A Week In Raleigh, NC, 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 millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a digital project manager working in healthcare marketing who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on dog ice cream.
Occupation: Project Manager
Industry: Marketing
Age: 25
Location: Raleigh, NC
Salary: $55,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,756
Gender Identity: Cis Woman (she/her)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000 (I live alone in a 650-square-foot one-bed/one-bath.)
Car Payment: $180
Student Loans: $0 (shout-out to my parents)
Subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify & Digit): $41
Dog Walker: $220 a month (she comes 5x/week)
Yoga Membership: $99
Car Insurance: $203
401(k): $65 (My company does not offer a match currently. I will up my contribution once they start matching.)
Electric: ~$30–$60 depending on the month
Credit Cards: ~$500 (paying off $3,000 currently)
Health Insurance: $0 (still on my parents')
Dental & Vision: $7.18
Internet: $0 (supplied by my apartment complex)
Therapy: $20 co-pay
Savings: $0 (Currently, I'm not contributing to my savings, as I am focusing all my extra money on paying off my credit cards.)

Day One

2:30 a.m. — Wake up in an Airbnb in Texas. My girlfriend and I have been on a four-day vacation. It's been really nice to not think about work. Our flight leaves at 5 a.m., hence the early wake-up.
4:30 a.m. — At the airport and made it through security smoothly! We sit at the gate for a bit, then go to the Caribou Coffee/Einstein Bros. Bagels combo shop. I get an Asiago bagel with veggie cream cheese and a medium coffee. My gf gets a vanilla cold brew and an Asiago bagel with butter. She pays.
5 a.m. — Wheels up! We have a quick 37-minute flight to catch our connection. On the flight, I listen to the Bad on Paper podcast with Carly from Carly the Prepster. I went through a preppy phase (I know, I'm cringing too) and found her blog. I ended up following her on Instagram and still interact with her content. It's cool to see how she has grown and changed and stayed true to her values.
5:30 a.m. — We have the perfect amount of time between flights. Thanks, past me. I go to Starbucks and get a grande honey citrus mint tea that costs $4.13, but I pay with the preloaded money on my app. I eat my bagel from earlier while standing in line.
11 a.m. — Home, sweet Raleigh!! We catch a Lyft to my apartment. Our driver is a total bro and asks endless questions about our taste in beer. He then asks about our “girls' trip.” Sigh, the reality of being in a relationship with a femme-presenting woman. I pay for the Lyft. $17.86
12 p.m. — I run to Cava to get food for the gf and myself before we get hangry. I pay ($19.38). Then I go to Walgreens to pick up generic brand DayQuil, a Vitamin Water, a Reese's for my gf, and a Kit Kat for myself ($11.49). Once I'm home, I eat half my Cava greens and grain bowl, drink some water, and watch YouTube videos. $30.87
1 p.m. — Time for a nap. We went hard on our vacation, and I am exhausted.
5 p.m. — Turns out I really needed that nap. I wake up, scroll through Instagram, and pull myself out of bed. I take a long, hot shower that feels SO good.
6 p.m. — I unpack my suitcase, tidy all my things, and make a grocery list. I go to Harris Teeter and buy bananas, potatoes, green beans, pesto, hummus, pretzel chips, eggs, chicken breasts, almond milk, pasta, kombucha, mini Perfect bars, and two bouquets of flowers. The initial total comes to $53.27, but I have a coupon for $10 off a purchase, so I use that. $43.27
8 p.m. — Once home, I put my groceries away, eat the other half of my Cava bowl, and check in on my bank accounts to see where I'm at after vacation. I have some hummus and a handful of peanut M&Ms. I spend the remainder of the night watching TV, checking in on my work email, and drinking hot chocolate. It feels good to be home.
Daily Total: $92

