Money Diaries logo

A Week In Denver, CO, On A $90,000 Joint Income

Photo: 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: an office manager who has a $90,000 joint income and spends some of their money this week on a croissant.
Editor's Note/Content Warning: This diary was written in June 2022 and mentions an eating disorder.
Occupation: Office Manager
Industry: Tech
Age: 29
Location: Denver, CO
My Salary: $50,000
My Partner's Salary: $40,000
Net Worth: -$58,900 (I have about $200 in a 401(k) that I had to stop contributing to a few months ago. I have $0 in savings because we're been living paycheck to paycheck lately due to inflation, but we have plans to start saving soon. My partner, L., has $10,000 in stocks and a car that's worth about $10,000. Minus debt.)
Debt: $49,000 in student debt, $900 on my credit card, $2,000 in medical debt. L. has $26,000 in student debt and $1,200 in credit card debt.
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,626
My Partner's Paycheck Amount (weekly): $600
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,660 including utilities
Student Loans: $471
Medication: $271 (L. has type 1 diabetes and depression. I have bipolar 1, chronic migraines, and anxiety.)
Hulu+ Live/ESPN+: $86
Renter's Insurance: $20
Credit Card: $50-$200
Health Insurance: $90 (deducted automatically from paycheck)
Savings: $300
New York Times: $4.99
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?
Absolutely, but the pressure came because I was in AP and honors classes and there was no discussion of any alternatives at my school. My parents and extended family encouraged me to explore the military, trades, etc., but I was dead-set on college. I grew up in a tumultuous household and had unmanaged mental illness, so I had low grades and I didn't get into any colleges out of high school. I went to community college for a year while living with my parents and then applied to four-year universities. I went to a private university with a substantial academic scholarship. Unfortunately, due to being a triple major and having to work full-time, I couldn't sustain my academic scholarship and had to drop out. I went to a community college on and off throughout my twenties but never finished my degree. I was never eligible for need-based aid because of my dad's income.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
It wasn't until my parent's divorce when I was 13 that I ever considered money. My dad always made a comfortable living and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. When they divorced, my mom didn't get any child support payments and was on public assistance. When she remarried, money was still tight. My parents (my mom and stepdad) are in the same position as myself and many Americans; living paycheck to paycheck. As for financial education, my family encouraged me to save but I didn't have my own bank account until I was 17. When I got my first credit card at 18, I thought my limit replenished itself if I just made the minimum payment. I didn't learn to budget until I was 22.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I never got an allowance, but I babysat when I was a kid. My first job was at an apple orchard and I was paid $5/hour (which is a legal farm aid wage). I then went on to work retail so I could pay for high speed internet at my parents' house.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. I never missed a meal, but I did miss my prom because I couldn't afford to go.
Do you worry about money now?
Always, every day, constantly. I feel like I am always mis-budgeting, despite having an Excel sheet budget set up six months in advance. I work on it every day. In reality, I think I'm just dealing with the effects of inflation. I'm trying to get a second job so I can build more savings. I'd like to have a wedding one day, move back to the East Coast, and buy a house. I want a garden and pretty dresses and not much else.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At age 18, when I moved out of my parents' house. I had a meal plan at school and room and board were paid for via loans, but I had no help from my family. I moved back in with my parents eventually at 21 for a few years to get back on my feet, but I've been responsible for my own bills for several years now.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. I was in a car accident when I was a kid and received a settlement of $5,000 when I turned 18. I used the money for a semester of community college, a cross-country road trip with my friends, and a camera. Besides that, L.'s parents paid off our car.

Day One

7 a.m. — I wake up and check my Slack. I have some urgent messages, so I quickly shower, throw on a dress, and hop on Zoom to meet with my boss.
8:30 a.m. — I remember to take my meds, including an antibiotic for a sinus infection that I'm fighting off, and eat some breakfast. I have Cheerios and an iced coffee with soy milk.
11 a.m. — I get called into the office. I put on some concealer and brow gel and call it a day. L. drives me to work so I get there as quickly as possible.
1:30 p.m. — The sales team invites me to go out to lunch with them. I've had such a busy day I decide to accept their invitation, knowing that I probably can't afford to eat out this week, but I feel like I've deserved a break. I get a lemon-kale salad and sweet potato fries and leave a 20% tip. $18.49
3:30 p.m. — I drop some packages off at FedEx and walk home to finish the day. I stop at a friend's house to chat and smoke a bit then go home.
6 p.m. — It's dinner time! I'm exhausted from lingering sickness, the heat, and working so much. I can't manage to figure out what to make for dinner, so I settle on a yogurt. L. heats up leftovers.
7:30 p.m. — I've been gluten-free for about three years due to chronic pelvic pain, but I'm starting to get really sick of it. I email my doctor and ask her what I need to do to get tested for celiac disease so I can know the source of the pain one way or the other. I do some research online and the general consensus is that you have to eat gluten once a day for at least six weeks to get officially tested. I take this as a sign to try gluten and see what happens. I pour myself a bowl of Cheez-Its and enjoy.
9 p.m. — L. and I flip between sports and re-watching Parenthood and eventually go to sleep around 9.
Daily Total: $18.49

