Money Diaries logo

A Week In Boston, MA, 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: an information assistant who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Smirnoff Ice.
Occupation: Information Assistant
Industry: Legal
Age: 23
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $55,000
Net Worth: $31,862 (savings: $27,781, checking: $379, investments: $2,220, HSA: $1,182, Roth IRA: $300)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,425
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,700
Utilities: $90
Internet: $40
HSA: $580 (comes out of my paycheck — will drop down to $290 next year, but maxing it out for the remainder of 2022 as I started my job in July)
Roth IRA: $228
Gym: $205
Spotify/Hulu: $10
Netflix and Disney+: I mooch off my sister.
Cell Phone: I'm still on my parents' plan.
Apple Care: $8.73
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, there was an expectation to attend higher education (or continued education in the form of a trade). I had no solid dreams or plans, so I went to my local state university. My parents paid for housing for all four years and I was able to cover tuition and fees with various academic scholarships. I did have to take out one small loan to cover my first semester, but was able to pay it back after graduating. I also got my master's degree at my state university, fully funded by a government grant. My grad stipend and my dad covered my rent while I was in school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I remember money always being a part of the conversation growing up. My dad worked while my mom stayed home with three kids, so I developed frugal tendencies from watching their financial strategies. I was lucky to have parents who stressed saving over spending and helped us by matching any contributions to our savings accounts until we were in high school.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job (aside from babysitting from ages 11 to 16) was as a hostess at a local restaurant. I worked there the summer before my junior year of high school for spending money and savings.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I did worry about money growing up. Once I got into middle school, I became very cognizant of money and status, and things amplified when my dad lost his job when I was 13. We had a serious family talk about cutting back on wants vs. needs, and it took me several years to break out of the mindset.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry much about money now. I am extremely conscious of how much I make, save, and spend, but I feel very comfortable knowing I am independent and can fulfill all of my needs.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 23 when I graduated from my master's program and accepted a job in Boston. I do have a financial safety net in my parents who would be willing to help support me should I lose my job or housing.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. I received a surprise inheritance from my grandfather when he died during my senior year of college (approximately $40,000). This allowed me to pay off my student loans and focus on my master's degree without working full-time.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up and pester the guy I'm seeing into going downstairs to make us coffee. I have to go to the airport soon to head home, so there's no time for us to get breakfast.
10 a.m. — After being dropped off at DFW airport, I fill up my water bottle and grab a breakfast bowl from IHOP Express. I'm a sucker for any bowl that involves hash browns. $11.90
11 a.m. — I decline a drink on the flight home but accept the pretzels. The flight was $399 but I paid for it months ago.
5 p.m. — I decide to take the T home to save myself from a $60 Uber. I love flying with only a backpack so I don't have to drag my carry-on through the streets of Boston. $2.40
7 p.m. — Since I was out of town this weekend and don't have any groceries, I order a salad for pickup while I'm on the T. I walk and pick it up then head home to unpack. $9.64
Daily Total: $23.94

Day Two

7 a.m. — I recently joined a crazy expensive gym, but they offer one complimentary personal training session upon joining (usually $135). I head out of my apartment at 6:45 in order to be at the gym by 7:15 for training. I have to "break up" with the trainer at the end of the session because I cannot afford their prices.
8:45 a.m. — I stop at Starbucks on my way to work and grab a grande caffè misto with skim milk. $3.91
9 a.m. — One of the biggest perks of my job is that they feed us, even with COVID protocols still in place, so I very rarely have to buy food. Usually, we have an open cafeteria, but it's a remote week, so those of us in the office have to order from a limited menu (cue the world's smallest violin). For breakfast, I order chocolate chip pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, and a berry cup.
10 a.m. — I order a Halloween book on eBay for my three-year-old niece. $3.50
1 p.m. — I am starting therapy and have my introductory session via telehealth. I take the call from a soundproof office. I'm not sure how much the session will be and I also haven't received my HSA card in the mail yet, so I wait for it to be billed to insurance. (After the fact, I see that it is $200 and I am obligated to pay $174 of the bill.) $174
2 p.m. — For lunch, I order a turkey sandwich with a pickle, which my coworker, K., delivers to my desk. I also snack on some peanut M&Ms from my desk to stay awake through the afternoon.
6 p.m. — No one tell the firm, but I ordered two lunch entrées and brought one home for dinner. Tonight is honey mustard glazed salmon over roasted vegetables and pasta. I also eat an orange that I ordered with breakfast while I catch up on Love Island. I end the night with some Skittles.
Daily Total: $181.41

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up and see that my $206 charge for Equinox has gone through (in monthly expenses). Ugh. I make coffee at home as I get ready and head to work.
9 a.m. — I order breakfast when I get to work and get the same chocolate chip pancakes and eggs and fruit as yesterday.
1 p.m. — I order a turkey wrap with potato chips for lunch. I'm going to have to get creative with my combinations to not feel like I'm living in Groundhog Day this week. I snack on some peanut M&Ms and drink a cup of tea (provided in the break room) throughout the afternoon.
6 p.m. — Same as yesterday, I enjoy my firm-provided salmon-veg-pasta meal for dinner. I eat part of a delta-8 gummy and snack on chocolate ice cream and Trader Joe's cheese sandwich crackers before going to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

