A Week In Columbus, OH, On A $52,500 Salary

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Today: a Marketing Specialist who makes $52,500 per year and spends some of her money on e.l.f. bronzer.
Occupation: Marketing Specialist
Industry: Marketing
Age: 25
Location: Columbus, OH
Salary: $52,500
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,000-$3,000, depending on incentive payouts
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $100 (I live with my sister, her husband, and my niece, thereby trading living expenses for acting as an extra set of hands — walking the dogs, cleaning, babysitting, etc.. I pay them $50/paycheck for the food we share as a house.)
Student Loans: $300
Car Loan: $299.72
Tax Repayment Plan: $108
iPhone Loan: $41.58
Phone Bill: $30.52 (paid to my dad—I'm still on the family's plan)
Car insurance: $72.11
Health/Dental/Vision Insurance: $346.86 (pre-tax)
HSA Contribution: $100 (pre-tax)
401K Contribution: 5% of my paycheck (Employer matches 50% of my contribution)
Community Partnership Donation: $20 (pre-tax)
Climbing gym membership: $84.93
Massage Wellness Club: $74.18
Apple Music Subscription: $10.74
Netflix: $0 (I use my parent's account)
Savings: Every month I move $100 into my savings account, $100 into a checking account reserved just for travel, and $50 into a checking account reserved just for emergencies.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My alarm buzzes. I'm disoriented. It's Sunday morning, why am I awake this early? I usually let myself snooze until 10 on the weekends, but I remember that I've booked a massage this morning. I ran a half marathon yesterday and I am feeling every bit of those 13.1 miles. I silently congratulate myself for being proactive enough to schedule this massage for today. I let myself lay in bed until 9. Finally, time becomes a crisis, and I know I can't lay there any longer.
9:30 a.m. — Bagel with peanut butter, dry shampoo, toothpaste, water: check, check, check, check. I hop in my car and drive the 25 minutes to my massage studio. I've had my membership at the studio for about two years and consider it cheap health insurance for the poor-postured desk worker (AKA me). Plus I really appreciate my therapist, N.
12 p.m. — N. wraps up my massage and walks me out to the lobby to pay and schedule my next session. My membership only covers me for a 60-minute massage every month, but I knew I'd want a long one post-race and had booked in for 120 minutes today. I pay the difference and leave N. a big tip. $88.37
12:30 p.m. — I get back home to my three-year-old niece, S., and brother-in-law, B., eating lunch and watching a movie on the couch. I know nap time is quickly approaching for our house. The hours of 1-4 are usually the only hours the adults in the house have to ourselves, and I know exactly what I want to do with my free time this afternoon: nothing. I greet them hello and ask them how their time at the trampoline park was this morning before heading to the kitchen to reheat some leftover veggie pasta. I take that, a bag of peanut butter M&M's, and some water downstairs to my room, turn on Crazy Rich Asians, and fall asleep.
3:20 p.m. — I wake up to S. crawling into my bed and my sister, L., giggling in the doorway. Nice prank, sister — I'll remember that for next time! I give S. a hug and a tickle and ask her what they're up to. Apparently they were putting in some laundry before heading to the park. I know it's an open invite, but I've got grocery shopping to do, so I tell them to have fun. When they leave my room, I open up my computer and log onto Instacart. I've been experimenting with online shopping for routine purchases and feel it helps me better monitor my impulse buys. I sign up for a free trial of Instacart Express so I can get free delivery and start adding items to my cart. I get all the way to checkout and realize that I should leave a 20% tip for my shopper, which kind of negates the idea of spending less. Ugh. I take a video of my cart so I can remember my items, grab my keys, and it's off to the grocery store.
4:10 p.m. — The grocery story is bustling and the aisles have all been moved, which makes me cranky. I hop on the phone with my mom, who can always put me in a good mood, and listen to her talk about her weekend at my grandma's house while I load my cart with two zucchini, a six-pack of eggs, hummus, hazelnut coffee grounds, a five pound bag of Idaho potatoes, Stash ginger peach matcha teabags, peanut butter chocolate Luna bars, frozen kale, broccoli, a red pepper, green onions, a red onion, and a 12-pack of lemon-lime seltzer water. I consider taking advantage of a two for $5 deal on kombucha, but resist. I load it all into my reusable bags and pay. $33.20
5 p.m. — I'm home and ready to meal prep. Looks like B. made a pizza for the house while I was out. I eat four pieces while getting various pots and pans ready, hard-boiling eggs, and making a veggie mix. S. flits in and out of the kitchen while I cook. She likes to “help,” meaning she likes to name all the foods out on the counter and play with tin foil.
9:15 p.m. — My boyfriend, H., video calls me while I'm in the middle of watching Crazy Rich Asians (again) and bullet journaling. We catch up on each other's days and talk about our next plans to visit each other, which makes me excited. H. and I have been together for five years and weren't always long-distance. In fact, he lived with us for a full year before moving back to Chicago just a few weeks ago. I'll be joining him in the future, but the timing isn't right for me just yet. I eat an embarrassing amount of mini Twix bars while we talk and tell myself I'll get back to eating right tomorrow. I'm a mini dinosaur after my race yesterday.
10:30 p.m. — Commence nighttime routine. I take my contacts out and brush my teeth using Hello's charcoal whitening toothpaste. I've been using the Honest Beauty range from Target for skincare lately. I bought the Clearing Acne Regimen Kit trial box with face wash, night serum, and daily moisturizer a few weeks ago and feel like my skin's never looked better. I wash my face, apply Lumene Valo Glow Boost Essence (my staple hydration product), night serum, and moisturizer, and it's lights out by 11.
Daily Total: $121.57

