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A Week In Alexandria, VA, On A $308,000 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.

Today: a physician who makes $308,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Sorel winter boots.
Occupation: Physician (OBGYN)
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 35
Location: Alexandria, VA
Salary: $308,000
Net Worth: ~$171,000 (I started seriously saving and investing three years ago when I finished my residency. Before then, I made only enough to contribute to my 401(k) and have a tiny amount of savings. Retirement accounts: $114,090, investment accounts: $87,850, checking $15,863, savings: $60,427. I don't normally have this much in a savings account but am anticipating paying for medical expenses with a portion minus debt.)
Debt: $107,064 (I have $104,159 in student loans but started with ~$290,000 at the end of residency. My car loan is $2,905.)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $6,615 (after deductions for 401(k) with 3% match and FSA)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,661 (I live alone in a two-bed, two-bath, planning to buy a place in the next six to nine months)
Utilities: $150–200
Parking: $75
Student Loans: $4,000 (refinanced two years ago, $3,125 due monthly)
Car Loan: $1,500 (payment is supposed to be $1,060)
Amazon Prime: $119 annually
Hulu: $6.99
Netflix: $13.99
Spotify: $9.99
Car Insurance: $9.58
Phone: $130 (My mom is on my plan)
Internet: $55
Disability Insurance: $573 (To replace part of my income if I am unable to practice my own specialty due to disability)
Life Insurance: $44.40
Investments: $1,000
Savings: $1,400
Health, Dental & Vision Insurance: covered by my employer
Annual Expenses
Amex Platinum Credit Card Fee: $695
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card Fee: $550 (The annual fees are very high, but I use almost all the benefits, which more than justify the price. I use both cards for almost all of my expenses but never keep a balance and pay no interest while earning a lot of points that I use whenever I travel.)
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?
I don't remember actually discussing this growing up. I think it was just a given that I would pursue higher education because I was a great student and I always wanted to be a doctor. My parents do not have degrees, but two of my siblings have bachelor's degrees. I paid for my education mostly with loans and grants. Luckily my undergraduate university has a large endowment and gives great financial aid, so I graduated with ~$25,000 in debt from a pretty expensive school. The bulk of my debt is from medical school where I paid for two degrees almost entirely with loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up, we did not have conversations about money directly. I knew we were not rich. My mom always worked, and my dad was not in the picture from an early age. I never felt poor; we always had food, new clothes for school, and spent our summers as kids in Jamaica. However, I knew that I should take care of the things I had because they were not easy to come by and would not be easily replaced. Spending time in Jamaica, where my parents are from, gave me perspective and allowed me to appreciate what I had even more. We always stayed with relatives and sometimes there would be no running water or electricity. The experience was a type of indirect financial education and is part of the reason why I don't spend frivolously and insist on cooking and cleaning myself when I could probably afford not to do it all.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a shampoo girl at a hair salon when I was 14 years old. I got the job because I liked having money of my own and felt like I should do what I can to lighten the load for my mother. I had a job all through high school and used those earnings to pay for my expenses — transit pass, lunches, prom, SATs, college applications.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I didn't. I wasn't sheltered; I knew we didn't have lots of money. I knew I should be mindful of the way I used money, but I never felt like I needed to worry about it.
Do you worry about money now?
I do actually worry more about money now. I worry more about the long-term, big picture finances. I'm in a position where I make quite a lot of money but don't come from a wealthy family and that is a difficult position to be in. There is a lot that I am still learning about managing large amounts of money and planning for the future. I think about building wealth to pass on to my kids all the time and that's not something that I can ask anyone in my family about because they have never been in my position.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Since I left for college at 18, I have been responsible for my own finances. I've never moved back home and, with only a few exceptions, I've never gotten much financial help from family. I lived on loans while getting my degrees and worked for two years in between undergrad and medical school. I have no safety net. I have my own emergency fund, savings, and disability insurance if I was ever unable to work. I would most likely be the safety net for others to be honest.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Nope, never.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm. My fifth day at home since getting sick during my last labor and delivery (L&D) shift. I lay in bed for a while and watch Celia Cruz videos on Instagram. I head to the bathroom to wash up. I check my work email and see my scrubs were delayed by a recent snowstorm.
8:30 a.m. — My boyfriend, Z., who lives in Morocco, calls to chat about his new passport and his plan to apply for a US visa. While we are talking my sister, M., calls and I switch over to talk to her while she is on her way to work.
9:30 a.m. — My mom calls to video chat. She lives primarily with my sister but is currently on Long Island working as a nanny. She's been with the same family for a few years and is finally approaching retirement. We check in with each other a few times a day. After we talk, it's time for breakfast. I have halloumi, ham, and roasted tomatoes on a baguette with coffee. I start feeling stuffy again and take a decongestant and my probiotic. I'm glad I didn't push myself to go in today. Once I'm done, I head to the shower.

