A Week In Dallas, TX, On A $69,000 Salary

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Today: an airplane pilot who makes $69,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on ranch Corn Nuts.
Occupation: Pilot
Industry: Aviation
Age: 26
Location: Dallas, TX
Salary: $69,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): Paycheck differs month to month based on the number of hours I fly and my days away from home, but my last paycheck was $1,786, which is pretty standard. However a few weeks before, I flew quite a few undesirable trips, which bumped my take-home paycheck for that pay period up to $2,003. (This also includes the $200 stipend I get when I'm on the road.)
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Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,080 for a one-bedroom apartment
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I was able to use my dad's GI Bill for undergrad. Hefty scholarships/college savings paid for flight school.)
Wifi & Utilities: $56
Netflix & Hulu: $0 (I mooch off of my momma.)
Cell Phone: $55 (I'm still on my parents' plan, but I Venmo my dad every month for my portion of it.)
HSA: $125
Car Insurance: $172 (It should not be this high, but my car got pretty banged up when I used street parking in college. I promise I'm a safe pilot!!)
Annual Expenses
Retirement Accounts: $18,000 (My company contributes SIXTEEN PERCENT to my 401(k). I am unworthy.)
ForeFlight Pro: $200 (An aviation nerd's PornHub. I pay for both mine and my dad's annual subscriptions.)

Day One

7:02 a.m. — I wake up not in my bed. It takes me a few seconds to realize I am in my boyfriend, R.'s, apartment. I make it to the bathroom just in time to throw up all of last night's poor liquid decisions. I use some of his mouthwash, search his medicine cabinet for some ibuprofen, and sneak back to bed and under the covers. I regret everything.
10:15 a.m. — I wake back up to the sound of the microwave heating up our drunk Mexican food from last night. I met R. on Bumble, and we hit it off instantly. Last night consisted of DTR-ing (we are now boyfriend/girlfriend?!) and showing him how poorly I drink whiskey. He fills me in on the gaps in my memory. Yikes — not a fun game. I feel badly for subjecting him to that so early in our relationship, so I Venmo him for the Uber home from the bar. $9
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11:30 a.m. — Between the two of us, the quesadilla is downed in seconds. I knew there was a reason I like (love??) him. He is a little younger, and unfortunately still on his "I played fraternity intramural sports in college" kick, so he peer pressures me into a bike ride along the river.
12 p.m. — The bike ride is surprisingly vomit-free, and we make it back to his place in one piece. We take a shower together (new relationship perk), and he heads out to pick up some smoothies for us at a cute new place across the street. R. lives in Fort Worth, so it's been fun getting to explore a different part of the metroplex. (It's sometimes hard to picture how big the Dallas-Fort Worth area is. Apparently almost EIGHT Rhode Islands can fit inside. Huge.) He pays for both smoothies ($8) and we settle down on his couch to watch To All the Boys I've Loved Before.
2 p.m. — Really cute movie. 10/10 Sunday hangover couch flick. I am usually not a huge rom-com fan, but R. loves them. I tend to be pretty unemotional and insensitive, and in the past I've gravitated towards guys who were similar to me. Shockingly, those relationships never lasted, so I am very excited to experience this cute and romantic side of R. Hopefully it'll soften me up a little.
4:30 p.m. — After five episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, our bodies are slowly molding into his living room couch. However, we both begin getting emails/texts from work and agree it's time to get up and adult. We kiss goodbye, joke about how weird it is that we like each other this much despite meeting on the internet, and I start my trek home. I fill up with gas for the week. I love stopping the pump on an even number. $36
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7:15 p.m. — I cook up a quick black bean burger and quinoa dinner (Costco, my freezer loves you) while watching the second to last episode of Sharp Objects. Omg. I burn the burger because I leave the kitchen to stand 10 inches away from the television. Worth it.
8:30 p.m. — I can have some pretty early showtimes at the start of a trip, so I like to be in bed before 9 p.m. It's common for pilots to "chair fly" before an important flight, which just consists of all the actions and checklists performed on that flight with your eyes closed in an imaginary cockpit. I call my version "bed flying." My mind plays my flows and movements needed the next day over and over as I try to fall asleep. My mom told me I should start meditating or doing yoga before bed so I browse some apps, but none seem like they'd do the trick tonight. Melatonin, it is. I pass out motioning through all of my emergency checklists.
Daily Total: $45