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling pretty rough, but manage to get out of bed. I have to be in the office by 7:30, so I quickly shower, take my meds, and throw on some concealer (e.l.f. Hydro Camo), some brow gel (e.l.f.), blush (Glossier Cloud Paint), and MAC Lady Danger lipstick. I put on a new white tee, some wide-leg black pants, and black Birkenstocks. I make GF toast and an iced coffee and walk out the door.
10 a.m. — Another busy day. I'm on my third coffee and grab a GF fig bar from my work's snack cabinet. Perks of being in office? Free drinks and food. Cons? I've been sick three times in 2022.
11:30 a.m. — I forgot to pack a lunch, but thankfully my colleague asks me if I want to grab lunch with her. We walk across the street to a sandwich shop. I get a salad and fries and eat at my desk while I work. I check my budget when I get back to my desk and it seems we inexplicably are broke, again. I transfer $50 from savings to checking and adjust my spreadsheet. I take out $50 from our eating-out budget for next week. It's always the first thing to go. $10.40
3 p.m. — I grab a San Pellegrino and a KIND bar and head out the door. I have a very early day tomorrow, so I continue to work from home for a few hours when I get home.
3:15 p.m. — I hear back from my doctor. I'm officially doing the gluten challenge! I celebrate by having a small soft pretzel and some chocolate soy milk.
4:30 p.m. — I get terribly excited about the gluten challenge and order Instacart. It's the one indulgence we use, convenience-wise. I get croissants (my absolute favorite food), crackers, sourdough bread, and some dairy-free Siggi's yogurt and leave a good tip. $40
6 p.m. — I make breakfast for dinner (yogurt, a croissant, and strawberries) while fending off cramps and a headache. I know I'm supposed to experience discomfort any time I change my diet, especially adding a new food group.
Daily Total: $50.40

Day Three

5:45 a.m. — I wake up and am determined to have a good morning, but feel all-over body pain and throw up. I'm guessing it's the gluten or the antibiotics, but I continue with my morning routine. I shower, take my meds, and get ready. I put on makeup and a dress.
7 a.m. — I make breakfast — a high-protein dairy-free yogurt, a croissant, and some strawberries. It's delightful. I have a meeting and then head to the office.
9:15 a.m. — I grab a coffee and put on some Carly Rae Jepsen to brighten my mood. I give L. a call and remind him to pick up my prescriptions and to not buy coffee because we need the money for my prescriptions.
11:30 p.m. — I've been covering for my counterpart and am supposed to be in the UK this week for our departmental All Hands, but there was too much going on in my personal and professional life to go, so my boss sends me a Slack and tells me to expense my lunch today and tomorrow as a treat. This is great because I have yet again forgotten to pack a lunch. I order a salad with tofu, fruit, tons of veggies, and a CBD seltzer. I use my corporate card for these purchases and quickly fill out an expense report when I return. ($27.77 expensed)
2:30 p.m. — I grab another coffee with oat milk and a snack in the office. I have a mini KIND bar and a serving of Goldfish. 30 minutes later, I have some light cramping but other than that I've been feeling incredibly optimistic about my gluten challenge.
4 p.m. — L. picks up my antipsychotics from the pharmacy. They used to be $115 and somehow they're $5 a month now (in monthly expenses). It's the only antipsychotic that I've ever tried that has virtually no side effects, so I'll pay whatever I need to in order to take it. Thankfully, it's not much!
4:30 p.m. — I pack myself a bowl and go for a swim to get some movement in. I'm hungry when I get back so I make myself a mini soft pretzel. L. and I talk about what we want to do this weekend and decide to keep it low-key — farmers' market, coffee, cleaning, and marathoning Friday Night Lights.
6 p.m. — I feel sore, likely because it's been a few days since my last workout. I make veggie nuggets and sweet potato fries for dinner.
8 p.m. — I make a snack so I can take my antibiotics — popcorn and baby carrots. We watch TV until 10 then go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — It feels amazing to sleep in. I wake up feeling fine. I check my Slack, shower, do my new makeup routine (concealer, Cloud Paint, brow gel, and red lipstick), and get dressed. I wear a white tee under a black slip dress and chunky black loafers with socks. I grab a croissant and make an iced lavender soy latte. The croissant doesn't sit well with me and I wonder if the gluten side effects are catching up with me.
8 a.m. — I walk to work. I grab a San Pellegrino from the work fridge and hop on a call.
10 a.m. — My mom texts me a $40 gift card to Target she was gifted, as she knows things are tight.
12 p.m. — I have two hour-long meetings pop up unexpectedly, so I Doordash a veggie burger and fries. On autopilot, I choose a gluten-free bun, but know there's gluten in the veggie burger itself. I put lunch on my company card, as my boss told me to expense lunch. ($34.71 expensed)
1 p.m. — My Doordash never comes and I am so hungry! I chat with the bot and get a refund. I grab some snacks from my office to satisfy my hunger, but I know it's not a proper meal. I have some high-protein yogurt, almonds, and Goldfish.
3 p.m. — I decide to work from home the rest of the day. I close my laptop by 4.

