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A Week In Arlington, VA, On A $105,000 Salary

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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 associate product manager who makes $105,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on pole dancing.
Occupation: Associate product manager
Industry: Fintech
Age: 23
Location: Arlington, VA
Salary: $105,000
Net Worth: ~$44,000 (Vanguard ETF fund: $7,000, Roth IRA: $16,419.05, travel savings: $1,500, HYSA: $19,000)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $5,069.32
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,655 (for a two-bedroom apartment)
Internet: $34.69
Cell Phone: $0 (still on my family plan)
iCloud: $2.99
Spotify: $10.99
NYT: $4
Car Insurance: $80 (payments start next month)
Gym Membership: $19.99 biweekly
Parking: $120
Travel Savings: $300
Vanguard: $250
Roth IRA: $500 (I try to max out my IRA every year and will contribute this amount until I reach my max.)
Preply Language Lessons: $75
HSA: $280.76 (pre-tax)
401(k): $978.46 (pre-tax)
Health Insurance: $54.20 (pre-tax)
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! As a child of African immigrants, education was a necessity and seen as the only way to progress in the professional world. I was expected to go to a top school with a scholarship. While I got into an Ivy League, I didn’t get a scholarship, so I attended a public state school. Looking back, I’m thankful my parents forced me to make this decision as they covered the rest of my tuition and rent. I am grateful that I left undergrad with zero debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were very cautious with money and maintained a pretty high level of frugality while having well-paying jobs and indulging in experiences such as nice vacations. They taught me that credit cards were bad and saving was good. I am grateful that my brother taught me about investing and pushed me to open my Roth IRA while I was still in college. His guidance has helped me become financially literate.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as an ice cream scooper when I was a sophomore in high school. I was overjoyed to start making my own money so that I could feel somewhat independent.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, my parents had well-paying jobs and did not give us a reason to worry as they worked in a very stable industry. If we did struggle, my parents never told me.
Do you worry about money now?
In my day-to-day life, no, but further down the line, yes. I want to comfortably invest in properties and be able to live by myself. In my high-cost-of-living city, I don’t feel as if my income goes as far as I’d like. I am fortunate to making a six-figure salary in my first big-girl job but I’m also very aware that six figures does not go as far as it did 10 years ago. With that in mind, it’s good to worry about money sometimes.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Because I am still on my parents’ phone plan, I’m not sure if I am fully financially responsible but aside from that bill, I am fully independent. My parents are my safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Not sure, but I love surprises!

Day One

5:45 a.m. — I manage to get myself out of bed and into my workout clothes for my first day back at the gym in a week! I had COVID-19 last week but am fully recovered. I hit back and biceps today and man, is the gym packed for this early in the morning (not a fan).
9:30 a.m. — I drive to work which takes me longer than expected. I stop by the in-house cafeteria and buy some oatmeal with cottage cheese. It’s warm and delish. $2.10
12 p.m. — Time for lunch. I meet up with a friend and head down to another cafeteria at my workplace and I order a salmon burger. I chat with my friend and then join a group of colleagues to catch up. $5.55
4:30 p.m. — I finish my day after a couple of afternoon meetings and last-minute tasks. I stop by the grocery store on my way home to pick up my favorite brand of gum (Five) and blast the Andrew Huberman podcast on my drive home. I make myself a snack of microwave oats as soon as I get home. $1.81
8:30 p.m. — For dinner, I eat my egg fried rice and crispy tofu meal prep which is kinda meh so I can’t wait to spice it up next week (I’m thinking cajun-inspired chicken sausage pasta). A guy I’ve been texting via Hinge responds to a text I’d sent about making plans this weekend. He suggests a couple of date ideas and I’m happy, but also worried I might overbook myself. We shall see!
9:30 p.m. — I finish off the night with some Greek yogurt protein dip, an apple, and hot cocoa. I like to be in sleep mode by 10:30 p.m., but since tomorrow is a rest day, there is no need to get such an early start.
Daily Total: $9.46

