A Week In Baltimore, MD, On A $28,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: an office clerk who makes $28,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on raw honey.
Occupation: Office Clerk (I also work part-time at a grocery store)
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 25
Location: Baltimore
Salary: $28,000
Paycheck Amount (biweekly for both jobs) ): $895 (Just started my full-time job this month), $120-$330 (this depends on hour availability at my part-time job)
Gender: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (As of right now, I don't pay rent since I live with my parents. They don't ask me to contribute anything, but I just started a new job so I plan to contribute $300 each month. I know how lucky I am that my parents are this supportive.)
Student Loans: $185 (I just got out of deferment, just in time for this new job, I have about $18,000 in student loans)
Childcare: $330
WiFi: $45 (the least I can do since I don't pay rent)
Netflix: $12.99
Cell Phone: Covered by my sister's plan (again super supportive family, but we'll be splitting it evenly next month)
Debt: I have a few hundred dollars of credit card debt, but I am not actively paying it off right now
Savings: $120 (Contributing from my part-time job, but now that I'm working FT I'll be using my entire pay from my part-time to build a savings accounts for my kids and my FT job to build my savings.)

Day One

5 a.m. — It's Monday morning and I just don't want to get up. I don't have to drop my son off at preschool today, so I try to sleep in when I have mornings alone. I have two sons, a three-year-old, Q., and a ten-month-old, A. They stay with their dad, D., Sunday-Tuesday, so it's nice getting up at my own pace. My morning routine can be extensive. Picture that scene from Clueless of Cher getting ready for her driver's test surrounded by clothes. Yeah, that can be me, so I give myself time.
5:35 a.m. — Finally getting dressed, I play my "Bish Get Ya Mind Right" playlist (yes, an ode to Young Jeezy) to get my mind ready to start the day. I use the Be Transcendent skincare line to cleanse, tone, and moisturize my face. No makeup, just fill in my brows a little, mascara, and a nude matte lip. I decide on a sateen ruffle olive green top with thrifted high waisted black pants and thrifted leopard print flats, but I wear my black Nike Cortez for my commute. I make eggs and toast and get out the door by 6:45 to make my train. Thankfully, I bought my weekly pass last night and that gets me on the bus, subway, and light rail (our version of a trolley) for $21.
7:55 a.m. — I make it to work with five minutes to spare! The bus ended up being ten minutes late — one of the downfalls of transit. Thankfully, it's a five-minute ride and a two-minute walk to my office. I talked to my sons while waiting for the bus and miss them so much. I remind their dad to call the preschool about dropping off the weekly payment (noted in monthly expenses). Our three-year-old goes to preschool and our ten-month-old stays with family while we work. Since D. paid for the first two weeks, I'm paying for this week and then we'll split the cost down the middle moving forward.
10:15 a.m. — I'm at my desk eating some trail mix and scrolling through past Money Diaries. One thing I appreciate about the office I work in is that it's always pretty quiet. I'm mainly at the computer for the day. That's how I came across Money Diaries, so thank my job for giving me the idea to allow y'all to peek into my mostly empty wallet.
1:10 p.m. — Back at my desk after lunch. I had leftover turmeric sweet potato fries with wild rice, black/kidney bean mix, and sauteed cabbage. My kids and I mainly follow a plant-based diet. I say plant-based because I swear the moment I say vegetarian, people police my plate if I eat seafood. Most times, I respectively tell them to choke on a chicken and check their own plate. Back to lunch though, working on a college campus means there's a plethora of options and rice bowl temptations, but packing definitely helps me save extra cash. Now back at my desk, I'm going to update my résumé to finish applying for an internal position. I'm a contract employee right now and am manifesting a regular full-time position for my near future.
5 p.m. — I leave work and go straight home. I shower and eat leftover salmon, rice, and macaroni. I indulge in my nighttime routine because no kids means I can take my sweet time from start to finish. I cleanse, tone, and moisturize with the Be Transcendent line. I love every product and the fact that it's produced and owned by black women. Since this was gifted to me, I'll have to re-stock soon, but I definitely don't mind the splurge. Brush, floss, and my night routine is finished. I video chat with my babies and then watch an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Anyone else thrown off by the time period of this show? Everything looks like the '60s, but they have iPhones? Anyway, lights out by 9.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I hear rain falling outside. This weather definitely makes me want to stay in bed and eat snacks all day. I do my morning routine (same as my night routine) while playing Lizzo's Truth Hurts album. I swear Lizzo is the epitome of self-love and protector of your energy. I get dressed and make a quick egg and toast breakfast. I'm out the door by 6:20.
