Money diaries logo

A Week In Boston, MA, On A $130,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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 investor relations associate who makes $130,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a green smoothie.
Occupation: Investor Relations Associate
Industry: Biotech/Medtech
Age: 26
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $130,000
Net Worth: $188,000 (condo: $545,000 (just purchased!), HYSA: $25,000, 401(k): $50,000, Roth IRA: $12,000, Money market: $3,000) minus debt
Debt: $6,000 in student loan debt from my master's degree, $441,000 left of my mortgage
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,558
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $3,500 (Inclusive of HOA/utilities and property tax for a one-bed/one-bath. Given the rent increases plaguing Boston and rent being increased by 60%, it made the most sense for me to start looking for a place to buy as opposed to renting.)
Student Loans: Once the student loan freeze lifts, I plan to pay off my remaining $6,000 at once if I don't qualify for forgiveness.
Internet: $50
Dental Insurance: $2
Health Insurance: $0 (covered by work)
Home Insurance: $25
Phone: $75
Netflix: $15
Spotify: $9.99
Gym: Covered by my employer
Roth IRA: $300
High Yield Savings: $2,000
Money Market: $100
401(k): I currently do not qualify since I recently switched jobs and have to wait the 90-day probation period.
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 East/Southeast Asian household where my parents (and extended family) were fairly strict with education and accomplishments. As the oldest child, I was expected to set the standard for my sister and younger cousins. My parents never got the chance to attend college or graduate school since they set aside education to work and provide for their families after coming to the US as war refugees. I'd say my mom and dad lived vicariously through me, education-wise, and essentially did everything they could to ensure I got into the best schools in my home state. Though my parents did not attend college, they still have great jobs, which is how my sister and I were able to get our bachelor's degrees paid off. To my knowledge, my dad did not take out any loans to finance our education and sold some stocks to pay. My master's degree was all my responsibility and came out to $40,000 which I paid for with loans. Because I was able to work while getting my degree, it was manageable for me to pay off. I also was fortunate enough to live at home for the first year of my master's degree which helped out tremendously.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were unbelievably poor when they came to the US — it was a shock to them since they were living comfortably in their home country before the war and soaked up stories of the American Dream. As soon as I was able to understand the concept of money, my parents drilled into me to save, save, save, since they didn't have that luxury when they were younger. Around Lunar New Years, birthdays, and Christmases, we would get money from our relatives (in our culture it is 100% normal to give cash instead of material goods) and my parents would take a large chunk of that to save or invest for us. Once I started working and making a steady income, my dad helped me open up a savings account and investment account so I could graduate from a piggy bank. It's a little funny; I'm an ex-Wall Street banker and I still to this day ask my dad what stocks I should get and what I should do with my money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My hometown is in the Midwest and very suburban, so you absolutely need a car to get anywhere. Throughout high school, it was a major pain not to have a car and having to rely on my parents or friends to get me places, so my dad struck a deal with me. He would buy me a car, but I would be fully responsible for it (gas, maintenance, repairs, insurance). I got my first job at a coffee shop to pay for those expenses. Though I was only there for a year before heading off to college, making my own money and deciding where to put it was a huge stepping stone in how I view money today. It definitely taught me the value of tipping as well.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I'm still a little young to understand the full repercussions of the 2008 recession, but I remembered the month before my family took a trip back to our home country, my dad lost his job. We were fortunate that my parents had paid the house off in full when they bought it, so we didn't have a mortgage hanging over our heads. My mom also lost a lot of income due to the recession. That year or so where we were living off unemployment and putting off healthcare was probably the only time I was worried about money.
Do you worry about money now?
I try not to let it dictate my life, but living in Boston where inflation far outweighs salary can be tough (though I know I am very fortunate in comparison to others in the city). My anxiety with money was one of the driving factors that pushed me from research to banking. I had goals of paying off my loans, buying a condo, and treating myself to vacations (or just flights back to my parents). I was extremely lucky to get my foot into an investment bank without any prior experience and having that major salary bump opened a lot of doors.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out of my parents at 22, with $10,000 in my bank account, thinking that was far more than I needed to survive in the city (I look back and laugh now — I did not know about the rental process in Boston). Once I left, my parents stopped supporting me financially but did let me know if I ever fell behind on bills or loan payments they would help me out. I've only taken them up on that offer once when my dad loaned me $4,000 to pay off student loans (still have to pay him back…). Currently, I try to keep $20,000 in liquid cash, either in savings or money market, just in case. If it ever comes to the point where I lose my source of income, my parents are more than happy to take me back home and I would rent out my condo to help pay off the mortgage. I hope to never reach that point, but you never know.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