Day Two

7 a.m. — Rise and shine! Today I’m getting my annual physical done at work (a fun perk). Everything goes well with my appointment and it is covered by insurance.
10 a.m. — I buy an egg white and cheese burrito from the cafeteria and save it for later. I take some microwaved oatmeal from the snack box as I just want a snack before lunch. $2.65
12 p.m. — I meet up with a friend for lunch. I usually bring my lunch when I go to the office — this week’s special is a Thai Bap salad. It’s just a Thai crunch salad with grilled chicken and Trader Joe’s Kimbap. The rest of the day is spent in endless meetings.
5 p.m. — I snack on my egg white burrito and some crackers while heading home for a Portuguese lesson. Right after my lesson, I have a virtual interview for a nonprofit position. I’m trying to get more involved in community engagement initiatives and hopefully, this is my first step.
8:30 p.m. — I eat a dinner of the meal prep rice and tofu with a yogurt bowl for dessert. I’m supposed to go on a Hinge date tomorrow (planned a week ago) but I’m just now realizing how far the coffee shop is from my apartment and I feel like backing out. I tell myself that before I go to bed, I’ll give the guy an update.
10 p.m. — I get ready for bed, text the Hinge guy to cancel, and go to sleep.

Daily Total: $2.65

Day Three

3:09 a.m. — It’s 3 a.m. and I can’t sleep! I’m unable to will myself back to sleep so I resort to online shopping. There’s this super delicious barbecue sauce at the work cafeteria and I find it on Amazon for $8. I immediately take that as I sign to buy it. I’m already dreaming of all the different things I’ll do with it. $8.07
7 a.m. — I wake up with a nasty case of the runs. I have IBS so sometimes when I feel anxious or stressed, my body reacts pretty violently. The sad thing is nothing is particularly stressful in my life other than my self-imposed doubts about find a partner/starting over in a new city. I remind myself to take it easy (at least mentally) and head to the gym for a shoulder workout. I pick up a roll of toilet paper on the way home. I make smoked salmon toast on sourdough for brekkie. $2.50
2 p.m. — Today is a work-from-home day, so it’s pretty chill and I have time to catch on some of my work. I leave my apartment and stop by a nearby corner store to get some gum. I head home for a Spanish lesson and eat one of my Thai Bap salads for lunch with carrots. $2.11
5:30 p.m. — I meet up with some friends for happy hour at a Japanese restaurant and have a great time catching up. I order a salmon and avocado roll along with a cocktail that honestly makes me feel a little too woozy (guess I’m becoming a lightweight). $14.40
9:20 p.m. — I make a microwave oatmeal bowl and pair it with a Ninja Creami nightcap. I answer one of my Hinge messages — this guy I’ve been on and off chatting with finally wants to go on a date this Sunday. I ask him to FaceTime first to see if the vibes are worth going on a date. I’m highly doubtful. Update: The call goes well and I’m looking forward to our dinner date.
Daily Total: $27.08

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up to great weather (70 degrees) and quickly swap my planned leg day for an impromptu run. I have the last Friday of every month off and can’t wait to spend it enjoying the weather. On the way back from my run, I stop at a local bagel spot for an egg and cheese bagel and it’s simply divine. $7.15
10:30 a.m. — My ankle starts to ache so I take the train back from the bagel shop. $2.65

12 p.m. — I spend my day off running a ton of errands, starting with a sugaring appointment. For first-time clients, it’s only $21 (what a steal), however, I will not be back as I don’t think sugaring is my jam. Not only was it more painful than waxing but it took longer. $24.20

1 p.m. — I stop by a local thrift store in search of some warm sweaters for the rest of winter (minus this beautifully sunny day). I find three sweaters and a belt for less than $20. $19.68

2:30 p.m. — Last stop of the day is at Walmart for some groceries. I buy Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, cooking spray, pasta, tuna packs, and a sparkling ICE beverage for funsies. I’ll go to Trader Joe’s for the rest of my shopping. I snack on some yogurt with cereal on the way home. $21.20

