A Week In Central Missouri On A $50,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a copywriter working in higher education who makes $50,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell.
Occupation: Copywriter
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 22
Location: Central Missouri
Salary: $50,000
Net Worth: ~$8,000 ($5,000 in savings, $3,000 in checking)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $2,965
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $490 (I share a three-bedroom apartment with two roommates.)
Utilities & Internet: $0 (These are included in the rent for the first term of my lease.)
Health & Dental Insurance, Phone & Car Insurance: $0 (I'm still on my parents' plans. I've offered to reimburse them, but they haven't taken me up on it yet, so I can grow my savings.)
Work Parking: $26 (taken out of my paycheck automatically)
Spotify: $9.99
Amazon Prime Student: $7 (I loan this out to family and friends in exchange for streaming services.)
New York Magazine: $8
401(k): $333 (I'm maxed out at 8% of my paycheck.)
Annual Expenses
The New Yorker Digital Access: $50
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?
Oh, no doubt there was. My parents didn't have specific expectations for where I would go or what I would study, but they emphasized that I needed to be able to get a “return on investment.” I attended a public university out of state with the expectation that if my tuition and housing costs exceeded $100,000 I would be responsible for the debt. I quickly became a resident, so I qualified for in-state tuition and ended up graduating a semester early, which significantly reduced my costs. I feel extremely privileged that I was able to end school and start my career with no financial burdens.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Conversations about money were nonexistent. I know that my dad is an excellent budgeter and investor, but he's never passed along those skills or shared anything about what our finances were like. I just know that we lived far below our means. There was such a weird balance of what we were allowed to spend money on and what needed to be excessively justified. We were comfortably middle class and all of our essential needs were met, but sometimes school activities, dental work, new eyeglasses, etc. were off the table because he couldn't stand spending the money.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Other than babysitting, I got my first real job working at a chain of gift stores when I was 16 and loved it there. I made a pittance but I managed to set most of it in savings while using the rest for spending and gas money (oldest sibling necessity). I worked part-time, sometimes two jobs at once, throughout college for my living expenses.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, even though there was usually no need. Because we lived so frugally, I was always under the impression that we were doing far worse than we were. The glimpses I've had of what my family's finances actually are have shocked me. So much unnecessary stress could have been completely avoided. Was it prudent at times? Yes. Did it also affect our quality of life? Also yes.

Do you worry about money now?
Not necessarily on a day-to-day basis. I'm pretty unfettered and I live in a relatively low cost-of-living area. The lack of a post-grad social life has also been amazing for my bank account! On a long-term basis, I worry that I'm not doing enough to make my money grow. I'm like my father in some ways; I need to talk myself into/be in the right frame of mind to pull the trigger on bigger purchases, even on essentials. For instance, I've worn severely outdated glasses instead of just refilling contacts. I also drive a very old car that will definitely need to be replaced soon and I worry about getting a reasonable price when the market is so bad.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At age 21, although I will say that there are exceptions. That's when I started working full-time, however, as mentioned above, I'm still on my parents' insurance and phone plans. My parents would absolutely let me move back in with them if needed (my mom wanted me to do that after college anyway!). I feel confident that I could borrow money from them in a crisis.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I graduated college, my dad gifted me $1,000 to help with rent while I job searched. I wasn't expecting it, but he wanted to make sure I could spend as much time as possible looking for a full-time job. I made that last all three months that it took for me to settle on a job. My parents also gave me my current car. It was long paid off and not worth selling or trading. I also believe I received around $5,000 as a child for my college fund when my grandfather passed away.

