A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $50,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a Press Secretary who makes $50,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a sheet of stamps.
Occupation: Press Secretary
Industry: Government
Age: 26
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $50,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,385
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,250 (split unevenly with my boyfriend, he pays more because he makes more, this is about to change because we just bought a house!)
Loans: $0
Health Insurance: $70 (pre-tax)
401(k): $100/paycheck (post-tax)
Gym: $120 (tax included)
Rent the Runway Unlimited: $170
Electricity: ~$40
Spotify/Hulu: $10
iCloud Storage: $3
Savings: I try to keep my checking account about $4,000 so I'm periodically transferring savings throughout the month (usually a few hundred a month) and have about $10,000 saved as an emergency fund.

Day One

5 a.m. — Helloooo 2020! I'm taking the first shift of driving my boyfriend, my brother, his girlfriend, and myself back to DC after the holidays. In between Christmas and New Years, my boyfriend, A., and I went under contract on a condo so we are headed back at this ungodly hour for the home inspection this afternoon. A. sleepily pulls out his wallet and says my dad gave him money for the tolls.
9 a.m. — We are making great time and decide to stop for breakfast at McDonalds. I order a Sausage McMuffin, coffee, and hash brown. I can't believe how cheap this is! $3.17
11:30 a.m. — Finally make it back to DC. It has been nearly two weeks since I left so unpacking the car takes a bit, but it feels amazing to be home. I crawl into bed for a quick nap before the home inspection.
1:30 p.m. — It is a gorgeous day for DC in January so we decide to walk to the home inspection. We are only moving about 10 minutes away from where we currently live, but it is exciting to explore our new neighborhood.
3 p.m. — This begins the barrage of costs related to homeownership! It feels surreal to be Venmoing all of my money away, but a very exciting time. Everything comes back relatively clean — just need to change the air filters and fix a few outlets. Phew! We had an inspection contingency so we could've backed out if they found something major. Next hurdle is the appraisal. We had only seen the place once (huge relief to still love it as much!!) before we put in an offer so I take pictures of everything, put them in a shared folder, and send it to both our families. I Venmo the inspector and will later add it to our home budget spreadsheet. A. is going to pay for the closing costs, so this will ultimately get reimbursed. $500
4 p.m. — High on excitement and beautiful weather, we decide to walk towards U St. so A. can try on new glasses and we can meet up with a friend after. We settle on a relatively new fried chicken and oyster bar for happy hour. I have one $5 beer and he has two. I pay because A. has picked up a lot recently. $20
7 p.m. — A.'s favorite takeout place is on the walk home so we pop in for another beer while he waits for his food to be ready. I'll nibble, but I'm so exhausted that I'm hoping to go to bed shortly after we get home. He pays.
9 p.m. — We end up deciding to watch Bombshell. My review: it was fair, maybe I was a bit disappointed, but how progressive could the women of Fox News be?? The real gem of the movie is how much Charlize Theron looks like Megyn Kelly. Absolutely exhausted and wanting to get a good night's sleep before work tomorrow, I head to bed. Just kidding! The news about the airstrike in Iran just broke and my boss is going to be on TV. I work for someone in the political sector, which is a job that I love, but it does require attention outside of the typical workday. I'm watching from bed to see their talking points while struggling to keep my eyes open. It seems like my supervisor is taking it from here so I actually allow myself to pass out.
Daily Total: $523.57