10 a.m. — My alarm goes off at 8:30 and I make the conscious decision to skip my workout and put my phone on snooze. I'm two months into my new job and it's a blessing that I get to sleep in. I made a lot of money in investment banking, but taking a little pay cut to sleep in? Investor relations definitely wins here. My alarm goes off again at 9 and I finally get up and scroll through Instagram. I set a reminder for 10 a.m. to get free museum tickets. On Thursdays, a local contemporary art museum gives out a limited number of free tickets and I'm already ready to snag two once my reminder goes off. There are two installations that I'm super excited to take my boyfriend, G., to. Because we both just bought separate condos, we are trying to spend as little as possible until the summer is over.
10:15 a.m. — One day into our plan and I'm already breaking our spending rule. Though I work West Coast hours now (first meeting at 10:30? Amazing!), I can't start my day without an iced latte. Unfortunately, I used up my almond milk last night, so I have to leave the confines of my condo to pick up a coffee. I put on my Essentials hoodie and prep myself to leave. I'm in and out of the cafe in time for my daily team meeting! I exclusively work from home now so no makeup and pajamas work just fine. $5.99
6 p.m. — G. meets me in front of my condo — we live in the same neighborhood so it's always easy to meet up. We walk to the museum (really appreciate the walkability of Boston) and he tells me how his kitchen remodel is going. G. suggests going to the same kitchen supplier since they had good rates and I keep their name in mind. The walk is short and we get to the museum in time for our timed entry. After we peruse, we head to the gift shop to browse and he finds a cool pair of socks. I buy since I want the credit card points and he venmos me immediately, so no real cost to me. I suggest we find a place to eat since I'm really craving pasta despite a gluten and dairy allergy.
9 p.m. — We go to one of our favorite Italian restaurants. There is no wait to get a seat and I overhear the manager telling the hostess to give us the nice table by the windows. Aww, how sweet! We sit and browse through the menu — G. and I get a cocktail each, his is a mezcal-based fruity drink and mine a citrusy vodka drink with a grapefruit ice cube. Our server returns with drinks and we place our orders, a pepperoni pizza for G. and gluten-free pasta with mushrooms for me. We get the bill and I pay again, taking full advantage of the 3x points on dining courtesy of the Chase Sapphire card. G. venmos me his half ($61.40) and we head out. $61.39
10:45 p.m. — We split up once we get back to our condos and I get ready for bed, starting with a shower. I use Olaplex shampoo and conditioner and Saltair body wash. Once I'm out of the shower, I do my double cleanse routine using my Foreo Luna 2, first with a cleansing oil from Innisfree and then a dime-sized amount of Dr. Perricone Vitamin C face wash. Once my face is washed and dried, I dab on Farmacy's BHA toner and moisturize with Cetaphil. My pajamas go back on and I hop into bed and get on my laptop. One of the main aspects of working in finance is passing these FINRA exams which certify you to work with stocks. I'm definitely not ready for my second exam, so I reschedule (and have to pay a fee to do so). $30
11:30 p.m. — I watch Bling Empire on Netflix instead of studying and then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $97.38

