Money Diaries Logo

A Week In Nashville On A $70,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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.

This week: a project manager who makes $70,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a dog crate.
Occupation: Project manager
Industry: Regulatory
Age: 31
Location: Nashville
Salary: $70,000
Net Worth: -$87,613 (checking: $1,440; savings: $5,000; 401(k): $15,000; minus credit card debt and student loans)
Debt: $109,053 (credit card debt: $15,876; student loans: $93,177)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): 1906.96
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $805 (my boyfriend J. and I split a two-bedroom apartment)
Monthly Loan Payments: $482/month in student loans
All Other Monthly Expenses
Subscriptions: Patreon: $15; Netflix: $24.71; Spotify: $12.03
Storage Unit: $50 (my half)
Pet Insurance: $30.58 (my half)
Renter’s Insurance: $11.59
Wifi: $30 (my half)
Electric: $35-50 (my half)
Water/Trash/Sewer: $40 (my half)
Credit Card: $600
Car Insurance: $60
Phone Bill: $60
Savings: 10% of my paycheck gets routed directly to my savings (roughly $400/month).

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?
My parents not only expected my three sisters and me to attend college, but to also surpass both of them in our educational endeavors. This was tricky since both of our parents have master’s degrees, so the “next step” being a PhD always sounded harrowing for me. My parents paid for my undergrad education and I took out loans to cover my master’s. I don't have any plans for a PhD anytime soon, I’m content with my master’s.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I didn’t grow up with a lot of conversations about money. I knew it was important to have a savings account, but didn’t ever really know why. The only time these conversations really came up was on our birthdays, when we would open small savings bonds instead of checks from our grandparents. I didn’t fully understand these bonds until I was well into my 20s.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I lived the landlocked dream of working as a lifeguard starting when I was 15. I did this for extra spending money to spend on frivolous adventures with friends: going to movies, getting iced coffees, and trips to the mall.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn’t worry about money growing up, which still makes me wonder why I had so much anxiety as a kid. My sisters and I received allowances from our parents for fun money, but it wasn’t expected that we contribute to things like food, gas, travel, et cetera until we were doing these things on our own.

Do you worry about money now?
I think about money every single day; sometimes due to not thinking I have enough, and sometimes due to my progress with my overall feelings about it. When I got out of grad school in 2017, I landed a job in the Bay Area that barely allowed for more than rent and a weekly grocery haul. That kicked off a really bad run with racking up credit card debt on going out, traveling, and buying a lot of stuff I didn’t need. Since moving to Nashville, I’ve finally been able to start making more than a minimum payment on my balance and I’m really proud of that. I was late to the game of having a savings account, but I literally couldn’t make it work until about two years ago, which is something else I’m proud to have.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became mostly financially independent when I started grad school at the age of 23. I used the savings bonds from my childhood which totaled about $2,000 to move into my grad school apartment and pay a month of rent before student loans kicked in. My parents did buy me a car at that time of life, which they kindly paid for. I was on their phone bill and car insurance until the age of 25. I’m technically still on a family plan for both phone and car insurance, but I venmo them for it monthly and have been doing so for years.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake to a noisy mashup of my boyfriend J. getting ready for the day and our nine-month-old puppy, C., messing around in his crate. C. has been on the early (to us) grind as of late. I let him make noise for another 15 minutes before getting up to brush my teeth and take him out (J. and I switch out mornings with C.). We come back in to wish J. good luck as he’s on his fifth day of jury duty… Ugh. I make an espresso while C. eats and decide we’ll make the most of the early morning by heading over to the dog park for a while.
12:30 p.m. — I sit down at my desk and log onto work. It’s a slow Friday, which I’ll take after putting in the toughest Q4 of my six-year tenure at the company. I move some projects along and prep for a meeting that terrifies me. We had a big snafu on a complicated project (that should have never been a project in the first place), and now it’s time to meet with the clients to discuss. The meeting concludes and went way smoother than expected! The scary client was out sick, so I just dealt with their coworkers instead. C. and I hop in the car for a quick jaunt down to Staples to make a return. I bought a few different pairs of jeans last week in an effort to de-millennialize my wardrobe and the results were meh at best. We swing by Jimmy John’s and pick up lunch for me and sniffs for C. $10.91
6 p.m. — With work done for the day, I finally get around to browsing the Dagne Dover website. My sisters got me one of their fanny packs for Christmas and it wasn’t my style. They returned it and gave me a store credit to get something I’d actually use. After far too much deliberation, I decide to go for the travel organizer. The remaining balance left to pay is $14, but one of my sisters sends me a Venmo. Happy late Christmas to me!
8 p.m. — I order dinner from a local Chinese spot to take the mental load of dinner off for this hellishly long week for J. and me. We both get chicken lo mein and eat it while we watch the rest of the show Jury Duty, not to be confused with his actual civic responsibility of jury duty. $38
11:30 p.m. — J. takes C. out for the last potty of the night while I brush my teeth and wash my face. We all go to bed, including C., as we let him have sleepovers in our bed on the weekends.
Daily Total: $48.91

