A Week In Arizona On A $200,000 Salary

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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 director who makes $200,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on coffee.
Occupation: Marketing director
Industry: Pharmaceuticals
Age: 47
Location: Arizona
Salary: $200,000
Net Worth: ~$1,795,000 (This total includes $330,000 in a personal annuity that I purchased last year with the proceeds of the sale of my condo, $155,000 in a high-yield saving account and my checking account, $115,000 in my company’s 401(k), $195,000 in home equity, and approximately $1,000,000 in life insurance, various IRAs, mutual funds, and annuities. I am both partner-free and child-free by choice, and plan to leave my estate to various non-profit organizations.)
Debt: $440,000 mortgage on a home I bought last year.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $6,000
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $3,250 (The sale price was $635,000 and I put $200,000 down. I’ve made over $100,000 in improvements, but it’s difficult to say what the current value is given that it’s not a seller’s market right now, so my equity is based on the sale price.)
Investments: $600
Utilities: $300 (electric, water/sewer, garbage/recycling, and fiber optic internet)
Health Insurance: $170 
Cell Phone: $135

Annual Expenses
401(k): $23,000 (I max it out annually.)
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 finished high school but neither went to college. Growing up, it was always understood that I would attend college, so it was just a given that I never questioned. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I had to fill out all of the grant and loan applications that my parents told me that they couldn’t contribute anything. I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree and about $30,000 in debt, which I paid off in 10 years. I later went back for a graduate degree in my early 30s and didn’t take out any loans (my then-employer paid some of it).
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I grew up in a blue-collar household in an economically depressed small town in New Jersey. Both of my parents worked full-time hourly jobs. I would say we were lower middle class. They sometimes argued about money but otherwise didn’t discuss it with us. We weren’t as poor as many of my peers, but I always understood that I wanted more and that college would be the way to get it. When I was a senior in high school my parents separated; I went to live with my father and my younger sister went to live with my mother. He was semi-retired and on a fixed income, so he was more open about how little money we had each month (to put it into perspective, I qualified for free school lunches). Looking back as an adult, I understand and appreciate how much he sacrificed.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Besides babysitting for cash, I started working at 16 because I wanted things that were more expensive than my parents were willing to buy. I had three jobs in high school: a summer job on a farm, as a cashier at a fast food restaurant, and a telemarketing job.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not until high school, when I started wanting nicer clothes. Our basic needs were met and the refrigerator was always full, but we didn’t go on vacations. Everyone was essentially poor where I grew up, and it was pre-Internet, so comparatively, I didn’t know any differently.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. Obviously I’m much better off than many people, but I’m approaching 50 and retirement age isn’t that far off. I worry that I won’t have enough saved to retire while I’m still young enough to enjoy it, or that political or economic conditions will get worse. Because I work in the medical industry, I’m very aware of the steep cost of healthcare, particularly once you are no longer covered by an employer’s plan.
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 18 when I went to college. I lived on campus and student loans paid for housing and a meal plan, but I worked two jobs simultaneously to pay for other expenses. I am my own financial safety net. My parents have both passed away and I make more money than all of my siblings (I financially help them out from time to time when they need it). If things were dire, I could always sell my house and live a less extravagant lifestyle.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. When one of my older brothers passed away a decade ago without any dependents, my mother inherited his estate. She passed away a year later, and the estate was split between the remaining siblings. My share was approximately $100,000, which I invested.

Day One

9 a.m. — A friend is staying with me for the weekend. I wake up around 7 a.m., but stay in bed for a while reading. My friend doesn’t want a full breakfast so we go to a local coffee shop a few blocks from my house. We each get a coffee and a croissant and catch up there for about an hour. I refuse to use disposable coffee cups (one of the many environmental choices I’m a stickler about), so I always either bring my own reusable cup or insist on having it “for here” in one of the coffee shop’s mugs. The bill is around $20 plus tip and my friend pays.
12 p.m. — We hang out around the house and have a relatively chill afternoon.

7 p.m. — My friend and I go to a local restaurant with my neighbors. I spontaneously decide to treat everyone and give my credit card to the server before anyone can protest. My neighbors treat me to meals quite a bit, and it feels good to do something nice for them and my houseguest. I later kick myself because my credit card has opportunities to “boost” points earned but you have to select it in advance and I often forget to, which means I only earn the standard number of points instead of triple. $384.53

10 p.m. — After dinner, we walk to a mezcal bar and each have another drink and chat with some of the other patrons. My neighbors pick up the check. Then we head home and I get right in bed.

