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A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $78,000 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.
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Today: a customer success specialist who makes $78,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Kitsch masks.
Occupation: Customer Success
Industry: Technology
Age: 24
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $78,000
Net Worth: ~$367,800 (~$100,000 in home equity + $16,940 in Robinhood individual stocks + $177,510 in brokerage accounts + $29,508 in my Roth IRA + $11,300 in my savings account + $3,000 in my HSA + $8,740 invested in employee stock options. My Roth 401(k) has about $23,000 in it last I checked. I contribute between 10-14%.)
Debt: $315,000 left of my mortgage
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,850
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,700, but my partner, S., pays me $1,000 in rent every month and I put an extra $150 aside as well. The extra $150 from both of our payments goes towards any home repairs, beyond which I will solely cover.
Utilities: ~$30
Recurring Donations: $10 to NAACP, $20 to National Network of Abortion Funds, $50 to other causes
Compost: $12.50 for my half
Wax Subscription: $35
Apple Cloud: $3
Apple TV+: $5
Nuuly: $88 (I've paused every month except a few since the pandemic started.)
Morbid Patreon: $4
ClassPass Lite: $9 (I really need to cancel this but I have credits I want to use up first.)
Health Insurance: $0, on my company’s plan
HSA: max it out and my employer matches $1,000 (my therapy is paid for from this)
Internet: $42 for my half
Gift Savings: $100
Travel Savings: $185
Weddings Fund: $100 (I started this a couple of years ago reading Money Diaries about how expensive it gets when your friends all start getting married. There's about $3,000 in it now, and I'm excited to not stress about travel and gift costs for the first few years of folks getting married.)
Book Of The Month: $168 annually
Obé Fitness: $200 annually but I just canceled my subscription.
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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?
Yes, my family always stressed the importance of higher education and both of my parents have advanced degrees. I got a BA from a liberal arts school, for which my grandmother paid. She also paid for my sibling's undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents are both quite frugal. We talked about money in the sense of what not to spend money on, but I had no sense that my family was well-off until late high school. They largely shielded us from conversations about money and stressed the importance of saving. They definitely tried to discourage us from focusing on material objects, never bought us the fanciest clothes (we had a lot of hand-me-downs and handmade clothing from our grandmother), but we traveled a lot internationally and had SAT tutors, etc.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job at a local store at age 14, where I continued to work for seven years. I got it because 14 was the youngest my home state allows you to get a job, and that was the age my parents stopped giving us an allowance. Most of my friends growing up were middle class, so everyone got summer jobs and that was the “cool” thing to do.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. I didn't think about money much one way or the other.
Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I do get concerned about my spending, but largely because I'm unhappy with the amount of stuff that I buy and own because I think it's wasteful. So I think about money, in the sense that I feel uncomfortable when I have buyer's remorse or feel that I've wasted money, but I don't worry about it per se.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I'm sure there will be a fight in the comments about whether or not I'm financially responsible for myself. My 401(k), savings account, Robinhood account, employee stock options, and HSA were all paid for with money I earned myself. The only help I receive on a regular basis is that my parents keep my sister and me on their phone plan. That being said, I certainly have a financial safety net. If I ever encountered serious financial difficulty, my parents would be able to help. I wouldn't ask them for money for day-to-day expenses or unforeseen medical or home expenses, because I have enough money to handle those things.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I am very privileged to have received financial assets from my family. My grandparents bought me stocks as a baby, which comprise the majority of my brokerage account. I didn't find out that they existed until midway through college. The only time I've used that money is to take about $3,000 out when I graduated college to go on a Europe trip and $10,000 to do a one-room renovation. My parents gifted me the down payment and closing costs for my home last year. That came to about $80,000 or so. My parents also opened a Roth IRA for me when I was in college and contributed to it for a few years until I started working and contributed myself. My parents have gifted me various stocks over the past few years, coming out to $30-40,000, but I don't really consider them “mine” and basically pretend that any money outside my savings and checking accounts doesn't exist.
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Day One

7 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I snuggle with my boyfriend, S., for a bit. I go downstairs to do an Obe dance class but I get bored halfway through so I stop after 15 minutes. Get dressed and walk to work.
9 a.m. — I settle into my desk, start answering customer requests, and eat an apple I brought from home with Jif from our office pantry. There are a ton of requests this morning so I get through the backlog and also have my one-on-one with my boss. We discuss the training module I'm building out for our new hires.
12 p.m. — Get lunch from the kitchen which was catered by my company. Eat at my desk while I continue answering people. In the afternoon, I have a few meetings.
4 p.m. — S. and I text about the weird smell in our house and discuss where it's coming from. We decide the washing machine could be a potential culprit and I send him an Apartment Therapy article on how to clean it. I leave work around 5 and walk to my friend's apartment to watch TV. I stop at the store on the way and pick up two sweet potatoes and tofu for the fried rice we're making for dinner. $5.78
10 p.m. — The Bachelorette is done, I'm lowkey a fan of Joe (hot take). Peter is the face-value villain and Jamie is the more insidious villain. I hop on a bus home with a prepaid transit pass. S. and I laugh at each other in bed for a while and I fall asleep around 11.
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Daily Total: $5.78

