l.f. blush, and take my medications before running downstairs to make my lunch and breakfast. I always bring my breakfast to the office so I can eat while I start my day. I make a honey yogurt parfait with blackberries and granola and bring leftover pasta for lunch. I usually buy coffee once a week before work and know today will be the day.

8:45 a.m. — I usually stop for Dunkin' on my way to work, but I feel nauseous this morning so I skip it. My roommate/best friend, E., and I went out for happy hour last night so I am wondering if that's why I feel icky. Once I get to work I realize I can't function without coffee so I go around the corner to the local coffee place and get a large iced coffee with oat milk and caramel. $5.25

12 p.m. — I started my new job a month ago and am still in training. After I finish a training session, I look at the discounts I can receive as an employee. I impulsively decide to get a HelloFresh box since it's only $26 for the first one but then I realize I shouldn't have and decide to cancel before the next week renews. I choose a pork and rice dinner, bean burritos, and a chicken sheet pan dinner. $26

4:30 p.m. — I decide to leave the office a little early and get home to change for the gym. I just got the Peloton app to help me focus on workouts and I am still in the free month trial.

6 p.m. — I stop at the grocery store because I have a craving for a classic sub. I pick up pepperoni, a roll, tortilla chips, salsa, a small bag of potato chips, and a Nutella and pretzel snack pack. It is $25, but I luckily have EBT from when I was unemployed so I use that. I get home and have a few tortilla chips and a beer while I make a sub with ham, cheese, pepperoni, lettuce, mustard, and mayo and have a side of classic UTZ potato chips. Yum!

8 p.m. — I decide to have an early night so I shower and cozy up in bed to watch Parks and Rec. I try to do skin care daily, but sometimes I just want to get in bed, which is what I do tonight. My mom calls and we talk for a minute. I am about to shut my eyes when I decide to go downstairs to catch up with E. and our other roommate (her partner), R. I don't go to bed until 11.

Daily Total: $31.25

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — It's a work-from-home day for me so I get to sleep in a bit. The workday starts at 8:30 but my job is very relaxed as to when you have to log in for the day so I scroll on my phone for a bit before I actually get out of bed.

9 a.m. — I check my emails before making myself coffee. I have a regular coffee pot but hate hot coffee so I throw a cup of it in my freezer to cool down while I make breakfast. Since I'm home, I make a breakfast burrito of eggs, cheese, tomato, and shredded potatoes. I eat while looking at Taylor Swift tickets in Philly to see if they have gone down in price. They have, but I decide to keep checking throughout the day to maybe go this weekend.

10 a.m. — Okay, time to do some actual work. I make my iced coffee, turn on Parks and Rec, and get settled. Graduation is around the corner and I am helping facilitate that.

1 p.m. — I am not concentrating at all so I take myself out to lunch and work at a little bistro. I order a cup of black bean soup, a kale side salad, and an iced tea and finish the work day there. $15.96

4:30 p.m. — I wrap up and head to Trader Joe's. I get arugula salad, focaccia, burrata, prosciutto, yogurt, orange juice, peanut butter bars, frozen artichokes, cauliflower, and a few other things. It's a bit more than I expected ($88) and I am so grateful to still have EBT as I am in this transitional period of my life.

6 p.m. — I go shopping for a bit with E., but I don't get anything.

8 p.m. — My roommates are partners so they go to the movies and I make a sandwich. I scroll back and forth between Twitter and Taylor Swift's concert on TikTok Live and have an early night. I have a hard time falling asleep because I realize I just bought $88 worth of food and I am getting that unnecessary HelloFresh box on Monday, ugh.

Daily Total: $15.96

Day Three

11 a.m. — It's the weekend!!!! I sleep in and mess around on my phone for a bit before I start getting ready for the day. E. and R. have a college alumni event at a brewery today and I am tagging along. I shower, change, have a yogurt parfait for breakfast, and make an iced coffee while the two of them get ready.

