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A Week In Houston, TX On A $65,380 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 flight attendant, product specialist, and graduate student who makes $65,380 per year and spends some of her money this week on a cat café experience in Miami ($10 meownificently spent).
Occupation: Flight attendant, product specialist, and graduate student
Industry: Commercial aviation and automotive marketing
Age: 34
Location: Houston, TX
Salary: $65,380
Assets: 401(k): $71,465.38; Roth IRA: $20,780.39; RHRA: $2,000; stock investments: $610.84; checking account: $5,235.93; savings account: $445.80; HYSA: $5,614.49
Debt: Car note: $6,875.44
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,300
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $0 (I live with my parents who own their home.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $474.53 (car payment)
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Savings (Roth): $580
Spotify: $10.99
Phone: $35
Car Wash Membership: $43.73
Cinemark Movie Membership: $10.99
Peloton App Membership: $12.99
Gym Membership: $28
Annual Expenses
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card Annual Fee: $550
Amex Centurion Credit Card Annual Fee: $695
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card Annual Fee: $95
Amazon Prime: $69 (student rate)
Who Weekly? Patreon Membership: $50.40

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?
I always expected to get my bachelor’s in something. My parents were supportive and helped pay my way through a theater degree. It took me three years to walk across the graduation stage, then 10 more years to finish the degree. Due to some major distractions, I never finished my final class and decided to return in 2020, when all coursework was moved online during the pandemic. I was officially a December 2020 graduate. That led to me pursuing my master’s in social work, which I’m in the process of doing now. I’m paying for it myself. It helps that I live with my parents and have no rent costs.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I’m a first-generation American, and coming from poor/working class households, both of my parents instilled a frugal financial mentality. A love of hunting through sale racks and thrift stores led to a fairly successful Etsy store in my early 20s. I was always expected to work and was warned of the dangers of credit cards. That didn’t stop me from getting into $10,000 of credit card debt in my 20s (I’ve since paid off and sworn to avoid credit card debt at all costs). I had no home education about investing and very little understanding about 401(k)s, IRAs, and so on.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Once I turned 15 I became a lifeguard — the first job I could get at that age. Growing up as a competitive swimmer, it just made sense. I realize now how fortune I was to have parents who were willing to drive me to and from the various neighborhood pools I was assigned to. If I wanted to go shopping for any non-essentials (clothes, nail polish, et cetera), it was expected the funds would come from my job.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. I grew up solidly middle class, never worrying about the essentials. My parents made sure we were enrolled in extracurriculars (dance, piano, swimming, and so on) and we traveled a lot (all my extended family is overseas). Then my dad was laid off twice: Once when I was around 10, another around 15. These events made me keenly aware of the value of a dollar, what it meant for our lifestyle changes, and the sacrifices we would need to make.

Do you worry about money now?
Absolutely. I look back and wish I would have contributed more to my 401(k) early on, and began contributing to a Roth IRA when I first started working. Having witnessed the burden of unemployment on my dad, I’m scared for anyone to financially depend on me. I’m part of a flight attendant labor union and our contract became amenable going on five years now — this essentially means I haven’t had a raise in five years. I’m grateful to be living with my parents during this drawn-out contract negotiation/mediation process amid a cost of living crisis. In addition to my flying, I supplement this work with events-based marketing work with an automotive company, something I’ve been doing for eight years now. While I worry about money, I try not to let it overcome me or be a source of anxiety or fear. With experience and perspective, I hope to be more responsible with money management as I navigate work/life balance.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At 19 I started paying rent and for all lifestyle/living expenses. I never expected to return to my family home, but when I got furloughed from the airline in 2020, it made sense. I was living in New York at the time and couldn’t justify re-signing my lease with no job stability. Luckily, I got called back to work in 2021. While my living situation may be unconventional, it has made a pathway to a debt-free master’s degree possible! My parents are amazing and I think they would let me live with them forever if I wanted or needed to.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

9 a.m. — It’s been almost a month since my last flight attendant trip, and today is my first day back. I’ve been working out of town with my automotive job for the past two weeks and need to get errands in before heading to the airport. I have a quick slice of banana bread and a coffee at home.
10:30 a.m. — A morning of errands. I swing by the dry cleaner to drop off my automotive uniform ($15.19), but I will get reimbursed for it. I waste time in Target perusing things I want but really don’t need. I leave pleased with my level of self-control and come home with only the essential: store-brand q-tips. $3.19
12 p.m. — Back home. It’s gorgeous outside and I’ll be in an airport or on a plane for much of the day, so I go on a walk with my parents at our local park. My dad has recently had back surgery so we’re taking things easy — even a casual stroll does wonders. It’s a great time for us to have family catchup time, no devices, just each others’ company. After the walk I make a smoothie.
2 p.m. — Back at home I do a quick five-minute core workout on Peloton. It’s not a lot, but it’s the five minutes I have available before getting ready to leave for work. I shower, pack my bags for a three-day trip, and throw in a bagged salad for dinner. My parents and I head out to the airport — I am so grateful to have their help in shuttling me to and from work.
3 p.m. — While I live in Houston, I’m based in Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), so I have to catch a flight there to start my work trips. I fly domestically for free, but it’s not a confirmed seat, so it’s a cost of my time. I didn’t make the 4:15 p.m. flight. While waiting for the 6 p.m. flight, I eat my bagged salad. I decide it needs something extra so I buy nuggets from Chick-fil-A. $8.72
7 p.m. — I’ve made it to my base airport! My sign-in for my trip is at 8:08 p.m., the flight leaves at 9:08 p.m. I take an hour to stop by a Minute Suites ($0, included in my priority pass via my credit card benefits) to get some homework done.
8 p.m. — I sign in for my trip, but unfortunately we’re a little delayed. We get going and I land in Denver at 11 p.m. (midnight my time). The airline pays our hotel and transportation; I tip $1 to the van driver. We get to the hotel around midnight and I can’t get to sleep fast enough. $1
Daily Total: $12.91

