A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $55,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a data analyst who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money on a Yee-Haw pillow.
Occupation: Health Care Data Analyst
Industry: Consulting
Age: 24
Location: Washington D.C.
Salary: $55,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,471
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,150
Student Loans: $750
Credit Card Debt: $90
Car Loan: $140
Affirm Payment: $100
Car Insurance: $160
ClassPass: $50
Subscriptions: $26 (Netflix, New York Times, Disney+, Spotify)
Utilities: $70
Savings: $50-100 every other month/when I can
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Day One

6:40 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but I lay in bed catching up on social media. Eventually, I get up and head to the bathroom to start my skincare routine, which includes FAB cleanser, Mario Badescu toner, the caffeine eye serum and an antioxidant serum from The Ordinary, some topical medication, and Clinique's moisturizing gel. Somewhere in all that, I brush, floss, and water my plants. It's Friday so I opt for no makeup and throw on jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Normally I'd make coffee, but I ran out of Chemex filters and my Amazon order is late. I head to the metro stop sans coffee and use my pre-tax commuter card for my long commute into Maryland.
8:45 a.m. — I make it into the office and brew some coffee before diving into emails. I get a few tasks done before the bi-weekly coffee run (I started inviting other junior researchers on my payday Starbucks runs as a way to meet people and now it's a tradition). I buy a small coffee with money pre-loaded onto my app, and talk with my coworkers about our upcoming junior staff holiday social.
11 a.m. — I'm currently sitting in a data training session, but really I'm thinking about my plans for the night. I ping my coworker, V., and ask if she wants to grab drinks later. She's new-ish to the company and the city too, and we've started transitioning to hanging out outside of the office (yay new friends!). After the training, I get into my to-do list for the day; it's December, which means a lot of end of the year data reporting and preparing for the upcoming year's data collection efforts.
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4 p.m. — It's been a long week so I head out early. I stop in Dupont and go to a local bookstore; I'm looking for a Christmas gift for my best friend, but nothing jumps out. My stomach is grumbling so I head back to the metro. While on the endless Dupont escalator, I order a pizza for pickup from the Domino's next to the metro stop by my house; they're half off so I order a medium. $7.41
7 p.m. — I meet up with V. and order a Christmas-themed drink. We talk about boys and people-watch around the bar; she has an early flight home so we stay until 9. V. pays and I venmo her. I head back home to eat more pizza and watch The Christmas Baby on Netflix (honestly such a wild movie but I love it). $15
Daily Total: $22.41

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I already regret all the plans I've made for the day. I stay in bed until the absolute last minute but then I go through my morning routine and put on my gym clothes. Before I head to my Megaformer class I stop by the farmer's market to drop off the week's compost. I'm running a little late for the class, but there's a street parking spot right in front of the studio so I decide to just pay for parking. $3.80
11:30 a.m. — After class, the instructor tells us that next week's class will be led by a drag queen; it sounds hilarious so I sign up on ClassPass immediately. Class has me beat and I haven't eaten yet. I pop into the bagel shop next door and order an egg and cheese instead of my more-expensive usual (goat cheese, avo, fried egg on an everything bagel) because I paid for parking. While I wait, I call my dad and we talk about my trip home for Christmas. He offers to pay for my flights and I accept (I already purchased them but he also loaned me money to help with my move to the city, so it basically cancels out). My dad basically saying he doesn't want the loan back is a really nice gesture, and it will ease some of my finances for the next few months. I've been financially independent from my parents since I was 19, but everyone once in a while they loan me money for major purchases. $7.05
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12 p.m. — The bagel guy calls my name, I head home to eat, make coffee, and shower. By 1, I'm ready to start my day. I need to run errands — first up is the new Target by my house to pick up the basics (laundry detergent, body wash, toothpaste, etc.), plus a Christmas gift for my best friend (I get her The Royal Holiday because we love fun and goofy rom-com stuff like this) ($43.81). Then I run to Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter for groceries (a lot of basics like eggs, chicken, yogurt, but also some fancy wine, chocolate covered pretzels, and goat cheese) and get gas before heading home ($92.13 for groceries, $23.23 for gas). $159.17
3 p.m. — The groceries are all unloaded and I head out for some fun. We're having our junior staff holiday social at a board game bar. It's happy hour so I order two vodkas with ginger ale and lime (I really did not want to pay the extra $3 for ginger beer in each drink), while we play Scrabble. Somehow I manage to pull all the high-value tricky letters and come in third place. $10.80
6 p.m. — I leave the bar and head to meet a friend from grad school. She's had a pretty long week but wants to get into the holiday spirit, so we're grabbing hot chocolates and going to ZooLights. I reload my Starbucks card and order a peppermint hot chocolate. We stroll through the zoo, avoiding temper tantrums and couples on first dates, and chat about our jobs at consulting firms. $10
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8:30 p.m. — I'm getting a migraine from the sensory overload and sugar, so we leave. We head our separate ways at the metro station. Once home, a friend texts me about seeing Frozen 2, so I order tickets ($26.26, but she venmos me $13). I don't stay up too late and hope sleep will get rid of my migraine. $13.26
Daily Total: $204.08

