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A Week In Philadelphia, PA On A $90,000 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.

This week: a digital marketing manager who makes $90,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Olay strawberry and mint body wash.
Occupation: Digital marketing manager
Industry: Financial services
Age: 29
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $90,000
Assets: Bank account: $3,100; RSUs: $1,580; HSA: $14,750; Roth IRA: $20,195; 401(k): $46,000; HYSA: $13,200
Debt: $7,000 remaining to pay off car (borrowed from family to avoid leasing).
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,200
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: Rent: $1,865 (one-bedroom apartment by myself)
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Utilities: $120
Internet: $35
HBO Max: $16.95
NYT: $6
Car Insurance: $0 (I’ve already paid $714 in full for the next six months.)
Phone: $0 (My brother and I split the family plan so I paid my half of $475 for the year.)
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?
Definitely. I come from an immigrant family so my parents didn’t have the opportunity to finish their studies past high school. They spent all of their time working and taking care of me and my three siblings to give us a better path than the one they had. Any and all money that they saved went towards providing for us and saving for each of us to go to college. My parents helped me pay for around the first two years of college. The remaining two years were a mix of their support, federal loans, and grants. I graduated with about $16,000 in student debt but started paying it off early and consistently, and finished paying it off entirely a few years ago.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We never talked about money growing up. My parents weren’t, and aren’t, financially savvy, so we didn’t have any conversations surrounding finances. I had zero to little perception of the actual value of money (I’d occasionally receive a small $10-$20 allowance for tidying around the house and think that that was a fortune). Growing up, I’ve had to learn by myself or with the help of my older siblings.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was a work-study position at a local arts center as a communications/development assistant. I supported events and exhibitions that the arts center hosted, creating collateral, soliciting donations for auctions, and maintaining data in the CRM. Since the money was included as part of my federal aid, I knew I should take full advantage of the “free money” offered. Paychecks mostly went to paying for books, commuting (I took the train), and hanging out with friends throughout the week.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn’t worry, but that was because I really had no knowledge of my family’s financial situation. Looking back now and in conversations with my siblings, I realize that we were within the lower income bracket. We didn’t take any family vacations. And during the summer, we’d all sleep in the same room together, sprawled over the floor, to keep air conditioning to one central room in the house.
Do you worry about money now?
I feel like I’ve become a lot more financially literate throughout my 20s, so I’m not necessarily worried. I feel comfortable with where I’m at because I spent so much time focused on my career and getting to a place where I could be a bit more open and enjoy life. I try to be mindful about putting a good amount of money into my savings but also taking at least a few vacations a year. Balance is key for me.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Probably about 23 or 24. After graduating, I took a position working in Hong Kong so I was fully independent and having to learn and pay for everything on my own. Since then, I’ve set up a pretty good financial safety net in the case of emergencies. I’m also incredibly lucky to know that my parents and siblings are available to support me if I was ever in dire need.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