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wish I could get more sleep, but I have so much homework to get through and want to get to the gym. The hotel we’re at has free breakfast. Nothing groundbreaking, but it’s free! I have scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee and fruit.
11 a.m. — We leave the hotel to get back to the airport (I give a $1 van tip to the driver again). I work one flight to Miami and eat a leftover passenger meal (veggie enchiladas) for lunch. Surely packed with preservatives, but it’s free and easy access. $1
6 p.m. — We’ve gone from Mountain to Eastern Time and have three hours to kill until our next flight. I find a quiet place to do some homework and pick up two empanadas before the next flight to San Antonio. $4.52
9:30 p.m. — We fly to San Antonio. We’re about 20 minutes delayed, again, and arrive at 11:45 p.m. We get to the hotel around 12:15 p.m.; I tip the van driver $1. It takes me a little while to wind down, I get my uniform ready for the next day and listen to a podcast. Go to bed by 1:15 a.m. $1
Daily Total: $6.52

Day Three

8 a.m. — No free breakfast at this hotel, but there is a local taco place just 10 minutes walk away. I wake up, go to the gym, and get coffee and breakfast tacos. $11.10
10 a.m. — Back at the hotel. I’ve noticed my nail polish has started chipping, which I hate. I take off the polish and do a clear coat. I shower and get ready to leave the hotel by 11:45 a.m. $1 van tip to the driver. $1
12 p.m. — Back at the airport. I’m working three flights today, but today is better than yesterday because we don’t have any “sit” time in between our flights. Because we’re only paid for flight time (no pay for boarding or deplaning, either), the less down time between flights, the better. I have no time to get food in the airport and am lucky there are extra passenger meals leftover for my lunch and dinner. Veggie greens and grains bowl and a pesto pasta salad.
7:15 p.m. — My second trip ends in Houston and the third trip of the day is a deadhead back to base (DFW). Deadheading is where crew fly as passengers for repositioning. Because it’s not a “working” trip, I can just stay in Houston and call it a day! My parents pick me up from the airport. They pass on my dollar tip ;) I decompress at home by playing with my cat, and cleaning after my dad cooks dinner. Cleaning is so therapeutic for me and so fun now that I have a new “toy” — the Tineco mop-vac combo. Bed by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $12.10

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up and stay in bed for at least 30 minutes playing with my cat. He was a foundling my brother adopted from a warehouse during the pandemic. I do a 30-minute Peloton yoga class at home and make a coffee. I potter around until it’s time to leave to see my brother for brunch.
10 a.m. — While my folks and I live in the Houston suburbs, my brother lives in the city proper. Ever since I moved home the family has maintained a weekly brunch date at a local cafe near my brother’s house. It’s my turn to pick up the bill (my brother and I rotate). Since we both work and our parents are retired on a fixed income, it’s the least we can do. $97
2 p.m. — Back at home and I try to do some homework, but I get distracted by the environment and decide to go to the library. What a glorious place, free and quiet.
6 p.m. — I’m home for dinner. As usual, my dad cooks and I clean. We have a routine of watching MSNBC and our PBS shows. Tonight it’s All Creatures Great and Small.
9 p.m. — I do laundry and charge the car. Since switching to an EV we changed our electric bill plan to have “free nights”. This means we pay more per kWh of electricity used during the day and aren’t changed for any electricity used between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. As a result, we only ever charge the car after 8 p.m. Showered and in bed by 10:30 p.m. (tomorrow I have to be up early for my internship).
Daily Total: $97

