A Week In Washington, D.C. On A $52,800 Income

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 contractor working at an international organization who makes $52,800 per year and spends some of her money this week on White Claw hard seltzer.
Occupation: Contractor
Industry: International Organization
Age: 27
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $52,800
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): ~$3,200
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,200
Student Loan Payment: $50 (I used to pay $1,000/month when I had a higher salary and was on my parents' health insurance. My parents have always helped me pay off the loans, and I've paid about $27,000 down on my own. Now that I don't have the financial flexibility, I only pay the minimum. My parents took on the private loan for me, so I only have $3,200 left on my federal loan that I'm responsible for.)
Health Insurance: $405 (not provided by work, so extremely expensive)
Electricity: $20-$40
Internet: $55
Gas & Laundry: $0 (Provided by my landlord.)
Phone: $37.50
Spotify: $9.99
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO: $0 (I mooch off of parents and friends <3.)
Amazon Pantry: $5
ClassPass: $140

Day One

8 a.m. — Alarm goes off. I've been on a mini vacation in New Orleans staying with one of my best friends. He's taking me to the airport before he goes into work, but my flight isn't until 1. It's either I go with him for free or take an Uber for money.
8:20 a.m. — Go to his neighborhood cafe to get coffee (he does not have a coffee maker at home — the horror). I cannot physically have a conversation or be a human until caffeine is pumping through my veins. My friend said he didn't want anything, so I just get one small coffee to go. $2
9:30 a.m. — Out the door and on the way to the airport! We say our goodbyes, and then I go through all the airport stuff. Stop in Hudson News to look at books and magazines and one catches my eye. Start to read it, turn it over, and see it costs $12.99. Nope!
10:30 a.m. — Browse around limited food options and eventually settle on Smoothie King, where I get a small meal replacement smoothie plus two boiled eggs for breakfast. Trying to keep it cheap and healthy to make up for all the vacation food. $10
11 a.m. — After my breakfast, I go back to Hudson and finish the magazine in the corner. Then off to my gate where I open my new book: A Little Life. I'm a book fiend, and always have to have one on me.
12:30 p.m. — Start boarding — and I'm in first class! I only took this trip because I had a travel voucher for a bad flight last year, and my friend at work was able to get me free upgrades! First time I've ever flown first class, and it be fancy.
2 p.m. — On the flight reading my book, they serve semi-real food: cheese, crackers, olives, mixed nuts, and dried fruit, along with a warm towel to clean my hands with. I don't know if I can ever go back to peasant life again after this!
4 p.m. — Land back in D.C. and debate getting a Lyft/Uber or not. The whole trek back takes over an hour and a half by public transportation including a shuttle, the metro, and then 15 minutes of walking. But Uber and Lyft cost $35 minimum for the shared options, soooooo public transportation it is! It's $5 to get on the airport shuttle, and then I use my transit card for the train. $5
6:30 p.m. — Stop at my second home, Trader Joe's, outside of the metro since I have absolutely no food at home. Grab a bunch of stuff including fresh spinach, Wine Country Chicken Salad (incredible), a frozen cauliflower rice bowl, yogurt, celery, peanut butter, eggs, carrots, a protein shake I've never tried before, and probably some other things I can't remember. $36.40
7:30 p.m. — Finally back home, and I see my HelloFresh order was delivered! I only order about once every two months as a little treat— relief from having to meal plan and shop, and I get the two meal option which is perfect for when you're just one person. This week it's lemon chili pepper shrimp with zucchini ribbons and California chicken tacos — nom!
8 p.m. — Pop the cauliflower rice bowl in the microwave because I'm tired and hungry, then start all my laundry, which is right outside my door and free! After years of dealing with laundromats, this makes me never want to move. Alarm goes off reminding me to watch Surviving R. Kelly, and I see it's $3 on Amazon Prime for the first episode….which kind of sucks. But I'm intrigued, so I set up with my dinner and start the first episode. $3
8:30 p.m. — Oven is preheated, and I put my carrots in to roast with olive oil, salt, and lemon pepper. I already knew the bowl wasn't going to be enough. Continue being traumatized by R. Kelly.
9 p.m. — Okay I can't just NOT watch more. Pay another $7 to get the rest of the season, munch on my carrots, keep doing laundry. $7
10 p.m. — I need to stop. Turn on Seinfeld in the background while I do all the dishes, fold my laundry, and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $63.40