Day Three

8 a.m. — I have a plan to visit the Botanical Gardens and see their holiday displays (yes I know, I'm basically a Hallmark movie protagonist come to life), but my migraine is still around so I go back to bed. My second alarm goes off at 10 and I have to get up so I don't miss the movie. I go through my morning routine and have toast and coffee before heading to the theater.
2 p.m. — My NFL team is playing so I rush home after the movie, put the game on, and make a quick lunch. I grab my laptop so I can buy Christmas gifts while I watch my team. I order Clue for my family, a pillow that says Yee-Haw from the Pioneer Woman for my mom (my mom lives in Texas and thinks she is the Pioneer Woman), and assorted gifts for my grandparents (puzzles, books, and a fancy bird feeder that attaches to windows). $86.72
4 p.m. — It's way later than I thought and I haven't started the slow cooker chili I was going to make. I toss everything together and set the cooker for four hours. My team wins (as expected) and my roommate is ready for me to give up the TV. We switch to Great British Bake-Off.
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8 p.m. — I separate the chili for the week and head to my room to wind down for the night. I take a quick shower and do my nighttime routine (same as before but with a retinoid instead of an antioxidant from The Ordinary, the Mario Badescu drying lotion, and a vitamin cream for the tattoo I got two weeks ago). I scroll through Netflix and add movies to my list, without actually watching anything, and fall asleep around 10.
Daily Total: $86.72

Day Four

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off; I press snooze but don't fall back asleep. Instead, I think about the super weird dreams I had last night; in the first, my college boyfriend agrees to get back together with me, at my urging (but we've been broken up for three years and he's the one who dumped me? I really need a dream expert to advise me on this!). In the second, Al Pacino and I are confined in some type of jail cell by the FBI (okay this one really requires a dream analysis because I haven't seen The Irishman, haven't committed any crimes, and I probably couldn't pick Al Pacino out of a lineup; so why would this be my dream??).
7:15 a.m. — After a deep introspection about my dreams (no conclusions were made) and going through my morning routine, I head to work. I pass by a convenience store with an LED sign displaying the current lottery jackpot ($140 million), and I daydream about all the things I would do with that money (obviously pay off debts, buy a fancy house in Kalorama, travel to Greece to meet an eligible bachelor, open a cute hotel, live life like a musical, and buy an electric toothbrush).
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11:45 a.m. — Lunchtime. I grab my tacos made with some of the chili chicken from yesterday and look into phone plans at my desk. Yesterday my dad told me I need to look into my own phone plan and paying for a new phone myself. In the end, I figure that it's better for me and my dad if I just start paying him $75 a month for a new phone and my line, instead of spending $81 on my own. I'm going to wait until I'm home for Christmas to finalize all this.
3 p.m. — I take a break from work and check Refinery29 (meta, I know) and I come across a recent DC-based Money Diaries. The woman's finances and spending stress me out because I know I'll never make as much money as her, let alone her partner, not even close. But then I think about how cool the diaries actually are: you get a peek into other people's lives and struggles and weird quirks, while also starting important conversations that we've shied away from before. I ping V. and we talk about the diary for a while.
5:45 p.m. — I drop off my bag at home and head out for a few errands including shipping the Royal Holiday to my friend in California and picking up a book that I reserved at the library. Once at home, I meal prep this week's lunches and make avocado toast for dinner. $13.81
8 p.m. — My roommate and I watch Beyonce's Homecoming and drink wine before I head upstairs to get ready for bed. I do my nighttime routine while watching Nailed It (Nicole, I love you, and seeing you handle someone heckling you at the NY Comedy Fest has made me love you so much more), and fall asleep around 10.
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Daily Total: $13.81

