Money Diaries logo

A Week In Bethesda, MD, On A $74,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Urban Decay.
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 operations manager who makes $74,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Urban Decay setting spray.
Occupation: Operations Manager
Industry: Legal
Age: 27
Location: Bethesda, MD
Salary: $74,000
Net Worth: $54,008 ($6,139 in checking, $25,569 in savings and $22,300 in my 401(k)).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,960
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,350 for a studio apartment in a building with a gym and pool. Rent includes utilities.
Debt: None. I was lucky enough to receive scholarships and grants to cover college and I pay off my credit card twice a month.
Wi-Fi: $117.90
Spotify/Hulu: $10.59
Peloton: $46.64
Renters' Insurance: $8.08
Metro Pass: $170 (pre-tax).
FSA: $83.32
Cell Phone: I am on the family plan and they refuse to let me pay.
Amazon Prime: I mooch off of my brother's Prime account.
Health/Dental/Vision Insurance: covered by work.
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. Both of my parents have multiple degrees and it was always the expectation growing up. I went to an in-state school due to the financial aid package I received, which was able to cover tuition and room/board for all four years. I was in the work-study program so I worked for the university every year to help cover any additional costs and worked various jobs over the summers to have spending money.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were never explicit about their financial situation but I was able to tell it was rough at times. They divorced when I was young so both were single-parent households where money was tight. I was able to participate in sports and never went without food, clothes etc. but my dad worked three jobs at one point to make sure we had what we needed. The only conversations we had about money were about the importance of saving and avoiding debt.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a local coffee shop when I was 15. Working a job was normal for teens in my town so it was expected for me to get one. I also wanted to have extra spending money for things like going out with friends. I was never expected to contribute to family expenses but was responsible for my own gas and car insurance once I turned 16.
Did you worry about money growing up?
A bit. I was aware that money was tight after my parents' divorce but we were never in a position to potentially be without a home or food. I remember noticing that my cousins always had more clothes and got to go on more trips than us, but I never worried about it.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I know I am extremely fortunate to have no debt or student loans but I still feel behind in terms of saving and investing. Living in an area with such a high cost of living makes me nervous about the possibility of having kids or owning a home down the line.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was on my parents' health insurance until I was 26 and my dad still pays for my phone. Outside of that, I have been responsible for myself since I left for college at 18. My parents would let me move back in if I was in dire need but I would never ask them for money. It's just not how things are done in our family.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No. I am the executor of the wills for my parents and grandparents so there may be some money left behind but not much, if anything.

Day One

7 a.m. — Wake up, make an iced coffee and get ready for the day. I do the same routine every day (La Roche-Posay moisturizer and sunscreen, Makeup By Mario foundation, Maybelline powder, Rare Beauty blush, Anastasia brow pencil and MAC Fix+ spray). I have naturally curly hair that is already struggling with the humidity so it goes up in a ponytail. I don't need to leave the house at my normal time due to a doctor's appointment so I finish my coffee and scroll TikTok before heading to the metro.
9 a.m. — Get to the hospital for my appointment and the receptionist asks me if I'm okay because I look sweaty. I don't know what to say to that. In and out pretty quickly and decide to treat myself to breakfast on my way into the office. Grab a bacon, egg and cheese bagel from a local shop and catch the train to work. $13.86
10:30 a.m. — Get into the office, grab a coffee with oat milk and get to work. Luckily it's not a meeting-heavy day but it is still quite busy. I take a break at some point and decide to look for new products to help with my apparently sweaty face. End up ordering an Urban Decay setting spray from Sephora. $38.16
3:30 p.m. — I've recently started implementing stress-relief walks on my “lunch break” when I am onsite. Our office has a gym so I change in the locker room and do a 30-minute incline walk, listening to the new Crime Junkie episode. I don't know if this has done anything for me health-wise but it has been a nice way to break up my afternoon.
5 p.m. — A friend stops by my desk to head out for happy hour and I realize it is already 5. Pack up and head out with a few friends to catch up over drinks. I order a drink and a chicken sandwich for dinner. $30.61
8 p.m. — Metro home, immediately shower, change into sweatpants and do my short nighttime routine (La Roche-Posay face wash, retinol, anxiety meds and teeth). My worst habit is scrolling TikTok in bed and today is not the day that changes.
Daily Total: $82.63