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off and looks like offices are operating on a two-hour delay today because of the snow! Yaaassss. Set an alarm for 9:30 and go back to bed.
9:30 a.m. — Second alarm goes off, and it's time to get up for the day. Make my coffee first thing, then slowly become a human while reading the news, checking Instagram, and texting with friends.
10 a.m. — Shower and then pack my lunch of fresh spinach with chicken salad, protein shake, and Larabar. Get ready and am out the door by 10:45.
11 a.m. — Have to refill my metro card because it's all out. Put $40 on it from my credit card. Because I'm a contractor, I don't get any benefits at my job, including commuter benefits. But when I do my taxes every quarter, I add metro costs into tax deductions, so it kind of helps? It varies by month, but tends to be around $100/month. $40
11:30 a.m. — Make it to the office and eat my Larabar. Everyone is finally back from the holidays and my work hubby comes over to catch up for about a half hour! It was a ghost town here for a solid three weeks, and I didn't realize how much I missed all the activity.
12:30 p.m. — Dig into my chicken and spinach salad at my desk as I work/look for jobs. I've been at this new place for almost a year now on a one-year contract. It's been extremely stressful on my finances to not have benefits, but it was an important leap in my career, so I took the sacrifice as a temporary situation. Now it's unclear if my contract is going to be renewed, and I've been applying to jobs like crazy for the last two months. At this rate, I feel like I've applied to all the jobs possible, and it's rare that I find a new and intriguing job posting to answer.
3 p.m. — Protein shake at my desk. Too cold to take a walk today, le sigh.
5:45 p.m. — Leave the office and head to my spinning class. I recently joined ClassPass, stopped going out during the week, and am generally feeling way better!
7:30 p.m. — Get out of spinning feeling like a million bucks and head home on the metro, listening to My Favorite Murder .
8:15 p.m. — Home and time to make my first HelloFresh meal! Put rice in the rice cooker (because I will burn it otherwise) and hop in the shower real quick to feel all fresh and clean for my PJs. Make the rest of the meal, and it's back to R. Kelly time. The shrimp zucchini rice is b-o-m-b!!
10:30 p.m. — Wash all my dishes, get ready for bed, and then watch one more episode before forcing myself to go to bed at midnight.
Daily Total: $40

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Coffee, shower, pack lunch, and am out the door by 8:45.
9:30 a.m. — Get to work and eat my Larabar, then head to a meeting at 10.
1 p.m. — Have my chicken and spinach salad from home. Browse OkCupid, the only dating app that I check into every month or two and maybe try to meet up with someone. I look for five minutes, am astounded by how all my matches seem to be bald, and close the app.
2:30 p.m. — Okay, the salad was tiny. I whip out celery and peanut butter brought from home. Try to chew very quietly.
5:40 p.m. — I have plans to literally Netflix and chill with this friend of a friend I've been kiiiiind of seeing/hooking up with for a couple months, but our mutual friend has this gossip she's been wanting to tell me for days, and apparently it's too long to be explained over text. I don't have plans to meet up with the dude until 7, so I meet my friend at a bar between my office and the metro stop.
6:30 p.m. — Have one happy hour beer while I catch up with my friend and hear her gossip. We get upset about how people can be such assholes and what is WRONG with them!! My beer is $5.50 plus I leave a $1 tip, then head back out to my booty call. $6.50
7:15 p.m. — Arrive at the guy's house. We have a glass of wine and catch up/talk on his couch for a while until he turns on our show. Get through one episode and he starts kissing me :).
10:30 p.m. — Another glass of wine has been consumed, another episode of the show has been watched, aaaaand I'm getting sleepy. I typically try to avoid alcohol during the week, but I haven't gotten laid in a few weeks and I'm excusing this as ~self-care~. I call a shared Lyft to get home. $8.06
11 p.m. — Get home a little tipsy and still kind of hungry since the Cheez-Its, wine, and pistachios during the show didn't completely count as dinner. Pop in two hash browns into the toaster and put two TJ's pea and carrot patties on the stove while I change into comfy clothes and take my contacts out.
11:15 p.m. — Eat a very irresponsibly late dinner, but better than no dinner at all and a hangover to deal with, no?
12 a.m. — Text with friends and do my nightly routine of teeth brushing and taking all the supplements because have I mentioned I'm an elder? I take five fiber pills every night because I have a “slow digestive system” and there's nothing wrong with it (as per many GI visits and medicines over the years), but it just “needs a little help.” I also take cranberry supplements because all of that is intertwined, so I get UTIs extremely easily. Asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $14.56