1 p.m. — The brewery is so cool — it is on an old farm and the main brewery is the barn. We hang out with people they knew in college and play games. E. gets a pizza and I share it with her. We go to happy hour together once a week or so, so she covers this and I'll get the happy hour next time. I venmo for the two beers though. $15

4 p.m. — We stop at the grocery store on our way home. I pick up a couple of rolls. EBT covers it. I am antsy when we get home. I have a giant bag of clothes to donate so I decide to go to the thrift store to bring those and take a look around.

5 p.m. — The thrift store is packed so I avoid the clothing and just walk around the home décor area. I always check the books since I love collecting old copies of classic books. I find a great copy of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and two ceramic dishes. $10

8 p.m. — I have a sub, which finishes my cold cuts (end of sub obsession) and I come to terms with not seeing Taylor Swift in Philly this weekend. I watch her concert on TikTok throughout the night. What an amazing show! I watch TikTok and Parks and Rec since, much like a baby, I need noise and color to distract me at all times. I finally go to bed at 11.

Daily Total: $25

Day Four

10 a.m. — I am still in bed when my brother FaceTimes me and berates me for still being in bed! Rude!! I call my mom after then I change for the gym, fill my water, eat a granola bar, and head out.

12 p.m. — I am so happy I got the Peloton app. It actually makes me want to work out! I have such a hard time staying focused at the gym so I am proud of myself for going as much as I am right now. I gained a lot of weight between COVID lockdown and going on antidepressants so I am trying to at least build up the stamina I lost over the last few years. I am going to hiking with my brother in a few weeks and I am afraid I won't be able to keep up.

1 p.m. — I am once again, antsy at home. I try to call my mom again but she is at brunch. I decide to go to Starbucks and get an iced venti blonde latte and the gouda, bacon, and egg sandwich. I have a couple of dollars on my Starbucks app and put the rest on my debit card. $11

3 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning my room, vacuuming, and getting myself mentally prepared for the week. I want to make overnight oats this week instead of yogurt parfaits so I run to the store to pick up oat milk, bananas, and blackberries, and sneakily get Reese's cupcakes too. It's $10 and EBT covers it.

6 p.m. — I make three chia seed and oat overnight oats for the beginning of the week. It makes me happy to know I won't have to worry about it in the morning. I go ahead and brew my coffee to put in the fridge overnight and decide I want to prep some lunches too. I make a sheet pan of roasted chicken sausage, broccoli, and yellow squash and make white rice to go with it. I eat one serving for dinner and put the rest in containers for lunches. I clean up, fold my laundry, and head upstairs for the night. I do not put the laundry away and know it will live in the hamper for a few days.

9 p.m. — I lose track of time on my phone. I take a quick shower, do my skin care (yay for me!), and cuddle up in bed. There is a rumor going around that Taylor may announce something at the end of her show tonight so I stay up and of course, nothing happens. I go to bed at 11:45, knowing it'll be hard to get up tomorrow.

Daily Total: $11

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I immediately regret staying up so late. I waste as much time as I can in bed, leaving me no time to do anything. I forego makeup, brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, put a pimple patch on, and head downstairs to leave. I put creamer in my chilled coffee, get my overnight oats and top it with blackberries and strawberries, grab a banana, my prepped lunch, and a grapefruit seltzer, and head to work.

9 a.m. — There is an event being planned for tomorrow and it is very last minute so the team and I are rushing to finish up the plans for that. I spend my morning going through emails and rescheduling meetings due to this event.

10 a.m. — Payday! I get a notification my paycheck was posted in my bank account so I go in and put $500 into savings and $300 towards my credit card. It'll leave me $850 in my checking for the next two weeks. I get another paycheck before I have to pay rent so I feel okay about it.

1 p.m. — I eat lunch at my desk. At my old job, I was not allowed to leave the office or have a lunch break, so I am still getting used to leaving for lunch for an hour. I finish lunch with a PBC bar from Trader Joe's for a sweet treat.

