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A Week In Des Moines, IA On A $71,000 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.

This week: a marketing manager who makes $71,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on vending machine snacks.
Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up diary. You can read the original entry here.
Occupation: Marketing manager
Industry: Manufacturing
Age: 27
Location: Des Moines, IA
Salary: $71,000
Assets: House: $124,000; Roth IRA: $38,000; 401(k): $36,000; traditional IRA: $6,000; HYSA: $16,000; checking: $2,000
Debt: Mortgage: $112,000; student loans: $10,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,870 (after taxes, 401(k), FSA contributions, and insurance are taken out)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: Mortgage: $771 (I own a small house and live there alone. This includes principal, interest, insurance, and taxes.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $86 (student loans)
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Savings: $650 (I split this into various sinking funds for car and home maintenance, Christmas, travel, various insurance deductibles, veterinarian bills, et cetera. These are non-negotiable savings for me so I treat them like recurring bills.)
401(k): I contribute 11% and work contributes 4% (but this is taken out of my paycheck).
Roth IRA: $583.33 (To meet the $7,000 max for the year.)
Utilities: $225 (gas, electric, water, sewer, trash, internet)
Car Insurance: $235 for six months.
Phone: $50 (My part of a family plan.)
Subscriptions: $35 (Dropout, Costco, YNAB, security software, Hulu. I bum HBO, Netflix, and YouTube Premium from a few friends and my parents. In return I share my Hulu with them.)

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 and no. Neither of my parents graduated from university, but they both went to trade school. There was certainly an expectation that I would do some further learning, but as a big academic nerd, I always knew I’d do four-year college. I went to a small private college. I got a large scholarship, my parents gave me $6,000 per year each year, I worked at jobs and internships prior to and during college, and used federal student loans for the rest. I graduated with $18,000 in debt, which I’ve paid down to $10,000. (I’m still holding out for possible forgiveness and currently only pay the minimum. Ha.)
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I don’t remember specifically. I know my parents encouraged me to have a savings account and to save as much as possible.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job at a daycare when I was 14 and able to drive. (Yes, you can drive at 14 in the state where I grew up.) I wanted spending money. I worked there for about six months before getting fired for not having any availability. This remains the only time I’ve ever been fired.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I remember my parents telling me that we had to cut back in 2008. Other than that, no. We didn’t live extravagantly, but I never had to go without anything, and it never felt like we were struggling.
Do you worry about money now?
Worry? No. But I think about it constantly. I’m in my YNAB budget daily and check my Personal Capital net worth monthly. I’ve saved enough that I will be okay if an emergency happens, which really takes away a lot of stress.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I graduated college at 21 and got a real job, I took over the majority of my own expenses. However, my parents allowed me to stay on their health insurance until I was 26, and I’m still on their phone plan and Netflix. I try to operate under the assumption that I’m on my own, but the reality is that my parents would take me in if I were in a truly dire situation.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave me $5,000 for Christmas in 2019, which allowed me to buy my house about six months earlier than I was planning to. This is the only large lump sum I’ve received since college. I don’t know if this counts, but I also took advantage of some neighborhood-based and income-based home buying programs that my city offers, which also helped me purchase my home. The total was about $12,500 in forgivable loans and $15,000 in 0% interest loans. The remaining amounts on those are reflected in my mortgage total above.