Day Two

3:30 a.m. — Ha. It's so early. Roll out of bed, turn on the Keurig, and start styling (burning the living hell out of) my hair. I shouldn't care this much about my appearance when I'm getting paid to fly a freaking plane. But, over the last few years, I've noticed that captains and passengers take young female first officers more seriously in the cockpit when we are polished and made up.
4:05 a.m. — On my way in I stop at 7/11 and pick up some breakfast. Airport food is ridiculously overpriced. $7.98 for a cup of grapes, vanilla yogurt, and ranch Corn Nuts. $7.98
5 a.m. — I live extremely close to the airport and have a pass that expedites my trek through security, so I can be parked at work and at my briefing, free coffee in hand, within an hour. It's my duty as FO to gather all known information for our flights this morning. As I'm trudging through weather briefings, I look up and see that my captain is one of my former flight school instructors! This industry can feel daunting and lonely at times, so it's always wonderful when I know my captain personally.
6:40 a.m. — Pre-flight is done and the flight management system is programmed for our flight to Midland, TX. While passengers are boarding, I tag R. in a funny meme on Instagram and shoot him a text. He responds with three airplane emojis and a kissy face. He's 100% still asleep. Doors close and we receive our taxi clearance to the runway. We are delayed a few minutes waiting for other aircraft to take off. Delays are frustrating for all of us, but it's important to realize how busy these large airports are (even at 6:40 a.m.!). 99% of the time no individual is at fault.
8 a.m. — In Midland! Beautiful and uneventful morning cruise chasing the disappearing moon. My office view is indescribable. Quick turnaround back to Dallas, and then onto Waco. I'm having such an incredible time catching up with my captain. Next, back to Dallas. We tend to hop around Texas a lot, and I don't mind at all. I did all of my commercial flight training flying these routes, but in a tiny, propeller airplane. It's surreal that I now do it in a big ol' jet.
1:45 p.m. — Before the captain and I part ways in Dallas, I buy both of us lunch at a Terminal B favorite, IceBox Cafe. I get the Caprese salad and he gets the brisket sandwich. We joke that even though we're done flying together for the day, we still must order different dishes. Fun fact: it's not an FAA rule, but more a superstitious practice that the captain and first officer eat different meals while on duty to avoid possible poisoning. $28.25
4 p.m. — Today, I wasn't scheduled to fly this line, but was called in as a reserve pilot. We have different types of reserve, but all are similar to a physician being on call. We have to be ready at the airport within a certain number of hours after being called up. Luckily, I was called yesterday afternoon about this trip, so I didn't have to scramble this morning. My day is over! I am released and I head home.
4:10 p.m. — I take the empty tollway and get home in minutes. $1.10
6:15 p.m. — My apartment complex has a pretty decent gym, and I don't do anything too fancy, so I don't see myself joining one anytime soon. I run four miles on the treadmill and talk to my dad on the phone while I'm cooling down on the rowing machine. He is a former Navy fighter pilot, and loves hearing my daily stories from flying my "school bus" (as he so lovingly calls it).
7:45 p.m. — I know you're not supposed to wash your hair every day, but mine is so thin and gets so greasy at work. Oh well. I shower, eat my leftovers from last night, and fall asleep on the couch rewatching Shameless for the tenth time.
Daily Total: $37.33

Day Three

7 a.m. — Wake up on the couch to a text from R. asking if I got called in reserve yet today. I haven't, so we plan on meeting for breakfast. He travels a lot for work and is leaving for a few days this afternoon, so I happily drive to Fort Worth. We get Chick-fil-A ($12, R. pays) and then have a quickie back at his apartment.
9 a.m. — More It's Always Sunny and couch cuddles. We smooch and part ways after a few episodes. R. travels for meetings every few weeks, so we try to hang out one or two days during the week in addition to weekends, but we both have pretty irregular schedules.
11 a.m. — Trader Joe's run. I get pre-made salad mixes, peaches, rice cakes, Cheddar Rockets, eggs, and fried rice ($28). (Buying too many perishables can be dangerous because we all know the box of white cheddar mac and cheese in the pantry always looks better than the kale blend.) $28
12:30 p.m. — Head to the gym and get three miles in before I need to stop. Is it normal to have heartburn this debilitating at 26?? Maybe it's the Chick-fil-A. I head back to my apartment for some Tums and couch time.
2 p.m. — I shower, get horizontal, turn on this week's episode of Shameless, and finalize my Amazon order. It's a hair serum ($13), a new nude bra for work ($38), and Clinique SPF moisturizer ($45). One of the most alarming things I've learned recently is the incidence of skin cancer in pilots. I've been super cautious lately applying SPF to the areas of my face/neck that are exposed in the cockpit. $96
6 p.m. — Wake up on the couch. The wacky hours of my job have created a napping monster out of me. My brain turns to mush at night when I don't have at least a few minutes to snooze during the day (I rocked pre-school). Mix up a pre-made bag of salad AND cook up white cheddar mac and cheese. Win-win. I longingly eye the bottle of wine in my fridge, but instead wash my food down with a Diet Sprite.
9 p.m. — More TV and some dark chocolate-covered blueberries for dessert. Head to the bathroom for my lengthy nightly routine. Kidding — I am the worst and haven't washed my face since high school. Lights out and asleep by 9:30.
Daily Total: $124