Daily Total: $384.53

Day Two

8 a.m. — I’m hungover from last night’s cocktails, which usually doesn’t happen to me. I feel awful and decide on the spot to cut out alcohol for the foreseeable future. My friend’s flight home is delayed, and he’s worried about missing his layover, so he decides to hire a car service to drive him to the layover airport an hour and a half away. I see him off and spend the rest of the morning in bed, napping on and off.
2 p.m. — I am starting to feel a little better, so I heat up some rosemary and sea salt focaccia bread that I bought at the farmers’ market. I down it with a kombucha. I spend the rest of the afternoon on the sofa browsing the internet but manage to avoid purchasing anything.
9 p.m. — I head to bed to continue reading a book that I purchased over the holidays. It’s called Single at Heart by Bella DePaulo and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve had a few serious romantic relationships but never felt like my authentic self when I was in one. It took me many years of dating to realize that I’m just happier and most fulfilled being single. I discovered Dr. DePaulo’s TED Talk and it resonated with me so strongly that I felt like I needed to read her book. It’s been really affirming and comforting to know that there are so many others who feel the same way. I read for about an hour and am asleep by 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — I set my alarm for 7 a.m., but usually wake up before it goes off. My morning routine is simple — I splash water on my face, brush my teeth, gargle mouthwash, brush dry shampoo through my hair, and pat moisturizing gel on my face. I have a dedicated home office and work from it when I’m not traveling for business. Prior to the pandemic, I was an office-based employee, but I’m fully remote now. I use the first few hours in the morning to catch up on emails and work on a PowerPoint presentation. I attend an hour-long Zoom meeting and break at 10 a.m. to make breakfast. I make farmers’ market eggs scrambled with bok choy and green onions from the local co-op, along with the remainder of the focaccia. I also have a small serving of concentrated cold brew coffee with ice and flax milk. Regular coffee makes me jittery, but for some reason, I can handle cold brew in small doses.
1 p.m. — After a few more Zoom meetings, I break for a green smoothie (frozen spinach, flax milk, chia, hemp seeds, shredded coconut, turmeric powder, walnuts, and peanut butter). I am out of retinol and go online to order more. I get Botox a few times a year and am diligent about my daily skincare routine. I see that there’s a 20% discount when bundling products, so I also pick up some vitamin C serum as well. The company is running a promotion that includes a full-size niacinamide and trial-size azelaic acid booster with purchase. Four products for under $100 seems like a win. $95.20
4 p.m. — My stomach is rumbling so I sauté some quinoa, tofu, kale, frozen peas, green onions, and curry sauce. When I’m making dinner at home, I generally eat by 5 p.m. and have a small snack, like cheese and crackers, a few hours later. My Zoom meetings are over for the day but I continue to monitor my work emails until around 6 p.m. just in case something urgent comes through.
8 p.m. — I watch a couple hours of streaming video, text with my younger sister who is on the east coast, do my evening yoga stretches, and then head to bed. Brush, floss, and gargle (goes without saying). Unlike my morning routine, my evening skincare routine takes some time. My new purchases won’t arrive for another few days, so I wash my face and apply an intensive moisturizing mask for 20 minutes. I apply a leave-in conditioner to my hair and put it in a ponytail. I read some more of Single at Heart and smile throughout because I relate so much to the stories. I usually try to recite what I’m grateful for before falling asleep, but sometimes I am so tired that I just fall right asleep. Tonight is one of those nights. I fall asleep around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $95.20

Day Four

7 a.m. — Today I’m flying to a business meeting. I wake up and shower, which takes about 20 minutes. I recently cut my hair into a bob and it’s so easy to style. After my shower, I apply a thermal protector and wrap it in a hair towel. I don’t have any Zoom meetings, so I can leave it while I go about my morning, checking emails and packing. I make some scrambled eggs and quinoa with nutritional yeast and drink a hot peppermint tea. After packing (carry-on only, never a checked bag), I unwrap my hair, which is almost dry. I style it with one of those hybrid blowdryer/curling iron devices and apply some sunscreen, foundation, and eye makeup.
12:30 p.m. — I order an Uber and head to the airport. My airport is small and I have pre-check, so security is a breeze. I rarely arrive more than 15 mintues before my flight leaves. I find a spot to charge my phone and wait to board. My company will reimburse me for the Uber when I submit my expenses at the end of the month ($24.75 expensed).
6 p.m. — I arrive at the hotel and do a few hours of work before meeting some former colleagues for dinner. It’s nice to catch up and we split the bill (even though I’m here on business travel, I consider this a personal cost and won’t expense it). I’m back at the hotel and in bed by 8:30 p.m. Because I don’t have any televisions in my home (I hate the way they look and would rather just stream videos on my device), watching regular TV in a hotel is a guilty pleasure. I almost exclusively watch HGTV. Tonight is the show where celebrities remodel houses for people they know, and it’s my least favorite. I am just so uninterested in pop culture and often don’t even know who the people are. I fall asleep around 10 p.m. but don’t sleep well and toss and turn throughout the night. $32.53
Daily Total: $32.53