Day One

6 a.m. — Someone in my neighborhood is yelling, maybe for their cat. I check my phone. Not time to get up yet.
6:45 a.m. — My alarm hasn’t gone off yet, but I’m awake, so I get up and get dressed in the clothes I so nicely set out for myself last night. I brush my teeth, put on my sunscreen, and drink my daily protein shake. I have a few extra minutes, so I spend them plunking out a song on the piano. I used to play about 15 years ago, and have recently started taking it back up. I am very bad.
7:30 a.m. — Time to leave for work. It’s about a 15 minute drive.
8:30 a.m. — My boss messaged me a few times over the weekend, so I reply to him and get started on the various campaigns I need to get drafted this week.
10:30 a.m. — Time for a second cup of coffee. One of my favorite coworkers missed my news last week: I was getting super excited about a guy I was seeing (like, movie-level connection, I swear) when he suddenly needed to “work on his finances” (eye roll). We commiserate about that for a couple of minutes. Onward and upward. I’ve only recently gotten back into the dating world. About five years ago, I wrote a Money Diary in which my partner H. exhibited some major red flags, and the comments really let him have it. Regardless, we stayed together for five years, until we broke up six months ago. I was looking for more commitment than he was able to provide, so we decided to go our separate ways.
12 p.m. — I peel my lunch banana and start eating it, then I get a call from a recruiter I’m working with. She had a role that would be perfect for me, and she just submitted my info to the company. Maybe they want to schedule an interview! I beeline it to a private place and answer, and she tells me the company is pausing their search to “regroup internally.” Ah yes, the job search equivalent of “working on their finances.” “It’s not you, it’s me.” Right. I dejectedly finish my banana and get some trail mix from the work vending machine. I’m going out for dinner, so a light lunch it is. $0.25
2:30 p.m. — I bum a quarter from a coworker and get a La Croix from the vending machine. Pamplemousse! I blast some focus music to try to get something accomplished this afternoon. If I can hear my coworkers’ conversations, I feel the need to join in, and, wowza, I talk a lot. This has been a major issue since my company called us back into the office.
4:30 p.m. — Quittin’ time. I drive to the restaurant. I am meeting with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, and we have GOSSIP to share! We have a great evening, a couple of glasses of wine on happy hour, and a delicious pizza — goat cheese, honey, arugula. Perfection. Then a salted caramel mousse thing for dessert. She picks up the tab for dinner, I pay for dessert. She’s way too nice to me. $11.63
8 p.m. — I get home, crash on the couch, and chat with a new Hinge match. He likes swing dancing and musical theatre. Very promising. We set up a date for Saturday afternoon. I auditioned for a community theatre play yesterday, and today I get notified that I have a callback, tomorrow at 7 p.m. Nice! In my last Money Diary, I was working in theatre. I am much happier now that it’s my hobby instead of my job, and that’s not just because of the extreme difference in pay. When you’re working in the industry it is much harder to participate in it outside of work.
10 p.m. — Time for bed. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $11.88

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I get up, pet my cats, and take a shower. Take my meds, drink my protein shake, plunk on my piano, out the door at 7:30 a.m. I even put on some makeup to look nice for callbacks tonight.
8 a.m. — One of our vendors is doing a training today, which eats up a big chunk of my morning. We are holding our own training as well, so I get the room set up, put out snacks and water, and make sure the presenter doesn’t need anything.
11:30 a.m. — I head over to the Hy-Vee. I buy a pack of gum to break my $20 ($1.66) and then get some things to keep in the work freezer for lunch ($11.68). Instead of making one of the things I just bought for lunch, I buy Jimmy Johns ($9.62, but on a gift card) and take a short walk around the park. I give 26 cents to the person who gave me a quarter yesterday. Gotta make his investment worthwhile. He laughs. $13.60
1 p.m. — Our training is a bit of a disaster. I start formulating a plan to make future ones better.
4:30 p.m. — Before my callback, I’m meeting my trivia team at a bar for charity trivia. I get a cider ($7) and make a donation ($31.50). $38.50
6:15 p.m. — I leave for my callback. It goes pretty well! They called back three women for one role, so I’d say I have a 33% chance of getting it. When I get home, I am exhausted. But hungry. I make some taco meat and use it for nachos — salsa, bell peppers, cheese, and sour cream. Then it’s time for bed.
Daily Total: $52.10

Day Three

7 a.m. — Get up. Morning routine. This morning my piano song is one I know pretty well, to make myself feel better about my skills.
8 a.m. — Get to work, check emails, drink coffee. I have a meeting with my CEO this morning, and it goes really well. I thought I had a hard ask, but he agreed to it right away. I do not understand this product I’m trying to promote. Usually I can learn things pretty quickly, but this one is stumping me. I ask Google about it, I ask our experts about it, I ask ChatGPT about it, and I’m still struggling hard.
12 p.m. — The director of the play calls me. I got the part! My coworkers overhear me on the phone and clap for me when the call is over. They’re so sweet.
1 p.m. — Haircut appointment. This place is objectively too expensive, but I tried multiple salons to find someone who a) would even attempt to do a pixie cut and b) did it well, and this is where I landed. My hair does look great. They also do a complimentary touch-up between appointments, so I can stretch them out to every three months. $110.95
2 p.m. — Therapy! We recently switched from every week to every other week (thanks, Wellbutrin) and I have a lot to say. I make myself laugh out loud by comparing my recent fling with the song Red (faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ended so suddenly). That’s too melodramatic even for me. Also, I need to find an artist other than Taylor Swift to use as my entire personality. This $20 comes out of my FSA.
3 p.m. — I have a date at a coffee shop after work, so instead of going back to the office, I head to the coffee shop to finish up my day. I get a cobb salad with all the extra vegetables and a turtle mocha. Salad is mid, coffee is great. $14.59
5 p.m. — This guy is insufferable. He buys me a tea, then talks at me about how reading YA novels doesn’t count as reading (I didn’t bring it up), complains about online dating, and then says, “But it’s not all bad. At least you get to talk to me,” with no indication that he’s being facetious. I turn down his request for another date.
7:30 p.m. — Usually Wednesday night would be trivia (yes, still on the same team as my ex), but tonight, it’s time for a video call with my friends. We’ve all got stressful things going on, and we’re all over the world, so I appreciate the time to reconnect. We talk for over two hours. After that, I say something cringy to my Hinge match from the other night and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $125.54

