A Week In Atlanta, GA, On A $120,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: an attorney who makes $120,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Dolce & Gabbana dress.
Occupation: Attorney
Industry: Legal
Age: 30
Location: Atlanta, GA
Salary: $120,000 plus potential bonus up to 10% of salary
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $5,000 pre-tax and deductions
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,700 (I rent a one-bedroom apartment and live alone.)
Student Loans: $500 (I have over $100,000 in student loan debt.)
Renter's Insurance: $12
Water/Sewer/Trash: ~$60
Electricity: ~$70
Credit Cards: $800 (This is roughly the monthly payment for two cards that I don't use anymore. I racked up $18,000 of credit card debt while unemployed, and am still working to pay it off. I throw extra money at these cards whenever I can.)
Netflix: $0 (I use my best friend's account.)
Hulu: $5.99
iCloud Storage: $2.99
Cell Phone: $75 (My job subsidizes my phone bill by $25 a month.)
Internet: $70
Car Insurance: $80
Health/Life/Disability Insurance: $220
Savings: $0 (This is just for right now — anything I would typically put into savings goes toward extra payments on my high-interest credit card debt right now.)
401(k): $800 (I also receive a generous employer match not included in this monthly total. I plan to invest more aggressively after I get my credit card debt paid down.)
Advertisement

Day One

7:15 a.m. — The alarm goes off and I'm super groggy. I haven't been sleeping well lately and have been taking melatonin. I'm not sure if it actually helps me sleep, but I am sure that it makes it harder to get up in the mornings. Hello, Monday!
7:45 a.m. — I throw on my summer work “uniform” — a pencil skirt and button-up blouse. Breakfast is Justin's peanut butter on wheat bread with a bowl of blackberries.
8 a.m. — I swing by the coffee shop in my apartment building for a cold brew with almond milk before I begin my commute to work. $4.25
11 a.m. — Whew, I've been reading agreements for two hours now. I decide my eyes need a break in the form of a quick scroll through my IG feed, then I'm back to it. I'm extremely grateful for my job after having been unemployed for over a year. I like my managers, have been receiving great performance reviews, and enjoy the work. I work as an in-house lawyer for a large company. I was previously an associate at a big law firm making a lot more money than I am now, but I ended up getting pushed out of the firm after a few years. It was an extremely degrading experience. I was unemployed for over a year. I was blindsided by the loss of that job and fell into a deep depression when I couldn't find work right away. I come from a poor family and pride myself on my accomplishments and independence, and being let go was crushing for me. I'm still trying to rebuild (financially and emotionally) after an extremely dark time in my life.
Advertisement
12:30 p.m. — After quickly eating a lunch I brought from home (Greek salad with grilled chicken) and downing a La Croix, I head to the post office to drop off a Poshmark package. After I lost my last job, I started selling my gently used clothes and shoes on Poshmark for extra money. Even though I'm gainfully employed again, I still list items to sell when I have the time. It's my way of keeping my closet small and curated. If I buy something, I try to sell something. Last week, someone bought one of my favorite Reformation dresses. It's hard to let it go, but I've snapped quite a few pics in it and it will probably be out of style next summer anyway. A hundred and eighty dollars from this sale shall be mine in a few days!
2 p.m. — One of my coworkers, S., stops by my office to say hi. We work on the same floor but are on different teams. When I first started at this job, S. was one of a handful of people who asked me to coffee and lunch and made me feel welcome right away. He confirms that we're still on for Wednesday (we've planned to get drinks after work Wednesday).
4:30 p.m. — My boyfriend texts me some potential dates for our next vacation together. While I'm on an unimportant conference call, I quickly check my work calendar to see which dates will work best. I'm thinking the end of November — that's when things should be relatively quiet around here due to the holiday. I realize that travel is a luxury and that I have a lot of debt I need to prioritize paying off, but travel and food are my biggest passions and I want to enjoy my life while I'm still young(ish) and unsettled.
Advertisement
7 p.m. — I roast a whole branzino for dinner with Greek salad and mashed potatoes as sides. I have chilled watermelon chunks for dessert while laughing and responding to some memes my besties sent earlier in our group chat. All of my apartment windows are open, and hearing the buzz of people outside makes me feel so good. I love living in a lively area and listening to all of the activity outside. Ahhh, summer is the BEST!
10 p.m. — I pop a couple of melatonin and prepare for bed. I brush my teeth, floss, wash my face, and apply retinol, vitamin C, and moisturizer. I lie on the couch and watch YouTube try-on haul videos until I start to get sleepy. Regularly watching fashion and lifestyle YouTubers is a guilty pleasure of mine. I'm in bed after texting a bit with my boyfriend and exchanging memes with my besties. Good night!
2 a.m. — Aaaaand I'm awake again. UGH. I've been waking up every night around this time ever since getting back from vacation a couple of weeks ago (I spent two weeks between Spain, Greece, and Croatia with some friends for my birthday). I'm an experienced traveler, and a six-hour time difference isn't a huge deal to me, but for some reason my sleep schedule is still thrown off after that trip. Maybe one too many nights staying up literally until sunrise? I'm not in my 20s anymore, but I still love to party ;) #noregrets. My mind starts to wander, thinking about tomorrow's to-do list, and I end up trolling S.'s instagram. My personal rule is not to add coworkers on IG, but S. somehow found my private account a few months ago and I ended up adding him back.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $4.25

