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A Week In Charlotte, NC, On A $120,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Aritzia.
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 marketing consultant working in finance who makes $120,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an Aritzia Super Puff jacket.
Editor’s note: This diary discusses depression, weight loss, and a mental health crisis. Please read with care.
Occupation: Marketing consultant
Industry: Finance
Age: 27
Location: Charlotte, NC
Salary: $120,000
Net Worth: $7,420 ($5,200 in checking and $5,020 in a Roth IRA. I recently withdrew some savings to pay off a large chunk of my credit card, and I’m the first to admit my savings need work. I could blame this on a lot of things, like three layoffs in five years and a few emergencies, but, honestly, it’s probably due to my own poor planning. I’m going to open an HYSA with SoFi but want to wait until I get my bonus in the spring.)
Debt: $2,800 (on a credit card)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,338
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,200 (I have one roommate, O. This total includes water and trash fees.)
Utilities: ~$75 (I pay for the energy bill, and O. covers the internet, which is about the same amount.)
Credit Card: ~$500
Dental, Vision & Health Insurance: $127.08
Car Payment: $600 (I do drive a luxury car, but my mom works for a big car manufacturer, and I have a lease through her employee benefits. This payment includes insurance, taxes, and all maintenance.)
Hulu, Peacock, Paramount+ & Apple Music: $42
Spenga: $179 (gym)
ClassPass: $58 (Next month, I’m canceling ClassPass and buying a monthly membership to another gym. I know it’s not necessary to have two memberships to boutique gyms, but they’re invaluable to my mental health, and I get different benefits from each one.)
Audible: $14.99
Kindle Unlimited: $10.99 (I don’t use this as much as I thought I would, so I’m most likely going to cancel next month.)
HSA: $80
401(k): $553.86

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?
College was never something I thought of as optional. If anything, I often felt that my dad’s love and approval was tied to how my brother and I were doing in school (I’ve talked to my therapist about this extensively). Although there was a ton of academic pressure on us, my brother is a doctor and I have an MBA, so I guess my dad knew what he was doing, and, ultimately, I’m grateful. I had a partial academic scholarship for undergrad but went to an expensive private college, so my parents generously covered the extra and paid entirely for graduate school.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents shielded us from a lot of financial matters growing up. I always knew we had more money than some of my friends, but that was pretty much all I knew. My dad owned a business, and we were hit very hard in 2009 and 2010 — right when my older brother was going to college. Only when I was an adult did my parents talk about how bad it was and how they got out of debt. Today, my parents are wealthy (but not obscenely so) and they’re trying very hard to retroactively teach me about money.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
During summers in high school, I worked as a nanny and at summer camps so I could earn spending money. I wasn’t allowed to work during the school year.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No, but I now know that that’s because my parents shielded us from their own worries. My mom worked very on and off while I was growing up, and the first time I can recall her having a full-time job was when I went to college. My dad worked for the federal government before buying a business from a friend and turning it into a very successful company.

Do you worry about money now?
Probably not as much as I should. At my last job, I made $103,000 and barely saved anything, embarrassingly. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I spent it on. When I got laid off, I knew that my parents would be willing to help me if I needed it, but those months were the most I have ever thought about money in my entire life. Now that I have a job again, I’m trying very hard to be more intentional with my money and pay off debt as soon as I can.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible when I graduated college at 22. Granted, I was on my parents’ insurance until I was 26, and I’m still on their phone plan (along with my older brother) because it’s cheaper. Despite three layoffs in five years, I haven’t had to borrow money from my parents. When I took a six-week sabbatical from work for mental health reasons, I used up a lot of my savings. I’m extremely fortunate that my parents are generous enough to be my financial safety net, but I know they may not always be able to help.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, I have received money from my parents, and I know they will leave my brother and me some amount of money.

