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A Week In Austin On A $137,000 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: a business systems analyst who makes $137,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a plastic table lamp.
Occupation: Business systems analyst
Industry: Tech
Age: 38
Location: Austin
Salary: $137,000 plus bonus and stock.
Assets: land: $20,000 in appreciation; current company 401(k): $18,500; rollover Vanguard 401(k): $45,000; HSA: $800; HYSA: $38,000; vested stock: $20,000; unvested stock: $90,000; car: $7,000.
Debt: $40,000 for land I bought for $60,000 with $20,000 down; student loans: $13,000; credit cards: $1,500.
Paycheck amount (2x month): $3,400 (after taxes, 401(k), HSA and medical/dental insurance).
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: $1,750. I pay $750 more than my sister, E., based on income.
Loan payments: $400 for the interest on my land; $333 for my student loans.
around $150 for water, gas, electric and trash.
Groceries: ~$60 a week.
Wi-Fi: was covered by my sister’s work but will be $25 per person starting next month.
Phone: $45
Car insurance: $165
Health & dental insurance: $45 deducted from pay biweekly.
HSA: $90 biweekly, with a yearly contribution of $2,000 from my employer.
Retirement contribution: $685 biweekly with a 50% match from my company up to 6%. After four years it will be a 100% match up to 6%.
Gym: $95
Amex membership: $695
Chase Sapphire membership: $75 (I am added on to my sister’s card as a user.)
Pet insurance: $40 for my cat, P.
Subscriptions: Amazon $14; NYT Games $4; ClassPass $40; Spotify $6.
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?
1,000% yes. My parents have advanced degrees, as do my sisters. We never talked about what they expected us to major in or how we would pay for it but it was always understood that we would go to college when we graduated. As I grow older I do wonder why my parents never pushed us to excel in school or apply for scholarships. School was covered by loans taken out by me and my parents and we are still paying for them now. I wish they taught me more financial literacy to understand how taking out $40,000 in loans would be impacting all of us financially to this day.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Almost none.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a Cracker Barrel as a hostess. I’m pretty sure I just walked in and asked for an application.

Did you worry about money growing up?
We were comfortable but my parents fought a lot about finances. I think it boils down to my mom being stubborn and not wanting to follow a budget and my dad making some pretty bad financial decisions. He bought a business during the 2008 recession, which led to a disastrous time for our family, both financially and personally. It really impacted how I thought about money and how I would never cash out my 401(k) to fund other areas in my life. My dad and mom are still working into their 70s and don’t have much of a retirement to speak of.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes, but that’s only because I am about to build a house and assume a huge mortgage because of the current interest rates. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to be settled and the idea of being 40 with roommates scares the daylights out of me. I know I could be a renter forever but I feel like part of building wealth and being secure is having a place of my own.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
After I graduated college. And yes, I have a financial safety net but I may be blowing it on a down payment for a mortgage pretty soon.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No. Unfortunately both sides of my family have been working class for generations. We just recently discovered that on my dad’s side of the family, his mom, dad and grandpa were all renters their entire lives.

