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A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $111,000 Salary

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images.
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 nonprofit director who makes $111,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a made-to-order replica Taylor Swift dress.
Occupation: Program Director
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 28
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $111,000
Net Worth: $43,216 (checking: $4,954, HYSA: $32,875, 401(k): $3,657, IRA: $1,730).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,371.49
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,425 for a one-bedroom apartment with a parking spot.
Electric: $30-$50
Wi-Fi: $45
Health Insurance: $43.90 (pre-tax).
FSA Contribution: $83.33 (pre-tax).
401(k): $139.50 (pre-tax, matched by my employer).
Streaming/News Subscriptions: $80.33
Spotify: $2.50 (I share a “family” plan with several friends).
Google/Apple Storage: $5.10 (I am what one might call a digital hoarder).
Donations: $41.67 (Small recurring donations to a few abortion funds and other organizations).

Annual Expenses
Renters Insurance: $98 every six months.
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, I was always expected to go to college and it was always understood that my parents would pay for it. My parents explained to me very early on that they would see me through my undergraduate education but if I decided to go to grad school, I'd be on my own. My parents both went to top schools and I was expected to do so as well. My mom grew up in a working-class family and was determined to make sure I would be able to graduate debt-free.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents rarely talked about our family's finances, except to impress upon me that money did not grow on trees and we were not as well-off as many of my classmates (I went to private school with some very rich kids). They started talking to me more about money and the importance of saving when I was in middle school, which was when I had my bat mitzvah, the recession hit and I got my first job. My parents opened a bank account for me, put all my bat mitzvah gift money into it and told me they would save it for when I graduated college and actually needed it. They never really talked to me about how to budget, just about the importance of saving up over time for big things and not racking up debt.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working as a teaching assistant at my synagogue's Sunday school. I worked there from eighth grade until I graduated high school. My parents took all my paychecks and deposited them for me in the account with my bat mitzvah money so I never really got to see or spend the money I made at the time, which was frustrating.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about money but I was often anxious and confused about it. I knew we were fairly well-off and that my parents made enough money to comfortably send me to private school but I also knew that I brought my lunch to school every day (while most kids bought lunch at the cafeteria) and that our house was much smaller than most of my friends' houses. My mom was constantly telling me we couldn't afford this or that, but I didn't understand why a new pair of jeans was out of the question when I knew they were paying tens of thousands in tuition each year. It's clear to me now that my parents tried to keep day-to-day spending in check so that they could send me to private school and save up to send me to college debt-free. But since they never broke down the numbers for me, I had no sense of how much money they made (or why sometimes $50 was a big deal and other times it wasn't), so I mostly just remember feeling like I had to walk on eggshells whenever I wanted or needed money for something.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry about money day to day but I worry about not saving enough for retirement or for big stuff like (hopefully, eventually) buying a home. I bounced around jobs and moved a lot in my early to mid-20s so I was constantly spending any money I had saved and didn't actually open a separate savings account or start putting money in a 401(k) until recently. I have a stable, well-paying job now but I spend 40% of my monthly take-home pay on rent and am still trying to figure out a good balance between spending and saving.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents always made it very clear to me that I would become financially responsible for myself the day I graduated college, as both of them did, and I should consider myself (gently) cut off after that. Alas, I chose a pretty volatile career path so while I never had to ask them for money, I did move back home in between jobs a few times. I'd say I really became financially responsible for myself in 2020, when the pandemic hit and I turned 26. I was tired of my industry's instability, didn't want to move home again during lockdown and was about to get kicked off my parents' health insurance, so I pivoted and got a more stable job that allowed me to become fully financially independent. That said, I am still on my parents' phone plan, we share our streaming service and news subscriptions, and if I had an emergency come up I couldn't afford, I know I could ask them for help.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents paid for my education, gave me money for living expenses periodically during college and bought me a used car my senior year that I still own today. They also gave me $5,000 to help me get on my feet after college, ostensibly from the aforementioned bank account with the bat mitzvah money and my high school paychecks, but I have a hunch they padded that account balance a little bit, too.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up, scroll on social media and text some friends for a while before getting out of bed. I love a lazy Saturday morning! I eventually get up and have a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. I have tried every bagel place in D.C. and ultimately decided the best option is just to get two dozen bagels every time I visit my parents and keep them in my freezer.
12 p.m. — After watching a couple of episodes of The West Wing, I peel myself off the couch to shower and get dressed for the day. I head over to the Whole Foods nearby and pick up a few random things: more cream cheese, strawberries, parsley, a couple of lemons and a red onion. $11.92
1:30 p.m. — I hop on the metro to go see a college friend I haven't seen in a few months. $2
1:30 p.m. — We meet up at our favorite fancy coffee shop/bakery and I get a sandwich and iced tea. $20.17
4 p.m. — After a couple of hours of catching up, I take the metro home ($2) and stop by a liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine ($27.62) to bring to my friend's house later. This place is overpriced but the staff are so helpful and nice, and I like supporting small businesses when I can. $29.62
6:45 p.m. — I take a nap and completely lose track of time so now I haven't eaten dinner and I'm running late. My friend is hosting a little get-together to celebrate Purim, a Jewish holiday that was a few days ago, and I'm supposed to be there at 7. I try to catch the bus but just miss it. The next one's not for 12 more minutes so I end up just walking there. It's SO COLD and partly uphill and I regret not taking an Uber.
10 p.m. — After a couple of hours of hanging out, making hamantaschen (Purim cookies) and drinking wine, I call an Uber home. I still haven't really eaten dinner so I make some chicken nuggets in my toaster oven (dino shapes only) and end up chatting on the phone for a while with V., one of my best friends from home. I do my usual bedtime routine (floss, brush teeth, skincare routine, NYT crossword on night mode, Wordle at midnight) then drift off to sleep. $13.94
Daily Total: $77.65

