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A Week In Boston, MA On A $59,200 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 health promotion coordinator who makes $59,200 per year and spends some of her money this week on paying off the final balance of her student loans.
Occupation: Health promotion coordinator
Industry: Higher education
Age: 23
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $59,200
Assets: $500 in my checking; $500 in my regular savings; $3,850 in my HYSA; and about $750 in my retirement fund, which I started in September 2023. I have a boyfriend, Z., but we don’t share finances — we split most costs down the middle.
Debt: $2,800 in student loans. I took a loan for $22,000 out for the last year of grad school, once I’d used up my personal savings.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,877
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $200. I am extremely lucky: I am house/pet sitting for my boyfriend’s family for this year. We both pay $200 a month for utilities and such (i.e. $400 total). His family are helping me with this so I can pay off my loan as quickly as possible, but we want to move out as soon as we can.
Monthly Loan Payments: $750-$1,500. My student loan payment is technically only $200, but I’m saving on rent so it goes to my loan.
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Groceries: $250 a month. Z. and I both put our own amounts into our shared grocery budget.
Savings: $500. I went completely broke finishing grad school, so I am trying to boost my savings and am currently saving up for a used car.
Gym Membership: $25. I got the Planet Fitness Black Card so Z. and I can both go to the gym.
Phone: $0 (paid in my family plan).
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?
Yes and no. My family wanted me to do some form of higher education, but they left it up to me. My oldest sister did community college, and my middle sister got an MBA, so I could choose my own path. I chose to attend a state school for undergrad, took an accelerated course so I could finish in three years, and then attended grad school to get my MPH (Master of Public Health). I paid for about half to three-quarters of my higher education experience. My parents provided the same amount to each of us daughters for up to four years in undergrad, and two years in grad.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents grew up having less money than they do now (son of a truck driver and daughter of a cop in a five-kid family), so we had few conversations about money. They always told us that we were lucky that we grew up pretty well off. However, they never really talked to us about saving and investing and the like. Money was very much a thing you use in the present, as opposed to something you use for the future.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job at a toy store when I was 16. I wanted spending money and money for gas for the family car that I was able to use. I ended up saving a lot of it for college and worked 15-25 hours a week until I left for college. It also allowed me to come back and work during winter and summer breaks for the first year of college when I didn’t have a job.
Did you worry about money growing up?
My dad got laid off in the 2008 recession, so I do remember worrying about money then, but not really. We had a Wii but didn’t buy new clothes or go out to eat a lot. I didn’t really understand how much or little money my family had until I went to college. I chose to go to a state school over a school in NY because I didn’t want to go into debt so early in life, and my family couldn’t help me afford it.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I graduated with $22,000 in debt, which I understand isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things. I’ve worked since I was 16, but with school, I haven’t been able to accumulate savings. I worry about affording rent in a high-cost-of-living city, about being able to afford a home in the coming years, and about having money to do the things I want.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I’d say I became financially responsible for myself in stages. When I moved out of the dorms when I was 19, I paid for rent and all my living expenses while my parents paid a portion of my tuition. It’s been that way ever since. However, if I’m ever really in need, I know my family will be there for me. I’m now almost completely financially responsible for myself, aside from my dad’s health care plan, and mom’s phone bill. Also, Z.’s family has been lovely and let us stay in their house, so they are definitely unofficially my financial safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Somewhat. My grandparents gave each of my siblings $750 a year for college. I received that five times over five years, so about $3,750 in total. Sometimes if my dad gets a bonus at his job he will split it between me and my sisters, which has historically been about $500.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — I wake up after the alarms have been yelling at us to get up for at least 15 minutes. My boyfriend Z. and I cuddle for a few more minutes before we get up for the day. I start getting ready by brushing my teeth, washing my face, and using my The Ordinary products. I don’t really get into skincare, but I found what works for me. After getting dressed in the outfit I picked last night, I head downstairs to say good morning to the dog, make tea for work, and eat some toast. Z. and I are out the door by 7:30 a.m.
8 a.m. — Z. drops me off at the train station, and the train takes off the minute I get there. So I wait, in the rain and cold. Oh well. Eventually, I get on the next train and am waved on. I have a monthly pass from work, but didn’t have to use it. I get to work, and sit down for a monthly all-staff meeting via Zoom. During these meetings, they have food sent to the office. I’m always excited for free food, but I’m a little disappointed by the lack of options. Still, I grab some coffee, orange juice, and a bagel. $2.40 (Expensed)
1 p.m. — After working on various projects for a few hours, I take a trip to a classroom on campus with a coworker. We’ll be hosting an event there later this term, so we need to scope out the place. We measure, and muse about what might fit and different lighting options, before she has another meeting and I walk back to the office. I finally eat lunch, which is a salad of just romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes and Olive Garden Italian dressing. It’s the simple things in life.
4:30 p.m. — Time to leave work! I’m seeing my old roommate, A., tonight to have our weekly The Bachelor watch party of two. I stop at the grocery store to pick up some fun drinks, and grab two cans of poppi for $4. I typically pack leftovers to eat for these nights, but it’s been a hectic week. I Uber Eats a pesto caprese sandwich from a place near her house and get on the train. It comes out to $14 with a coupon, but I tip $5. On the way there, Z. texts me with the latest update on some drama, which I can share with A. We catch up, do some investigative work with our latest intel on the drama, and thoroughly enjoy the episode. We update our The Bachelor Fantasy League brackets after the episode, and I head to the train. $24
9 p.m. — Z. picks me up from the train station, and gives me the full debrief on the way home. We take the dog out, shower, play the NYT games of the day (Connections, Wordle, Spelling Bee, and the Mini) and then head to bed.
Daily Total: $24

