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A Week In Philadelphia On A $94,000 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.

This week: a senior consultant who makes $94,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Miralax.
Occupation: Senior consultant
Industry: Research and government contract
Age: 33
Location: Philadelphia
Salary: $94,000
Net Worth: $32,000 (across HYSA and checking account)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,400; I contribute 6% of my post-tax income to my Roth IRA and my employer matches 3%.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $1,535
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $1,535 (I live alone in a one bedroom and den)
Utilities: $150
Gym: $120 for unlimited studio classes
Internet: $40
Cell Phone: $40
Spotify: $16 (for premium dual, for my sister and me. I use her Amazon account.)
Hulu: $8
Apple Storage: $0.99
Eyebrows: $17
Saving: I try to move about $2,000 per month to my HYSA

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?
There wasn’t an added pressure, but I always knew growing up that I would go to college and at least get a master’s degree, because other than being academically inclined, I wasn’t good at anything else. I also truly enjoyed learning and knew college was the only exit strategy to leave my home country. I had an (approximately) 80% merit scholarship for my undergraduate and I covered the rest, and living expenses, with multiple jobs, additional scholarships, and about $2,000 annual support from my family. My master’s and PhD were fully funded, and I received a stipend of about $22,000 a year to cover my living expenses. I graduated with no loans or debts.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My father was a serious gambler, and we were almost at a point of losing our home, so my relationship with money has always been scary and unsettling. My parents constantly fought over finances, and my sister and I had a pretty traumatic childhood because of that.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was during college in the admission office. It was a great way to make money and friends from different majors.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. While we never had to worry about necessities growing up, my father’s bad money habits and lack of savings or financial planning led me to constantly worry about money. This has scarred me for life.

Do you worry about money now?
I do worry about money — not for the daily essentials but for big purchases like buying a home or my retirement. Since I was in college for so long, I am just getting started on saving for my retirement, which makes me nervous. I also want to buy a home at the end of next year or beginning of 2026 but worry about doing so as a single person on my salary. I do know I am underpaid for my role. But I am thankful that I have no debt; that helps me calm down a little.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I left my home country right after high school at the age of 18, so since then I have been financially responsible for myself. But I always had my family if I absolutely needed them, and my sister and I also occasionally relied on each other for financial support.

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

Day One

8 a.m. — It’s Tuesday and I wake up and get the day started. I quickly make my bed and do my simple skincare routine of vitamin C serum and sunscreen. I make a cup of chai latte with a double shot of espresso using my Nespresso. I love my Nespresso machine but am slowly getting tired of all their coffee selections. I also have a moka pot, so I am seriously thinking of taking a little break from my Nespresso and just buying ground coffee from my favorite neighborhood coffee shop.
9 a.m. — I work from home fully and live in a one bedroom and den, which is essentially two bedrooms. I use the den as my office. I sit at my desk and check my calendar and emails while chatting with my sister on the phone. She calls me on her way to work every morning and now it’s a part of our morning routine. My sister and I are very close. She is a new mom and gives me updates on my nephew and her job, and I do the same, while occasionally humoring her with crazy dating stories. It is 2024, and I am done with all the dating apps — they suck and unless I meet someone in the wild that adds to my already amazing life, I am better off single. I hang up before my 9:30 a.m. client call.
11 a.m. — I am suddenly hungry and have been craving this salad from Trader Joe’s, where I get my groceries. I use their pre-made Asian salad kit but add half an avocado, some pre-boiled beets, and three falafels to it. It tastes amazing, and I take about 10 minutes in the kitchen to enjoy my lunch. I try not to eat at my desk to create some sort of work-life balance (makes me chuckle). I eat a little piece of TJ’s dark chocolate with almonds then go back to my desk.
11:10 a.m. — I sit at my desk and work on some products, and sit through some meetings. I pause to make some black coffee and stretch my legs. As tempted as I am to take a quick nap, I do take a little break to read a few pages of a book we are reading for our book club at work. I also spend a few minutes FaceTiming my 18-month-old nephew, who is the absolute love of my life!
5:30 p.m. — I head to the gym, where I go six times a week. It keeps me sane and gets me out of the house. It’s also a great place to make new friends. I strength train for an hour today and it’s honestly the hardest class of the week, but I feel so proud of myself afterwards. I have always had a tricky relationship with my body and because I also struggled with PCOS for a long time, my weight kept fluctuating. I am finally in a place where I have a healthy relationship with my body, feel good, and for the first time in my life look forward to working out. I feel stronger and fitter every day!
7:45 p.m. — Back home after a killer workout. I eat leftover lentils, rice, and zucchini for dinner. I don’t really watch as much TV anymore because I am tired of staring at a screen all day. I love cleanliness and clean my kitchen and tidy up the living room most nights a week, so I can wake up to a clean apartment the next day. I get in bed by 9:45 p.m. and read, with light rain sounds in the background. I suddenly remember I may get hungry in the morning, so I make a chia pudding with chia seeds, almond milk, chocolate protein powder, and peanut butter. By 11 p.m. I am asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:45. a.m. — I wake up involuntarily at 7 a.m. but scroll on my phone until 8:15 a.m. I really need to work on not spending so much time on my phone every morning. It’s also starting to give me a headache. Once the weather gets warmer, I want to go on walks instead, even if it’s just two or three times a week. I make my bed, do my skincare routine, change into somewhat respectable clothes, and eat my chia pudding at my desk around 9 a.m. as I speak to my sister on the phone and catch up on my emails. Our parents are visiting from out of the country, and they are flying into Boston, where my sister lives, at the end of April. I plan to be there on the same day, so I buy my flight tickets, too. $80
2:10 p.m. — I’m done with few of my calls and have had a productive day so far. I have my lunch (same as dinner last night) and a chocolate Power Crunch protein bar. It’s seriously so good and the only low sugar protein bar that doesn’t taste like cardboard. I get invited to a St Patrick’s Day bar crawl next weekend, but it sounds exhausting. I have a concert the night before and brunch the day of so the idea of doing more things is already tiring. My 30s are wild: the struggle to stay home, go out, be with people, and also relax alone never seems to end. While I have a lot of friends in the city and I am super thankful for that, lately I have been feeling increasingly depleted around people and want to be by myself often. I don’t know if it’s me getting older, becoming more introverted, or just seasonal antisocialness.
5 p.m. — I’m done with work and on my way to the gym. I have two workout classes today so I will be so tired after. It’s pouring outside but the cancellation fees are the biggest motivator to get me out of the apartment. Once I’m back I have a protein shake, three falafels, and two pieces of dark chocolate for (girl) dinner. I will be watching Dune: Part 2 with some friends on Friday night so I venmo my friend for the ticket. $17
Daily Total: $97

