Money diaries logo

A Week Living On An Inheritance In Washington, D.C.

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 law student who is living off an inheritance and spends some of her money this week on strawberries.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up Money Diary. You can read the original Money Diary here.
Occupation: Student
Industry: Law
Age: 25
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: N/A (currently living off my inheritance while in law school)
Net Worth: ~$558,000 (investment fund: $447,795, law school savings account: $134,618.15, living expenses savings account: $6,000, fun money account: $878, second investment fund: $2,500, minus debt. Most of this is money that I inherited when my father passed away that is now managed by a financial advisor (more below).)
Debt:  $33,452.23 student debt (pending $20,000 in forgiveness)
Paycheck Amount: N/A
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000, all utilities included
Loans: $0 (currently in COVID forbearance, soon to be in in-school deferral)
Cell Phone: $55 pay-as-you-go unlimited + hotspot because I've lived abroad for several of the past years and was switching plans pretty regularly.
Health Insurance: $11 in my home state. I'm currently uninsured in DC beyond emergencies but have money set aside to pay for insurance through school in January.
Apple Storage: $0.99
Therapy: ~$45 ($10/session paid monthly)
Spotify: $4.99 which also includes Hulu and Showtime that I have never used once.
Seed Probiotics: ~$60 (this changes during my diary)
Prime: $0 on the student six-month option
Mutual Aid Group: $5
Transport: $100 at the start of each semester (insanely good deal)
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, I would say there was an expectation, but one that I welcomed, as I was always studious. My undergraduate education was paid for largely through merit- and need-based scholarships, supplemented by loans and family savings. My spending money usually came from gifts for holidays and whatever one-off jobs I was working at the time. I have a master's degree from a foreign institution that was paid for by scholarships and a very generous member of my extended family. Both tuition and cost of living were lower than they would have been had I gone to school in the US.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mother has a fairly alternative lifestyle and didn't work a conventional job while I was growing up. She is almost inconceivably frugal. My father inherited a significant amount of money towards the end of his life, was always working in some capacity, and spent money with an evangelical fervor. They were separated and my mother was my primary guardian, and she tried to instill her financial discipline into me from an early age. I think it largely stuck with me — I've never asked her for money and I didn't touch my inheritance for the six years before the pandemic. I took out $10,000 during 2020/2021 while I was trying to get my life together and I've now dipped into it to pay for law school (which is around $35,000 a year after a partial scholarship and a small federal loan) and my living expenses, which I supplement with other (minimal) income from writing. This year I've made about $1,000.
Advertisement
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at the local library the summer I was 14. All my friends had jobs and I loved the library and wanted to have some more spending money. I also casually babysat around that age.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. As described above, the discrepant financial situation of my parents was not a relaxing one. My parents had no legal agreements between them and they worked things out rather well, all things considered. While my dad was very generous to both my mother and me, his generosity was random. I also don't fault my mother for doing what she wanted with her life, but those choices did not lead to an overabundance of stability.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I'm incredibly lucky to have inherited quite a bit of money. I can work in a lower-paid legal field if I want to and still buy a house someday. I can work in a higher-paid legal field and buy a nicer house. I have a lot of options. At the same time, I'm aware that I could still burn through the money and have to make good decisions.
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 21, when I moved to NYC on my savings from waitressing, though my mother still paid $45 a month for my health insurance until I officially got a job. I was then in school again and it took me a while to get it together after COVID, which hit me hard both physically and psychologically. I was again financially responsible for myself mid-2021 to mid-2022 and then entered law school. If I hadn't inherited this money, I would probably be at the dramatically less competitive school which offered me a full scholarship last year. I would argue that I will not be totally financially autonomous for a while because my financial situation is related to my mother's. She owns her house but has minimal retirement savings. The inheritance listed above represents about half of what I received because I've put the other half into an account for my mother. It's still under my name but I do not consider it mine.