Day Two

8:45 a.m. — I pull myself out of bed and get ready for work. We can dress casually today and I maybe take that a bit too far. I'm wearing track pants and attempt to dress it up with a nicer sweater — eh, there will be very few people in the office today so this should be fine. I live about a block away from the metro, making my commute about 20 minutes. Usually I'd try to pack at least breakfast, but we have no food so I head to the office empty-handed. (My job gives us a travel stipend so this is out of their pocket, not mine!) ($2.25 expensed)
9:10 a.m. — On my way up to the office, I stop for a coffee and banana at a cafe by work. They have amazing flavored coffees and the last few weeks I've completely abandoned my coffee at home habit. That is all going to change starting next week so I cherish today's French vanilla coffee. I say hi to my favorite security guard and get on the elevator up! $2.95
9:45 a.m. — Look at the clock: 9:45. OMG! This day is already dragging. I share an office, so my officemate is here, but no one else on our floor is here yet.
12:30 p.m. — People finally trickle in and everyone is catching up about their break. They decide to head somewhere for a fun lunch, but I'm working on getting a statement on Iran through the approval chain so I can't join. I head down to the cafeteria and get sides from the hot bar. I don't eat a ton of meat so this ends up being a really affordable lunch — three huge sides (Indian eggplant, potatoes, and rice) for $5! $5.10
4 p.m. — I spend the afternoon incorporating edits, managing opinions, and finally getting the statement out. I head out a bit early because with impeachment starting soon, I likely won't be seeing the sun very much. A.'s sister, T., is coming over to try on a pair of my shoes for size. Her husband recently got her the same ones in half a size bigger and she isn't sure which size would be better. Metro home.
6 p.m. — Waiting on T. and feverishly unpacking. Our apartment isn't very big so it completely throws me off when things aren't in their place. She stops by, tries on the shoes, and decides to keep her current size. We chat for a bit and she fills me in on their recent trip to California. A. is still at work and texts that he is going to a coworker's going away happy hour. Fridays are always a weird dance for us — do we stay in or do we go out? After the holiday travel and excitement, my answer is a clear stay home. He says he will keep me updated on movements.
8 p.m. — I've settled into a new Netflix show about a bipolar figure skater and there is no removing me from this apartment. A. texts with movements and keeps asking if I'm sure I don't want to join. Absolutely sure! After a few episodes, I transition to watching in bed. I'm just about to fall asleep when A. comes in. He's earlier than I thought and he tipsily tells me about his night. His attention then diverts to making fun of the figure skating show, which we watch while falling asleep.
Daily Total: $8.05

Day Three

9 a.m. — Every Thursday and Saturday, I work out with a trainer at the gym (this is a gift from my grandparents). I've always been the un-athletic one in a family of very fit people so this was used as an incentive a few years ago. I've fallen in love with lifting and they continue to buy me sessions as a reward for the healthy habit. Yes, I realize this is crazy, but I'm not going to not accept! My trainer F. and I haven't seen each other in a few weeks so we catch up about her trip to California and I tell her all about the new place. Today's workout is mostly chest and back and goes much better than I was anticipating. I'm ready to conquer the day!
10:15 a.m. — We are out of coffee so I grab an oat milk latte for me and a black coffee for A. on the way home. He's still in bed when I get home and since we have no plans for the day, I put the figure skating show back on. We end up lounging for a few hours before heading out to look at furniture. $8.50
2 p.m. — After hitting all the nearby furniture stores and seeing a few things we like, A. and I go to Trader Joe's. We grab some essentials: green juice, chicken sausage, tempeh, Brussels sprouts, salad mix, strawberries, oat milk, apples, beef jerky, chips, and salsa. I Venmo A. for my half. I love the grocery store so this won't be my last trip this week. $39.44
2:30 p.m. — A. grabs an Uber and we head over to his sister's. She and her husband are painting their living room and we figure we will keep them company for a few hours. They receive our unannounced visit well and offer us a beer. I feel bad we are literally just watching them paint, but it is nice to catch up. Once we are ready to go, I grab the Uber home. $9.35
4:30 p.m. — Our plans for the night are starting to come together — take out and a movie. I reroute the Uber to our favorite taco place around the corner and we get a margarita while we wait for our food to be ready. There are a lot of great restaurants right near our house, and A. loves eating take out at home and I love eating out. We compromise by grabbing a drink while we wait for our takeout. I order tacos and he orders a whole bunch of food that I can't even remember what exactly, he loves to nibble all night. A. pays and we run home in the rain with takeout and groceries in hand.
6 p.m. — It is so early, but we are homebound for the night. I turn on Jojo Rabbit while A. heats up the food. I had no idea what to expect from this movie and end up loving it. Highly recommend!! I head to bed while A. watches football.
Daily Total: $57.29