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Blah, I hate mornings. Btw, every morning when I wake up, my alarm goes off and I hit snooze for anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes. I know it's bad for you apparently, but I cannot wake up on the first alarm if my life depended on it. I've tried setting it for later and just having it go off once with no snooze — but nope.
8:45 a.m. — Leave the house after my morning routine. Definitely a hair up and glasses kind of day.
9:15 a.m. — Make it to the metro, and I'm hungrier earlier than usual, so I pull out my protein bar and have it on the platform and in the train, which is illegal! The metro is serious about their no food rule, so I have to be super casual.
10 a.m. — At work and I see there's a job opening in my organization within a different department! Adjust my cover letter and reach out to a friend I know in that department, then apply.
11 a.m. — Friends are talking about going to see On the Basis of Sex in theaters tomorrow night, and I do love me some RBG, so I buy a ticket. $13.50
12 p.m. — A little hungry. I get my strawberry Greek yogurt out of the office fridge to snack on.
1:30 p.m. — Feeling low energy, 100% because of the whopping three drinks I had last night. I go downstairs to order a chai tea latte from our cafe and reminisce on times I could drink all night and then wake up with no hangover. $3.71
2:30 p.m. — Immediately feeling warmer and cozier from the tea. I go to the kitchen to heat up a veggie burrito I brought from home.
6 p.m. — Leave work to go to spin again...this should be interesting with my lack of contacts. Blind spinning, ftw!
8:15 p.m. — Get home, turn on the heater, get in hottest shower of my life. Defrost. Really craving some easy, healthy, cheap, comfort food. Heat up a TJ's can of chicken and bean chili and a pot of Turmeric Glow loose leaf tea.
9 p.m. — Right as I'm finishing the dishes, one of my best friends calls. She's living on the west coast now, and we haven't had a full actual conversation in a couple weeks, which is a lot for us. We're always having to juggle our time zone differences and busy schedules, so I'm excited she caught me at a free moment! We end up talking for over two hours, and by the end of it I'm lying in bed with all the lights off. Around 11:30 I have to tell her we need to call it a night, and it's crazy that whenever we talk, no matter how long the conversation is, it always feels like we're only scratching the surface. There's so much more we didn't even get to! Abridged nightly routine, and I'm asleep before midnight.
Daily Total: $17.21