Day One

8:30 a.m — I wake up to my sister asking if I want to go get coffee. We agree on a place we both like and I drag myself out of bed 15 minutes later to get dressed. My sister E. and I have been living together for about a year and we pay rent based on income. She makes about half of my salary and is paying off some credit card debt racked up by providing for her ex-boyfriend. I am happy to help support her while she focuses on her financial goals. In return, sometimes she buys me coffee or makes me dinner.
9 a.m. — I fuel up on the way over to the coffee shop. $34.96
9:15 a.m. — I buy an iced half-caf Americano with a pump of vanilla syrup (highly recommended for all the anxious girlies out there) and some fancy coffee beans because my sister bought the last bag. Bonus: The beans come with a free cold brew, which I give to E. $29.12
9:20 a.m — I check the Uber Driver app and see a small surge in the area. I decide to drive for an hour or so before a scheduled FaceTime with a friend. I meet some nice ladies from Miami who give me tips on where to stay if I ever visit, and I make $8. A nice way to cover my Americano!
9:45. a.m. — The surge has died down. I find that unless there is an opportunity where you can sign up to make X amount more per ride, or there is a surge, that driving is a waste of my resources and time.
10 a.m. — Back home, I move the FaceTime up so I can do my favorite Saturday activity: thrifting!
11 a.m. — I have a nice catchup with my friend S., who tells me all about her move and new apartment. She recently moved to California and I miss her and all the scheduled exercise activities we used to do together.
11:45 a.m. — Make it to my favorite thrift store where I have a very specific routine. I first head back to the try-on racks to see what I can find (why work harder when you can work smarter?), then over to housewares, the art wall and the clothing section. I use Google Lens and meticulously look up interesting items to see if they are worth anything. I don’t see anything particularly valuable today but I do find a really cool ashtray ($13) for my nonexistent smoking habit and a console table ($55) that matches my dining table. I also spy a beautiful framed exhibition poster being processed and vow to come back next week to see if it has been put out. $72
1 p.m. — Starving after over two hours of scouring the thrift store, I stop by the Mexican restaurant next door for a steak taco and chips and queso. I eat alone and take pictures of my ashtray for the design Instagram I started during the pandemic. $10.63
1:30 p.m. — Back home after a busy morning I decide to lie in bed and “snail,” which is what I call it when I want to move as little as possible and go down various YouTube rabbit holes.
3 p.m — Snailing done! I have a burst of energy and decide to style my console table for Instagram and take pictures of the bench it is replacing to post on Facebook Marketplace. I usually justify most of my purchases by driving Uber, doing the odd focus group or flipping furniture and clothes I find thrifting. I bought the bench at an estate sale last year for $75 but list it for $175 because it’s fairly valuable according to Chairish.
4 p.m. — E. goes to pick up her friend M. from the airport. I prepare some Aperol spritzes for the occasion. We catch up and have a lovely happy hour on our seldomly used patio.
5 p.m. — Realize I missed a message on Facebook Marketplace from someone asking if they could come over in the next 20 minutes to buy the bench. I ask if they are still interested and if they could come over now.
5:30 p.m. — The bench sold for the asking price! That might be my fastest and easiest sale ever.
6 p.m. — E, M. and I head out to a laid-back patio restaurant for a drink and dinner before we meet some friends who are all going to a show with me later. I order a low-ABV beer and an Asian chicken salad. $25
7 p.m. — We meet our friends at a coffee shop/brewery to catch up before the show. I get two tall vodka sodas with a splash of agua fresca and a lime. I am in my vodka and fruit juice era and won’t be apologizing for it. $24
8:30 p.m. — Running late to the show, we beeline for the photo booth and get situated. I get a tall vodka soda and cranberry and make it to the stage right before the main act goes on. $13
11:30 p.m. — My friend drops me off after trying and failing to get me to go to one more bar with her. I am starving and make a weird assortment of foods including air fryer frozen turkey meatballs, the dregs of Rao’s marinara sauce, a caprese salad and six saltine crackers. All eaten while standing over the sink.
12 a.m. — Face care routine (CeraVe cleanser, Paula’s Choice exfoliant, Wonder Valley serum and retinol), rain noises on full blast, lights out.
Daily Total: $208.71

