A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $55,000 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: a Junior Analyst who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Gatorade.
Occupation: Junior Analyst
Industry: Government Relations
Age: 24
Location: Washington, DC
Salary: $55,000
Net Worth: $27,000 (savings: $20,000 + retirement: $7,000)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,400
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $1,000 (for my half of rent in a condo with my sister)
Gas/Electric/WiFi: $150 (I pay this all because my sister makes less than me)
HBOMax/Spotify/NYT Crossword: $32
Pet Insurance: $41
Cell Phone: covered by work
Health Insurance: on my parents' plan
Roth 401(k): $562 (taken out of paycheck)
Advertisement
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. My parents are both college graduates. My mother got her college degree in the U.S. but my father got his in India, and when they came here, he couldn't find a job with just his Indian college degree, so he got a U.S. master's degree. It was virtually required that my sister and I would, at minimum, get a college education.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't talk about money a lot, so I was never super aware of our financial situation. I knew that my parents were frugal growing up. Once my sister and I left the house, they began educating us more on finances. Now, I go to them first for all of my questions about retirement, education, down payments, etc.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was when I was 14 at a tutoring center. I got it for pocket money but was so bad at it that it did not last very long. I tried again later at 17, working for a performing arts theatre, which worked out better. I was not expected to contribute financially to any family bills.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried I wouldn't have a place to live or food to eat. I did worry a little about getting things like a new winter coat if I grew out of the one I had.
Advertisement
Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money because I deal with anxiety, but I do not rationally worry I think. I have a good amount in emergency savings and a parental financial safety net.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became mostly financially responsible for myself at age 18. I went to college on a full scholarship that covered tuition, housing, and fees, as well as a stipend for all other expenses. Until after college, however, my parents did pay for things such as my cell phone bill. My parents also still provide me a financial safety net, and I know I have a place to live with them if I need to or can borrow money if needed as well.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I wake up at 6:30 am to walk the dog, K. I need a flashlight because it's so dark and foggy, and I feel a bit like I'm in a horror movie. I'm definitely going back to sleep after this before work starts.
12 p.m. — Work's okay, but not terribly exciting, so I don't have much to say about it. During my lunchtime, I stumble upon an article on the best movies to watch at a New York City LGBTQ+ film festival and you can watch them virtually. I'm not sure if this is just a COVID-19 thing, but a virtual film festival sounds fantastic. I spend $100 on a pass, which gives me unlimited viewing of the 100+ films until the end of the festival. The festival's already started a while ago, so I know that I'll have to watch...a lot in the next few days to feel like I got my money's worth. No worries. I wasn't going anywhere. Oh yes, and for lunch, I have some tomato soup. $100
Advertisement
5 p.m. — Work ends and it's a Friday! While I was planning on just checking out some film festival movies, a friend mentions she's going to an outdoor patio and that sounds appealing, so I decide to join her. Obligatory — we sit outside, the tables are spread out widely, and we wear masks. We get nachos and fries, a few beers, finish with wine, and talk a lot about the election, being brown, and general frustrations. I'm pretty sure the guy sitting a table over is trying to eavesdrop on our conversation. It must be harder during COVID with the distance and the masks! She pays and venmo requests me. $50
11 p.m. — We walk to her place and I pay for an Uber home. K. is super happy to see me and very cute about it, doing a little wriggly excited dance thing. My sister, T., walks her in the evening and I take the early morning walk. $14.55
Daily Total: $164.55

Day Two

9 a.m. — It's a Saturday, so I definitely fall back asleep after K.'s walk in the morning. I plan to early vote today, though, so I hop up and at it, take a shower, throw on some sweatpants, and head out. I stop by a CVS for some Gatorade ($2.49), because my head is still kind of pounding. I add $10 to my metro card to be able to go to the early voting site. $12.49
10 a.m. — Early voting was faster than I thought! Because I'm in and out so quickly, I decide I can make the hour walk home instead of metroing back. It's beautiful cool, crisp weather, and I play a cheesy 'my life is a movie' playlist on Spotify as I walk home.
Advertisement
12:00 p.m. — For lunch, I just have a bagel and cream cheese. I don't have a very exciting food life. I haven't yet learned to cook and don't have a desire to (besides, I guess, self-sufficiency), so I currently subsist on very-easy-to-make meals and occasional takeout.
9:00 p.m. — My exciting Saturday plans? I watched four movies from the film festival, on my own, on the living room couch, while sipping on wine. They're all fantastic, and I've cried a few times. I've never been a movie person, but this may turn me into one. I warmed up some frozen lasagna for dinner.
Daily Total: $12.49