8:45 a.m. — I roll right out of bed to “start” the work day, aka powering up my laptop as I’m sluggishly getting ready. I work from home twice a week and am so glad I can really stretch the clock on the days I want a few more moments of sleep. Sit down with a cup of jasmine tea while catching up on emails.
12 p.m. — After finishing up my morning check-in meetings, I pop an everything bagel in the air fryer and prepare a lox bagel for lunch. Finishing up a savory meal always makes me want to start snacking or have something sweet so I prepare a yogurt parfait (Trader Joe’s honey Greek yogurt and maple pecan granola, Sprout’s cacao nibs, blueberries).
1 p.m. — The afternoon picks up! I hop on a call with our advertising team to discuss final details for campaigns with a publication partner of ours. We chat through what type of creative and messaging would best fit the audience I work with. After that, I attend a one-and-a-half-hour training. Guilty of “multitasking” during these meetings, I browse the web on my personal laptop while listening in on the training.
4:30 p.m. — Call it a wrap for the day and start to prepare both my dinner and meal prep lunch for the week’s in-office lunches. For dinner, I make a random hodgepodge of sautéed zucchinis and a simple soup to satisfy my soup craving (dashi stock, soybean paste, fish cakes, seaweed). For my work lunches, I make three brown rice bowls (tempeh, corn, avocado, black beans, spicy chipotle sauce, chile lime crema).
8 p.m. — Eat dinner and then mindlessly browse on my laptop while starting a new Netflix show, You Are What You Eat. I put it on for background noise but end up getting sucked into the premise and am glued to the screen for the rest of the episode.
9:30 p.m. — I’m a big reader and religiously stick to my GoodReads reading goal (36 books for 2024), so I spend the rest of the night finishing my latest book, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, and then head to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:20 a.m. — Up bright and early... I’m not a morning person, but took this hybrid role because I thrive on social interactions with coworkers. I get ready and head out the door to start my commute to the office.
11 a.m. — I text with a guy I recently matched with on Hinge. We originally planned to meet for a first date the coming Saturday, but he offers to meet tonight instead. I’m a little surprised but agree to the change. I’d rather know sooner than later if we’ll hit it off and that’ll save days of small talk.
12 p.m. — Have no meetings all morning so I manage to knock out emails and other tasks. I heat up my rice bowl and then head downstairs to the cafeteria to eat with a colleague. We’ve been planning to have lunch since December but have had to push it back by three months due to a conflict schedule every time (sounds crazy, I know). We chat about upcoming travels and I share thoughts I have about my current role. TL;DR: I’m doing my job and the role of another that my manager said he has no plans to backfill. Feeling dejected and so very undervalued, so she encourages me to see if there are other openings available within the company.
4:45 p.m. — I leave the office and stop at Target on the way home to restock on cleaning products. I pick up laundry detergent, dish soaps, and mouthwash. They’re out of the strawberry and mint Olay body wash I really like so I make a note to try a different Target tomorrow. $37.90
6 p.m. — I drop my things at the door and do an outfit change, switching into more comfortable jeans and replacing my loafers with Vans. I spritz a little perfume and add blush to my cheeks for a small touch-up. Head out the door for my date.
7:15 p.m. — I park and pay through the app ($2). We meet outside a restaurant of his choosing, share a greeting and hug, and then get seated. We order cocktails, fries to share, and our individual entrees: shepherd’s pie for him and pizza for me. When the check comes, he asks if I’d prefer he pay or we split it. I tell him splitting is fine ($54.11). $56.11
9 p.m. — Have an awkward encounter when he asks to kiss me after walking me to my car. I recommend a hug and we wish each other good night.
9:45 p.m. — Get home and shower. My brain is fatigued from the day’s activities so I lounge in bed on my laptop and get in some reading. It’s lights out by 11:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $94.01

Day Three

7:20 a.m. — Always still half asleep when my alarm goes off. The thought of “Why did I choose a hybrid role again?” usually crosses my mind a few times each week before I force myself out of bed. I brush my teeth and head out the door to begin my commute.
9:30 a.m. — Meet with my team for our daily stand-up. I work in a “pod” group dedicated to promoting products to key clients and we check in each morning to update on status of current and incoming campaigns and to problem-solve items on our backlog. After the stand-up, I jump to the next meeting to walk the newest coworker to my team through deploying email through Salesforce. Within the past year, we’ve had six new people rotate in and out of our team, so I’ve spent a lot of time doing trainings.
12 p.m. — It’s finally a warm day out (mid 60s) so I take full advantage of the weather and grab our team to sit outside for lunch. As tempted as I am by the cafeteria food, I stick to being good and heat my rice bowl before heading downstairs. We chat about TV shows but the new teammates are mainly Gen Z so I spend the majority of the lunch time listening in on their talk and lingo. Definitely feeling that generational difference.
4:30 p.m. — Spend the rest of my afternoon sitting in meetings, replying to emails, and setting up our pod’s emails for deployment the following day.
4:45 p.m. — I go to Target down the street from the office to look for the body wash. It’s there! On the way to the self-checkout, I stop to grab a brown T-shirt to add to my work wardrobe and a pack of Blistex since I like to keep a stocked inventory ready at all times. $23.14
5:15 p.m. — I then make my biweekly trip to the Trader Joe’s near the office for grocery shopping. I have a habit of walking up and down the aisles and grabbing whatever piques my interest, but this time, I pull up recipes on my phone to grab ingredients for a mushroom bisque soup and cauliflower soup to make. My list comes to: mushrooms, vegetable broth, Greek yogurt, olives, heavy cream, shishito peppers, avocados, herbs, butter, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, prosciutto. I’m in the mood for livening up the apartment so I also pick up a small bouquet. $78.01
6:30 p.m. — Get home and put on some podcasts to listen to (weekly go-tos are Life Kit, WSJ, NYT, NerdWallet) while putting away groceries and putting the flowers in a vase. As I grab the soup ingredients, I remember I have leftover pizza slices from yesterday’s date, so I decide to hold on any new meals for the week. I shower and air fry the pizza, then sit down and put on the latest episode of another show I’m watching, Drops of God, on AppleTV+ using my sister’s subscription.
9 p.m. — I see a Levi’s jacket I’ve had my eye on that’s finally back in stock AND on sale! I purchase it before it sells out again. $103.60
9:30 p.m. — I browse around to check out job postings on LinkedIn and Glassdoor. I came back from a solo trip to Spain a few weeks ago and it felt like the most healing trip I’ve had in a while. It inspired me to think about what I want, and with the undervaluing at work lately, I figure I’d keep my options open.
11 p.m. — I start my next book, Homage to Catalonia (see above for my current all-things-Spain obsession), but begin falling asleep before making it through the prelude. Decide to call it a night.
Daily Total: $204.75

