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A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $80,631 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Old Navy.
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 database administrator who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an Old Navy dress.
Content Warning: this Money Diary mentions an eating disorder.
Occupation: Database Administrator
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 26
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $80,631
Net Worth: $38,669.56 (HYSA: $22,497.85, savings account: $5,020.81, checking account: $8,713.35, 403(b): $15,248.49, Qapital App savings: $1,242.76, car: $5,819 (I've had my car since I was 19, it's paid off and this is how much Mint says it's worth), minus debt).
Debt: Student Loans: $19,872.70 (I also currently have $1,193.16 on credit cards, but I pay this off each month).
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,093.33
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,330 (I live in a one-bedroom by myself, rent includes water).
Student Loans: $0 (payments paused, but I'm hoping to eventually have my student loans forgiven via the PSLF program).
Steaming Services: $44.38
Amazon Prime: $14.99
Cell Phone: $160 (I pay for our family plan, the bill is technically $205 but I get a $45 stipend from work for cell phone costs).
Wi-Fi: $56.19
Apple Care: $11.97
Qapital Savings App: $3
Compost: $18
Peloton: $46.64 (currently paused).
Quip Toothbrush Head: $9 (quarterly).
Gym Membership: $12.49
Donations: $50
Electric Bill: $60-$70
Savings: $400
Medical FSA: $80
403(b) Contribution: $312 (matched by work).
Health/Vision/Dental Insurance: $0 (fully covered by work).
Car Insurance: my parents pay for my car insurance since I pay for our family cell phone bill.

Renters Insurance: $125
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?
Absolutely! I am a first-generation immigrant so college was very important to my parents. Before we immigrated, my mom was a kindergarten teacher and my dad was a high school math teacher. I was a quiet kid growing up so everyone thought that I was smarter than I actually am and had very high expectations of me. I was a good student but I also felt a lot of pressure. After high school, I attended college and graduated a semester early. I paid for college using financial aid, grants, and federal student loans. I lived on campus during my freshman year of college and my parents had to borrow money from friends and family to pay about $6,000 in outstanding costs. I felt a lot of shame, anxiety, and guilt for asking my parents for money just so I could live on campus. I decided to move back home and commute to school for the remaining years.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family and I never had specific conversations about money, but I always knew what our finances were. As a child, I often had to translate for my parents when speaking to service providers. One piece of advice my mom gave me, that I still follow today, is to always make more than the minimum payment on a credit card, never miss a payment, and try not to carry a balance. That is about all the education I received on finances. My dad is a frivolous spender and doesn't really keep track of money. My mom is more strict because she handles the bills. She always let me know when we were low on funds.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was 15, I got a job at a frozen yogurt shop as a cashier making $8 an hour. I ended up working there through high school and all of college (by then I was a shift lead and made $10 an hour). I got this job to have some spending money for things like car payments, shopping, and hanging out with friends. I really hated having to ask my parents for money for things that didn't really matter. Money from this job also ended up helping me throughout college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. My mom and I immigrated to the U.S eight years before my father was able to. For a long time, she raised me by herself with some support from relatives. We lived in one-bedroom apartments and shared a bed. My mom worked a lot and was very frugal. We never ate out. I always got scolded for asking for things I didn't need. I learned very quickly to stop asking for things we couldn't afford (which seemed like everything). My only "vacations" were during the summer when I would sometimes spend a month or two living with my aunts and cousins in Boston or New York. When my father immigrated, it took him a while to find a job. We moved to a two-bedroom apartment that my mom had difficulty paying for with her salary alone. After years of working odd jobs, my dad ended up attending nursing school and started working as a nurse. Things started to feel more stable then. They were finally able to buy a house two years after I graduated college. I got a job right after college and I gave them $5,000 that I had saved up to help with the down payment on the house.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry too much about money for myself since I make a decent income. However, I still feel guilty when I buy things that I want but don't need. I worry more about my parents' finances because they recently joined what I'm pretty sure is a pyramid scheme. They also have a lot of debt. I feel like I am a safety net for them so I'm not completely worry-free.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I lived with my parents while attending and for five years after graduating college. I became financially responsible for myself last year at age 25, when I moved out of my parent's house. Because I was living with them rent-free, I was able to save up a little over $25,000. I used about $10,000 to pay for moving expenses. At the time, I was in my second job out of college making $42,000 a year. I got a new job and then a raise earlier this year and now make $80,000. Before leaving my last job, I received a $10,000 bonus, which replenished some of my moving costs. I've been living on my own for a year now and I love it. My savings are my financial safety net. I could also move back in with my parents if I needed to.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

