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A Week In Maryland On A $65,000 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 care coordinator working in nonprofit health care who makes $65,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a kitty litter enclosure.
Occupation: Care Coordinator
Industry: Nonprofit Health Care
Age: 28
Location: Maryland
Salary: $65,000
Net Worth: -$45,103.51 (I keep an emergency fund of $10,000. After I was laid off from my first big-girl job, I made it my mission to have at least three months' worth of expenses at all times. I have $2,684.47 spread across three different savings accounts for travel, bills, and house repairs. I put $100 in each of these accounts every month. I have $22,433 in my 401(k) and $10,657 in my IRA. My mortgage is $90,877.98. I bought my one-bedroom condo for $110,000 last year.)
Debt: $90,877.98 (The only debt I have is my mortgage. I paid off the $15,000 I had in student loans last year.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,546.72
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,076 (I live with my boyfriend, A. I pay $676 for the mortgage, and he pays $576 for the HOA, which includes utilities. I add an extra $400 a month toward the principal.)
Car Insurance: $102 (It went up from $90 and I am still annoyed.)
Verizon: $40
Health Insurance: $28
Dental Insurance: $12
Planet Fitness: $22
The New York Times: $4
The Washington Post: $4
HBO, Netflix & Hulu: $0 (I use A.'s accounts for HBO and Netflix, and my mom pays for Hulu.)
HSA: $25
401(k): $247 (I contribute 8% of my paycheck.)

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, my parents both have master's degrees and always pushed college. For undergrad, I had an academic scholarship that covered my tuition. My mom paid for my housing during my freshman and sophomore years. I paid rent off campus for the last two years through waitressing, dog sitting, and my work-study job. For those two years, I split rent in a townhouse with four of my friends. My dad gave me money here and there for things like books or clothes if I asked, which wasn't often. My mom paid my tuition for grad school as well. I covered my living expenses by working a part-time job at the YMCA and by taking out a $15,000 loan. My dad did not assist me financially for grad school. I would not be where I am today without financial support from my mom.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents divorced when I was young and they have very different ideas about money. I never really talked about money with my dad, but from my observations, he is more of a spender and has different priorities than my mom. He bought a vacation house in Florida the same year he stopped giving me money for school. My mom, on the other hand, often talked about 529 accounts, 401(k)s, and investing. She is more of a saver and rarely splurges on herself. I think of myself as somewhere in between the two.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a waitress at a nursing home. It was the only place hiring that I could walk to after school. It paid $7.25 an hour. I got the job to pay for gas and Beyoncé tickets. (Even back then, you always had to be prepared for whenever she announced a concert.)

Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried about money. I was able to go to summer camp and took a yearly vacation with my cousins. If there was trouble, I didn't notice.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes, very much so. I live right outside of DC, and two of my close friends have moved away due to the high cost of living here. I don't see how I can save for retirement and a house, and I'm not sure there's much salary growth in my current position. I know I can pay my bills now, but what about later when I'm older?

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My mom is my financial safety net. She cut the financial cord when I was 26 and stopped paying for my car insurance. I was on her health insurance until 25. I don't think either of us would be thrilled to have me move back home if something disastrous happened, but I know I would always be able to. I'm super grateful for that.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My mom gave me $10,000 she received when my great aunt passed away. She has also said that she is planning to leave me money when she passes, but I'm not sure how much. She's had health issues over the years and will most likely have high medical expenses as she ages. I have no idea how that will all shake out, and honestly, I don't like to think about it.

