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A Week In Burtonsville, Maryland On A $30,000 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 medical assistant and home health aide who makes $30,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on 15 Old Bay and lemon pepper wings from Wingstop.
Occupation: Medical assistant and home health aide
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: Burtonsville, Maryland
Salary: $30,000
Net Worth: -$40,000 (I have nothing saved and my only debt is school loans and credit cards.)
Debt: $40,000 ($34,000 in school loans and $6,000 in credit cards)
Paycheck Amount (Weekly): $260-$570 (This depends on how many shifts I pick up.)
Pronouns: She/her
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Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $0 (I live with my parents and sister.)
Monthly Loan Payments: $240 (I pay this to my “friend,” A., who gave me one of his cars when mine broke down.)
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Car Insurance: $0 (A. pays this for me.)
Health Insurance: $0 (on state insurance)
Cell Phone: $76
Apple Storage: $9.99
Website Hosting: $42 (I have two personal sites.)
Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime: $0 (I mooch off my mom and A.)
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, my mom always told me it was either go to college or move out of her home once I turned 18. I would have preferred to take a gap year but that was not happening. As a result, I have an undergraduate degree in communications that I do not use. I paid for it mostly with loans and a few grants; I also worked on campus to cover costs.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I do not remember having many conversations about money growing up. Mostly my mom just emphasized saving.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at Hollister in the mall. I got it in my senior year of high school so I could get an iPhone.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Growing up I definitely worried about money. I can remember times when we had the money for us to take vacations or go back-to-school shopping or have a decent place to live. But other times we were clearly struggling — like, “no food in the house” struggling. Just not knowing when or if that would happen again worried me a lot.

Do you worry about money now?
I am constantly worried about money. I don’t have savings or good money habits to be honest. And I feel far behind my peers who are buying houses and things like that. I am also just getting into the healthcare field so I am making far less than I would want to at this age.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I don’t know if I would say I’m totally financially independent. I have help from my mom and “friend” when I need it. They would be my safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Never.

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up to my second alarm (the “leave the house” alarm). I guess I turned the first one off? I’m now going to be late to my nail appointment at 9 a.m. because I still need to go to the ATM. I throw on sweats and rush out the door — literally didn’t even brush my teeth. Gross.
9:10 a.m. — I get to my appointment only 10 minutes late. I get my nails done every three weeks. Always simple and short because I work in healthcare. My total is $30 and I leave a $10 tip. $40
12:15 p.m. — On my way home from my appointment, I stop at Dunkin’ for a strawberry green tea refresher, my literal obsession. $3.18
3:15 p.m. — After making a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch and resting for a bit, I get ready for work. I take an everything shower because I’m going to meet my “friend,” A., after work.
5 p.m. — I get to my patient’s house for work. I love my home health job: It’s chill, I love my patient and it’s easy money. For this particular patient, I cook her evening meals, clean the kitchen, and do laundry.
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9 p.m. — I’m off from work and on my way to A.’s for the night. On the drive I stop at McDonald’s for a large coke and free fries (Free Fries Friday, iykyk). When I get to A.’s he cooks me a dinner of crab-stuffed salmon, roasted potatoes and asparagus. We drink some tequila and pass out. $1.58
Daily Total: $44.76

Day Two

9 a.m. — A. wakes me up to let me know he’s going to work. I scroll on my phone for a little and end up buying a stethoscope case from Amazon ($10.59) and paying an overdue bill from school ($154.43), then I go back to sleep until 12 p.m. $165.02
12:45 p.m. — A. comes back on his lunch break and fixes the a/c on my car. We part ways again and I head to the mall to pick up this Coach bag I’ve had my eye on for a few weeks ($110.24). This will be my first luxury bag purchase — it’s a gift to myself for my new medical assistant job. On the way home I fill up my tank ($42.19). $152.43
3:45 p.m. — I’m starving by the time I get home, so I make my typical lunch of a turkey sandwich. I have some packages that arrived so I unbox them. I got a pair of Asics shoes, a purse and some random things from Temu. I make some cute TikToks of everything then put them away.
6:30 p.m. — It’s early but I think I’m ready for bed. I don’t know why I’ve been so sleepy today.
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Daily Total: $317.45

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm clock so I scroll on TikTok until I get up to make some breakfast: Greek yogurt with granola and blueberries. After, I take a shower, get dressed and do my makeup for my medical assistant job. On my way in I stop at Dunkin’ for a strawberry green tea refresher. $4.76
3 p.m. — I’m all done with work! It’s Cinco de Mayo so my friend N. and I are going to celebrate with tacos and margaritas at a local restaurant. I stop home and change clothes. N. is running behind so I decide to stop at the beauty supply store and Target on the way to dinner. At the beauty supply store I get some nose rings, anklets, edge control, a brush and a pack of gum ($29.60). At Target, I get deodorant, cotton rounds, ramen, and sliced turkey meat ($19.99). $49.59
5:15 p.m. — At the restaurant, I order two birria tacos, a blackened cod taco and an Old Bay battered shrimp taco. We also get chips and guac, two margaritas each and I order my sister some churros to go. We split the bill evenly and my total is $70, with a tip. After my couple of drinks I text this guy R. and ask to come over. When I get to him we Netflix and chill for the night. $70
Daily Total: $124.35