Day One

5:30 a.m. — My alarm blasts, and I seriously consider skipping my workout for a solid three minutes. Ultimately, my willpower wins, and I stumble out of bed and wince at the lights in my bathroom. My dog, T., doesn’t flinch when I get up, so I decide to take her out when I get back home. I dress in the clothes I laid out last night and slip on a pair of Uggs and a coat and head to spin class.
7:30 a.m. — Spin is fantastic, and now I’m back home to walk T, shower, and get ready for work. I’m still figuring out my schedule since going back to work and laying out both workout and work clothes the night before has been saving me some time. Today, I switch the dress I had laid out to a pair of black Good American jeans with a white J.Crew button down and a Banana Republic wool sweater over the button down.
8:30 a.m. — For lunch, I throw frozen chicken in the air fryer to have it with a salad, green grapes, baked snap peas, and a peanut butter Oreo. I pack everything in my backpack and head out the door. Parking at my office is a mess, and it’s cold today, so I choose a pay parking lot that’s only a seven-minute walk. $17.83
12:15 p.m. — After an 11 a.m. meeting, I heat up my lunch and go eat on a different floor of my building. I’m really enjoying audiobooks lately and I finish the one I’m currently reading, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Once I finish it, I download and start listening to A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham. I had to stop listening to true crime podcasts because I need happy thoughts going through my head instead of listening to stories about girls like me getting killed. I’ve really been enjoying whodunnit novels lately.
2:47 p.m. — I end a call with my manager in which I share a few roadblocks I’ve hit as a new hire. I think I have some PTSD (for lack of a better word) from my last job, and I’m trying to get over that and build my professional confidence back up. Before leaving my last company, I thought that I loved my job. I now see that I was so caught up in the cool things I was doing that I was blind to the level of stress that role put on me. Last fall, I had to take a six-week sabbatical because my mental health had gotten so bad. Anyway, this job already seems so much better (no one is still online at 7 p.m.).
4:45 p.m. — I wrap work for the day, pack up my things, and head out. I start listening to the 50 Shades of Grey audiobook, which I downloaded forever ago and haven’t finished. I first read the books in college and loved them but I find this narrator extremely irritating — like, the worst I’ve ever heard. I just want to finish it already.
5:45 p.m. — Once home, I take T. for a walk. I try to walk her at least a mile every day, but it’s getting tougher as it gets colder here. O., my best friend/roommate and I decide to have a Whole Foods frozen pizza for dinner, and I take a weed gummy before I start “cooking.” Last year, I had a serious depressive episode when I was adjusting to medication and smoking a little weed literally saved my life. I still give it credit for why I’m here today. I don’t know why I feel the need to share this with internet strangers, but thanks for listening to my TED Talk.
7:45 p.m. — After dinner, O. and I both want “a little something sweet,” so I offer to order from Insomnia Cookies. I get us a blondie and a variety of cookies: peanut butter, chocolate chunk, M&M, and s’mores. $26.32
9 p.m. — I take T. out one more time and get ready for bed. I’m working from home tomorrow so I’m going to a 7:30 a.m. class. I brush my teeth, do skincare, and catch up with my situationship, L. We dated very casually when we first met in 2021 and have been friends ever since. Lately, our relationship has changed a bit. I’m more of a slow-burn kinda gal, and it takes me a while to develop deep feelings for someone, so I’m fine with not defining anything right now.
Daily Total: $44.15

Day Two

6:50 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I sleepily reach for the TV remote to turn it off, but that obviously doesn’t work, and I resolve to get out of bed and go to Spenga.
8:15 a.m. — On the way home from Spenga, I call my mom to chat and ask her about jackets. I need a new one that’s more casual than my wool/cashmere coat but warmer than the jackets I have. I want a puffer but I want it to be weather resistant and made from down feather. My mom offers to go to Aritzia for me to check out their puffers, but I remember that there’s a new store in Charlotte! Hopefully, my day won’t be too busy, and I can go at lunch.
11:30 a.m. — I’m working from home today, and my morning meetings have flown by. I desperately need caffeine, so I make a matcha latte before I hop on a legal and compliance meeting. We spend 20 minutes discussing one word.
12 p.m. — I lost my Apple Pencil last week, and I really need a new one. I looked online a few days ago, and they were all on sale for $89. I kick myself for not ordering one then. I find one on a refurbished tech site and order it. Morally, I can’t pay the full price of $112 for a pencil. $75.06
1 p.m. — I make it in and out of Aritzia in about 20 minutes, which might be a personal record. I end up getting a black version of the OG Super Puff jacket. It’s not cheap, but the price is good both for the product and compared to other stores. $268.33
3:50 p.m. — After a few meetings, I walk to the kitchen and snack on a bunch of green grapes and get some water. I have a therapy appointment right at 5 p.m., so I also take T. for a potty break (wearing my new coat!) and send my last few emails of the day.
6 p.m. — Therapy is good. We’ve been digging into my relationship and control issues lately. I say something that makes him laugh and I feel that I get an A+ in therapy today, which is a totally normal and completely realistic thing to want to achieve. After the appointment, I get dinner started while O. is out at a tennis lesson. We’re having salmon, jasmine rice, and asparagus. We split groceries evenly, but usually figure out lunch on our own. I cook, and O. does the dishes afterward.
8:50 p.m. — I take T. out, then start my nighttime routine: lay out clothes for my morning workout, pick out work clothes, and do my skincare. I curse myself for not throwing my sheets into the dryer earlier. I like to keep a clean space, but laundry is one chore I loathe more than any other — it’s just never done. I’m too tired to stay up another hour, so I go to bed on just a heated blanket over my mattress pad. I scroll on TikTok and fall asleep to The Big Bang Theory.
Daily Total: $343.39