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Wake up, have coffee.
9:30 a.m. — Get to work and eat a Larabar. I buy them in bulk using my mom's Amazon Prime account, and I pay her the $5/month fee for Prime Pantry since I'm the only one who uses it.
11:30 a.m. — A friend is running errands near my office, and I just got an interview invitation with her old company this morning, so she stops by the lobby to help me prep. So quick, so condensed, so much adrenaline! Then back upstairs to work.
12 p.m. — Second frozen TJ's veggie burrito time.
3 p.m. — Our department is having an offsite today, and we all head out. At first, I'm nervous about the forced socialization because it always makes me feel like I'm in an episode of The Office. Luckily, it's just a few games that are genuinely fun, lots of desserts, and everyone is great, so it's surprisingly fun! I have one chocolate strawberry and one cracker with cheese because I'm not too hungry. We mingle and enjoy the change of scenery.
5 p.m. — The offsite is over, and my work hubby and I go for a drink in the neighborhood to finally catch up after the long holiday. Making friends at work, everywhere I've worked, has seriously saved me. It's so rough to spend over 40 hours a week somewhere that doesn't have little hints of fun and breaks in the monotony. We each get two glasses of happy hour wine and then split one more since I have to rush out without time for another full glass. Each drink is $6, but he picks up the tab because he is salaried with full benefits and a gentleman.
7 p.m. — He drives me to the theater where I'm meeting friends to see the RBG film. We say goodbye, and I run into the movie a little late and join my friends.
9:15 p.m. — Oh my GOD that movie was so amazing! RBG is a true inspiration; I wish I could have an ounce of her intelligence or tenacity. Teared up multiple times and literally applauded at others — as did everyone else in the theater. This was the most D.C. thing to possibly do on a Friday night. I'm STARVING, but my friends and I are all extremely talkative because we haven't seen each other in a couple weeks, so everyone is stalling and talktalktalking in the lobby when I eventually have to say we need to make moves. Two of the other girls and I go to a nearby bar where they each get a drink, and I get a vodka soda with lime, one fish taco, and one pork taco. Thank Jesus, finally! I love these women, but I might love tacos more. Or maybe just in this instant. I pick up the tab, and they both Venmo me for their portions. $27.80
11:30 p.m. — One of the girl's boyfriends joins us. We all love him, so he's more than welcome. We head to another bar across the street since this one is getting perpetually louder and more bro-y. The one across the street has happy hour 24/7, and I can't believe it took me almost a year of living here to discover it! We snag some seats at the bar and I order another vodka soda with lime. Then we argue over Backstreet Boys vs. NSYNC and share losing our virginity stories among other wildly random topics. $6.50
12:30 a.m. — So sleepy and really need to not spend anymore money for the day. Plus, I have a barre class at 11 a.m. which, yes, is early. Get a shared Lyft home and collapse into bed. $4.57
Daily Total: $38.87

Day Six

9 a.m. — Suddenly woken up by people walking around and talking in the upstairs apartment. I live in a basement studio and the rent is stupid cheap to live alone in D.C. in a nice neighborhood, but damn this the one downside. I live in an old building that I guess was built before people discovered how to insulate walls? I hear EVERYTHING that happens in the upstairs apartment, even if it's at a completely normal volume. This isn't the earliest thing in the world, but I was also tossing and turning throughout the night since I can never sleep well after drinking. I try to go back to sleep, but the noise keeps me up, and I don't feel like exercising at the moment. Reluctantly cancel my barre class, which incurs a $15 cancellation fee through ClassPass. I've never cancelled a class in the two months that I've been using CP, but I just really do not want to get out of bed. $15
11 a.m. — People upstairs were making noise for an hour, but I was finally able to catch another 45ish minutes of sleep after they stopped. Get up, make coffee, heat up some leftover rice, fry two eggs, sauté some spinach, and throw it all together on a plate. Never did I realize how important hot sauce was until I ran out of it last week. While everything is cooking, I turn on Netflix and start the Fyre documentary I just heard about yesterday.
1 p.m. — Slow day. I look for CorePower yoga classes to make up for my missed barre class. They give you your first week free, and I've been wanting to try it. They have one at 4 p.m., so I go.
5 p.m. — That was the first time I'd ever tried hot yoga! Don't know how I feel about it tbh, but I love that it was free. In definite need of a shower and some foooooooood before going out for the evening.
5:30 p.m. — Get home and immediately make a smoothie from a banana, TJ's sliced peaches, some frozen strawberries, and vanilla almond milk. Turn on the shower and drink my smoothie while showering because I'm in a hurrrrry.
6 p.m. — After showering and putting on my skin cream (Epiduo Forte — been using it every day since I was about 14 and it is a god send), I try to make the HelloFresh chicken tacos as quickly as possible. Make and eat them while listening to Mac Miller on my Bluetooth speaker and then get dressed in real people clothes and order a shared Lyft to meet up with an old friend. $4.87
7:15 p.m. — Literally WHY do I never learn my lesson! Getting a full Lyft instead of a shared one is twice the cost, but every time I try to go somewhere on weekend nights in shared rides, it takes me through Union Station where the other passenger and driver are on the phone and can't find each other and everyone is lost! I waste 10 minutes driving around Union Station and I promise myself to stop forgetting this caveat.
7:30 p.m. — Show up to the bar and meet my friend who I haven't seen in almost five years! We used to work together when I was an intern, and he was an employee, and every couple years I always hit him up for help with job stuff. When I reached out to him last month, it was the first time I was back in D.C. and I was like, wait we should actually hang out??
9:45 p.m. — Two beers later and catching up is so lovely! He bought the first round and when I tried to get the second, he wouldn't let me. He picks up the tab and we head to a liquor store so I don't show up to my friend's birthday pregame empty-handed.
10 p.m. — Get a mixed flavor case of White Claw at the liquor store. It's a 12-pack and pricey, but this friend brought the same thing for me for my New Year's pregame. $23.14
10:15 p.m. — Get a full Lyft to my friend's place. $8.05
2:30 a.m. — Woooooow the evening lasted way longer than I expected! My sleep schedule gets so off over the weekends if I don't watch it. The pregame turned into a chill hangout with drinks and eventually cheese, crackers, chicken wings (?), and chocolate. Get a shared Lyft home and there's definitely surge prices at this hour. $15.04
3 a.m. — Back home and it is way late for me.
Daily Total: $66.10

