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A Week In Washington, D.C. On A $192,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Shark.
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 product marketing manager who makes $192,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Shark FlexStyle.
Occupation: Product marketing manager
Industry: Cybersecurity
Age: 30
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $192,000
Net Worth: $286,000 ($48,000 combined in checking, savings, and HYSA; $62,000 in an automated bond portfolio; $115,000 in IRA; $39,000 in 401(k); $19,000 in individual stocks and ETFs in Robinhood; $3,000 in stocks from a previous employer). My partner and I use shared credit cards for household purchases, but otherwise do not share finances.
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $4,390
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,710 (My fiancé and I split our $2,850 rent proportionally to our income, so I pay 60%.)
Electricity: $60-$100 (I pay half.)
Internet: $80, although work reimburses 25% of that (I pay half of the post-discount rate.)
Phone Bill: covered through a combination of work and my parents
Compost Pickup: $29 (I pay half.)
Donations: $98
YouTube Premium: $10
Gym: $85
Various Patreons: $25
Spotify Duo: $12 (I pay half.)
AppleTV: $10 (I also get Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max through my family.)
Local Coffee Club: $25
401(k): $935 per pay period, pre-tax
Healthcare/Vision/Dental/Disability/Life insurance: $80 pre-tax
Stocks/ETFs: $500
HYSA: $2,000
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?
I think my parents expected me to go to college because I was good at school and wanted to leave the rural Midwest, but had I not been interested they would have been fine with that, too. Since they both went to college, I always assumed I would as well. They were very clear that they would financially support me going to college as much as they could. I ended up paying for college with a combination of scholarships, student loans, and my parents’ help. I graduated with a relatively low amount of student loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were pretty open about why they purchased some big family items (like trips) and not others (like pools or fancy cars). We were given allowances based on our age and they encouraged us to think about saving money for the future (versus spending it). When I was going to college, they helped me set up a student credit card, but there wasn’t a ton of education beyond that — I learned some from trial and error (and a lot of luck).
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a babysitter in high school and used those skills to become a nanny in college — in both cases, I enjoyed taking care of kids and wanted some spending money, but was primarily focused on school.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, and in ways I didn’t realize until a lot later. My family experienced a lot of economic insecurity during the 2008 recession because we had just moved into a bigger house and my dad lost his job. We never experienced any real hardship, but that period definitely gave me some money anxiety, especially with regard to how my parents are doing financially at any given moment. Years later, I talked with my parents about how that uncertainty and lack of transparency made me anxious and we’ve had more frank conversations about finances since then. They’re very financially comfortable now, but my eldest daughter syndrome means that I am always a little worried about them.
Do you worry about money now?
I only worry about money when it comes to thinking about how to afford wants (like planning a wedding, which suddenly became a lot more real) and not needs.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became self-sufficient after I graduated from college and started my first job, but I’ve always known that I could get help from my parents or move home if I needed to. There are definitely lots of small expenses (like the phone bill or streaming services) that they have covered for me and my brothers. My fiancé and I have also talked about our feelings on financially supporting our families and I would absolutely give my brothers or parents money to get them out of a tight spot.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I was 26, my parents received a large windfall for work my dad had done years ago. They gave my brothers and me each $15,000. I used mine to pay off my remaining student loans. My parents also paid my rent and some of my tuition when I was in college and continue to pay my phone bill. In the future, I may receive a mid-five-figure payout from a lawsuit and could cash in stock options from my current job. In practice, neither of those are guaranteed and I treat them as imaginary money.

