A Week In Louisville, KY, On A $81,098 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Oreo.
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 scrum master working in healthcare who makes $81,098 per year and spends some of her money this week on Oreos.
Occupation: Scrum master
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: Louisville, KY
Salary: $81,098
Net Worth: $68,175 (checking: $3,950; HYSA: $19,300; HSA: $3,295; 401(k): $31,985; former employees stocks: $5,000; Roth IRA: $2,695; car value: $1,950)
Debt: $0 (I finished paying off $8,500 in credit card debt last year.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,393.18
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900 (I live alone in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. I dreamed about living in this area as a kid but never thought I could afford it. Admittedly, this price is hundreds lower than what others nearby pay.)
Gas & Electric: $139.54
Internet: $90.99
Phone: $59.08
Renter’s & Car insurance: $185.22
Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, Max, Netflix, Paramount+, Spotify & Patreon Contributions: $104.18
Apple iCloud: $0.99
Health Insurance: $144.95
401(k): $405.49 (My employer matches 125% of my contribution.)
HSA: $216
Adventure Savings Fund: $216
Emergency Savings Fund: $758
HYSA Medical Savings Fund: $509 (I need to be prepared to meet my out-of-pocket expenses in early January due to an expensive medication, so I’m saving for this aggressively. Once that’s paid, I’m going to set up automatic investments so this amount goes to my Roth IRA.)

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?
Definitely. When I was in sixth grade, a family friend got into a highly competitive state program that came with multiple scholarship opportunities. From then on, I had a lot of external and internal pressure to get into college. I’ll never forget opening the acceptance letter and the relief that hit me knowing my tuition would be covered. My parents contributed $6,000 to a tuition savings account and paid $1,500 in sorority dues. They made it clear that I had to be out of the house after high school, so I covered all other expenses by working 35-plus hours a week across multiple jobs. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and I did it without student loans, which is a huge privilege.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money conversations were rarely positive. Around age 11, my dad told me about the credit card debt my mom had accumulated without him knowing. He used this information to triangulate me against her, and it hurt my relationship with my mom for many years. I don’t think I told her I knew until high school, but more debt came out several years later. My dad put the blame solely on my mom, because she managed the day-to-day finances, but he never mentioned the multiple large purchases he made with loans and how those also contributed to our financial situation. I was taught about debt early, but I had to learn the importance of saving, investing, and trade-offs the hard way.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked in a pizza place when I was 17. I got the job because my best friend worked there and, in order to drive, I had to be able to pay for gas and car insurance. Plus, I hated asking my parents for money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
All the time. From my conversations with my dad, I internalized that debt makes you a bad person. Back then, I didn’t understand how quickly expenses add up for families. We lived in a small house and were almost always buying the cheapest option of everything. At age 18, I had to have emergency surgery for an autoimmune condition and was put on expensive medicine. After a few months, I stopped filling the prescription, because I didn’t know if my parents could afford it, and I couldn’t come up with an extra $500 a month to pay for it. My mom always said health was a priority, but I felt guilty putting them into more debt. I’m really lucky that I didn’t get sicker and only started experiencing major symptoms again a year ago. Now that I have great benefits and make enough money to pay my maximum out-of-pocket expenses, I’ve started an aggressive medication, and it’s already making a huge difference in my day-to-day life.

