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A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $64,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of REI.
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 program coordinator who makes $64,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a sweatshirt.
Occupation: Program coordinator, part-time grad student
Industry: International development
Age: 27
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: $64,000
Net Worth: $73,000 (emergency savings: $10,000; house savings: $14,000; education savings: $2,000; travel savings: $1,000; car insurance savings: $1,000; Roth IRA: $12,000; 403(b): $4,400; investments: $600; car value: $28,000). I live with my partner, but we do not have joint accounts. We split groceries and house expenses equally.
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,729.83
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $937.50 (my half of the rent for the one bedroom I live in with my partner).
Electric: ~$40
Gas: ~$20
Wi-Fi: $30 (my half).
Apple TV: $7.99
Parking: $40
Spotify: $3 (split with friends).
House Savings: $1,000
Roth IRA: $200
Investments: $100
Additional Savings: $300-$400
Car Insurance: $1,100 bi-annually.
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, there was always an expectation. My parents, aunts, and uncles all attended university. I received a bachelor’s degree and am currently studying part time for an MBA. My parents paid for my bachelor’s degree in full. When I was starting to look at schools, they gave me a budget for what price they could completely cover for four years. I picked a school within their budget and graduated without any loans. A free college education is literally the best gift my parents could ever have given me and I am so grateful. For my master’s degree, my employer is paying 90% of the tuition. My parents are helping to cover the remaining 10% by using what is left in my college fund from undergrad. Once that fund runs out, I will be paying the remaining tuition in cash.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up, my parents were very frugal with money and encouraged my sister and me to be the same. They did not splurge a lot on extra expenses like eating out or shopping and were very open with us about the importance of saving money. My parents definitely taught us the value of the dollar and encouraged us to work and save as soon as we could. Although now I recognize that they were pretty well off, they never made it seem like we were wealthy and never told us how much money they made. Now that we are older, my parents are more open and helpful.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a catering company when I was 14. I started working as soon as I legally could. My parents did not give us an allowance, so I started working to have spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
There were brief times that I worried about money, but overall, no. During the 2008 recession, I remember my parents sitting us down and explaining that money would be tighter so we would have to be careful about spending. But for the most part, I didn’t worry about money.
Do you worry about money now?
I constantly worry about money now, to the point where it’s probably a little unhealthy. I feel so behind financially compared to other people my age and it feels impossible to catch up. No matter how much I put into savings, it never seems like enough. Additionally, since I try to save so much, I leave very little for my day-to-day expenses, so I constantly worry about having enough cash in my debit account.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 23, once I moved out of my parents’ house and got a full-time job. I have emergency savings of $10,000 in case anything happens. However, my parents are my primary safety net. They would never give me cash or pay my bills, but if I lost my job, they would likely let me move back in with them until I could get on my feet.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, I inherited $20,000 after my grandparents passed away.