7:45 a.m. — Make it to work on time. When it comes to timeliness, I definitely follow the "early is on time" and "on time is late" mantra. I video chat with Q. and D. Q. is excited to show me his dinosaur-printed sweatsuit. I swear I don't know how I birthed such a cool kid. I make myself chai tea in the office kitchen and gather my snacks to keep me awake until lunch. My office is a napper's paradise. It's warm, quiet, and the chair I sit in is surprisingly comfortable. If I don't snack on something, I just might doze off (it's happened and it's more than slightly embarrassing).
5 p.m. — I clock out and go to the library up the street to drop off some books and pick up a new one, The Revisioners. I recently renewed my library card and I love that I don't have to be out of the loop on Well-Read Black Girl. I wish I could indulge in buying new books more often. Honestly though, after the first readings, my books become decor. I do not have $50 a month to spend on decor, so the library for the win!
7 p.m. — Finally home with the kiddos. Since I missed the train, D. met me at the subway and gave me a ride home. D. and I have an...evolving relationship. It's been growing and that's good. It wasn't this way a few months ago, but we're working through it. Figuring out the best way to communicate as friends so we can be the best parents for Q. and A. Since we both decided to be mature and cut the pettiness, it's been working out pretty well. Being an adult and working through trauma is worth it, but maaaaaan, that ish gets rough. Anyway, I cook up a quick fried rice dinner. I give both boys baths, we watch Toy Story, and then lights out by 9.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5 a.m. — I get up and go through my morning routine. I time myself for fifteen minutes to go through everything since I have to get Q. dressed and ready for school today. I wake Q. up, take him to the potty, and brush his teeth (because he insists that I brush them in the morning). I get him dressed and then dress myself. Pick up A. and take him to my sister's room since she's keeping him for the day. I'm definitely ready to move out on my own, but I will miss the in-house support. I get to the kitchen and make Q. and I eggs, toast, and berries and then out the door to make our 6:30 train.
6:40 a.m. — Off the train and on my way to Q.'s school. I love our morning train rides together. Most people think that because I have kids, I automatically should have a car, but it's just not an expense I want to take on right now. I'd rather save for my own place. Moving on, Q.'s at that age where he can recognize the letters and numbers on the cars. It's the coolest thing seeing him grow up.
8 a.m. — Drop off goes well today! This is Q.'s third week of preschool and I feel like he's starting to adjust (aka no more crying when he's dropped off). This means some of my mom's guilt can let up. Before I started my current job, I was home with my boys full-time and loved it! Playing with them and just taking care of them all day was the best. What I didn't love was scraping by and barely having money to save, so I decided to work full-time. My family and D. are very supportive. However, Mama had to go out and earn her own living. Okurrrrrr. I've been working full-time for a month now. I definitely like the consistent pay but miss spending time with Q. and A.
12 p.m. — Lunch break and this could not come at a better time. I ended a call a few minutes ago about a bill from the hospital Q. and I visited a few weeks back when we had the flu. Right in the middle of planning A.'s first birthday party. Like dang, can I have any fun?! (I realize my idea of fun is planning my kid's party. Moms reading this, y'all get me). I'll have to figure out insurance stuff and talk to D. about it, otherwise, that's another $400 to pay off. WTF.
5 p.m. — I get off of work and really want pizza. D. calls and offers me a ride home since he's close to my job. I take the offer and suggest pizza. He says yes and he's paying. A ride home and food after a long day? Yes, I will take both. D. and I have set some new boundaries in our relationship and he's respecting them. It's a new space for me to demand certain things, but damn, it feels good to be respected. Now your girl feels comfortable stepping on a neck or two when needed. He picks me up and we just talk about our workdays and other family stuff. It feels good to just talk and not argue.
7 p.m. — I get home and I check in with my dad first to see how Q.'s day was since he picked him up from school. My dad tells me Q.'s teacher says he may have pink eye. Can this mama catch a break?! He just got over a month-long cold (borderline flu) and now this. Now I have to focus on keeping Q. out of his eyes. I go upstairs to my room with pizza in hand and am greeted by Q.'s cute voice, "Mommyyyy, Pizzaaaa" and A. crawls to me as fast as he can. I'm instantly no longer irritated with the pink eye. Well, not completely irritated.
9:30 p.m. — I updated D. on the pink eye situation. We both agree that Q. will stay home and joke about getting half of the money back from preschool this week since he'll be out for two days. Then we realize it's gone and just deal with it. I sit with my mom and she offers to take Q. to his pediatrician in the morning, so I don't have to miss work. Blessings, I tell you, blessings. I try to get Q. to sleep in his bed, but it doesn't work and he's in bed with me. I send a prayer up that I don't get pink eye and lights out by 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

