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A Week In Cleveland, OH, On A $63,900 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Nordstrom Rack.
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 resident physician who makes $63,900 per year and spends some of her money this week on a black leather tote.
Occupation: Resident physician
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 27
Location: Cleveland, OH
Salary: $63,900
Net Worth: -$115,000. I have $2,500 in a high-yield savings account and $560 in my Roth 403(b). I have a car worth about $15,000 and a lot of student debt. My husband, M., is also a resident and has the same salary as me. We split household expenses 50/50 (rent and utilities, household goods, groceries, cat care, meals out together) and use a joint checking account, credit card, and savings account. We also have our own credit cards, checking accounts, and savings accounts.
Debt: $134,000 in federal student loans from medical school.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,688
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,050 for my half of our two-bed/two-bath apartment and utilities.
Student Loans: $0 (I’m on the SAVE plan because I didn’t make any money in 2022 while I was in medical school).
Car Insurance: $64
Health Insurance: $63 (paid to my husband as I’m on his plan).
Renter’s Insurance: $5 for my half.
Internet: $25 for my half.
Cat Supplies: $75 for my half.
Parking: $200
Spotify: $5
Netflix/Hulu/Max: mooched off family members.
NYT All-Access: $4
iCloud Storage: $3
Cell Phone: $50 (paid to my parents whose plan I’m still on).
Retirement: $280 to my Roth 403(b).
Joint Savings: $700
Personal Savings: $100
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 was a kid who loved school so my parents naturally expected I would go to college. They saved pretty aggressively for me in a 529 college savings plan growing up. I had a full-tuition merit scholarship for my bachelor’s degree and used about half of the 529 to pay for living expenses in college. For medical school, I had a 75% tuition merit scholarship, used up the rest of the 529, and took out $134,000 in federal student loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents encouraged me to save my allowance and money I earned working, but didn’t give me much education beyond that. I’m still somewhat confused about finances and the lingo surrounding money. It’s been an effort on my part to learn as an adult with my first salaried job.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a carousel in a city park from ages 14 to 19 during summer breaks so I could have spending money during the school year.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I remember worrying significantly as a young child during the Great Recession because my dad was laid off and spent two years bouncing between not-ideal jobs while we lived off savings. My mom was a stay-at-home parent and had been out of the market too long to find a job. Once my dad was employed again, I was less worried as a teenager. At that point, we truthfully had everything I could want or need.
Do you worry about money now?
Thankfully, no. I feel rich now in comparison to when I was living off loans during medical school. We moved to a lower-cost-of-living area for residency and have relatively few expenses. I am in a good position regarding med school debt (it could be a lot worse) and know I will always be able to find a very well-paying job after I finish training. We are behind on retirement and other savings, but that’s pretty typical for residents. We are going to save a lot over the next year while our monthly loan payments are $0.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents supported me by keeping me on their health insurance until I turned 26 and paying my car insurance and phone bill until I graduated from medical school this year. I am now totally responsible for myself, which feels pretty cool. If something happened and we needed help, my parents or my husband’s mom would be there for us.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents paid for our wedding (otherwise we would have skipped having a wedding, which was unacceptable to them) and paid off my car as a med school graduation present. I received $3,000 last year after the death of my grandfather and used it on our honeymoon to Greece. My husband’s mother gave us $5,000 to help us move across the country for residency after we ran out of loan money at the end of medical school.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up on my own this morning, treasuring the last days of my vacation. I do my daily NYT Vertex puzzle in bed before getting up and having banana bread and a decaf latte for breakfast. Our two cats get their wet food for breakfast. I tidy up our bedroom and kitchen.
10 a.m. — I check on my accounts to make sure today’s paycheck was properly divided up. We finally have enough money to buy bedding that actually fits our king-size bed instead of making do with full-size blankets. I transfer a duvet, duvet cover, throw blanket, and king-size pillows from my Amazon wishlist to the cart ($106.40 for my half). $106.40
1 p.m. — M. and I play a few games of Ticket To Ride. Lunch is a quick stir-fry.
6:30 p.m. — M. drops me off at a grocery store where I grab a bottle of riesling. Bottle in a canvas tote, I walk over to a friend’s apartment a few blocks away for a wine night. She’s the best and has made the group an elaborate charcuterie board. We drink wine and fall cocktails and talk about work. We’re all residents in the same program so it’s nice to hear about their stories and how they’ve been getting along. $10.87
10:30 p.m. — Another friend drops me off at my apartment on her way home. I sneak inside and try not to wake M. I sleep in the guest room tonight so he can get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Daily Total: $117.27