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Rise and shine! My alarm goes off and I definitely have to get up in time for a 9 a.m. client meeting. No Instagram scrolling for me today. The schedule looks like it'll cut into my normal breakfast time, so I quickly put in an order for a hearty breakfast wrap and espresso smoothie. I get ready for my meeting and get a notification that my order is ready so I throw on a hoodie and bike shorts to head to the cafe a street over. Outlook notifies me that my meeting is starting soon so I hop on the Zoom app to sign in (video off and muted, of course) and start my walk back home. $24.35
1:30 p.m. — Ugh! Following a tedious two-hour meeting, my day is made better by the fire alarm testing on every floor of my building. Cue relentless alarms going off. Unsure when the alarms will stop, I pack up and head out, looking for any cafe that looks semi-empty and has wi-fi. I post up at a table and put in my order for an iced latte with almond milk. There is no wi-fi, it turns out, and I pack up again to head to the park which I know always comes through for me. I finish up my project and head back home. Fingers crossed for no alarms! $5.99
4 p.m. — I know I have to stop spending. I'm bad at it, but with multiple weddings and vacations coming up I need to get some sticky bras. Instagram reads my mind and suggests Boomba bras, so I go to their site and buy the Double Trouble bundle. Sticky bras never work for me so I'm hoping spending a little more makes the difference. After my frustrating day, I end up horizontal on the sofa. $89
7 p.m. — Dinner time! Realizing I probably spent too much today, so I dig through the freezer to find a bag of vegan chicken nuggets I bought while on sale. I air fry all 12 of them. The timer dings and I plate my nuggs, paired with some GT's Trilogy kombucha and a homemade, gluten-free funfetti cookie.
8 p.m. — Dinner is finished and I make it back to my sofa to do some studying. I go through a couple of practice exams, scoring in the 90s. I text G. my scores and he replies with a thumbs up and a follow-up text telling me to stop texting him and study instead.
11:30 p.m. — I'm suddenly reminded of my agreement with my dad to contribute to a gift for my mom. He wanted to buy her a dress for my sister's wedding and I completely forgot to pay him. I send the payment via Zelle and text my dad to let him know of the super late payment. It's late so I don't expect him to respond. Nothing on Netflix piques my interest so it's lights out. $33
Daily Total: $152.34

Day Three

9 a.m. — It's Saturday, woohoo! I get ready to head to the farmers' market and grocery store to stock up on veggies and almond milk (so I stop spending $6 on lattes). The guy at the farmers' market keeps heckling me to buy strawberries but they don't look so hot. I pretend I don't hear him and buy some broccoli and peppers from another vendor. After my adventure, I head to the store to pick up almond milk, eggs, nuts, apples, kombucha, and chicken breasts. $45.78
11 a.m. — After putting away my groceries, I head out to meet G. for a walk. G. loves his video games so in order to lure him out I stop to grab two bagels (toasted and buttered) as a treat and text him. He immediately replies and says he'll be ready in 30 minutes. I start my walk to his place and take in the sun. $7.29
12:45 p.m. — We get to the Public Gardens just in time to find a nice sunny patch across from the pond. We notice way more squirrels than usual and I wish I brought some snacks for them. The tourists probably feed them well so I'm not too concerned. We head out after a few hours.
4:30 p.m. — My parents gifted me three pasta extruders for Christmas and knowing our love for pasta, I beg G. to hand make pasta with me. He gives in and we head to the store to get flour and GF flour. I have plenty of eggs in the fridge, so we're set there. $10
6:30 p.m. — The pasta turns out pretty okay! I uncork a bottle of Guigal Côtés du Rhône that I had sitting in my bar cabinet and pour us each a glass. We sit at my coffee table and turn on Bling Empire.
9 p.m. — I check my mail after dinner and see an RSVP for my friend's wedding! G. and I are super excited to go and I log onto The Knot to confirm our attendance and browse the registry. My friend and her husband are remodeling their home so I log onto Crate and Barrel to get them a couple of bar tools and carafes to round out their entertainment set. Since these are my friends, I don't expect G. to go half on the gift. $150
Daily Total: $213.07

