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A Week In Salt Lake City, UT, On A $69,200 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln.
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 policy analyst who makes $69,200 per year and spends some of her money this week on a car.
Occupation: Policy Analyst
Industry: Government
Age: 28
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Salary: $69,200
Net Worth: ~$15,800 (primary bank account: $7,808.63, HYSA: $637.83, various investment accounts: $52,528, 401(k): $1,243.50, minus debt).
Debt: $46,365.11 (student loans: $14,328.59, car loan: $32,036.52).
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,065 (I just got a raise and this is my new amount).
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $300 (I live at home with my mother and yes, I have to pay rent to live in my childhood bedroom).
Student Loans: $0 (currently paused).
Car Payment: $552.34
Cell Phone: $100 (on my mom's plan).
Gym: $23.58
Coach: $300
Wax Membership: $58
Apple Music: $11.79
Apple Care: $10.71
Savings: $500
401(k): $52
Health/Dental/Vision Insurance: $119.48
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 college degrees. I remember getting a lot of pamphlets from some costly schools. My dad said not to worry about it, they would make it work. That did not happen. I paid for all my schooling (bachelor's and master's) myself. I did have an advantage with half-price tuition for both undergrad and grad school. For undergrad, I walked out with one loan for a total of $5,000 (this was quickly paid off). I have about $14,000 left in student loans from grad school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents did not talk about finances with us. I remember being a little jealous of all my friends who were in dance while I wasn't but looking back, there was no way we could afford that. We mostly vacationed in-state, visiting all of the cool national parks we have here. My first flight wasn't until I was a sophomore in high school. We only cancelled one vacation and that was after my dad was laid off during the 2008 recession.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a local water park as a teenager over the summer. Having to touch wet money all summer was disgustingly dirty and I hate cash to this day. I really only got the job as it was only during the summer and allowed me to have some spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I got what I wanted, when I wanted it. But I also wasn't asking for anything extreme.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I would love to move out of my mom's place but home prices here make absolutely no sense. Rent for a "luxury" apartment can range from $1,800 up to $5,000. Since I don't have a significant other, I would be paying a mortgage/rent completely by myself. I could find a roommate but I like being alone.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I wouldn't say I'm fully financially responsible for myself as I still live at home. My state has an extreme housing crisis that I think a lot of states are also going through — I can't afford rent and finding a house is impossible. I did start paying for all my things when I started college and pay for everything except (the full price of) housing now.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. My grandparents set aside an account for me to help pay for college, which I received when I was 18. It is about $1,800 in an investment account, which clearly isn't enough money to pay for even a semester of college, so it is just sitting there for now.

Day One

9:15 a.m. — One thing about me: I am absolutely not a morning person, especially on a Monday. Luckily no one at my work really cares what time you show up, just that you get your job done. Breakfast is a protein smoothie (Oikos protein yogurt, a mixture of frozen berries and Fairlife milk) and protein waffles (Kodiak cake mix with chocolate chips). I track my macros, which is very helpful for me as I used to under-eat. I get to the office and go through some emails. There isn't a whole lot to do today.
12 p.m. — Lunch is a sandwich made on local sourdough bread. I swing by the vending machine room at work to buy a diet Dr Pepper. Once upon a time, there was a cafeteria in our building but COVID ended that. $2.36
1 p.m. — I have a meeting with my counterpart in a different agency. We talk through our various projects and problems.
5:30 p.m. — Traffic absolutely sucks but I get home and my sister has made dinner. Pasta with Italian sausage, peas, pesto and parmesan. I don't have to cook so it's a win in my book.
7 p.m. — I am a night gym person, kudos to the before-work gym people. The gym is a little busy and it overwhelms me so I stick to cardio. I usually skip cardio but since my coach asked me about it last week, I suck it up and do 45 minutes on the treadmill.
8:30 p.m. — Home from the gym, where I then down a Fairlife protein shake, Doritos, cotton candy grapes and a rice cake slathered in peanut butter. Guess I'm starting my period soon. I spend the rest of the night reading my book before lights out around 11.
Daily Total: $2.36