Day Two

8:45 a.m. — I wake up feeling refreshed and happy to have slept in my own bed. I get up, brush my teeth, and do my skin-care routine. I have finally found a routine that works for my combination skin. I read somewhere that you shouldn't cleanse in the morning, because you will be taking away all the good oils your skin made overnight. Not sure if it's true or not, but I have noticed that my skin is softer since I started skipping that step in the a.m. I use the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, Lush Tea Tree Water Toner, Origins GinZing Ultra Hydrating Cream, Neutrogena Clear Skin Sunscreen with SPF 35, and Origins under-eye cream. I'm working from home today, so I don't have to get dressed or do my hair. I pour myself a glass of homemade cold brew (made overnight in my French press) and get to work.
11:45 a.m. — After a morning of emails and a meeting I didn't need to be in, I break to get some things done around the apartment. I start two loads of laundry, take out my recycling, and prep pesto pasta with chicken, peas, and broccoli for my lunches this week. I snack on hummus, pretzel chips, and a mini Perfect bar while I cook. Once the pasta is done, I have a bowl of that for lunch, along with an apple and almond butter.
2 p.m. — I putz around my apartment, fold laundry, make my bed with fresh sheets, and chat with one of my coworkers via Slack. I have been at this job for going on five months now, and I am incredibly happy. Early this year, I realized how deeply unhappy I was at my other job at a small marketing agency, where I technically did three jobs. The workplace was toxic, and my team was full of very immature people who were very nit-picky. I wasn't willing to play their game and continue to do three jobs for a salary of $33,000, so I found a new job. It was an incredibly empowering moment to make that change for myself. My current job has more room for professional growth. I recently completed a training course to be a Certified Scrum Master, which is exciting because I love process improvement and it's another skill set to add to my repertoire.
5 p.m. — DONE! Today is my day to walk the dog, so I head over to my girlfriend's apartment. She is very high-energy. She gets a 45-minute walk in the middle of the day and at least an hour of exercise after work. Now is a good time to tell you about me and the gf's living situation! We met in college, and she already had a job lined up post-graduation, so I ended up moving in with her to where her job was. We had only been dating for seven months, and while it was the best thing for us at the time, it was too soon. We decided that the best thing to do was to move into separate apartments. We both live in one-bedroom apartments by ourselves, but in the same apartment complex. We have a dog and a cat together, but they both live at her apartment. Although it's a little out of the ordinary, it has worked really well for us. We have been living alone for two years and are looking to move back in together when our leases are up in March of next year!
7 p.m. — Once the dog is walked, I head to dinner with my friend from college. She used to be my bad-influence friend (she taught me how to take tequila shots), but she is now my Chili's friend. We go to Chili's and do the "2 for $25" deal and talk about life, her dating struggles, our mutual college friends, and everything in between. I love her and value her friendship so, so deeply. We split the half order of cheese fries, and I get the grilled chicken fajitas. I pay for us both and she Venmos me her half. $14.26
9:30 p.m. — The street around my apartment is closed because they're doing night repairs, so I have to park a little ways away and walk home. I call my best friend, who lives in Seattle, as I walk. We talk about our highs and lows of the day and make plans to talk again on Wednesday night. I change into my comfies and do my nighttime skin-care routine — Simple Micellar Water, Lush Tea Tree Toner, Origins GinZing Ultra-Hydrating Cream, and CeraVe Eye Repair Cream. I brush my teeth and crawl into my bed with my freshly washed sheets.
Daily Total: $14.26

