A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $88,966 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: a Communications Specialist working in National Security who makes $88,966 per year and spends some of her money this week on a peppermint mocha.
Occupation: Communications Specialist
Industry: National Security
Age: 27
Location: Washington D.C.
Salary: $88,966
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,091 (post-tax, post deductions)
Gender Identity: Cis Woman
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,716 (paying extra when I can!)
Condo Fee (includes utilities): $615
Student Loans: $352 (undergrad only, paid grad school out of pocket/was reimbursed by fellowship)
Health Insurance: $89/per paycheck (deducted pre-tax)
Dental Insurance: $11/per paycheck (deducted pre-tax)
401(k) Contribution: ~$150/per paycheck (deducted pre-tax)
401(k) Loan: $41 per paycheck (deducted pre-tax, pays off a $15,000 loan I took for my condo closing costs)
Savings: No fixed contributions. I have about $8,500 in the bank and $60,000 my 401(k) (government TSP) after taking out a residential loan for my home purchase.
Phone: $75
Internet: $37
Warren Campaign: $6.60
Bernie Campaign: $5
Charity/Donations: $50, varies
Spotify/Hulu: $10
HBO NOW: $15 (canceling now that His Dark Materials is over…)
Netflix: $0 (boyfriend's, he uses my HBO, Hulu, Prime)
Amazon Prime: $13
Gym: $35
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Day One

8 a.m. — H. (my boyfriend) kisses me goodbye and leaves me a few sips of his very… healthy smoothie. I put on my favorite swingy black/white houndstooth blazer and the big opal earrings H. got me. I usually wear a fair amount of makeup — winged eyeliner, lipstick, and cheek contour, though I've been getting way more into blush. I have half a container of overnight oats from TJ's when I get to work (meh).
12 p.m. — A few meetings this morning. I really love my boss, she's a young WOC like me, totally aspirational and brilliant. I covered her position for four months super underpaid before she got here. It was a good learning experience and an honor to be selected as the youngest person on the team, but I'm so glad she's here now! She's pushed to change my title, but HR's dragging so I just do it anyways. She clears me to go to a long lunch date with a friend who's in town.
2 p.m. — I eat actual lunch at my desk while working — half of a Trader Joe's rainbow wrap, chimichurri chicken, a satsuma, and a cinnamon scone from Panera that somebody brought in. I go over some minor work with our intern before heading out. Trying to be better about delegating!
2:20 p.m. — Totally inexcusable, I go the wrong way on the metro. Finally, I meet B. at Starbucks — she's here for a residency interview. We grew up together and I fill her in on the Desi community gossip. I get B.'s peppermint mocha and my guava white tea and remind her that the deal is that one day I'll live in her pool house when she's a doctor. We make plans for a group visit before she graduates. $8.80
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3:40 p.m. — I get back to my office later than expected, but haven't missed anything. I put in a leave request for half an hour. A few small tasks come in, and then a bigger project at the very end of the day.
6:30 p.m. — I usually take the bus, but the tracker is looking grim. I metro instead and try reading Dead Astronauts, but just can't get into it like I did with Strange Bird last week (both Jeff Vandermeer). I wait at the station for H. and we stop by the ATM on the walk home. Originally the plan was to hit the gym, but H. has been feeling sickly and I am happy to stay in. We pledge to use the dinky gym downstairs at some point tonight (spoiler: what do you think happened?) and I make rice and heat up red chicken curry. H. eats mirepoix like it's a salad and it's surprisingly good with oil and vinegar?
9 p.m. — We end up watching SNL, and just chilling and talking. It's really nice because this past week we had our first dark spot since H. quit his job and moved to DC over the summer, and it really worried me. I have another satsuma (get used to this!) and a little bit of cookie dough. We probably don't go to sleep until 12:20ish. Night routine is a shower and The Ordinary's caffeine extract, Puriya cream for my dreadful cracked eyelids, TO Niacinimide, and Paula's Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer. Sometimes Mizon snail cream or ampoule. H. went on a real skincare kick recently and convinced me of the dangers of parabens.
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Daily Total: $8.80