Day One

6:10 a.m. — My first alarm goes off, followed by my second and third. My morning routine is simple: eyebrows, mascara, concealer. Then I put on a jumpsuit that turns out to be a prudent choice. I was stung by a jellyfish pretty extensively a week ago (and on the last day of vacation no less) and before my very eyes, the previously healed stings suddenly swell up and become itchy. Google says this can happen, but still, what the hell?
7:40 a.m. — Lunch and coffee are packed, and hydrocortisone cream is applied, so I'm off to the office. Glad I'm wearing pants today! On my way from my car, I run into a coworker so we walk in together. There are leftover bagels from a local place, so we each make one. Mine is plain with scallion cream cheese and it's very good.
12 p.m. — No meetings this morning — a blessing after a very meeting-heavy week. Since our entire office is in-person, meetings are all face-to-face, which gets to be a lot. I'm behind on a few assignments, so the morning goes by quickly. I take my lunch (an apple, string cheese, and crackers) to a nearby park for peace and quiet away from my desk.
3 p.m. — With only an hour left to go, my boss asks me if I'd like to come along to Starbucks. Of course! I take my wallet and order an iced coffee with milk but he insists on paying for me. I promise to get his the next time.
4:30 p.m. — I'm back home and miserable, sting-wise. I take a bath in temperatures that could rival the furnaces of hell, and it works for a little bit. I dither around in the meantime and try to decide on dinner.
7:30 p.m. — The winner is Cane's! I get a three-piece combo with extra toast. I never break rank and eat from the bag before I get home, but the extra toast is car toast and fair game. I make a lemon wine spritzer when I get home (a.k.a. $5 pinot and an Aldi lemon sparkling water). $9.70
10 p.m. — Pluto TV has been doing a 24-hour free live stream of Jeopardy!, and I crush a few episodes of the 2013 college championship. The way that this show combines my short attention span and love for trivia is unmatched. I ice my legs while I watch. Eventually, I wash my face, brush my teeth, set my hair, and go to sleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $9.70

Day Two

10 a.m. — Rise and shine. It's so nice to sleep in! I laze around and throw on makeup before immediately needing to flee into another hot bath when my stings realize I'm awake. FML.
12 p.m. — I want to get out of the house so I head to a local bookstore. I read The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles last week on vacation and loved it, so I want to see if I can find another one of his books. I buy his Rules of Civility, plus Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell. I wasn't going to get the latter but one of those handwritten rec notes from the shop said lovers of Daisy Jones and the Six would enjoy it. I'm sold. $39.40
12:30 p.m. — Down the street to a coffee shop. I get an iced latte and a croissant and read Utopia Avenue in the very back of the space. They're playing great music today; I didn't even need to bring my headphones. $10.85
1:30 p.m. — I need more hydrocortisone cream already so I run into a CVS and pick some up. $5.17
2 p.m. — The absolute second I get home, my mom calls to see how I'm doing. Once I flip the camera around to show her, she insists on something that I've been internally debating: that I go to urgent care. She's right. The stings have only been getting worse, so I get right back in the car and go to one of the clinics nearby. The look on the receptionist's face (well, above her mask anyway) when I say I'm in for jellyfish stings is so funny. She says it's a clinic first!
2:45 p.m. — After a short wait, I'm back in an examination room where I notice that one of my legs is purple, good god. Very glad I came. Turns out I'm having a pretty nasty delayed allergic reaction, so the doctor prescribes steroids and other anti-itch medication. I go to Hy-Vee to wait for the prescription to be filled and end up browsing and buying a pack of cider, Pirate's Booty, and batteries. ($24.28) This has to be a marketing ploy, right? I pick up my new prescription ($3.70). $27.98
6 p.m. — I'm back home, and my parents FaceTime to check in. I also order a sandwich for dinner and run down the street to pick it up. So much driving today! I eat it with a Caesar salad I make at home. $5.93
7:30 p.m. — One of the hardest things to get used to about recent-grad life is the lack of socializing. I don't mind beginning from scratch; I did it when I moved away for college, but it's so hard to know where to start! I've been trying to nurture current friendships that aren't as strong. Tonight that means that I get ready for drinks with two former coworkers. It'll be dark, so I brave wearing a skirt and consider putting on getting-ready music. I put on more Jeopardy! instead. Maybe I should just head down to the senior center and try my social luck there. I specifically asked the doctor earlier if I was allowed to drink, and he said I could, but I still resolve to take it easy.
8 p.m. — I street park and head on in. It's a nice time! My friends are so funny, and we have known each for a few years so when we run out of conversation topics, reminiscing is always on the table. I'm hoping to turn this into a closer friendship. One of them is on Tinder and, after checking with us, invites her most recent match to come have a drink. Like I said, I'm really, really trying to be open so I can build up my social life.
1 a.m. — The four of us end up hanging out until close, wow! I have two ciders throughout the night but stick to water for the last three hours so I feel fine. I'm just happy to have social interaction. My friends want to keep chatting, but when the bartender turns off the Open sign, I make everyone leave (after tipping, of course). Once home, I lay around scrolling on social media until I see the time, wash my face, brush my teeth, and head to bed. $16.26
Daily Total: $105.59