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I wake up before Z. and lounge in bed for a bit. Since it’s Friday, I can sleep in a bit as I’m WFH and don’t start until 9 a.m. Eventually, we get up. I do my same morning routine except this time I made a yogurt and granola fruit bowl for breakfast and eat it as I start work.
10 a.m. — I see that my tax return hit my bank account! This is my first year of working full time and being out of school, so I got $1,900 back. I’m using this money to help pay off my student loans. Once I got my full time job in August, I made it my goal to pay off my loans as fast as I can. I left school with $22,000 in loans, due to my parents paying for half of my undergrad and grad school, using savings from working in high school and school, and scholarships. Right now, my loan is at $2,800 and I set up the deposit for my tax returns to go straight to the loan, which brings it down to $900. I’m so happy I could cry. Once I get my next paycheck, I’ll have completely paid off my loans.
1:30 p.m. — Time for lunch. After Z. finishes his calls for the day, we go downstairs to start on lunch. I’m not super hungry, so I just snack on cheese and crackers before going back to work.
4 p.m. — I enter my last hour of work, which is a team meeting for a group of undergrads who I supervise. It’s Friday before Spring Break so I understand that they really don’t want to be here. I try my best to make it a fun meeting, and allow them to work on fun projects. During the meeting, I get a message that I sent out some event invites too early, and there were some edits they wanted to make on them. This stresses me out so much, but in the end, it was only wording changes not content changes so it was not the end of the world.
5 p.m. — Z. and I finish work and then head to the gym. I don’t go hard at the gym, I just try to show up. I do a mile on the treadmill, and then four miles on the bike, and call it good! We go home, shower, then stop by Trader Joe’s for some dinner. On Fridays, we try to make a fun meal by getting frozen meals and then watching a show. I get some mac ‘n’ cheese, broccoli, and spinach, and Z. gets some orange chicken and broccoli. I pay for the food as my treat, and with some other purchases like hash browns and cookies, it comes out to $29. We cook, watch our show, and then do our nighttime routine: take the dog out, scroll on phones, NYT games, chat, and then bed! $29
Daily Total: $29

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up slowly. Z. and I get out of bed to go take the dog out. We decide to make some food, which is egg in bread and one of the Trader Joe’s hash browns each. Z. also makes us some lattes on our espresso machine which we bought as an anniversary present to each other. I go shower to wash my hair before I hang out with a friend.
1 p.m. — My friend A. picks me up and we drive to the mall. We love a mall walk. We window shop and just chat about all the things going on. I buy us some Auntie Anne’s pretzel bites, plus a lemonade for me and a Dr. Pepper for A. $14
3 p.m. — The only thing we buy is stuff at Lush. I buy a small bath bomb ($7), and A. gets one as well for herself. A. drops me off after a few hours and I catch up with Z. $7
6 p.m. — Z. and I heat up leftovers from last night and sit down to watch our show. It’s a great way to wind down. It’s a quiet night after that. Take the dog out, NYT games, and then off to bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $21

Day Four

9 a.m. — Another day of waking up slowly. I love the weekends. Z. and I eventually get up and make breakfast again, which is just eggs and toast and a latte from Z. After breakfast, it’s time for the weekly grocery shop!
12 p.m. — Before we get to the grocery store, we stop at the Target next door. I need more shampoo and conditioner, but end up buying a hair mask as well. I’m really trying to find the products and routine that make my hair curly and wavy versus the frizzy poofy mess it is sometimes. Z. and I also buy some Easter M&Ms because it’s fun. I pay for this Target run. $53
1 p.m. — On to the grocery store! We get sandwiches from the sub counter for lunch, fruits for breakfast, eggs, veggies, and then ingredients for the banana bread and pizzas that I’m going to make later today. The total comes out to $96, which Z. and I split down the middle. $43
2 p.m. — Get home and unload groceries. I start on the homemade pizza dough to let that rise. Once that’s done, I start making the banana bread. I’m making a normal one for Z., myself, and his family who are visiting this week, and I’m making a special one for Z.’s sister, who has some dietary restrictions. I go to find my recipe in the kitchen junk drawer notebook and find it’s been ripped out! Probably by Z.’s mom the last time she visited, on accident. I’m immediately bummed, even though it was just from the internet. I’ve been saving the recipes we’ve been making this year in this little book, but I guess someone must have used those pages. I tell Z. this and he immediately gets on Amazon to order me a new nicer book that no one will think to rip out or throw away. This feels very sweet to me. I finish baking the breads and finish the pizza dough, leaving it to rise.
5 p.m. — Z. and I decide to relax by taking a bath. It’s lovely, intimate, and relaxing. Z.’s been stressed about his job, and I’ve been stressed, so taking this time to relax is just so amazing. By the time we finish, it’s 9 p.m. and the dough has been rising for hours! It’s all right, so Z. and I prep the pizzas, which are pesto and mozzarella pizzas with chicken on Z.’s and veggies on mine. They are delicious and we are exhausted by the time they are done. We do our routine and fall asleep by 12 a.m.
Daily Total: $96