9 a.m. — It's Saturday and I have a 10:30 a.m. acupuncture appointment. I'm not hungry, so I skip breakfast. I take a quick shower, moisturize my face with some Trader Joe's moisturizer, throw on a pair of leggings and a T-shirt, fill up my water bottle, and head out. I live close to the acupuncture clinic and would normally walk there, but it's raining out so I drive instead. While driving, I notice that my windshield wipers are falling apart and make a mental note to replace them.
10:30 a.m. — It's my second acupuncture appointment and I'm hoping it helps with my terrible insomnia, occasional migraines, and lower back pain. I'm not afraid of needles so I feel very relaxed throughout the whole process. I use my FSA card to pay the $40 copay.
12:15 p.m. — Back home, I have multigrain toast with a mix of cinnamon almond butter and chunky peanut butter for lunch. I also have a cold brew with vanilla oat creamer and take my antidepressant.
1 p.m. — My goal for today is to clean out my closet. Since going on antidepressants, I've gained a lot of weight and nothing fits. I also had an eating disorder as a teenager and still struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia. The weight gain has really messed with my already crappy mental health so I switched to a different antidepressant in March. I see a therapist biweekly (completely covered by my health insurance) for my anxiety, depression, and disordered eating. I've also been seeing a personal trainer for two months (I saved up for two months and have already paid for them, each month cost $996 for three times a week). I will be switching to ClassPass soon since PT is VERY expensive. I listen to some episodes of Normal Gossip while I clean. I fill up two large trash bags of clothes and plan to drop them off at Goodwill tomorrow.
5 p.m. — I see that Old Navy is having a 50% off sale on everything for card members and since I just got rid of half of my clothes, I decide to do some online shopping. I purchase two pairs of wide-leg linen pants, two black jumpsuits (one of which I'll end up returning), three pairs of shorts, and two dresses. $187.46
5:30 p.m. — For dinner, I make a veggie flatbread with mozzarella cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes, topped off with some chili flakes. I eat that while watching RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. I absolutely love Lala Ri and Heidi N' Closet!
8:25 p.m. — I get a text from my personal trainer to schedule our last week of sessions. I'm a little sad about ending PT because I've grown really close to my trainer. I train at an all-women lifting gym and I love the community. She teaches classes at the gym so I'll definitely keep seeing her, just not one on one. We schedule for Wednesday afternoon, Friday morning, and next Saturday morning.
9:45 p.m. — I take a shower and before applying moisturizer to my face, I notice a pimple growing on my right cheek. I have pretty decent skin so I'm not too upset about it. I stick a pimple patch on it and hope for the best.
10:08 p.m. — I'm in bed scrolling through TikTok and see a very realistic-looking natural hair wig. My natural hair actually looks exactly like the wig but it is currently in some mini twist that did not turn out how I expected. I put my hair in these mini twists to give me a break from having to style it and I don't want to take them out just yet. I click on the link for the wig and see that it is a whopping $320. I guess I'll be sticking with my raggedy mini-twists. My insomnia is hell tonight and I don't fall asleep until 2 a.m.
Daily Total: $187.46

Day Two

11:00 a.m. — I woke up late this morning and have my usual almond butter toast with a cold brew for a late breakfast/early lunch. My first stop of the day is Aldi for groceries. I did a large grocery haul last weekend so I don't need much. I buy strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kombucha, cold brew, salsa, guacamole, pita chips, and Oreos. $31.11
12:16 p.m. — I drop the groceries off at my apartment. I grab the bags of clothes from yesterday and drive to Goodwill to donate them. After my stop at Goodwill, I go to Advance Auto Parts and buy new windshield wipers. $42.38
12:30 p.m. — My car hasn't been washed in a while and yesterday's rain wasn't enough to clean it. I stop by a car wash for a basic clean. I have to pick up two of the shorts I ordered online from Old Navy yesterday in-store. I pick up the shorts and resist the urge to walk around the store and shop some more. $16
2 p.m. — I received an email from the library in my parent's neighborhood that a book I have on hold is ready for pick up. I use their local library because the Philly library is kind of a mess. I pick up my book (How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson) and call my parents to see if they're home. I'm an only child and we're really close so I try to visit them every weekend. I also get most of my packages delivered to their house because my building has a serious package theft problem. My mom tells me that they're still at church but will be home soon, so I drive over.
2:17 p.m. — At my parents' place, I try on a dress that I ordered from Express for a work event. It's a black blazer dress with fringe sleeves. To my surprise, the dress fits great. It may be a bit too short for work but I think I can pull it off. I ordered a similar dress from H&M a few weeks ago and since I like this dress more, I will be returning the H&M one.
3 p.m. — My parents are finally home and I get my dad to replace my windshield wipers. Watching him do it, I realize that this is something I could have definitely done myself. I spend some time chatting with them and have an early dinner of rice and beans, red snapper, and roasted broccoli.
6:30 p.m. — I have to meal prep lunch and dinner for the week so I say goodbye to my parents and head back to my apartment.
7 p.m. — I have a hybrid work schedule and only go into the office three days a week. I prep a veggie flatbread similar to the one I had for dinner yesterday. I work from home on Tuesdays and Fridays and lunch will be provided on Wednesday for a staff meeting. For my dinners this week, I prep Spanish yellow rice, roasted corn, black beans, and chicken breast seasoned with a premade mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, and chili flakes. Once I'm done cooking, I clean up the kitchen and pack everything away in the fridge.
8:35 p.m. — I get a call from my friend, B., who just finished her first semester of grad school. We make plans to hang out next Saturday when she's back in Philly. I'm feeling a little hungry but I don't want to eat anything too heavy. I make a pineapple, mango, and strawberry smoothie with carrot juice.
9 p.m. — I pick out my outfit for work tomorrow (wide-leg copper-colored linen pants and a green ribbed t-shirt). I'm showered and in bed watching Succession by 10 before falling asleep around 1.
Daily Total: $89.49