Day One

8 a.m. — My fiancé, J., and I both work from home and during the winter we have a hard time leaving our warm bed (and sleepy cats). I’ve been setting my alarm a bit earlier but I don’t get out of bed until 8:50 a.m. I make us both coffee with the Chemex and feed his cat her wet food. My cat eats dry food out of an automatic feeder, so she happily ate at 8 a.m.
9:30 a.m. — After doing my morning skincare routine (a Caudalie toner I’ve been trying to use up, INNBeauty Project Green Machine, and a La Roche-Posay moisturizer with SPF), I officially start work. I’m trying to coordinate work on a project we’re getting off the ground, so I review open comments and start a Slack thread to figure out when the last two issues can be resolved. Gripping stuff!
10:30 a.m. — I stuff last night’s salad into a pita with some hummus for an early lunch. While I’m eating, I finally pull the trigger on a Shark FlexStyle. Ever since my hair dryer died, I’ve been considering upgrading, but I like to take time with big purchases like this to make sure it’s not just an impulse. Over the last two months, I’ve been annoyed enough with the lack of hair dryer and styling tools that it’s worth buying. $317
1 p.m. — I join a call with the sales team to listen in on how their quarter is going.
2 p.m. — I make a raspberry smoothie but add too many chia seeds, so the texture is not doing it for me. I choke it down and get another cup of coffee as my reward.
3 p.m. — I join my team’s weekly check-in call. The new project has taken up most of my time over the last week, so I make a note that I need to turn my attention to another neglected project tomorrow so that I have something good to share at my one-on-one on Wednesday.
4 p.m. — Once my call is over, I quickly answer an email and then talk through dinner with J. I also paint my nails with a “jelly preserve strengthening treatment” that tints them very faintly pink and leaves them looking glossy and healthy. Since we decided to get engaged last summer, I’ve been very aware of how my nails look at all times. Unfortunately, getting two gel manicures last year absolutely destroyed them, so I stick to these little nail treatments instead (Is this… Clean girl aesthetic?).
5 p.m. — I need to return a top that I ordered before the holidays, so I take myself on a walk. I start a podcast (The Dollop) and have to stop a few times because I’m laughing so hard.
6 p.m. — I return the top (refund of $66.47) and idly browse while I warm up, but don’t see anything worth taking my scarf and hat off to try on. I start a new podcast and walk to Trader Joe’s.
7 p.m. — I wander around Trader Joe’s picking out things that we need for dinner (milk, goat cheese, arugula, eggs), things we either ran out of last week (soy sauce, cream cheese), and that I want to eat to up my protein intake (jerky, kefir, canned smoked trout). Ever since I started seriously lifting again, my appetite for protein has been off the charts. I also buy a little stick of cheese wrapped in prosciutto as a snack for the way home and some hyacinths, just because. J. and I put our household purchases on a joint card, so we each pay for half of the groceries. I walk home. $20.50
8 p.m. — If there’s anything you and your partner should agree on, it’s what time dinner should be. Luckily, we both like to eat after 8 p.m. We make a savory Dutch baby topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and prosciutto with an arugula salad and watch a few episodes of season two of the The Afterparty. Sam Richardson is a comedic genius and I’m really enjoying this season.
9 p.m. — My cat’s automatic feeder is running low on batteries and making a very ominous sound. We’re out of D batteries, so I order some more. $5
11 p.m. — Brushing teeth, skin-care routine (tonight is just Tretinoin and a thick moisturizer) and bedtime. I also take Spironolactone and an iron supplement before bed — I get a terrible craving for ice cubes if I don’t take an iron supplement and chewing ice is horrible for your teeth. I read a romance novel from the library on my Kindle with my cat snuggled up to me and my partner does his elaborate evening playtime routine with his cat.
Daily Total: $342.50

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I oversleep. I get up and drink some kefir with a bit of vanilla protein powder in it while I’m making coffee, feed J.’s cat, and then start working.
11 a.m. — My brother’s girlfriend had a medical emergency recently so I send her some flowers via Urban Stems and split the cost with J. $57.50
12 p.m. — I use smoked trout and cream cheese, lemon juice, chives, and gochugaru to make a salad. I also make a sandwich with ciabatta, leftover arugula, and dressing from last night.
1 p.m. — My friend messages me and asks if I want to see a new musical next month. I venmo her for my ticket. $60

2 p.m. — My fiancé makes coffee and lets me know there’s a cup for me. I also grab a snack of some raspberries from yesterday, an Asian pear, and some buffalo jerky.