Day Two

8 a.m. — Coffee stop! I order a cold brew with almond milk and a bagel with cream cheese on my way to work. I successfully eat and drive without dropping cream cheese on my lap. $12.40
9:45 a.m. — I love and hate that my team is so serious about celebrating everyone's birthday. Today someone brought in three dozen doughnuts from my favorite doughnut place to celebrate one of my coworkers, so basically my entire morning is made.
12:45 p.m. — I take one of the summer interns I really connected with this summer to lunch at the onsite cafeteria. She's going to be a 3L in the fall, and I can tell that she really looks up to me. I originally didn't want to get involved in our summer intern program, but one of my more senior mentors who hired me convinced (forced) me to. I didn't want to because I get insecure about giving advice about navigating the legal profession, since I do not feel as though I have “made it” yet. I've made a lot of mistakes, and although I look put together on the outside, I still sometimes feel like a hot mess on the inside. I pay for both of our lunches. $24
4 p.m. — Today has been pretty busy. I'm covering for one of my colleagues (my best friend at work/my work husband) while he's on vacation this week, and his business partners have been keeping me more than busy with urgent requests. I can't complain, though — this is payback for him covering a couple of my high-profile projects while I was in Europe for two weeks recently.
Advertisement
7 p.m. — Traffic is a mess, but I fight to make it to my favorite nail salon in midtown for a gel manicure. I get lucky and find a parking spot right in front of the salon. As usual, I spend ten minutes trying to decide between two colors, only to end up choosing a classic red, which is my go-to. $42
8:15 p.m. — I'm hangry and don't feel like bothering with dinner when I get home, so I stop at a trendy build-your-own-salad place near my apartment. I order what is essentially a tuna poke bowl that comes with various veggies over a bed of bamboo rice with miso dressing. $14.35
10 p.m. — I plop on my couch and watch Monday's Bachelor in Paradise with a few scoops of Luna & Larry's coconut-milk ice cream (the best vegan ice cream I've found!) and a generous pour of rosé. I don't have cable, so I have to wait to watch each BIP episode on Hulu a day late. One of my best friends from law school and I furiously text commentary about the episode back and forth. I still don't think Blake did anything wrong, and I truly don't see Hannah G.'s appeal.
11 p.m. — I'm in bed by 11, but I know I'll be awake again in a few hours. :(
Daily Total: $92.75