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Let the work week begin. I let myself get used to the idea of being awake by laying in bed until 6:45. After lazing for 15 minutes, I get up and shower. I go upstairs to the kitchen to nuke a mug of water in the microwave. I throw in a matcha tea bag and drink sweet, sweet caffeine while doing my makeup routine. After my serum and moisturizer, I dot my face with Pacifica's coconut probiotic sunscreen and then apply primer (Wet & Wild), BB cream (Maybelline), powder (Physician's Formula), blush (Pixiglow), and a little bit of bronzer (Physician's Formula). Curl the lashes, apply mascara (Rimmel London), and on to hair. I spray heat protectant on my hair and blow dry. Last minute, I remember to take my vitamins (energy, probiotic, vitamin D). I grab my lunch from the fridge, transfer cold brew from the mason jar (where it's brewing) to my tumbler, and find my keys.
8:30 a.m. — Arrive at work. Several of my colleagues also ran the half marathon this weekend, and there's a lot of excited buzz in the office today (“How did you do?” “What was your time?” “How are your legs?”). I don't officially get working until 9:30. I've got a lot to do today and know hours are precious, but so is social time, and I'm lucky to have so many coworkers who double as friends. We all decide we're officially committing to running a full marathon this fall, and I navigate to the website to sign my life (and maybe knees) away. $139.75
1:05 p.m. — I finally open up my lunch bag. My two hard-boiled eggs this morning seem so far away. Usually I'd find some time to take an hour lunch, but I have to leave the office early today and need to make up the time. I've packed two small baked potatoes, veggie mix, hummus, a mango fruit strip, and a packet of organic gummy bears.
4 p.m. — I had three back-to-back meetings this afternoon and a series of efforts to retain clients interested in canceling their services, and I'm exhausted. What a Monday. I eat a Luna bar and bid my cubemate goodbye. I've got an hour drive back to my side of town, and my eye doctor appointment is at 5. One of our dogs ate my glasses about two weeks ago after I left them on my nightstand, so I've booked in at the optometrist so I can take care of my yearly appointment and order a new pair.
5:30 p.m. — Is there anything better than knowing you somehow evaded the dreaded eye dilation? I send a thank you to the eye doctor gods as I finish up my appointment. They still have my frames in stock, so I order them and use my insurance to cover what I can. Unfortunately, my current plan doesn't cover the contacts I need, so between that, the leftover price on my glasses, and my exam fees, I end up taking a deep hit to my HSA account. I'm glad I've been stockpiling money in there since August, but angry that I have to pay so much to see. I head home and blow off some steam by making dinner. I make Mediterranean quinoa salad for the adults and bowtie noodles with chicken for the little one tonight.
7 p.m. — L. is on call today (she's in her last months of residency) and is off to the hospital to assist with a case. B. and S. are settled in on the couch to video chat with B.'s parents, so I decide it's time to head to the bouldering gym. On the way home, I stop back at the grocery store. I realized I bought a bag of decaf grounds yesterday, so I exchange them for some grounds that will actually bring me to life. They're the same brand and still on sale, so it's an even exchange.
10 p.m. — Home from the gym, kitchen cleaned, dogs are walked, lunch is packed. I spend the last hour of the day eating Skinny Dipped raspberry almonds in bed, watching comedy skits on Netflix, and texting H. before taking care of my nighttime routine. I try to hit my 11 p.m. bedtime, but H. calls me at 11:05 once he's off his shift at the restaurant (he's an aspiring sommelier) and I stay up an extra half hour to catch up with him.
Daily Total: $139.75