Day Four

11 a.m. — The joys of sleeping in. G. spends the night and I wake up to him in the middle of the bed and me almost falling off the edge, as usual. He wakes up to his friend texting him the details of a birthday party later, and we're harshly reminded we can't spend all day in bed. We shower and get dressed, then head out to find breakfast.
12 p.m. — G. goes off to find his bagel fix for the day and I hop in line to get a green smoothie. I haven't decided what I wanted to eat, so until then a smoothie will do. $9.40
1 p.m. — We split up after we eat and I head back to my place to get ready for the gym. It's been a couple of days so I'm unsure if I can lift the same weight as last week. I injured my knee practicing Muay Thai two years ago and it's been a journey to build the muscle back up. Any progress is good progress! After my session, I head to the cafe by my condo and pick up a protein-packed smoothie for a light lunch. $10
2:45 p.m. — G. meets me at the T stop and we reload our Charlie Cards with a round trip fare to and from our friend's place. They want us to be there by 3:30 and we believe we're already behind. $4.98
3 p.m. — G. realizes we will be late and lets me know we might have to call an Uber at the third stop to make it on time. I order an Uber just as we get off (trying to get the points) and we wait the longest 13 minutes until our ride is accepted. $38
5 p.m. — Our friends give us a ride to the birthday venue and it's a very cool indoor adventure park. We sign in and create our accounts, then form our teams. The birthday girl chooses me for her team and I'm super excited! This is my second time meeting G.'s friends so I'm glad they like me. We set off to do as many activities as possible. Turns out I'm not as athletic as I thought. $40
8 p.m. — We regroup for dinner at a bar inside the complex and discuss which activity rooms we should try again for the top score. G. and I agree we do the best at the mental and puzzle rooms. We order hummus and nachos for the table, and I get miso-glazed salmon and G. gets fries. The birthday girl's husband covers for the table so I miss out on my points, but it's okay. I venmo him my share. The group heads back to the rooms to take advantage of our last hour. $45
10 p.m. — G.'s friends are nice enough to drop us off at G.'s place, which saves us an Uber and T ride back. I ask to stay over, mainly because I want to continue playing Fire Emblem. G. agrees as long as I promise to get him a hot chocolate if he walks with me to my place to get my things. I get him a hot chocolate and we walk a block over to my condo so I can grab my charger and laptop just in case. $5
Daily Total: $152.38

Day Five

9 a.m. — Mondays are my favorite since my first meeting doesn't start until 11, meaning I get the whole morning to do whatever I want. I shower and leave G.'s place and make the pleasant walk home, soaking in the sun.
11 a.m. — My Monday is swiftly ruined when my manager lets me know of an event in the NYC office that I have to go to. On Thursday. Since I'm the only one in Boston, it makes sense for me to meet my team and build the camaraderie, but on Thursday??! That's so soon! After the morning meetings, I spend the next 30 minutes looking at the cheapest options to get to the office. The 8 a.m. Delta flight is the cheapest (taking the Amtrak last minute is a whopping $400) and I begrudgingly book it ($124 expensed).
12:30 p.m. — I make myself a protein shake (banana, Myprotein vegan protein, peanut butter) before my workout. I finish my shake and make my way to the gym.
3 p.m. — I'm my sister's maid of honor and need to make a reservation for this summer. I choose a Lebanese place that has good vegetarian options for her and wince at the $25 per person reservation fee. $175
5 p.m. — I finish up the work day and make dinner with whatever random things I have in the fridge. I'm asleep by 11.

Daily Total: $175

Day Six

8 a.m. — I get up, make coffee, and start working.
12 p.m. — Knowing I'll be spending a lot on my Thursday trip, I make a promise to myself not to spend on Tuesday and Wednesday outside of the essentials. I eat whatever is in the fridge for lunch.
7 p.m. — I made it through the first day without spending! As a celebration, I ask G. if he wants to come over and make some cocktails out of whatever I have in my bar cart. We made some decent Palomas out of frozen grapefruit juice cubes and tequila.
11:30 p.m. — We finish the evening and go to bed. I'm proud of myself for having a no-spend day!
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Roll out of bed for work. In continuing my pledge to myself, I finish any food left in the fridge, which really means drinking protein shakes and eating scrambled eggs all day.
12 p.m. — I get packed and ready for my trip tomorrow and then have another protein shake.
7 p.m. — My 24-hour trip to NYC starts tomorrow! I have to get up at 5 a.m. to get ready and head to the airport — since that time would disrupt my eating pattern, I skip dinner and plan for an early breakfast.

8 p.m. — Just kidding. I cave and buy a gluten-free, dairy-free veggie pizza off DoorDash. Better luck next time! I eat and then go right to sleep. $24.34

Daily Total: $24.34
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series