Day One

7 a.m. — The alarm goes off and somehow it seems so early. Mondays are hard. My partner, H., and I laze around in bed for a few minutes before forcing ourselves to get up. H. has a retreat this morning and has to leave early. I do some basic skincare and eat a yogurt before dragging myself to my laptop to finish some homework before the official workday starts.
12 p.m. — Time for my lunchtime walk. Working from home can get pretty isolating, so I try to walk every day over lunch to get some steps in. I call my mom to chat while I stroll the neighborhood. When I get back, I heat up some leftovers for lunch and log back into work.
4:30 p.m. — I wrap up work and go for a run. I’m training for a 10k, so today’s distance is four miles. The weather is beautiful — low 70s, sunny, and no humidity. Fall weather has finally arrived in D.C. and it’s gorgeous. I’m so happy to be outside, shaking off the work blues. When I get home from my run, H. is home and we take our cat for a walk in the backyard. We’ve been leash-training our cat and now he’s obsessed with going outside.
6:30 p.m. — I meet virtually with my MBA study team to review the homework. I started my grad program a month and a half ago and am still adjusting to balancing work and school. H. makes dinner while I meet with my group, and it smells so good.
8 p.m. — Group meeting is finally over and it’s time for dinner. H. made my favorite pasta with green beans and bacon. I hate cooking and H. loves to cook, for which I am extremely grateful. In our arrangement, he cooks and I clean up. We eat dinner while watching Surviving The Raft, a ridiculous reality TV show on Max. We don’t normally watch reality TV, but this show really sucks us in.
10 p.m. — I read a little bit in bed before lights out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — We wake up to our cat meowing loudly. While I love him, he is SO vocal. I’m constantly worried he will wake up our neighbors with his screams. H. and I lounge in bed, cuddling and petting the cat, before finally getting up. We really need to start waking up earlier.
8:15 a.m. — H. makes his breakfast while I get dressed and ready for the day. We go over our expenses from the weekend, and I send H. $60 for groceries and takeout. For most joint expenses, we charge everything to one card and split it later. H. leaves for work and I settle down at the computer to start the workday. $60
11:45 a.m. — I take an early lunch break to fit in my run — another huge perk of working from home. I truly don’t think I would exercise as much if I had to commute to work every day. It’s another sunny, stunning fall day. I run three miles and quickly shower before logging in to a meeting at 1 p.m.
2 p.m. — The meeting is over and I can finally eat some lunch. There are leftovers in the fridge but they aren’t really exciting me, so I make an egg sandwich instead. We got a fancy focaccia bread at the grocery store this week; cheddar jalapeño. I love how cheesy and spicy it is. Yum.
5 p.m. — I log off work and throw on some real clothes. I have class tonight and always try to look at least a little presentable for class, especially since many of my classmates come straight from work in their business attire. Once dressed, I pack my backpack and head to REI. H.’s birthday is coming up and I’m hunting for a birthday gift. I had ordered him a cozy flannel, but when it arrived it was gigantic. I’ll be sending it back, so I need a backup plan. I’m hoping REI might provide some ideas.
5:45 p.m. — REI for the win: I find a super cozy sweatshirt that I think H. will love. The sweatshirt is on sale online so I wait to purchase. I hop in the car to go to class. While driving, I call my college friend, T., to chat. She lives several states away, so to stay in touch we randomly call each other while driving. I finally pull into the parking garage at school. I make it to class a few minutes early and try to order H.’s sweatshirt online, but now it’s sold out. Ugh. I’ll have to work on that tomorrow.
9:30 p.m. — Class wraps up and I walk back to the parking garage with some classmates. I make it back to my car and wait in line to get out of the garage. I pay for parking with my evening student discount. $5
10 p.m. — I get home from class and H. is waiting for me with dinner. It’s been a big adjustment to our schedules with my classes, but H. has been so supportive and awesome. We eat dinner and chat about our days. It’s too late to watch anything, so we hang out on the couch and talk instead.
11 p.m. — We finally crawl into bed and pass out.
Daily Total: $65

Day Three

6:15 a.m. — H.’s alarm goes off early this morning so he can run before work. I am taking a rest day, so I go back to sleep.
7 a.m. — My alarm goes off this time and I force myself out of bed to do some homework. We have several assignments coming up and I want to tackle them during the week, if possible. I struggle to concentrate so I end up online shopping for H.’s birthday gift instead. Why are men so hard to shop for?
8:45 a.m. — I make a bowl of yogurt and transition to work mode. Breakfast is the one meal of the day where I try to eat somewhat healthy, so every day I have the same thing: plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, berries, and granola. It’s not amazing, but it gets the job done.
12 p.m. — I log off and use my lunch break to go look for H.’s birthday sweatshirt. I remember seeing one on sale at a running store we visited last week… Hopefully it’s still in stock. I also need to return his other failed birthday gift at UPS. I get to the running store and find that they still have the discounted sweatshirt in stock. Yay! I spend $93.28, which does feel insanely expensive for a sweatshirt. The things we do for love. I quickly swing by UPS and make it back to my computer within the hour. $93.28
2 p.m. — Since I skipped lunch, I am hungry. I make an egg sandwich on my spicy focaccia. Yum.
5 p.m. — I am done with work for the day and am feeling grumpy. Work has been so frustrating recently and frequently leaves me in a bad mood. H. and I are supposed to attend an alumni event for our undergrad alma mater, but I really don’t want to go. Luckily, H. calls me and says not to worry about it, he will swing by to make an appearance, then come home. I am relieved but then need to figure out what to do with my evening. I decide we should make cashew chicken for dinner, so I walk to Trader Joe’s to get a bag of cashews. To get out of my funk, I call my friend while I walk. At Trader Joe’s, I get a bag of cashews and treat myself to some pumpkin spice mini pretzels ($11.43). TJ’s has all of their fall-flavored items out and everything looks so good. $11.43
6:30 p.m. — As soon as I walk in the door, H. texts to ask if I can pick him up from the metro. I grab the car keys and pick him up.
7 p.m. — H. makes the cashew chicken for dinner while I gripe about work. He has been going through some work frustrations himself, so he’s very empathetic. H. tells me about his workday and what I missed at the alumni event. Sounds like I didn’t miss much and I’m happy I didn’t go.
9 p.m. — We watch the finale of Superstore, then shower and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $104.71