11:15 a.m. — Planning to review my big-picture finances today, which I do quarterly. Since I left my job four months ago, I've neglected it. I took a three-month break to relocate from California and travel to Morocco. In my last position, I was receiving a stipend for student loan repayment quarterly and I also earned additional income working overnight and weekends, so I had lots of extra income to put towards student loans. In my new position, I won't have this option so I may not be able to pay as aggressively as before. I review my bank, retirement, and investment accounts, my insurance policies, my FSA, and finally my student loans. I decide to pay a little extra towards my loan since I missed last quarter. $2,000

12:15 p.m. — I start looking through insurance documents from two cycles of egg freezing I did six months ago. Unfortunately, I didn't end up with as many eggs as I wanted, but I'm happy that I have them as a back-up plan. I had great coverage for IVF but not for egg freezing despite the process being the same. I've decided to appeal to the insurance company, because it's a nonsensical decision and such a slap in the face. I spend a little time on the phone getting instructions for how to submit the appeal.
1 p.m. — I eat leftover tomato soup and halloumi. I talk to my mom again about her retirement savings, which I have been trying to help her beef up. I put away a little money for her two years ago when she turned 65 but I know once she does retire that I'm going to be her safety net.
3 p.m. — I watch Real Housewives of Salt Lake City while I snack on almonds and seltzer. Around 6, I finally pause my show to eat. I make a salad with cabbage, apples, squash, pecans and honey-tahini dressing. I also warm up leftover rice and peas and oxtail. My appetite is finally back after days of tea and soup.

7 p.m. — Enough housewives drama. I switch to Netflix and watch some Queer Eye. While I'm watching, I look for winter boots. I lived in California for the last few years, so there are some gaps in my wardrobe. There's a great pair of Sorel boots at Nordstrom, and I have a $10 loyalty reward to use, so I order them. $202

8:45 p.m. — I pack tomorrow's lunch and load the dishwasher. I make a cup of tea, eat half a brookie, and get in bed with a book. I'm reading All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle. I've been trying to read more Caribbean and African authors and I am really enjoying the books I've read. I read until Z. video calls. Despite the time difference, he's wide awake and wants to talk about some drama with his family. I brush my teeth and wash my face while listening. He seems to just want to vent and once he's done, we both go to bed.

Daily Total: $2,202

Day Two

6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I head to the bathroom to get ready. I just got a new medication for “maskne” and add it to my routine before I moisturize and add my sunscreen. It's really hard to find sunscreen for dark skin because they tend to leave me with an awful white film over my skin. I'm using an SPF 40 spritz now which has been excellent. I get dressed, pack my lunch and coffee, then make a sandwich for breakfast with cranberry-pecan bread and ham. I'm out the door right on time and make it to the car before I remember my probiotic and decongestant. Ugh, not going back.
7:55 a.m. — I'm early and decide to go get gas at Costco. I'll need it tomorrow for my drive to the hospital where I'm on call ($25.40). Get into my office and see the first patient has just arrived — great timing. $25.40
10 a.m. — A patient doesn't keep their appointment, so I have a little break. I use the time to contact patients about their results while I drink my coffee. The last patient of the morning is late but I'm able to see her quickly. I eat salad from last night with mac and cheese and listen to music. I almost never do any work when I eat. After residency, I made it a rule for myself because I never had time to sit and enjoy a meal and it became normal to multitask while eating. So now, even if I only take 10 minutes to do it, I just sit and enjoy my food. Everything else can wait. I call my mom once I'm finished just to check-in.
1 p.m. — Back to seeing patients. Most office days, I do a combination of things. There are prenatal care, routine gynecology and health maintenance, tons of visits for various gyno complaints, and a few office procedures sprinkled in. I love the variety of things that I get to do and that's why I chose this specialty. I also spend some days on L&D and in the operating room. Every day is thankfully different.
3:15 p.m. — Another patient doesn't show. I remember that I didn't actually review my car loan yesterday, so I log in and make a payment. After this, I will have one more payment before it's totally paid off. Looking forward to having that money back in my budget. I bought a very nice car over two years ago, which was a huge step up compared to the old cars I'd been driving since med school. I'm proud of myself for paying it off quickly.
4 p.m. — I look up at my schedule and see a patient is here 40 minutes early. I start thinking maybe I'll finish on time today. A few minutes later, I see another patient checked in 50 minutes late and can't believe I was foolish enough to think I would leave early.