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I have to be out the door for a dentist appointment. Despite not being a morning person, I only ever schedule appointments in the morning. I am my own worst enemy. I never wear makeup, unless it's for a special event, but I do use Benefit Clear Brow Gel on my eyebrows each morning. My eyebrows are microbladed (worse pain than a tattoo IMO) and I think the gel gives it an extra nice touch.
9:10 a.m. — I've never had this hygienist before and she is not my favorite. The dentist spends a total of one minute looking at my teeth before gushing about how perfect they are. I've never had a cavity, I had braces really young and I floss nightly. I'll take the praise. I schedule my next appointments as I'm leaving. I'll get a bill in the mail in a few weeks with my portion.
10 a.m. — As I'm leaving, my car won't start. Perfect. I call for a jump — I have cables in my car but the thought of going back into the dentist's office or asking a random stranger in the parking lot is too much anxiety for me. I text my boss that I'm stranded at the dentist and ask to be remote for the rest of the day and tomorrow. He's okay with that. Ten minutes later, I get my car to start, cancel the roadside assistance and drive home.
11:30 a.m. — I do some tentative car shopping online. I've been wanting to buy my big girl car since graduating. I do the math and yeah, I can afford this. I already know what brand I want to buy, it's a matter of what model. I narrow it down to three cars, then two. I send a message to the salesman who helped me buy my current car nine years ago. He's out today and another salesperson messages me but I'd rather work with him. I am nothing if not loyal to people. Lunch is the leftover pasta from last night.
4:30 p.m. — I want to make baked chicken tacos but I'm missing a few ingredients. My sister and I head to the store. I buy enchilada sauce, cheese and tortillas. $6.66
7 p.m. — I have a weekly check-in with my online coach. She calculates my macros for me, creates my gym program and helps me with whatever I'm feeling while on my health fitness journey. I gained a lot of weight during lockdown and grad school. I didn't leave the house for two years. Now, I love the gym and have started to see the results I want with her help.
11:30 p.m. — I finish my book. I'm currently reading through Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series. Lights out after I update my Goodreads.
Daily Total: $6.66

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I'm working from home today. I proceed to scroll on my phone before finally getting ready for the day. I make breakfast of Kodiak protein waffles.
10 a.m. — I forward an email to my boss, who then asks for the information to be put into a chart. A colleague on the email chain completes it while I'm still struggling to track down the information. I started this job a few months ago and have never experienced a budget season before so I have no idea what I'm doing most days. I ask the other colleague on the email if he can mentor me and thankfully he says yes. I make a protein smoothie then join a meeting with my boss and counterpart from a different agency office. Luckily my boss is on the call explaining things because I have no idea what's happening. My cat makes several appearances during this call.
11:50 a.m. — My meeting ends and I swing by the auto store since my car died yesterday. I have them run a few diagnostics. What I thought was wrong with my car is actually fine, which means I'm back to square one. When I go to leave, my car won't start. I walk over to 7-Eleven for food. I buy a cheese stick and a diet Dr Pepper. While I'm waiting I call the dealership so I can go look at new cars. $2.18
1 p.m. — I get my car to finally start right as my sister comes to rescue me. I have her follow me to the car dealership to make sure I make it there. I swing by Taco Bell for food before arriving at the dealership. $7.91
1:45 p.m. — I test drive the car I want. It turns on, which is significantly better than my current status. The trade-in value for my current car is really low and the dealership won't budge. Luckily a guy at the auto store said he wanted to buy it from me. He was there when it died and was okay with this information. I call him and his deal is better than the dealership. We agree on a cash payment.
5:30 p.m. — I finally make it into the finance office. I put a down payment on the car on my credit card for points. Man, this is a lot of money. $3,000
6:30 p.m. — I get my new car home! Then I scarf down dinner my sister made (chicken gyros) and have my mom take me back to the car dealership to pick up my old car so I can drive it home. I swing by Target to get cat food and I pick up a birthday card. Luckily the car starts when I'm done with Target. $35.26
7 p.m. — I clean out my old car and update my car insurance with the new car information. I got my own car insurance plan last week so I'm really nailing the adulting thing. The difference for the new car is added to what I paid last week, $198.17. I called my brother-in-law to help me with the car sale since he's the only guy I'm close with. My old car decides not to start and I start to be completely indifferent about it. It finally starts and I drive it to the meet-up spot. We do the exchange and I leave somewhat sad. I get $1,450 in cash. $198.17
9 p.m. — I get in bed and start a new book. I finally got a copy of Fourth Wing from the library and I am so excited to start it. Luckily I haven't seen any spoilers for it — don't spoil books!
10:30 p.m. — Lights out.
11:30 p.m. — My body refuses to sleep. I saw a sleep therapist a few years ago because grad school screwed over my sleeping habits. This is the first time in a long time I haven't been able to sleep. I continue to read my book. It has to be anxiety over the new car purchase. I finally take a melatonin around 12:30. I successfully got off it a few months ago so I'm clearly desperate here.
1:20 a.m. — I get out of bed and do some yoga. Maybe I can stretch myself to sleep? Not being able to sleep is a serious problem because I will ignore my alarm and I have a 9 a.m. staff meeting I cannot miss. After yoga, I research a new bed. I hate mine. I realize I spent a lot of money today but what's another thousand or so at this point? I make a list of potential options to go test out. I think I finally fall asleep around 2.
Daily Total: $3,243.52