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — My alarm robs me of sleep once again, and I get out of bed and change for Spenga. It’s not easy to prioritize a healthy lifestyle, but I remind myself that it’s not supposed to be easy. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last year, and I’m still adjusting to my new self. I worry every day that I’ll wake up tomorrow and be the person I was (mentally and physically) a year ago. Working out helps quiet these thoughts a lot.
8:35 a.m. — I’m running a little late, so I do quick makeup and leave my hair in its natural curls after showering. I put on the clothes I laid out last night: a beige dress from Nordstrom with flowery tights and black leather booties. I place an order for a shaken espresso and an egg-white-and-turkey-bacon sandwich from Starbucks. The total is $11.91, but I use a preloaded gift card. I pay for parking and walk a few blocks to my office. $17.83
12 p.m. — My morning meeting runs over by about 30 minutes, and I have a few afternoon meetings, so I decide to head out for lunch right at noon. I walk a few blocks to a market and get a chicken caprese sandwich and a bag of chips. $14.83
2:50 p.m. — I’m in meetings for three hours straight but get a short break so I make a quick latte using the machine in our kitchen. I get a text from my friend, D., asking what time O. and I are coming over tonight. O. and I have been friends with her since we first moved to Charlotte, and D. is now married and expecting a baby. It’s crazy how people start moving into different stages of life at this age.
5 p.m. — As I’m walking to my car after work, I notice a guy that looks familiar walking to his car parked on the street. We lock eyes for a second, and he calls out “I like your coat!” I stop and talk to him. Turns out, he’s a franchise owner of the gym I went to this morning AND the restaurant we’re standing in front of. During our conversation, he gives me a coupon for a free meal, a branded tumbler, and his business card. I think I’m in love? I’m planning the wedding as I drive home.
6:30 p.m. — O. and I head to D.’s house for dinner and stay a few hours. Her husband, M., makes us spaghetti while we watch Vanderpump Rules. M. and I have become good friends, and he tells me he has a joint rolled, so we smoke a little of that before dinner.
9:30 p.m. — Exhausted from the day, I do my nighttime routine quickly and head to bed. I’m not going to the gym until 8 a.m. tomorrow, so I get to sleep in a bit.
Daily Total: $32.66

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — I wake up and quickly take T. out before leaving. My HIIT class starts at 8 a.m., and I’m going to a different gym this morning to mix it up. I pay for an unlimited membership at Spenga, and I use ClassPass for the other gym.
9:30 a.m. — Eventful morning! After my workout, I head to Dunkin’ for a Friday treat: a cold brew with sweet foam and a sausage, egg, and cheese wrap. On my way out, I see a group leave and notice that one of them drops what looks like at least $500 in cash. I pick it up and run outside to catch the family to give it back, and the dad keeps trying to give me $20. I finally take it because he keeps insisting. $8.36
11:30 a.m. — I’m working from home today. The morning is slow, and I run an errand I’ve been putting off for a while. This is my first job where I have a PC instead of a Mac, and my WFH setup is very Mac-centric, so the keyboard and mouse don’t really work with the PC. I head to Best Buy and pick up a keyboard and mouse. I peek at my calendar for next week and see a reminder to bring items for a children’s charity drive. I make a mental note to go to Target and buy everything this weekend. $45.23
2 p.m. — I have about 30 minutes until my next meeting, so I grab a protein drink for lunch and snack on grapes and crackers, my all-time favorite snack combo.
5 p.m. — My meetings run right until 5 p.m., so after I’m done, I pack up my things and start the walk to my car. When I get home, I take T. for a long walk and listen to my audiobook.
6:30 p.m. — For dinner, I make the “Marry Me” chicken pasta recipe I found on TikTok. It’s delicious, and O. does the dishes after. We watch Home Alone 2, and I read a few chapters of Harry Potter before heading to bed.
9 p.m. — My skincare is done, and my clothes are laid out for tomorrow! I’m working from home, so I’m not going to work out until 8 a.m., and I fall asleep quickly knowing that I get to sleep in.
Daily Total: $53.59