Day Three

10 a.m. — Should have just stayed asleep. My body kicks me while I'm down and starts my period. At least my stings are looking better. I eat a Clif bar and string cheese and take a pill. I don't normally eat breakfast but I need to take this medicine on a full stomach.
3 p.m. — I'm so tired that I end up just hanging around the apartment. I was thinking about seeing a movie tonight but I spent enough money yesterday. I read more Utopia Avenue (I accidentally spoiled part of the ending for myself, ugh!) and watch more Jeopardy! I also cut up a cantaloupe that I bought earlier this week.
7 p.m. — Din! I like cooking myself a nice meal on Sunday nights so I make creamy lemon rigatoni and steam the sad amount of broccoli I still have in my fridge. I'll get more tomorrow. I have a blackberry cider with it all and leftover oatmeal–peanut butter chocolate chip cookies I made this week. I find myself watching episodes on the Jeopardy! live stream that I've already seen this weekend and cut myself off. No more Alex Trebek tonight!
11:30 p.m. — Time for bed and my new meds. The steroids taste horrible, so I have to trick myself into swallowing them like a dog that doesn't know it's taking medicine. Lights out soon after that.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — Rise and shine. Makeup, pack my lunch, and make my coffee. My legs are looking better, but I pick a thrifted paisley maxi skirt to wear anyway. Once I get to my desk, I listen to my daily podcast. My friends and I found an app called Cappuccino that lets you record little audio bites and then strings them together into an episode with music once a day. We're religious about doing it since we're all living far away from each other now. I feel like I'm always up to date on what they're up to!
12 p.m. — Before I know it, I'm in the park eating lunch. A couple is having a little picnic date nearby and they're so cute. I try not to kill their vibe with my monstrous chomping. When I get back to the office, I pop a few mini Reese cups from the kitchen.
2 p.m. — I get a fun assignment for some long-form stuff. Most of the stuff I work on is short social-media writing, so it's nice to stretch those muscles and add something recent to my portfolio! This is much closer to my educational background, and my boss promises to put more of these on my list in the future. I put on a rock mix and try to push through the mid-afternoon slump.
4:30 p.m. — I run to Aldi after work for groceries. I get broccoli, strawberries, potatoes, croutons, cheese, parchment paper, sandwich bags, cinnamon, chocolate chips, a brownie mix, raisins, butter, peanuts, crackers, and sparkling water. I usually go grocery shopping every week but some weeks are lighter than others depending on how long food lasts. Once home, I eat cantaloupe and strawberries for a snack. Maybe some Skittles find their way in there as well. $31.24
7 p.m. — I'm actually kind of full from the fruit so I eat a sad little dinner of garlic broccoli, Edam cheese, and crackers. I start Uncharted on Netflix, but it's kind of corny, so I text some friends and research recipes instead. I find a coconut–chocolate chip cookie recipe that looks amazing so I bake a batch. They're incredible with dark chocolate chips!
11:30 p.m. — I putter around before getting ready for bed.
Daily Total: $31.24

Day Five

6:10 a.m. — I honestly feel like I closed my eyes for five minutes. I hit snooze and get up for real around 7. Hair, makeup, and a light green sleeveless blouse with a denim skirt. My legs are looking better; still not back to normal, though. I hope they don't scar but I'm not optimistic. I pack the usual lunch, bag up the cookies from last night, and make coffee.
8 a.m. — The weather is kind of brisk today, and I'm loving it! I absolutely can't wait for fall. Once in the office, I listen to my friends' podcasts and have to hold in belly laughs. I finished a huge month-long assignment yesterday so I'm mostly catching up on short-term projects.
12 p.m. — The morning is slow, but I'm soon crunching my apple in the park. It's now so sunny and temperate out that I drag my feet all the way back to my dim cubicle. On goes an indie playlist to lift my mood.
4 p.m. — Today is dragging terribly, but I get another writing assignment done before the end of the day. After work, I go to the DMV to renew my driver's license. The wait isn't very long at all, which I'm glad for. A guy in line behind me is talking loudly about training for the Olympics. Whaaaattttt??? He never mentions a sport, though, and I drive myself crazy trying to figure out what it could be. $27
5 p.m. — I then run into Walmart to get craft supplies: hot glue sticks, Mod Podge for a puzzle I want to seal, thread for a thrift flip, and conditioner ($16.54). Finally, I stop and get gas to top off my errands ($15). $31.54
5:30 p.m. — My roommates have been gone for most of the summer, and it seems one of them came back today because things have moved around. Spooky! It's like living with a ghost. She did clean up the kitchen for me, which was nice. I text her and thank her. But she also left windows cracked with the AC on and doors unlocked, which is not so nice. I cut up cantaloupe and strawberries for a snack.
6:30 p.m. — One of my best friends FaceTimes me, and we chat for a few hours, which is so nice. We've been too busy lately and we have so much to catch up on. A lot of our good friends are starting grad school this week, and we talk about how strange it is to have nothing to do after work. We drink ciders and make our respective dinners. I roast cauliflower with dill, garlic, lemon juice, and feta.
8:30 p.m. — I'm still peckish after dinner so I munch on peanuts and somehow Uncharted ends up back on my TV. I promised my mom I'd watch Belfast this week, and she'd sigh so hard if she knew I was watching this instead. Final consensus? Meh. More cookies for dessert.
11:30 p.m. — Nightly routine and I'm off to bed.
Daily Total: $58.54