3 p.m. — Our Imperfect Foods grocery delivery subscription arrives on Tuesdays. While we can sometimes get deals on groceries through this service, we’re mostly paying for the convenience of getting staples like eggs, yogurt, and seltzer delivered to our door every week instead of making time to do big grocery runs on foot (neither of us have a car). This week we also get kefir, milk, ravioli, bell peppers, an eggplant, feta, provolone, chicken breasts, egg bites, herbs, more raspberries and Asian pears, avocados, farro, pita, English muffins, and deli meat. $68

4 p.m. — J. is getting a tattoo of his cat today! One of the first things I loved about J. is how obsessed he is with his cat. I’m excited to go with him.

7 p.m. — The tattoo is done and looks incredible! He pays the artist and we go get lunch at a chicken restaurant. We each get two sliders and fries and split a Diet Coke. I get kale slaw on the side. It’s a counter service restaurant but we tip $5 because the weather is awful. $21

8 p.m. — We get home and feed the cats. I scoop their litter boxes before I hop in the shower. Afterward, I realize the sliding glass shower door isn’t sliding. Luckily, it’s fairly straightforward to lift it back onto the tracks. Our apartment is a steal for the location and square footage, but the tradeoff is that everything is a bit janky.

10 p.m. — When the weather is this cold I find myself very unwilling to go to the gym in the dark, so I sign up for an intro offer ($99 for the first month) at a gym around the corner that offers more one-on-one training. I schedule out two weeks of visits so I get my money’s worth. $99

Daily Total: $305.50

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up on time today. I realize that we forgot to put our compost out for pickup last night, but luckily they haven’t picked it up yet, so I put it outside. I make coffee and drink some more kefir while I text one of my friends about wedding and engagement stuff.
10 a.m. — J. comes into my office (the living room) to chat and we witness my cat fall off the cat tree.
12 p.m. — First meeting of the day is over and I make some coronation chicken salad for lunch. I eat mine in a pita with arugula and leave the rest for J. I also crack into my second Spindrift of the day. I’ve been contemplating getting a seltzer machine for ages but our kitchen layout means that there’s no convenient place to put it or an outlet to leave it plugged into.
1 p.m. — I make some mint tea — we’re out of coffee beans so I make a plan to pick some up after my workout class this evening.
2 p.m. — I have my one-on-one with my boss and am able to show progress on a project, which makes both of us happy.
4 p.m. — After I give my updates on a call, I half-listen to the rest of the meeting while I look at my volunteering schedule for the Junior League chapter I joined last year — I need to make sure I get all my hours in or I won’t graduate to a full member.
6 p.m. — I go to the gym around the corner for a weightlifting class. It absolutely kicks my ass but is really satisfying.
7 p.m. — Workout’s over! I run to the bougie corner store to buy coffee and somehow pick up even more groceries: radicchio to make a slaw for tonight, avocado and tortillas for tacos, and another can of smoked trout for lunch on Friday (which I didn’t realize is $13!). I also stop at the regular corner store for burrito-sized tortillas. When I get home, J. is almost done making dinner: chorizo potato tacos topped with slaw, avocado, and hot sauce. We watch a few more episodes of The Afterparty. $24.50
9 p.m. — I clean up since J. cooked and he reminds me that we wanted to try prepping breakfast sandwiches. We make English muffin sandwiches with scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese and it takes no time at all — we should have started doing this ages ago!
10 p.m. — I’m exhausted post-workout, so I curl up with my cat in bed and read while J. plays with his cat.
Daily Total: $24.50