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of M. in the kitchen. After he leaves, I crawl into our bed and fall back asleep while scrolling.
9:30 a.m. — Wake up for real this time. I shower and have cereal and a pumpkin spice latte (half-decaf today). I used to drink a lot of espresso but when my anxiety started getting out of control I stopped. I’ve been on medication for about a month now and am experimenting with how small quantities of caffeine make me feel.
1:30 p.m. — The coffee goes over well: I don’t feel anxious at all. I wrap up cleaning our apartment and light an apple-scented candle for the fall vibes. While I’m cleaning, I find disposable camera photos from our wedding. I buy two albums on Amazon so we can display them ($10.74 for my half). $10.74
3 p.m. — M. gets home and plays some video games. I do a bunch of practice questions for my upcoming board exams while eating a key lime yogurt and kettle corn.
6 p.m. — I had rough plans to hang out with friends tonight, but I cancel them because I feel a little sick. I eat three applesauce pouches for dinner because I’m nauseated and can’t stomach anything else.
8:30 p.m. — I sit in a warm shower for a while to unwind. I finally work up the courage to use my prescription tretinoin tonight. I finished a course of Accutane five months ago. While my skin still looks great, my dermatologist wants me to dive back into retinoids to maintain it. Bracing for the dryness. I head to bed and fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $10.74

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Up and at ’em. Feeling better this morning. I do my usual morning routine, have breakfast of cereal and a latte, and snuggle my cats on the couch.
12 p.m. — Run out to the hospital to pick up a prescription ($9.25). I stop at the grocery store on the way back to grab a few things. I pick up parchment paper, Lifesaver mints, and cinnamon ($12.15 for my half). Lunch is a chocolate protein shake and some baby carrots. $21.40
7 p.m. — I have some pasta from the freezer for dinner. While I eat, I ponder what I’ll wear to clinic this week. I prefer working in the hospital over the clinic, but clinic is one of the only times I wear real clothes instead of scrubs. I like using a backpack on inpatient days, but I’ve been wanting a nice quality tote for when I don’t need to bring as much to work with me. I browse Nordstrom Rack and pull the trigger on a black leather tote. $119.70
10 p.m. — Spend some time in bed with M. before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $141.10

Day Four

9 a.m. — I sleep in to make the most of my last day of vacation. M. and I do the NYT Spelling Bee in bed and don’t make it to genius level today, darn. I take my time getting ready and having breakfast (the usual cereal and latte). I feed my sourdough starter and marvel at how it’s grown over the past two weeks. I killed my old starter and made a new one using the pineapple juice method — it really works!
12 p.m. — I make a protein smoothie and study while M. watches football.
2 p.m. — It’s a gorgeous fall day so M. and I decide to walk to a local grocery store instead of driving to Whole Foods. We pick up apples, blackberries, zucchini, red peppers, onions, potatoes, dill, green onions, yogurts, oat milk, cereal, ground beef, and ice cream. Inflation is killing our grocery budget. ($41.17 for my half). $41.17
6 p.m. — M. and I check out a new-to-us French restaurant for my belated birthday dinner. We sit outside, and the vibe and food are both amazing. We share braised leeks and French onion soup, M. has a beef dish, and I have a root vegetable cassoulet. The waitress puts a birthday candle in a delicious pistachio and orange cake for dessert. We rarely eat at nice restaurants so this is a special treat. We tip 25% ($78.18 for my half). $78.18
10 p.m. — Home and snuggled in bed.
Daily Total: $119.35