Day Two

9:00 a.m. — Pest control is coming today, we have drain flies, and the sink's full of crap. I try to tidy up and leave a note about the flies. The bus schedule sucks, so I call an Uber ($9.19) and I'm in by 9:15. Wearing a relaxed fit black blazer and purplish blouse. I have an Uncrustable for breakfast when I get to my desk. $9.19
10:30 a.m. — I realize I've missed a few cell phone calls from my parents, which makes me nervous. They're back in South Asia visiting family, but usually, I see them once a week. Before he left, my dad had a health scare that had H. and I in the hospital with him for days. Thankfully, it turns out that he just wants to bring me back some traditional outfits before he comes back next week!
11:45 a.m. — Not liking my progress with this presentation, since we have very little guidance. All the coworkers sitting near me today are nice, but narrating their every thought! And my premade salad from Trader Joe's smells terrible, so I toss it and try a sad Reuben-ish sandwich from the shop upstairs ($6.32). Suddenly, we get notified that everyone has to leave before 1 p.m. due to the snow! DC cannot handle any snow or even freezing rain, but this kind of early dismissal is unusual. A lot of tasks pour in, and now I'm running out of time since a lot of people won't be on after going home. I ditch the sandwich. $6.32
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2:30 p.m. — I waited until 1:30 to leave and it still took a while. I was supposed to host a reunion tonight, but I warn the girls driving into the city that they may want to reconsider. I telework and eat the other half of the rainbow wrap and a satsuma at some point, plus TJ's rhubarb strawberry soda. Snow starts coming down!
5 p.m. — My friend, S., from Seattle metros over, but nobody else can make it. He's been traveling for months and is about to go back to the world of tech, which is fascinating to this public sector drone. He's a family friend like B., more of a big brother but we were absolutely horrible to each other as kids! We got a little older and he introduced me to Arcade Fire, torrenting, and other such bonding experiences.
7 p.m. — H. is working a little later than expected and tells us to get dinner without him. Here is where I admit that food is my biggest indulgence and cost. We bus over to Seven Reasons and it is incredible. I get a chicha morada and mezcal cocktail and we split royal sea bass ceviche with sweet potato and lemongrass, an enormous lamb shank with mole negro, corn, and cotija, and a fig and praline dessert. To the MD commenter who weirdly insults women for eating — I enjoyed every bit of it. I take an order of arepitas for H. We split the bill ($180 with tip) and take the bus back. $90.35
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8:50 p.m. — H. is getting ready to head to the gym. H. and S. catch up while I get ready, and we walk S. to the metro. H. tells me S. is his favorite friend of mine. I knew they would click! We stretch and H. goes on the erg while I use the elliptical (too much lamb). We do weights until it's time to leave at 10.
11:30 p.m. — We sot on the couch for too long! We were long distance for over three years, so H. and I have no problem talking for a loooong time. I shower and get in bed relatively early (....midnight). I read some of Girls of Smoke and Shadow and am underwhelmed. Great representation, great plot, cheesy writing.
Daily Total: $105.86