Day Two

7 a.m. — Same morning routine but I put in a bit of effort and curl my hair. I am feeling extra tired today so I make another iced coffee to take on the go. I started purchasing coffee syrups to have at home and it has dramatically improved my iced coffee game (I love the coconut, lavender and vanilla from Monin).
8 a.m. — Take the metro to work. Halfway through my commute, I start getting really intense cramps and realize I'm either having an endo flare-up or an ovarian cyst has ruptured. This is pretty common for me but still very, very painful. I make it into the office but the pain has not gotten any better so I head home for a sick day. I stop by Whole Foods on my way because I'm feeling emotional and in pain, which means I want chocolate. I pick up a Tony's chocolate bar and some off-brand Oreos. $13.39
11 a.m. — Get home and decide to do at least one productive thing today and run two loads of laundry. $5
4 p.m. — I spend the afternoon lying on the couch with my heating pad, eating my chocolate bar and sleeping. I have dinner plans with a friend tonight so I have to drag myself off the couch and get ready to be out in the world. At least it is a really nice day out! I take the metro to meet my friend at an Italian restaurant I have never tried. We each get a drink and pizza (as friends we acknowledge that there is no way we are splitting one pizza, it's too good). End up chatting for quite a while, just catching up, and finally head home around 9. $42.24
9:30 p.m. — On the couch with my heating pad and catching up with my mom on the phone. She is convinced I need to go to the ER for the pain but I remind her there is nothing they can do at this point. After some more back and forth, she makes me promise to take some pain meds before getting ready for bed.
Daily Total: $60.63

Day Three

7 a.m. — Back at it again. Luckily I am feeling much better today but make sure to take pain meds before heading out the door with my hair in a messy bun and comfy joggers on. I also throw my heating pad in my bag just in case I have a flare-up later.
8:30 a.m. — Get settled at my desk, make an iced coffee, fill my water and grab the chocolate protein shake I brought for breakfast. I would really prefer to be on the couch at home but it was just not in the cards today.
12 p.m. — Lots of emails later, it's time for lunch. I brought a chicken caesar salad and grab a bag of SunChips from the café to eat at my desk while scrolling through the daily news. I try to work through lunch so I can use the time later in the day for a workout.
1:40 p.m. — Office-wide email about leftovers so I run and grab a chocolate chip cookie from the café. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth?
4:15 p.m. — Finally get a break after back-to-back meetings. Refill my water bottle and head down to the gym for a walk. This isn't as relaxing as I was hoping and I'm stuck fielding work messages while on the treadmill. My anxiety has been really bad lately, especially as my long-term work projects have been picking up. I've been trying to make more of an effort to dedicate time to take care of myself but it has been difficult and I'm really feeling the physical effects from all the stress.
5:45 p.m. — Pack up my laptop and head over to Target to pick up a few random things. I went in for a toaster but also buy frozen chicken, a salad kit and conditioner. $32.27
7 p.m. — I decide to heat up some leftover pizza from the other night for an easy dinner. I eat on the couch with my heating pad and finish up The Diplomat on Netflix. I was hoping the show would be more interesting but it was only okay. Do my short nighttime routine and my daily TikTok scroll before bed.
Daily Total: $32.27

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I love getting to sleep in on days I work from home. Roll out of bed and head to the kitchen to make an iced coffee before opening up my laptop. I have a desk setup in my apartment but prefer to work from my couch unless I have meetings. I am a total slob on WFH days and stay in my pajamas with bed head as long as possible.
10 a.m. — Time for my only meeting of the day. I put my hair into a claw clip, throw a sweater over my pajama shirt, make another iced coffee and jump on the call at my desk.
11:30 a.m. — That went longer than expected and I am starving. I decide to make a breakfast bowl with roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, chicken sausage and green onions along with another iced coffee. Move back to the couch to eat and work with my guilty pleasure show, Ghost Adventures, on in the background. This show is the only reason I use my parents' Discovery Plus and it is so bad but I can't stop watching.
12:30 p.m. — I take a short break to check my personal email and text my brother about Father's Day gift ideas. We decide to get him a soccer jersey from the local MLS team and my brother covers the cost since I covered Mother's Day. Soma is running a sale and I desperately need a new everyday bra so I pick one to try out. $30.74
2:30 p.m. — Time for a workout. I head up to the building's gym for a 30-minute lower body strength and stretch workout. When I'm done, I stop by the front desk to pick up a few packages: protein shakes and my Sephora order. Unbox those and add a mint chocolate protein shake to an iced coffee for a late lunch before logging back on to work.
5:30 p.m. — Log off for the week and jump in the shower. Once I'm cozy in sweats, it's time for an easy dinner. I have an old box of mac and cheese that needs to be used and I air fry some chicken to go with it. I light a candle and get comfy reading trashy romance novels on my Kindle.
Daily Total: $30.74

