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A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $63,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Synergy.
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 press staffer who makes $63,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on kombucha.
Occupation: Press Staffer
Industry: Capitol Hill
Age: 24
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $63,000 (closer to $70,000 last year with one bonus).
Net Worth: $87,390.45 ($2,323.76 in checking, $13,572.84 in savings, $25,255.05 in my 401(k), $22,546.39 in my IRA and $23,692.41 in investments).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,809.96
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,125
Renter's Insurance: $8
401(k): $430 (pre-tax).
Cell Phone: $42.58
Metro Card: $0 (work pays).
Wi-Fi: $25
Power/Water: ~$50
Gym: $120
Investing: $350
iCloud: $1
Netflix: $19 (I am technically supposed to Venmo request three people who share the account with me but I always forget).
Other Streaming Services: My roommate's boyfriend is logged in on several accounts on our TV.
Nuuly: $89 (but I skip most months unless I have events).
New York Times Games: $30
Razor Subscription: $10 every three months.
Annual Expenses
Chase Sapphire Annual Fee: $95
Amex Blue Cash Preferred Annual Fee: $95
Squarespace: $168
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, I definitely grew up in a family where it was always assumed and expected that I would go to a four-year college. I knew my parents didn't have much saved so I targeted schools that offered substantial financial aid. I ended up being lucky enough to attend college on a full scholarship that also paid me a stipend, which helped me cover rent and food. I also worked part-time jobs all through college to cover my other expenses and got paid internships in the summer. The stipend was a total game-changer and I'm grateful to have graduated without debt. 
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents have always been pretty unhelpful about money. When I started my job and opened a 401(k), I tried to have a discussion with them about how I should save and invest but my dad just said, “Get married and never buy anything you can't afford and you'll always be fine.” It's kind of characteristic — their advice has always been a lot more moral than practical, which hasn't been super constructive. I've done a lot of education on my own to understand saving and investing.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting early in high school because I liked kids and wanted some spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yeah, my older siblings' college clearly put a financial strain on my family that I felt from a young age. My parents also wouldn't let me go on some overnight field trips because of the cost. They spoke pretty openly about money being tight but I knew we had some base-level stability. I knew that there wasn't much saved for my college and I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform academically so I could get a good scholarship.
Do you worry about money now?
Definitely. Even though I'm pretty financially cautious, have no student loans and have some money saved, I'm probably unhealthily anxious about money. I work for the government so there's not a ton of room to earn more, and I worry about how I'll make more money so I don't pass on to my own kids the financial stress that I felt growing up. I really want to go to grad school but I'm worried I won't be able to find a significant scholarship and I don't think my parents would be able to help me out.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was largely financially independent in college because my scholarship had a stipend attached and I worked several odd jobs but my parents occasionally gave me a little money for rent. I also used one of their old cars at the time so I definitely had some advantages through that. I think my parents could help me out financially if I got into a really bad situation but we have a bit of a strained relationship so I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:20 a.m. — It's back to work after a long holiday weekend and even though it's a short week, I'm dragging a bit as I get back into the rhythm. I make breakfast (a yogurt bowl with homemade granola and strawberries), pour a grocery store iced coffee into my to-go cup and head out for my daily walk to work.
9:30 a.m. — It's HOT out and I arrive at work sweaty. My coworkers and I gossip about our long weekends for a while and then I settle into work. Because it's a short week and tons of people are on vacation, it's a lot more chill than normal, so I text a friend to see if he wants to grab lunch.
12:30 p.m. — I meet my friend for an off-site lunch at Sweetgreen. We catch up and talk about our love lives for a while. $13.70
3 p.m. — Back at my desk, I work for a bit but am still in a chitchatty mood. My coworkers and I take a little walk around the building. We're all feeling pretty unsatisfied at work right now. After being here for two years, none of us feels there are tons of professional growth opportunities. Afterward I settle in to work a little more through the end of the day.
5:30 p.m. — I leave work after an unimpressive day of productivity but I'm hopeful I'll make the best of the night. I joined a gym recently so I run home to change and arrive just in time for yoga. I have spent a decent amount of money on ClassPass and one-off barre, spin and Pilates classes, and I'm hopeful that having unlimited gym classes will be a money-saver. The class is nice and I go on a Peloton after, too.
8 p.m. — I head home, resisting Chipotle on my walk. I make a cheap dinner of roasted brussels sprouts and Trader Joe's ramen — extremely salty and probably not the most balanced but cheap and easy enough. I chat with my roommate until it's time to go to bed.
Daily Total: $13.70