5 p.m. — The last patient takes much longer than expected but I'm finally finished. Most of the staff is already gone. I hurry up and finish my documentation so I can head home. Another rule I have is to avoid doing work at home at all costs. I try to not leave anything unfinished before I head out. I make it out the door after another 15 minutes of work.

6:05 p.m. — I get home surprisingly fast; normally my evening commute is annoyingly long. I stop by the package room on my way up to my apartment and pick up N95 masks and see a surprise gift from work — a fleece and a wireless charger. Nice! Once I'm inside, I put Beyoncé's Homecoming on Netflix and get in the shower. Then it's time to cook dinner. I make a quick sauce with onions, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, and a spice mix I got in Morocco over the summer. I poach two eggs in the sauce and eat it with a baguette and red wine.

7:30 p.m. — I start clean up the kitchen and pack food for tomorrow. I'll be on L&D for 24 hours so I like to make sure I have everything I could possibly need while I'm there. I prep my toiletry kit as well. I get ready for bed and realize I didn't talk to Z. today. I call but don't get an answer and figure he must be sleeping. I head to bed.

Daily Total: $25.40

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm. My shift doesn't start until 10 so I don't immediately jump up. I was planning to work out this morning but now remember that I need to go to the post office to mail a gift. I decide to skip the workout and just get ready. I head to the bathroom and shower, etc. I pop a probiotic with a swig of drinkable yogurt, gather all my stuff and my package, then head out the door.
8:30 a.m. — I get to the post office and see that it's closed. I'm annoyed and head back to the car with my package. I look up a place to buy coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I very rarely buy any food or coffee during the week, but I didn't make breakfast this morning. Z. video calls. His phone wasn't working yesterday but he got it fixed. We chat while I walk into a cafe but there's only vegan food on the menu. Not feeling a tofu scramble today. I order an oat milk latte and discover they have donuts, which makes me less sad. I get a lavender-honeycomb one. $8.37
9:30 a.m. — I get to work and find my way to L&D. I get a little tour and run-down of how things work from my colleague who is at the end of her shift and signing the service over to me. One patient is here for labor induction and one postpartum. I can't complain about that.
10:30 a.m. — Apparently doctors get everything free in the cafeteria. I order a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and decide to save the donut for another time. I sit in the call room and do a little documentation after meeting my laboring patient and reviewing the plan of care. A new patient comes in active labor and, after a quick eval, I spend some time getting her admitted.
1:30 p.m. — The nurses are ordering Panera to celebrate a birthday, so I get a salad to go with the soup I brought from home. I'm breaking all my rules about not ordering take-out today. While I wait for my salad, I reheat my coffee and have a bite of my donut. $13
2:40 p.m. — I get called because my patient feels like she wants to push. I walk over to examine her and she's definitely ready. Mom pushes like a champ and it's over quickly. The baby's cute and chunky. I'm thankful for a safe delivery, say my congratulations, and make my exit.
3 p.m. — Back to my call room to document after the delivery. I heat up my tomato soup and eat my salad. The call room TV isn't working so I play a game on my phone. I FaceTime my sister and she talks about her day. She's a preschool teacher and has the best stories. After we chat, I log into the medical record and go through patient results and messages.
5 p.m. — I go check on my other patient. Labor induction can be a long process, but she's doing fine. Back to the call room to chill.

8:15 p.m. — I warm up my dinner: rice and peas, curry goat, and miso-honey-butter cabbage. At 9, I head to the nurse's station for a huddle.
10 p.m. — I check on my patient again. No progress since the last exam but I'm not rushing the process. I set an alarm to go back in a few hours. I do a quick version of my nighttime routine since there is no personal bathroom here. I go back to my call room and get in bed. I try to sleep early because there is no telling what will happen overnight.