Day Two

11 a.m. — I wake up in a PANIC. I'm shocked and kind of annoyed I slept for so long. I have big plans to clean my apartment and get my life together today and now I feel behind. I hop in the shower, start some laundry and make a sandwich with the last of the deli meat I bought earlier in the week: smoked turkey, smoked gouda and chipotle aioli on rosemary sourdough, with a passionfruit La Croix.
3 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning my apartment, which has slowly devolved into a disaster zone. I finally unpack my suitcase from a work trip last week, do some more laundry, run the dishwasher, clean my kitchen, put away all the laundry and clean my bathroom. One of the lightbulbs in my bathroom recently went out for the first time since I've lived here so I spend way too long on Amazon, trying to figure out the right, weirdly shaped replacement bulbs to buy. I end up buying two different kinds, hoping that one is right and then I'll return the other ($28.92). I check the running “to buy” list I keep on my Notes app and add a box of KN95 masks to my cart since I'm almost out ($12.67). $41.59
5 p.m. — I call my parents every weekend to catch up so I chat with them for a while, then settle in to watch TV. I'm feeling snacky so I get out some cheese and crackers and the strawberries I bought yesterday to hold me over until dinner, but then I end up eating literally half a hunk of Unexpected Cheddar and decide to just call that dinner. I put clean sheets back on my bed, do my bedtime routine and I'm asleep by 12:30.
Daily Total: $41.59