Advertisement
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I outright inherited a modest amount as a teen when my father died and inherited his house in a trust. My mother largely managed the maintenance of the house until I inherited it fully at 25. I wanted to sell it immediately but she didn't think it was a good idea and she was right, because we sold it earlier this year at the top of the market and made substantially more money than we would have before. Now that money is managed by a financial advisor. I have mixed feelings about investing and have put the maximum ethics controls on my accounts in terms of environmental issues, exploitative labor practices, etc. I plan to reassess in a few years when I have a salary and can make a more informed decision about my financial future.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up a few times, having STRUGGLED to fall asleep. When it seems light enough, I turn on my phone. I've just recently started turning it off to forestall my anxiety Googling when I'm having insomnia. My friend has sent me a Wordle that he's done in two rows and I sit there stubbornly and manage to do the same. I read the Tortoise newsletter. I was gifted a subscription to it as a student and deleted the emails every day for two-and-a-half years in an astonishing display of inertia and then read it one day about two months ago and realized it was excellent.
Advertisement
8:30 a.m. — I go downstairs and take my probiotic and eat breakfast, which is cashew yogurt with homemade granola and raspberries on the side. I drink water — no caffeine because I already have too much trouble sleeping. My lecturers are all practicing attorneys and two of them have canceled class today and prerecorded videos. I stay at home all day and get "dressed" in a jumpsuit that barely crosses the line out of pajamas.
9:45 a.m. — I call my friend in Europe. We haven't spoken properly since I left in June. We wrote our bachelor's theses at the same time and it's interesting to see how she's kept developing her work on the same topic.
10:30 a.m. — I get started on reading for civil procedure. I've set up a tutoring appointment for tomorrow to incentivize myself to do a practice question that is not required but is sort of necessary as exam prep, as I have a midterm in this class in less than a month.
1 p.m. — I resist the urge to warm up pasta for lunch because I want to eat it for dinner and make a plate of tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, arugula, two deviled eggs, goat cheese, prosciutto, and fig and olive toasts. As I'm eating, I enroll in a longer-term probiotic option that saves me about $10 per month. They say they'll bill me accordingly at the following refill, which should be happening tomorrow, so hopefully I've calculated the timing correctly. I also do a survey and an email for LexisNexis research points that I can turn in for an Amazon gift card.
Advertisement
2 p.m. — Tackle the practice question and it goes better than expected, then back to regular reading. Losing focus at this point in the day. I eat the rest of my raspberries. The fridge starts screeching, shattering the rest of my focus. I go and try to reseal all the doors, and text my live-in landlord and roommates a heads-up. Eventually, I finish all the cases I need to for next week and brief the cases for Monday. I'll come back to this class prior to next week to brief the final cases and make some notes on the guiding questions included on the syllabus because they usually inform what types of questions he'll ask for cold calls. I switch to watching the recorded lecture for my contracts class.
6 p.m. — I change into exercise clothes. I do a few minutes of stretching, some push-ups, squats, and crunches, and head out for a very short run as my left knee starts hurting. I shower and eat my pasta with red sauce, mushrooms, and sausage.
7:30 p.m. — I get dressed in real clothes and bounce to the local library on my way to the train, returning Zone One by Colson Whitehead, The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood, Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval, and The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. I get Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard, The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr, and The Mothers by Brit Bennett, in no small part because they are all paperbacks and will fit in my purse. I get on the metro and head to a bookstore/restaurant hybrid in Dupont Circle.
Advertisement
8:15 p.m. — I get to the cafe and meet with three friends from school. I get tea and tip separately from my friends who get proper drinks. I'm the kind of person who will occasionally leave weird tips to get an even bill. We wander through the bookstore on the way out and I make note of a few books I want to request at the library. $5
9:45 p.m. — We head across the street to the bar the law school has booked out. I get a wristband and make it for about 20 minutes before I bail and call a Lyft. I haven't really been out since before the pandemic and it's fair to say my tolerance for loud and crowded venues is not high.