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — H.’s cursed alarm again. He gets up early to send some emails before work. I try to go back to sleep but struggle, so I join him in the living room and scroll through social media.
7:15 a.m. — Since we didn’t exercise this morning, H. suggests we go for a quick walk. I happily agree — I love a walk to get the day started. We walk down to the local park and watch the dogs playing in the grass. There are so many dogs in our neighborhood. I want one so badly but feel obligated to wait until we have a bigger space.
8:15 a.m. — I get dressed in real clothes today since I’m taking the car for an oil change. I eat the last piece of spicy focaccia and pack up my work laptop. H. typically bikes to work but left his bike at the office yesterday, so I drop him at the metro on my way to the car dealership.
9 a.m. — I arrive at the car dealership where I’m informed that an oil change will cost over $100. Absolutely ludicrous. In the past, I’ve taken my cars to a local mechanic for an oil change, which is much more reasonably priced. However, I bought this car new just six months ago and H. was adamant that I should get the oil changed at the dealership. But with these prices? Never again. I do some work while waiting for the car. The total comes out to $121.81 and I am very sad. $121.81
12 p.m. — I arrive home and snack on some Goldfish before logging in to my remote therapy session. We receive free virtual therapy through work which is such a fantastic benefit. I’ve been working with a new therapist after my old one went on maternity leave, and I love the new one. She’s been so helpful and I always leave our sessions feeling heard.
2 p.m. — I take a computer break to make some lunch. Today is leftover quinoa and chicken from Tuesday’s dinner. I add some sautéed mushrooms and feta cheese and mix it all together to make a grain bowl. I eat at my computer while reviewing some documents for work. It’s so hard to focus towards the end of the week.
4:30 p.m. — I log off early to go for a run before class. According to the weather app, this will be the last nice day for a bit so I need to take advantage of it. I put on my running gear and download a podcast to listen to while I run. I do three miles today.
5:30 p.m. — After a shower, I pack my bag and head to class. Tonight is statistics. I really enjoy using math again (after never using math once in my career), but three hours of statistics in the evening is quite a drag. I’m really not looking forward to it.
9:30 p.m. — Class finally finishes and I meet with my study group to complete an upcoming group assignment. The assignment isn’t due for a few days, but this was the only time everyone was available to meet. Everyone is very tired but in good spirits. We speed through the assignment and finish by 10:10 p.m.
10:20 p.m. — I pay $5 for parking and am on my way home. Although I struggle with the late classes, it's so nice to drive at this time of night in D.C. when there is no traffic. It takes me about 20 minutes to get home. When I arrive, H. is waiting for me with a true feast — homemade bread bowls with broccoli mac and cheese and chicken. I am so grateful. H. and I eat and talk about our days. I hate coming home so late, but I love our post-class conversations. $5
11:30 p.m. — I get ready for bed as fast as physically possible then lay in bed reading for a few minutes while H. brushes his teeth. We are having a new dishwasher installed tomorrow and it is supposed to be delivered between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. However, I am hoping they come on the later side so we can sleep in. I turn my phone sound on and set it to Do Not Disturb until 7 a.m. Our cat joins us in bed and we pass out.
Daily Total: $126.81

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — We are abruptly woken by my phone ringing — the dishwasher installation guy will be here in 20 minutes. He asks us to remove everything from under the sink, so we jump out of bed to go unload the dishwasher and clean everything out. The man arrives with the new dishwasher, and I leave H. to deal with it while I get dressed and do skincare.
8:30 a.m. — The dishwasher installation only takes about an hour. We are so excited to have a new dishwasher and super grateful that our landlord was happy to replace it when we reported a problem. Today is also payday. I sit down to go through my finances and divvy up my paycheck accordingly. I like to do this ASAP after I get paid so that I make sure to pay my necessities first before spending any discretionary income. It’s the second paycheck of the month so I put aside money for rent and savings. I keep extra money in my checking account for upcoming expenses like a birthday dinner for H. and cat supplies for our loud feline. This has been an expensive month for me and I definitely wish I was putting more into savings. Next month I will need to be better.
12 p.m. — I’m struggling to focus today. Fridays are always tough. I take a lunch break to go for my run. I had planned on a longer run today but am not feeling great. I run three miles and hate every second of it. Normally, I alternate my runs with swim workouts, so I’m not used to running almost every day. I think my body is protesting. When I get back, H. is on a call, so I quietly sneak in to go shower.
3 p.m. — I wrap work up early for the weekend. My college friend, E., is in town for a conference, and we made plans to do happy hour and dinner. I’m so excited to see her. I get dressed and wait for H. to finish his work call so he can drop me at the metro. I won a raffle for a $100 free metro card, so my trip is free.
4:15 p.m. — I finally arrive at happy hour to meet my friend. The metro was delayed after a person in my metro car had a medical episode and I’m feeling a little shaken up. E. greets me with a huge hug and immediately starts talking. One of the reasons I love E. is because it feels like no time has passed when we see each other. We update each other on our lives and bond over living in expensive cities on non-profit salaries. We have two rounds of drinks before heading to dinner to meet up with H. $15.40
6:30 p.m. — We join H. at a Thai restaurant and order drinks and food. I order a glass of prosecco, a massaman curry, and split two appetizers with H. and E. We split the check evenly three ways. $30.80
7:30 p.m. — E. isn't ready to call it yet and advocates for one more drink. I am ready to go home and curl up with a movie but feel guilty that I never get to see her, so I agree. When we leave the restaurant, H. points out my favorite gelato place in the city. We go in to examine the flavors. I am stuffed from dinner, but E. gets a sorbetto and I don’t want her to feel weird being the only person getting something. I order a small, overpriced gelato. $7.81
8:30 p.m. — We relocate to a bar closer to E.’s Airbnb. It’s a college bar and at 10 p.m. it switches from bar to dance club, according to the bartender. E. and I get a final drink and H. orders a dessert, since he doesn’t drink alcohol. H.’s dessert is sadly terrible, and the friendly bartender takes it off the tab. We close out our tabs ($10.98) and happily leave before the dancing starts. H. and I drop E. off at her Airbnb and head home. $10.98
11 p.m. — We shower and get ready for bed. In bed, we debrief the day before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $64.99