Day Five

7 a.m. — I wake up and make scrambled eggs and spinach for breakfast. I take a cold-brew coffee to go. Today is my in-office day for my internship. I’m lucky to have found a practicum placement that was open to hybrid-style work. While I could drive downtown, I prefer taking the park and ride and metro ($4.75). Battling traffic as a driver is so stressful; as a passenger I can relax and get some work done on the bus. Bonus: It’s the environmentally friendly option! $4.75
8:30 a.m. — I take my regular window seat on the bus, put my headphones in and listen to a podcast while paying bills (school tuition) and scrolling Instagram. Most of my friends are in other cities, staying in the loop on socials has been a great way to stay connected. $1,086.58
12:30 p.m. — My internship is at a non-profit that has recently restructured. Today is the first meeting of the new work group. We break at 12:30 p.m. for lunch and a group of us order UberEats. I offer to pay (so I’ll get the credit card points). We order bánh mì from a local Vietnamese spot; the total is $47.67. My colleagues venmo me for their share (my total is $15.89). $15.89
3:30 p.m. — I try and leave the office before rush hour hits. Back to the metro then the park and ride, $4.75. No work gets done on the ride back, I just listen to music and close my eyes. $4.75
5 p.m. — I’m back in the suburbs and need to swing by the grocery store on my way home. My dad needs some tomato paste, arugula, and Beyond Meat patties for dinner. I throw in a couple of bagged salads and Luna Bars for my next work trip. This is my attempt at some form of meal prep! $28.62
7 p.m. — Home and dad has dinner ready — cooking is his love language. We have our usual routine of MSNBC and PBS. Tonight, we watch Miss Scarlet and the Duke. I clean, do a 20-minute evening yoga session on Peloton, shower, and pack my bags for tomorrow. I’m in bed by 11 p.m., too late considering the time I need to be up at tomorrow...
Daily Total: $1,140.59

Day Six

4 a.m. — It’s never easy waking up this early. But it will be worth it to avoid rush hour. As a commuter, I need to give myself at least two flight opportunities, just in case the flight is full or canceled, I need to have a backup to get to work. I make a decaf coffee — the smell helps me wake up, but I plan on taking a nap on the plane and don’t want to be caffeinated just yet.
6:47 a.m. — I make the first flight, but in a jumpseat, not a regular passenger seat. I’m grateful to get on, but this means I’m not allowed to sleep or close my eyes. Oh well, I’ll just plan on getting a nap once I’m at the airport.
8 a.m. — I’ve made it to DFW but have a few hours until my first flight sign-in at 11 a.m. I decide to book a two-hour nap at the Minute Suites. My credit card gets me one hour for free, and I pay for the second hour — it’ll be worth it for the work day I have ahead. $49.50
10:30 a.m. — Refreshed from my nap I get my breakfast order in at McDonald’s minutes before the menu switches over to lunch. Can’t go wrong with a classic #1 Egg McMuffin Meal with a black coffee. $7.79
11 a.m. — I’m signed in for my trip but we are delayed because of a late inbound aircraft — not a great way to start the day. We only have one and a half hours of “sit time” between our two flights today, so if the delay drags on, it could impact our next flight and our layover time. By 2 p.m. we finally take off from DFW to Phoenix Sky Harbor. My passengers keep me busy and I don’t have time to eat anything — I drink water and a club soda with lemon from the plane.
6 p.m. — Because of our delay from DFW, we are late into PHX. I have no time for getting food between flights. Now we’re in the air from PHX to Miami. The dinner service is over, so now I can finally eat, too. There are no leftover passenger meals — thankfully I have that Luna bar and a bagged salad.
11:44 p.m. — We finally land in Miami, two hours late. I’m exhausted and really glad I made the choice to pay for an extra hour nap in the Minute Suites. The van driver takes us to the hotel; I tip $1. As tired as I am, it’s nearly impossible to go to bed right away. We have most of the day tomorrow in Miami so I spend some time figuring out what I want to do and where I’m going to get breakfast. At 1 a.m. I finally get into bed. $1
Daily Total: $58.29

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I want to make the most of the day so I wake up, do my usual workout at the hotel gym, and walk to a local coffee shop, where I have cold brew and an acai bowl. $17
11 a.m. — I catch up on phone calls with my brother and my best friend in New York. My brother reminds me that Dune: Part 2 is coming out soon, so I pre-order tickets so we can have the best center seats in a row towards the back. I’m happy to splurge for IMAX and treat the family — I often think about how I don’t pay rent so doing things like this are important to me. $93.10
12:30 p.m. — Walking around the city I pass a cat café and can’t help myself: I must go in! It’s only a $10 fee that goes towards supporting the shelter. They are all so sweet and I hope they get adopted ASAP. The cat with the longest residency has only been there four months, so they must get pretty great exposure. $10
1:30 p.m. — I need to get back to the hotel to shower and get some homework done. I snack on some popcorn and the Luna Bar I brought from home. Realizing that I’ll be working two flights tonight and not getting to my hotel in Cleveland until 1 a.m., I take a quick 30-minute nap before getting ready for work tonight.
5:30 p.m. — I order a salmon Caesar salad from the hotel restaurant for dinner to eat on the plane. With our crew discount it makes the price more agreeable. $18
6 p.m. — The van driver takes us to the airport; I tip $1. We’re back at the airport and through security by 7 p.m. Luckily everything is on time tonight. First flight is from Miami to Charlotte. After the dinner service I eat my hotel salad on the plane. We have one and a half hours of “sit time” in Charlotte before flying to Cleveland. $1
12:30 a.m. — We’ve landed in Cleveland! We deplane, the van driver takes us to the hotel, I tip $1 and am in bed by 1:50 a.m. $1
Daily Total: $140.10

The Breakdown

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