4 p.m. — I make a snack — soft pretzel and chocolate soy milk. I go for another 20-minute swim to get some movement while L. takes a bath. We're both looking forward to the weekend and decide that we should use our eating out money for a breakfast at a new place instead of the farmers' market because it's supposed to rain all weekend.

5:30 p.m. — Since I had snacks for lunch, I'm determined to make a healthy dinner. I unload the dishwasher and prepare a sheet-pan meal of roasted red potatoes, green beans, and grilled tofu. L. has chicken instead of tofu. We pair dinner with kombucha. I don't drink alcohol due to chronic headaches and medication interference so this is like a cocktail to me.

8 p.m. — I make a snack and take my antibiotic.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5:45 a.m. — I wake up and grab a quick shower then put on some makeup and a floral print dress. I grab a croissant and am out the door by 6:45.
6:50 a.m. — I stop by my local coffee shop and grab a large cold brew with extra oat milk. My card is declined as L. doesn't get paid until 8 a.m. They make me my drink anyway and I promise to pay when I visit next.
7:05 a.m. — It's event time! I'm at work and setting up for the catering team to show up with breakfast for my company's all hands. I help set up the AV/tech a bit and sit in the presentation until 10. During the presentation, I snack on a fig bar, almonds, and a San Pellegrino.
10 a.m. — I learn about the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and nearly start crying at my desk. I'm so lucky to live in a state with legal abortion access. I text my friends and we all decide to go protest at the state capitol tonight. While emoting, I grab another coffee to starve off my headache. I want to break things.
11:26 p.m. — I grab some more almonds and try ordering Doordash again to satisfy my hunger. I order a burrito bowl, chips, guac, and apple juice. I'll probably eat half and save the other half for lunch tomorrow. I put lunch on my company card. I call L. and ask if he wants to make posters tonight, and he says he'll stop by Staples on his way home. ($27.99 expensed)
12 p.m. — My food arrives! I eat half and leave the rest in the fridge for Monday's lunch. I hope it stays that long.
1:30 p.m. — Almost all of the office has left for the day, so I go home and keep my Slack on. L. tells me that he spent $3.50 on coffee this morning. I stop by the coffee shop I went to this morning and pay for my coffee and grab an iced green tea and leave a nice tip. $14.50
2 p.m. — L. tells me he picks up some things at the dispensary. This should last him a week. We use weed recreationally and medicinally, especially to help with stomach discomfort that L. gets from diabetes. I use it for nausea, migraines, and to relax. $53
3 p.m. — L. calls me and tells me he's been bumped down to part-time status because of his employer's financial constraints. This is unfortunate news and we start immediately looking for new positions and find some promising options. I call my mom to share the news about Roe v. Wade and L., and she is furious and sad, respectively. I make a smoothie with hemp powder and a handful of Triscuits for a snack.
4:30 p.m. — I start feeling antsy and walk towards the capitol to meet L. It rains on and off and various socialist organizations make calls to action/speeches while more people pour in.
6 p.m. — We take to the streets, but L. and I start feeling hungry and fatigued. We march, chant, and downright scream for about 30 minutes and then decide to walk to his car.
7:30 p.m. — We get home and draw an Epsom salt bath for our feet. We're not the most active couple, so walking 15,000 steps in one day hurts our feet. I finish off the Triscuits with yogurt and L. heats up some chicken. We doom scroll for a few hours and are in bed by 9:45.
Daily Total: $67.50

