Money Diaries logo

A Week In Charlotte, NC, On An $84,000 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: a senior marketing coordinator who makes $84,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on lingerie.
Occupation: Senior Marketing Coordinator
Industry: Construction
Age: 26
Location: Charlotte, NC
Salary: $84,000
Net Worth: ~$94,800 ($3,715 in checking account, $26,192 in HYSA, $21,671 in Roth IRA, $20,535 in an individual brokerage account, $22,152 in 401(k), $538 in HSA).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (weekly): $1,043
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1960 (this includes community fee, trash and water. I live in a one-bedroom by myself).
Energy: ~$35
Wi-Fi: $55
Gym: $44
Phone: $0 (still on my parents' plan).

Annual Expenses
Renters Insurance: $50
Amazon Prime: $139
Credit Card Annual Fee: $69
Car Insurance: ~$520, billed every six months.
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. Both of my parents graduated from college so it was always assumed that was the path I would take as well. Growing up, I loved school and got really good grades, so I was always really excited about the idea of college. I was blessed that my parents really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and apply to any college that interested me. I ended up going out of state, which was not cheap. A lot of my college was covered by academic scholarships, and I am very thankful that my parents paid for the rest.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money wasn't a huge topic of conversation growing up but I still ended up being a saver. As a kid, I remember having an old coffee grounds tin where I kept all the money I ever earned or collected. My parents gave my brother and me opportunities to earn money by doing chores around the house, but I don't remember much financial education past that. As I grew older, I became obsessed with saving money instead of spending it.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I got a job as a salesperson at a clothing boutique. Once I had my driver's license and a car, my parents expected my brother and me to get a job over the summers. The money I earned was spending money but I think the most valuable thing I gained was work experience and responsibility.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I grew up in an upper-middle-class family in a classic suburban bubble. My dad was in sales and my mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in high school, when she went back to work. I'm very aware that this privilege helped set me up to be in the good financial situation I'm in now.
Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I watch how I spend my money so that I don't have to miss out on things. I struggle with spending money at all so when exciting opportunities pop up (like a last-minute trip with friends), I have to remind myself it's okay to spend money. I'm such a saver, sometimes it is hard for me to spend the money I save.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I graduated from college and got a job, I took over most of my financial responsibility. However, my parents helped me with a portion of my rent when I first moved to Charlotte. So I became fully financially independent six months after moving to Charlotte, when I was 23.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents paid for my college. As a graduation present, they put a significant down payment on a new car for me. This helped keep my monthly payments super low, and I paid it off in two years.

Day One

5:30 a.m. — I wake up in Orlando with my boyfriend, H. We are wrapping up a trip to Disney World and our flight home leaves at 7:30 a.m. It was my first time at Disney as an adult and the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride was worth every penny we spent! We quickly pack our stuff and hop into an Uber to the airport ($33). I force myself not to buy coffee at the airport and just drink what they give me on the flight. $33
9:30 a.m. — We land in Charlotte and take an Uber back to my apartment (H. pays for this one). We both took the day off work so after unpacking and getting my life together, we head to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant for lunch. We eat endless sushi and hibachi and he pays. Their lunch special is amazing — only $16 per person. We head home to rest after our early morning. I stop and get gas on my way home. $40
4:30 p.m. — Grocery run. I spend $121 for the week, which is way more than I usually do. I justify it by telling myself that it will cover more than a week of food, plus some household necessities like laundry detergent and trash bags. I also buy ingredients for two get-togethers this week. I'll be bringing food to both. $121
6:30 p.m. — I sign up for a workout class at my gym (included in my monthly membership). I'm lucky that my membership covers both unlimited group fitness classes and regular gym access. Today I am taking a weightlifting class. I don't know how to properly lift weights so I love taking classes with an instructor telling me what to do.
7:30 p.m. — I cook chicken parmesan for dinner and put the leftovers in containers for lunches. I'm a bridesmaid in two weddings this spring so to save money, I'm trying to cook at home as much as I can during the week. I know it's going to be an early night for me so I get ready for bed and read until I fall asleep. Currently reading: Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score.
Daily Total: $194

Day Two

7 a.m. — After snoozing my alarm more than once, I get up and get ready for work. I usually skip breakfast but I can't skip coffee. My Nespresso machine is my best friend. I work in-office, so I'm out of the apartment by 8 and at my desk by 8:20. I spend the morning working on a proposal.
12 p.m. — I pop into the gym during lunch for a quick workout. I'm so grateful that my office is right next door to the gym. Once back in the office, a group of coworkers is headed to lunch to welcome a new hire to the team. I never turn down a free meal so I tag along. I order a salmon grain bowl and one of my coworkers expenses the meal. We head back to the office.
4:30 p.m. — I'm on the executive board for a nonprofit and we have a board meeting today. I wrap up work for the day and head to a local brewery for the meeting. Usually we meet over Zoom, but once a quarter we get together in person. We order drinks and snacks while we discuss upcoming events and committee meetings. All the expenses are covered by the organization.
7 p.m. — I head straight from my meeting to wine night at a friend's house. I meet H. there, and we bring some meats and cheeses to contribute to the charcuterie spread (bought on my grocery run yesterday). We have a great time with our friends and spend the whole night eating and drinking. We play a game called Stir The Pot that ends up being really funny.
10 p.m. — H. and I head to my apartment and get ready for bed. He stays up watching The Blacklist while I fall asleep during the first 10 minutes (typical).
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — Rise and shine! After taking way too long to get ready, I'm in the office by 8:30, coffee in hand. I spend the morning making headway on my proposal and send out a first draft to my boss to look over. I eat leftover chicken parmesan for lunch while working.
1 p.m. — My company offers paid community service hours so I wrap up work for the day early and head to a volunteer opportunity. I spend the afternoon working with at-risk youth and young adults, introducing them to the construction industry and jobs in skilled trades. We work together to build a bench and picnic table to leave at the resource center and everyone enjoys the experience (especially me).
6 p.m. — My friends and I recently started a book club and tonight is our first meeting. I stop by the grocery store to grab a fruit tray on my way ($10). It's half book discussion, half social hour. But that's how any good book club runs, right? We pick out our next book and I make a mental note to put it on hold at the library. $10
8:30 p.m. — I head home. I clean up the apartment and realize that I ate so much buffalo chicken dip at book club that I'm not hungry for dinner. I'm in bed reading by 10.
Daily Total: $10