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I struggle to get myself out of bed. For some reason "All Mine" by Brent Faiyaz is stuck in my head so I listen to it on repeat while getting ready. I take a quick shower, get dressed, grab my water bottle, lunch, and backpack. I'm out the door by 8:26. I like to walk in the morning instead of taking the subway because it makes me feel more energized. I listen to an episode of the If Books Could Kill podcast while walking. I get to the office right on time and start clickety-clacking away on my keyboard.
10:27 a.m. — I'm starting to feel hungry so I grab some bread from the office kitchen and make toast with cream cheese.
12:30 p.m. — I'm in need of a caffeine boost so I walk to Bluestone Lane for an iced vanilla latte with oat milk. I drink that while eating my prepped veggie flatbread for lunch. I get a text from my friends, L. and C., asking if I want to go to a Phillies game tonight. I don't care about baseball but L. has free tickets and I'm not doing anything else tonight, so why not? $6.70
3 p.m. — I hop on a Teams call for a meeting with my boss and some external partners. My boss and I recently built and deployed a really sophisticated and complex feature on our database platform. Many organizations who do work similar to ours have been requesting demos of our work. My boss and I really enjoy these meetings because we love knowledge sharing. The one-hour meeting turns into a two-hour meeting because we are all chatty data nerds. That wraps up my work day and I take the subway home.
6 p.m. — I change into bike shorts, an oversized t-shirt, and a black denim jacket. I take the subway to the stadium and meet up with my friends (my work pays for my monthly subway card).
6:47 p.m. — We get food before finding our seats. I get a Summer Shandy, chicken tenders, and fries. I am shook by the cost of food and drinks at this stadium! $42.44
7:16 p.m. — We have really great seats for people who don't care about baseball. L. works at my old job and since he got tickets through them, many of the people around us are my former coworkers. A lot of my former coworkers left the job around the same time I did, so there are new people that I don't know. I'm tipsy enough for it to not be awkward and not drunk enough to be shady. One thing I do miss about my old job is the drama. L. catches me up on all of the office tea.
10:09 p.m. — The Phillies lose the game, but I had a great time people-watching with my friends. I take the subway home. I'm showered and in bed by 11:30.
Daily Total: $49.14