Day Four

7:20 a.m. — Wake up and get ready. Finally the last in-office day for the week! I waited all week for today since it’s hitting a high of 75. I decide on a spring-esque outfit, pairing a white T-shirt with a striped maxi skirt and mule slides, and then head out the door.
11:45 a.m. — So excited to be outdoors, so I attend my morning meetings and then head out during lunch to run some errands. I drop off film to be developed ($10.59) and stop by Starbucks for a drink. I keep seeing advertisements for the lavender promotional beverages so I order the iced lavender matcha latte to try. The barista tells me it’s BOGO this afternoon. Lucky! I add a lavender lemonade for tomorrow. I use a gift card so there’s no charge for the drinks. The lavender matcha tastes like the milk leftover after Lucky Charms cereal. Decide I’m not a big fan but finish the drink anyways. $10.59
12:40 p.m. — Head back and heat up my final rice bowl for the week. I join my team for the last 20 minutes of lunch as we share our upcoming weekend plans and travels. I finish the remaining lunch at my desk while reading and responding to emails and Teams messages.
2 p.m. — I attend our weekly digital marketing staff meeting. The agenda is to bring any “hot” items to discuss and then each week take turns sharing a recent out-of-market campaign. Today’s group isn’t ready so I volunteer to present mine. I walk through an in-person NYC event we recently had, sharing details about our objectives, messaging, and channel tactic breakdowns.
3:30 p.m. — Still want to revel in the beautiful weather so I take my laptop downstairs and sit outside to finish up the work day.
5:30 p.m. — I drive over to a friend’s, J., who I haven’t seen in a few months. She’s gotten engaged since! She makes us French martinis and we hang out on her balcony. We catch each other up on life lately and I tell her about my dating woes, sharing updates from the latest date.
7 p.m. — We head to a local pub and meet my other friend A. (J’s brother) for trivia. We all love trivia but aren’t exactly the best at it... Our team name, accordingly, is “Zero Threats.” We order fries and drinks to share. I get mac ‘n’ cheese with buffalo chicken as my entree. I pay and A. venmos me his share. J. forgets but I don’t mind and decide to cover her share since she’s always hosting me. We don’t make it to the trivia score board once, but joke that we did better than we thought. Next time, our team is being upgraded to “Minimal Threats.” $43.41
9:30 p.m. — Back at J’s. Spend some extra time chatting through the trivia questions with J.’s fiancé and get lots of dog cuddles in before driving home.
11:45 p.m. — Showered, exhausted, and ready for bed.
Daily Total: $54