5 a.m. — I wake up and jump into my morning routine, adding a shower. Q. is staying home from school but wakes up anyway and comes downstairs with me for breakfast. A. slept in my sister's room last night, so I don't have to get him ready. I look in the fridge and see we're out of eggs. A house full of eight people, food goes fast. I make raisin toast instead and I give Q. some grapes. Then take I his temperature. 101.8 degrees?! Thankfully he's going to the doctor later. I turn on Toy Story 4 at his request. (There are four movies in the series for him to pick from, so get used to hearing this.) I update my mom on Q.'s temp since she's taking him later and then I'm out the door to make my train.
8 a.m. — I make it to work on time. I call Q.'s school to tell them he'll be absent. Honestly, I wanted to remind them to sanitize the toys more often. I had a slight argument with D. about support. In the past, he wasn't always as dependable as he is now, so when dealing with issues like Q.'s pink eye, I've been accustomed to just dealing with it on my own. Now, that D.'s a different person, I'm trying to operate from a space of forgiveness. That does not always happen. We work it out and he sets up Q.'s doctor appointment for later.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime and I call my mom to check on Q. She lets me know the copay for his appointment is $50 and she paid. He also has to get prescribed eye drops that are $25. $25 for eye drops?! Naw, not having it. I hurry and check Good RX for a coupon and find one that'll bring the total to $12! I send my mom the coupon and I'll pay her back for the drops once I get in from work. $12.71
4:30 p.m. — Almost time to head out. I snack on the Reese's Cup I got from the vending machine on my break ($1.50). Then, I remembered I had a book due back at the library yesterday but forgot to renew. I log into my library account and see I have about $13 in fines, but I only pay $2.25 of it. They charge me 25 cents for paying online. I've prolonged payment for way more, so it's cool. Then I get an alert that my deposit came in from my part-time job (+$118). Most of it has already been deposited into my savings, so this is just enough to add into my pocket until next week. I like being able to only see what's essentially cash or "fun money." $4
6:45 p.m. — I take my time getting home today and stop by one of my favorite pizza places to grab a cheese slice ($1.86). Definitely wish I grabbed two. It's always so good. Once I'm home, I'm greeted by my babies. Q. shows me that he's watching Toy Story 2 and I can see that his eye looks better. A. is asleep and slumped in his walker. I thank my mom for the day and take my boys upstairs. I give Q. a bath, wipe down A., and try to go to sleep. I try to persuade Q. to sleep in his own bed, but he doesn't. We watched Toy Story 4 for a bit and Q. falls asleep five minutes in. I head downstairs to make myself a late dinner and pack lunch for tomorrow. $1.86
9:30 p.m. — I finish cooking and video chat with D. for a little bit. I'm slightly irritated because I'm tired and he can go to sleep whenever because he doesn't have the kids tonight. Single moms, co-parents, hell even married moms, y'all feel that irritation I'm talking about. I make A. a bottle, do my night routine, and hop into the bed with no shower (second night in a row. Man, these kids tire me out). I put Q. in his bed and try to go to sleep. I stay up an extra thirty minutes putting A. to sleep. Asleep by 10:30-ish.
Daily Total: $20.07