Day One

9 a.m. — I head to the gym because I know that most of the men who hog the weight room won't be at Planet Fitness now. I do a quick arm workout, squats, and a 30-minute walk on the treadmill at a high incline. I used to run but got out of the habit since COVID. I'm happy with my little weekend workout routine so far. When I get home, I make an everything bagel with cream cheese, avocado, and Everything But The Bagel spice from Trader Joe's.
1 p.m. — I have a monthly FaceTime with one of my best friends from undergrad. We realized we weren't talking like we used to and just put it in our calendars to make sure we stay up to date. No one talks about maintaining friendships in adulthood. As always, this turns into a three-hour-long phone call. While on the call, I put away dishes, air-fry chicken wings, and change the kitty litter. I am so much more productive when I am on the phone.
6 p.m. — I take an Uber to meet two friends at a rooftop bar ($12.50). I get a cheeseburger with fries and a White Claw ($29.30). My other friend invites us to do karaoke in Chinatown for her birthday. We hang out with some of her coworkers and scream Destiny's Child and Rihanna into the microphone for about an hour. My friend rents the room, and I only pay for my rum and Coke plus a tip ($15.60). The karaoke bar gets crowded, and our time runs out on the room. $57.40
9:30 p.m. — We go to another bar around the corner. I buy my friend two drinks and I also get a Blue Moon for myself. Thankfully, A. picks us up, so we don't have to Uber home. Gotta love him. On the drive home, I'm craving McDonald's, so he gets me medium fries. I scarf them down, take off my clothes, brush my teeth, and am asleep by 1. $29.30
Daily Total: $86.70

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Last night wiped me out. I go back and forth between TikTok and The New York Times for about two hours before getting out of bed and showering. It's wash day, and I use my favorite avocado-kiwi deep conditioner from Briogeo. It's over $30 a bottle, but it's the only thing I've used so far that keeps my curls moisturized and defined. I call my mom while I'm detangling my hair. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer at a screening during her yearly OB/GYN appointment. Make sure to go to your check ups, y'all! Thankfully it's stage 0/1 and should be "easy" to get rid of.
12 p.m. — A. and I recently got a cat from the local shelter. She's recovering from dental surgery currently and the shelter recommended a special brand of food, so I order it ($21.50), along with a mat to stop the tracking of litter on the floor ($12.84), and a hidden kitty litter enclosure ($110.74) that looks like a small cabinet with a hole in the side. I order those items on Amazon and Venmo A. a request for half of the total. Afterward, I make us turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch. $72.54
7 p.m. — A. makes us shrimp tacos for dinner. Afterward, he plays video games while I read next to him on the couch. We call this our "alone together" time LOL. I started a new novel called The Power. It's about gender and how society would react if suddenly all women woke up with superpowers. It's pretty cool. I wash my face with Dove soap, brush my teeth, and I'm in bed by 10.
Daily Total: $72.54

Day Three

7 a.m. — I lay in bed and scroll TikTok for 10 minutes before getting up and showering. I put on black linen pants and a blue blouse for work, then pack a PB&J sandwich and an orange for lunch. Feed my cat and empty her litter box. Breakfast is half a bagel with butter. After my 45-minute commute, I get to my office at 8:55 and chat with my favorite coworker before starting work. I wish I only had to go in once a week, but alas, two days is better than five.
12:35 p.m. — Following an emotional phone call with a caregiver, I decide I need sushi — no PB&J for me. I'm an occupational therapist by trade but left full-time clinical work last year. I did home health during COVID and became burnt out. When I get back from lunch, I answer emails and do some check-in calls with patients and families I haven't heard from in a few months. $12.50
4:30 p.m. — The kitty litter container arrives, and I decide to put it together by myself. I only have to ask for help two-ish times. A. puts on Kung Fu Panda while he prepares dinner, which is spaghetti and meatballs. He usually cooks when I have to go into the office. I have a glass of wine while we talk after dinner. I do my weeknight routine: brush teeth, wash face, and say goodbye to A. He works overnights as a supervisor at an Amazon warehouse. I watch the animated show Harley Quinn, and it's lights out by 10:30.
Daily Total: $12.50