Do you worry about money now?
Not now, but my financial picture has changed a lot over the last four years. In 2019, I quit my job without a backup for professional and personal reasons. I cashed out $10,000 from my 401(k), and when that ran out, I maxed out my credit card with a $13,500 limit. Eventually, I had to get a job as a picker at a fulfilment center, and it was the toughest work I’ve ever done. Luckily, I got a job in my field right before the COVID-19 lockdown and have been working from home ever since. I paid the credit card off in one lump sum (more on that later) but racked up another $8,000 balance within two years. Eventually, I got a promotion that came with a 30% raise. I knew I’d just blow through the extra money if something didn’t change. Eight months of hard work later, I was debt-free and had started an emergency fund.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I’d say 26 because my parents paid for most of my medical expenses until I got my own insurance. My mom is close to retirement and will be living off a pension and social security, so it would take a lot for me to ask her for money. Anything from my dad comes with strings so that’s not an option.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
After my grandfather passed, my dad said he’d give me $10,000 if I spent it on a house. I was an adult and should’ve walked away, but I decided to make the purchase because I thought it was the responsible thing to do. He ended up being on the loan with me and, after closing, mentioned this would be a great investment for “us.” After the gift, I made every payment related to the house and put in a lot of work with the help of YouTube. Then, in 2019, my dad told me he was going to divorce my mom, and the house would be considered a marital asset, even though my mom’s name wasn’t on the mortgage. She told me she wouldn’t come between him and I keeping it, but I wanted an out and took the opportunity to sell the place. I received a $25,000 check after the sale, but my dad tried to take $10,000 to give to my sister. My mom contested it, and my sister’s gift was eventually ironed out in their divorce settlement. I used the $25,000 to pay off my credit card debt and cover moving and new apartment expenses. I saved a little bit but spent the last $3,000 on frivolous things before racking up even more debt. With the help of therapy, I’ve made a lot of changes, and my dad and I are pretty much no-contact. I’d never buy a house with someone I’m not married to ever again.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — It’s nice to wake up and not look at the clock first thing. I’m supposed to be on a trip to visit a friend but had to reschedule because I fell and tweaked my ankle. Instead, I’m doing a staycation. The day has a slow start, and eventually I call my mom to chat before doing my morning skincare and applying Josie Maran SPF.
10:30 a.m. — Deep cleaning the kitchen is the big thing on my to-do list this week. I turn on an episode of the Beyond the Blinds podcast before making pistachio simple syrup for iced coffees. While it chills, I start to reorganize the apartment and use what feels like every cleaning product known to humanity.
12:30 p.m. — For lunch, I heat up pork stew and take my Lexapro and vitamin D. After watching way more Gilmore Girls than anticipated, I bribe myself with a treat if I get off the couch. Over the next couple of hours, I fold laundry before switching out the upper storage in my two closets. This new system makes more sense, but I’m going to need more shelves for shoe storage. My home budget has been spent for the month, so that’ll have to wait.
3 p.m. — Now that the syrup is cool, I make a coffee and grab Oreos before heading back to the couch. I also light a Voluspa candle from a votive sample set I got. This scent may be a new go-to. Season 2 of Gilmore Girls is over before I know it.
7 p.m. — For dinner, I have balela before washing my face and getting ready for bed. I add Shani Darden Retinol Reform to my routine twice a week. Eventually, I fall asleep watching Thursday-night football.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — I rarely wake up hungry, but today is an exception. I put peanut butter on cinnamon graham crackers and have them with lemon water. At 9 a.m., I’ve got my annual gynecologist appointment so I take a shower and grab my book, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, before heading out the door.
10 a.m. — My doctor is always open to talking through different options for my PCOS. The visit and meds will be free because I’ve already met my out-of-pocket this year. I make a few stops on my way home. First, I pick up a spicy chicken biscuit and hash browns ($6.19), then I stop at Whole Foods for dairy-free ice cream (I only shop there for the dairy-free ice cream). Two pints come to $13.10. Last but not least, I run into Trader Joe’s for flowers ($9.53), a bag of lemons, avocados, a lime, bacon, chicken, black pepper, oregano, and tortilla chips ($38.53). $67.35
4 p.m. — I do one more errand for today: a Costco run. I try to eat dairy-free because dairy makes symptoms of my autoimmune disease worse, but I’m craving a slice of pizza ($2.11). I’m glad I gave into the craving because I run into a regular I used to see at my college job. She’s a sweet older woman who remembers my name, and I remember her order. We chat for a bit before I get my slice and start shopping. When I check out, my cart contains more flowers and two pillows ($44.49), plus a rotisserie chicken and Cholula hot sauce ($16.90). Since the gas lines are short, I fill up my tank before heading home ($19.98). $83.48
7:30 p.m. — My phone rings for a FaceTime date with my friends, O. and M. Since one of them moved across the country, we’ve done a lot more of these. O. was in a wedding from hell and fills us in. After a while, their partners join in, too, and it’s great to catch up with everyone.
10:30 p.m. — After calling it a night and doing my skincare, I remember a National Women’s Soccer League playoff game is on. I watch from bed and fall asleep shortly after the final whistle.
Daily Total: $150.83