Day Three

9 a.m. — My eyelids are getting dry and painful again. After four years, five doctors, and steroids, I've found that allergy meds and humidifiers are the only things that help a little. I bus to work, and my friends stop by my desk with donuts. I have an apple cider one.
11 a.m. — My gym is so cheap, but it's been a pain trying to update my billing info for months. Contrary to what they promised, I get billed for $167 all at once. I text H. to venmo me his half. Not counting this because it's supposed to be monthly…
12 p.m. — Lord. I get out of an hour-long speech, where I had to stand in the back wearing heels the whole time. Working in the political sphere means people they often say stuff that makes me roll my eyes into the back of my head. Iran didn't keep up its side of the Iran Deal? The one our president backed out of last year? You don't say? I get bored enough that I track down my favorite tea that Starbucks stopped selling, and order their last eight bottles at Target for pickup later today. $17.24
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3:30 p.m. — I'm a little overwhelmed by everything that's hit my inbox. I determine that I'm responsible for an absolute ton of high visibility work in the next two weeks. I sit at my desk for three hours without moving. Coworker background noise going STRONG. I have a frozen taco bowl and two satsumas.
4 p.m. — My least favorite coworker, time card fraud extraordinaire, stops by and I excuse myself ASAP to go pee. We've all just done her work for the last four years because otherwise it doesn't get done. I stop by the snack shop on the way back. Nothing appeals to me except a small block of cheese for $2.50, which seems insane. $2.62
6:57 p.m. — Work descends into full chaos. God, I want chicken nuggets. Itchy eyelids are out of control! I planned to take the bus out to Target, but the next bus is red (Metro code for "shrug, don't know, don't care") and the next real one is coming in 40 minutes. An Uber is $15....I'll just metro home. The most nearby exit locks down at 7 so I can't wait around.
7:15 p.m. — I walk to my fave Chinese takeout and go a little overboard — five nuggets for me, chicken teriyaki for H., and General Tso's with a side of fried rice. It'll be about four meals ($26.44). I eat before H. gets home at 8:15. We talk about our days and hang out before I start cleaning and organizing. My condo is tiny, but it's mine. I bought my home a year ago for $320,000, after living with my parents for five years (!) and putting most of each paycheck into my federal 401(k) for tax savings. I then took out about $15,000 in a residential loan to supplement my closing costs, which has no tax issues, is paid back by $40 on each paycheck, and has a ~2% interest rate. Highly recommend this approach for young federal employees who can save a lot. I package up a bunch of donations and returns and hang up all the clothes leftover. H. washes dishes and cleans up the kitchen, and we blast The Killers. I hate dishes and he hates cooking, so I love this arrangement. Though I didn't cook today... $26.44
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10:30 p.m. — I shower and get ready for bed (but still won't sleep until midnight). I pack leftover Chinese and read about Martine Rothblatt (trans icon) for a while thanks to some random Instagram post. I must start keeping my phone outside the bedroom (lol). My eyelids are so cracked and wretched that I put on a Megurhythm steaming lavender eye mask.
Daily Total: $46.30

Day Four

7:10 a.m. — I wake up at the same time as H. to get started on some work before my 9 a.m. meeting. We find a way to make our morning routines work around each other and it goes fine! I'm in by 8:30.
12:40 p.m. — Work has been nonstop since I got in, but all manageable. I realize I forgot my fruit, and I accidentally grabbed one of H.'s mini diet Cokes instead of my Izze, and I don't really drink soda. I stop by the cafeteria to get some fruit slices and broccoli for an attempt at health and eat at my desk while working. $6.63
3:30 p.m. — Highlights of today include getting a smug email from a dude. Very cool and professional. The theme of work this week seems to be old men not doing their damn jobs. I start a new project with one of the other interns.
5:50 p.m. — It's dark and cold out — no Target again. I miss the bus by a second and metro back and call H. to chat about our evening. On the way home, I stop to get my nails done in a shimmery lavender gel. Usually, they offer wine but I'm too awkward to ask! I tip $6. $42
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7:10 p.m. — I walk home and run into a few women who are house hunting in the lobby. I tell them the pros and cons of the building, and show them around my place in case it helps. I don't start cooking until 7:30. I make garlicky Italian chicken with red sauce, shirataki (wacky 10 calorie yam noodles) for me and TJ's gluten-free fettuccine for H., and a funky herbed brie, garlic pesto peas, and hearts of palm on the side. My parents call so I multitask for the next forty minutes. Raucous religious gatherings will be around the airport when they both fly off to different places, so we're all a bit on edge. They ask about H. and his newish job, which he loves. Fortunately, they adore him and have really welcomed him into the family. I pay a hospital bill for my dad ($38), but he'll pay me back when he gets home. We all share a credit card to accumulate frequent flier points quickly, usually for their travel back home, and rotate them as much as possible. My dad loves hacking the game.
8:30 p.m. — I read until H. gets home. I finish Girls of Storm and Shadow and start Ten Thousand Doors of January. Turns out H.'s phone died and is being weird, so we try to fix that and get completely sidetracked by the infuriating news coming out of Iran. We don't eat until 9. H. brought home salmon, distilled water, and salad greens from Whole Foods.
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11 p.m. — We watch a few videos and cuddle, and H. tries to explain his job to me but honestly I'm not smart enough. We put on some Hozier, H. washes the dishes and pots, and I pack lunch and eat a few apple slices. I mean to go to bed much earlier, but my dad calls again for help with his flights, and it takes close to an hour. In bed by 12:30.
Daily Total: $48.63