Day Four

7 a.m. — The usual morning lineup. I stop for gas on my way to work. It’s back under $3 per gallon. $32.76
8 a.m. — This week at work I’ve been putting off the major project that I have to do in favor of smaller, easier ones. It’s crunch time now. I put in my headphones and start blasting my Taylor Swift.
10:45 a.m. — Time for a snack. I get another vending machine trail mix packet. The vending machines here are so cheap that it’s a real crutch for me and my poor planning. $0.25
12:30 p.m. — I heat up one of the lunches I bought on Tuesday: a frozen wild rice, broccoli, and carrots packet. I add shrimp, which I buy frozen. It’s pretty tasty. My coworker finds an abandoned Coke in the vending machine and gives it to me.
2:45 — To avoid falling asleep at my desk, I get up and take a lap around the building. It’s unseasonably warm outside. I stop at the vending machine for a La Croix: lime this time. $0.25
4:30 p.m. — My friend calls as I’m leaving work. She’s having some issues with one of her coworkers and wants my advice. When I get home, I take a quick nap, then heat up some taco meat for nachos again, shower well enough that I don’t smell, and then head back out the door. I have a ballroom dance class tonight. It’s the last week of an eight-week series. We learned the basics of waltz, tango, and foxtrot. It’s been a lot of fun! I will definitely sign up for another class when I’m done with the play.
8:30 p.m. — I have a FWB from another state that I see when he’s in town for work. I met him on Tinder shortly after my breakup. At first I really needed a hot stranger to tell me I’m pretty. Now that I’m doing better mentally, it’s just fun to chat with someone whose life is so different from mine, and with whom I would never actually be able to have a relationship. I wasn’t going to see him this week, but he tells me that this is his last trip here. I’m sentimental and dramatic, as we know, and the idea of a fond goodbye is enough to get me out of the house. I pack a bag in case I stay with him. We meet for a drink at the bar next to his hotel. I have two gin and tonics, he has a few whiskey cokes. He pays. We talk about life.
10:30 p.m. — We walk over to his hotel, and when we get in the elevator he grabs me and kisses me, hard. I melt a little. The rest of the night is wonderful, although I don’t get much sleep.
Daily Total: $33.26

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I swear at it. FWB gives me a little snuggle and then I get up to shower. We grab breakfast at the hotel. I have some yogurt with berries and a hard boiled egg, which is cooked perfectly. I have to head to work, and he has an Uber coming to bring him to the airport, so we give each other a big hug and say goodbye. What a weird feeling.
7:15 a.m. — I get to work early to shoot a video. The person in front of the camera does a great job. My weekly check in with my boss goes well. Not much to report, and with him, no news is good news. I am already on my second cup of coffee.
10:30 a.m. — I eat an oatmeal cream pie from the vending machine. I wish I had gotten my morning protein shake. By 11:30 a.m., I need a third coffee. There are mini bags of chips set out in the work kitchen. I take the Crunchy Cheetos. At 12:45 p.m., I take my lunch break and eat another rice/veggies/shrimp meal. $0.40
2:45 p.m. — With under two hours left of the week, my coworkers and I are pretty much fried. We start talking about Mel Brooks movies, expired stuff we still had in our cupboards (?), and the desert full of tires in Kuwait (??).
3:45 p.m. — I came in early, so I get to leave early. I get home and take a nap. My cats both snuggle on top of me.
5:30 p.m. — I heat up the rest of my taco meat. Someone at work mentioned Office Space, which I have never seen, so I put it on. It’s… Okay. While the movie plays I decide to do some picking up. I’m about three years overdue on cleaning my oven, so I get out my oven cleaner. Of course it’s nearly empty. I consider ordering some on Amazon, but for whatever reason, I really want to get this done right now. I go to the hardware store down the street and buy some. There’s a very cute dog there. $6.34
7 p.m. — The oven is sprayed, the dishwasher is running, and all the trash is in the outdoor trash can. HBO recommends Wedding Crashers, which I’ve also never seen, so I put it on. It’s not very good.I try out the “espresso martini wine cocktail” I got at Aldi last week. It’s decent for $10. I put some coffee creamer in it, which helps. I have a couple glasses of it and wipe down the oven when it’s time. Holy cow, the oven was disgusting.
9 p.m. — Somewhat buzzed, I decide it’s time to learn a new song on the piano. In my alcohol-induced confidence I buy the sheet music for Olivia Rodrigo’s Vampire. I can totally sing that… Yeah. $6.36
Daily Total: $13.10