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — Buzz buzz. I shake off the sleep and head to the shower around 6:45am. Teabag and morning routine out of the way, I head upstairs and run into S., who's awake and on her way to daycare with B. I compliment her pink dress and she excitedly tells me she's not wearing pants today. Good to know the excitement starts young. I pour some cold brew in my tumbler and make a mental note to make more tonight or tomorrow.
8:30 a.m. — The last day of the month always marks a busy day for the office as we push to meet our sales and retention goals. I can tell I'm in for a busy one. I sneak in a hard-boiled egg (and bite into an apple, but it's mealy — gross) around 9 and race to get admin work completed before my afternoon of client calls.
4 p.m. — I realize I haven't eaten lunch yet, and the workday is almost over. I heat up my baked potatoes and veggie mix and power through the last hour. I made two upgrades today, and even though I leave the office late and feeling bulldozed, I'm proud of myself for the day's work.
7:10 p.m. — B. brought home dinner, so after I walk the dogs, I eat some Quorn nuggets, bagged Caesar salad, and pasta salad. I get an Instagram ad for a Dagne Dover purse and know I don't need it — plus it's over $300 (!!!) — but it has a built-in strap for a water bottle inside the main compartment, and that's just the kind of weird feature I'm into. I check Mercari and see a listing for one that's $130, which is still more than I'd consider spending on a purse, but I “like” it so I can get notified if the price drops. I make my way to the bouldering gym and work on some particularly vicious problems.
11 p.m. — I'm not really tired, but I know I need to start getting ready for bed if I have any hope of getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. True to form, H. calls me around 11:15 and I don't fight the time — I really miss H. I'm off the phone by midnight and cross my fingers I don't pay for it tomorrow.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Nope. I snooze my alarm and 15 minutes passes like a second. I snail my way out of bed and mosey to the shower. Why do I do this to myself?!
8:35 a.m. — I eat my two hard-boiled eggs at my desk as I glance over my calendar. Four client calls today, but no meetings. I savor the extra admin time and plug in.
11:30 a.m. — Lunchtime! I've made plans with three coworkers to get Mexican this afternoon. We carpool to a restaurant close to our office and collectively wish we could drink margaritas on work time. Free chips and salsa arrive, and I order enchiladas supreme and a water with lemon. We intently discuss the wonders of guacamole, dogs, and good coworkers while we dig in. It's times like these where I'm thankful I don't work in the city (my office is 45 miles outside Columbus) because portions are huge, but lunch is less than $7. I leave the waiter a good tip for being so attentive. $9
4:20 p.m. — I eat a Luna bar and eye the leftover Easter candy in my desk drawer.
5:45 p.m. — I turn off the highway and make a left at the light instead of my usual right. I gave B. the night off since he's been Super-Dad this week while L. is on call, and I've got to grab S. from daycare before 6. We take the dogs for a walk before it rains, get some apple cinnamon cheerios for her (and a marshmallow egg for me — thanks for the care package, Mom!), and I take her to the bouldering gym. She can't really climb without my support, but she likes to rub chalk on her hands and put on her teeny tiny rental shoes. Her entrance costs nothing; I get one free returning guest pass per month.
7:45 p.m. — I heat up some fish sticks and leftover bowtie noodles with chicken for S. and scrounge up my own leftovers once she's settled in. I end up with some Quorn nuggets, Mediterranean quinoa salad, and barbecued pork. It's weird but good. I scroll through my phone while she talks to B. about her day and see that my favorite activewear brand, Senita Athletics, just released their new spring line. I don't want anything from the new line, but I've been eyeing a crop bra for months from an old collection and bite the bullet, along with a pair of high-waisted black leggings. I surprisingly don't own any. I get free shipping and redeem a $5 coupon from saved points. $60.02
9:15 p.m. — I am leaving for Denver to visit one of my best friends, K., in two days and need to get my life sorted out, so I decide to get productive tonight. I throw two potatoes in the oven for tomorrow's lunch, make another batch of cold brew, do a quick charcoal face mask from the Yes To Tomatoes line, put in a load of laundry, and start packing. I had to book a Basic Economy ticket for this flight to keep it in my price range, and unfortunately that means I get to pack for a whole weekend in (can you believe) a personal item. I have a small backpack from Target that fits the size requirements, but it's like stuffing an elephant in a matchbox.
10:30 p.m. — I remember to cancel my HBO trial before it auto-renews tomorrow. Score! H. calls me past my bedtime.
Daily Total: $69.02