Daily Total: $21.37

Day Four

12:20 a.m. — I get a call from urgent care with a question about a patient. Question answered. I go back to sleep.
12:40 a.m. — Another call from a nurse about a patient. Pregnant patients often call the nurse advice line with questions and when the nurse cannot handle the issue or needs to escalate it she will call the doctor on call. The most common question is essentially some form of, “Am I in labor?” Once I answer the question, I go back to sleep.

3:10 a.m. — Another call. This time I want the patient to come in for evaluation. I consider going back to sleep but just lay there for a bit.
4 a.m. — I get up and go back to evaluate my patient before the others arrive. She's making slow progress; I'll take it. The next patient arrives. She's in labor but planning for a repeat cesarean delivery so I let the staff know to prepare the OR. I consent the patient for surgery then I head back to my call room to document and call the anesthesiologist.
5 a.m. — Being awake in the middle of the night always makes me so hungry. I sit down and eat almonds. I feel a headache coming on. I get another nurse call. We actually have no beds left on L&D so the patient is redirected.

6 a.m. — The other patient I was expecting arrives. I'm not sure if she needs to stay and decide I will come back to re-assess. I grab a bag of popcorn on my way back to the call room. Still waiting to start the cesarean. I start working on discharge documentation and prescriptions for the two postpartum patients going home today.
7 a.m. — Change of shift for nursing. I go back to evaluate the patient in triage; she stopped contracting. I decide she is okay to go home. I head back to my call room to document and get her discharged.

7:30 a.m. — Moving to the OR finally! Another advice nurse call as I walk into the OR. I'm so over it. The cesarean takes about an hour and it goes well. I'm so hungry and thirsty but I can't go for coffee because there's another patient in triage for evaluation! I'm so tired. I examine her and she's in labor. I go to the cafeteria for a free coffee then head back upstairs to start the admission process for the last patient and finish documenting for my cesarean.

9:40 a.m. — I check on the two postpartum ladies then head back to the call room to do my favorite thing… documentation!
10 a.m. — It's finally time to sign the service over and leave. I get to my car and it is covered in snow. FML! I drink my cold coffee and play afrobeats to keep me alert while I drive.

11:15 a.m. — I swing by the post office and send my gift. $15.50

11:30 — Next stop is the Middle Eastern market next door. Z. calls while I'm shopping. I buy hummus, fresh pita, feta, artichoke and pepper dip, mini savory pastries (spinach, labneh, and beef), olive oil, spices, and olives. $41.88

12:15 p.m. — I get home and shower. Then, I have tea and eat a few savory pastries. At 1, I brush my teeth then get in bed.

5:30 p.m. — I wake up but still feel tired. Still in bed, I video chat Z. for a bit. For some reason, I imagined I would be able to get up and cook today but I'm too tired. And it's Friday. I order pizza and meatballs. I have credits on my delivery app so I pay for less than half. $13.38

6:50 p.m. — My food arrives ice cold. I eat one meatball immediately and then warm up the rest. I open a bottle of white wine. Video chat Z. while I eat, until his phone dies. I watch an episode of The Expanse. I love this show and it's the final season. I'm happy they are ending it now instead of dragging it out until they run out of story to tell.
9 p.m. — Z. calls, and we video chat for another 40 minutes. I can't stop yawning. He tells me to brush my teeth and go to bed. I brush my teeth and go to bed.

Daily Total: $70.76

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — I open my eyes and decide it's too early. Sleep a little more. I wake up again around 8, chat with Z., scroll Instagram, and check emails.
9 a.m. — Get up and brush my teeth. I warm oat milk to make hot chocolate and video chat Z. while I eat the rest of the pastries. He's having lunch with family, so we don't talk long. After eating, I take ground turkey out of the freezer for dinner. I also get started on making smoky marinated feta.

10:05 a.m. — I strip the bed. I like to change linens every weekend. I throw all the sheets and towels into the wash. I clean both bathrooms and as always start wondering why I don't just hire someone to do it for me. I can afford it and would definitely benefit from having help but something about hiring someone to help around the house feels strange to me. I plan on doing absolutely nothing tomorrow so I get this stuff out of the way now.

