A Week In Washington, D.C., On An $80K Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We asked a millennial woman how she spends her hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.) Today, a married lobbyist picking up her son from day care and hitting the toddler birthday-party circuit.
Industry: Government Affairs, Lobbyist
Age: 34
Location: Washington, D.C. (work); Arlington, VA (home)
Salary: $80,000 + $80,000 (husband)
Paycheck Amount (2x a month): $3,333.33
Household: Husband (35), son (2.5) Monthly Expenses
$1,700 for a two-bedroom, one bath
Daycare: $1,500
Loan Payments: $0! Paid it off last month.
Utilities: $150
Transportation: $115 (parking)
Phone Bill: I share a family plan with my in-laws, so my portion is $50.
Health Insurance: On my husband's plan
Google 10GB storage: $1.99

Day One

9 a.m. — Juice and toast at home before heading out for the day. 9:15 a.m. — To gear up for shopping with the toddler, we grabbed some coffee on the way to the grocery store. $2.15 9:30 a.m. — The whole family went grocery shopping, and we picked up items for the week, so staples like bread and milk, as well as specific items for meals (chicken breast, cilantro, etc.). We hit Walmart because we can get everything at once, including organic milk and produce. We also had to buy some household items, Ziploc bags that I use to freeze bulk cooking, air freshener, and toddler nutrition shakes. I have a picky eater. $113.76 1 p.m. — Went with some friends to an art exhibition (free!) and then grabbed a curry bowl at Spice 6 for lunch. $10.57 7 p.m. — Spent the rest of the evening at home, prepping for the week. This normally includes making a few meals in advance, but was feeling lazy so pushed that to Monday. Dinner was leftovers. Total amount spent: $126.48

Day Two

7 a.m. — I have an alternate work schedule, so I work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This allows me to do day-care pickup (my husband drops off the toddler in the morning) and not have a rushed evening. In the morning I take the metro to work, and I use the flexible-spending account where a portion of my check is taken out pre-tax and put on a debit card to cover transit costs. This changes month to month, but I put $113.40 in this month. For the ride, $2.55. 7:30 a.m. — I usually make breakfast at work by keeping quick oats, walnut pieces, and dried fruit at my desk. We have free coffee that isn’t half bad, which helps keep away the Starbucks habit. 12 p.m. — I brought in leftovers from Spice 6 and mixed them with some leftover noodles. Voilà — fusion cooking! 2 p.m. — My office mates bring in lots of food; today we had cupcakes from someone’s kid’s birthday party and a veggie tray. 4 p.m. — I pick up my son on my way back, so my Metro fare is slightly more as I go to the day care, which is where my husband leaves the car for me to drive back home (he also covers the car insurance). However...
4:45 p.m. — MASSIVE delays on the Metro! I waited at one station for 30 minutes with nary a train in sight. I gave up and, fearing the $10-a-minute charge if I am late with day-care pickup, I grabbed a Lyft. Unfortunately my Metro card had already been charged, so that was a wash, but at least it wasn’t my full fare. $2.55 5:20 p.m. — My Lyft driver got me to day care with time to spare. I picked up my son, and then the car from the nearby garage, where my husband leaves it every morning. Since we pay a monthly fee for the garage, I simply used the fob from the garage company and exited without paying. $15.94 7 p.m. — I made rice and lentils from our groceries. Husband was working late, so I comforted my toddler missing his daddy by allowing him to have frozen waffles for dinner. Total amount spent: $21.04

Day Three

7 a.m. — Trains working again. $2.55 7:35 a.m. — Coworker felt like taking a walk to Starbucks, and I ended up getting a Blonde Roast. $1.84 7:50 a.m. — Same breakfast of oatmeal, walnuts, and fruit. 11:45 a.m. — Lots of conference calls today, so I felt like I was going from meeting to meeting. Thankfully, there was a large fruit tray left over from a morning meeting so I could scarf down some berries and pineapple between meetings. 12:50 p.m. — Forgot to pack anything, so I grabbed a soup from the local deli. I augmented it with some fruit from home and some popcorn that I keep at my desk. $4.97 4:15 p.m. — Metro to day care. $2.85 5:20 p.m. — Picked up the toddler at day care, but had to kill time before a meeting at his school. We grabbed a kid's meal at Baja Fresh to keep him happy until we get home. I ate half of it. $4.93 7:30 p.m. — Husband was working late and the toddler was fed, so I fixed myself some lentils and rice for dinner. I did the bedtime routine before settling in for some TV time. Total amount spent: $17.14

