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A Week In Boston, MA, On A $253,000 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.

Today: an assistant vice president working in insurance who makes $253,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Meyer's Hand Soap.
Occupation: Assistant Vice President
Industry: Insurance
Age: 37
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $253,000
Net Worth: ~$580,000 ($300,000+ equity for my primary home, $75,000 for my share of equity in an investment property I own with an ex, $133,000 in retirement accounts, $15,000 equity in my car, and $55,000 in checking/savings. I got divorced several years ago and my net worth took a hit of about $270,000 for the divorce buy-out, but totally worth it for my freedom.)
Debt: $596,000 mortgage for primary home, $98,500 (my half) mortgage on investment property, and my car loan of $71,000 (all accounted for in above equity).
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $5,395 (plus an annual bonus of $24,800)
Airbnb Income (1x/month): ~$2,100
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage: $3,540
Car Payment: $1,376
Gas & Electric: $200-$300
Cable/Internet/Netflix: $185
Trash/Sewer: $133
Car Insurance: $194
Cell: $225 (my phone plan also includes my eldest daughter, my sister, and my dad)
Gym Membership: $220
Spotify: $10
Amazon & Disney+: Use my brother's account
Kids' Extracurriculars: $200 for my share of the three kids
Kids' Virtual Tutoring: $800, but this is completely subsidized by work; my benefits are amazing
Retirement: $2,350 (my contribution + generous employer contribution, already factored in net pay)
Annual Expenses:
HSA: $200 (to take advantage of employer contribution of $1,000, taken out of my paycheck)
Excise Car Tax: ~$850
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. I am a first-generation immigrant and grew up with my family relying on a lot of government assistance for subsidized housing and food. We mostly got our clothes second-hand from Goodwill in my early childhood years. My parents always engrained in us that the only way to a better life is to get a college education to get a “good job.” I got financial aid to finance my Bachelor's degree in addition to working and taking out student loans of about $25,000, which I paid off a long time ago. I never went to graduate school as I wasn't very studious and valued work experience more than schooling.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
There was absolutely no financial literacy taught to us growing up other than be wise with your money and don't spend unless it's a necessity.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job at a local grocery store when I was 14 years old. I still remember having to go get a work permit from the school counselor in order to get a job due to my age.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I don't think I really worried about money even with our underprivileged upbringing. There was always food on the table and a roof over our heads. In my teenage years, I knew there were always opportunities for me to make money to provide for anything I wanted and needed for myself and often my younger siblings, too. I have had a job of some kind since the age of 14.
Do you worry about money now?
I didn't really worry about money until the divorce proceedings and seeing how far back it was going to put my retirement goals. There was a lot of anger, but I learned to let it go. I know I am incredibly blessed to be where I am in my career and to be able to be a single mom who isn't struggling to take care of my three kids. I have them 80% of the time and they are happy, healthy, and thriving.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I don't think I have asked my parents for money since the age of 16. I have no financial safety net. Any of my siblings would obviously help me if I were in dire straits, but I'd never do that to them. There is no one I can (would?) rely on financially and having that mentality quite frankly has gotten me to where I am today, so it's not all bad.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I make passive income from the Airbnb I co-own with another ex. It turned out to be a great investment as we got it for a good price, at an incredibly low interest rate, and turned the back detached cabin into a guest house, making this investment a dual-income property. I don't receive any child support from my ex-husband. Yes, even for three kids. Yes, even though I have them 80% of the time. I far out-earn him, but he does work.

Day One

8 a.m. — It is my weekend without the kids. Scroll on social media for a bit before heading to the shower. I take my FLO vitamins and do my usual makeup of Clinique foundation, Nars bronzer, and some Revlon lip stain. I promised a couple of friends I would come over at noon to be one of their taste testers for a protein powder they make. I prepare a sushi bake that I've been wanting to try from TikTok to bring over.
12 p.m. — My friends push it back to 3 p.m. instead. What to do for the next three hours? I decide that now would be the perfect time to start prepping my bi-annual purge of the house. The kids have all pretty much grown out of their toys so there is so much that I need to get rid of. The junk company that I am hiring will be donating whatever they can. I also clean out my laundry room which is a complete disaster. Lunch is a Korean raw marinated crab that I made yesterday (recipe also from TikTok) with fish cake and rice in a seaweed wrapper. So good but definitely not for the faint of heart!
3 p.m. — Head over to my friend's house for the protein powder taste-testing session but stop by for some gas. A full tank was $100 even. That is a painful amount for a tank of gas but it will last for close to two weeks. The sushi bake is a hit. We sit around and chat for a couple of hours after the tasting. $100
8 p.m. — Four of us decide to head to the city for sushi. We order all my favorites: uni fried rice, tako and tomato salad, tofu agedashi appetizer, miso soup, and an omakase set that has a variety of sashimi and nigiri, but I end up feeling so nauseous and queasy I can barely eat anything. The bill comes to $260 including tip. I try picking up the bill since the guys tend to pay for me at other outings. I fail because they end up Venmoing me anyways. $110 for my portion. $110
Daily Total: $210

Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up and pop two Advils. I conclude that it must have been the wine I had at my friend's yesterday. I work a bit by answering some Airbnb inquiries from a potential guest. I pay a $450 Airbnb cleaning bill, which comes out of our business account.
11 a.m. — My parents call to see if my dad can drop off some food. I already have too much food in the fridge, but I know my mom's love language is feeding people. My lunch is basically nibbling on a little bit of everything with a can of Polar seltzer. I make a quick stop to the bank afterwards to deposit an Airbnb distribution I took out a couple of days ago. I shouldn't have been carrying that much cash in my purse.
1 p.m. — I am officiating my brother's wedding in a couple of weeks and my mission has been to find something suitable to wear as officiant attire. I head to the mall but make a pit stop to get a car wash. $12
2 p.m. — I find a nice tailored matching skirt and sweater set (totally giving Meghan Markle vibes) and also end up buying some work pants and a pair of heels as well. All the items are on sale, woot woot! I try going to Nordstrom afterwards to find some winter boots and a coat. I don't find anything I like so I leave. $220
2 p.m. — I stop by Target on my way out and buy a new broom/dustpan combo, Meyer's hand soap, and a new area rug for my front door. $64
6 p.m. — Finally drag my butt to the gym. I do 20 minutes on the Stairmaster followed by an upper body triceps and biceps routine for a total of 90 minutes. I have some days where I am motivated, but I hate every single minute today. Spotify helps.
8 p.m. — Dinner consists of some of the food my parents gave me earlier: Vietnamese chicken salad, lemongrass pork skewers, and sweet coconut sticky rice, along with a milk tea protein shake. I have watermelon for dessert.
Daily Total: $296

Day Three

7 a.m. — This Monday isn't so bad because I took a floating holiday so I'm off from work. My kids typically come home from their dad's weekend on Sunday night but since today is a holiday, they'll be coming home tonight instead. I have my morning vitamins with a slice of Pepperidge Farm French toast bread and my cold brew.
10 a.m. — I do a bunch of things to catch up around the house. I pay my utilities then finally put away the clean laundry as well as clearing out the dishwasher and scrubbing the upstairs bathroom.
12 p.m. — I decide that I am going to make bún riêu for dinner, which is a traditional Vietnamese crab noodle soup. There is a firetruck outside the market and all the customers are impatiently waiting outside as I pull up. I take this opportunity to pop inside the Vietnamese restaurant in the same plaza. I know exactly what I'm going to order: a build-your-own grilled beef spring roll set loaded with vermicelli, pickled carrots and radish, and herbs with a side of peanut sauce. My meal plus tip comes to $23. I head over to grocery store and get all the ingredients I need for the noodle soup ($63). While on my grocery run, I get into a tiff with my ex-husband because he missed yet another tutoring session for my daughter, B. I know that the fees are technically subsidized ($80 for this session), but I hate losing out on the sessions especially when I think my kids can really benefit from them. $86
4 p.m. — Everything is prepared for dinner — broth is simmering, noodles are cooked. I head to the gym to get a session in before the kids get home. I do 20 minutes on the Stairmaster followed by a lower body routine of glutes and quads. I listen to The Personal Finance and Real Estate Rookie podcasts. I love listening to different opinions on whether or not now is a good time to buy real estate. What a whirlwind the pandemic has put the housing market in.
6 p.m. — I finish prepping dinner and eat a bowl bigger than my head.
7 p.m. — All the kids are home. My middle daughter, Y., lost her tooth over the weekend and she made sure to bring it for the “tooth fairy at mom's,” haha. They all eat a bowl of noodle soup while we FaceTime Grandma. I make the mistake of taking the phone down to the basement and showing my mom everything I am getting rid of in my purge. The immigrant hoarder in her is already asking me to pull some items aside to save for her. I wrap up the call and dessert is a nice cold Italian ice for B. and my son, K., and watermelon slices for Y. The girls are folding their portion of the laundry for some Robux (currency for their virtual Roblox games) before bed while I clean up the kitchen. The Robux was $5 for each girl. $10
9:30 p.m. — All the kids are finally off to bed — later than usual for a school night because B. has to do a bunch of homework as nothing was done at her dad's this weekend. I make myself a cup of Sleepytime tea with some organic honey while I watch House of the Dragon before bed.
Daily Total: $96