Day Three

7 a.m. — My body must know my time off is almost over because I’m getting up earlier and earlier. I do some more organizing before changing into something cozy.
10:30 a.m. — I’m driving to see my friend, R., and meet her new baby! R. is pretty much a member of the family, and her one-month-old baby is absolutely precious. My sister is meeting us, and I grab Qdoba for lunch. After a couple of redeemed rewards and a tip, the total is $30 for the three of us. Thank goodness the loaded tortilla soup is back on the menu! As soon as it’s gone, I’ll be switching back to Chipotle. $30
2:30 p.m. — When I get back home, I get ready because my other friend, C., and I are taking her son to a Halloween event tonight. My hair is way too oily, so I jump in the shower. A couple of my go-to products include the Briogeo Curl Charisma hair mask and the JVN Complete Pre-Wash Scalp Oil. I try a sample of Charlotte Tilbury concealer while I’m getting ready.
5 p.m. — C. picks me up, and we head to Slugger Field. The event has free parking, tons of candy, and different stations with activities like pumpkin picking. C. buys our tickets for $10 each, and her son is free. He’s still a little too young to fully get it, but we have a great time. I buy us drinks and a 10-piece nugget meal at McDonald’s on the way home. I take the nuggs, and she takes the fries. $13.61
8:30 p.m. — The concealer looks great, so I add some to my Sephora cart. I’ve got about $250 worth of product in there but am waiting to check out because a 20% off event is coming up. I wash my face and take Tylenol PM. After a few busy days on my feet, I’m surprised I’ve been able to go this long without it.
Daily Total: $43.61

Day Four

8 a.m. — I’ve been up for a while and have already finished an iced coffee and graham crackers. After moving to the couch, I open Spotify on the TV, put on my chill mix, and read for a while. Later, I check my email and see that the scrapbook supplies I ordered have finally shipped and my card has been charged. The plan was to work on them during my PTO, but it’s a little late for that. $90.40
11:30 a.m. — My mom is coming over to catch up on Survivor, but I run a couple of errands first. I pick up photo prints I had made ($10.15) before heading to a local grocery store that also has a farmers’ market on Sundays. I grab tater tots, beans to make breakfast burritos, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins ($9.78). Then I walk around the market stalls. I buy a cupcake from an allergy-free bakery ($4) and flowers for my mom ($16). My last stop is for McDonald’s drinks ($2.73). Back at the house, I give my mom the Diet Coke, flowers, and Reese’s pumpkins. She already ate, but I make myself a burrito with chicken, beans, jalapeño, egg, avocado, and Cholula. I eat while we watch the most recent episode. $42.66
2:30 p.m. — I get a call from my sister, and she asks if I can help her with a curtain rod she can’t reach. She’s moving later this week, and I’ve got time so I drive over to help. Once that’s done, I keep her pup occupied. On the way home, I listen to Jessica Lanyadoo’s weekly horoscope on Ghost of a Podcast.
6:30 p.m. — Once I’m home, I make a BBQ chicken sandwich and tater tots for dinner. I watch football and push the Sunday scaries away until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $133.06