Day Four

7:20 a.m. — Seriously, the D.C. Metro is a nightmare! They decided to shut down the ENTIRE train system for 29 hours for safety inspections. Thankfully my husband was able to secure a free parking pass at his office, so we did a day-care drop-off and then drove in together and parked at his office, which is walking distance from my office. My manager was very understanding of my one-hour-late arrival, since he was late too! 8:25 a.m. — I was starving at this point; I usually eat much earlier. I made coffee, my usual oatmeal, and settled in for the day. A lot of people were telecommuting, so the office was nice and quiet. 10:30 a.m. — The quiet was making me hungry. I ate a banana I brought from home and made myself some office tea. 1 p.m. — After a call that went way too long, I sadly realized I had left my packed lunch at home in my fridge. Two days in a row is not good for the budget. I lifted my spirits by hitting the food trucks and getting a large and tasty gyro salad. Bonus — thanks to some free fruit and dessert in the conference room, I only ate half and could have the other half tomorrow! $9 4 p.m. — Picked up the car and headed to day care. I don’t normally drive out of D.C., so the traffic was a "fun" experience. I safely got myself to day care, and grabbed the toddler. The school provided a drive-home snack of an apple today, which he enjoyed. 7 p.m. — More lentils and rice! My husband was finally home in time for dinner, woo-hoo. We also made some guac, as we had a few avocados that would have gone bad otherwise. The toddler threw his rice and lentils across the room (deep breath), and decided he wanted Cheerios and blueberries instead. Total amount spent: $9

Day Five

7 a.m. — Metro was running again, and without major issues, for now. $2.55 7:45 a.m. — I made some office coffee and ate a banana. Not feeling oatmeal this morning, so I grabbed a cheese stick instead, which I keep in the office fridge. 9:35 a.m. — Our friends are having a birthday party for their 1-year-old on Saturday and have very generously asked for donations to be made to help the Syrian refugee crisis, as opposed to traditional gifts. They set up a link through Evite to their charity of choice, which I used to make the donation. $50 9:45 a.m. — Breakfast in the conference room! I love food from breakfast meetings, especially when I don't have to go to the meeting. I made myself a granola, vanilla yogurt, and blueberry parfait. 12:17 p.m. — I got lunch with a friend who works nearby. I brought my leftover salad and she brought food from home. We grabbed a nice spot outside and enjoyed the weather. 1:15 p.m. — I had a conference for the rest of the day. I grabbed a Lyft to the hotel. Since it was work-related, I could comp it. 6:30 p.m. — My office sponsored a table at a charity dinner tonight. I attended and got to enjoy a nice steak dinner while catching up with a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years. It’s totally true when people say D.C. is a small town. 8:45 p.m. — Since the dinner was work-related, I grabbed a Lyft home and comped it. Total amount spent: $52.55

Day Six

7 a.m. — Back to regular life and my morning Metro ride after a night of fancy food and free drinks. $2.55 7:40 a.m. — Oatmeal with fruit and nuts. Plus coffee. 12:20 p.m. — Grabbed some Potbelly’s for lunch, specifically a chicken-salad sandwich on multigrain bread with veggies and hot peppers. And some SunChips. $6.92 2:15 p.m. — Made a “mocha” with office coffee machine and some hot chocolate. 4:10 p.m. — Metro to day care, grabbed toddler, and drove home. $2.85 7 p.m. — Husband made chicken stew and panfried veggies for dinner last night, so we finished those leftovers for dinner. Toddler would only eat three graham crackers (sigh), and then downed a nutrition shake before bedtime.

Total amount spent: $12.32

Day Seven

7:15 a.m. — I really wanted to sleep in, but toddler had other ideas and woke us up to a rousing rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Made myself a fried egg, toast, and tea. I also had some leftover roasted veggies and a bowl of blackberries and blueberries. Toddler had oatmeal made with quick oats, fortified baby cereal, whole milk, and frozen berries. The berries get very soft and mix in nicely when cooked with the oatmeal. 1:45 p.m. — We had two 1-year-old birthday parties today. We drove to CVS, and I grabbed two kids' cards. One card got the donation slip from earlier in the week; the other got a gift card my husband bought. Teamwork. $8.44 2 p.m. — We drove to the first birthday party. It was safari-themed and we scarfed down some wings, turkey rolls, egg-salad sandwiches, bruschetta, spinach-artichoke dip, and “jungle” punch. Also, some pretty hard-to-deny chocolate cake with green frosting. 7 p.m. — Birthday two was a more formal affair. It was a catered event in a hotel, with a buffet of traditional Bengali food (the family’s heritage). Yum. And at the end, there were some fantastic chai-tea lattes for everyone to take in to-go cups. Total amount spent: $8.44
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