Day Three

8 a.m. — My first alarm goes off and I grab my phone to read the news and scroll for a bit. At 8:30, my second alarm goes off and it's time to get up. I get dressed, have a bagel and cream cheese with a glass of cold brew from my fridge, and sit down at my desk to start the day. I only have two meetings today — a Monday miracle!
1 p.m. — Lunchtime. I make a smashed chickpea salad using the parsley, lemon and red onion I bought on Saturday and spoon it onto a couple of pieces of rosemary sourdough toast with lemon tahini spread. This is one of my favorite easy weekday lunches and I have plenty left over for tomorrow.
2 p.m. — I go downstairs to get my Blue Apron box that just arrived ($69). I used to have a weekly subscription but now I order boxes every few weeks, just to lighten the mental load of meal planning some of the time. $69
6 p.m. — I finish up with work. I make a Blue Apron meal (turkey meatballs with carrots, cucumbers and lemongrass rice) for dinner and put the leftovers in the fridge for tomorrow.
7 p.m. — I get a notification that a package has arrived — it's the dress I ordered to wear to the Taylor Swift concert I'm going to soon! I eagerly try it on and discover, tragically, that it's a little too small. I'm so disappointed. It's a replica of a dress she wore on a previous tour and I really had my heart set on this outfit. I text V. (who I'm going to the concert with) in despair and ultimately decide to do a completely ridiculous thing and just order it again in the next size up. It was made to order so I can't return it but I'm hoping I can resell the first one to a fellow Swiftie and make most of my money back. $149
8 p.m. — V. and I spend the next few hours texting and talking about our TikTok hiatus to avoid Eras tour spoilers. Then I clean up my kitchen from dinner, do my bedtime routines and go to sleep around 12:30.

Daily Total: $218

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up and spend a little too much time scrolling in bed. I barely make it to my daily 9:30 check-in with my boss, during which I eat some strawberries.
11 a.m. — After a couple of hours of Zoom meetings, I am ravenous and polish off the rest of the chickpea salad straight from the mixing bowl, along with a passionfruit La Croix.
4 p.m. — Time for therapy! I started therapy for the first time about two months ago. I really like the therapist I found but she doesn't take insurance so I'm paying for everything out of pocket. I've been able to cover our sessions so far with my FSA money, which kind of feels like fake money (even though I know it's all coming out of my paycheck pre-tax), but that's going to run out soon. We have a great session today but it does kill me a little bit to see the credit card notification come through just as I leave the video chat. $250
5 p.m. — After therapy, I finish the turkey meatballs and rice leftovers from last night and finalize plans to get drinks with a college friend tonight. I convince him to come to a bar two blocks from my house and he graciously acquiesces. We each get a cocktail and split some chicken tenders and fries. We split the bill, which somehow comes to $29.70 each after tax and tip. $29.70
9 p.m. — I head home from drinks and hop on the phone with my friend, F., who is in the middle of a job hunt and needs a sounding board and someone to proofread her emails. Then I watch an episode of The West Wing, do my bedtime routine and am asleep by midnight.

Daily Total: $279.70

Day Five

8 a.m. — I wake up and see an email notification that I got paid today, yay! Wednesdays are my office day so I shower, put on some real people clothes, prep a bagel and cream cheese to bring with me (I'll get free coffee at my office) and head out the door.
9 a.m. — It's still really cold and windy out so I decide to drive to work. I usually try to walk or take the bus but when the weather's bad, I give myself permission to drive (or Uber there and walk home). It's $14 to park at my work garage. $14
1 p.m. — After a productive morning, my boss and I head to the Wawa down the street to grab lunch. We usually try to take a nice walk and go somewhere a little further but the wind chill is crazy today so we decide to stay close. I get a meatball sub hoagie and a Snapple. $12.10
6 p.m. — The afternoon ends up being kind of frustrating and we are the last ones to leave the office at 6. My friend calls me as I'm driving home so I call her back while I'm making dinner (a salmon grain bowl Blue Apron meal). I realize there's no chance I'm going to make the third meal in this week's box in a timely fashion so I throw the chicken breasts from that one in the freezer.
7 p.m. — I watch some West Wing, then scroll on social media a bit. I see that Everything Everywhere All at Once is coming back into theaters this weekend. I text my friend to see if she wants to go on Friday night and she is down so I buy our tickets and she venmos me. $14
10 p.m. — F. calls me to catch up properly, since we only talked about her job hunt stuff last night, and we end up talking for almost two hours. Then I get ready for bed. I notice when I brush my teeth that my toothpaste is getting low so I add that to my "to buy" list for an upcoming Target run.
Daily Total: $40.10