Day Four

6 a.m. — I wake up a little earlier today so I can have extra time for the morning routine with the kids before school. I know it's going to be a bit more of a struggle for them after a long weekend. Y. comes down with some good morning hugs for mom. She mentions that the Robux tooth fairy didn't come. Shoot! I really need to just set my alarm next time. I promised her that the Robux tooth fairy will be here before she gets home from school with a wink. She knows mom is the tooth fairy, but likes to play along. I get all the kids fed and off to school. I come back and use one of my bank checks to write Y. a pretend $5 Robux check, signed “tooth fairy” to put under her pillow. $5
9 a.m. — I set up a few calls and meetings at work while I drink my usual cold brew and Pepperidge Farms French toast bread. I work from home four days a week and go into the office once a week. The COO is coming into the office next week so I set up a meeting for a one-on-one with him. I just started this new job six weeks ago and he was one of the people who interviewed me.
12 p.m. — I have a nostalgic craving for canned sardines in tomato sauce. It was a staple growing up because it could feed a lot of us for very little. I throw some garlic and onions on the pan with diced tomatoes, combined with one large can of sardines and a dash of soy sauce. Garnish with cilantro and fresh Thai chili peppers. It hits the spot.
3:30 p.m. — Pick up all the kids from school and they eat a quick snack before I drop them off at my parents' house. I wrap up the work day with some calls with my boss and colleagues on a few pending deals then spend the next couple of hours working on the officiant script for the wedding. I would like to have the final draft sent to my brother for his review and sign-off within the next couple of days.
5 p.m. — My Airbnb cleaner texts saying the main house needs a new front door mat. I text my ex asking him to order it on his Amazon. It will come out of the business checking account that always carries enough for mortgage, utilities, cleanings, and cushion for miscellaneous.
7:30 p.m. — Pick the kids up from my parents and back home for B.'s virtual tutoring session at 8. I get an email from K.'s kindergarten teacher that tomorrow is teddy bear day so we go pick out one to put in his backpack because I will forget by the morning.
Daily Total: $5

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Same school day morning routine with the kids. Today is supposed to be my office day. However, I got a notification from my BMW app that my tire pressure is low and to take it in for service immediately. Is low tire pressure a huge deal on these newer cars? The message makes it seem like I will be in imminent danger, so I decide to work from home to avoid driving into the city… just in case. This saves me what would have been a $32 in parking fee.
12 p.m. — I have the leftover tomato sardines with a bowl of white rice for a working lunch.
1 p.m. — An Airbnb guest just cancelled a one-day reservation on us for the guest house. We have a five-day cancellation window to get back a full refund. This guest was supposed to check in this past Monday and the morning of check-in, he sent a request to change his reservation to the following week, citing something came up and he can't make it that day any longer. My ex had approved the change without thinking and when I saw the modification approval, I just KNEW the guest was doing it to make his reservation refundable. What do you know — I get the notification that he did cancel the modified reservation and indeed got his refund. Beware of this cancellation loophole for those of you who are Airbnb hosts! I told my ex at least this is a lesson learned cheaply. I think it hurt his ego though since I brought this up immediately when he approved the modification and he was convinced I was wrong. This would have been $237 in rental income for the detached guest house on the property.
3 p.m. — Taking a break from my desk to do a quick gym sesh. 20 minutes on Stairmaster with a quick set of shoulders for an hour total. On my way to the gym, I stop by the gas station to put air in my tire. It costs me four quarters for the air machine. $1
5:30 p.m. — My ex-husband has the kids two nights a week for a few hours of visitation. He is bringing them to jiujitsu today. I meet up with some friends. We go to a Cajun seafood boil place and order shrimp, clams, and crabs. I finish off with some funnel fries topped with vanilla ice cream. A friend owns the restaurant and comps the entire bill. It's such a nice gesture but I Venmo him $100 for my portion because I don't want to make it this whole awkward thing when I want to dine there in the future. I also Venmo my friend $20 as she put down $40 tip for the wait staff. $120
7:30 p.m. — The kids are back home with me. Shower off all the germs from rolling around the mats at jiujitsu class and unwind with some popsicles. My brother FaceTimes with last-minute wedding fires he wants my input on. I respond to a question from the tenants in the main house about where they can find a vacuum. They're a lovely retired couple staying almost the entire month, which generated over $5,000 in income after Airbnb fees and the monthly stay discount.
9:30 p.m. — Kids are off to bed and I tidy up downstairs. I light some candles. I LOVE Yankee Candles. Can't wait to bust out the Christmas ones once I have the tree and decorations up.
Daily Total: $121