Day Five

4:30 a.m. — M.’s alarm wakes me up, but thankfully I fall back asleep easily. He’s a surgery resident so he generally leaves before dawn. Don’t know how those poor souls do it.
7 a.m. — I reluctantly drag myself out of bed. I don’t have any patients scheduled today so it’s an admin day of sorts. I spend the morning studying. I am tired of studying for this exam! When it’s over, I won’t have to study for any more big tests until I’m finished with residency and take my certifying board exam in my specialty. Breakfast is the usual.
12:30 p.m. — I eat a quick PB&J and fruit lunch before driving over to the clinic. I spend the afternoon answering patient phone calls, doing paperwork, and helping out my co-residents who are seeing patients.
4 p.m. — I swing by the pharmacy on the way out to pick up my medication ($1.32), then call my mom on the drive home. I try to make the most of my commute time by either calling my mom or listening to medical podcasts to study. $1.32
7 p.m. — M. makes tacos for dinner. We eat together before he leaves to go watch football with some guys. I study some more then scroll on TikTok until I get sleepy.
10:30 p.m. — M. gets home and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $1.32

Day Six

7 a.m. — I actually use my sunrise alarm clock today, and it is much nicer to wake up to than my usual blaring phone alarm. I’m hoping the light clock will be helpful in the winter when I hardly see daylight because of my work schedule. I moved to Cleveland from a very sunny and warm climate, so I’m dreading winter.
9 a.m. — Surprise, surprise: more studying. I also review the charts for my patients scheduled in the afternoon and come up with plans for their appointments. Before I leave for the clinic, I feed my sourdough starter and make a plan to bake with it tonight.
12 p.m. — Have a PB&J for lunch because I’m feeling lazy. I eat it on the way to work.
3:30 p.m. — Done seeing patients for the day and have my notes finished. I swing by the pharmacy to grab my eczema prescription ($25.32). $25.32
4:00 p.m. — I get gas on my way home. $54.11
5 p.m. — I start working on my sourdough bread. I realize I started the process late in the day and I’ll have to stay up to finish it. Oops. In between working the dough, I eat leftover tacos for dinner. M. brings in the Amazon packages from last week and I open them all. I love our new bedding, it gives our room relaxing hotel vibes.
11 p.m. — Dough is finally in the fridge. I think it’s under-proved but I can’t stay up any later to babysit it. We’ll see how it turns out. I do my night routine and go to bed.
Daily Total: $79.43

Day Seven

7 a.m. — The light alarm clock provides another more gentle wake-up. My cats mob me for attention this morning which is cute. I roll out of bed and turn on the oven to preheat for my sourdough bread. Breakfast as per usual.
10 a.m. — Loaves are done baking and I'm not thrilled with their rise, but bad bread is still bread. I spend the morning writing notes and answering patient calls and messages. Being on a clinic block is such a treat because I frequently get to work from home.
1 p.m. — I head to work for the afternoon. Lunch is a salad that I find in the break room, leftover from a conference.
4:30 p.m. — Done with patients for the day. My attending today is one of my favorites, and my patients are very sweet and teach me a lot. I wish I had more time to spend with them. This is one of the many ways our healthcare system is broken. I don’t dwell on it for too long or I’ll get more cynical than I already am.
5 p.m. — Make it home. Bread now fully cooled, I cut a slice. The flavor is excellent, but as I suspected it’s pretty under-proved. I make a note to proof longer next time. I do some practice questions while eating half a loaf of bread.
9 p.m. — M. and I finish the new season of Virgin River. It’s one of the many shows we love to hate, although we keep watching it for some of the better characters and storylines. I hate that I’m looking forward to the episodes coming out in November.
10 p.m. — Lights out and goodnight!
Daily Total: $0
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