Day Five

8:50 a.m. — I log in and catch up on my inbox. I make an iced coffee using Blue Bottle Instant Coffee Espresso I bought last year. Read my morning newsletters (NYT, WSJ: free through work) and then knock out the usual combo of Spelling Bee, Mini Crossword, Wordle, and Connections games.
12:45 p.m. — Take a break for lunch to throw a bagel in the airfryer. I make another lox bagel and snack on Trader Joe’s pizza chips while listening in on my next meeting. Thank goodness for the no-camera WFH days.
2:30 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is quiet so I have a chance to finish writing up a few campaign briefs. I send them over to my scrum master so we can submit them for creative resourcing needs next week.
4:30 p.m. — Finish the day and decide to take a nice, long walk to relax my mind. I listen to a few podcasts and by the time I’m back, see that I got in a productive hour and 10 minutes of steps.
6 p.m. — I hop in the car to run some errands. First stop is Whole Foods for the Amazon returns. I send back a pack of phone chargers (silly me not checking for the correct USB type) and then wander around the store. I see Lily’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cups on sale so I grab a bag for my dad ($4.49). He has to cut his sugar intake so I like to look for lighter or keto alternatives when I can. I also see a cool build-a-cupcake wooden toy for my niece since I’ll be seeing her this weekend ($10.24). $14.63
6:45 p.m. — I make one more stop at Lowe’s to pick up a bag of soil to repot my plant. I get home and go straight to that before the sun sets. A few weeks ago, I noticed there were a bunch of little gnats in the soil so they’ve been driving me crazy! After removing it from the pot, I realize I accidentally blocked the draining holes. So that explains it... Hopefully my plant will be happy and bug-free with its new soil now. $6.34
8 p.m. — I shower and make a salad with whatever I have left lying around (arugula, lettuce, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella, cucumbers, tomatoes) and finish the remaining zucchini and soup from earlier this week. I put on another episode of Drops of God to watch while I eat.
10 p.m. — Relax for the rest of the night and play Friends in the background while reading articles on my laptop (big multitasker...). Head to sleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $21.07

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — My internal clock stirs me awake. I lie in bed being lazy for a little before getting up. We’re celebrating my niece’s third birthday this weekend which is exciting.
10 a.m. — I place a Starbucks order for an iced flat white to pick up on my way to my brother’s house. I ride with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece to a trampoline/bounce fun zone planned for the day. My brother covers my entry fee. $6.31
12:30 p.m. — I watch my niece enjoy hopping around on the trampolines and then we walk around to try our hand at some of the available claw machines. I load up a card with credits and we get great value for the cash, winning seven prizes for my niece to take home. $30
2 p.m. — My cousin and his wife meet us at a restaurant for a late lunch. We’re starving at this point after all the bouncing! We have fries, nachos, and cheese curds to share. I order an ahi tuna burger for my entree. My brother treats us all and pays the bill.
5 p.m. — Back at my brother’s after eating lunch and walking around the mall. My sister-in-law was in the middle of watching the Taylor Swift Eras concert tour so I join her on the couch. I’m not really a fan but ironically manage to know and sing along to 95% of the songs she performs. I think back on the day and feel bad about how much my brother splurged so I zelle him some money for the activities and food. $60
8:30 p.m. — We finish watching the concert and I head home. I fill up gas on the way back. $31.34
11:30 p.m. — Lounge around a bit and then go to bed since I have an early morning tomorrow for part two of my niece’s birthday festivities.
Daily Total: $127.65

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Anyone else’s internal clock wake them up minutes before their alarm when they know they have to be up? Awake and dressed to go for the day.
8:40 a.m. — I stop by a bakery and order a cold brew latte. I’m never out of the house this early on the weekends so any and all caffeine helps. Afterwards, I pick up my parents from their house since they’re joining for the day. $5
9:30 a.m. — We meet my brother and niece at the aquarium. He has a membership since she loves seeing the fish, so we don’t have to pay anything for the tickets heading in.
11 a.m. — So cool seeing the hippos and sharks up close! We take a break for a small lunch. My brother orders his food while I pick up mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken noodle soup for my mom, iced tea, and a bag of chips. $20.55
1 p.m. — This weekend is the last for a mermaid exhibit the aquarium is having so we stop by for my niece to see them. A+ for costume, makeup, and swimming skills. After seeing some last few sections for the reptiles, penguins, and fish, we head back.
3 p.m. — We meet my sister-in-law and her parents for an early birthday dinner at a Korean BBQ spot. I’m still a little full from earlier’s lunch but we all manage to share some BBQ, soup, rice, and sashimi. We bring out a cake and sing happy birthday for my niece. My sister-in-law pays for dinner.
5:30 p.m. — Home and so tired after the long weekend of celebrating and waking up early. I tidy up around the apartment and start a laundry load.
8:30 p.m. — Feeling an urge to snack so I eat some blueberries and cucumbers with dip while watching Friends. Feels nice to finally relax after a busy few days.
10:30 p.m. — Read a little and then call it a night to mentally prepare for the next work week ahead. That’s a wrap!
Daily Total: $25.55

The Breakdown

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