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up and head to the kitchen to make coffee. J.’s cat has stolen my cat’s food and puked on the rug, so I clean that up. I reheat one of the breakfast sandwiches we made last night and bring a cup of coffee up to J. in his office.
11 a.m. — J. comes to hang out with me in the living room and we chat about local politics for a bit. As forever-renters who don’t own cars, we’re invested in more transit, tenant, and bike-friendly policies in the city, but most of the local political energy is focused on crime. I join a meeting where my coworker presents a cool project he’s been working on and host a meeting to get feedback on one of my projects.
12 p.m. — My friends are discussing our morning routines and one of them mentions going for a walk before work, which sounds like a good habit to get into. For lunch, I eat the rest of the chicken salad in a pita with arugula and drink some kefir.
3 p.m. — J. makes more coffee and we take the recycling and trash down to the alley behind our rental. Someone put their recycling into a plastic bag, which is against the rules in D.C. since the bags can clog the recycling sorters. I try to empty it out and realize that the recycling is also covered in old food, which is a bummer.
4:30 p.m. — I head into the kitchen to have an Asian pear and some chili snacks. I also prep the carrot salad and baba ganoush we’ll be eating with dinner.
7 p.m. — J. and I are planning a trip to visit my brother and his girlfriend in another state in March. I’ve been tracking the prices on Google Flights and they just dropped by $100, so I buy my roundtrip flight (J. will be on a team trip right before, so he’ll meet me there) and text my brother the details. $233
8 p.m. — We finish cooking dinner (Serious Eats’ halal cart chicken) and eat while we finish The Afterparty. We grab some ice cream for the last episode — I love watching murder mysteries with J. because he’s really good at identifying the clues early on.
11 p.m. — I snuggle up with my cat and a new book — this one drags a bit, but it’s just engaging enough that I’m powering through.
Daily Total: $233

Day Five

8 a.m. — I intend to get up, but J.’s cat curls up on my chest so instead I read Reddit and check emails on my phone from bed. I get a text from my bank that a large transaction hit my account and realize that since Monday is a holiday, I got paid three days before I was expecting to.
9 a.m. — Okay, I’m actually up now. I go feed J.’s cat and make coffee. I’m so glad we prepped these breakfast sandwiches because they taste incredible and making breakfast takes two minutes.
10 a.m. — At the end of the week, I check my credit card balances and pay them off to avoid paying interest. Earlier in my career, I did a lot of research into payment card fraud and became extremely wary of carrying or using debit cards for daily purchases. I haven’t carried a credit card balance since I was 22 (and learned a painful but valuable lesson about how interest builds up when you only make minimum payments). so I put all purchases on a rotating selection of credit cards based on category rewards and pay them off weekly.
11 a.m. — I take notes on a work call and look for ways our team can clean up the presentation for future meetings. The call runs right up to the time I need to leave for a strength-training class.
12:30 p.m. — There are a few other people at this class who just joined and they’re pretty friendly. We also get paired up to share the squat racks and my partner compliments my Girlfriend Collective workout set.
1:30 p.m. — I hurry home after the workout so I have time to eat a bowl of last night’s Halal Cart chicken and shower before going back to work. While I’m prepping, J. comes down to make coffee and tells me about a poorly managed project he’s trying to save. I eat lunch while listening to a new Caleb Hammer Financial Audit video — I got really into his channel last month and it’s inspired me to be a little more active managing my own finances.
2 p.m. — During the early days of the pandemic, I started video chatting a few times a week with someone I knew only from an online community, just to feel a little less lonely. Four years later, we still try to chat every Friday for at least a few minutes. She’s feeling under the weather, so we only chat for 30 minutes or so.
4 p.m. — I start getting ready for our date night/staycation! We used a credit card benefit to book a night at The Watergate Hotel. J. maintains that he didn’t coordinate this to be right after we got engaged, but it makes for a good celebration either way.
5 p.m. — Hill East Burger is having the last night of a pop-up chef residency, so we decide to take the metro down there before our actual dinner at 9:30 p.m. We go to a bar nearby to have a beer and play games while we wait for a table. $6.85
6:30 p.m. — Our table is ready! J. gets an old fashioned, I get a frozen mezcal margarita, and we split the Korean fried chicken burger and the shrimp shumai burger. It's all incredible and we’re sad that these aren’t a regular part of the menu. $35
8 p.m. — We take the metro to the Watergate to check in. Our stay comes with $60 to spend at breakfast tomorrow and an additional $100 credit to spend anywhere at the hotel. We admire the view of the Potomac and kill time until we need to leave for dinner. $2.45
9:30 p.m. — After a cold, rainy walk, we arrive at the restaurant. We each pick another cocktail and choose a selection of small plates to split: steak tartare, scallop crudo, squash and burrata, and charred cabbage with tahini. We finish the night with another round of cocktails, chocolate ganache for dessert, and two little glasses of fernet as a digestif. After eating there, I can see how they got their Michelin star. With the tip, our meal comes to $278, which we split. $139
11 p.m. — We wander back to the hotel and finish the night in style: drinking a beer from the minibar and watching the last 30 minutes of Ocean’s 8 in a king-sized bed.
Daily Total: $183.30

