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A Week In San Antonio, TX, On A $78,000 Salary

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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.
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Today: a community planner who makes $78,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an iced lavender matcha latte.
Occupation: Community Planner
Industry: Federal Government
Age: 28
Location: San Antonio, TX
Salary: $78,000
Net Worth: -$30,703 ($995 in checking/savings, $3,960 in emergency fund, $16,727 in Roth TSP and normal TSP, $5,355 in mutual funds, $4,800 equity in my car, minus $61,540 in student loan debt and $1,000 in credit card debt)
Debt: $62,540 ($1,000 in credit cards, rest in student loans)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,769
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,242 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment
Student Loans: $968
Renter's Insurance: $10.81
Electric: $40
Internet: $51.05
Hulu: $6.48
Spotify: $12.99 (mom is on my family plan)
NYT Digital: $4
Apple: $0.99 (honestly no clue what this is for or how to cancel it)
Classpass: $9
Online Community Membership: $5.55
Personal Trainer: $200
Professional Organization: $44.40 (hopefully will get my work to pay for this next FY)
Investments: $50 to Ellevest mutual fund, $100 to Schwab mutual fund
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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?
I excelled at school so I think both my parents and I always expected I would go to college. I think if I had chosen a different path like trade school or something my parents would have also been supportive of that. I did my undergrad at a private university and used some of my dad's GI Bill along with scholarships to pay for that. It would have been totally paid for if I chose a state school but because it was a private school, I still ended up with $15,000 in loans. Then I went to grad school a couple of years later and paid for that on my own with scholarships, a research assistant job, a summer internship, and student loans. I ended with about $60,000 in additional student loans. I kind of wish I would have lived more frugally to minimize that loan amount, but no going back now.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We did not talk a lot about money growing up, really only when my brother or I asked for something that was out of our budget. I think my parents didn't want us to stress about money because they both did growing up. I know they had some struggles with debt and poor money decisions but they never really talked about it with us.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting at 12 and continued that through high school and then I also started bagging groceries at 15. Both were because I wanted some extra spending money and because my friends were doing it.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried about money in the sense of necessities. We always had more than our basic needs covered and we were very fortunate and privileged to be in that situation. We moved every two years or so and lived in a lot of different places and when we lived in more affluent areas, I definitely was more self-aware and self-conscious that we were not as wealthy as those around us and I didn't have a giant house or designer clothes. On the flip side, there were times we lived in areas where we were the more affluent ones or were on par with everyone around us. I think the years we were living in more affluent areas definitely impacted my relationship with money for the negative in my teen years and made me less appreciative of the great life that I had/ I wanted to keep up with the Joneses and went through some bad behavioral phases (shoplifting) to try and do so.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, now I worry that I am behind in my saving and preparation for retirement. I did not contribute to retirement accounts when I was in grad school or even the year I was working between undergrad and grad. I know compound interest is key and I feel like I missed out on my prime years. I feel woefully uneducated in terms of diversifying an investment portfolio and intimidated because it seems like you have to have $5,000 laying around before even doing anything, which is why I just have mutual funds right now. I also know I have serious FOMO and have a hard time passing up experiences with friends like dinners out and trips and stuff for the sake of saving money.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say I am still not because I'm on my parent's phone plan (I'm shamelessly riding that one out until they kick me off). My dad also contributes $200 a month to my loan payments but that's mostly because he feels bad that they weren't able to help me more in grad school and not out of necessity. I am deciding now if I am going to try and commit to doing 10 years in public service to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and if I do that I will either get him to stop contributing or put that money into an investment account.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I receive the $200 a month from my dad for my loans, I also receive $384 per paycheck that goes to my student loans from the Student Loan Repayment Program that was a hiring incentive for my job. I had to sign a two-year service agreement with my agency that started after one year of employment (I have one year left) and I got $20,000 paid directly to my loan servicer over a two-year time period (I have about two months left of those payments). I will probably inherit a little money from my grandma (like, $5,000 maybe) but I won't have an inheritance from my parents — just regular survivor's benefits like life insurance.
