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A Week In Denver, CO, On A $85,000 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: an operations manager who makes $85,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Grillo's pickles.
Occupation: Operations Manager
Industry: Healthcare Administration
Age: 30
Location: Denver, CO
Salary: $85,000
Net Worth: $96,000 ($45,500 in retirement investments, $46,000 in my half of our home equity after subtracting remaining mortgage, and $4,500 between checking and savings. My fiancé, M., and I keep our finances separate but transparent.)
Debt: $518,000 left of our mortgage, which I split with my fiancé, M.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,545
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,000 (M. pays $1,400, we split based on income %)
Utilities: $180 (water, gas, and electric)
Internet: $65
Phone: $35
401(k): $400
Roth IRA: $400
Home Security System: $25
Streaming (Amazon and Disney): $17
Savings: $1,000 (just until my emergency fund is healthy again, then brokerage account. M. and I recently bought a house and have spent the last five months putting our remaining liquid into AC, new appliances, and minor renovations.
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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?
Very much so, to the point where there wasn't any spoken alternative. This turned out okay for my two older siblings and me because received scholarships for college, but my younger brother struggled and went into debt hopping between public universities and community college when he really wasn't interested in pursuing additional education at all. To this day he still feels lesser than for not graduating from college despite having a good job. I also went to graduate school with an assistantship, which covered living and tuition.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't have formal money conversations, which looking back surprises me a bit. My parents were both very financially literate but didn't pass much of that financial responsibility to their kids. Both my mom and dad were not well off financially growing up so it would make sense that they didn't want their kids to have to stress about or focus on that, but unfortunately that meant not discussing money much at all.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was an assistant soccer referee at the age of 13 and babysat as well. My first legal job was working as a lifeguard at 15 and I did it because the rest of my friends worked there too.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
No, but I'm sure my parents did. My dad worked and my mom was a stay-at-home mom until all of her kids were in school, and then she substitute taught for a while. It can't be cheap to raise four kids and I think they're grateful that we're all financially independent now.
Do you worry about money now?
Of course, but not as much as I used to. I was horribly irresponsible with money after I graduated and had to re-learn how to live within my means. I had thousands of dollars in credit card debt and hated how that felt. I now have a fairly strict budget and review it regularly.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents still had me on their insurance and phone until I graduated grad school, so I'll say 24. It was then that I got my first post-college job and moved halfway across the country. I'm sure both my parents and in-laws would be willing to help if anything terrible happened, but my fiancé, M., and I have home equity and a healthy emergency fund.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

6 a.m. — It's arguably too early to be up for work on a Friday, but a co-worker on the East coast scheduled a meeting bright and early. I quietly sneak out of bed so that my fiancé, M., can keep sleeping and head downstairs to make coffee. Our pup follows and I let her out before my workday starts. I'm quickly reminded that it's actually fall (brrrr) and immediately throw on some sweats when I get back inside and log into the meeting.
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8:30 a.m. — Morning meetings are over! I head downstairs to say good morning to M., but he's out taking our pup on her morning walk. I turn on some music and start making our usual breakfast of eggs and sausage. My therapist has challenged me to practice being more mindful so I pause mid-cook to focus just on my surroundings — the music, smells, blocking out thoughts about work, blocking out thoughts about all of the things I need to do, blocking out more work thoughts. Okay, I give up. I finish making breakfast and M. arrives home. We eat and I head back up to my office and get back to work.
11:30 a.m. — Woof, I'm exhausted. I can feel myself hitting a productivity wall and decide to take a walk/coffee break. I walk over to a nearby coffee shop and pick up a latte for myself and one for M. as well. It costs $10.50 with tip, but I use a gift card we received a few months ago to pay. I walk back home and heat up leftovers for lunch and M. joins me. After lunch, I finish up my work for the day.
1:30 p.m. — Finnnnnnally done. I head downstairs where M. is on the couch watching a Premier League game. I open up my laptop to catch up on personal emails and end up buying a pair of sweatpants. (In my defense, I almost bought them last week and they were 30% off this week, so *shrugs*). $62.62
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4:30 p.m. — M. wraps up work and we take our pup on our usual evening walk around the neighborhood. We get back and make some salads for dinner and watch the new Ted Lasso episode while we eat. My parents call mid-episode and we talk for 30 minutes and I listen to my mom talk about everything going on in their lives (which for the record, are way more interesting than mine).
7:30 p.m. — I'm exhausted and M. can tell, so he suggests we eat cereal for dessert and watch Netflix in bed. I'm on board 100% and fall asleep the second M. turns something on. I honestly don't even remember what he was watching.
Daily Total: $62.62