Day Four

3:30 a.m. — You know you're up early when your Instagram feed is the exact same as it was when you fell asleep. Sigh.
3:50 a.m. — Hair and make-up done. I pack a peach and last night's leftovers. I feel like I am forgetting something but I'm running late. Hm.
5:15 a.m. — Still on reserve! It's very common for the more junior pilots to sit on reserve for quite a few months after being hired. I've worked at this airline for almost nine months, but still spend most of my time waiting for that phone call. I got called last night (they're usually good with advance notice), so I am dead-heading to Miami this morning to pick up my line for the day. I get to ride in the cockpit without any of the normal responsibilities! Now THIS is the best job in the world. Breathtaking sunrise all the way to Florida.
9:30 a.m. — Meet my captain for the day and finish all pre-flight. I snack on my peach while he tells me about yesterday's crazy trek to Miami. He commutes to base, which means he is responsible for getting from wherever he lives to Miami at the start of every trip. Commuting works for some people, but I could not imagine that lifestyle. While I was happily horizontal on my couch, the captain spent the entire previous day at his home airport waiting for a spot on a flight. Poor guy.
10:30 a.m. — Wheels up to Tallahassee! We spend the next few hours bouncing between Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Miami. I eat my leftover salad and mac and cheese from last night. Mmm, room temperature noodles. I realize I forgot my phone/iPad charger back in Dallas, ugh. I borrow one from a sweet flight attendant for a few hours, but run to a kiosk in Miami to grab my own ($30). How are these so expensive, omg. $30
4 p.m. — While passengers board in Miami, I stand in the galley with one of my flight attendant gal pals. A middle-aged man stops dead in his tracks, gives me a once-over, and states quite loudly: “There is no fucking way SHE is flying us today. I don't believe it.” I plaster a grin and muster up my standard reply: “Yes sir, welcome aboard!” This sort of encounter happens every few weeks, so I'm not taken aback. However, I really wish I could retort something like: “Yes, this $50-million jet that flies pretty darn close to the speed of sound is in MY female fucking hands. Welcome aboard sir!” Sigh.
7 p.m. — STARVING and done flying for the day. My line ends in Jacksonville and there is a Burger King right next to my gate that's calling my name. It takes every ounce of willpower not to stop. Maintaining a somewhat healthy diet on the road is quite difficult. I snag a shuttle to the hotel ($2 tip), quickly change out of my uniform, and plop down at the bar. Sadly, no drinking tonight, but I have a scrumptious sesame tuna salad and Diet Sprite ($29). Overpriced, but worth it. $31
8:30 p.m. — Head up to my room, shower, and FaceTime R. for a little to plan logistics for our day tomorrow. I'm meeting him in Houston, where he has a meeting, and from there we'll hopefully non-rev onto a flight home to Dallas.
10 p.m. — Logistics turns into phone sex which turns into me embarrassingly passing out mid-sexy time. Oops :) Goodnight, R.!
Daily Total: $61