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Day One

5:45 a.m. — Ugh, I do not want to wake up. But today is a personal training day. I drag myself out of bed and FaceTime my trainer for my workout at 6. I work out with her twice a week, the sessions are 40 minutes and $25, accounted for in my monthly expenses. She is my parents' neighbor and my mom's trainer as well, so we get a family discount. I started seeing her during the pandemic last year and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.
7:45 a.m. — Workout finished, showered, lunch packed, and out the door for work (a little late but that's okay). Yes, I have been going into the office the entire pandemic. I wish I could telework but my department won't let us. We wear masks when we are not at our desks and my whole team is vaccinated. Biden just signed the executive order that federal employees have to be vaccinated so hopefully soon everyone in my office will be. This is definitely not an ideal situation but at this point, I have accepted it.
8:30 a.m. — Get to work, check my emails, then go fill up my coffee cup. I run the coffee club at work so I collect funds and buy all the supplies and, in exchange, I get free coffee!
11:15 a.m. — Eat my lunch I brought from home — spaghetti squash lasagna. Last night, I made a lasagna to give to a family today, and I made a little extra to make myself a mini one. This will be my lunch for the next few days. I also have some maple kettle corn from Trader Joe's. I try to read a good chunk of a book from the library that is overdue (oops) while I eat.
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3 p.m. — Snack of a cheese stick and some everything bagel-seasoned nuts.
4:45 p.m. —I leave work and head to deliver the lasagna I made last night (it has been in the fridge at work all day). This is for a program called Lasagna Love where a family in need of some meal assistance requests a meal and a volunteer bakes a meal to deliver (doesn't have to be lasagna but that's what I usually make!).
6 p.m. —I drop off my lasagna and on my way back to my car I notice a stray kitten in rough shape. I decide I can't leave him there so I scoop him up and take him to the animal shelter. Two good deeds done for today! After the shelter, I head to the bar for trivia with friends and a much-deserved beer.
9:30 p.m. — We get second place in trivia! The prize is a $15 gift card which we will use next time. I get an IPA, wings, and mozzarella sticks. $33.70
10 p.m. — I am exhausted. I scroll on my phone for a bit (bad habit, I know) before going to bed. I do manage to do my skincare routine — Garnier micellar water cleanser, Paula's Choice BHA toner, Pacifica Dreamy Youth night cream. I also put a pimple patch on my chin. Recently been loving the Avarelle ones that I got on Amazon.
Daily Total: $33.70

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — Ugh, alarm no — snooze for 30 minutes before finally getting out of bed and getting ready. My morning skincare is just rinsing my face with water and using the CeraVe Ultra Light daytime moisturizer and Olay Ultimate eye cream. I do the same makeup for work every day — Maybelline concealer under my eyes, Nars concealer for spots, Maybelline Fit Me powder, Tarte blush, and Hourglass brow pencil. Head out the door at 7:30.
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8:30 a.m. — Coffee from work again and this morning I also have a cheese stick. I am usually not that hungry in the mornings so won't eat much for breakfast. Today is payday (woohoo!) so I go through and send some money to credit cards ($800) to pay down the balance and put some in my travel savings and my HYSA too. I have been wilding out a bit this summer and not been paying close attention to how much I was spending. I was paying them off in full every month until about June and then I went on a trip and moved and it went a bit downhill from there. Working to pay that balance down now. $800
11 a.m. — Lunch is the same spaghetti squash lasagna and today I finish my book! The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue — highly recommend. I'll drop this off at the library on my way home.
3 p.m. — I have some watermelon for a snack and sign up for a free trial of YNAB (using one of my many emails...). I bought this budget spreadsheet from Etsy a month or so ago and I'm not loving it. I have used YNAB in the past and really liked it so I decide to try it out again and see if it's worth getting for the year to try and get more on top of my finances. I also make the first payment for the year for my renewed professional organization membership. My work says they will pay for it starting next FY because they are out of money this year...so I'll hopefully only have to pay two months of this (accounted in monthly expenses). The joys of federal government work!