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I am not happy to be awake right now but I have plans with a friend this morning. I make an iced coffee and sit on the couch scrolling TikTok while I wake up. This has been a social week and I am pretty tired but I really want to spend time with friends when I can. I make the same breakfast bowl as yesterday with another iced coffee before doing light makeup (La Roche-Posay sunscreen, It Cosmetics CC cream and Anastasia brow pencil), throwing my hair into two small buns and running out the door to catch the train.
10:30 a.m. — Meet up with my friend near the metro and head downtown, towards the Mall. We make it down and grab coffee. I get a coconut cold brew. It is amazing. With the great weather, we agree to just wander around for a while and end up at a lovely little pond with plenty of seating. We see there is a festival later in the day and plan to come back. $7.52
12:30 p.m. — Since we have time to kill before the festival, we head back towards the Mall. I really need a bathroom so we wander into the Hirshhorn Museum. I've never been before so we check out a few of the exhibits. Modern art is…interesting and I wish I had a bit more context for some of the pieces. We walk back to the pond and there is so much happening. A live band is playing and there is local BBQ and drinks for everyone. I end up with a tote bag and T-shirt and am far too excited. At this point we are hungry and don't want to wait in the long line for free food. We walk to the metro and head up to Union Market for some options. We find a taqueria with outdoor seating and each get a beer and three tacos, which really hit the spot after walking over eight miles. We stay on the patio for a while, catching up and people-watching, before deciding to stop at Trader Joe's. Do I need anything? No. Will I shop? Yes. $25.32
4:30 p.m. — Leave Trader Joe's with minimal damage (russet potato, romaine, turkey bacon, cauliflower stir fry, GoMacro bar). Say goodbye and catch the train home. $15.89
6 p.m. — Home and on the couch with my Kindle. I spend the rest of the night relaxing and end up eating Oreos for dinner.
Daily Total: $48.73

Day Six

10 a.m. — So happy to sleep in. As usual, I roll out of bed and make an iced coffee to drink while I scroll TikTok. A few iced coffees later, I realize I need to eat breakfast before getting a move on with my day. I end up making two pieces of cinnamon toast before changing and heading out to the grocery store. I typically try and meal prep for the week ahead but I have a family member coming into town, which throws off my routine. I grab some staples and things for her to have at my place (eggs, bananas, bread, milk, Greek yogurts, iced tea, croutons, Kodiak Cake mix and Greek yogurt dessert bars). $39.04
12 p.m. — I call my dad on the way home to catch up and complain about having to carry everything I buy from the store. It can be so annoying. I really wanted a watermelon that was on sale but there was no way I was going to carry it the 20 minutes home. I drop my bags at my place and decide to go to the Whole Foods close by to grab one. Of course it is insanely expensive here but sounds so good that I can't resist. I also pick up a pack of Waterloo. Finally home and decide to heat up leftover mac and cheese for a quick lunch while cutting up fruit and prepping caesar pasta salad for tomorrow. The watermelon is so good and I am very happy with this decision. $20.57
5 p.m. — I am exhausted. With family coming into town I needed to deep clean the apartment and make sure everything is good to go, like new bedding, towels etc. I take a quick shower and end up doing my nails while watching Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix. I love having my nails done but can't justify the price so I bought a gel kit to do them at home. I find it relaxing and a nice way to get some self-care.
7 p.m. — Dinnertime. I try some of the pasta salad I made based on a TikTok recipe and it's pretty good. I read on my Kindle before getting ready for bed.
Daily Total: $59.61

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — Mondays are the worst. I'm up, drinking an iced coffee, doing my makeup and curling my hair to be out the door early today. I need to leave work early to meet my family at the airport, which means getting in earlier than normal. I get into the office, fill up my water bottle, make a coffee and start going through my emails ahead of my morning meeting.
11 a.m. — Who decided to have important meetings every Monday morning? It's awful. Send out action items to the team and decide it's time for another coffee and an early lunch. Eat the pasta salad I brought from home with a bowl of watermelon and scroll CNN and BBC for any interesting news.
3 p.m. — I happen to check my phone and my aunt's flight has already landed and she is on her way to my place! I quickly shut down my laptop, message my boss and head home since I only have one set of keys to the apartment. Somehow we end up on the same train home and drop her stuff off at the apartment before heading to an Italian restaurant down the street for an all-day happy hour (aunt pays for our drinks).
5:30 p.m. — A few beers later and we are both getting hangry. I look up dinner options nearby and we decide to check out a Thai restaurant only a couple of metro stops away. I have been trying to find a good local Thai spot and can't believe I never heard of this one before. It is packed but we manage to get the last open table on the front patio. We each order a Thai iced tea, drunken noodles and an order of veggie dumplings to share. It is all phenomenal and my aunt covers dinner after I try to fight her for the bill.
8 p.m. — Back at my apartment and we are both in pajamas on the couch. It's so nice to spend time catching up with my aunt. My immediate family is really tight-knit and it can be tough to be the one who lives far away.
Daily Total: $0
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