Day Two

10 a.m. — We have a lazy morning at home with lots of cold brew and some avocado toast with eggs. J. watches soccer while I catch up on various Substacks. We’ve been meaning to get C. a new crate for the past two weeks since he’s close to outgrowing his. I browse a few sites and find that the PetSmart down the road is having a 20% off sale, so I order a bigger crate for pickup later this afternoon. J. and I both had family dogs growing up, but C. is our first adult experience with having a puppy. We decided early on to crate train him and it’s been a godsend — I have no idea where we’d be without it. $49.69
2 p.m. — I posted a few coats in the Nashville Buy Nothing group a few days ago and the first person to comment was actually R., a friend of ours! Those groups can be totally unhinged sometimes, so it feels lucky from an effort standpoint to be giving the coats to someone I actually know. R comes over to pick up the coats and catch up on our lives for a little bit.
4 p.m. — J. and I go to PetSmart to pick up the crate. We inevitably get distracted in the toy aisle and end up picking a few out for C. It takes us a while to decide on which toys to pick since C. is a super chewer and ideally these toys would last for more than five minutes. I paid for the crate and the toys; the total comes out to the same amount of a new duvet cover J. ordered for us, so we call it even. $55.68
7 p.m. — I make a delicious dinner that we can’t stop raving about — it’s going to be a new staple in our house for sure. The salad base is a mix of arugula and roasted Brussels sprouts, tossed with Caesar dressing. I add some chicken I grilled for protein, and then top it all with roasted chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, and shaved parm. This was very much a kitchen-sink kind of dinner, but I’m so happily surprised with the results.
11 p.m. — After watching an endless amount of Chopped and feeling hungry all over again, I decide it’s time for bed. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and force myself to remember tretinoin. One of my sisters worked in dermatology for a while and gave me a hint to avoid drying out by putting on a little bit of moisturizer, then the tretinoin, then more moisturizer. The moisturizer du jour is the Kiehl’s.
Daily Total: $105.37

Day Three

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off (on a Sunday, I know). I rouse C. and take him out and feed him. We work on “place” training while I get ready and do some light makeup (e.l.f. brow gel, Ilia concealer, Ilia mascara). I put C. in his crate and pray he’ll let J. sleep in.
9:30 a.m. — I meet up with my closest and damn-near only friend in Nashville, D., at a new bagel spot in town. The restaurant is participating in a coffee crawl, where a bunch of local coffee shops make festive drinks for the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. We try to get to as many as we can every year. That’s a tough feat as this year there are over 20 coffee shops participating and I don’t have that kind of cash (or time!) to throw around, but it is nice to try a first-timer. I get a spicy everything bagel with cream cheese, lox, capers, and red onion, plus their conversation heart latte. D. tells me about a new tattoo she’s getting this week and it gets me thinking about getting a new one as well — isn’t that how it always works? $22.28
4 p.m. — J. and I head to Target to get some stuff we need, and a lot of stuff we don’t. We pick up a second controller for our Switch, dog treats for C., toothpaste, mouthwash, dishwasher pods, laundry detergent, two frames, a few frozen grocery items for the week (some burritos for J. to take to jury duty, tilapia filets, tater tots), protein bars, and Liquid IV. There’s some nonsense at checkout that makes the whole process take 20 minutes and I’m infuriated, like, I just don’t believe that was necessary. I’m usually patient about this kind of thing, but not today. We split the total. $78
7 p.m. — We put the Grammys on while we start making a dinner of roasted broccoli and tilapia. J works for a music non-profit, so there’s a renewed interest in the show these days. We both have an “omg” moment when we see a group of standout musicians perform together who we’ve all seen various times in Nashville. I have my own moment when I see Kacey Musgraves’ commercial for her new album and consider pre-ordering it.
Daily Total: $100.28