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4:30 p.m. — Heading home, call my mom on the way home. She's at the beach and having a grand old time — very jealous.
5:45 p.m. — Heading to a Pilates class that I booked earlier this week on Classpass. I have been bad at using my points and went to go cancel my membership, but they offered extra points and a free month... so I decided to keep it. There aren't a ton of studios here so it's not as great as it was in other cities I have lived in, but it's still nice to mix up my routine and go to different classes, plus my friend is thinking of signing up and it will be fun to go together.
7:30 p.m. — Very proud of myself for avoiding getting takeout on the way home. I decide to try a recipe I saw earlier today for dinner. It's a Vietnamese street pizza, which is basically pan-fried rice paper with egg, chili paste, scallion, and Laughing Cow cheese. It is delicious! Will definitely be making this more often. I have some frozen chicken soup dumplings from Trader Joe's as well. Takeout craving satisfied.
10 p.m. — Finally cleaned the kitchen and now heading to bed. End up down another rabbit hole on Instagram. Really need to detox from my phone!!
Daily Total: $800

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — Really don't want to wake up, but at least today is Friday! Same routine as yesterday. Out the door around 7:30.
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8:30 a.m. — Same coffee as always and today one of the supervisors brought in donuts. I have an old-fashioned cake donut and some watermelon for breakfast.
12:30 p.m. — Late lunch today (spaghetti squash lasagna again) because I was stuck in a meeting. Our meetings are about half in person and half virtual these days. Other departments have been teleworking and some plan to continue teleworking so I don't see that changing anytime soon. This meeting was about an upcoming construction project that is very complicated — lots of figuring out timelines and milestones. Lucky me, I'm tasked with building the slides for the next meeting. I don't get involved with every construction project, but this one is a critical piece of future development plans.
3 p.m. — Snack time — cheese stick and maple kettle corn. My mom is at a souvenir shop and texting me pictures to ask if I want anything. I pick out a green baseball cap with seashells on it. She will probably keep this at her house until Christmas.
4 p.m. — The office is dead so I'm heading home a little early. I text my friends to see if anyone wants to go to someone's pool (it is still very hot in Texas, fall does not exist), but everyone is busy. I decide to go on a walk instead once I get home. During it, I talk to my best friend from childhood and plan for her next visit.
7:30 p.m. — Time for dinner. I decide to make gilgeori toast, which is a Korean street food that is basically an omelet with cabbage and other veggies and American cheese on bread with ketchup. I add sriracha to mine too. So delicious and easy! I eat while watching Gilmore Girls. I also make sure to cancel my Paramount+ free trial that I got last week to watch the Kacey Musgraves movie.
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9:30 p.m. — My friends text me that they're going to get drinks... I think about going but really don't want to get ready and am so comfortable on my couch. I decide to stay in for the night and have a mini ice cream cone from Trader Joe's.
11:30 p.m. — After many episodes of Gilmore Girls I finally go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Best part of not going out the night before — waking up early with no hangover. I really appreciate my slow peaceful weekend mornings the older I get. I make an iced coffee with maple creamer (from Trader Joe's obviously, do I even need to specify anymore?) and have some yogurt and berries with my homemade granola. I see on Instagram that they just opened the first Cava here in San Antonio!! I'm so excited, it's one of my favorite food chains. I text my friend T. who is also a Cava fan and we plan to get lunch later today and hang by the pool. I spend my morning doing laundry and watching YouTube videos.
11:30 a.m. — On my way to Cava to pick up our mobile orders and head to the pool. It is HOT today, like over 100 degrees. I also bring some watermelon and seltzer to share. $11.86
3:30 p.m. — We have had our fill of sunshine. Cava was as good as I remember. I have a date tonight and am going to hang out with T. and our other friend, B., beforehand, so I head home to shower and get ready for the evening.