5 p.m. — I spend the rest of my day with my coworker who is training me on expenses. It's good practice but takes a lot longer than I think and I don't leave until 5:10. Not too bad but it's the latest I've stayed at the job since I've started.

6 p.m. — On the way home, I call my grandma and she tells me she has a lot of anxiety being an older woman living alone and it pains me I can't give her a hug. I get home, send her my love, and catch up with E. who helps me talk things over and get in a better mood for the night.

7 p.m. — I eat a mini blueberry lemon hand pie from Trader Joe's (very sweet) and then it's time! It's happening! The HelloFresh box has arrived! It's a fun package to open and go through and I decide to make the pork smash meatballs with Thai sweet chili sauce. I am not disappointed, but glad I canceled the membership. I am excited to try the other meals I got throughout the week.

9 p.m. — My back starts to hurt, which always worries me because I have had bad back problems in the past. I assume it's from the gym so I go lay down, zone out, and fall asleep around 10:30.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — Not much better than yesterday but I wake up a few minutes early. I got my period in the middle of the night and my cramps give me a warm, wonderful welcome today. I love being a woman. It's probably why my back hurt last night.

7:45 a.m. — I have to drive 40 minutes each way for work today to pick up an award for one of our graduates, so I decide to pick up Dunkin'. I get a large iced coffee with oat milk and vanilla and wash down some lovely ibuprofen with it. My dad sent me a $5 gift card from a rewards program so I pay with that.

9 a.m. — I get to the trophy company and the award was never paid for!! I quickly text my coworker and even offer to pay for it and get reimbursed but he says I'll have to wait to hear from finance and apologizes to me for having to drive so far. Luckily, I can get the mileage reimbursed so I get back in my car and head into the office. It's a nice two hours catching up on my podcasts.

10 a.m. — I get into the office and it is a ghost town. Everyone is traveling for this event so I really don't have a lot to do. I eat my overnight oats and I keep listening to the Doughboys podcast.

12 p.m. — Same meal prep for lunch today! I can usually go two or three days eating the same meal before I get bored of it.

4 p.m. — No one else is in the office and I have errands to run after work, so I decide to leave an hour early. I have a bunch of returns to send off so I hit the USPS and the UPS store. I get a cheeky little smoothie of açai, banana, blueberries, almond butter, and cashew milk from the place next door to UPS and drink it on the way home. $9.10

6 p.m. — My cramps could not be worse. I take a hot shower and then lay down. I take a look on Amazon and Target for a new comforter and watch Parks and Rec.

8 p.m. — I decide to make a Yes! Minestrone Soup and a couple of pieces of toast to get something in my stomach and fall asleep at 10.

Daily Total: $9.10

Day Seven

8:15 a.m. — It's a work-from-home day so I take all the time I can in bed before I start my day.

9:30 a.m. — After checking my emails and my calendar, I make my coffee to put in the freezer and eat my last overnight oats. I do have to say, it's probably my best batch of overnight oats.

10 a.m. — I decide to finally buy the comforter I have been eyeing since I got money back from the returns I made yesterday and I also purchase Taylor Swift's Evermore Vinyl because I decided I want to get all her records. So far, I have Midnights, Folklore, and now Evermore. $41.95

2 p.m. — I am so happy it's a work-from-home day because my cramps are relentless. I take menstrual relief medication, lay on the couch, and try to do work when I can. I have my leftovers of HelloFresh for lunch and immediately get a stomachache. This is one of the worst periods I've had.

6 p.m. — My roommates are leaving for a camping trip so E. wants to get something quick for dinner and offers Wendy's. I immediately want to get in on that. We go get her gas and pick up Wendy's for the three of us. I get a bacon and cheese baked potato, chicken nuggets, and a lemonade. I offer to pay. The three of us eat together and I actually don't get nauseous afterwards. $28.63

8 p.m. — I see my roommates off and decide to go to bed and rest. I end up buying three $2.99 books on my Kindle for some easy reads and read for a while. The book is so good I stay up until 11:45. Worth it. $9

Daily Total: $79.58

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