9 a.m. — Get dressed, make coffee at home, walk to work, order pancakes, eggs, and fruit.
12 p.m. — I get a text saying there are cheap tickets available for the Red Sox game tonight, so I go ahead and snag one thinking I'll find some friends who want to go too. All of my friends were too slow to get tickets, so I consider going alone. $9.50
1 p.m. — For today's lunch, I have another turkey wrap, but switch it up with carrot sticks as a side.
5:30 p.m. — I head over to the gym after work for a workout class. It's my first one since joining this gym and I'm happy that I really enjoy it. After working out, I head home and eat the dinner that I've snagged from work. Tonight's offering is a black bean burger with fries. I'm still sweaty from working out and full from the burger, so I skip the baseball game. Wasting $9.50 on a weeknight game isn't a major pain for me.
9 p.m. — I get hungry for ice cream so I walk to the grocery store and grab cookie dough Haagen Dazs, green grapes, pesto, pasta, and extra toasty Cheez-its. I promptly dig into the ice cream when I get home. $18.64
Daily Total: $28.14

Day Five

9 a.m. — I promise this is the last day of me making coffee at home and eating chocolate chip pancakes, hardboiled eggs, and fruit. That said, I get to work and order my same breakfast and eat it while getting a start on my assignments.
1 p.m. — For lunch this afternoon I get ~yet another~ turkey sandwich and chips. After work, I go to the gym for another class, then head home and eat my salmon-veg-pasta combo from work.
8 p.m. — Instead of getting ready for my friend's arrival from out of town tomorrow morning, I am paralyzed by indecision and instead take an edible and finish off my ice cream before going to bed early.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I make coffee at home and take it on the walk with me to the gym. I have my free introductory Pilates session and actually really enjoy it, but can't bite the bullet on the $110/session price tag.
8:30 a.m. — On the walk home from the gym, I stop into Dunkin' and get a small pumpkin cream cold brew. I looove this time of year and will drink a pumpkin cream cold brew from any place. $4.69
9 a.m. — I check my credit card account and see that I've been charged my monthly $8.73 for Apple Care+ (in monthly expenses). I always forget I signed up for it when I bought my new phone. Today is not the day I will be canceling it though, as I am about to go on a rampage cleaning my apartment.
9:30 a.m. — In between work, I go down to the basement and put a load of clothes in the washing machine ($2.50) and then dryer (another $2.50). $5
10 a.m. — I walk to Target for a pack of Smirnoff Ice. My friend F. has been icing me since college, so it's finally my turn to return the favor. I walk back home and finish cleaning up, pose the Smirnoff Ice behind a baby doll, and wait for my friend to arrive in her Uber from the airport. $11.29
12 p.m. — F. is hungry when she gets here and I realize I didn't eat breakfast, so we head to a local café for brunch. I get a slice of tomato feta quiche and she gets a fried rice dish with a latte. I pay with a gift card that my mom gave me ($29.59).
2 p.m. — I get a text about cheap Red Sox tickets and we make a last-minute decision to go to the game tonight. I pay for our tickets. We watch TV and I eat some yogurt and grapes. F. finds her Smirnoff Ice, downs it, and then we take a nap before the game. $19
7 p.m. — We walk to Fenway Park and promptly buy concessions. F. buys popcorn and a beer and I buy a glass of wine. We head up to our seats, but stop about 20 rows lower since it's so empty from the storm. $15.15
8 p.m. — F. offers to buy my dinner since I bought lunch, so I get chicken tenders and fries while she gets a Fenway Frank. I buy another glass of wine. We watch a few more innings, hit the team store, and walk back home. $15.15
9:30 p.m. — Back at my apartment, we change into clothes to go out in and prepare quick drinks to take to F.'s friend D.'s apartment for a pregame. F. covers the Lyft there since I provided her alcohol. At D.'s house, we have one drink and play with D.'s cats before walking to a local spot for espresso martinis.
10:30 p.m. — Someone else covers the tab, so I withdraw $80 cash from the ATM since the next place we're going has a cover. After Ubering there, I pay the cover and D. covers the drinks. I have one White Claw before switching to water for the night. $30
2 a.m. — Tragically, F. and I get home at 2:01 and the dumpling place by my apartment closes at 2. I make the brave decision to operate a gas stove and whip up a feast of Trader Joe's kung pao chicken, brown rice, and bagel bites. We drink even more water and go to bed.
Daily Total: $100.28

Day Seven

1 p.m. — F. doesn't wake up until after 12, so we get a late start to the day. Once we're up and dressed, we head to the T to get to Chinatown and wander a little bit before deciding on a dim sum place. F. covers lunch. $2.40
3 p.m. — After dim sum, F. wants to get boba since we're still in Chinatown. I've never had boba before so she buys mine as a treat. (I love the milk tea, but I'm not so sure I like the boba itself.)
4 p.m. — In one of the shops, I remember that I'm going to my home state soon and my little niece is very confused about where I'm currently living, so I buy her a little Boston t-shirt and a ring with a cat on it. I also buy myself a new claw clip. F. and I continue shopping around and walk over to the Seaport to see the Harbor, then back to downtown to head to the Public Gardens. We pass by an African market on our way and F. buys us little matching bracelets. $22.13
5 p.m. — After seeing dogs and weddings and swan boats, we head to the T station. We get off in Back Bay and pop into a couple more stores near Newbury Street that F. wants to check out, knowing we'll be coming back for a longer time tomorrow for Open Street Sunday. Then we walk home. $2.40
6 p.m. — I eat some yogurt and berries for a snack while F. takes a nap. We walked at least seven miles today and didn't have nearly enough water.
9 p.m. — We decide to have a quiet night after all the events of yesterday and today. We go to a local food hall for dinner. I get fish tacos. $13.53
9:30 p.m. — On the way home from the food hall, we stop at Target to get ice cream. I get Ben & Jerry's Glampfire, Bagel Bites, a super soft pajama shirt for my sister, and a travel coffee mug. We head back home and eat our ice cream before going to bed. $27.99
Daily Total: $68.45
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