Day Five

9 a.m. — Wearing a white ruffled blouse and a tweedy red plaid jacket. Plus my Jackie Kennedy coat instead of my puffy down since I have meetings today. I drop off our donation box and our holiday gift card for the front desk manager before catching the bus. This day starts off frantic and stressful.
10:30 a.m. — On the bright side, it's our worst intern's last day. Despite our feedback, he regularly disappears for 3-6 hours at a time and says he was at lunch, ignores mandatory meetings, shows up at 10, and leaves at 5. On top of that, he made fun of our other interns who are actually useful! Our colleague, D., made flan for his last day because she is an angel and he basically said, “Oh thanks…not right now”. More flan for us! I think D. "forgets" to save him some…
1:30 p.m. — I work nonstop for as long as I can, but I have to get ready to leave for the meeting. While the report I'm rewriting is fairly horrible, I enjoy editing and it's a core part of my job. Besides, I certainly can't do the much harder job of the scientists who drafted it. We take a taxi over, and my colleague expenses it.
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3:20 p.m. — Back from the meeting. Everyone was intimidatingly brilliant, and listening to technical experts and program managers brief gave me excellent background. However, and I'm really a work whiner this week, sorry, I was distracted by a disaster unfolding in my inbox and sent possibly the most assertive (aggressive) email of my career. I come back and my boss has my back completely. You might not believe it, but I actually love my job minus the people who don't try to do theirs. I try to eat my pasta very carefully in my white silk blouse while working on a report.
6:30 p.m. — I'm out! I've logged 44 hours this week so I'm on track. I work extra hours so that every other Friday (and Saturday) I can go to my true love...volunteering with injured/orphaned baby raccoons. My parents often drive me because they love having me home every weekend. As they're out of town, I skipped this week because it's $50 round trip without their help! I still go most weeks, and I am missing my little muppets fiercely right now. My leadership has said I'm good to go on this arrangement since I get plenty of work done each week, which is nice to hear. Once I get home, I make balsamic and dijon-glazed salmon, and in the meantime have a pre-workout snack of toast with baby spinach, pesto, and a slice of pastrami. Big Friday night gym plans. I try to read while cooking because this book is SO good and heartbreaking.
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8:30 p.m. — H. comes back from Sephora with his Herbivore and Laneige, and my requested sample of Glow avocado eye cream. Love of my life. I heard online this will reduce eyelid cracking, despite the retinol, so we shall see. I'll try anything at this point.
10:30 p.m. — In shambles. We fell asleep for two hours for no reason and obviously did not work out. I stay up reading until 2 a.m. since my sleep is screwed anyway...at least my sloth-ing resulted in a no-spend day.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — Sleeping in! H. and I go over the errands we need to get done today, and I make toast with vegan cream cheese and some of the baked salmon. I also make some instant champurrado (chocolate rice pudding) and it's amazing! Also, the Glow eye cream has already worked wonders and I feel no eye pain. H. leaves to get a few things while I get ready. We're finally working out, so just Lululemon leggings from H. and a maroon v-neck with white sneakers.
11:30 a.m. — We take the bus up to the post office to mail some returns ($6.27) and then catch another one to get closer to the gym. On the way, I check one last Starbucks for peach tea and just buy mango instead, along with banana bread for H. ($6.71). After stretching we do cardio and weights for about an hour and H. says it's our best workout yet! It's nice to have my own personal trainer although he's so fit I can practically feel people looking quizzically at the pair of us. $12.98
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2:30 p.m. — I've been interested in a new poke place with good reviews, PokeHub. We bus over and I get a medium bowl (too big!) with salmon and eel, among other things. It's perfect. $16.12
3:15 p.m. — We walk home and I lay around while H. looks at his own finances and calls his mom. I read on my Kindle, and H. venmos me $375 to cover gym costs and a few other big purchases we split last month, including a giant West Elm rug, a Simplehuman trash can worth every cent, and some stuff on my Amazon account. He'll start paying rent this month, which is kind of cool since housing is a huge chunk of my budget.
9:30 p.m. — I fell asleep AGAIN for an hour in the afternoon and we scrap our errands. I don't even like naps! Our casual plans to go see a movie are upended when all the showings near us are sold out. I buy tickets ($33.12) to go see Knives Out down in Arlington and change into black floral print pants and a scalloped black tank. Despite it being a 10 p.m. showing we are of course still late. H. gets our Uber and concessions (mozzarella sticks, curly fries, and $6 water!), so we call it even. I almost always bring my own snacks to the movie and see what I can get away with. This time it's just apple slices and a mini bottled mai tai. $33.12
12:30 a.m. — Good god, that movie was incredible. We can't stop talking about it. I call an Uber, and minutes after we get in, rain starts pouring. We stay up til 2:30. $11.34
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Daily Total: $73.56