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — I sleep in until the last minute, then change into leggings and a crop top and head out the door.
9:15 a.m. — Already sore, I’m back home to walk T. and get my day started. I don’t have any meetings until 11 a.m., so my morning is slow, but I have quite a few meetings this afternoon.
12 p.m. — For lunch, I toast an English muffin and have it with cream cheese and smoked salmon, along with baked snap peas and grapes. This is an unusual lunch for me, but I may add it to the rotation because it is oh so good.
4:30 p.m. — The day is finally done! I take T. for a long walk and listen to the podcast Cancelled. O. and I have dinner plans with a friend who is moving to another state in a few weeks, but we’re feeling a pre-dinner cocktail, so I head to the liquor store to grab ingredients for festive martinis: peppermint vodka and Irish cream liquor. O. paid for a lot of random things like this while I was laid off, so it’s my turn. $44.37
7 p.m. — O. calls us an Uber to the restaurant, and our friend has already grabbed our table. We split deviled eggs and pimento cheese dip, and I order mussels and two drinks. Charlotte has amazing food, and while I do spend a lot of money eating out, it’s such a fun, social thing, and I love it. $72.68
9:30 p.m. — As we leave the restaurant and walk to a bar, I slip on ice, fall off the curb, and roll my ankle. The worst (i.e. most embarrassing) part is that a bunch of people see and run over to help. I have a fear of getting hurt, not being able to work out, slipping into a depressive episode, et cetera, but I don’t think my ankle is hurt badly.
12 a.m. — Several rounds of drinks later, I mean to post a silly picture of me and O. on my close friend’s Instagram story but accidentally post on my regular story. It’s time to go home. Each of us buys a round, and my total includes four cocktails and a healthy tip. $55.85
1 a.m. — O. and I are home, and she decides it’s a good idea to make a frozen pizza and watch an episode of Gilmore Girls. I fall asleep on the couch before eating the pizza.
Daily Total: $172.90

Day Six

9 a.m. — T. wakes me up, and I decide to use our walk to get coffee as well. I have a gift card for the coffee.
11 a.m. — I don’t feel particularly hungover, but O. and I both decide that it’s a good day to do absolutely nothing. I was planning to work out, but my ankle is swollen, so I give it a rest today and ice it.
1 p.m. — One Hallmark Christmas movie later, I’m starving so I drive to my favorite Chinese spot and order tangerine chicken and wonton soup. I order here enough that the employee working the register always recognizes me, so I chat with her, then head back home. $15.33
6:30 p.m. — I met a guy at the bar last night, and we’ve been texting throughout the day. I know I have a situationship to consider, but I don’t feel bad or guilty about exploring my options. Bar Guy asks me out on a date for later in the week, but he just moved here, so I have to help plan it.
8 p.m. — After a day of doing nothing, O. and I feel like we deserve Taco Bell and order some on Postmates. I pay for it and O.sends me money for her half. $13.60
10 p.m. — I end my rot day by taking T. on a quick walk and heading to bed early.
Daily Total: $28.93

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Today is a workout rest day! O. and I want to go to an early church service, so I wake up before I normally would on a Sunday and take T. for a walk before heading out the door.
11 a.m. — After the service, I drop O. off at home and go to Target to buy stuff for the children’s charity. I have an 18-month-old nephew, and that’s the extent of my baby knowledge. I’m overwhelmed in the baby aisle so I grab items I’ve heard my sister-in-law talk about: two packs of baby bottles, two packs of white onesies, a muslin blanket, a Christmas onesie, two packs of burp cloths, a pack of pacifiers, and a swaddle. I’m also buying for a little girl who has requested anything Barbie, so I buy her an Ariel Barbie. I want to buy her a few different skin tones, but Target doesn’t have a wide selection today, so I decide to look online when I get home. $157
1:20 p.m. — My friend is in town from San Francisco, so I meet up with her and go to one of our favorite sushi restaurants. We talk or Snapchat at least once a day, but it’s so nice to catch up in person, and I miss her dearly. We each order one sushi roll and split another roll. I also get pork belly fried rice. The portions here are huge, so I get the rice leftovers to go. Once I’m in the car, I realize I forgot the leftovers on the table (I’m embarrassed to admit how often I do this). $42.27
4 p.m. — Back home, I get anxious realizing that I haven’t bought any Christmas gifts yet, nor do I have a designated budget. Last year, I went a little overboard on gifts and I’m trying to be better this year, so I make a quick spreadsheet with all the people I have to buy for and a few ideas. I end up ordering a custom initial blanket for my sister-in-law and a travel jewelry case for my mom from BaubleBar. $78.34
5:45 p.m. — L., my situationship, calls me, and I decide to go to his place and hang out. He’s been learning how to make my favorite cocktail and he’s excited for me to try his espresso martini recipe. I know I won’t get back until later, so I lay out leggings and a crop top for my workout and black jeans and a white button down for work tomorrow.
8 p.m. — After an espresso martini, L. and I walk to the grocery store down the street and grab food for dinner: rotisserie chicken, rice, and a salad. He pays, and we go back to watch Home Alone. I leave soon after.
10:30 p.m. — Once home, I take T. for a walk and quickly fall asleep, mentally preparing myself for the 5 a.m. alarm tomorrow.
Daily Total: $277.61
If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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