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I'm up! I haven't been wearing my hair down lately due to the heat and humidity, but decide to put some waves in it and wear it down today. As usual, I do some light makeup. I put on a silk button-up blouse and pencil skirt. I quickly eat my peanut butter on toast, grab an iced coffee with almond milk from downstairs, and I'm out the door by 8. $4.25
Advertisement
10:45 a.m. — I take a break from reviewing a contract to respond to some texts and check the news. One of my coworkers (who is more like a friend) pops into my office to talk. We talk and laugh about various things going on in our department for 15 minutes or so, until I have to hop on a call with outside counsel at 11.
2 p.m. — I leave the building to go for a brief walk in the sun. On my walk, I pass another one of my coworkers who is more like a friend, who offers to walk to Starbucks with me. We make our way to Starbucks, and I order a grande dragon drink. Outside of iced coffee or cold brew, I don't usually like Starbucks drinks (I dislike sugary drinks), but I really love this one. It's dragonfruit and mango juice mixed with coconut milk, and I've been obsessed with it this summer. $5.60
3 p.m. — I'm browsing the The RealReal and see the price on a Dolce & Gabbana dress I've had my eye on for a while has been reduced. It's a wool tweed dress with fringe trim that is edgy yet work-appropriate, and I HAVE to have it! I'm giving a presentation in front of my larger team in a few weeks, and I think this dress will be perfect to wear that day. $296
4 p.m. — I head home a bit early but watch my emails in case anything important that can't wait until tomorrow comes through.
Advertisement
5 p.m. — I have an hour or so before S. is supposed to pick me up. I debate changing from my work clothes into something more casual, but decide against it. Instead I pass the time blasting my summer playlist on Spotify from my Bluetooth speaker, scrolling through IG, and then quickly freshening up.
6:15 p.m. — S. is right on time to pick me up. I jump in his car and give him a quick hug. I wouldn't normally hug a coworker, but a few weeks back when I hung out with S. and some friends of his, he hugged me as I was leaving, so I guess it's a thing we do now? He hasn't changed out of his work clothes, so he's still in his suit and looks really nice. I tell him I looked up the restaurant's menu earlier and mention that we're going to miss the happy hour because it ends at 6. S. says that it's okay. Wait, was this supposed to be a dinner thing all along?
6:45 p.m. — We arrive at the restaurant, and S. has reservations for two. It's a romantic and intimate space. I suddenly feel awkward, because this outing feels very date-like. S. knows I have a boyfriend of two years, so I may be reading into things too much. We start with drinks (red wine for me and an Old Fashioned for him) and begin chatting. After the wine hits, I loosen up. It's easy talking to S. because we both enjoy debating different issues, no matter how silly. He is conservative and serious at work, but I'm finding that he's fun outside of work. We share a couple of apps, and I order a fish entrée and S. orders steak. We get separate desserts because we can't decide on one, but we end up trying each other's anyway. The waitress comes around as we're finishing up, and S. asks for one check. I'm taken aback that he is offering to pay for this, considering the check is almost $150. I joke and tell him that I'm only letting him pay because he missed my birthday recently.
Advertisement
8:30 p.m. — S. opens the car door for me. It's always so unexpected when a man does that, but I find that I really love it every time. I guess because it's so rare, and I love feeling really feminine when I'm with a man. My boyfriend has so many great qualities, but he rarely opens any doors for me. We get in S.'s car, and he asks if I'd like to come back to his house for a drink since he lives really close. I hesitate, but admittedly I am curious about his house. For weeks, he has been talking about doing work around the new home he just bought in my favorite neighborhood in Atlanta, and so now I'm dying to see it.
8:45 p.m. — S. gives me a mini tour of the first floor of his home. His house is beautiful and charming. It has the cutest front porch and a backyard with a fire pit. I'm impressed by the way he's decorated it so far…he has good taste. And he actually has some real plants! As he shows me around, I'm silently wondering if I will ever be able to purchase a home of my own.
9 p.m. — We're sitting on S.'s couch drinking red wine, listening to music, and talking. I'm not doing anything wrong, but I still feel a bit weird that I'm here this late alone with him. In between laughs, S. can sense that I'm a little uncomfortable because of how much distance I'm keeping from him on the couch. Laughing, he asks me to move closer to him. I inch over, and we talk for over an hour, never an awkward silence or moment. I want to stay but know that I should head home, so I mention that I'm getting tired and should probably head out. I suggest calling an Uber, but S. offers to drive me home and I accept.
Advertisement
11 p.m. — I call my boyfriend, who called and texted me hours ago. He doesn't ask me about happy hour, because he assumes I got back earlier and had fallen asleep. I don't want to discuss my night, because my boyfriend gets jealous very easily. I decide it's better he doesn't know anyway, because it's really not a huge deal. We talk for a bit and then hang up. I get in bed and wonder: Did I go on a date tonight? Is S. interested in me? Am I reading too much into what just happened?
Daily Total: $305.85

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Breakfast is peanut butter on wheat bread again. On my way to work, I stop by the coffee shop in my apartment building for a cold brew. Gonna need this today. $4.25
10 a.m. — I spent most of my morning putting out a small fire involving my business partners, after meeting with my manager about how best to approach the issue.
11:45 a.m. — I pass S. in the hallway while I'm walking with another colleague, and we casually wave hi to each other.
12 p.m. — I eat a homemade Greek salad with grilled chicken, bread, and hummus at my desk while watching a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar on my computer.
6:30 p.m. — Chatting over cocktails and shared appetizers with an old coworker on an outdoor patio in West Midtown. We order Parmesan fries, hamachi crudo, mussels, and toast. We chat about my old firm (she's still there, and it's somewhat of a sore spot for me, but oh well), my new job, and her life as a new mom. She and her husband are currently renovating their home from top to bottom, and as much as I enjoy my life, part of me is envious that her life seems so stable and secure. While I love being free, splurging on vacations and designer clothes, I have to admit that sometimes I wish my life was more settled. We split the bill. $36.42
Advertisement
8:15 p.m. — I'm on my couch, ready to watch part two of Bachelor in Paradise and eat coconut-milk ice cream, but before I can even get five minutes into the episode, my boyfriend calls. His negativity is a little annoying to me, since I'm feeling drained from the day, but he's going through a lot at work and with his family right now, so I let him blow off steam with me and try to be encouraging.
10 p.m. — The Rothy ads I see all over social media have somehow compelled me to purchase a pair. I'm really picky about flats and usually only wear Repetto ballet flats, but I have ruined two pairs of Repettos this year after getting caught in thunderstorms, so I like that Rothy's are machine washable. I find a $20 off coupon code and order a pair of points in a subtle leopard print (can leopard even be subtle?). $134.38
10:45 p.m. — I get in bed and drink what is probably my fourth La Croix of the day and read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
Daily Total: $175.05