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I head down to the hotel gym for a quick workout before meeting colleagues in the hotel lobby. As my outfits were already planned, there’s little to do post-workout. I shower, brush my teeth and gargle mouthwash, run a brush through my hair, and apply moisturizer (with sunscreen), primer, foundation, lipstick, and some eye makeup. There will be coffee and breakfast at the meeting, and one of my colleagues picks up the cost of the rideshare.
5:45 p.m. — The meeting is over for the day, so I head back to the hotel to drop off my bag and quickly change into jeans and comfortable shoes. We have a group dinner reservation for 6:30 p.m. I share a ride with colleagues (someone else pays) and the cost of dinner is covered by my company. I genuinely like the people I work with and don’t mind spending time with them outside of work, since we don’t see each other in person very often. Dinner is at a restaurant we’ve been to before and it’s good, but I’m tired after dessert and round up some others who are also ready to go back to the hotel. I pick up the cost of the Uber on the way back, but my company will reimburse me. I’m in bed by 10 p.m. and sleep much better than the previous night ($31.96 expensed).
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7 a.m. — I only packed one workout outfit and wore it yesterday so I’m skipping the gym this morning. Yesterday’s coffee at the meeting wasn’t very good, so after my morning routine and getting dressed, I head out to get my own ($5.50). Sometimes I don’t expense smaller items like coffee, as I know they’re a nicety not a necessity, and I try to be conscious of how much of the company’s money I’m spending. I also don’t expense hotel tips that I’ve left in cash for the housekeepers and porters. $5.50
5:30 p.m. — The meeting is over and I’ve made it to the airport with enough time to grab some dinner. I walk around for far too long, not finding anything that looks remotely appetizing. Airport salads are rarely good and there are so few healthy options. I would settle for a smoothie, but there aren’t any to be found. I end up buying a pre-made grain salad with quinoa, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts to eat on the plane. Oddly enough, it came from a coffee shop and is one of the best airport meals I’ve ever had. I’ll have to remember it the next time I am leaving from this terminal ($18.43 expensed).
10 p.m. — My flight home is thankfully uneventful, though my seatmate did try to engage me multiple times. I was polite, but was not in the mood for small talk and put headphones in to deter any further conversation. The terminal is almost empty when I exit the jet bridge and all of the shops are closed. A security guard wishes me a good evening and I order an Uber on the app when I exit the plane. The car is just pulling up when I walk outside, and I am again reminded of how much I prefer small airports, even though they rarely have direct flights to most cities I travel to. I unpack as soon as I get home. I’m rarely able to sleep immediately after returning from a trip, and unpacking helps me unwind before my nightly teeth and skincare ritual. I fall asleep by 11 p.m. ($26.21 expensed).
Daily Total: $5.50

Day Seven

7 a.m. — It’s the end of the work week and breaking it up with travel somehow made it feel shorter. I throw a load of laundry in the washing machine and check emails while simultaneously drinking peppermint tea and cleaning the floors. My house gets dusty easily, so I Swiffer every other day and vacuum twice a week. I have never had a housekeeper, though most people I know, even the single ones, have one. I didn’t grow up with one and I actually like cleaning. I find it meditative and I’m also detail-oriented so I am not sure anyone else would clean with the same amount of effort.
2 p.m. — I break for a fruit smoothie (yogurt, flax milk, bananas, papaya, blueberries, strawberries, chia, hemp seeds, shredded coconut, turmeric, Brazil nuts, and peanut butter) and go online to stock up on some household items. I mainly need cleaning and laundry essentials, but I also remember that my little battery-powered fuzz buster broke a few weeks ago and my wool sweaters are getting pilly. I order one of those, and on a whim I also order a green detox powder to mix with water when I can’t make smoothies. It’s rather expensive at regular price but it’s on sale and seems reasonable when I calculate the per-beverage cost. $81.68
5 p.m. — Some friends text me to ask if I want to relax in their outdoor hot tub. This is an offer I cannot refuse. Within 15 minutes, I power down my work laptop, change into a swimsuit and cover up, grab a beach towel and change of clothes, and head over. We simmer for about 45 minutes until the heat starts to make us sleepy. We change our clothes and decide to have Thai food delivered. They treat for dinner and we hang out for a few more hours. I am in bed by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $81.68
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