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A Week In West Hartford, CT, On A $55,000 Salary

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 research analyst who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on American Eagle jeans.
Occupation: Research Analyst
Industry: Economics & Finance
Age: 25
Location: West Hartford, CT
Salary: $55,000
Net Worth: ~ -$23,750 (Car: ~3,000, savings account: $250, 401(k): unsure, but not a lot since I've only had one for less than a year, minus $27,000 in student debt.)
Debt: $27,000 in student loans
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,740
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $532.25 (heat/water included, split with three roommates in a four-bedroom apartment)
Electricity: ~$25
Car Payment: $300
Student Loans: $0 (on pause; thank you, President Biden)
Health Insurance: ~$200 deducted from paycheck
Internet: $15 (split with roommates)
Amazon Prime: $14
Hulu/Netflix/Disney+: $7 (I pay for Hulu and swap passwords with family members who pay for other platforms)
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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 and no. When I was in middle school my mother declared I would have a career in the medical field, which would require a degree of some sort, but having white coat syndrome I knew I never wanted to do that. She wasn't too pleased when I went to college to study economics and tried several times to convince me I had to drop out. Nevertheless, I paid for college through a combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and money out of my own pocket (three jobs!). Aside from my mother, I am the only person out of my entire extended family to obtain a bachelor's degree.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Conversations about money gave me whiplash as a kid. My parents were always stressed about money and my dad was always getting laid off. When I got a job and started making my own money, it felt like my mother was always breathing down my neck about how I was spending it. Even into adulthood, she'd still try to tell me how to spend my money, which lead to some heated arguments. Honestly, neither of my parents have much room to give advice on finances, since they have always been terrible with money. All of the knowledge I have on things like savings, retirement, and work benefits came from my grandmother.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was thirteen, I frequently marketed my babysitting services around town, and I used that money to put minutes on my prepaid cell phone and buy other little things I wanted. My first real job was as a cashier at my local grocery store when I was 16. I had to get a job in order to pay for things like my learner's permit and driver's test, cell phone, car, and school expenses.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Only always! My mom worked odd jobs and my dad was laid off multiple times. We had to get groceries from the local food pantry and I had reduced-cost lunch at school. I'd discreetly pull teachers aside during class and ask for field trip fees to be waived. There were frequent stretches of time where we had no health insurance, so therefore no healthcare for me, my parents, or my five siblings. There were whispers in my household about struggling to pay the mortgage. I remember being 17 and my mother demanding I start handing over most of my paychecks to contribute to household expenses.
Do you worry about money now?
More recently, yes. I was really excited when I got my first full-time job out of college and moved out of my parents' house, but then inflation and unexpected expenses started hitting and I realized that just because I was making more money than I'd ever seen in my life doesn't mean I was making a living. I sought out a job with a higher salary and got approved for a one-bedroom apartment, but even trying to plan a budget with my new income and expenses is stressing me out. I hope I'll get settled into comfortable and responsible financial habits soon so that I can relax a little.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say when I was 20 because that's when I moved out of my parents' house for the first time and into an apartment with friends. That year I got two more jobs on top of the one I already had and paid for my semester, my rent, and my first car all by myself. I have one brother that is willing to loan me money when I need it, but only because he trusts me to pay him back in a timely manner. I'm working on building up savings for emergencies.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up at my parents' house, very sore from sleeping on their couch. I stayed here for the weekend to eat their food since I've been waiting for three weeks to get my first paycheck from my new job and I ran out of food at my apartment. Luckily, my paycheck arrived in the mail over the weekend, so I'll be taking that to the bank later today. For now, I get up and let my dog, J., out in the yard to go potty.
8:45 a.m. — There's no good coffee here, but there are a couple of oranges. After giving J. his breakfast, I heat up water in a mug and drop some orange slices in. I don't know what I expect this to do but I just need something interesting to sip on before I start work.
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11 a.m. — I take a break from a rather tedious work project to run up to the bank and deposit my check. I also open a savings account and my very first credit card while I'm there. On the way back, I grab a latte, bagel, and a donut. $10
3:25 p.m. — I relocate to my brother's house since I need to work on cleaning out a room in his basement for me to store stuff when I move next week. I finish my work project and have a FaceTime therapy appointment, then I order Wendy's for me and my brother. $24.23
4:47 p.m. — I head back to my parents' house to pick up my dog and some booze my brother gifted me over the weekend. I'm almost on empty, so I stop and get gas. $20
6:32 p.m. — Finally back at my apartment in my own bed. I take a shower, do my skin-care routine, then lie in bed with YouTube and a Truly until it's time to go to sleep.
Daily Total: $54.23