Day Two

8:30 a.m — Rise and shine! It’s another bummer of a cloudy day out, which is really harshing my mellow. I scroll the hellscape that is the world of dating apps and refrain from throwing my phone in the trash. I did recently get a Hinge refresh by threatening to delete the app so at least the men are more appealing than they were last week.
9 a.m. — E. makes M. and I coffee while we all catch up on our respective nights.
9:45 a.m. — I get dressed and head out to my favorite Pilates class, booked through ClassPass.
10:45 a.m. — Workout done! I feel relaxed for about two seconds and then rush home to shower and pound some yogurt before an intro sewing class my mom bought me for my birthday. I have a dream of making a Ganni-style tie-front top and more boxy crop tops to fit my “sizeable” bosom.
11:30 a.m. — E. texts that she ordered a taco for me at a coffee shop close to our house. I swing by and scarf it down as I am heading over to the sewing class. $7
2 p.m. — The class flies by! We make a very sloppy sleep mask but at least I was able to learn a few basics that will hopefully get me started on my sewing journey. I will need to buy a bunch of supplies and research sewing machines in the near future if I want to keep this momentum going.
3 p.m. — I snail at home for the next hour and attempt a power nap.
4 p.m. — I receive a text from my friend Z. who wants to meet up to give me back some sunglasses of mine that I left at a show last week. Spoiler alert: I will be losing more sunglasses this week. I can’t have nice things.
4:30 p.m. — We meet at a new Cajun gas station/bar concept to see what all the buzz is about. I order two low-ABV beers and we split some hush puppies and deviled eggs while we catch up. $21
6 p.m. — I suggest we go back to my house for a glass of wine and a neighborhood walk. I am much more of a “let’s go for a walk” person than I am a “let’s hang out at a bar for hours” person.
7 p.m. — Z. heads out but not before suggesting I should watch Anyone But You. Theoretically this movie should be right up my alley but wow, I couldn’t even finish because it made me so uncomfy.
9 p.m. — I realize I didn’t eat dinner so I make another serving of turkey meatballs, caprese and saltines. I guess you could call this my specialty?
9:30 p.m — I scroll the internet for some platform Birkenstocks to replace the ones I own (which are basically now walking rocking chairs) and also for a lodging option for my trip to Europe next month. I previously reserved a hotel through but realize if I book directly through the hotel website there is a 15% summer discount. I have an aversion to paying for things upfront because Girl Math tells me I have time to save up for the purchase, so I wait to book until later this week.
11 p.m. — Face care routine, rain noises, NYT Connections and lights out.
Daily Total: $28

Day Three

7:45 a.m — My alarm goes off exactly 15 minutes before a standing 8 a.m. Monday morning meeting with my team. My company allows us to work from home two days a week so I usually do Monday and Friday from home. The other days are very much a performative “badging in and showing our face” kind of thing. My coworker always leaves early to walk his elderly dog and my manager usually takes meetings in the afternoon from home.
10 a.m. — Meetings over! I drink coffee E. made me and see if she and M. want to go back to the thrift store to check if that poster has been put out. I also venmo my dad for the combo Mother’s Day/early birthday Away suitcase he bought my mom. $100
11:30 a.m. — I get to the thrift store and it’s closed for “Volunteer Appreciation Day”. Womp womp.
11:40 a.m. — I call E. to tell her not to come and she informs me that she has been laid off. My heart breaks for her and all of her financial goals she has been working so hard for. We agree to meet up at a ramen place so she can give me all of the details. Once there I order the kids' ramen bowl. $10
12 p.m. — Before my current role I also used to work where E. worked so I text a few ex-coworkers to see if they were affected. Everyone is safe but it sounded like a bloodbath over there.
1 p.m. — Back at home, I work the rest of the afternoon while checking LinkedIn for updates for more news of the layoffs. It sounds like a coworker and mentor of mine was laid off as well.
5 p.m. — I FaceTime a friend who lives in Seattle to get details about his month-long trip to New Zealand. We chat for about an hour and a half while I go for a walk on the nature trail by my house.
7:30 p.m. — I head to the grocery store for sparkling water and a fairly decent and reasonably priced poké bowl I get a few times a month. I am recently on a protein/muscle-building journey and this bowl has 36 grams of protein! $16
9 p.m. — After tossing in a load of laundry I watch YouTube for an hour or so of a lady who has sewn her entire wardrobe of historically accurate garments by hand. After this deep dive I will never be attempting to hand sew a kirtle but could probably give you a good idea of how to do it if you asked me.
10 p.m. — I shower, do my face care routine, put on rain noises, complete an NYT crossword and fall asleep shortly after.
Daily Total: $126