Day Four

8 a.m. — Instead of heading to work this morning, I drive to my therapist's office for my appointment ($150 and worth every penny). I've been going for a year and a half now, and I really think everyone should have a therapist. I drive straight to the office after I'm finished. $150
9:30 a.m. — I spend all morning reviewing two projects that my direct report is working on and send her edits. We hop on a call to discuss. Lunch is more leftover chicken parmesan (I'm considering it meal prep at this point). The afternoon is spent working on my proposal.
5 p.m. — I leave the office to head to a Pilates class at my gym (included in membership). I feel very accomplished after.
6:30 p.m. — Time for a productive evening. I get home, wash my hair and my sheets, make a protein smoothie for dinner and do some online shopping. I'm going to a bachelorette party next weekend that includes a lingerie party, so I buy a cute set for the bride. I'm a procrastinator so I have to pay for expedited shipping for it to come in time, oops. $52 total. $52
9:30 p.m. — I head over to H.'s apartment. We hang out for a little, and I read my book while he gets ready for bed. I'm asleep by 11. I haven't had a week with this much sleep in AGES, it's amazing.
Daily Total: $202

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I wake up a little late for work and rush to get ready. I work on projects all morning.
10 a.m. — I get a text reminding me to pay for my portion of another upcoming bachelorette party. We are all splitting a beach house in Florida for the weekend so I Venmo the maid of honor my portion, $250. Being a bridesmaid is expensive but I'm so excited! $250
12:30 p.m. — More leftover chicken parmesan for lunch at the office. I send an updated version of my proposal to my boss for him to look over one more time. It is due early next week so this is his final chance to give me comments.
2 p.m. — A friend invites me to a last-minute get-together tonight. Surprisingly, it fits into my schedule so I excitedly RSVP yes!
4:30 p.m. — The weekend is officially here! I leave the office and meet a friend at a restaurant for after-work drinks. It's the first time we've seen each other in a while so we spend two hours catching up over drinks (I get a lavender Margarita) and tapas (we split patatas bravas and a chorizo cheese dip). We split the bill, my portion is $29 including tip. $29
8 p.m. — I stop by my apartment to change and pick a few things up, then head to my friend's get-together. My friend is hosting at her apartment and they have decked it out with decorations and food. We make Cosmos and stay up late, eating sweets and talking.
11 p.m. — The next thing I know it's time to go! Conveniently, H. lives in the same apartment complex that we are in so I walk my drunk self over to his apartment to sleep. He's playing video games with a friend so I put myself to bed with a minimal nighttime routine.
Daily Total: $279

Day Six

10 a.m. — I happily sleep in and start my day at Trader Joe's. Tonight, friends are coming over to my apartment for make-your-own-sushi night. I pick up cucumber, mango, carrots, a bag of chips and two bottles of wine. $36
12 p.m. — I bring my groceries home and head to my apartment gym. Sometimes I'm too lazy to go to the gym that I have a membership at, so I'm glad my complex has a great gym as well.
2:30 p.m. — I meet H. and some friends at a local tennis court to play pickleball. H. is obsessed while I just play to be social. It's a fun (and free) thing that we love to do on the weekends.
6 p.m. — Sushi night! One friend brings the fish and a sushi-making kit, and we have a blast rolling our own sushi. It takes us four hours to make/eat six rolls but we have so much fun the entire time. By the end of it, we've switched from wine to espresso Martinis (I already had all the ingredients thanks to my Nespresso machine).
11 p.m. — At-home sushi night has now morphed into us meeting some friends at a local cocktail bar (I should not be surprised). We walk over and I order a vodka soda. I stay for one drink but I'm exhausted and head to H.'s after my glass is empty. I get a ride from a friend that is also headed out. Gooooodnight! $12
Daily Total: $48

Day Seven

12 p.m. — H. and I have earned a lazy Sunday. He goes and picks up breakfast from Bojangles (Chicken Filet Biscuit, please!) and we hang out around the apartment all morning.
2 p.m. — H. is hosting a movie watch party tonight so we start to prep and clean. I run home to shower and pick up the ingredients that I bought to make sausage dip.
7:30 p.m. — People arrive and we put on the movie. I'm very thankful to end the weekend with a chill-at-home get-together with friends. We eat Philly cheesesteaks brought by a friend. The moment the movie is over, I head to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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