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I wake up after ignoring my first alarm and hop in the shower. I don't love washing my hair in the morning but it cannot survive another day without being washed. I get it blowdried and thrown into a bun (seriously, the ghd Helios blowdryer is better than Dyson, I will die on that hill). I'll eat breakfast at work.
10:15 a.m. — Staff meeting goes over, which is never a shocker, and I finally have a chance to eat breakfast. I have protein waffles. I submit my bill of sale to the DMV before starting work.
12 p.m. — I cannot survive any longer without a Diet Coke and walk over to our vending machine room to buy one. Lunch is the leftover baked chicken tacos from the other day. $2.26
1 p.m. — I deposit cash from the car sale into my bank account. I swing by the campus bookstore for my alma mater and buy two new stickers for my car since I can't decide ($8.60). I also pick up a Starbucks gift card for a coworker who's leaving at the end of the month ($30). $38.60
5 p.m. — My anxiety is too high driving this car. I might need a prescription, or have a fun thing to talk about with my therapist. My sister texts me while driving that she sent me her portion for the Taylor Swift tickets I bought a while ago. Really feeling less poor now.
6 p.m. — My mom picks up takeout from the local Indian restaurant. I get shrimp marinated in Greek yogurt. It's a little extra spicy tonight.
9:30 p.m. — I start getting ready for bed. My heels are super cracked so I decide to soak and take a pumice stone to them to see if that helps. I also buy cracked heel cream off Amazon ($11.25) and a new sun shade ($18.22). I then get ready for bed; my nighttime skincare routine is Caudalie Vinoclean cleansing oil and Epionce face wash. I dry my face with a biodegradable face towel, then I do a 10-minute LED-light therapy mask. Finally, I slather on Laneige Water Sleeping Mask for hydration and Vaseline on my lips. Lights out after reading more of Fourth Wing. I'm actually tired tonight. $29.47
Daily Total: $70.33

Day Five

8 a.m. — I finally wake up after my sunrise alarm doesn't go off. I'm fairly certain it's a lemon and this is my second one so I'm not happy. Get ready for work and make a smoothie and toast with peanut butter. When I get to the office, almost everyone is out. Good thing I brought a book.
12:30 p.m. — I have my Indian leftovers for lunch. The spice level is extra spicy today and it upsets my stomach. I have one more meeting today and want to leave so badly.
1:30 p.m. — I get a message during our finance meeting. My answer makes that person a little mad but it's completely out of my hands. I leave work after this since it's incredibly hot and I'd rather work the rest of the day at home.
3 p.m. — My sister wants to go to Target. I make her drive her car since my anxiety is still high with the new one. I spot a Japanese barbecue sauce and know my brother-in-law will want it. He does and venmos me $9 to buy it for him.
5:30 p.m. — Dinner is leftover pasta.
6:30 p.m. — I make it to the gym finally! I use creatine, which you have to mix with flavored water or it's disgusting. It's leg day but I hate this leg day and do my other leg day I was supposed to do earlier this week.
8 p.m. — I get home from the gym and chug a Fairlife protein shake and eat some frozen cookie dough. Eventually, I eat some cookies once they're done baking. My sister makes me watch an episode of a very popular teenage show. I don't get the hype, it's terrible. I did read the books when I was in high school so maybe I'm just too old for this. I get hit with an ocular migraine that I'm sure is because of the heat as the episode is ending so it's a very early bedtime for me.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9 a.m. — I'm awake and I make myself a breakfast sandwich with protein bagels, egg, cheese and Canadian bacon.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch is protein-breaded chicken strips, fries and a golden kiwi.
3:30 p.m. — I finally make it to the gym. Saturday afternoon is always dead at the gym. It's my favorite. I start with core or else I won't do it. Then I do a back and biceps workout.
7 p.m. — I'm getting dinner with a friend/mentor. This is a rather late dinnertime for me but luckily I had a protein shake once I got home from the gym. She used to be my boss and was the absolute best. We get fish tacos and a plate of nachos to share. She pays.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I make breakfast of iced chai and a breakfast skillet I put together with hash browns, bell peppers, red onion, eggs, cheese and a bunch of spices. I make enough for breakfast tomorrow too.
10 a.m. — It's another hair-washing day. I don't use dry shampoo as it clogs up my scalp. I always do a scalp or hair treatment mask on my weekend wash. Today's choice is Oribe Serene Scalp Scrub.
11 a.m. — I opt out of going to the gym so I can finish Fourth Wing. Last night I threw my Kindle across the room so I need to finish it. I am a complete mess after finishing and write up my review on Goodreads. I'm trying to be better about reviews.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch is at the local Mexican restaurant with my father and two of my siblings. We do not have a good relationship with him. He gives a weak apology. He pays.
1:30 p.m. — I swing by a car wash as a bird poops on my new car. Rude. This also allows me to put the new stickers on my car. The one I picked has such small, intricate vinyl details that it's almost a miracle I don't rip it. $21.99
2:30 p.m. — Head to Michael's with the same sisters I had lunch with to buy supplies to make friendship bracelets for Taylor Swift. I pay and then we spend the next few hours making them. Hopefully they'll fit other people because we have tiny wrists in this family. A wild weekend for me. $47.14
Daily Total: $69.13
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