Day Six

9 a.m. — I sleep in after our late-ish night. H. has been awake for hours but is still laying in bed, so he doesn’t wake me. I’d be happy to sleep even more but H. urges me out of bed so we can start cleaning. E. is checking out of her Airbnb today and will be spending the night with us instead. We scrub the apartment down and vacuum up all of the cat hair.
10:30 a.m. — H. and I leave to go pick up E. from her Airbnb. It’s pouring down rain and chilly. I feel bad that E. is visiting on such a gross weekend. Since it’s bad weather, we’ve planned to visit a museum downtown. We had to reserve tickets ahead of time but they were free.
12 p.m. — The three of us arrive at the museum. We make our way through the museum and have a great time. The museum is very interactive and interesting. Afterward, we stop by a vegan restaurant with Asian-inspired food. H. and I split a few items and he puts it on his card.
3 p.m. — We metro back to the car. We discuss what to cook for dinner and settle on a menu that will satisfy all diets and preferences. Our menu requires some ingredients we don’t have at home, so we stop by Safeway. I pay for the ingredients. $26.84
5 p.m. — Finally home, E. and I cozy up on the couch to watch the new season of Only Murders In The Building while H. kindly makes us some popcorn and starts cooking dinner. He’s making homemade ravioli stuffed with mushrooms, topped with a parsley-sage pesto sauce. Yum! We sit around the kitchen table to eat and are all immensely satisfied with the meal.
8 p.m. — After much debate, we decide to rent Barbie on Amazon. H. and I still haven’t seen it, and E. is more than happy to watch it again. We plan to split the cost three ways. Since I use my parent’s account, the bill for the rental is sent to my parents. I text them immediately to let them know to take $22.73 out of my account. E. sends me $8 on Venmo for the rental. $14.73
10 p.m. — We finish Barbie and I loved it. It truly did live up to the hype. I want to live in Barbie Land. We debrief the film, then I set up the air mattress for E. and say goodnight.
Daily Total: $41.57

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up to find H. awake and reading the news on his phone. We cuddle and lounge in bed for almost an hour waiting for E. to wake up. By 9:30 a.m., still no noise from the living room. I use this as an opportunity to shower and hope that the noise of the shower running will gently wake E. up. But still nothing.
10:30 a.m. — E. finally wakes and we get dressed to grab bagels before she goes to the train station. We drive to a bagel place nearby and E. treats us to breakfast. I buy myself a black and white cookie because they are my new obsession. $3.85
11:45 a.m. — We say goodbye to E. and drop her off at the train station. The car has eight miles of gas left so we promptly head to the gas station. The cost of gas has really gone up. It costs $39.21 to fill up the car. $39.21
12 p.m. — After getting gas, we go to Aldi for the weekly shop. H. pays with his card.
1 p.m. — We still have a few things left to get at Safeway, but I’m supposed to meet with a group from grad school at 2 p.m. We have an assignment to visit a museum as a group and reflect on the experience. I planned on biking but it’s raining, so H. kindly drops me off at the museum. I bring my bike helmet so I can bike home.
4 p.m. — Our group finishes with the museum and goes our separate ways. I rent a Capital bike to get home ($1.85) and my butt ends up sopping wet from the rain-soaked seat. I come home to find H. intensely baking and cooking dinner at the same time. $1.85
6:30 p.m. — H. finishes making dinner, which is wonton soup. It’s delicious and perfect for another rainy day. We watch an episode of Abbott Elementary while we eat, then pause so I can do the dishes. When the dishes are finished, we cozy back up and start The Bear, a show I’m convinced H. will love.
9 p.m. — I wash my face, brush my teeth, and go to sleep early.
Daily Total: $44.91
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