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — I stop by Starbucks for a cold brew with almond milk. I eat my breakfast of peanut butter on wheat bread with pre-sliced mango in the car during my commute. $3.95
10 a.m. — My manager is out of the office unexpectedly, and our admin informs me that my manager has requested that I fill in for him at a couple of meetings he had scheduled with two VPs today. Since I'm still relatively new to the company, I get nervous meeting with some of our VPs, but I do like getting the exposure with the higher-ups. Unfortunately, I didn't think I'd have any meetings with business partners today, so I'm not dressed as nicely as I usually am, which makes me want to kick myself. Oh, well.
Advertisement
1:45 p.m. — My two meetings with the VPs go extremely well. I didn't have much time to prep this morning, which freaked me out. I'm always super nervous that someone will have a question that I don't know how to answer off the top of my head (for some reason people think lawyers know everything), but I'm learning that I know a lot more than I think I do. I also finally feel comfortable acknowledging when I don't know something, because I am confident that I can find the right answer.
4 p.m. — The office feels pretty empty today. I'm finding that this is pretty common on Fridays in the summer here. I leave work a bit early to avoid (some) traffic and plan to work from home for the remainder of the afternoon.
6:30 p.m. — I shower and get ready for the evening while listening to music. I quickly run a flat iron through my hair to smooth some of the frizz and then apply some light makeup. I rarely wear foundation (especially not in the summer), just concealer on a couple dark spots, mascara, eyeshadow that I apply with my fingertips, blush, lipstick, and a translucent powder. I slip on a form-fitting white cotton vintage dress with an open, lace-up back that I found thrifting and decide to wear a pair of low-heeled Lucite mules. I accessorize with gold jewelry and a vintage mini Louis Vuitton backpack. I freaking love the resurgence of the ’90s in fashion, and I don't want it to go anywhere.
Advertisement
7:30 p.m. — I meet up with my boyfriend and some of his friends at a wine and tapas bar for drinks. We sit outside on the restaurant patio, share a few appetizers, and catch up. Two of his friends (a couple) are visiting Thailand in December, so my boyfriend and I offer some recommendations and share some stories from our trip (we spent the holidays in Southeast Asia last year). My boyfriend pays for us both.
8:30 p.m. — Dinner for my boyfriend and me is at our favorite Italian restaurant a block down from the wine bar. We don't have a reservation, so we end up having to sit outside. I don't mind as much as he does — I love the heat. I really love the South in the summer, especially at night. After the sun goes down, the air remains warm and thick, and it just feels like a comforting hug. We share bread and olive oil, a Caesar salad, and clams in white wine while we chat about our Colombia itinerary in November. I order a spicy seafood spaghetti in red sauce (why did I wear white?), and my boyfriend orders gnocchi. We each have two glasses of red wine. My boyfriend pays.
11 p.m. — We're both tired and pretty tipsy. We walk back to my boyfriend's place. We share another glass of red wine at his place and then end up having drunken sex on his balcony. Afterward, we get ready for bed and are knocked out by 1.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $3.95