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — It’s another WFH day for me, so I wake up at 7:30 a.m. and get ready for the day, logging on around 8 a.m. It’s not a crazy day since the students are all gone for Spring Break. I make my yogurt, fruit, and granola breakfast and drink some tea. I work on a few projects until it’s time for lunch.
12 p.m. — I eat a slice of pizza for lunch, and it’s delicious. Well worth the late night. Z. comes down and joins me for lunch before I have to hop on a meeting. The event planning meeting went well, and I’m really excited. I have a few more tasks to do before wrapping the day up.
4 p.m. — Logging off! Time for Z. and I to go to the gym. We get changed and head to the car. Similar to Friday, we get to the gym, work out for about 40 minutes, and then head home.
6 p.m. — We shower and then heat up dinner, which is pizza! We each made a pizza which turned into six large slices so that’s six meals. We watch our TV show, chat for a bit, and then get ready for bed. Same routine as always, and to bed around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I wake up, and after some effort, I get up and get ready for the day. I do my morning routine, eat some food, take the dog out, and then get the car ready. Once a week, we drop the dog off at Z.’s grandmother’s nursing home. Z.’s grandmother got this dog about 10 years ago, when she was 85. Now she is 95 and can’t take care of the dog, so we do it. But today, Z. and I both work in the office and need someone to watch her. Off we go! We drive to the nursing home, then the train station to park and get on the train. Z. pays for parking this time, and we got on the train for free.
9 a.m. — I get to work just in time for a meeting, which half of the attendees don’t show up for. I’m leading a committee with department heads so it’s a little nerve-racking, but nothing too impossible. After this meeting, I head to our team meeting where we spend time organizing the office and grabbing things from storage.
12 p.m. — My boss very kindly offered to take us out for lunch since it’s Spring Break this week. We go to a Japanese place nearby and I get a rice dish. My family had a very bland diet growing up, which means we didn’t try new foods often and only ate somewhat familiar foods. So my goal this year has been to try as many new foods as I can and learn how to use chopsticks. I work on both of these goals at lunch. Then back to work! Since it’s Spring Break, I watch a webinar for the last bit of the day before prepping for our event later this month. $16 (Expensed)
4:30 p.m. — I’m meeting up with A. again for our next Bachelor watch party. I stop by the store and grab a ginger ale and a poppi ($4). I brought pizza from home to eat. Once I get there, A. and I chitchat and bring each other up to speed on what’s happened in the last three days. We watch the episode, do our Fantasy League ratings, and then I head to the train, using my monthly pass. Z. picks me up from the train and I tell him all the juicy details from the episode. It’s the same night routine as every other night, and we’re to bed by 11 p.m. $4
Daily Total: $4

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — Wake up, cuddle with Z., then get ready for the day. Out the door by 7:20 a.m. We catch the train, I pay for parking and use my monthly pass. $9
9 a.m. — I get to work and start prepping for a meeting I have with my supervisor. I get my assignments for the week and continue to prep for this event. Later, I have a call with a company in the city who we order supplies from. Turns out that the representative is an alumnus of my grad school, and we get along very well. She agrees to donate a bunch of supplies for this event. (I later added up the cost, and it was at least $300). I feel amazing that I scored this donation.
1 p.m. — Lunch! Salad with cucumber and Olive Garden dressing. I also have a Milano cookie for dessert. Afterwards I get started on a few office tasks that our student employees usually do but they are out for the week. The day goes by quickly after that.
4:30 p.m. — Time to leave! I meet Z. on the train, and we head home. Once I’m home, I see that my paycheck was just deposited into my account, and I take $900 and send it directly to my loans. It’s official and somewhat anti-climatic, but I’m debt-free. Z. congratulates me and we plan a time to go out for a special celebration dinner. I start to think about how I can now start to save up as much money as possible before we move. $900
6 p.m. — We heat up our pizza and sit down to watch our show. Z.’s family is coming into town tomorrow, so we need to clean the house as well since they’ll be staying here. Finish up cleaning, take the dog out, and get ready for bed. Same routine of showering, picking out clothes for tomorrow, and NYT games.
Daily Total: $909

The Breakdown

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