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Up and at ’em! I’m super rested from going to bed so early last night. I feed C. and take a hot girl shower, which I like to do on Mondays to at least try to get the week started on a good note. I make a cold brew and eat a banana with peanut butter and some oatmeal.
9:30 a.m. — I sit down at my desk. It’s a very relaxed week as one of my managers is in much-needed leadership training all week. It’s refreshing to open Teams without a ton of demands rolling in before I’m even awake. Less relaxing is the fact that scary client from Friday has decided they want to open a quality report for the issues that came up during the project, which means a lot of investigating and even more paperwork for me. I chat with my mentor about how we want to proceed and try to not feel like a bad employee. If there’s anything I’ve had to learn over the last six years, it’s that none of this work needs to be taken personally.
1 p.m. — I eat some leftover lo mein for lunch and snack on homemade crostini and not-homemade hummus. Two of the toys we bought for C. on Saturday have indeed been destroyed in a matter of minutes, despite being advertised “for strong chewers.” I file a claim with each of the companies, which is something I’ve never done before. Both respond within the hour and offer one-time replacements. I take this as a win and note which of their products would be best for him moving forward. This is a relief coming off of the subpar customer experience at Target yesterday.
5 p.m. — I take C. to the dog park and we run into some of his puppy friends. I chat with their owners and tell them about the refunds from the two toy companies. They’re in the same boat, commiserating about how all of our dogs, which are around 35 pounds and less than a year old, are so damn destructive. J. comes home from day six of jury duty and tells me the case is likely not even halfway through. We chat a little more about our days, then split off in opposite directions for some comedown time. J. catches up on podcasts on the patio while I start Kate Kennedy’s new book, One in a Millennial. I’m relatively new to Kate, but so far her intelligence and word play are blowing me away.
8 p.m. — We cook up some tilapia and broccoli and plan what movie we’re going to watch tonight. We’re working though an actual list we keep on a shared Notes app instead of saying “Oh! I’ll put it on my list!” and never following through. We decide to go with I Love You, Man as somehow I missed that one in the rom-com renaissance of the aughts.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I swear I’m hearing “The Imperial March” from Star Wars as we all start stirring — I’m so over this jury duty nonsense and can’t even imagine how fed up J. must be (and you, dear readers). I get C. going on his morning and since we’re up early again, I decide to take him to another coffee shop participating in the Valentine’s coffee crawl. This one is s’mores based, and quite frankly way too sweet for this hour of the day. When we get home, I eat some oatmeal to balance out the sweetness. $7
10:30 a.m. — I log onto work right as a meeting is starting (they can’t pay me enough to get on earlier) and catch up with one of my two teams. We discuss the boring things like revenue, and the more exciting things like the upcoming Superbowl. One of my coworkers is running an office betting pool for it — something about boxes? Clearly not a sports girly. I venmo him $10 to buy two squares, whatever that means. $10
4 p.m. — I wrap up my hour-long therapy session. We meet every two weeks, which I’ve figured out through trial and error is the perfect cadence for me. I met my therapist by selling her my furniture when I was leaving San Francisco. She basically bought my entire living room, so it’s kinda trippy to meet with her and see my old setup in the background. We discuss my frustration with jury duty and all of the newness it’s presented and how I miss J. since we’re only interacting for like two or three hours a day. The $90 charge is paid by my HSA. $90
8 p.m. — We watch Chopped while making a dinner of black bean burgers, roasted broccoli, and tater tots. It sort of feels like kindergarten food, but it’s delicious and comforting. Tonight’s movie list includes finishing Big Daddy, and starting Liar Liar.
Daily Total: $107