8:30 p.m. — After making a quick chicken wrap, I hop on the metro ($2) to go to a pole dancing class with some friends ($27). It’s a beginner class so the instructor goes through the basic movements. We have a great time trying to figure out how to twirl ourselves around the pole and I’ll definitely try another class in the future. $29

9 p.m. — We end the night at one of our favorite Thai spots. I split a shrimp curry bowl with a friend ($13.65). I take the train home and can’t wait to rest ($2). $15.65

Daily Total: $119.53

Day Five

8 a.m. — Rise and shine! I’m headed to the White House for a tour so I push myself out of bed and onto the train. I meet up with friends and we get to see some of the rooms in the visitor wing of the White House. Although the tour is short, it is cool to step inside a piece of history. $2
11:30 a.m. — Next stop — brunch. I order an eggs Benedict with crab cakes and it’s great. However, I have maxed out my dining budget for the month and still need to buy a few groceries, so I make a mental note to deduct some funds from my February budget. $35
2:15 p.m. — I take the train home and prep for dinner and a movie date with a different Hinge date (it’s our second date). $2
3:15 p.m. — I buy our movie tickets as my workplace gifted me a $25 AMC card. Afterward, we get Thai food and he pays for dinner. All in all, it was a pretty good night (points off because the kissing was a bit mid). I drive home and immediately get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $39

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I wake up bright and early to do some much-needed budgeting. I input my most recent purchases and see that I am over budget on groceries and dining. I tell myself that after today, I’m going no-spend for a few days. Afterward, I make a Greek yogurt bowl and head to church.
12:30 p.m. — After my mid-morning church service, I head to Trader Joe’s for the last of my meal prep essentials. I buy broccoli, chicken sausage, onion, and toilet paper ($13.31). I also stop by Ulta to get a makeup brush because I have a gift card. Lastly, I go to Target for a muffin tin ($10) but as soon as I get home, I realize I already have muffin tins. Good thing I kept the receipt! I eat a chicken wrap and popcorn while putting my things away. $23.31
6:30 p.m. — The day is flying by and I am feeling burned out from Friday and Saturday. I’m supposed to go to a friend’s place but decide I can’t make it as I’m still putting together my February budget. I have a date with the FaceTime guy tonight and after a nap, I muster enough energy to leave my apartment again.
9: 30 p.m. — The date goes pretty well although the restaurant left much to be desired with the food. I don’t think I’ll go on a second date with FaceTime guy but he is good company. I catch up with an old friend as I drive home. I go to bed as soon as I get there.
Daily Total: $23.31

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I missed leg day last weekend, so I wake up happy to get my glutes working. The workout feels great and I make breakfast tacos and banana protein muffins before the workday begins (I LOVE hybrid). When I get to my desk, I decide to max out my Roth IRA for the year and gawk at the amount of money that’s been sucked away from my account (sigh).
1 p.m. — The day is pretty chill so I have time to do all the household chores I neglected this week such as heaps of laundry and meal prep. During my lunch break, I eat my shrimp curry rice leftovers and prep a Ninja Creami creation for dessert. Movie and dinner guy (aka bad kisser) texts me, but the ick has overwhelmed me and I don’t want to text back. I make a mental note to force a text out by the end of the night.
5:30 p.m. — I finish work and am a little upset with the way a team meeting went. We didn’t accomplish what we set out to do and I feel like it’s partly on me, but also a result of circumstance. I think of ways to get the team back on track and try not to feel too defeated. To get out of my head, I put on a podcast and do some meal prep for the coming week.
8 p.m. — I run to Target and return the muffin tin. Feels like I made a profit! I eat the last of my tofu stir fry meal prep for dinner and enjoy my Ninja Creami creation for dessert. I plan out my day for tomorrow and try to feel more optimistic. It’s better to attack tomorrow with a positive attitude even if yesterday didn’t exactly go as planned.
Daily Total: $0
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