Day Four

9:45 a.m. — I'm working from home today and get an email from my boss asking if I can take over a few of her tasks because she's dealing with some personal stuff at home. I have no problem doing this. I have a great relationship with my boss. She's really supportive of me and never micromanages.
11:04 a.m. — I take a quick break and make myself an iced matcha latte with honey and my usual almond butter toast. I get an email from my PCP's office about a $5 remaining balance on a copay for a visit I had months ago. I use my FSA card to pay online.
2:20 p.m. — I have pita chips with buffalo chicken dip and two mandarins as a snack. I FaceTime my mom while enjoying my snack.
3 p.m. — Hop on a Teams call for my biweekly team meeting, most of my team is out on PTO so the meeting is short and sweet.
6 p.m. — I walk to a nearby fitness studio for a HITT class (I already paid for this weeks ago). Aside from the instructor, I am the only person of color in the room. I'm also the only newbie in the class, the largest, and the least experienced. I feel super out of place and self-conscious. It's really hard for me to stop comparing myself to everyone else. The instructor pulls me aside at the end of class and tells me that I did really well. This makes me feel a little better. I remind myself that I can't get better if I give up. I try to book another class but they are full for the next two weeks so I place myself on the waitlist. I was in great shape pre-pandemic and pre-antidepressants. It's been hard for me to work out without comparing my current body to my past body. Personal training has helped a lot with my insecurities but group classes are still tough for me.
7:30 p.m. — I heat up my chicken and rice for dinner and top it off with guac, salsa, and crushed tortilla chips. I eat that with a glass of sparkling lemonade. I watch an episode of Summer House Martha's Vineyard while eating. Once I'm done I wash the dishes and take a shower. I pick out my outfit for work tomorrow (black pants, black cami, and a cropped lightweight beige cardigan). I'm in bed by 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:34 a.m. — I take the subway to work instead of walking because I have a 9 a.m. meeting. Without fail, every time I take the subway to get to work on time, I end up getting to the office later than if I had walked. I'm late for the meeting but no one seems to mind.
9:30 a.m. — I slept terribly last night and there is no way I am making it through this day without coffee. I speed walk to Starbucks for a venti iced brown sugar oat milk shaken espresso before my next meeting at 10. $7.75
11:25 a.m. — I grab a bag of pretzel sticks from the office kitchen to snack on.
12 p.m. — I join my coworkers in the conference room for free staff lunch. Our office caters lunch once a month. Today's lunch is chicken and cheese taquitos, pupusas, chips and guac, hearts of palm salad, churros, and a lemon blueberry cake for a coworker's birthday! Since I skipped breakfast this morning, I gleefully stuff my face.
1 p.m. — I am very full and sleepy from lunch. My boss decided to take the rest of the week off so I'm swamped. I struggle through the rest of the day until it's time to go home.
7:20 p.m. — I take a nap after work and I'm five minutes late to my personal training session. My trainer and I focus on arms today since my legs are sore from yesterday's HITT class. We wrap up our session a few minutes early since it looks like it's about to rain and we both have to walk home.
8:35 p.m. — I heat up my chicken and rice for dinner, shower, pick out tomorrow's outfit (black jeans and blue body suit), and head to bed. I watch another episode of Summer House before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $7.75

Day Six

9:24 a.m. — I am at the office today and spend most of the morning prepping for a meeting with a software developer this afternoon.
10:02 a.m. — I'm hungrier than usual and the only food in the office kitchen is leftover chips and churros from yesterday's lunch. I was hoping someone had a breakfast meeting this morning and there would be leftover bagels, but no luck. I walk to WaWa hoping to find a Sizzli but they're all out. I order a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on ciabatta bread. I also get a hash brown and a 16oz coffee with French vanilla creamer. $12.13
12:30 p.m. — I am a little nervous about this developer meeting because my boss is usually the one that meets with him. She speaks tech better than I do. I kind of ended up working a tech job by accident. I was one of the youngest people at my last job and by default ended up taking over our database migration. This led to me eventually getting a database admin certification.
1 p.m. — The meeting goes well and I don't embarrass myself! I write up a summary of what we discussed and email it to my boss and our team director. He also gave me a couple of things to test so I get to work on those. I skip lunch because I am still full from breakfast.
2 p.m. — I meet with a new coworker for some onboarding training.
4:50 p.m. — I don't know if it's because of what I ate for breakfast or because I skipped lunch, but I have acid reflux and it is very unpleasant. I grab some antacid tablets from the office medicine cabinet before heading home.
6:34 p.m. — After a nice post-work nap I'm feeling so much better. I have my go-to chicken and rice for dinner and a couple of Oreos for dessert. I watch the Survivor finale on Paramount+ while eating. The Tika tribe is so chaotic and cute. I am on the edge of my seat for the entire finale and thrilled that the contestant I was rooting for won!
7:42 p.m. — Since I only have two personal training sessions left this month, I officially sign up for ClassPass. I have a 14-day free trial and get 33 credits to start. They charge .50 cents to my card. I use six credits to book a group strength training class for next Monday at the gym I normally go to for PT. I use another six credits to book a cycling/pilates class. $0.50
9 p.m. — I shower, get into bed, and watch an episode of Yellowjackets before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $12.63

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night so I wake up really tired. I am not looking forward to this morning's 9 a.m. workout session with my trainer.
10:12 a.m. — On my way home from my workout, I stop by the UPS store to pick up my Old Navy package.
10:32 a.m. — I make myself a strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, and pineapple smoothie along with an iced matcha latte and almond butter toast for breakfast. After I eat, I take a shower and get to work.
3 p.m. — Because of the holiday weekend, work ends at 3 today. I try on the clothes I got from Old Navy. A few items are too big and will need to be returned.
5:30 p.m. — I make my way over to a nearby yoga studio for a stretch and restorative yoga class (previously paid for).
7 p.m. — On my way home from yoga, I place a sushi order for pick up. I get an Alaska roll, a spicy tuna roll, and two pieces of salmon nigiri. $21.10
8 p.m. — I eat my dinner while watching the Hillsong church documentary on Hulu. I call it a night and head to bed around 10.
Daily Total: $21.10
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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