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up a little later than usual because we have two days of telework this week thanks to the holiday. I lie in bed for a bit and play word games on my phone before deciding that I should get outside before the workday starts. I take a walk around the neighborhood and spontaneously decide to try a new bagel place. I order a toasted everything bagel with scallion cream cheese. I resist the urge to add coffee, knowing that I have some at home. $5.12
9:30 a.m. — I go home to eat my bagel and kind of regret the purchase. It isn't as good as my go-to place and I had food at home anyway. I remind myself it was just $5 and settle into work for a while.
11:30 a.m. — Again, the slow week at work means I'm feeling unproductive and unfocused. I refuse to cook myself a real lunch and instead graze on various snacks. I often dislike that I have to be in the office so much but days like this remind me that I'm a bad remote worker and I value the structure (and the friendships) that the office brings to my life.
2 p.m. — My friends and I are texting to try and coordinate a beach trip. The whole thing is a little emotionally fraught because I used to date one of the friends and we split about a month ago because of distance. I'm still down for the trip, as is he, but our other friend, K., is considering backing out so he can spend more time with his girlfriend. I think this is pretty silly (because she's invited!) and text my ex to complain but he's not sympathetic. We have a tense interaction over text that leaves me anxious and unhappy.
5 p.m. — After getting a lot of work done, I close my laptop right at 5 p.m. and head to the gym. With the extra time, I decide I'll do two classes tonight: barre and yoga.
7:45 p.m. — I head home and remember that I've promised to call my parents. We don't have the easiest relationship so I always feel a little leery of these biweekly calls. I stop and get two pints of Ben & Jerry's on my walk home from the gym. $11.98
8:45 p.m. — The call doesn't go too badly but I finish feeling a little emotionally exhausted from the day. I eat ice cream for dinner and my roommate and I talk about the situation with my friends and my ex. Tired and frustrated, I cry and am not sure how to move forward.
Daily Total: $17.10

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up determined to make it a better day than yesterday and go for a walk before remote work starts. I learned my lesson yesterday and resist a bagel today in favor of the food I have at home. I make a frozen bagel and iced coffee and start work.
11 a.m. — My friends and I aren't texting about the trip anymore, which I'm feeling negatively about but trying not to let it bother me. I decide to make some lists about career paths that might be a little more challenging. I don't come up with much and I try to refocus on work.
1 p.m. — Again, I snack endlessly instead of eating a proper meal, which I feel badly about. I eat grapes and more ice cream.
3 p.m. — My roommate and I are both having slow work days so we put some cooking videos on our TV while working. We decide when we're both fully off the clock, we'll go play tennis.
5 p.m. — Once the workday is over, I head to tennis with my roommate. It's hot so we don't play for that long and then I head home to shower.
7 p.m. — A distant friend of mine is having a party at a bar and even though I'm feeling a bit nervous I won't know anyone there, I tell myself I committed and that I should go. It ends up being fun and I do know one couple so I stay longer than I'd planned. I buy two drinks for myself and one for a friend. $28.30
9:30 p.m. — I'm pleasantly buzzed from my two drinks on an empty stomach but by 9:30 I'm feeling hungry and ready to leave. I stop at Chipotle on my walk home and use rewards I've racked up to add free chips and guac to the order. I head home to eat it and then I read in bed until I'm ready for sleep. My friend/ex still hasn't texted me since our fight over the beach trip, which is making me feel uneasy. $11.11
Daily Total: $39.41

Day Four

10 a.m. — It's Saturday and I'm grateful to be able to sleep in. I leisurely play word games and read my book. I eat my leftover chips and guac for breakfast and then decide I should probably exercise so I put on my running clothes and brave the heat.
10:45 a.m. — Even though it's early, it's already super humid and my run feels awful. I stop at a grocery store and pick up a big bottle of kombucha and white wine for a barbecue later as well as some more premade iced coffee for myself. I head home coated in sweat. $26.18
12:30 p.m. — Once I'm home, I shower and change into my bathing suit. I'm going to take the Metro to my friend's. My work subsidizes my card so it's technically a free ride for me.
2 p.m. — The barbecue is fun but hot and I'm almost too overheated to eat the hot dog that's been made for me. After a while we head up to my friend's rooftop pool, which is incredible.
5 p.m. — All sweated and pooled out, my roommate and I metro home from the party. At home I shower again.
7 p.m. — Since things with my ex ended, I have started dating again, which I'm trying hard (but failing) to enjoy. I was pushed back into it early because a friend of a friend, F., asked me out at a party and I said yes because I felt like I should get back out there sooner rather than later. We've been on a handful of dates and I'm seeing him again tonight. I suggest we order Thai takeout. I pay because I live near a place and because he's paid for our last two dates. He offers to venmo me but I decline. $52.83
8 p.m. — I walk to pick up the food in person and then metro it over to his place. We talk for a while and then put on a movie and I end up sleeping over.
Daily Total: $79.01