10:30 p.m. — I choose the wait-and-pay-less option and get picked up about 20 minutes later. The driver is talkative. When I get home, I watch some ASMR videos and turn off my phone to sleep. $30
Daily Total: $35

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up, having woken up in the middle of the night. I read the news for a while and then try to sleep for another hour.
9 a.m. — After a bit more sleep I get up, probiotics, breakfast, etc. I get back in bed and watch the final video for my contracts class and am obviously distracted and sit on YouTube for 40 minutes.
11:30 a.m. — I get on a Zoom call with the tutoring center and go over the practice question I did yesterday. I get good feedback about what to improve. I'll try to revise this one and do a second before I make the next appointment.
Advertisement
12:15 p.m. — I haul myself into clothes and make a grocery list and head to Trader Joe's. I buy strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, bananas, pears, OJ, cashew yogurt, parsley, carrots, cucumbers, arugula, tomatoes, slivered almonds, dried apples, ham, French rolls, salmon, chicken cutlets, pork tenderloin, pasta, sesame oil, popcorn, fruit bars, a chocolate RX bar, and shampoo. We have hard water in the house so my hair looks terrible unless I clarify it with baking soda and vinegar and wash it cold, so I'm abandoning my nicer shampoo because it's a waste anyway. I should say I put all my purchases on a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees and a cash-back program and pay it down a few times per month. I'm still in the 0% APR phase, but I pay it off every month anyway. $75.48
1:30 p.m. — I get home and immediately realize that I don't have breadcrumbs or lemon, so I'll have to stop at Trader Joe's again later. I make lunch: two small ham sandwiches on French rolls, the last piece of prosciutto with goat cheese, the end of my old tomatoes, and arugula. I get on Zoom for a resume workshop with my school.
3 p.m. — I call my mom to try to assuage escalating stress about school, or rather, extracurriculars. My mom has very sternly told me I have to learn to say no to things, which has been echoed by a mentor. It's important to me to get good grades, and then this term I've committed to a professional development course and completing volunteer hours for a student club that gives up to $5,000 for summer funding to public interest students each summer. Other things will have to wait! My mom helps me recalibrate a little. After I get off the phone with her, another friend from Europe calls. We talk for a bit.
Advertisement
5:30 p.m. — I read contracts for a short time and snack on popcorn, then get ready to head out. I'm going to Georgetown for an art night then meeting my roommate closer to home. I stop and get breadcrumbs and lemons on the way to the train. $3.23
6:30 p.m. — I get to Georgetown and wander around the participating locations. There are international shows from the Congo, India, and the UAE, among others. I also poke into a French language jazz recital and a student film festival. My roommate is unexpectedly being sent to Europe for work tomorrow so she bails.
9 p.m. — I head home on the train because I'm hungry. I eat a completely unhinged dinner of corn dogs, carrot sticks, strawberries, and butter on a hot dog bun and chat with my roommate. I get ready for bed and actually remember to wash my face — hallelujah. Probiotics have been charged. I probably manage to fall asleep at midnight. $134.97
Daily Total: $213.68

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up bright and early to sit on my phone. This is a habit I must change. My day today is going to be studying, exercising if my knee is up to it, meal prep, and life maintenance.
8 a.m. — I get up and take probiotics and eat breakfast. I text a few people I know through school to get a coffee next week near campus. I have made one genuine friend in law school and she's busy this weekend, which takes the legs out from under my social life. I deal with my email as I eat. Then I call my mom again to plan her visit in a few weeks. We only talk for an hour and a half, which for us isn't even that long. I then switch to reading.