Day Five

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off. It's dark and rainy out, so I snuggle under the covers for a while. I think about going in a little later to work (later on, when I read that there was a metro fire, I'll be glad I didn't), but decide against it. I go through the usual motions — skincare/makeup/general hygiene routine, grab my breakfast and lunches for the week and my gym bag, make coffee, and head to the metro.
8:20 a.m. — I have a long to-do list for the week, and a few hours before my first meeting so I get right into it. I work through a quality check of a report, follow up on some emails with clients, and then the meetings begin. Today and tomorrow are 75% meetings, so I try to use the little bit of free time as constructively as possible.
12:30 p.m. — One of my meetings wraps up early, so I check Instagram and heat up my lunch. The Betchelor shares a horrible tweet from Dean and Dylan about making baby yodas and I immediately send to it the group chat so we can all suffer together. I think about paying the medical bills sitting on my desk during my lunch break (once I got great new insurance with my new job I went to so many doctors but now I have to deal with the copays), but one of them requires me to make a phone call and anxious inner-me won't allow it.
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5 p.m. — The workday is finally over. I got through a lot, but because I had so many meetings I was assigned a lot more work, which needs to be done by the end of the week, of course. One of my projects was canceled, which is nice because it was tedious at times, but now I have huge blocks of time on my calendar that I need to account for. I'm not used to charging every single hour of my time to individual projects and clients, and it's been a weird adjustment from regular timesheets. I head to the Megaformer studio near my office — usually, I go to a studio by my house but my boss recommended this place and the session was half-off through ClassPass.
6:30 p.m. — I'm out of my class and wow. This instructor was super tough but in a good way. I was the youngest person in the class by at least 15 years, and they all made me look like I have noodles for arms and legs! I check Twitter and apparently the metro is still on fire. I consider asking a friend to pick me up but decide I should just tough it out and deal with the delay. In the end, I get home in the same amount of time as usual because the metro skips a few stops.
7:30 p.m. — I'm finally home; it's been twelve hours since I left my house and I can feel it. I reheat some of the chili and pour a HUGE glass of wine. I take a long shower and watch an episode of West Wing before falling asleep at 10.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:40 a.m. — Accuweather says it's supposed to snow, and I don't trust the metro to actually be running. So, instead of hitting snooze, I check Twitter and my weather app to make sure I'll actually be able to get work. Everything looks good! I get up and go through my routine, and then I'm out the door.
1 p.m. — I've been in meetings all morning and by the time I'm back to my desk for lunch, I realize I have way too much to do and literally no time this week. I need to prioritize my tasks, but everything has deadlines in the next week and a half, and the hours I can actually work aren't enough! Looks like tonight will be a late night.
2 p.m. — I hop on to a phone call that is apparently two hours along (not that the calendar invite says that). I'm stressed through the whole call because I have so much to do, and another phone call immediately after this. By the time it's over I'm so overwhelmed that I decide I can't handle another call without some more coffee. I use money pre-loaded on my Starbucks app to get a peppermint mocha.
5 p.m. — I was able to multitask through the last phone call and I feel comfortable with how much of my to-do list I actually got done today. I head home and spend the night watching more Nailed It while I eat avocado toast and drink Malbec. Late, while I'm searching the internet for a new phone case, I remember the medical bills I need to pay. It's after business hours for one, so I just pay for the one that has a website listed. $25.57
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Daily Total: $25.57

Day Seven

12 p.m. — The morning has moved pretty slowly, but I can tell it's going to be a long day. I had planned to spend the day powering through some writing, but instead I end up with multiple meeting invitations and emails with additional tasks I need to do before tomorrow. We have a staff meeting, which would usually be boring but today it's a pizza party and the actual meeting only last 15 minutes. I enjoy the break in the day before I go back into the fire that is my work week.
6 p.m. — I'm so tired and want to be in bed, but I agreed to a date with someone I matched with earlier in the week. We're going to Colada Shop (I'm from south Florida and I love the little bit of tacky nostalgia this place offers), so I can't really complain. When I get there I order a drink because he's already upstairs and I can't be bothered to walk up and down these stairs more than once. The conversation is pretty casual; we talk about work and which neighborhoods have the best bars. So far it's going well! $7.60
10 p.m. — I call an Uber from the second bar. As a general rule, I avoid secondary locations on dates (thanks John Mulaney) but the date went well and the second bar we went to is one of my other favorites, so I make an exception. Overall a good night; he's the first guy I've dated in two years that hasn't worked on the Hill or been in law school (this is DC after all), which is refreshing. While the conversation was fun, there weren't major sparks, so we'll see if there's a second date. He pays for dinner (mezcal Palomas and fried chicken, my favorites), which I'm sure will elicit some opinions, but since women still haven't achieved pay equity, it's the least men can do. I shoot him a quick message when I get home to let him know I made it back and that I had a great time. $9.79
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Daily Total: $17.39
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