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up to an empty bed. My boyfriend went to the gym, but when I walk in the kitchen, I see he has left me avocado toast, cut up some fruit for my breakfast, and left my favorite espresso pod out on the counter. He's truly so thoughtful. Seeing this has made me feel a little guilty about S. What's weird is I never thought of S. as anything other than a friend until the other night. I make an espresso, eat my toast, and then head to Dekalb Farmers Market to buy my groceries for next week. I text my boyfriend to ask if he wants anything at the market.
9:30 a.m. — As usual, I'm in heaven at DFM. It's an international farmers' market that has EVERYTHING. I try to do most of my grocery shopping here, because the quality and variety of the meat, seafood, and produce is better than Whole Foods but so much cheaper. I leave with ingredients to make a couple of my favorite easy Thai dishes (vegetable curry soup and chicken stir-fry) for lunch and dinner next week, and also buy rambutan, blackberries, a watermelon, olive oil, hummus, and fresh pita bread. I also buy various cheeses and meats for charcuterie (I'm hosting a few friends tomorrow for a pool day). $142.84
11 a.m. — I love living alone until I have to carry my groceries inside by myself. Someone come help me with this damn watermelon…
Advertisement
11:30 a.m. — I shower and then do yoga in my living room. It feels really good to stretch out my lower back.
1 p.m. — I meet up with N., one of my college friends, for a run on the BeltLine (it's a trail that circles Atlanta's in-town neighborhoods that used to be a railway corridor). I cannot comprehend that N. and I have been friends for over ten years. We stop by a cute poke place that has a bright Southern California vibe on the BeltLine for tuna bowls. We eat in the sun and people-watch. My sister, who is in town from NYC, eventually joins us, and I buy her a strawberry, banana, and coconut milk smoothie. I fill them in on S. from work. N. demands to know his name so that she can look him up on LinkedIn. $24.06
3 p.m. — Back at my apartment, and I spend some time cleaning. My dad texts me asking if he can borrow money. He says he needs the money to attend a funeral. My dad has been an alcoholic my entire life and has always been emotionally unavailable, so I have never been close to him. I know that he has been out of work for a few months, so I feel guilty and Venmo him. I know he won't pay it back. $100
5 p.m. — Texts from boyfriend wake me up from a nap. We have a dinner reservation at my favorite sushi place tonight. He reminds me that we'll be walking to the restaurant and tells me not to wear heels. HA. I've been into wearing dresses and sneakers lately anyway. He bought me a pair of white leather Common Projects Achilles sneakers for my birthday, and I wear them every chance I get. I decide to wear a dress from Reformation with a high front slit and my favorite sneakers. Is your dress really even *from* Reformation if it doesn't have an open back and/or slit up to your lady parts? Nope!
Advertisement
7:30 p.m. — I'm rushing to get ready because my boyfriend will be here in ten minutes, and I know he gets annoyed when he has to wait on me. Why am I like this? I've showered but still need to run a flat iron through my hair and put on a little bit of makeup. My eyebrows are freshly threaded and tinted, so I can get away with wearing only mascara, blush, and lipstick.
9:30 p.m. — I'm stuffed after a couple of cocktails and am sharing seaweed salad, jalapeño hamachi, ramen (the best in the city, TBH), and assorted nigiri with my boyfriend. He pays.
11:30 p.m. — Back at my apartment with my boyfriend. We watch several YouTube videos about Colombia, which inspires us to finally bite the bullet and book our flights for November. It doesn't hurt that the price on our favorite airline is so affordable right now. Done! $480
Daily Total: $746.90

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up, shower, and make pancakes. I top the pancakes with warm maple syrup, and my boyfriend and I eat them with sliced bananas and blackberries. We sip on espresso and talk a bit. It's cute to me how easily impressed he is when I cook literally anything for him. Lately he has been mentioning wanting to buy a home and wanting children, and it kind of makes me nervous. Wait, am I the man in this relationship? Haha. We have sex before he leaves for the day.
11 a.m. — Alone again, but not for long. Three friends of mine are coming over soon to hang out at my apartment pool. In the meantime, I clean and listen to music.
1:30 p.m. — My friends come over. We listen to music, make blackberry mojitos, and talk shit about anything and everything. It feels nice to be social. When I lost my job a while back, I was ashamed of being unemployed and avoided a lot of my friends. It has been difficult crawling out of the depressed space I was in for so long.
2:30 p.m. — We finally make it down to the pool and enjoy an indulgent afternoon drinking in the sun, snacking, swimming, and having lots of girl talk.
6:30 p.m. — My friends leave and I shower off from the day.
9:30 p.m. — My kitchen is clean and sparkling. My lunches and dinners for the week have been meticulously prepped and are neatly stacked in the fridge. My clothes are clean. I'm exhausted.
10:45 p.m. — I get in bed and read The Bluest Eye, my first Toni Morrison novel, while waiting for the melatonin I took an hour ago to kick in…
Daily Total: $0
Want more Money Diaries? Well, you’re in luck — Refinery29 Canada is launching its own Canadian Money Diaries three times a week. (Which means once you’re done with catching up on all our diaries during your lunch break, you can head on over to R29 CA for even more.) You can now experience Money Diaries IRL at 29Rooms Toronto September 26th through October 6th. Buy tickets here.
Calling All College Students! Have you always wanted to do a money diary? Well, this is your chance! We’re doing a special series of college diaries, and we want to feature you. If you’re interested, send us an email telling us a bit about yourself, with the subject line “College Diary.”
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series