Day Six

9 a.m. — We have a lazy wake up and amble down to breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We get a booth against a picture window to watch the Potomac river go by. We get coffee and orange juice and split a bagel with lox and an order of chicken and waffles. I charge it to the room so it will be covered by the credit.
11 a.m. — Post-breakfast, we’re invigorated and ready for some culture, so we bring our coffees to the Kennedy Center to explore. There’s an exhibit about the cultural impact of JFK on the top floor and we take turns pointing out interesting facts to each other. J. impresses me by translating the Russian on ballet posters. On our way out, we pass a stream of tiny Elsas about to see the Frozen musical.
12 p.m. — J. suggests we check out a nearby pastry shop. He grabs a coffee and a cream cheese pastry and I get a Diet Coke. We bring them back to the hotel room and relax on the balcony together. Later, we move inside and doze on the bed. $4.50
3 p.m. — We still have a bit of hotel credit left and I’m hungry again, so we head back down to the hotel restaurant and split a burger and fries and a fancy margarita. I bill the meal to the room.
4 p.m. — Our time at the Watergate is over. Our breakfast and lunch are almost entirely covered by the credit, so we only owe $11.24 for the entire stay and meals. I walk J. to the metro stop and send him home with the overnight bag and walk to Trader Joe’s to grab a snack to bring to game night tonight. $14.81
5 p.m. — I have an hour to kill until game night, so I head to Anthropologie to try on a potential bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding. Unfortunately, the dress is in the bridal section, which is “by appointment only.” I window shop instead.
6 p.m. — I go to a game night with my volunteer organization. It’s pretty fun and I enjoy getting to know the other members.
8:30 p.m. — It’s late when I leave the game night, so I order an Uber. I have a $15 credit, which covers the ride home and tip.
9 p.m. — We throw together a spicy red sauce to eat with some burrata ravioli as a late dinner. I pick some episodes of Game Changer to watch together and then we each work on personal projects and listen to music together.
Daily Total: $19.31

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I wake up and cuddle J.’s cat for a while while he snoozes.
10:30 a.m. — I get up and start getting my things together to go on a hike with my best friend, L. I make coffee and a breakfast burrito. I also grab some cookies from the pantry to bring as a trail snack.
11:30 a.m. — I head out to take the metro to my friend’s place. Weekend metro fare is a flat $2. $2
12 p.m. — I catch up on work drama with L. and her husband as we make sandwiches for the hike. It’s chilly and flurrying, so we decide to do a shorter nature walk at a park along the Potomac. She drives us down and we chat about her week and wedding planning while we walk.
3 p.m. — Neither of us can feel our fingers, so we head back up to her place to sip some tea.
4:30 p.m. — Because I’ll have to take a shuttle, I’m not sure how long it will take me to get to my next destination, so I say goodbye and head out a bit early to catch the metro. $2
6 p.m. — J. and I are meeting a friend downtown for dinner. We each order a sandwich and split sides of coleslaw, potato salad, and fried plantains. $32.50
8 p.m. — We hitch a ride with our friends back uptown to a sports bar to catch a football game. I get the first round of drinks. $20
9 p.m. — I’m getting tired so we head back to our apartment at halftime to watch the game from our couch.
Daily Total: $56.50
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