Day Four

8 a.m. — I'm a morning person so I've already been up for a half-hour when I get out of bed to get ready for pilates. A. is golfing this morning so I kiss him goodbye and head out for class. There is a studio right by my house that offers discounts on packs of "Off-Peak" classes. Whenever the deal is good enough, I pick up a few to occasionally use. This class is hard!! I usually go with a friend, but she couldn't get into this time. I see her on the way out and we make a plan to meet once she is done.
9:15 a.m. — In an effort to beat everyone else in DC that needs food, I walk over to Whole Foods. I usually only get produce here because the quality is great and I think the prices are extremely reasonable on produce. I'll probably get dragged for this in the comment section, but I challenge you to do a price comparison! I grab spinach, asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms. $13.46
9:45 a.m. — This probably seems excessive, but I head to another grocery store. I need a few conventional items and don't see the point of paying Whole Foods prices, plus the store is only a few blocks from my apartment. Impeachment could start any day, which means I'll be crazy busy at work so I want to grab coffee and snacks for my desk. I grab two boxes of K-cups, snack packs of Goldfish, peanut butter, and gum. $21.79
10:15 a.m. — Swing back by the pilates studio to pick up my friend and we walk around the corner to the most amazing bakery. I really should eat at home, but there is no denying myself one of these heavenly veggie scones. I recently turned her on to this place and she orders a mushroom tart. We sit, catch up on our respective holidays, and enjoy our pastries like the ladies of leisure that we are. $9.38
11:30 a.m. — We walk home to drop off my groceries, grab my car, and do a few other errands. My mentality may seem like I'm preparing for impending doom with impeachment, but I just want to make the next few weeks as easy as possible on myself. First stop, Macy's for new tights. All of mine are disgusting and it is getting unprofessional. As someone who does a fair amount of online shopping, I'm thrilled to be walking out with exactly what I need! $50.45
12 p.m. — While we are on the topic of refreshing clothing, we stop by Uniqlo to buy new Heat Tech long sleeves. I swear by these. They are warm, tight, and perfect for wearing underneath a short sleeve dress or with a skirt. My grandmother originally introduced me to the magic that is Uniqlo back in college and I turned on this friend shortly after. She also grabs a few and we head back to the car. $36.91
12:30 p.m. — Another friend of ours, V., texts that she is heading to Trader Joe's and we decide to meet her there. I told you I love the grocery store. I forgot to grab the Kale Cashew Pesto yesterday and love love love it. It is dairy-free and delicious. TJs is an absolute zoo and of course, they are already out of the pesto. I pick up a regular one and an Indian sauce while my friends do their full shop. $6.23
1 p.m. — After surviving the post-holiday madness that was TJs, C. wants to head home and V. wants to continue to hang. C. and I are friends from college and met V. on a birthright trip to Israel. The whole trip was LOL, but C., V., and I have become super close in the last few years. We aren't far from my new place and they ask if we can drive by — of course, I oblige. I can't believe this is real!! I appreciate their excitement and can't wait until we actually move in. Drop of C. and head to V.'s house. I help her unpack her groceries and then make us a quesadilla to split. She just got back from Cabo so I lay on her bed while she unpacks and we catch up. A. is having friends over for the Eagles game so I say goodbye to V. and head home.
4:30 p.m. — After a much-needed shower and towel time, I join A. and his friends for the Eagles game. Oof.
8 p.m. — Golden Globes time!! V. is back over and we are watching in my bed while the boys finish up the Eagles game. I made chickpea pasta with chicken sausage, asparagus, spinach, and peas for V. and me for dinner and she brought broccoli and cauliflower that we toss in. Yummmmm!! I pack up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Our hangouts have merged to one Golden Globes watching and A.'s friends start peeling off one by one.
9:30 p.m. — V. heads home and A. and I transition to watching the end of the Globes in bed. He lives for award shows so he must really be beat. Ahhhh, thinking about everything I have to do at work tomorrow as I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $138.22

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Morning routine usually includes a workout, a shower, and then blowing my hair out, but on Mondays, I have a 9:15 meeting and I just can't make that happen. Luckily, I showered last night so I pack my workout clothes, grab my packed lunch plus the coffee and snacks I bought yesterday, and head out the door.
8:55 a.m. — First in the office, which is an absolute rarity. I put all my snacks away and make myself a cup of coffee. I mostly dug myself out of my inbox on Friday so I'm able to get a few emails out before the 9:15 meeting.
12:30 p.m. — Whole team meeting, small team meeting, and impeachment huddle are done. We are in a huge waiting pattern until impeachment, but I'm working on a few press releases related to Iran. I didn't pack breakfast today so I eat my lunch of leftovers on the early side.
2:30 p.m. — I impulse bought a few sweaters from The Real Real and need to return them today. There is a post office in my building so I run down there and grab a sheet of stamps for thank you cards for my holiday gifts. The return shipping from USPS ends up being less than the prepaid label, score! $22.21
6 p.m. — So long as I can, I try to leave work promptly since most of the time, I have to stay pretty late. There isn't much happening today so I leave right at 6. I was planning to head to the gym on the way home, but my landlord emailed about potential new tenants wanting to come see our place and we have to do some major sprucing before anyone sees it. I grab the mail on my way in and start making some rice in the Instant Pot. A. gets home shortly after me and we get to work!
8 p.m. — Wow this place looks so much better!! All of our clothes from the holidays are put away and the stash of boxes I am saving from recent purchases have been broken down. I'm glad we ripped this Bandaid off and now our place will be in good shape for any future potential tenant visits. I eat a dinner consisting of chicken sausage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus, and rice with the Trader Joe's Amba Mango sauce on top. A. says he isn't hungry, but keeps going over to the kitchen and picking at the leftovers. We start watching the first episode of The Bachelor while we wait for them to drop by, obviously have libations in hand.
10 p.m. — The potential tenants seem to like the place and it would be great for our landlord to have this nailed down so quickly since we just gave her notice. This episode is LOL! Hannah Ann is bold and I can't wait to see how this plays out. A. is leaving on a work trip tomorrow so another early night for us.
Daily Total: $22.21