Day Two

8 a.m. — One thing I'm grateful for in life is that both M. and our pup enjoy sleeping in. I wake up to my alarm because I have a hair appointment at 9. I haven't washed my hair in a few days so I take a shower and get ready to go. I'm usually in charge of coffee and breakfast, but since M. is still sleeping I forego it and grab a latte (and add a tip) on the way to my appointment. $6.67
11 a.m. — Highlights done! I head home and M. has just finished watching some morning soccer games. We talk about all the things we need to get done for the weekend and decide to start tackling a few. Our neighbors have a large peach tree which means we have a whole ton of dropped, rotting peaches in our yard. Lots of the tree branches are hanging over our roof, which means there are rotting peaches in our gutters as well. M. heads to his parents' house to borrow their ladder and I pick up peaches in the side yard. Once I'm done, I eat chicken nuggets for lunch and google desserts that require peaches. $157.50
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2 p.m. — M. gets back with a ladder, plus tons of other tools for future backyard projects. It's too hot at this point to actually start cutting things and we don't have too much time left in the day anyway. We postpone the project until tomorrow and spend the afternoon on our computers.
5 p.m. — M. and I have been waiting for a year and a half to see a bluegrass show at Red Rocks, as it was postponed soon after COVID hit. We grab some drinks and snacks from the grocery store on the way and we tailgate before the concert with our friends ($11.06). Our friends introduce us to Grillo's pickles and I swear I eat almost the entire jar before we head into the concert. $11.06
7 p.m. — The opener is pretty awful; we make jokes about how it sounds like insurance hold music. While we wait for them to wrap up, I grab a beer for myself and a water for M. The main act finally takes the stage and we enjoy about an hour of music before leaving early. We head home and I fall asleep within probably 15 minutes of arriving home. $20.25
Daily Total: $195.48

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — Early morning, we meet again… This time much more enjoyably though. I'm off for a long bike ride with one of my closest childhood friends. We ride 45 miles.
10:30 a.m. — I'm back! M. has coffee and breakfast ready for me and has (of course) been watching soccer. I scarf down my food and then get ready for peach tree trimming time. We spend the better part of the afternoon climbing up and down ladders, salvaging as many peaches as possible.
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4 p.m. — It's hot. Too hot for September, in my opinion. We *mostly* finish cleaning up and I shower and head to the grocery store. I try and stick to the usual grocery list but find Grillo's Pickles so, of course, I buy a tub. I buy food to prepare salads, stuffed peppers, chicken and brussels sprouts, and sausage, potatoes, and broccolini. A typical grocery run usually lasts us anywhere from one to two weeks. $142.69
6 p.m. — I get back home and make some salads for dinner. We choose to watch the new Explained while eating, which turns out to be a big mistake. It's about plastic surgery and it's a little too graphic to enjoy while eating chicken. I realize how tired I am and head up to bed at 8 as I have work tomorrow.
Daily Total: $142.69

Day Four

7 a.m. — Up and at ‘em. I feel refreshed after getting ten-and-a-half hours of sleep and probably could have slept even longer. I head downstairs to make coffee and breakfast before my first meeting at 8.
11 a.m. — Ugh, Mondays. My boss is in some kind of mood today and calls some of my teammates out multiple times over the course of a few meetings. (We're all just doing our best, okay?) I finally have a break for lunch and eat some very old leftover chicken fried rice. I take some time and sit outside in the sun over my break before heading back online to a meeting at 12:30.
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3 p.m. — Time to leave for therapy! I walk a mile and a half to and from therapy, as it's a great way to compile my thoughts before as well as decompress after. I sometimes treat myself to a snack on the way, but today I bring along some purse snacks to forego the expense. I have a $20 copay each session and I've been going weekly for the last month or so. The session goes by very quickly. We get off track a few times talking about house maintenance. $20
4:30 p.m. — Up until today, I've left therapy feeling motivated and light. I don't know whether it was the amount we covered today or just the topic, but today I leave therapy pretty weighted down. We talked about being assertive and setting boundaries which are two things I'm really not great at. I think about the times in my life I've failed to set boundaries and still don't know what I could have done differently in those situations. I guess we'll cover this topic again next week.
6 p.m. — M. tends to work late in his office if I don't drag him off of his laptop, but I choose to let him stay there today and eat alone. I make another salad for dinner and heat up some chicken nuggets as well. My sister calls right after I finish eating, and we talk for 45 minutes.
8:30 p.m. — I'm tired, so I head up to scroll some social media in bed. I go most days without checking anything, so it takes me quite a while to catch up on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Strava. Before I know it, it's 10 and I shut the light off and fall asleep.
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Daily Total: $20