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — I usually don’t set an alarm unless I have something really early in the morning I can’t miss. My normal circadian rhythm wakes me up around this time every day.
8 a.m. — I shower, get ready for work and hang my clothes out to dry. Today I am wearing all black in mourning for E.’s job.
8:50 a.m. — At work, I grab a quick cup of the company’s provided coffee and a yogurt and park it at my desk right on time for a 9 a.m. meeting. $2.50
10 a.m. — I don’t have any other meetings today except for a food handler’s training we are required to complete for the annual company Memorial Day BBQ cookoff. Who says we can’t have fun in corporate America?
11:30 a.m. — I grab a steak, kale and potato salad lunch to go at the cafeteria and decide to head home as I don’t have any obligations at work. On the way back I stop by the thrift store one last time to check on the poster. Call it being a Taurus but when I have my mind set on something, I really go for it. $9
12 p.m. — After checking with the store clerk, I am informed that the poster was put out late on Saturday and has already sold (sad face). I decide to peruse the store and spot a really good metal-framed poster and a vintage Italian space-age lamp. Using my best friend Google Lens, I find out it’s worth significantly more than the store is asking. I consider myself a collector of fine lamps and can’t pass it up. $250
12:45 p.m. — The sun finally comes out after a dreary weekend. To my horror, as I am driving home I realize my new, yellow-tinted sunglasses are missing. I mentally retrace my steps and come to the conclusion they fell out of my purse at the concert on Saturday night. I am gutted but fortunately bought them with my American Express for this exact reason.
1 p.m. — Back home I respond to a work emergency. We are an operations team that helps support business critical systems and apparently there was some kind of outage we needed to respond to.
3 p.m. — Still in this emergency call, I zone out for a bit and file a purchase protection claim through American Express for my long-lost sunglasses. If the item is under $10,000 and it has been less than 90 days since the purchase, you are eligible for a full refund.
4 p.m. — I place an order for another pair of sunglasses and weirdly enough I get a $20 discount and they don’t charge me for shipping or tax. If my claim is approved, then losing my sunglasses will actually make me money. $140 (covered by American Express).
5 p.m. — Realizing that this was an unexpectedly expensive day and the desk I bought during the pandemic brings me zero joy, I decide to post it on Facebook Marketplace. I am more of a “work from dining table or bed” lady if I am being completely honest with myself, plus this desk was paid for as part of a work from home stipend from my last job.
6 p.m. — I head over to Target before ClassPass Pilates to look for a cami option to go underneath the tie-front shirt I bought last week from Zara. I want to be trendy but my chest is always getting in the way! No luck, so I buy a salad and a demi-baguette from Whole Foods next door for dinner. $5.50
6:30 p.m. — Check in at Pilates and ask the instructor if any sunglasses were left behind, just in case. No dice.
7:30 p.m. — Back home I make yet another serving of air fryer frozen turkey meatballs and a dijon dressing to go over the salad. I eat everything while watching behind-the-scenes content of the new Bridgerton season.
9:30 p.m. — I shower, do my face care routine, turn on my rain noises and scroll Instagram until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $267