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — Quick workout before starting the day! I'm still pretty sore from Sunday's pilates class that I skip weights and run for 45 minutes.
7:45 a.m. — Back from the gym and in the shower. I recently bought shampoo and conditioner from Act + Acre and I'm really liking it so far. I have psoriasis on my scalp, which makes hair products a challenge. I throw on a new black Heat Tech and tuck it into black work pants then add a blazer from Club Monaco. I try to make professional dressing as easy and comfortable as possible and it goes better some days than others. I'm also sporting a huuuge pimple on my chin so I skip makeup to let my skin breathe.
8:30 a.m. — Out the door and headed to work! I don't really *have* to be there until 9:30, which is when the rest of my team trickles in, but I'm trying to get moving a bit earlier since my commute will be about 10 minutes longer at our new place. I put away my packed food and make coffee once I get to my desk.
12 p.m. — More of the same at work. We still don't have any information on the timing of impeachment and it seems everyone is just in a wait and see pattern. I take care of a few house-related things while things are slow and then eat my packed lunch. Similar to the buying-coffee habit, I got into a really bad habit of failing to pack my lunch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Today's lunch reminds me why I love packing — I get all the veggies I want, it is delicious, and I've already paid for it.
2 p.m. — Oooh look at the time — another email about a home charge! This one is for the appraisal and credit check. A. takes this one since he has been working more closely with the mortgage lender.
6 p.m. — Tomorrow is going to be a doozy so I head home just after 6. A. is gone for work and while usually I'd make plans, there was snow earlier today so the city has basically shut down. Even my favorite nail salon is closed! I'm homeward bound for a night of Siesta Key and Vanderpump Rules (it is what it is, okay). Just as I get home, the news breaks about the rockets in Iran. Oof. Tune into the news while answering a few emails.
10 p.m. — I finish my thank you notes, make dinner and lunch for tomorrow, and pour myself a glass of wine for my shows. Very productive night!! One of my best friends recently left DC and we used to watch this show together so while it is still entertaining, I find myself thinking more about how much I miss her. Ugh. But I remind myself that she's happier now in New York and that makes me happy. I get in bed early so I can read for a bit. I'm catching up on a Sally Rooney novel and drift to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — I had high hopes for a morning workout and my bed is too warm to leave. I turn on the news and read for a bit. This is also productive?
7:30 a.m. — Okay, time to get out of bed. I usually don't get hungry until later, but I make a frozen blueberry waffle and put peanut butter on top to eat while I get ready. Today is absolutely a ponytail day. I have a few bigger meetings so I put on makeup today. I'm simple: ice roll, cleanse, Good Genes, Vitamin C serum, moisturizer, then NARS concealer, swipes of bronzer, eyeliner, and mascara. Maybe not so simple?
8:30 a.m. — All ready for work, grab my packed lunch and snacks and I'm out the door.
3:30 p.m. — Today is flying by! There was a briefing on the ongoing situation with Iran and I've been running around coordinating with reporters. When I finally get back to my desk, I could eat my hand. I heat up my lunch and get my bearings in my email. Days like today move quickly and are the really exciting parts of my job.
6:30 p.m. — I'm wrapping up at work and text a few friends about their plans tonight. While I'm waiting for responses, I remember that I have book club tomorrow so I head home so I can finish tomorrow's book while doing laundry. My book club is made up of an eclectic group of women and I absolutely love it. Tomorrow's book is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
8:30 p.m. — Yesssss a few loads of laundry are done and folded. I'm going to hold on putting these clothes away because we are trying to both go through our clothes before we move. I FaceTime with A. after not talking all day. He travels pretty infrequently and this trip has made me think about how I definitely need to be more compassionate to my friends whose significant others travel all the time. I'm grateful for some alone time to really be productive, but I miss him! And wish we could just be chitchatting and basking in our new home excitement together.
Daily Total: $0
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