Day Five

7 a.m. — I wake up a few minutes before my alarm and start the morning routine. My first meeting today isn't until 8 so I take my time getting ready and actually enjoy breakfast instead of intermittently turning off my camera to take bites of my food. M. takes the pup and we get on with the day.
10 a.m. — I cannot take one more second of my boss. I started in my current role about three months ago, having left my last job due to a toxic boss. I was incredibly excited about my boss at my new job, but she ended up leaving two weeks after I started. Unfortunately, her replacement is the spitting image of my toxic boss. He spends the better part of our meeting telling me I'm focused on the wrong things and not moving fast enough or making a big enough impact. My team and I have been working really hard and I turn my camera off midway through the meeting as I'm 100% sure I'm going to start crying. My coworker definitely picks up on this and goes out of her way to carry more than her weight during the rest of the meeting. I slack her on the side and tell her I'm taking the rest of the day off.
2 p.m. — I go on a four-mile run around a nearby park to clear my mind. I'm so frustrated that I end up running my best lap time around the park. I make some ramen for lunch and decide to spend the rest of the afternoon doing meal prep. I make stuffed peppers and chicken and brussels sprouts while I contemplate my next career move. (How badly does three months in a role look on a resume? Do I include it or just leave it off? How do I make sure my next boss doesn't leave two weeks in?)
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5:30 p.m. — M. wraps up his work and can tell I'm upset. We take our pup on her evening walk and I vent for the better part of the walk. He nods along appropriately and tells me to quit (he knows me well enough to know that I won't).
7 p.m. — We heat up some chicken and brussels sprouts and watch an episode of our newest favorite show, Only Murders In the Building. I don't really care for Selena Gomez (I'm also not even sure M. knows who she is), but the plot is original and exciting enough to keep us watching. I start to get tired at 8:30 so I head up to bed as M. starts some much-needed video game time.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — I have no meetings this morning so I sleep in a bit. I wake up to M.'s alarm and stay in bed browsing Instagram. M. eventually drags me out of bed and I make breakfast and coffee while he takes our pup on a walk. I finally log into work around 9.
11 a.m. — I take my lunch break before a string of back-to-back meetings. I'm really dreading my meeting later today with my team, as my manager will be sitting in. After yesterday's terrible meeting, I can only imagine what he'll say or do to my teammates. I scarf down a stuffed pepper and watch the minutes fly by.
2 p.m. — Not sure what my coworker said to my boss after yesterday's meeting, but whatever she said got through to him. He was nothing but kind and supportive during today's call which is a total 180 from how I felt yesterday. I'm really appreciative that she did that, and I send her a thank you in the form of a $25 Amazon gift card. $25
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4:30 p.m. — I'm done with work for the day, and I'm so thankful to be able to shut my computer down. I head downstairs and snack on some pickles. I finish the jar off and text our friends a thank you for introducing us to my new favorite snack food. I end up calling my parents and we talk about my mom's upcoming backpacking trip and the weekly step challenge that we're participating in. My dad recently retired and has made it his unofficial job to walk at least 15,000 steps every day. He's very proud of the fact that he hasn't missed a day yet, even with all of the trips and vacations they take.
7 p.m. — I realize that I haven't had dinner yet and quickly heat up some chicken nuggets. I watch the latest episode of Nine Perfect Strangers, although personally, I prefer the book. I surprisingly stay up until 9:30 and then head to bed. M. heads up in solidarity and watches Netflix in bed as I doze off.
Daily Total: $25

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I head downstairs and follow the usual coffee and breakfast routine, and hop on my first meeting at 7. I hear M. as he heads out the door for our pup's morning walk. I have back-to-back meetings all morning.
11 a.m. — Lunchtime! I heat up a stuffed pepper and grab a plum. Then back to work.
3:30 p.m. — Early morning means early wrap-up time! I close my laptop and head downstairs where M. is busy working. I've been training for my first triathlon, which is coming up in a few days, and I spend some time making a list of things I need to get together the night before the race. I list out 18 different items that I need to bring and start to get nervous that I might be in over my head.
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5 p.m. — I usually go on a Thursday bike ride with a close friend, but with my race coming up I decide to conserve my energy and suggest a walk instead. I drive to her place and we walk her dogs around the neighborhood. We make it back to her house and she gives me some of her extra garden spaghetti squash in exchange for some of the peaches we salvaged from the tree.
7p.m. — M. is waiting for me when I get back home and is eager to eat. We make salads and spend some time playing brain games with our pup. She's really getting good at tracking so we break up bits of treats and hide them around the house. I also start to teach her a new trick called "secret" where I put my hand behind my ear and she taps my hand with her nose. Totally useless, but adorable nonetheless.
8:30 p.m. — I'm about ready to head up to bed, but M. quietly mutters something about Ted Lasso. It's only Thursday but he somehow knows that they released this week's episode a day early. It's 100% worth it to stay up for this and we watch the episode before heading up to bed around 9:30.
Daily Total: $0
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