Day Five

10 a.m. — I wake up and talk to F. for a bit before metroing home. When I get back to my apartment, I immediately eat the rest of my Chipotle and watch a TV show.
12:30 p.m. — My roommate and I are headed to meet some friends so we metro over and then sit around and catch up at their apartment. After a bit, we walk around and get ice cream. I get a single scoop of chocolate brownie and it's more expensive than I expected. $7.22
6 p.m. — After talking and watching music videos, it's time for us to head to our dinner plans. My roommate and I get back on the Metro and meet up with some of our neighbors for pizza. We split the cost. $9.35
9:30 p.m. — We chat for a while with our neighbors and take a walk around the neighborhood, looking at houses on Zillow. I'm kind of floored that really small (and kind of ugly) houses are worth over $1 million.
10:30 p.m. — I settle into bed, frustrated with myself that I didn't prep work lunches for the week. I'm still kind of bothered by my situation with my friends and decide I'll text my friend first thing tomorrow morning to see what he's thinking about coming on the trip.
Daily Total: $16.57

Day Six

7 a.m. — I wake up resolved to get some closure on my situation with my friends and text the friend who is flaking to get his status update on the trip. Then I head out for a quick three-mile run before the workday so I can get some exercise in.
8 a.m. — I come home, shower, eat my usual yogurt bowl with granola and do my walking commute while listening to podcasts.
12:30 p.m. — It's kind of a hectic day at work because my boss and I are headed to a press conference later so I scarf down the lunch I packed (my leftover Thai food from Saturday's date) and get back to work. My friend still hasn't texted me back from this morning, which is making me feel anxious and annoyed but I'm trying to keep my focus on work.
3:30 p.m. — We leave the office to go to the press conference. The press conference stresses me out — staffing these things always leaves me kind of on edge — but except for one small mic hiccup, it all goes fairly smoothly.
6:30 p.m. — Staffing the press conference pushed back all my afternoon work. I finally wrap up and head home, knowing I still have to grocery shop and meal prep. I'm pretty tired but it's this or eat gross work cafeteria food for the rest of the week so I walk home, resolved to get it done.
7:30 p.m. — I head to the grocery store and pick up falafel mix, lettuce, cookie ingredients, ice cream and a few snacks. $58.94
8 p.m. — I get home and begin frying up my falafel and prepping some cookie dough to bring over to my friend.
10:30 p.m. — After all my dough, falafel and salad work is done, it's late enough that I need to start getting ready for bed. I feel really frustrated sometimes that my life feels like only two modes: at work or doing all the errands and tasks I need to get ready for work, like meal prepping and laundry. I try not to feel too discouraged and get in bed.
Daily Total: $58.94

Day Seven

7:20 a.m. — I get up and do my morning routine (sans run), eat my typical granola breakfast and walk to work.
9 a.m. — My friend is still ignoring my text, which is on my mind, but I'm hoping to bury myself in work for a while.
12 p.m. — I've had a fairly productive day so far. This week feels a lot more normal and busy than last so I sail through to lunch, where I eat my meal-prepped salad at my desk.
3 p.m. — I'm humming along at work but my coworkers and I take a short walk to stretch our legs.
6 p.m. — I work hard to finish right on time because I don't want to stay late two days in a row. I decide I should go straight from work to the gym so I don't lose any momentum. I walk straight in that direction at 6 p.m. to go on the Peloton for a while.
7:30 p.m. — Home from the gym, I shower and make a basic dinner of Trader Joe's chicken sausage. I also bake the cookie dough I made yesterday to bring over to my friend. My ex and I are checking in via text and it isn't going well so I'm kind of emotional.
9:30 p.m. — I drop off the cookies really quickly and turn my attention back to this text conversation, which has turned into him rehashing some of his issues with our relationship. I'm feeling just awful about the ending of things.
11:30 p.m. — I've done very little tonight but text my ex. We're clearly both emotional, trying to figure out why things fell apart. I fall into a fitful sleep past midnight, consumed by insecurities and stressed about the dissolution of the relationship.
Daily Total: $0
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