Day Five

4 a.m. — Brew shitty hotel room coffee, straighten my hair, and put on full face of makeup. 100% humidity in Florida this morning. Makeup was a terrible idea. Continental breakfast isn't ready this early, so I snag a day-old cookie from the receptionist desk. I hop on the airport shuttle ($2) and make it to the crew lounge in no time. $2
5 a.m. — Hang out in the crew lounge to grab free coffee and chat about some new features of our union contract. I'm a very conflicted union member — I understand how important it is for job security and quality of life, but there must be a better (and possibly less corrupt) way to handle things. We have a new hotel policy that's great, but I'm waiting to learn what we're going to lose. While we're chatting, I donate $20 to my coworker's daughter's sorority fundraiser. $20
6 a.m. — I board the flight to Houston, and pass out in the window seat of the very last row. There is something amazingly therapeutic about the humming of a jet engine.
8 a.m. — I wake up as we're pulling into our gate and ask the sweetest flight attendant to pour me a cup of coffee as we're waiting to deplane. A “please” and a friendly smile goes a long way — those flight attendants work their asses off. I spend the rest of the morning hangin' in our company's business lounge.
12 p.m. — Big hug for R.!! It's only been two days, but boy I missed that smile. We contemplate a quickie in the family restroom, but decide against it. Instead we satisfy our urges with a Houston favorite, Bam Bam. Imagine fried crawfish in your pho — it's unbelievable. We split the Creole crab cakes, crawfish étouffée, and chicken banh mi. It's 5:00 somewhere and R. just scored a big deal at work, so we get quite a few beers as well. Lunch on me. $122
2:30 p.m. — Quick flight to DFW. We contemplate mile-high club membership, but decide against it. Is this what being a mature adult is? I'm not a fan. We land and I drive him back to his place in Fort Worth. He jokes that my car isn't a Boeing, and I need to cool it on the road rage. Oops. We get to his place in record time.
5:45 p.m. — His gym has an incredible body pump class every evening, so tonight I pay the guest fee ($10) and join him for an hour-long session. Holy smokes, even my eyeballs are sweating. $10
7:15 p.m. — We're still both pretty full from lunch, so Jamba Juice smoothie bowls will do the job. We each pay for our own and wolf them down while watching last night's It's Always Sunny episode. $9
8 p.m. — We shower (together) and crawl into bed. Exhaustion overtakes horniness, and we're out in minutes.
Daily Total: $163

Day Six

7:25 a.m. — Wake up to R.'s neighbor's new dog. All of the barking without any of the puppy cuddles? Not fair. However, we're both up 20 minutes before our alarm, so that definitely calls for a morning quickie.
8:40 a.m. — I brew coffee and scramble eggs while R. gets ready for work. He has a quick meeting this morning and then the rest of the day off! We eat, he leaves me his apartment key, and we say goodbye.
9:30 a.m. — Before the Texas heat sucks the life out of me, I head to one of my favorite trails near R.'s place for a jog. I ran collegiate cross-country and get antsy if I go too many days without a nice, long run. 8.5 miles, and I only stop twice to pet puppies! Head back to R.'s apartment where he's waiting in the lobby for me to let him in with HIS key. Heh, oops.
12:30 p.m. — I shower, and we both still have some work to do before the weekend, so we head to Fort Worth's downtown square. We find a shady table on Starbucks' patio, and get crackin'. I have some reward points to redeem, so I buy him a large iced coffee and myself a large strawberry refresher. (I'm that asshole who calls Starbucks sizes "small," "medium," and "large.") $4
5 p.m. — We finish up working, change into our snazziest Rangers gear, and get ready for a sweaty night of baseball fun. R. drives us to my apartment where we meet up with a bunch of my college friends. I'm so happy that he fits in perfectly with this rowdy group. The boys drink their weight in Bud Light, and we catch an Uber XL to the stadium. We split six ways, so it's $5 each. Not too bad. $5
9 p.m. — Rangers lose, but judging by the number of corn dogs and fries I consume, I'd call it a win. I bought us the tickets a few weeks ago, so R. covers the food and drinks ($77). He makes almost three times as much as me, but I like splitting things pretty evenly.
11 p.m. — We attempt to get drinks in Arlington with a group after the game, but R. and I are both wiped, so we Irish exit. He pays for the Uber back to my place ($9) and we're asleep in minutes.
Daily Total: $9

Day Seven

9:15 a.m. — Neither of us wakes up feeling too well, so we ditch our plans for a morning spin class and head to Denny's with the coupon we won at last night's game. Terrible service, decent food, but both of us are now extremely content. He pays for the meal and I leave a $5 tip. $5
12 p.m. — We drive to Target, and I pick out a nail polish and a funny card for a wedding we're going to tonight. $9
3 p.m. — The wedding is in Dallas, so we decide to hang out and get ready at my apartment. We know there's going to be lots of drinking at the wedding, but we're unsure of the food situation, so R. makes us cheese quesadillas and mac and cheese while I do my hair and makeup. Mmm, cheese. We eat quickly, put on our fancy outfits, and head down to meet my friend and her husband.
5:15 p.m. — My best friend from college is pregnant. As excited as I am to meet her little dude, I will definitely miss the built in DD we've had. I owe her. The four of us find seats and the ceremony begins. Ceremony and reception are at a beautiful outdoor venue, and as soon as the sun sets beneath the trees, the party really starts.
9 p.m. — Open bar, amazing people, and a first dance to Ed Sheeran. What else could you wish for at a 2018 wedding? We close the reception out and B., our lord and savior, chauffeurs a bunch of us home. Apparently I drunkenly promise to babysit her unborn child every weekend?? Yikes...R. and I try fooling around but we are both exhausted, so we cuddle instead and fall asleep immediately.
Daily Total: $14
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