Day Two

7:50 a.m. — Accidentally sleep through S.'s alarm and realize I need to figure out how to get ready for my spray tan today. I sit on the edge of the tub and shave my legs and rub them with a wet washcloth. Am I doing this right? S. gets home from the gym and we go on a walk, during which I drop off my Nuuly so I can pause next month's charge.
9 a.m. — I take the bus to work and my mom texts me asking why I haven't bought my bedroom window shades yet. Because they're $500, mom!! Anyway, I pull the trigger on some blackout Roman shades from West Elm because I've been living without any bedroom shades for a year and then settle in at my desk. I eat some overnight oats and deal with customers. One lady is really mean to me. $522
12 p.m. — Hanger strikes. I decide to save money and eat yesterday's leftovers. I respond to a few peoples' requests on my local Buy Nothing group — I have some things to give away. I also skim Kitsch because I need masks and ask my sister to get me the hair curling set for my birthday. I buy nine masks for $32. Nine is probably really excessive but somehow I lost all the ones I bought at the beginning of the pandemic and I like to have one in every bag and coat pocket. $32.36
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4:45 p.m. — I leave work early to go to the spray tan place. I successfully receive my first spray tan, which comes to $58 including tip. I take the bus home and have a Zoom meeting for a nonprofit I'm involved with. $58
8 p.m. — I make Trader Joe's Japanese fried rice for dinner and eat some sour gummy worms. Then I put away laundry and hide various Christmas gifts that have arrived. Finally, I get in bed at 8 and read The Love Hypothesis. I try to be in bed by 9 most nights so I can wind down. If I watch TV (especially anything scary or competitive like sports) my heart rate gets elevated and it takes me a while to fall asleep.
11 p.m. — Well... jokes on me because that sex scene was so steamy my heart rate is definitely elevated and I'm sweating off my spray tan. I wanted to be asleep by 9:30 but here we are, so I take a melatonin.
Daily Total: $612.36

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up from a disturbing dream where I oversleep until 11 and somehow manage to miss my 9:30 call and a WEDDING. Dream me is drafting an email to the client I slept through (and not the friend whose wedding I bailed on??) when S.'s alarm goes off. I force myself out of bed and go on a quick run, shower, and look at how splotchy my spray tan looks. Maybe no one will notice! I braid my wet hair and walk to the office. If you're wondering about skincare or makeup, I barely manage to wash my face and don't wear any makeup most days.
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12 p.m. — I have a call with a customer, followed by lunch (catered by my company). I see that my Book of the Month picks are up, so I pick out my main book and get an add-on for $10. $10.59
3 p.m. — Two of my customers bail on our call last minute so I look at online templates for party signs for a party I'm throwing. I pay $7 for one on Etsy and print it at the office. This seems like a dumb thing to spend money on but...I do it anyway. I definitely live well within my means, but as my parents always say, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. $7
3:10 p.m. — I also see that next week's HelloFresh payment has hit, which I split with S. I didn't mark it in subscriptions because we only get a box maybe every other month. Around 5 p.m. we clock out and go to a work party. $26.50
10 p.m. — I finally get home from the work party. Other people buy my drinks once we go to the bar and my company pays for my Uber home. Talk to S. for a while and go to bed.
Daily Total: $44.09

Day Four

2 a.m. — I regret everything. I sit in front of the toilet for 30 minutes but all my usual tricks aren't working, so I pop a Pepto and hope for the best.
3 a.m. — Never mind. I alternate between bed and bathroom dry heaving for a couple of hours and then go to the living room and alternate between the couch and our other bathroom so I don't disturb S. This is absurd, I wasn't even that drunk last night. Around 7:30 he wakes up and says I should get back in bed so I sleep until 9.
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9:15 a.m. — Work from bed for two hours and deal with the customer issues that came through overnight. I realize I'm starving and extremely hungover so I walk to a bagel shop and buy an orange juice and container of cream cheese. When I get home I toast half a bagel from the freezer. $7.50
11 a.m. — Join a call with my teammates and two of us are horizontal on the couch while recovering from last night. Our manager surprises us by Zoom-bombing our call and says, “Is this what happens when you don't invite me to meetings?"
1:45 p.m. — After another meeting, I put on real clothes and walk to a nearby cafe for a job interview. The owners interview me and offer me the job. I'm only going to work two five-hour shifts per weekend while I'm training, and then I'll be able to drop down to one shift if I want. I'm a little nervous about taking on extra work, but I want to have some type of work that doesn't involve a computer and it seems like a good way to meet people. Plus, the owners say they're desperate for help, so I don't feel guilty taking hours from other workers. They'll pay me $11/hour base, which will come out to around $20 with tips.
6 p.m. — I stay glued to the couch the rest of the day and finish all of Maid. So good. S. finally gets home from work and we take edibles and eat dinner (I have Trader Joe's fried rice and he makes us broccoli and asparagus to share). I also eat some ice cream while we watch Survivor.
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10 p.m. — I wanted to be sleeping already but my high brain got fixated on what planner I should buy for 2022….I end up reading a bunch of planning bloggers (yes these exist). I'm between the Papier Daily or Passion Planner weekly. This gets me in the mood to plan so I take out this year's planner and get next week all setup, as well as make tomorrow's to-do list. Bedtime!
Daily Total: $7.50