Day Five

7 a.m. — I set my alarm this morning for an appointment I have with a repair shop that fixed my car after an accident a few years ago. They replaced my headlights but one is taking on water and should be under warranty. When I called last week I was told the shop was sold to a nationwide conglomerate and legally they did not assume responsibility for my repair. Livid that a loophole like this could exist, I speak with a manager and he agrees to call his Progressive adjuster to see if they could replace the part for free. Luckily, Progressive agrees. I guess persistence pays off!
8 a.m. — While waiting at the shop I check my emails and see that my American Express claim has already been approved!
8:20 a.m. — The repair shop creates a work order and says they are placing an order for a new headlight that should be ready in about a week.
8:40 a.m. — At work, I help myself to a cup of coffee and a yogurt and have an impromptu meeting with my coworkers about the BBQ competition. They are all project managers and one of them is apparently very good at grilling so hopefully we have a fighting chance of winning. $1.50
9:30 a.m. — Hop on a meeting where no one joins so instead I focus on creating some deliverables for a project I have been procrastinating on.
10 a.m. — I have a 1:1 with my manager where he avoids talking about my actual work and instead makes some super-vague diagrams on the white board about a workflow for our team. Because he manages people on two very different teams, he tends to be too high-level to actually support me in the ways I need. I very much appreciate him as a manager but he can be highly ineffective at times.
12:30 p.m. — After some heads-down work, I make my way to the cafeteria and order a protein wrap chicken sandwich and tater tots. I absolutely love fried potato products but try to limit my intake to once a week. (Spoiler alert: I end up eating french fries twice this week.) $7
1:15 p.m. — I realize everyone on my team has gone home so I head out as well. On my way back, I stop at the post office to ship a thrifted shirt I sold on eBay last week.
2 p.m. — I attend the food handling training I missed yesterday because of the work emergency.
4:30 p.m. — I get an email with details about the focus group I am participating in tomorrow. This one pays $125 and requires that I set up some kind of bootleg Zoom. I do this now so I can ensure I won’t have any technical problems on the day.
5 p.m. — Head to the gym for some weightlifting and yoga. While there I run into a few friends and we catch up after class.
6:45 p.m. — At home I finally get to talk to E. for about one second. She has been entertaining M. all week until her flight today and now has a date. She’s apparently very good at avoiding having any feelings about her layoff. Maybe we can figure out a game plan later this week.
7 p.m. — E. heads out and I have no plans for dinner because I keep expecting her to be home and available. I don’t think I can stomach another night of meatballs so I go to a pizza place close by to get a single slice of ricotta, spinach and artichoke pizza. $5.75
7:45 p.m. — Settled in with pizza, a glass of vinho verde and a face mask. I decide to try Mother of the Bride on Netflix. While watching I obviously have to read all about the cast on IMDb. Who knew Benjamin Bratt has been married for 22 years? I sure didn’t.
9:30 p.m. — I highly enjoyed that movie and it was only about a 2/10 on the cringe scale — unlike Anyone But You, which I would say was about a 9/10.
9:45 p.m. — I shower, do my face routine and get into bed to scroll Instagram and Hinge.
10:45 p.m. — Rain noises, NYT crossword, lights out.
Daily Total: $14.25

Day Six

8 a.m. — Up and at ’em. No alarm clock today because my first meeting isn’t until 9:30 a.m. I scroll Instagram for a few minutes, take a quick shower and head to work.
9 a.m. — At work I make myself a free cup of half-caf and catch up on Slack and emails.
10 a.m. — I walk from the building where my meeting was to my desk on a different part of campus. Annoying, but a great way to get in my steps!
11 a.m. — I join an hour-long monthly ticket review for our business partner while also working on a report deliverable and eating yogurt I brought to work.
11:45 a.m. — I head out early to get set up for my 12:45 p.m. focus group. I stop by the cafeteria to get another lunch to go and decide to order the sweet and sour shrimp with rice and veggies because the other option is “milk poached chicken.” I’m sure it's good but the idea of boiling chicken in milk makes me a little queasy. $9
12:40 p.m. — I log into the focus group a bit early and realize the moderator is already on. They accidentally get an extra five minutes of my opinions without me being compensated. You’re welcome, I guess?
2 p.m. — The focus group wraps up and I’m relieved it’s over. While I would say I am highly opinionated, I could care less where you put the “Chat with an agent” button on your app.
2:15 p.m. — I was checking my work phone while in the focus group and didn’t see any fires that needed to be put out. I text an old roommate/dear friend, L., about our meeting time and place for the art gallery opening we plan on attending. L, E. and I decide to do a Hot Girl Walk beforehand because we are always trying to get in those extra steps.
2:30 p.m. — I do heads-down work for the next couple of hours so I can log out early and meet L. and E.
5 p.m. — It’s raining sideways so we plan to meet L. at the art gallery instead. I still head over because my sister is dog-sitting close by the gallery and we do the walk as we had planned.
5:45 p.m. — I relish the fresh, cold air after the rain because I know I probably won’t feel this cool again in Austin until at least late October.
6 p.m. — At the gallery, we get a couple free palomas, catch up on L.’s love life and look at art.
7 p.m. — Afterwards, E. and I decide to get a beer and FINALLY catch up and plot her career comeback. The impromptu dog-sitting threw another wrench in our dinner plans for the week so we decide to split some fish and chips at an Irish pub. $26
7:30 p.m. — I just realized I don’t have a pet-sitter for my trip next month, so I text my friend Z. and he immediately responds saying he can do it. I venmo him $200 and send him a Google Calendar invite. $200
9 p.m. — E. and I decide to go on a walk with the most adorable schnauzer she sits for sometimes. We look at the city lights and fancy houses while waiting for the dog to do his business.
10 p.m. — At home, I do my nighttime routine, watch American Idol clips from the current season on YouTube, put on rain noises and pass out.
Daily Total: $235