Day Six

9 a.m. — We wake up and cuddle in bed for a bit before putting some clothes on, taking our meds, and brushing our teeth to start our day. We decide to get breakfast and go grocery shopping. I put on a white tee shirt and denim shorts with my Birkenstocks and a cream-colored shirt jacket.
10:15 a.m. — We drive downtown to go to breakfast but everywhere we want to go is full so we walk around for a bit.
11 a.m. — I start to get really hungry and decide a coffee will help, so we stop at a new tea shop. The staff is really friendly, but $6.25 for a medium oat milk latte with honey is outrageous. We leave a $1 tip. We browse their tea and I see a lavender earl grey blend that I make a mental note to pick up when we can afford it to get for my brother. $7.25
11:30 a.m. — We finally find a place for brunch with only a 10-minute wait. I get a Belgium waffle, L. gets huevos rancheros, and we each get a plain coffee (mine with oat milk). We leave a 20% tip. $37
12 p.m. — I pick up a cartridge from the dispensary and leave a few dollars as a tip. This will last me about two weeks. $40
12:15 p.m. — We go grocery shopping for the week. We usually get our food delivered with Instacart, but my subscription expired and we can't afford to pay someone to do our shopping for us this week. We get soy milk, pancake mix, Pop-Tarts, Triscuits, two mini pizza crusts for me, cookies, paper towels, laundry detergent, broccoli, cauliflower, a pepperoni pizza, chocolate soy milk, microwave popcorn, chicken fried rice, yogurts, frozen potatoes, soft pretzels, conditioner, croissants, chicken legs, frozen whole-grain waffles, baby purple potatoes, kombucha, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, and two boxes of Nespresso pods. My savings card saves us $11. We get so much because we don't have the budget to eat out for the rest of the week. $139.89
2 p.m. — I take a shower, refine my budget, and realize I'm hungry. I make a chocolate protein shake and a soft pretzel.
3 p.m. — L. and I take a few minutes to tidy up our apartment. After we clean, I open my laptop to edit my Target cart. I pare it down to poster boards, Goldfish, sandwich bags, a toilet brush, mouthwash, and CeraVe face wash. I choose same-day delivery, which is $9.99. My total comes to $48.47, but I use the $40 gift card my mom gave me. She sneaks whatever she can to me when she can and I appreciate it endlessly. $8.47
5 p.m. — We make dinner early because we essentially skipped lunch. I worked with a dietitian for a year to heal my eating disorder and learn how to eat intuitively and she wants me eating three meals and three snacks a day, which I almost always do. We make roasted garlic purple potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and lemon pepper tofu. L. eats the same, but with chicken. We have pomegranate seeds and a cookie for dessert.
7 p.m. — I do my budget to account for L.'s loss of income. His parents remind us that they can assist, but we want to avoid that if possible because they're already very generous. We come up with a game plan and start applying for jobs.
8:45 p.m. — We head to bed because we're still exhausted.
Daily Total: $232.61

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — The fire alarm wakes us up. This is a weekly occurrence at this point and it's never a real fire. We scramble to get dressed, grab what we need, and head outside and talk to the fire department. They're doing a check to make sure there's not a real fire.
7 a.m. — My friend, D., responds to my Instagram story about the fire alarm saying it woke her up too. She and her husband live across the street from us and are good friends. She invites me to go to Target with her and I happily oblige.
7:30 a.m. — I grab a medium iced half-sweet lavender oat milk latte from the best coffee shop in town and leave a nice tip. I grab a croissant from the Starbucks in Target to help my morning meds digest better and we shop for groceries and clothes. $10
8 a.m. — I grab a few of my favorite non-dairy, high-protein yogurts that are perpetually out of stock and a large container of iced coffee. $14.79
10 a.m. — L. and I spend the morning cleaning.
12 p.m. — We take a break for lunch. I make a snack plate of strawberries, almonds, yogurt, and crackers since most of our dishes are dirty. L. makes a BLT on sourdough with crab chips.
12:15 p.m. — I grab a kombucha, take a bath, and turn over the laundry.
4 p.m. — D. comes over and we make signs for tomorrow's protest.
5:30 p.m. — L. picks up a six-pack of beer while we cook dinner. He is making chicken legs, potatoes, and corn. I make a veggie burger patty and frozen potatoes. $10
6 p.m. — We eat dinner while watching sports. I check my calendar to get ready for the week ahead, pick out my outfit for tomorrow, set an alarm, and make a snack. We're both in bed by 9.
Daily Total: $34.79
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series