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up and see the charge has come out for my quarterly donation to my hometown abortion fund (in monthly expenses). I channel my rage these days through standing, recurring donations to a few abortion funds I care about, which can help them budget and sustain operations more easily than one-off donations.
9 a.m. — I make a bagel and cream cheese and sit down at my desk with a glass of cold brew to start my day. I use these cold brew fridge packs (they look like boxed wine but for coffee) so that I don't go out and buy iced coffee every day. They're $35 and since I don't drink coffee every single day, each box usually lasts me two months.
1 p.m. — I get so wrapped up in work that the next thing I know, it's 1 p.m. and I still have half a bagel on my plate — whoops! I quickly eat the rest, then finish the last few strawberries in the fridge.
3 p.m. — I get an email from my HYSA that my interest rate is going up from 3.5% to 3.75%, woo! I know high interest rates are causing a lot of issues in the economy right now but I'll certainly take advantage of this small benefit. I like to keep at least $5,000 in my checking account at all times (twice my rent) so I log into my checking account and decide to transfer $2,500 over into the HYSA, leaving me with just about $5,000.
4:30 p.m. — I'm done with meetings and it's gorgeous out today so V. and I hop on the phone and go for a short hot girl walk around our neighborhoods to discuss how we're going to avoid Taylor Swift tour spoilers. I stop at a local boba place and get a hibiscus mango iced tea to enjoy on my walk home. $6
5:30 p.m. — I come back and finish up some work emails, then grab last night's leftovers from the fridge and catch up on the past few weeks of Abbott Elementary.
7 p.m. — After three episodes of Abbott, I end up scrolling on social media for a while. There is so much Eras tour content now that it's getting overwhelming. I also see one of my favorite authors post a recommendation for a new book coming out in a few weeks. After reading a bit about the book and the author, I pre-order it on Bookshop ($31.83). I have no business buying new books right now when I can barely keep up with my every-other-month book club as it is, but I love supporting women poets/authors so whatever. $31.83
9 p.m. — With so much tour excitement and nowhere to channel it at the moment, I decide to rewatch Taylor's Reputation stadium tour on Netflix and eat some Girl Scout cookies from my freezer. I fall asleep around 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $37.83

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm and stay in bed as long as possible before doing the bare minimum to make myself presentable for Zoom. I do my 9:30 check-in with my boss, then make a green smoothie (my go-to is spinach, frozen banana and mango, coconut milk, Greek yogurt and a little honey) to use up some spinach I bought last week.
1 p.m. — After prepping for and running an important meeting, I am ready for a lunch break! I heat up a frozen turkey burger, top it with the last lonely slice of smoked gouda and Trader Joe's chimichurri, and use a burger bun left over from a Blue Apron meal I didn't make. I also grab a sweet potato that's starting to look iffy and attempt to make sweet potato fries in my toaster oven (they don't turn out very crispy). I add some BBQ sauce to my plate and pour a can of Diet Coke into a glass with a straw to really elevate my fridge clean-out lunch game.
5 p.m. — I finish up my last Zoom meeting and slam my laptop shut. TGIF. I put on jeans and a cute shirt and rush out to catch the bus. $2
5:30 p.m. — My friend, K., and I meet up at a market and get some dumplings and sesame noodles to share ($12 for my half), then head to the movie theater and grab a beer ($8) before settling into our seats. $20
9:30 p.m. — Welp, that movie messed me up! I barely finished half my beer and cried for basically the entire last third of the movie. Best Picture, indeed. It's actually kind of nice out so K. and I walk back to her apartment while discussing the multiverse, then I call an Uber home from there. $9.81
10:30 p.m. — I snack on some Girl Scout cookies, then curl up on my couch and watch another West Wing episode until it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $31.81
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