Day Five

5 a.m. — Anyone tired of my 5 a.m. alarm yet? 'Cause I am. Wake up and realize that it's Friday!!! D. and I are taking Q. to Disney on Ice tonight and I could not be more excited. A bunch of adults ice skating in Disney costumes. This is what my Friday nights have become. All to see my son's face light up. I get out of bed and get dressed. Q. and A. wake up. Q. is missing school today, so his eye can clear up. I do Q.'s routine: potty, brush teeth and then give him his eye drops. Then he insists I brush A.'s teeth (literally two of the smallest teeth that look like grains of rice). I sit A. in my sister's room with a bottle. Q. and I go downstairs and I make him a SunButter and jam sandwich with grapes. I make myself raisin toast. I grab my lunch and head out the door to make my train.
7:45 a.m. — On my way to work I go to a cafe and buy an everything bagel with cream cheese ($2.33) and a Reese's Cup ($1.50) for later. I think about getting a tea but decide not to and just grab one from my office kitchen because it's free. $3.83
5 p.m. — Out of the office and on my way home to get the boys ready for Disney on Ice tonight! I think about getting a Lyft but decide against it.
7:40 p.m. — We are ten minutes late thanks to D. who underestimates how crazy and crowded these kid shows can be. We make it in time to catch Toy Story's last song. At intermission, D. makes a snack run and grabs me a pretzel. Since I paid for the tickets, all the food is on him tonight.

9:30 p.m. — We make it by the concessions and souvenirs without a meltdown from Q.! He saw an Olaf cup that he wanted but then changed his mind. I'm not mad. The overpriced Dollar Tree cups and sticker books make me roll my eyes, but it's all a part of the experience. We stop at Walmart before heading home. I mainly need raw honey to help soothe Q.'s throat. No lie, when I took him to the ER, they blatantly told me "yeah we'll prescribe him something, but it won't work." So, I've been using raw honey instead. I'd rather use homeopathic or raw ingredients. I grab some other things that I don't remember and end up spending just under twenty bucks. $18.36

10:30 p.m. — Finally home and putting the boys in the bed. D. stops for pizza before dropping us off. As I said, food is on him all night, so he pays for my pizza. Anyone else love pineapple pizza? Anywho, lights out by 11.

Daily Total: $22.19

Day Six

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I snooze it and pray the boys didn't hear it. I try to sleep for another hour.
9:30 a.m. — Showered, dressed, and out of the house. Saturday is my true errand day since I work every other day of the week. I have A. with me and we're on our way downtown so I can open a new bank account. Since there's a branch and a bunch of ATMs at my job's campus it just makes sense to open an account with them. I deposit $60 into the new account. I chat with the financial counselor a bit and we talk about a plan to get my credit in order. My plan is to move out of my parents' before the year is over, but I want to do it right and that means paying off some debts to increase my score and apartment choices.
11 a.m. — There's a grocery store nearby, so I go in there and grab a few things. I work here part-time and could get stuff tomorrow when I work, but decide to just grab things now. I pick up some incense, smoothie pops for Q.'s throat, a vegan doughnut, and a matcha latte with almond milk. $22.84
12:30 p.m. — On my way to the subway, I remember to stop at Marshall's to grab other essentials. I find their prices for body washes and hair care to be a few dollars cheaper than the grocery store, so most times I just grab those essentials from here. I buy body wash/bubble bath for the boys, a mat for the pet's food bowls, a satin black headband, and a pack of sponges. A. is basically demolishing the doughnut I got earlier. It's the cutest. His two bottom teeth just came in and he's eating more than Q. sometimes. $22.22
2 p.m. — Time for the last errand of the day, the farmer's market. Whole Foods has a neighborhood partnership, so they bring produce to my neighborhood market and offer it to residents at discounted prices. They also offer discounts to SNAP (food stamps) customers. Receiving SNAP, I'm given a card that's loaded each month that I can only use to buy food. At the neighborhood market when I pay with SNAP benefits, I get half off of my total and it's so helpful. I definitely used to feel embarrassed using the card but got over it. I realized that whoever judges me isn't helping me with my responsibilities, so now I happily swipe that card. Since my card doesn't reload until tomorrow, I just use cash. I grab a few things for now since it's cheap. One avocado, two mangoes, two carrots, one bunch of kale, blackberries, blueberries, and a lemon ($11.71). I also stop in Dollar General to grab disinfectant and carpet cleaner ($12.71). $24.42
7 p.m. — I spend the rest of the day playing with Q. and A. since I haven't been able to do that lately. Most weekends, they're with their dad and I work my part-time job. I talk with D. for a bit and decides he'll pick the boys up in the morning and just give me a ride to my shift. I'm a little annoyed — I definitely love my babies and spending time with them especially since I've started working full time, but I do look forward to the nights that I get to just be...alone. I get over it eventually and cuddle with my babies. I cook potatoes in the air fryer and lentils. I give baths and we watch Toy Story. I eventually fall asleep around 10.
Daily Total: $69.48