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of the garbage truck. It is as peaceful as it sounds. I brush my teeth, jump in the shower, and do my skin care. Once I'm out of the shower, I lie on my bed for a few minutes, looking at the weather and watching Instagram stories. I peel myself out of bed, make the bed, and get dressed. I put on a black-and-white polka dot shirt with ruffle sleeves, high-waisted black jeans, low-heeled light brown boots, and a small gold necklace. I take my daily set of vitamins — fish oil, biotin, and a women's gummy multivitamin (because who doesn't love gummies). I make a smoothie with a banana, spinach, almond milk, chia seeds, mango, and blueberries. Pour myself some cold brew, and I'm out the door!
8:15 a.m. — As part of our living-apart situation, I go over to the gf's apartment every morning and take the dog out and feed her (the dog, not my gf) and the cat. I take the dog out for a quick walk around the courtyard, fill their bowls, and head to work. I have a super short commute to the office, which is a dream. Once in the office, I get set up and start on my work for the day, while drinking my smoothie and coffee.
11:45 a.m. — After putting out some small fires, I break to head home for lunch. I sometimes come home for lunch when I have a light day, so I can take a break from looking at my computer and take some deep breaths. Today I need to take a timed test to obtain a certification, so I'm going to take the test from home as well, to limit distractions.
1 p.m. — Woohoo, I passed!! I really enjoy continuing-education things like this, where I am able to learn about different methods that relate to my job, as well as making myself a more marketable employee. I head back to work with a strawberry lemonade kombucha, pretzel chips, and hummus in hand.
4:30 p.m. — After an incredibly tense meeting and a deep 1:1 with my manager, I'm emotionally exhausted.
8:45 p.m. — Once I get home from work, I spend an hour reading (currently Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny), then spend time decompressing, petting the cat, and talking with my gf. We settle in with Real Housewives of Atlanta and end up ordering dinner from Five Star. We get the barbecue pork with fried rice, crispy sesame chicken with white rice, and pork-belly buns. Total comes to $58.96, but my gf pays.
9:30 p.m. — We get into bed for the evening, make each other laugh for a while, and are asleep by 11:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — Snooze my alarm. The dog woke us up at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. because of a gnarly case of diarrhea. On one hand, I'm glad she did because it means she didn't poop on the rug, but it means we had to get up and stand outside at 2 a.m.
7:45 a.m. — Up for real this time! Brush my teeth, do my skin care, take my vitamins, get dressed. Today I pull on a pair of very soft olive-green pants, a white shirt with lacy sleeves, and the same boots and necklace as yesterday. Hair goes on top of my head in a topknot. Take the dog out, feed the pets, and then I'm off. I usually make a smoothie in the mornings, but on Wednesdays we get free breakfast at the office, so I'm skipping it today.
9 a.m. — I get into the office and make a cup of coffee with peppermint mocha creamer, which is my most favorite part of winter. Full transparency, I drink it even when it's not winter. As I'm drinking my coffee and eating a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, the internet goes out across our entire office. I take this as a sign that I should spend some time petting the dog that's in the office today. I make another cup of coffee and head to the first of my back-to-back meetings.
11:45 a.m. — Some of my coworkers and I are itching to get out of the office, so we so we take payday lunch one day early. We go to Gonzo Tacos & Tequila, gossip about work, eat three baskets of chips, and decide that this was a very good decision. I get a chicken quesadilla. $16.56
1 p.m. — Back to it. I have a meeting with my boss this afternoon that is essentially a six-month performance review that I'm really looking forward to. At my previous job, I had to beg for a performance review and then nothing came of it, so I'm trying to be hyperaware and not fall into a rut of being comfortable. I have a really supportive and excellent boss, which is a total game-changer. I didn't negotiate my salary for this job because I was desperate to leave my previous job. I nearly doubled my salary, which is incredible, but I do wish I had negotiated. My goal coming out of this meeting is to be on track for a decent raise in the next few months.
4 p.m. — The meeting went SO well!! I'm very lucky to have a supportive boss who has my back.
5 p.m. — Quitting time, thank goodness. I'm exhausted and so happy to be going home. Once home, I have the true pleasure of realizing that the ceiling in my bathroom is dripping water. That's super fun and totally awesome!! I panic, go talk to my upstairs neighbor, call maintenance, and lay towels down. Once that is sorted (nothing major, it was my upstairs neighbor's fault), I take the dog for a walk.
7:30 p.m. — This day has done me in. I was going to cook dinner, but decide that the best course of action is to eat my leftover cold Chinese food in bed while watching the latest Gourmet Makes episode on the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. I do my skin care, tidy my apartment, make cold brew, and call it a night. I'm asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $16.56

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I slept like a rock, and I absolutely needed that. Working from home again today, so I don't have to get fully ready. I do my skin care and take my vitamins. I pull on leggings, a massive hoodie from Aerie, and gym shoes. I take the dogs out, and then walk back home.
9:30 a.m. — How are things already a mess? We are in the process of implementing a new technology with some of our clients that I am the lead PM on, so I field questions from our development team and pass them along to the correct people on the business side. I answer emails & Slacks while drinking cold brew.
11 a.m. — I realize that I was so busy this morning that all I've had is coffee. Oops. Break from work for a minute to make a smoothie bowl. I use spinach, a banana, almond butter, chia seeds, almond milk, mango, and a mixed berry blend. I top with some granola for the crunch and get back to work.
12 p.m. — I led a meeting with three teams that are notoriously poor at getting along/hearing each other's thoughts, and it went really well. YAY! Small wins make rough weeks a little better. I have had my eyes on a cooking class for my gf for a while, and I get an email alert that there are only two seats left, so I go ahead and buy our seats. $138
1:15 p.m. — I have a break in meetings for a bit, so I chop up potatoes, season green beans, and warm up some chicken. I eat while watching YouTube videos, then it's back to work.
3:45 p.m. — Meetings are done for the day! Things are simmering down a bit, so I seize the moment and jump in the shower. I use the Dove Exfoliating Body Polish, which is one of my favorite shower products that is also wildly affordable. Once out, I use my Cocokind Sea Kale Mask (I LOVE THIS. So gentle, but it still works). I do an abbreviated skin-care routine with the same Lush Tea Tree Toner, but swap in the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask (GO BUY IT, it's light but also super moisturizing and not too pricey!), then finish with the usual sunscreen. I moisturize with my Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter. I grab a bowl of white cheddar Hippeas and a mini Perfect bar — yes, I am easily influenced by wellness influencers, what of it?!!
4:45 p.m. — Logging off for the day! I pack my bag to spend the night at my gf's and swing by Target before going over to her place. I grab fish oil, Dove deodorant, dish soap, and dog ice cream (yes, it's real). $18.47
8:30 p.m. — After Target, we spend some time reading, relaxing, and watching MasterChef Junior. We warm up some Trader Joe's orange chicken, frozen broccoli, and brown rice for dinner. We hang out, talk about our days, and have an all-around unremarkable evening. Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday!
Daily Total: $156.47

