A Week In Jacksonville, FL, On A $95,000 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: a project consultant working in health tech who makes $95,000 per year and spends some of it on a frozen chocolate-dipped banana.
Occupation: Project Consultant
Industry: Health Care
Age: 32
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Salary: $95,000 + $850/month in child support from ex-husband
Net Worth: -$18,348 (~$26,000 car value, ~$161,000 in home equity, $39,600 in savings, $50,782 in 401(k), $25,983 in Roth IRA, $46,787 in another 401(k) that was rolled over from a previous employer, minus debt.)
Debt: $368,500 mortgage balance
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,534 (After 6% to 401(k) and health/vision/dental for myself and my daughter.)
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,634, including HOA
Loan Payments: $0 (I do not have any debt other than mortgage.)
Gym: $140 ($100 for eight classes/month, plus $40 traditional gym membership.)
Phone: $125
iCloud Storage: $0.99
Internet: $65.05
Electric/Water: ~$150 (Winter is closer to $100, summer is closer to $200.)
Auto Insurance: $135
Streaming Services: $30 (Netflix, plus a Disney+/ESPN/Hulu bundle)
Savings: $500-$1,000, basically whatever is left over after the bills are paid.
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?
Absolutely. I excelled in school, and my parents always assumed I would be the first one in my family to go off to college. I gave birth to my daughter in the spring of my senior year in high school, which complicated my college plans. I did not go to college right away, but instead started working and then went back to pursue my degree in my 20s. None of the scholarship money I qualified for in high school was available at that time, so I got my AA degree from the local community college, transferred to a state university for my Bachelor's, then did my MBA at the same local state university. I kept my education expenses very low by taking a few classes at a time, attending public universities, and working full-time the entire time I was in school. Sometimes I feel like I missed out on a traditional college experience, but I don't have any student loans and I learned just how much I am capable of managing during those years.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents divorced when I was 6 and had very different outlooks on finances. My dad emphasized saving and never spending beyond your means, and made me learn to balance a checkbook. I was annoyed by this when I was younger, but appreciate it now. My mom didn't educate us so much, as she just complained about not having enough money.
What was your first job, and why did you get it?
I babysat and worked in the church nursery as a teenager to have spending money to do things with my friends, but my first actual job was at 18, answering phones in a doctor's office.
Did you worry about money growing up?
All the time. I'm a highly sensitive person, and my mom was very vocal about not having enough money for extras, which caused stress for me.
Do you worry about money now?
All the time. I have worked very hard to further my education to increase my earning potential, but between being a young mom and now being a single mom, I feel like I am constantly playing catch-up or not saving as much for retirement as my peers. I was fortunate to buy my own home two years ago, after I got divorced, but I bought in an area of town that is more expensive, to keep my daughter in her school zone, around friends, etc. But my high mortgage payment stresses me out constantly.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself, and do you have a financial safety net?
When I had my daughter at 17, I moved in with her dad/my ex-husband, and we combined what little we had. My dad still paid my car insurance and cell phone bill, plus gave me money here and there until I got married at 19. I was married for 10 years and had combined finances the entire time, so I wasn't totally on my own until I was 29. As for a safety net, my dad practiced FIRE before FIRE was trendy; he retired at 54, is financially stable, and would loan me money if I needed it. My ex-husband has a great job, and as long as our daughter is at home, I'm pretty sure he would help me out for her sake.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7 a.m. — I'm wide awake, even though it's a Saturday, so I get up, do morning skin-care routine (The Inkey List Oat cleanser, The Ordinary Niacinamide Zinc serum, SkinMedica eye cream, finished with Supergoop sunscreen), and make coffee. My teenage daughter, E., is also awake and wants breakfast. We just got home last night from visiting family for Thanksgiving, so we have a pretty empty fridge. We each have a protein shake.
10 a.m. — E. and I hit the gym. I run three miles, while she walks on an incline. Then we do some light weighted exercises, finishing with 10 minutes on the StairMaster. I really enjoy that she comes to the gym with me now. I go slower than when I am alone, because we share a set of AirPods and chat while working out, but it's good quality time.
11:30 a.m. — We swing by Trader Joe's on the way home from the gym for some staples: salmon, eggs, a few frozen meals, bananas, cheese, tortillas, and peppermint Hold the Cones (the best flavor). Once home, we get cleaned up and make some smoothies before starting a few loads of laundry. $64.55
3 p.m. — E. decides she wants to bake some Christmas cookies, so we run to Target for a fresh container of baking soda. Of course, we can't leave Target with just one thing, so we also get hot chocolate mix, a pair of holiday socks, and a skin-care gift set that is on sale. $31.64
5:30 p.m. — The cookies turn out great, and we hand out some to our elderly neighbors. We spend the rest of the evening just relaxing, finishing laundry, and watching the new season of Selling Sunset, while having frozen Trader Joe's meals for dinner (butter chicken for me and vegetable biryani for her). We head to bed around 10.
Daily Total: $96.19