Day Seven

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I give myself ten minutes to get everything together. I do my morning routine, no playlist this morning since I don't want to wake the boys. I get Q.'s things together for school since D. will be taking him tomorrow. Then, I try to change diapers and put coats on both boys without waking them. Q. eventually wakes up and is happy saying "Mommy I woke up, I woke up." Melts my heart — it's the little things y'all. We're out the door and I have ten minutes to spare before my 6 a.m. shift, so I sit in the car and listen to a podcast.
10:45 a.m. — I chat with my sister a bit as I'm leaving work and she's coming in. She works part-time at this store as well. I grab a quick breakfast from the hot bar. Breakfast potatoes, a zucchini muffin, bottled water, and some immune support tea since my throat has been feeling funny all morning. After paying, my mom calls to say she's locked out, so I wait ten minutes for her to pick me up and then we head home. $11.81
12 p.m. — Home and doing my weekly cleaning (bathroom, bedroom, shampoo carpet). I talk to D. about making a market run. He says he'll be by around 2 (at least that's what I heard). That gives me a little time to finish cleaning. I scroll through Netflix and there are too many choices, so I just watch more of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
4 p.m. — It's been a couple of hours and now I'm a little anxious. D. is usually on time for just about everything and he's not answering his phone. I try his mom and then him again and he finally answers saying he originally said closer to three-thirty (he didn't). He's going to be longer, but I'm cool with that. Now I have more time to myself. I eventually make myself a nice "filling" bowl of Frosted Flakes to hold me over until later. Anyone else use cereal as their in-between meals meal?
6:30 p.m. — D. finally gets here and we go to Walmart. I grab some basics for the week: two dozen eggs, orange juice, oat milk, Gardein meatballs, applesauce pouches, bell peppers, plantain, spinach, broccoli, mandarins, carrots, tuna, cauliflower, kombucha, romaine, bananas, juice boxes, tortillas, Dave's Killer Bread, apples, and infant formula (I stopped breastfeeding three months ago and I miss it because chiiiile the price tag for this milk). I also grab three sippy cups for A., deep conditioner, a new toothbrush, paper towels, and Paw Patrol Valentine candy for Q.'s class party. I'm able to use my SNAP card here, so that'll cover food costs. I contribute to my parents' groceries since I don't pay rent and buy extra food for the boys to keep at D. 's house. The total comes to $168.90, but I only pay $35.60. $35.60
9 p.m. — We pick up a pizza on the way back to D.'s and he pays. I know, we're the coolest parents for letting our kids eat pizza two nights in a row. I try to spend a little time here on Sundays, so the four of us can get family time. I have jury duty in the morning, so I don't have to hurry home since I can sleep in a little later than I normally do. It's still late though, so we eat and play a little with the boys and then D. gets them ready for bed. I pass out some time around 11 and just stay over (whoops).
Daily Total: $47.41
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