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5:30 p.m. — Head to my friend B.'s house to hang out while her and T. film a baking TikTok. I drink a hard kombucha and sample a cocktail my friend made with pea flower-infused gin — it is delicious. I should really up my cocktail game. I leave after an hour or so to meet my date, taking an Uber to the restaurant from my friend's house. $8.15
10:15 p.m. — The date goes well! This is our second date and he's a really nice guy. Dating during the pandemic has been rough and this is the first second date I've gone on in a long time. We go to dinner and then check out a cool cocktail bar — he pays. He is also kind enough to drop me off at my friend's house so I can pick up my car. When I get back to B.'s house, I tell her and T. about my date and hang out for a bit before heading home around 11:30. My date texts me to make sure I got home okay and we make plans to see each other again next week.
Daily Total: $20.01

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Even though I only had a few drinks last night I still have a headache. Ugh. Chug some water and take a Tylenol before changing into workout clothes for my yoga class and making an iced coffee. I watch some YouTube videos — I've been watching this girl who kind of homesteads and her garden is so impressive. I don't think that life is for me but I am jealous of all the fresh produce that she grows. I look into ordering a fall CSA box but it seems to be quite sparse for how much it costs. I decide to go to the farmers' market later instead and see what they have there.
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9:45 a.m. — Off to yoga! This is a weekly class I've been going to for about a month and a half. I love the instructor and the other people in the class — it's only about seven people so everyone gets to know each other. I paid for six classes upfront for $108 and have one class left after this one. I'm not sure if I'll repurchase a pass again because the classes have to be used within two months and I have a lot going on the next couple of months, but I can always drop in when I'm free and pay for one class at a time.
11:30 a.m. — Done with yoga and feeling like I sweat out my hangover which is always great. Decide to head to a nearby coffee shop and get an iced almond milk lavender matcha latte. I FaceTime my mom while I sit outside and enjoy my drink. I decide to go home and change before going to the farmers' market to see what kind of produce they have. $6.49
12:30 p.m. — It is SO HOT. Also, the farmers' market has no produce. Just a lot of local goods and pre-made foods, which all look great but aren't really what I'm here for. I head to a nearby grocery store instead to pick up some things for the week. I get parsley, celery, mushrooms, apples, bananas, oranges, guacamole, yogurt, salt, peppercorns, eggs, and I realize I haven't eaten anything yet today so I get some chicken salad and jalapeño chips, which I eat in my car in my grocery store parking lot ($32.82). I then head to Sam's Club to stock up on stuff for the coffee club at work — I get French vanilla creamers and coffee beans, which will be reimbursed from the coffee funds, and raspberries and a bagged salad kit for myself ($28.47, but $20 reimbursed). $41.29
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3:30 p.m. — Finally home. My friends invite me to join them at the pool but honestly all I want to do is sit in the air conditioning. I do some more laundry and clean the kitchen and my bedroom before sitting on the couch for a few hours. I make a sausage and peppers stir fry for dinner with some rice and make enough to have lunch for the next three days. I also make a banana bread.
9 p.m. — I decide to sign up for a membership for an online community of one of the people I follow on Instagram — it's focused on spirituality and manifesting. The tier I choose is $5.55 a month (in my monthly expenses). I really enjoy this person's podcast and have been feeling very stuck in my job recently and kind of blah about things, so I feel like I need an injection of positive thinking and a mindset shift. I read some posts from the community page after gaining access before journaling and then going to sleep.
Daily Total: $47.78

Day Six

5:45 a.m. — Another day, another early-morning workout! Today we focus on abs and arms and I can already tell I am going to be sore. We do a mix of body weight and using small equipment like dumbbells, an exercise ball, ankle weights, and resistance bands.
7:45 a.m. — Showered, lunch packed, and out the door! I tried to do a blowout on myself this morning and I can feel the humidity flattening it as soon as I walk outside. Texas is already on my shit list and the weather this time of year really does not help its case.