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Up with my usual routine. Y. and K. want leftover spaghetti for breakfast, odd choice but doesn't really matter to me as long as they eat something nutritious. B. tells me her phone screen is cracked and glitchy now. I will have to order her a replacement on Amazon. I look and it's about $40 but I don't hit order yet. While taking the kids to school, I notice that the low tire pressure warnings are still on. I make an appointment to bring the car into BMW service center.
9:15 a.m. — I grab coffee, a bag of veggie straws, and a chocolate and peanut butter granola bar as my breakfast while I wait at the service center. I bring my laptop to plug in there in case it takes a while.
10:30 a.m. — They tell me there is a huge nail in one of my tires! Good thing I got the tire and wheel package when I bought the car. It's supposed to cost around $450 for the tire replacement but I will only be responsible for a $50 deductible. They wash my car for me as well which is nice. $50
1 p.m. — My dad brings some food that my mom made over for me. I have spring rolls, grilled pork patties, and salt and pepper shrimp as my lunch.
3:30 p.m. — Thursdays are supposed to be my ex-husband's visitation with the kids for four hours but since the girls started ice-skating lessons, I take them to those lessons while he takes K. to speech therapy. I get the girls some vending machine snacks after their lessons. $3
5:30 p.m. — The girls weigh out their options for dinner. The decide on Popeye's. We get a 12-piece chicken meal and I have just a few bites since I'm not a huge fan of fried greasy food. $32
6:30 p.m. — We have some time left to kill so I head over to a shopping plaza and mosey around a few stores. I end up buying a fuzzy faux sheepskin coat and t-shirt for B. and a denim jacket for Y. at Gap. They're both at the age now where they're trying to figure out their fashion sense, so they pick out these items themselves. $164
9:30 p.m. — Kids are off to bed, meaning I can start making a to-do list for the weekend. One of which is returning a dress that came in the mail today that I wanted to wear to the wedding reception. I ordered it over a month ago and it finally came in the mail. I'm so disappointed because it was super ill-fitting. I hate buying stuff online for this reason because it rarely works out. They do not pay for return label, super annoying. The refund will be $108 and I paid $115 originally.
Daily Total: $249

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — Easy morning with the kids today, I think they are now adjusted to it still being pretty dark out when it's time to wake up. Typical morning routine with the kids and get them off to school. I have my usual cold brew and the kids changed it up with oatmeal.
12 p.m. — It is a really productive day today with several work calls. I graze on some odd end things in the fridge, a bag of Goldfish, and a seltzer water.
1 p.m. — Need to run some errands. I print out some health insurance forms at Staples that I need to sign and return ($1). Then I swing by the post office to drop off the dress that I'm returning and pick up a book of stamps for $12 while I'm there. $13
3:30 p.m. — The kids come home and I have one more work call before we head out to their jiujitsu class. K. is in the little kids' class and mostly just learning the fundamentals. The girls are in the big kids' class and I truly love seeing them improve on their technique week over week. They are supposed to go three times a week and I would like them well-trained by the time they go to college for self-defense reasons. I forget their water bottle so have to buy one at class. $1
6 p.m. — We have to make two stops after class to pick up dinner. Banh mi sandwiches for mom and B., a seafood noodle soup for K., and salt and pepper calamari with rice for Y. $49
7 p.m. — B. has her math tutoring session.
8:30 p.m. — On Friday and Saturday nights, our tradition is to bring down a gazillion pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals to the living room where we watch family movies and have a slumber party on our giant couch. It's one of our absolute favorite things to do together on the weekends.
Daily Total: $63
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