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm. R. is already getting ready for work. Soon after we part ways. On my way home, I of course stop at Dunkin’ for a strawberry green tea refresher. $3.18
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10:30 a.m. — I get home, take a shower, brush my teeth and wash my face. Then I make my usual lunch of a turkey sandwich and Pepsi. I make some videos for TikTok, do a load of laundry, clean up a bit and unbox some packages. I’ve recently gained 15lbs so I’ve been doing a lot of shopping (at least, that’s my excuse).
1 p.m. — I take a little nap before doing my hair and makeup and getting dressed for my home health job today. Even though I’m just wearing scrubs and literally only seeing my patient, I like to do my makeup and hair so I feel good on the job. It makes a huge difference.
9:15 p.m. — I’m home from work. It was a pretty uneventful shift, just the usual cooking and cleaning. I’m exhausted though so I skip dinner and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $3.18

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm after snoozing once or twice. I head to the kitchen to pack my breakfast of yogurt, blueberries and granola and my typical lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich. After waiting an eternity for my stepfather to get out of the bathroom, I shower, brush my teeth, and wash my face. I’m dressed in my scrubs and my makeup is done for my medical assistant job this morning.
2 p.m. — Off work an hour early today, hallelujah! I have some time to kill before my home health job tonight and I don’t want to go home because that’ll make me tired, so I get a large coke from McDonald’s and head to the park. At the park, I walk a little and just enjoy the nice weather we’re having. $1.58
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5 p.m. — I arrive at my patient’s house and it’s the usual cook and clean. While I’m there though I get some administrative tasks done on my iPad. I’m in the middle of applying to nursing programs so there’s a lot to do! I also impulse-buy tickets to Charlie Wilson and 21 Savage concerts because LiveNation was having a sale. $58.80
9:30 p.m. — I’m ravenous by the time I get home but nobody cooked, so I heat up some Trader Joe’s dumplings for dinner. I’m in bed and ready for sleep by 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $60.38

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — After snoozing once, I’m up. I prepare my typical breakfast of yogurt, blueberries and granola. And also my lunch, you guessed it... A turkey and cheese sandwich. I shower, get dressed and do my makeup. This morning I’m working my medical assistant job and tonight is my home health job.
3 p.m. — I’m off work. I’m still training for this job so today they had me in the lab doing blood draws, which was nerve-racking but cool! I head to the local park to kill some time between jobs. While I’m there I place an Amazon order of miscellaneous items: a badge reel for work, a clear purse for my upcoming concerts and some body oil because I’m almost out. I also do the responsible thing and pay my cell phone bill on time. $21.18 (included in monthly expenses)
5 p.m. — I arrive at work and it’s the same as always: cooking and cleaning. I’m so grateful for this job because in between the cooking and cleaning I can sit and rest. By the end of the night though, I’m definitely feeling the tiredness.
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9:30 p.m. — Finally, I’m home. I decide to just skip dinner. Which I know is bad — maybe I should start meal prepping? I’m sleep by 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $21.18

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Of course I’m up early when I don’t need to be. I’m off from my medical assistant job today, so I was looking forward to sleeping in. But oh well, I get up and make my breakfast. Guess what I had? Yogurt, granola and blueberries. After I eat, I fold some laundry that’s been sitting for days and clean my room while catching up on my favorite podcasts.
10 a.m. — As part of nursing school applications I have to take an entrance exam. It has been at least a week since I’ve properly studied so I decide today will be a study day. But I need some motivation, so I head to pick up a strawberry green tea refresher from Dunkin’. $3.18
1 p.m. — After a couple of hours of studying and flashcard making I’ve worked up an appetite so I make some Trader Joe’s dumplings. Then I take a little nap before getting ready for my home health job tonight.
4:30 p.m. — On my way to work I stop at McDonald’s for a large Coke. At work it’s the usual cook and clean. I bring my iPad to get some things done and I also watch a few episodes of Snapped. $1.58
9:30 p.m. — I’m home from work. Nobody cooked tonight so I opt for Wingstop via Doordash. I get 15 wings (Old Bay and lemon pepper flavor). I play a little Sims on my laptop while I’m waiting for the delivery. I don’t play often, only when I’m getting a little stressed. I think this new work schedule is getting to me. Once my food arrives I eat about half and am asleep by 11 p.m. $23.68
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Daily Total: $28.44

The Breakdown

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