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — Wake up, make coffee, turn on the first episode of Sex Education, and turn to Amazon Pantry since I'm out of some stuff. Get a new batch of coffee, paper towels, toothpaste, roasted pecans, and toilet bowl disposable disinfecting wands. $44
11:15 a.m. — Shower and get ready while blasting Spotify's "Mood Booster” playlist. Highly recommend for shower dancing.
12:15 p.m. — Order a Lyft to go to drag brunch for my friend's birthday! I've never been to drag brunch, but it's been on my bucket list for years. No idea what to expect, but I can't wait! I bought my ticket for the show, which comes with a brunch buffet and a drink, last weekend for $40. Lyft costs $10.79. $10.79
12:40 p.m. — Get to the brunch spot and meet up with my friends, still slightly hungover from last night, but couldn't miss this brunch for the world! As per my friends' recommendations, I get $20 cash out of the ATM and buy a mimosa from the bar in order to get singles. I get $16 back in singles, leave one for tip. $5
3 p.m. — Brunch is all-you-can-eat, and we all get a mimosa to start. The drag queens are phenomenal and so into it! Throughout all of it, I'm tossing singles onto my favorite ladies and putting dollar bills in the mouth or shirt collar of my male friend next to me because the queens love to get them! Our table orders more carafes of mimosas to keep them flowing, and at the end of the day we all split the bill evenly for the extra drinks, which comes to $15.84 each. I count that I only have $8 left in singles, so I must have thrown $7 on the dancers. $22.84
3:30 p.m. — We all pack into Uber XLs to head over to the birthday girl's apartment to keep the party going. Once there, she has more bottles of champagne and orange juice, and I honestly don't know how many I have. But everything is beautiful.
7 p.m. — My friend and her boyfriend are heading elsewhere to watch some important football game leading up to the Super Bowl. I couldn't give less of a shit about football, but I love friends. They order a Lyft to their friends' place and when we get there, the girls and I go to a nearby liquor store so that we don't show up empty-handed. Pickin's are REAL slim, so I end up buying a six-pack of some hibiscus hard lemonade that's basically 90% sugar. $12.09
7:30 p.m. — Back to football, and we be hungry. My friend orders one large cheese pizza and one large pepperoni, and four of us split it evenly. I Venmo her $7.50 and throughout the next few hours magically end up consuming four slices. Nommmmmmmmmmm. $7.50
11:30 p.m. — Call it a night and get a shared Lyft back home. $8.66
Daily Total: $110.88
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