Day Two

7 a.m. — It's Sunday, but I can't sleep in because my body naturally wakes me up. I get up and do a quick morning skin care, then start coffee and also make some scrambled egg breakfast burritos (just eggs, cheese, salsa, and sour cream in a tortilla) for E. and me.
9 a.m. — Head out to drop E. off at her dad's house, where she will stay until Tuesday afternoon. She normally switches between our houses each week, but Thanksgiving threw our schedule off slightly. I stop at Starbucks on the way back to try the new Sugar Cookie Latte. It's way too sweet, but I drink it. $5.34
12:30 p.m. — Head to a local dog park/outdoor brewery to meet my friend J. She has two dogs, so we watch them play and have two beers each while we catch up on each other's lives. I forgot to mention my daughter and I are fully vaccinated. We both already had COVID in 2020, after an outbreak at her school, and Florida does not have any mask mandates in place. $12.36
4:30 p.m. — Get home from the brewery and realize that I haven't eaten since breakfast and I'm starving. Order a Chipotle carnitas burrito bowl, with free chips. I eat half for dinner and save the other half for tomorrow, but eat all of the chips because they are delicious! $9.84
9 p.m. — I read a few chapters of Something in the Water, which I picked up for $1 at a library used-book sale last week, and I'm asleep by 9:30.
Daily Total: $27.54

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I'm up doing morning skin care and making coffee. I have a pretty corporate job, and I work remotely Monday through Friday. My schedule and working remotely are the best parts of my job. I'm going to work out later, so I throw on Gymshark leggings with a Fabletics sports bra tank.
11 a.m. — Break for lunch to take a 45-minute class at the gym, a few minutes from my house. I try to squeeze in these lunchtime workouts twice per week. My boss is amazing and very flexible, as long as all of my work gets done, so he doesn't mind if we take a longer lunch here and there. Quickly take a shower when I get home to jump on a 12:30 meeting that is thankfully audio only, since I have wet hair.
5 p.m. — Off work, so I run to Publix to grab a few more groceries and things for dinner tonight: Brussels sprouts, frozen chicken nuggets, and salad mix ($20.87). I also run into Home Depot, because I need to replace the flapper in one of my toilets ($6). I have a friends-with-benefits situation with a guy, T., who is coming over for dinner tonight. We have feelings for each other, but we are also both single parents and not interested in involving our children in relationships at this time, so we connect when we can. My daughter knows that I date and have male friends, but I made a promise to her that I wouldn't involve her or move anybody into our house while she still lives here. I feel really strongly about this, because my ex-husband got remarried right away, which caused issues for her, and I just think she is in a vulnerable place as a teenage girl, so this situation works for me for now. $26.87
7:30 p.m. — T. comes over for dinner (blackened salmon and Brussels sprouts). After, we watch Peaky Blinders while cuddling on the couch. He decides to stay the night instead of driving home, so we head to bed around 10.
Daily Total: $26.87

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Up for work. I make some coffee and send T. on his way. I have a moment after he leaves where I get mopey about not having a partner in my life right now. I'm a very affectionate person, so it's been hard for me to adjust to being single and sleeping in an empty bed. Briefly consider adopting a dog or maybe a cat to snuggle with instead. Toss on a glamorous work-from-home outfit of an oversize American Eagle cable-knit sweater over black leggings, and start working at 7:30.
3 p.m. — My daughter gets home from school while I am on a work call that I just have to listen in on, so I make us some sandwiches for lunch with satsumas on the side. Last week, I got a snack box from a client, so I have been snacking all day on random treats, including wasabi peas, cinnamon-dusted hazelnuts, and various flavored marshmallows. This, coupled with my random crying spell this morning, makes me think I am about to start my cycle, so I boil my Saalt cup in preparation.
5 p.m. — Done with work for the day, so my daughter and I go run some errands. We make a return at HomeGoods and miraculously manage not to buy anything else after walking the store, smelling all the candles. After that we stop by Whole Foods to make an Amazon return ($27.66 credit) and grab a rotisserie chicken ($9.46). $9.46
6:30 p.m. — We make crispy chicken tacos from the rotisserie chicken, with black beans on the side. We spend the rest of the evening catching up on the last two days since we were apart, and watching the rest of Selling Sunset. Head to bed around 9:30.
Daily Total: $9.46