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — After I walk K., she runs into T.'s room and under her blankets for warmth and, I assume, cuddling. I don't really want to go back to sleep yet, and the sun isn't up, so I grab a glass of wine and sit on my balcony to watch the sunrise. Yes, it's early for wine, but it made sense for the moment.
7 p.m. — The day rushes past with three more films from the festival. I'm feeling very queer and lonely, but it's cathartic. Lunch was just more tomato soup, and my sister convinces me we should order takeout for dinner. I offer to pay and get mushroom bruschetta while she orders herself a white pizza. We split a creamy feta dip. $42.24
Daily Total: $42.24

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Why aren't we still fighting for a four-day workweek? In any case, Monday comes around, and I'm blue about it. After K.'s walk, I lace up my running shoes. I have never really run before, but I've been doing the C25K program with a friend, and today is the 28-minute run, which terrifies me! I turn on the Reply All podcast for the run and come back after half an hour sweaty, cold, and giddy at having finished it successfully. For breakfast, I just have a glass of protein cold brew.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — Work continues to mildly frustrate me, and I have leftover bruschetta from the night before and Diet Coke for lunch. The film festival ends tomorrow, so I also watch some short films during my lunch break.
6 p.m. — There may be such a thing as too much film. I'm not in the mood to watch anything, which is good because it prompts me to remember that I have a book club tomorrow I haven't finished reading for. I spend the rest of the evening reading. Yes, there's a glass of wine with me. For dinner, I toast two pieces of bread with slices of mozzarella cheese on top and then add sliced tomatoes and pesto sauce.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Being outside before the sun rises every day is the best way to tell that winter is coming. I do this for you, K. I spend the day working.
6 p.m. — Lunch was more frozen lasagna. For dinner, I opt for takeout again and order drunken noodles from the Thai restaurant down the street. I walk to pick it up to avoid delivery fees, although I do still tip. As I eat, I note that I could use more veggies in my meals. $14.94
8 p.m. — I'm beginning to realize this may be a pretty boring week. Is this what my life is like during quarantine? Sorry, pals. My book club meets virtually at 8. It's an anti-racist club and this week we discuss the first few chapters of Cutting School: The Segrenomics of American Education by Noliwe Rooks as well as the first few episodes of the NYT podcast Nice White Parents. They pair well together. The material is as frustrating as you would expect, but the conversation is good. We plan to meet again in a few weeks to discuss the next chapters/episodes. I contemplate watching another film because the festival ends tonight, but my brain is fried, so I opt for bed instead.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $14.94

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — After K.'s walk, I contemplate doing my C25K run in the morning. It's the last one of the program, wow. In the end, though, my motivation just isn't there, and I decide to get a few more winks of sleep before work starts. When I wake up again, I start the day with a glass of protein cold brew.
12 p.m. — I have leftover noodles for lunch, and I realize that Halloween is right around the corner. I don't know what that might look like this year, but I ask T. what she is thinking. She mentions that her friend invited just the two of us over to hang out with him and his roommate on their outdoor rooftop deck. I've been once before and the views are gorgeous from their roof. I'm excited to see what it looks like in the fall but also feel insanely privileged that this is an option for me.
5 p.m. — Well, no pushing it back now. Thanks to an accountability partner, I head out for my final C25K run. I'm back, huffing and puffing, 30 minutes later. 30 minutes of running! I did that! I've been kind of embarrassed about this because a lot of my friends are already relatively fit people, so no one but T. and my accountability partner really knows I'm doing this program. I call my mom in excitement because I just want to talk about it.
7 p.m. — The day hasn't been bad, but I'm feeling kind of in a slump. For dinner, I have frozen broccoli with butter. I pour a glass of wine and then a few more. I hang out on my balcony with K. to get as much out of this weather as I can before it gets too cold.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I've grown to enjoy these dark, eerie morning walks. I wonder how different it will be after Daylight Savings.
12 p.m. — I have tomato soup for lunch. It's sunny outside, so K. and I sit on the balcony to give her a chance to sunbathe, her favorite activity.
6 p.m. — I get a sudden bout of election anxiety. I spend a lot of time lurking on Twitter these days and it's a constant influx of news. I read an article on potential outcomes and get a sudden, strong craving for comfort food. I decide on Thai takeout again and rope T. into it. We get drunken noodles and red curry and I pay. $31.87
Daily Total: $31.87
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

Advertisement