Day Five

10:20 a.m. — I wake up in shock at how late I managed to sleep. A very exciting and rare occasion! S. makes us oatmeal and we eat outside while we plan our day. So many errands!
11 a.m. — We borrow a folding table from a neighbor and then I drop him off at his hair appointment in his car. After I park the car, I return something to the UPS store and mail our gas and water bills (I refuse to pay the $2.50 service fee for online payment!). Then, I decide to capitalize on my 12+ hours of rest and go for a run.
2 p.m. — I stop by the grocery store and buy cake mix, frosting, Red Bull, and cranberry juice for $23. S. is home when I get back so we drive to the big grocery store that has a parking garage and get grapefruit juice, snacks, seltzer, cups, napkins, pong balls, and pasta. We try to get booze but we can each only buy a 12-pack (mine was $24). Thanks, PA liquor laws! We drive to a beer store and get four more 12-packs. On our way home, we stop by a friend's house to borrow a drink dispenser. We also stop by the state liquor store since the beer store can't sell liquor. We'll settle up on all the charges in Splitwise later. $107
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4 p.m. — I'm absolutely gassed and there's still more to do. We rearrange furniture and put our appliances in the basement and do all the normal party prep stuff. I decorate and make/frost the cupcakes, and mix up the drank. I watch half a random episode of Gilmore Girls on the couch and paint my nails.
7 p.m. — Coffee time! S. and I make salmon, couscous, and asparagus for dinner. Then, I do my makeup. Our guest start to arrive shortly after.
11 p.m. — The party is really fun — it's a good mix of different friend groups from both of our social lives. S. and I are both pretty independent so we have separate friend groups. That being said, I take too many shots and get put to bed early. Oops.
Daily Total: $107

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up feeling like death. I sit on the couch for two hours and cannot move. I'm incredibly nauseous and have a splitting headache. I eat two pumpkin waffles from the freezer and take a few Peptos. At noon, S. is still asleep… I have my first coffee shop shift at 12:30 and can't bail so I shower and drink a ton of water and try to will myself out of this hangover. I order a cheeseburger for pickup using a GrubHub gift card. I realize I probably sound like I party really hard, but I actually rarely drink which is why my low tolerance and I were crushed this weekend.
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12:30 p.m. — I'm doing this. I show up at the coffee shop, zombie-like. Luckily the hustle and bustle of a Sunday means I have very little time to think about how tired and ill I feel. I learn the ropes and the owner says I'm her fastest learner ever! S. stops by and orders a PSL from me, and my other friend does too. At 2:45, I go into the bathroom to make an Etsy purchase that typically sells out in minutes once listed. $59
6 p.m. — I clock out. My feet hurt but wow I love my new job! I come home and S. is watching The Office, my least favorite show (is this a hot take?). I order a poke bowl using my GrubHub gift card and we go on a walk to pick it up. We do some post-party cleanup and then I lie down for a bit.
10 p.m. — After watching last week's Great British Baking Show with S., I get in bed and read some of my book (28 Summers). Asleep by 10!
Daily Total: $59

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Back to my regular job today! Wake up, go for a jog, shower, and get dressed. I'm working from home today. Apple and peanut butter for breakfast. I answer customers and have a few meetings. Nothing eventful occurs.
12 p.m. — S. is also working from home today, so we pick up sandwiches together. I get an amazing tuna melt with tomato and caramelized onions. $11
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5 p.m. — After work, I walk to my therapist's office. I love fall! On the way, I stop at the grocery store and get apples, oranges, pineapple, raspberries, kefir, asparagus, onions, and broccoli. It's $14 for my half. $14
6:40 p.m. — Home from therapy! When I get home, S. is cooking us dinner. We have our HelloFresh meal with halloumi and couscous. It's amazing.
9 p.m. — We finish the last two episodes of Ted Lasso and I'm so sad it's over! Keeley and Roy are basically S. and me… he's Roy.
Daily Total: $25
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