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — A crazy dream wakes me up. When the tossing and turning exceeds an hour, I bite the bullet and walk to my desk. I’ve only got a few hundred emails and feel relieved. How sad is it that this feels like a win?
8 a.m. — I’ve made a good dent and am already super hungry, so I make another burrito like yesterday’s. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, I add bacon. After eating, I brush my teeth and do my skincare to prepare for a call-heavy work day.
1:30 p.m. — I have three hours of one-on-one calls, including a conversation with my backup. We talk about current campaign needs, future assistance, and life stuff (mostly the last one). Afterwards, I finish filing my emails.
4 p.m. — There’s still plenty to do, but I’m exhausted and just got off the phone with another teammate who I haven’t spoken to for a month. After a great catch up with her, I shut my laptop and cuddle up in bed.
7 p.m. — Dinner is super easy: Trader Joe’s mini chicken tacos, the rest of the avocado I used this morning, salsa, and beans. Old Navy is having a 50% off sale, and some fleece-lined leggings I’ve been eyeing are finally marked down. I order a pair in black and green and throw in a no-show bra as well. $34.43
10 p.m. — While laying in bed, I build out my conscious spending plan for next year. I only discovered Ramit Sethi (a financial expert) after I paid off my debt, but his approach to building a rich life came at a perfect time. I’m in the process of planning a trip for my 30th birthday and I want to add a surprise weekend for my mom, so I take a look at my 2024 finances. I decide to cut down on my future car savings to free up money for the trip. My breakdown by net pay will be 45% for fixed costs, 21% for investments (30% after my employer match), 10% savings for my car, and 23% for guilt-free spending, including the trip.
11:30 p.m. — I’ve got an awful headache and skip my skincare and shower before bed.
Daily Total: $34.43

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — I wake up before my Hatch alarm starts chirping at me. I take it easy, messing around on my phone before making a lemon water and settling in at my desk. About an hour later, I make an iced coffee to have with graham crackers.
11 a.m. — You’d have no idea I just ended my busy season at work if you looked at my to-do list. While chatting with my mom, I take a break to make my second iced coffee. The Celebrity Memoir Book Club podcast released an episode on the new Britney Spears memoir, The Woman in Me. I listen while knocking out tasks and will definitely be buying a copy of the book because wow.
1 p.m. — I’m about to head into my biweekly training session and I’m behind from being out of the office. I rush through homework right before today’s class, but I’m hungry. I listen to a recording and note times to bookmark while I make a burrito. I’m only away from my desk for 30 minutes before I’m back to work.
4 p.m. — Today kicked my ass. I just got done leading my last meeting of the day and have a few takeaways but I take a nap. The tasks will still be there in a couple of hours.
4:05 p.m. — I wake up five minutes later when my sister calls. The movers come tomorrow, and her dog sitter bailed, so she asks if I can watch him. My landlord has a no-dog-she-hasn’t-met policy, but I ask her if it would be okay for one night, and she’s cool with it. I’m so lucky to have such a great apartment and landlord for the price. I drive over to pick him up.
9 p.m. — As a thank you, my sister sends me money for dinner, so I grab a chicken sandwich on the way home. By the time I get the pup settled, I jump right into bed and don’t get up again.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — This is my third night of crazy dreams in a row, so I’ve just been laying in bed for a while with the pup. I eventually get up to take him for a walk, and we explore a little.
9 a.m. — I break my own rule about having iced coffee with no food for “breakfast.” I’m in meetings from 9:30 a.m. until noon, and the lack of sleep is really getting to me.
12:15 p.m. — I take the pup out for another walk. During my last meeting of the day, I’m a fly on the wall so I listen in and make a BBQ chicken sandwich and tater tots at the same time.
2 p.m. — My sister picks up her dog, and all my meetings are over, so I can actually get some work done. At one point, I take a break and order Oreos from Target because they’re having a deal you can only get with drive-up pickup, which works out because I’m planning to grab dinner near Target. $7
5 p.m. — I take a nap.
7 p.m. — I change and jump in the car to grab dinner. It’s Qdoba soup again, partially because I have a free entrée coupon, but really because I’ll go multiple times a week until they discontinue the soup. I also grab a Sprite from McDonald’s on my way home. $1.37
10 p.m. — Not sure if a shower has ever felt better than the one I just took. After my skincare, I have a scoop of Van Leeuwen vegan pistachio ice cream and a few Oreos while doing some budget stuff.
11 p.m. — I get in bed and open Instagram to find a friend has posted clips after seeing Reneé Rapp tonight. I’m so jealous, I end up listening to her on Spotify before falling asleep because her albums are all no-skips. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $8.37
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