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — Finally getting out of bed. It is disconcertingly sunny and warm for January. I guess we'll just enjoy the slow collapse of our planet? I put on a lavender jumpsuit, black sheer kimono, and big pearly hoops. Super sore from yesterday's workout, so H. uses a rolly….stick…thing on my legs. We show up five minutes late to Whole Foods for most breakfast food and H. is crushed. I pick out a few random things (pasta salad, strange breakfast pizza) and then get Topo Chico, canned and fresh anchovies, hearts of palm, spiced orange Italian soda, eggs, ground turkey, satsumas, and mini chocolate chips. I also find a bag of frozen ripe jackfruit. I haven't had good jackfruit for ten years since going back to the motherland. I had a dream that I was back there with family last night, meeting all my little nieces and nephews, and it was tough waking up from it. Going back is unlikely given my job. Separately, H. picks up a giant tomahawk steak, flax milk, and fruit. $50.36
12:30 p.m. — We stop by CVS for a mini pack of Oreos and a bottle of strawberry milk. I don't think I've had either of these in years. I use $3 worth of CVS ExtraBucks. We also stop by H.'s banks. $1.68
1 p.m. — We sit on our rooftop to have brunch, and hang out in the sun for an hour. My mom calls — she's flown to India for her brother's medical procedure, and I'm nervous since it's not very Muslim-friendly there right now in some parts, but she's unconcerned. H. does some research for work and I read for a while. The jackfruit is not perfect, but the closest I've had to the real deal, so the nostalgia really hits. I write a check for $10 to get my wildlife license renewed; since I work with raccoons, I need a specific one that verifies my rabies shots. $10
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4 p.m. — We take the bus down to Nordstrom so H. can make some returns. We also stop by the TJ Maxx to use up a $5 gift card and buy two hand soaps for the bathroom and kitchen, a shower liner, chips for H., and chocolate Stroopwafel for me. We split the rest of the cost. $9
5:15 p.m. — We stop by Pret a Manger as H. is getting hungry. He gets a blueberry yogurt pot and I get a ginger shot, a peach green tea to compare with Starbucks (nope), and a tiny brownie bite that H. adds to my order. He eats half and Venmos me $1. LOL. $8.32
6:30 p.m. — We take the bus up to Target, but are immediately distracted by a street vendor selling tamales and elote. I chat with her and explain the options to H., and we get one chicken and one pork tamale. We then actually get to Target and I finally pick up my tea! $6
7 p.m. — We take the bus back home. A nice but loud homeless guy tells us he's been here since the 1800s, but 2020 is gonna be HIS YEAR! Good vibes. We eat the tamales, which are incredible, and start sorting out laundry. We get to listen to our awesome neighbors play cello and viola, though magically nothing else makes it through the soundproofing. H. and I love classical music and I played violin for nine years, so we encourage them to practice as loud as they want.
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9 p.m. — I finalize my Money Diary and reflecting on it, all I do is buy food! It feels like cheating since last month I spent like crazy, on laser hair removal and rugs and hair curlers and presents, but I feel like I made a little progress without resorting to a life of asceticism. Then I immediately load up my Amazon and Target carts with household supplies, dish mats, etc... but I'll sleep on it. H. and I spent the rest of the night planning some tentative travel to Peru! We make reservations at the legendary Central in the event that everything pans out.
Daily Total: $85.36
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