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8:30 a.m. — Coffee time! I restock the station and collect some money from people who haven't paid for the month yet. I have a slice of banana bread with my coffee. I find out I received a $500 performance bonus at work! I didn't even really know they gave these out but my coworker said she nominated me — thanks girl!! This is really nice considering how frustrated I've been at work recently. We have some issues with coworkers not pulling their weight and it is basically impossible to fire people from civil service. I enjoy my actual work, but the environment of my current office is definitely toxic. I have actually applied to some jobs abroad and have a soft offer from one which is super exciting, but likely won't be finalized for another couple of months. The ability to live and work overseas was what originally attracted me to government work, so hopefully that will work out!
11:30 a.m. — Leftovers for lunch! I also run to the post office to drop off an employer verification form for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program — I did not realize you are supposed to do this every year. Oops. I know my employer qualifies so I just need to get it verified by the program. I also update my income for the income-based repayment plan. I still don't know if I'll utilize PSLF but I want to make sure everything is on track if I do. I only have two years of qualifying payments so far so would need to do another eight years in a public service position.
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3 p.m. — Snack of cucumbers, buffalo hummus, and a cheese stick. I also grab some peanut M&M's from my coworker's candy stash. I have slides to build and am struggling to find a way to fit all the info without making it look like a hot mess... definitely need some sugar to get me going.
4:30 p.m. — Finish my slides and I'm happy with the outcome! Send them to my coworkers to review. Head home and call my mom on the way and we talk about her and my dad's upcoming visit. My dad has to come here for work next month and she is going to come a bit early so we can go to Waco for all the Magnolia things. Not really my first choice of a trip, but she loves them and I'm happy to do what she wants and just spend time together. I have a snack of some chips and guac when I get home.
6:30 p.m. — Dinner tonight is a Cobb-ish salad without the eggs because I hate hardboiled eggs (the texture, the smell, what is there to like??). I also have some dark chocolate-covered almonds and a chamomile mint tea. I read some full moon affirmations that are posted in the community group I joined. I also go around and fertilize and water my plants. I have some that are not doing great... I am an unorganized plant mom, I must admit. I look on Amazon for a soil water meter and find one with good reviews that is also on sale, so I order it. Tonight is the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars. I watched last season with my friends from the other side of the country and we had a group text. It was fun to watch a silly show and chat with them through it so we decided to do it again this season. All the first dances are pretty good! We are all Team Suni Lee for sure. $11.68
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10 p.m. — For some reason, I'm really in the mood for some nostalgia tonight so I start reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After reading for an hour or so I head to bed.
Daily Total: $11.68

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — Wake up before my alarm this morning! That never happens. Still end up sitting in bed scrolling Instagram for too long. Quickly get ready and head out the door at 7:30 with my packed lunch.
8:30 a.m. — Coffee at work again and some yogurt, berries, and granola for breakfast. I work a bit on my presentation and then respond to some emails and work with my coworker to create a list of assigned duties.
11:30 a.m. — Lunch of leftover sausage and peppers. I work through some emails while I eat.
2 p.m. — Snack time of banana bread and a cheese stick.
4:30 p.m. — Time to head home. I stop for gas on the way. I also make a mental note to get my oil changed later this week. I hate car maintenance things. I didn't own a car for most of my early 20s because I lived in a bigger city and I miss those days!! The car I have now I bought in grad school for $6,500 and I paid it off earlier this year. It's not very fancy, but it runs fine and gets good gas mileage and I don't plan on upgrading anytime soon. It's raining so I go to the gym in my building to walk on the treadmill for a bit while listening to Awkwafina's episode on Armchair Expert. $28.16
6:30 p.m. — Make a salmon burger and some zucchini fries for dinner and have a mini ice cream cone for dessert. I do a load of laundry and read some more Harry Potter after dinner — I don't know if it's the nostalgia or what but this story still just sucks me right in. These are the books that made me fall in love with reading and I'm so glad they did. I've been trying to read more this year because I kind of stopped as an adult. I'm currently on book 17 out of my 21 book challenge for the year!
9:30 p.m. — Off to bed — got another early workout tomorrow. I try putting my phone across the room to charge for the night so I can't scroll in bed and will have to actually get up when the alarm goes off. Hopefully, I can stick to this to break my bad habit!
Daily Total: $28.16
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