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Awake and feeling a tad dehydrated after the drinks last night. I chug some water and make half-caf coffee from our overpriced MOMA-designed percolator.
8:10 a.m. — Apparently after all of the random content I have been watching on YouTube, it's suggested that I watch a guy review The Tortured Poets Department. I gave up on this album about four songs in because I could not relate and it felt very spiritually similar to evermore. I give in and watch the entire hour-long review while simultaneously reading about Taylor and Matty Healy’s relationship timeline. I guess I’ll have to give this album another chance.
9:10 a.m. — I check my email and respond to a few Slack messages while eating a bowl of yogurt.
11 a.m. — After a few hours of prepping for some meetings next week, I take a shower and head to an ab class at my gym. I realize showering before the gym might be weird but I just can’t go over 24 hours without bathing.
12 p.m. — Thirty-minute ab class was hard but doable! I think I am getting stronger after four months of consistently going to the gym and prioritizing my nutrition.
12:15 p.m. — On the way home I pick up a kids' meal chicken taco plate from a trailer near the gym. It’s very good value but I did have to lie and say it was for a fictional child of mine. $7
1:30 p.m. — I head out to get some lab work done for an upcoming rhinoplasty I have scheduled in July. I am on the fence about whether I should cancel because I am currently in the process of being approved for a construction loan and don’t know if this surgery makes sense financially. I didn’t plan on building the house this year and decided to finally go for having my nose corrected because I have always been unhappy with it. I intended to use some stock to cover it, but I feel I should put the money towards my down payment or the land loan to bring the overall mortgage down — especially now that E. will be looking for jobs and I can’t expect her to move in and help cover the monthly costs as planned. $50
5 p.m. — Close my computer for the weekend. I was planning on meeting a friend at a honky tonk later but decide to stay in and watch the four new episodes of Bridgerton that just dropped.
7 p.m. — I am literally down to the bottom of the barrel of frozen food and stale chips at the house. I don’t want to spend more money than I already have this week so I cook up Trader Joe’s frozen dumplings, butter chicken, some trail mix, a handful of potato chips and half a chocolate-covered cherry. This might be in the books as the saddest meal I have ever eaten.
7:15 p.m. — Settle in with vinho verde from TJ’s (highly recommend and you can’t beat the value) and watch Bridgerton for a few hours.
9:45 p.m. — I finalize the details with a person who is buying the desk I posted on Facebook Marketplace earlier this week. Afterwards, I clear out the desk, do a quick dust, and move it to the entry because they are coming at 7 a.m. all the way from Houston.
10:30 p.m. — Face routine, rain noise, scroll Instagram, lights out. What a week!
Daily Total: $57

The Breakdown

Weekly Total $$ Spent: $935.96
Food & Drink: $229.00
Entertainment: $0.00
Home & Health: $372.00
Clothes & Beauty $0.00
Transportation $34.96
Other $300

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