11:15 a.m. — Time to wash my hair. I have waist-length locs that I started growing in med school. I love them, but I hate to do the maintenance myself. I haven't found someone to do it since I moved so I'm handling it for now.
12 p.m. — Once I finish my hair, I eat a piece of baguette with honey mustard and ham. I turn on a four-part documentary I have been wanting to watch, Exterminate All The Brutes by Haitian director Raoul Peck. I've liked some of his other work so I'm looking forward to it. I put the linens in the dryer. Then, I start retwisting my locs while I watch.

3:15 p.m. — Finally done with my hair after stopping for a few breaks. Planning to let it air dry, but may sit under my hair dryer later if it's still wet.
4:30 p.m. — I put a load of clothes in the wash and finish the documentary with wine and vegan pork rinds.
6 p.m. — Start folding some of the things. I put fresh sheets on the bed and a new blanket I brought back from Morocco over the summer. I play music while I work. I'm feeling hungry so I start dinner. I cook the turkey with a lot of spices and spoon over hummus. I make a little platter with that, plus marinated feta, olives, pepper, artichoke spread, and pita. After I clean up the kitchen, I watch Netflix until I get sleepy just after midnight.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9:15 a.m. — I wake up and head to the bathroom for the usual morning routine. I browse delivery services and contemplate ordering breakfast then decide against it. I've ordered enough take-out this week.
10:15 a.m. — I make coffee and take my probiotic. I decide to make carrot cake pancakes. I use my “pancakes for one” recipe and add grated carrots, spices, and chopped pecans. Z. calls as I cook, and we talk about some issues he's having with his father. I'm not the most useful person in this department because I haven't seen mine in 20 years, but I listen and try to give him my two cents.

11 a.m. — These pancakes are delicious. I FaceTime my mom and then my sister. I waste time on Instagram and get lured to a few sites with sales but I don't buy anything.

3 p.m. — I have a Zoom call with my med school girls to do a very belated secret Santa gift exchange. This is the 11th year we have done this and it's always so fun. Since we are scattered all over the country, we usually schedule a time to get together throughout the year but with COVID we can only do it virtually. Unfortunately,, I'm a terrible Santa this year and my gift is expected to arrive tomorrow. I apologize to my friend who has nothing to open but funnily enough she's not the only one. While we chat, I have wine and olives and give myself a mani. After three hours, a few of the ladies drop out of the call. The rest of us hang on a little longer. While the remaining three of us chat, I start cooking a pilaf with bulgar and vegetables and pan-fried branzino.

6:40 p.m. — We end the call, and I eat. I clean up the kitchen and pack lunch with leftovers from yesterday since I ate everything I made today. I get to FaceTime my godson. I swear he looks like an actual doll, he's so stinking cute!
9 p.m. — I eat leftover basque cheesecake with tea and watch 90 Day Fiancé. It's my favorite trash TV, and I can't get enough of it. Around 10, I brush my teeth and go to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I get dressed and pick a workout. I do a 30-minute HIIT workout and hope my jumping jacks don't wake the neighbors. I really enjoy exercising and was very consistent before moving but I just haven't been into it lately. It's been four months since I moved and stopped working out with my trainer, so I'm hoping to find a new one to get me back on track.
6:50 a.m. — Take my probiotic then shower and get ready. Out the door by 7:30.
8 a.m. — In the office, I look over my schedule and it looks like a normal day. After seeing a couple of patients, I make an espresso in my office and eat oatmeal with dates and apricots.

12 p.m. — Finished with the morning session. Video chat with Z. for a few minutes then heat up my bulgar, spiced turkey, and veggies. When I'm finished, I check my work email then get ready for my afternoon session. I have another espresso before seeing my first afternoon patient.

5:15 p.m. — Start making my way home. The afternoon was uneventful, which is fortunate because I actually still feel like I'm dragging from being on call a few days ago. I get home and shower.
6:30 p.m. — I warm up leftover pizza and look for something to watch. I decide there's nothing interesting and just play music. After a while, I make tea and get in bed with my book.
9:30 p.m. — I call my mom, we didn't talk all day. When I'm done, I brush my teeth and prep for bed. I decide I'll sort out lunch in the morning. Then, I go to bed.

Daily Total: $0
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