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I get out of bed, pick out a decent outfit, and do some eye makeup. I grind and brew some coffee and have a protein shake. I pull up the Vampire sheet music to see if I can actually play it as well as I thought I could last night. To my surprise, I can!
9 a.m. — I leave the house to go to Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve been playing in my coworker’s campaign for a few months now. On my way, I get a slice of sausage breakfast pizza from Casey’s, which is my pre-DnD tradition. Oh man, it’s so good. $3.41
11 a.m. — DnD gets done early today. We all leveled up significantly, as next session is the grand finale. It was a really nice session, with some fun role play and a wedding between two NPCs. I’ll be sad when it’s over. Since I have some time before my date, I decide to try bra shopping. I can’t get down with the idea of buying one online. I go to Soma, which is the only place in town I haven’t tried. The workers are very nice but I get stressed out and have to leave. This is why all my bras are several years old.
12:25 p.m. — The stress made me sweaty, and I have to head to my date. I go to the Sephora next door, spray some dry shampoo in my hair, find some perfume that mostly smells like lemons, and hope the guy doesn’t get close enough to smell me.
12:50 p.m. — I get to the coffee shop a little early and stand in line. When the guy walks in, I recognize him right away from his photos. Phew. We split a Chemex. I am not usually one for black coffee, but this is darn good. He pays. We have a lot in common and never run out of things to talk about. He’s also good looking. We talk at the coffee shop until it closes at 3 p.m., then we decide to walk around outside, and end up hanging out until 5 p.m. At the end of the date, he asks for my number, walks me to my car, and gives me a small kiss after asking permission. He says that he had a great time and wants to see me again. I agree enthusiastically.
5:15 p.m. — I’m feeling pretty good when I get home, so I text him to reiterate that I had fun and would like to hang out again. He seems to have had a change of heart on his drive home, because he says something about not being sure there was a “romantic spark.” Maybe he noticed that I smell. I resist the urge to get back on Hinge immediately. I eat some carrots, bell peppers, and cottage cheese while I text my friends, “Had a good first date, but he’s not attracted to me.” They provide the proper amount of consolation.
6:30 p.m. — I make some rotini with butter, garlic, and parmesan — my comfort meal. I run a bath and eat my pasta while I watch Tick, Tick… Boom for maybe the fifth time. I just love Andrew Garfield, okay?
9 p.m. — A new season of Love Is Blind is out and nobody told me? I start to watch the first episode. I drift off before the episode is over.
Daily Total: $3.41

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Nope. Not getting up yet.
8:30 a.m. — I get out of bed and gather all my dirty clothes into my hamper. I take them downstairs and start the first load of laundry. The remainder of the morning is a combination of laundry, vacuuming, piano, watering plants, and singing and dancing to my cleaning music.
12:00 p.m. — I make myself some eggs over easy and toast with everything bagel seasoning. Delicious. When I put my plate in the dishwasher, I notice that the bread I used has mould on some slices. After a momentary panic, I decide there’s nothing I can do about having eaten mould. I return to my cleaning.
2:15 p.m. — I put on more Love Is Blind. This season is a nightmare. I can’t look away.
3:30 p.m. — It’s gorgeous outside. I pause the show to take a walk around my neighborhood. When I get back, I have a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with oat milk. A couple of cats are having a hardcore fight outside. My neighbor starts throwing rocks at one of them and I ask him to please stop. Then he gets out a ladder and starts climbing up my tree, looking for one that got chased up there. I watch with horror.
5:30 p.m. — I cook some salmon, broccoli, and couscous for dinner. It’s pretty delicious! There is enough left over for three more meals. I also prep some overnight oats for breakfast tomorrow. I pat myself on the back for actually cooking and planning lunch.
5:45 p.m. — The aerator on my sink breaks while I am washing dishes, and it sprays water everywhere. I order a pack of six replacements on Amazon. I return to Love Is Blind. My friends and I share some Instagram memes back and forth. This is my perfect Sunday evening after a busy week. $6.94
9 p.m. — I am still hungry. I put some chicken nuggets in the toaster oven.
10:00 p.m. — Time for bed. I dumped my clean laundry on the bed earlier and didn't fold it. Rather than fold it now, I move it over to make room for myself. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $6.94

The Breakdown

Weekly Total $$ Spent: $266.23
Food & Drink: $51.38
Entertainment: $6.36
Home & Health: $13.28
Clothes & Beauty $110.95
Transportation $32.76
Other $31.50
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