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — I work from home today! I read before getting out of bed at 7:30. I am so much more relaxed when I work from home. I make toast and cheesy scrambled eggs and then feed my cat. I scroll TikTok while using my stationary bike before I have to start work.
11 a.m. — Most of the day is spent catching up on emails and figuring out Salesforce. We just switched to Salesforce and it is taking some time to get used to it. I snack on hummus and pretzels while I watch boring training videos.
3 p.m. — I research topics for my support group next week. I decide on one and call my coworker, who has been at our company for over 10 years, to run ideas past her. She tells me about her upcoming group, and I give her some tips on what she should include in her presentation from the perspective of an occupational therapist. It makes me feel good that I am still using my degree to some extent.
5 p.m. — I log out for the day and decide to do a long walk around the neighborhood. I discover the northeast branch trail that leads to DC and end up doing a 90-minute walk. Half of the walk is fueled by Beyoncé's new album and the other half by the podcast The Ezra Klein Show. The episode I listen to is all about remote work.
7 p.m. — I make a teriyaki shrimp stir-fry with all the veggies that are about to go bad: kale, red peppers, and carrots. A. tells me that he made it to the final round of interviewing with a tech company. He's been studying database management for the past year, and it's really paying off! I am so proud of him. I can't wait until he has a normal schedule. I watch a few episodes of Rap Sh!t on HBO and go to sleep by 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — Another work-from-home day! I wake up, walk the stairs in my building for about 20 minutes, and take a shower. I live on the eighth floor and no one takes the stairs, so I can literally roll out of bed and get a free workout. I make toast and a strawberry-banana smoothie for breakfast. A. comes home early and takes care of the cat.
11 a.m. — I text with my little sister about our plans for this weekend. She decided to go to college in DC, and I'm honored that she even wants to hang out with me. She just moved back into her dorm after living with our dad over the summer. We make plans to go to a Black-owned spot down the street from me. Living in a walkable neighborhood is honestly the best. While I take my lunch break, I see a cute Halloweentown sweatshirt. My millennial heart can't resist. $39.50
4:30 p.m. — The work day is filled with meetings. I snack on cucumbers, pretzels, and hummus. I don't really see the need for these meetings, as they don't pertain to my day-to-day, but whatever. A. and I do laundry after he wakes up and then we snuggle with the cat while we watch TV. Dinner is cheeseburgers made on our George Foreman grill.
7 p.m. — A.'s cousin has invited us to the movies in Chinatown for his birthday. We take the metro. Ten of A.'s cousins, ranging in age from 17 to 27, have come to celebrate. I really lucked out with his family. I like spending time with them. A.'s aunt pays for everyone. We watch the movie Bullet Train in 4K. It's the first, and most likely only, 4K movie I will ever see. I feel like I'm riding a rollercoaster instead of watching a movie. The seats really jerk you around. Overall, it's a good movie and having a main character with a great mustache and a nice suit will always win my approval. $4.50
Daily Total: $44

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I wake up, shower quickly, and put on high-waisted black jeans and a blouse to work today. I don't feel like making breakfast, so I go to the Dunkin' near my job. I order a Wake-Up Wrap with bacon and a small iced French vanilla latte. $8.45
11:30 a.m. — I'm crazy busy today as I schedule shipments of medical equipment, including hospital beds, power wheelchairs, and walkers. There are so many little pieces to keep track of between the delivery drivers, our patient's needs, and the facility where we store the equipment.
4:30 p.m. — I head home excited to hang out with A.'s family again. Last night was just the young folks getting together for his cousin's birthday, and now it's everyone together. A. doesn't want to take the metro because there's a delay, so he drives us to the restaurant. I get the oxtail stew with plantains, and he gets the hot honey chicken sandwich. A.'s aunt pays for everyone.
11 p.m. — A. heads to work, and I do my nighttime routine. I watch the new Rap Sh!t episode that just dropped. I'm hooked on the show now. Lights out by 11.
Daily Total: $8.45

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and watch the last episodes of Indian Matchmaking. I love the reality dating shows on Netflix. It's another work-from-home day, and I am moving slow. I get in the shower at 8, feed my cat, and get started on my email at 9. Breakfast is leftover plantains and blueberries.
2 p.m. — I wish we had a four-day work week. I have two intense phone calls with newly diagnosed patients. I spend the rest of the day doing notes for the week and watching Bob's Burgers before I clock out at 3. Summer Fridays are the best! This is another reason why I left bedside. And — you guessed it — hummus and pretzels for a snack.
7 p.m. — We both eat leftovers from last night, so there's no need to cook dinner. A. makes margaritas, and we watch Uncharted on Netflix. I do some light cleaning in the bedroom and head to bed early after I fall asleep reading at 9:30.
Daily Total: $0
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