Day Six

8 a.m. — A bit of a sleep in for us today – small wins! I take C. out and get him prepped for daycare. We found another couple through the Facebook group of the organization we adopted C. from who has a dog about his age AND a fenced-in yard. We don’t have any real cadence with them, it’s just an ad-hoc kind of thing. When we learned J. was not going to be at home during the day for at least two weeks, I decided to set up a day for C. to get to run around and for me to get to take a bit of a break. It’s $40 per day, which J. and I split. $20
11 a.m. — I lead a client call, subbing in for the manager in leadership training. I move a few projects along since I’m taking this afternoon off. J. and I were supposed to go a soccer scrimmage this afternoon, but since he’s in court, I have the afternoon completely to myself. Bliss! I snack on some blackberries, a string cheese, hummus, and crostini.
1 p.m. — Massage time! I head over to a place I’ve gone for foot reflexology a few times, but I’m treating myself to a full-on table massage today. My lower back and neck are trash from basic existence and forgetting that posture is a thing. Plus, a whole hour without my phone sounds like the ultimate respite right now. $84
3 p.m. — Turns out that massage was much needed, I feel like jelly when I leave. The masseuse confirmed my suspicions telling me my neck, shoulders, and back were very tight and that I need to come in more often. Twist my arm… Literally. I head to a coffee shop to work on my newsletter and order their Valentine’s latte — this one is raspberry focused with a cookie crumble and way more palatable than the one from yesterday. $7
6 p.m. — The coffee shop closes, so I head back to my side of town. I have some time to kill before picking up C. from the sitter, so I swing by Aldi. One of my sisters swears by that place, but I don’t frequent it too often as I have two other grocery stores closer to my apartment. I make a small dent in the weekly grocery run that I keep putting off, trying to remember everything on my list. I buy cucumber, feta, pesto, avocado, lobster ravioli, Greek yogurt, and bananas. $10 for my half. $10
7 p.m. — I pick up C. from the sitter and he’s completely spent. The sitter reports the pups just ran around in the back yard all day and basically watched themselves. J. is already home by the time we get back and tells me he’s craving BBQ. He offers to order some in. I’m kind of frustrated with this because we do have a dinner or two on hand to actually cook. He tells me that since I’ve been doing so much for the house and C. over the last two weeks, this is what he can contribute right now, so I give in. It’s also nice to get some recognition for my side of things.
11 p.m. — BBQ was a great call — I ordered the shredded pork sandwich with mac and cheese and baked beans. J gets the pulled pork tacos and we split a banana pudding while watching Chopped. Since we’re watching real chefs, we decide to pivot to fake chefs and watch The Menu. For the first time in a long time, I don’t fall asleep mid-movie. This one is dark and suspenseful and way outside of the movies we usually watch, and I’m here for it. We all get ready for bed. J. and I stay up for another 30 minutes or so talking about the movie and looking up different articles about it. We’re both dorks that way in that we love to research before, during, and after a movie. I used to get shit from my family about that growing up, so it’s nice to have a partner who geeks out the way I do.
Daily Total: $121

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Realllyyy wishing I could sleep in a bit today. My neck feels super sore from yesterday’s massage and I didn’t sleep that well because of it. I take a few Advil, brush my teeth, take C. out, and feed him. I make some oatmeal and an espresso for myself.
12 p.m. — One of my longer-term projects took up a decent amount of my morning, but it feels good to finally move it along. I’m in this gnarly step of the project where the client has to review some assets, the coordination of which takes a lot of patience. Happy to have their clearance and get to move this one along. I take C. out, more for a break for myself, and my Dagne Dover bag is at the front door when we get back! I FaceTime my sister to do a mini-haul, even though she has literally the same bag.
5 p.m. — With work finished for the day, I head to the store to finally round out the weekly shop. We’ve been making do with what we have, but after my grad school lunch of egg tacos with sriracha for the second time this week, I’m craving some variety. I pick up pickles, garbanzo beans, a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, mayo, butter, sour cream, tortillas, shredded cheese, chicken thighs, carnitas, salsa, red velvet cake mix, white, green and purple onions, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, and arugula. J. gets home while I’m at the store and takes C. on a walk. While he finishes work, I make an orzo pasta salad to have in the fridge for the week, and then move onto Rick Martinez’s chicken tinga tostadas for dinner. $36 for my half. $36
9 p.m. — We forgo movies tonight to watch the new NASCAR series on Netflix. J. is a big fan of all motorsports and got me into Formula 1 by watching Drive to Survive. I’m not sure if this show will get me into NASCAR, but it’s always interesting to see how these shows are edited. I fall asleep on the couch and J. wakes me up to get ready for bed while he takes C. out.
Daily Total: $36.00

The Breakdown

Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more Money Diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series