Day Two

5:54 a.m. — I wake up a few minutes before my alarm and roll out of bed to take J. for a walk. I still have absolutely no food or coffee in this apartment, so after feeding J. I run up the street and get a brown sugar cold brew with oat milk and these little egg bite things. Then I head to the office. $8.58
11:30 a.m. — After finishing a meeting, I go downstairs to the cafeteria and get a Starbucks bottled frappe. My firm gave me a cafeteria gift card in a little welcome gift bag when I started, so I don't have to pay for it with my own money. I eat a granola bar with it, which was also part of the gift bag.
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2 p.m. — Why am I so tired? I literally just want to flop down on my desk and fall asleep, but instead I go down to the cafeteria again and buy a raspberry iced tea and these protein wafer things. $6.75
5:25 p.m. — I stop at CVS on the way home from work and buy dog food, dry shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and snacks. After giving J. his dinner, I take him for a walk around the apartment complex, where we encounter a black bear that stares us down. I pick up my pace and don't make eye contact. $52.07
8:25 p.m. — I take a cold shower and skip skin care for tonight because the heat will just melt everything off and make me all sticky and greasy. I take pictures of the bolts that fasten my headboard to my bed and send them to my dad so he can loan me the correct size screwdriver when I have to disassemble my bed next week. I light my strawberry poundcake-scented candle, grab a Truly, and watch YouTube until I'm ready to fall asleep.
Daily Total: $67.40

Day Three

7:46 a.m. — I sleep in a little today since I'm working remotely. I take J. for a walk, though I'm still a little nervous about the bears, so we don't venture far from the apartment. I run up the street for a cold brew and a coffee. I desperately need to go shopping and am a little pissed that I'm still owed another paycheck from my first week of work. It hasn't come in the mail. $8.50
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1:32 p.m. — I finish my scheduled meetings for the day and throw a load of laundry in the wash. I head down to check the mailbox; still no paycheck! I'm livid. I do actually have a check from a media company for my participation in a market research study. I was going to put it in my savings, but I mobile deposit it into my checking account and then run up the street for an iced oat milk matcha latte. It's a scorcher of a day. $5.84
3:56 p.m. — I finish my tasks for the day, then head to the store since I can't put off buying groceries anymore. I get bananas, kombucha, cheese sticks (on sale!), cold brew (also on sale!), and cinnamon roll-flavored oat creamer. I use my brother's store card at checkout for savings. $18.36
9:01 p.m. — I take a shower and don't skip skin care tonight despite the heat, as tomorrow is date night. I put on body butter, face serum, moisturizer, lip balm, and gua sha with cold-pressed rosehip oil. I watch YouTube and read until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $32.70

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — I want to sleep in, but J. wakes me up with his crying so I take him out to go potty and give him his breakfast. I eat a banana and make myself a delicious cinnamon roll iced coffee. I'm glad I don't have to go anywhere for coffee this morning.
9:07 a.m. — I drive up to CVS to get gum before I start my work day. $4.50
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4:33 p.m. — My date night plans are going to be taking place later in the evening, past dinner time, so I decide to eat at home before I head out to meet The Boy. I order takeout from my favorite Korean restaurant. $19.30
10:53 p.m. — I get back from my date and immediately climb into bed. I don't even bother taking off my makeup.
Daily Total: $23.80