Advertisement
12:30 p.m. — I take a break and buy a ticket through a reseller to the upcoming festival, as well as insurance, for $108.25. I also look up Lyft prices for the way back and it says it'll be about $80, factoring in tip, which we'll divide by four. I transfer money from my "fun money" account to my general checking account, which I use to pay down my credit card. I also transfer money from my savings account; $45 from each month across October, November, and December, to pay for the probiotics. I make a note of that in my money transfer schedule. At the end of this month, I'll transfer $1,835 for rent and general expenses, which accounts for my pre-purchases. Then on 20th of the following month, I'll transfer the remaining $100 for my therapy and phone payment. Therapy has already been paid for, but my phone will come out tomorrow. Basically, I leave the $100 in savings so I don't spend it. I make tuna sandwiches and veggies for lunch. $108.25
3:30 p.m. — I finish reading contracts for the following week and take a pop quiz. I do not do particularly well, but it highlights what I need to review. I go on to briefing the cases. When I finish briefing the cases I decide to have a bath. I haven't lived in a house with a bathtub in years and it rarely occurs to me. I'm also hoping it helps loosen up my knee, which is still stiff and weird.
Advertisement
5:30 p.m. — I begin meal prep for the week. I put on a French-language Netflix movie in the background.
8 p.m. — I finish cooking. I made chicken piccata over pasta with parsley, roasted pork, potatoes, and carrots, hard-boiled eggs, brown rice, sautéed sugar snap peas, and granola. I put the salmon in the freezer to cook up with the rice later in the week. I'm honestly wrecked and decide to read in bed for the rest of the evening. I start crying for no clear reason. I'm supposed to get my period Wednesday but this feels suspiciously like day-before-period behavior. I struggle to sleep.
Daily Total: $108.25

Day Four

7 a.m. — Awake. More crying. I finish one of the books I got, eat breakfast (cashew yogurt, granola, half a pear), and try to get more sleep.
12 p.m. — After getting another few hours of sleep in 20-minute chunks, I start reading torts.
12:30 p.m. — Ah, I get my period. I realize I only have one Advil and two pads, so I'll need to go to Safeway shortly. I eat lunch early so I can take Advil if necessary (the pre-cooked pork tenderloin, potatoes, carrots, arugula salad with tomato) and read torts as I do. I get all the trash together from the house and put it out.
2 p.m. — I go to Safeway and get pads and Advil. The lines are completely unbelievable and it takes almost an hour when it should have taken 20 minutes. A friend calls as I'm walking back and we talk for a while, which cheers me up. I was diagnosed with PMDD a couple of years ago and my doctor offered me cyclical Prozac, but the side effects include insomnia and I don't want my sleep to get worse than it already is. $9.98
Advertisement
4 p.m. — I force myself to read more for torts. I get an email that my Amazon gift card has come through from LexisNexis, so I place an order for a yoga mat ($16.08) and dry shampoo ($11.99). Between the gift card and my credit card credits, it's free.
6:30 p.m. — I finish reading torts. My period has exhausted me. I warm up chicken piccata and pasta and make a cucumber tomato salad. I send a freelance query while I eat.
8 p.m. — Another friend calls and we chat for an hour, then I read. Regrettably, at 1:30 a.m., I am still awake.
Daily Total: $9.98

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — And awake again. I manage to sleep again for about another hour.
9 a.m. — I get up and eat and shower and read torts, moving like molasses through it all. Not my best intellectual two days.
12 p.m. — I call my therapist and talk with her about a variety of things, including the yearish-long relationship that I ended two weeks ago. It was kind of a shitshow. The copay is $10, but it's accounted for above and already paid for this month. After I get off the phone, I eat lunch and get knocked over by cramps. I take Advil to try not to howl and then drag myself to the train to go to class.
4 p.m. — Cramps are finally better. Head on to my second class. We are given a surprise group assignment, due tomorrow. My groupmates are equally delighted.
Advertisement
8 p.m. — Doooone with my third and final class. Drop my textbooks in the locker because I have the same classes tomorrow and am coming in early.
8:40 p.m. — Get home and warm up pork and veggies for dinner. In a perfect world, I would run and shower tomorrow. In reality, I may just wear a hat. I screw around on the internet for an hour, watch some ASMR, then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I managed to sleep for more than eight hours, hallelujah! I read my Tortoise newsletters.
8:30 a.m. — Probiotics, then cashew yogurt with granola and a pear. Definitely a hat day. My knee is still hurting a bit too, so I'll aim for yoga tomorrow and running the day after. I pay my credit card off for the month. I put my new dry shampoo in my hair and forgo the hat, bravely.