Day Five

6:10 a.m. — I try to wake up earlier than usual so I can have some extra time to get ready. One of the members of my favorite band is doing a book signing this afternoon and I have tickets to meet him! My late bedtimes this week are making mornings hard. I end up getting out of bed at my usual 6:45.
7:30 a.m. — I eat half a plain bagel shmeared with peanut butter as I make my way out the door. I note that I'm low on gas. Luckily, I can still get the 45 miles to my office on a low tank (thank you to my Prius), but I'm going to need to fill up today.
12 p.m. — I've been approved to have a flexible schedule once a week, so I take the afternoon to work remotely. I head to a nearby library so I don't have to spend money at a coffee shop and work on some reports for a large client of mine. On the way, I fill up my car with gas and then park in front of the library so I can eat my lunch before going inside. Same packed lunch as it's been all week, but just one potato this time. $26.98
2:30 p.m. — I pack up my laptop so I can drive to Barnes & Noble for the book signing. I bought my tickets last week ($30), which include a meet-and-greet, copy of his new book, autograph, and picture. I try really hard to play it cool. He's effortless, obviously.
4:30 p.m. — Home again. I eat a marshmallow egg while I open up my laptop again to clear out my work inbox and log a few more hours. I remember that I had wanted to support a friend's photography business and navigate to his Etsy shop to buy two pins that feature his work. He's offered me a free shipping code, which I gladly plug in. $20.98
7:40 p.m. — I'm meeting one of my best friends, O., for top-roping tonight. I haven't been on a rope in over a month and am excited to have a partner to climb with again. B. brought a pizza home by S.'s request, so I eat a piece before I get to the gym. After our climbing session, I stop at Target to stock up on mini-toiletries for my trip to Denver. I see a sale for haircare and decide to take advantage of it so I can get a free $5 gift card (I'm running low on shampoo and conditioner anyway). In the end, I come home with shampoo, conditioner, a hair mask, texturizing spray, travel deodorant, travel face wipes, bronzer from e.l.f., two shirts (does anyone else just buy multiples of the same thing in different colors?), and a pack of mints. $68.48
1 a.m. — I know I'm only packing in a backpack, but that means I have to get creative with space. After three hours (!!) of playing Jenga with my bag, I go to bed.
Daily Total: $116.44