Day Five

8:06 a.m. — I roll out of bed. I'm not really happy with how the date went last night, so I check my calendar hoping I have no meetings today. I have none! I'll sit around in comfy clothes and mope all day. I eat a banana and make a cinnamon roll iced coffee.
12:30 p.m. — On my lunch break, I run up to the store and get gas on the way. I pick up Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, kimchi, broccoli, kombucha, cheese curds, chocolate hummus, shredded coconut, and an oat milk chocolate bar. I use my brother's card again for the discount. $67.27
3:55 p.m. — I eat some cheese curds and a banana and drink my kombucha. I was going to go to a Shabbat service tonight, but I think it's being held outside and it's simply too hot for that. I eat my chocolate bar and decide against ordering this skirt I've been eyeing on Depop, since I'm going to the mall with my friend this weekend.
4:38 p.m. — I run up to CVS to get some tea tree oil since I just finished off my current bottle. I got a snug piercing back in March during my best friend's birthday celebration, and an angry keloid keeps trying to swallow up the back of the earring. Tea tree oil helps keep it at bay. I also grab a probiotic soda while I'm there. $14.14
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6:08 p.m. — Dinner is air-fried Brussels sprouts with garlic parmesan dressing and gorgonzola. Since I'm not going anywhere tonight, I put a shea butter mask in my hair, but then I get an email from a woman at the synagogue saying all events are indoors this weekend due to the heat wave. It's too late for me to go to tonight's service, but she invites me to tomorrow morning's service, so I'll go to that instead.
8:14 p.m. — I head back to the store because I decide I want ice cream. I get lost in the cookie aisle and grab the Annie's Birthday Cake Bunny Grahams. I don't know where the hell this insatiable sweet tooth came from; my period ended a few days ago. I get a raspberry cheesecake ice cream cup and some special doggie ice creams for J., because he's a good boy and deserves a treat. $11.04
Daily Total: $92.45

Day Six

8:24 a.m. — Holy crap, I am so tired. Between the heat and J. getting sick several times last night, I barely slept. I have a lot going on today though, so I take J. out and do some dishes that I regret not washing last night. Breakfast is air-fried butternut squash with cinnamon, a dollop of chocolate hummus, and shredded coconut with my usual iced coffee. While I eat I e-mail the woman from the synagogue to let her know I'll be attending the morning service.
1 p.m. — I return from Shabbat service, which was centered a lot on peace and healing with everything going on in the world. It was a great way to start the weekend. Now I need to change out of my dress and into a heat wave-appropriate outfit to meet my friend at the mall in an hour.
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4 p.m. — I leave the mall after meeting up with my friend, L. We both get soft pretzels and I get a lemonade with mine ($8.13). We go to The Body Shop where I pick up avocado body butter, almond milk & honey body scrub, and a vanilla body yogurt. I get 20% off the order for buying two qualifying items, and the body yogurt is on massive clearance for only $6.99 ($45.52)! Lastly, we go to American Eagle, where I grab a pair of slides and a pair of jeans, since I have only one pair. Both of these items are on clearance, but they still cost more than $50... yikes ($53.15). $106.80
5:13 p.m. — L. wants to check out the Trader Joe's right next to the mall. I was certain I was done spending money for today, but I end up buying a box of French macarons, a draft oat milk cold brew, salsa verde chips, and that buffalo chicken dip everyone always raves about. $16.46
7 p.m. — That buffalo chicken dip is ridiculous. I meet up with an old coworker at our go-to brewery in Hartford. Three other people were invited and none of them showed, which is frustrating. Maintaining adult friendships is hard. The friend that shows, T., has already opened a tab and puts my hard seltzer on it. I get a little tipsy and we walk over to another one of my favorite Hartford spots, where I order garlic cheese fries and a Diet Coke. $14.66
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11:21 p.m. — I get home, shower, and do skin care incorporating my new Body Shop products. I watch YouTube and read until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $137.92

Day Seven

9:34 a.m. — I get to sleep in as late as I want today! When I finally decide to get up, I take J. for a short walk and give him breakfast. Then I make an iced coffee, eat a banana, and lie in bed watching YouTube. I finish off the Trader Joe's macarons.
11:34 a.m. — I have to run to the store to get paper towels and Resolve since J.'s tummy ache has caused me to blow through the cleaning supplies I had. I also grab a frozen matcha latte as the heat wave continues. $12.32
2 p.m. — I go to meet my friend for lunch at a gorgeous Afghan restaurant. I get ashak with a side order of falafel and a White Afghan cocktail. It's all amazing. $28.69
4 p.m. — We run across the street to Starbucks after lunch. I get an iced vanilla soy latte. $6.39
4:40 p.m. — Home from lunch, I don't have any plans for the rest of the day. I lay in bed sipping my latte and watching The Boys. I end up ordering a set of gold-plated assorted earrings for all my cartilage piercings. $14.56
9:05 p.m. — After showering and journaling, I lie in bed and scroll through TikTok. I'm really trying to wind down and mentally prepare myself for this upcoming week. By this time next week, I'll be moved out of this apartment!
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Daily Total: $61.96
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