10 a.m. — Arrive near campus and head to meet a friend for tea. I get a hibiscus blood orange tea. We catch up and trade study strategies. $3.80
12 p.m. — Head to an hour of volunteering for the public interest student association with which I'm affiliated. I realize I forgot to pack lunch. I'm on campus until 9:30 tonight so absolutely will not have the will to wait until dinner, nor is that particularly good for my brain. I step out of volunteering to buy Cheez-Its at the vending machine because I'm getting cramps and need to take an Advil. Nonstop thrills. $3.70
Advertisement
1 p.m. — Finish volunteering and Google cheap eats nearby. Head to Roti; it's closed so I walk on to the farther location. I get a pita with chicken, tomatoes, pickles, tahini, and yogurt. I get back to the library around 1:30 and try to focus. $11
4 p.m. — Finish class and meet with my group for the surprise writing assignment from yesterday. We finish and send it in. I go on to review civil procedure. Behold, all the cases I did not look at last week, back to bite me in the ass. I am unbelievably tired. I don't know why it's always the case that when I finally get enough sleep my brain low-key shuts down. I get my tax refund, which is about $350. I text my mom and offer it to her because she did my taxes and was incredibly resistant to me paying a tax preparer to do it, though she has acquiesced for this year because I have foreign income, freelance income, investment income, health insurance, and student loans to account for. She says to spend $150 taking her out to dinner when she's here next month and the rest is for my leisure.
8 p.m. — I finish my final class then head to a professional development seminar which focuses on negotiating. It is more fun than I thought. Maybe I should do mergers and acquisitions for my firm summer and inevitable sellout right-after-school job. They feed us chicken alfredo.
9:30 p.m. — Take the train home. Mess around on the internet. I deleted all my personal social media earlier this year but I still have an anonymous Twitter account that I use to ingest the dregs of humanity on a semi-regular basis. I do however also follow two friends who also have burner accounts, one of whom has retweeted a request for assistance, so I Venmo the girl $10. I plan to have a more structured method of engaging in mutual aid when I have a proper salary, but right now it's mostly when I see something from a trusted source I try to send something. $10
Advertisement
Daily Total: $28.50

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up and read news. Eat breakfast of hard-boiled egg and tomato on English muffin, banana, and strawberries and go back to bed.
10:30 a.m. — Get up and shower and do minor life maintenance: transfer cash for next month from one checking account to another, write a check for rent due shortly, and pay for the yoga class subscription that I have been debating with the money I got from my tax return. $142.76
11:20 a.m. — Walk the mile to class. It's hot, formerly known as Bikram, yoga, which is the only yoga that really appeals to me. I rent a towel. My mom is bringing me one from home next month. My therapist said that there are studies being done to treat depression via heat therapy and I will leave the science of that to people who would know, but anecdotally, hot yoga definitely helps me focus and general improves my mood. I modify some postures to go easy on the knee. $2
1:15 p.m. — Walk home, making sure to drink my entire water bottle.
2 p.m. — I put my darks in the laundry and strip my bed to follow with lights later on. I clean the bathroom and warm up the last of the pork and veggies for lunch with an arugula salad. Finish with a fruit bar. My knee frankly feels like shit, so maybe the yoga was too intense. I'll take it easy the next few days. I change laundry and generally try to organize my room slightly.
Advertisement
3:30 p.m. — Change into real clothes and head to class. I've managed to shorten a pair of jeans in the wash. I should not be allowed to use a dryer unsupervised! I wear them anyway. Apparently I can stretch them wet the next time I wash them — until then, ankles out. They do fit better at the waist now.
8 p.m. — I head home after my final class. I have dinner plans tomorrow, a music festival on Saturday, and plans to go to the mall on Sunday with a friend to get some winter shoes. I'm hoping the social time chases away the last of my funk. I make salmon for dinner and go to bed. I have $30 left for the month which will get me through dinner tomorrow.
Daily Total: $144.76
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