Day Six

6:10 a.m. — I hit snooze three times and finally get up around 7. Hair, makeup, and the usual. I wear a loose tank dress but with a sweater vest over it so that it becomes work appropriate. I have absolutely no shoes that match this outfit so I just throw on sneakers. No one really sees me outside of my desk anyway! I pack the usual coffee, apple, string cheese, and crackers, and throw in cookies and peanuts for a snack.
8:30 a.m. — I'm at work and listening to my daily podcast. I confirm a hair appointment for two days from now. My hair is getting shaggy, and I desperately need a trim. After a morning meeting, a coworker asks if I want to go to Starbucks with her. I think about my sad can of peanuts and agree. The weather is glorious, and the walk is nice. I get a butter croissant, and we walk back together after chatting with the baristas. $3.74
12 p.m. — A quick morning! I'm a creature of habit so I'm in the park again with my lunch. It's such a beautiful day. When I get back to the office, my boss and I edit my month-long project. With a few tweaks, it's looking great and ready to be reviewed. Talk about relief! To celebrate... I get to work on another writing assignment. I put on a random oldies playlist while I work.
4:30 p.m. — Home and eating cantaloupe and strawberries once again. I also eat cubed cheese and absolutely ruin my appetite for dinner. Still, I roast baby potatoes and sprinkle truffle popcorn seasoning on them. They're so delicious. I sit outside on the balcony to eat, and it's so peaceful.
9:30 p.m. — I go ahead and glue my puzzle. It's a gorgeous painting of sailboats, and I think it could make a nice poster to hang. I have to hot glue some pieces together, because they weren't sized quite right, but it turns out so nice!
11:30 p.m. — Nightly routine and then bed. The stings are painless but visible, and I'm a little frustrated as I go to sleep because they still won't completely go away.
Daily Total: $3.74

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I'm up, I'm up. Usual routine. I tie a plain T-shirt over a green floral dress and crawl back into bed for a few minutes of TikTok before forcing myself out the door. I walk to the office from my car like normal, but the morning sun is shining into oncoming traffic when I cross the street, and a driver going too fast doesn't see me and has to swerve. For a second there I was staring at my reflection in a rapidly approaching windshield. I think my hair might actually be standing straight out on my head like a cartoon character.
9:30 a.m. — I think my coworker forgot her breakfast because she asks if I'd like to walk to Starbucks again. Well, don't twist my arm! Butter croissant, same as yesterday. I also exercise extreme caution crossing the street. $3.74
12 p.m. — Lunch in the park as usual. I record my podcast for my friends and people watch before heading back in.
2:30 p.m. — The afternoon is going smoothly. I get edits back and resolve them immediately. I can't write without music, so I dive into an '80's alternative playlist while I get started on a new assignment. I also confirm trivia plans with my two friends from earlier this week. Fingers crossed that my excessive Jeopardy! watching will come in handy tonight.
4:30 p.m. — At home once again. I snack on Bugles and eat a really early dinner of a Caesar salad and some strawberries.
6:30 p.m. — Trivia time — let's do this. I order a cider (in case it's not clear by now, I love cider) and a soft pretzel when we get to the pub. There's a solid roster of teams, but the hostess is funny and the questions are a great mix of difficulty levels. After five rounds, the points are tallied and we're tied for first! We've been playing trivia off and on for years, but this is our first time winning, and we exchange enthusiastic high fives. After a half-hearted tie breaker, the hostess just gives both teams a $30 gift card. This will go a long way the next time we make it out for trivia! I pay my tab and tip our bartender. $18.46
10 p.m. — I drive home and cut up Edam cheese for a snack because I'm still a teensy bit hungry. I have an early hair appointment tomorrow so I shouldn't stay up too late but I take the time to unwind anyway. Compared to how busy these past couple of years have been, it's nice to just relax at the end of the day.
Daily Total: $22.20
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