Day Five

6 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and I go wake up E. for school, crawl back in bed until 6:30. Today's glamorous work-from-home outfit is pink Brandy Melville sweatpants that my daughter no longer wanted, paired with a black tank top and black fuzzy ghost socks.
10 a.m. — I get an unexpected call from a recruiter for a job that I applied for months ago. She said the position has changed since we previously talked, and is now fully remote. I let her know I am interested and schedule an interview with the hiring manager for this afternoon after work.
12 p.m. — Go to Costco on my lunch break, thinking I will beat the crowd, but it is slammed. I get protein shakes, canned lattes, chicken, canned tuna, and an assortment of booze (tequila and margarita mix). $106.58
3 p.m. — My daughter gets home from school, so I make a quesadilla for her and snack on some carrots and hummus while finishing up work and trying not to be nervous about my interview later. Pull my black blazer out of the closet to steam and run a lint roller over. It goes really well over my pink sweatpants.
5:30 p.m. — I hate interviewing, especially over Zoom, but I think the interview goes well. The questions were very generic, asking about strengths and weaknesses. This position would be about a $20K pay raise from where I am now, with very similar responsibilities. The hiring manager mentions a second interview next week with her director, so I am cautiously optimistic.
6:30 p.m. — E. and I make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and it turns out really good. I love to cook and make a lot more homemade comfort foods when she is with me. When she is away at her dad's house, I mainly eat plain chicken and vegetables. It's just really hard for me to get excited about cooking for just one person. We take it easy and go to bed at 9:30.
Daily Total: $106.58

Day Six

6 a.m. — Same weekday routine, up with my alarm to wake up E. Today's attire is an ex-boyfriend's Lululemon sweatshirt over black Spandex shorts.
10 a.m. — Get a call from the recruiter for the position I interviewed for yesterday. We schedule a second interview next week! Do a happy dance and celebrate by eating a handful of Trader Joe's peppermint Joe-Joe's.
3 p.m. — E. is home from school. We opt for smoothies for lunch, since we want to hit the gym later (bananas, blueberries, yogurt, and vanilla protein powder).
4:30 p.m. — E. and I head to the gym after work. I'm not feeling it today, so we just walk on an incline and do some light abs. Anyone else struggle to work out when you're on your period? I just can't get with it. On the way home, we stop by Publix to get baking chips (for more Christmas cookies), cereal, tortillas, and eggs. $27.89
6 p.m. — We eat a dinner of leftover spaghetti kind of early, because we are both hungry after the gym, and spend the next three hours studying flashcards and notes for her history midterm exam tomorrow.
9:30 p.m. — E. is feeling anxious about her test, but I just cannot do anymore flashcards, so we call it a night and start getting ready for bed. I read Something in the Water before bed and remember that I have a baby shower this weekend. Hop on Amazon and browse the registry. I purchase a really cute high chair that they picked out. While I am on there, I remember I need air filters for the AC too, so I add a pack of those. Fall asleep around 10:30. $115.76
Daily Total: $143.65

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Same weekday routine, but with some pep in my step because it's Friday! I have plans to hit the gym over lunch today, so I get dressed in a cute matching Fabletics leggings-and-sports-bra combo.
11:30 a.m. — T. and I had plans to work out together over lunch, but he gets hit with a last-minute meeting and can't take a long break, so we meet for a quick meal at Panera instead. I won't see him all weekend, since we both have our kids, so it's nice to see him even if it's brief. I get the Mediterranean quinoa bowl; he pays.
3 p.m. — E. is home from school, and I've completed everything I need to at work, so we have a lunch of sandwiches, SunChips, and blueberries while I keep an eye on my email for any urgent requests, but Friday afternoons are pretty quiet.
4:30 p.m. — Start getting ready, because we are going to a concert tonight. The tickets were kind of pricey ($165), but I got a refund from another concert that was canceled a few months ago, and my daughter really likes one of the bands, so I justified the purchase. I change into a pair of Express jeans, a red sweater, and white Converse high-tops. The concert is about an hour away, so we stop by Chick-fil-A, where we each get a kids' chicken nugget meal with tea and ice cream. $8.65
6:30 p.m. — We get to the concert and find parking just as it is starting. It's four bands, and they all do an amazing job. While we are there, I get one Moscow mule ($15), two waters ($3), and a frozen chocolate-dipped banana from a food truck outside on the way out ($7.25), which we share. $25.25
11 p.m. — We get home earlier than I thought we would, but I'm exhausted. We both take quick showers and go straight to bed.
Daily Total: $33.90
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