Day Six

7:25 a.m. — This is what I get for going to bed way too late — I overslept. Way too late. I still absolutely have to shower today. I'm hopping on a flight, which is a recipe for oily face and hair for me, so I do an expedited morning routine (no tea, no makeup, hair in a bun) and am out the door by 8 with my bag, hiking boots, and a bagel in tow. I bring extra coffee. I don't have to bring lunch today because our president is buying our team pizza for hitting our monthly goals.
2:15 p.m. — Today is officially over for me. Yay! I've talked to a few clients and attended a few meetings, now it's time to go have fun. I make my way to the airport and drop my car off in the shuttle lot. Once I get through TSA, I sit at my favorite airport brewery and talk to H. while I drink an IPA. $10
5:55 p.m. — I arrive in the Mile-High City and find my way through the maze to find K.'s car in the Arrivals line. We hug and head to her apartment to freshen up and drink a beer. K. has grand plans for this weekend, and tonight we're painting the town red. She lives close to the Light Rail, so I buy a ticket that will work all night ($6). We start the night eating burrata cheese at a swanky cocktail bar at 7 and try to pace ourselves with food and drink in between, but then K. suggests I take a funky shot at a dive bar she knows — and by 12:42, I'm toast. $68
Daily Total: $78

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Oh no oh no oh no oh no. K. had warned me that the altitude can get you drunk faster — who knew how true that would really be? I feel terrible, but K. had promised to take me to Rocky Mountain National Park today, and I'm determined not to let my hangover get the best of me since I've always wanted to go there. I take a shower and don my hiking clothes. We stop at a coffee shop on the way and I buy coffee and a turkey sandwich, plus K.'s food to thank her for taking care of me last night (butter croissant and cheese curds). I don't eat right away because my stomach doesn't feel right. $19.76
12 p.m. — K. and I are officially on our way. We decide to go to the west park entrance, which climbs 3,000 feet in elevation through the mountains on some very windy roads. My hangover gets exacerbated by altitude sickness. So sorry to anyone in Denver who saw me puking on the side of the freeway — I promise I didn't want to do it either.
2 p.m. — We arrive at the park. K. and I stop in the visitor center. We are both in love with national parks, and I buy collectors pins for every park I go to. It supports the parks and makes for cute home décor! I buy one and we drive a few miles up the road to the trailhead. $6.24
4 p.m. — K. and I finish up our hike and arrive back at the trailhead. I was hoping we'd be able to hike a little longer, but I get too dizzy and nauseous (hangover? altitude? both?), so we turn back. In cooler news, we heard a mysterious growl and saw some mysterious tracks. Some online searches confirm that the growl probably belonged to a black bear and the tracks probably belonged to a mountain lion. I am very thankful I didn't bring my coffee shop sandwich on the hike. Some animal might have smelled it and I would've felt too ill to run away. I probably would've just let it eat me. K. and I take off our boots and get back in the car to drive home.
5:45 p.m. — We stumble upon a little sweet shop on the way home and go in. Food doesn't sound great, but I haven't eaten anything all day. I buy a shake, an order of fried pickles, and a container of homemade chocolate and eat what I can (I'll save the rest for later). $18
6:30 p.m. — Once we're home, we decide we want to have a chill night. K. and I are huge true crime junkies, and the new Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile film was just released. Once it's over, we order sushi (my treat, since she hosted me this weekend) and dissect the film. We both decide it was excellent, but very different than expected. Once our sushi arrives, we turn on the first episode of Game of Thrones and devour our rolls. We plan to explore the arts district of Denver tomorrow, so we turn in around midnight. $51.95
Daily Total: $95.95

The Breakdown

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