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — TGIF bitches. This week has been a funky mix of slow and emotionally exhausting at the same time. I take the dog out, feed the pets, the same ol' song and dance! I get dressed in distressed jeans, a burnt orange sweater, and my trusty boots. I grab Starbucks on my way in and see that I have a free drink. Score!
12 p.m. — This morning draggggged on. I go for lunch with my coworkers for one of their birthdays! We go to Taza — we get goat cheese for the table, and I get a delicious pepperoni pizza. $14.32
5 p.m. — THANK GOODNESS. Today was the slowest Friday ever. I head out to walk the dog. We walk her through downtown Raleigh, which is really relaxing and nice, even on a Friday night. I walk for an hour and a half.
7 p.m. — Home! I change into my PJs, grab snacks out of the cabinet, and settle in for some TV. I watch the two new episodes of The Resident and the newest episode of Grey's Anatomy. I'm super over Grey's Anatomy, but I feel like I've put so much time into watching every episode that I can't quit now. As expected, the episode is boring. I make a bowl of pasta with LaRosa's sauce — I was born in Cincinnati, and I will forever have a soft spot for LaRosa's. I end the night with a small glass of white wine. I'm a lightweight, so a splash does me in.
Daily Total: $14.32

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Yoga time! I typically go to at least three classes a week but have given myself some leeway this week, since I just got back from vacation. I get dressed in entirely Old Navy active gear (cheap and good quality), grab my mat and towel, and head to class!
9:30 a.m. — That was hard and hot and much, much needed. I got a new teacher, who mixed up the typical flow that my studio sticks to. It was the perfect amount of challenging and empowering. I cross the street to grab a smoothie from a local smoothie spot. I don't love the taste, but it'll do. I get a discount because my yoga studio has partnerships with local businesses. $9.15
10 a.m. — Next on my list is Aldi. Aldi was a lifesaver when I was freshly out of college and making verrrry little money. My love of affordable groceries has stuck around! I get sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, three apples, two cans of cannellini beans, a block of sharp cheddar cheese, a bag of shredded Mexican-blend cheese, a Brew Dr. kombucha, three peanut butter chocolate chip Perfect bars, single-serve containers of roasted red pepper hummus, ground turkey, Italian turkey sausage, two bags of frozen broccoli, a bag of frozen blueberries, and a small container of sea salt dark chocolate caramels for the gf. $40.04
10:45 a.m. — Home! I shower and get dressed. Today's outfit is a soft gray sweater and black pants. I cut up some cheddar cheese that I just bought and settle in on the couch with Trader Joe's Everything Crackers. I start watching Living with Yourself, but quickly realize that I don't have the attention span for a new show today. I drink lots of water on a daily basis (I have a Contigo water bottle, the one with the button to open it, and I LOVE it — it's affordable and also wildly durable), but slacked a little bit yesterday, so I intentionally try to drink more today.
12 p.m. — Time for the dog park. We've discovered a new dog park that's closer to our apartments than others, and it's a true dream. It's a massive field with so much room for the dogs to wander and sniff and play. We spend about an hour and a half here.
3:15 p.m. — Whoops, looks like I fell asleep! Once I'm up, we head out to run some errands. We stop by Starbucks and get two vanilla sweet cream cold-brew coffees. Gf pays! We then go to Michael's, Old Navy, A.C. Moore, and Ulta. I don't buy anything at the first three stops, but snag the last container of the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Exfoliating pads at Ulta. $32.18
4:30 p.m. — Our final stop is Trader Joe's. I get kale, tortillas, tiny avocados, green bananas, pasta, peppermint pretzel thins (DELISH!!), a bag of coffee, and three Chomps turkey snack sticks. $25
8 p.m. — Once home, the gf makes us an edible, we watch some more MasterChef Junior, and kick up our feet.
8:45 p.m. — The edible hits, and we end up watching four more hours of MasterChef Junior. We have some Doritos (read: an entire bag) and an incredible amount of those break-and-bake cookies. We head to bed around 12:30. Night, y'all!!
Daily Total: $106.37
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