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Get out of the bed and make a dirty iced chai latte. I am also a little hungry, so I eat two rice crispies with peanut butter for breakfast while I speak to my sister and get my day started. Take a minute to realize how adulting is a scam and every day feels the exact same. But after a slew of situationships last year, I like this quiet and peace of mind. I am also super excited to see that the public library has a book I had on hold, finally! I am an avid reader and the cost of buying multiple books every month really adds up. I try to borrow books from the library (both Kindle and paper version) whenever I can, but sometimes the wait is almost a decade long!
11 a.m. — This morning has been productive. A friend wants to see Hadestown so I buy tickets for $70 in April. My friend pays me back for her half. I have watched three shows so far this year and love it. I want to make a conscious effort to see more shows and support the various theatre groups. Also, I don’t think I have ever seen a bad show in my life. $35
12 p.m. — I eat lunch, which consists of a little bit of leftover sushi rice, two eggs, and half an avocado, topped with hot sesame oil, furikake seasoning and shredded nori. It’s such a quick and healthy meal! I also realize I’ve run out of kimchi and make a mental note to add that to my grocery list.
2:15 p.m. — Finally done with all my calls for the day. Now I can just turn on some good music and focus on working. I have been putting my phone on do not disturb mode these days, muting all notifications except my sister and Teams messages for work. This has been a life changer and I highly recommend it. It takes off the pressure to respond to people’s messages instantly, even after work hours. I am really trying to limit screen time and this seems to be the only decent solution so far. I also snack on a few pieces of dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s.
5 p.m. — Done with work for the day. I am also realizing that I don’t remember most of Dune to watch the second film so I will, at some point (and that means ASAP), watch it. I plan to watch it tonight and maybe tomorrow during the later half of the workday — because Friday. I really don’t enjoy watching TV during the day so we’ll see. I change and head to the gym.
7 p.m. — I come back home and put on a Briogeo hair mask after quickly washing my hair. I make a quick salad for dinner, then shower and get in bed. I realize I don’t have any more dry shampoo so I order a pack of three and a pack of loofahs from Amazon. I was blessed with very good hair but I got over-influenced by all the heat hair hacks on Instagram; as a result my hair has suffered and now I am trying to go back to using coconut oil and hair masks and repairing some of the damage. Men never have to worry about these things or spend as much on products as women do. I get annoyed as I put things in cart. I finish my book by 11 p.m. and head to bed. $21
Daily Total: $56

Day Four

8 a.m. — TGIF — the weather is beautiful and it’s also International Women’s Day! I wake up feeling so amazing. I walk to the local coffee shop and get an iced matcha and a bagel with tahini and honey. I sit in the park for a bit as I speak to my mom on the phone and hear about her travel adventures. $12.55
12 p.m. — I wrap up my meeting and head to my laser hair removal appointment. I struggled with really stubborn chin hair thanks to my PCOS and I finally started getting them removed. I am on my fifth session. I seriously cannot wait to be done since it’s not cheap. I am in and out in 10 minutes. It’s also a five-minute walk from my apartment so I am back at my desk in no time. $90
3 p.m. — We discuss our book club book and we have a blast doing it. I seriously love the people I work with. It is just a healthy, non-toxic work environment and I am surrounded by brilliant women at work. I wrap up work for the day and head to the library to pick up a book. I plan to read in the park because it looks beautiful out.
1 a.m. — Back home after happy hour and almost three hours of watching Dune: Part 2. I am exhausted. I had two drinks and some Korean chicken wings. The movie was entertaining but the Orientalist tonality was a bit sickening. It’s 2024 and people still don’t seem to understand the issue. I pass out. $62
Daily Total: $164.55

Day Five

4 a.m. — I keep tossing and turning and can’t sleep until about 6 a.m. I finally wake up around 9 a.m. This seems to happen to me whenever I have a drink. I have been really limiting my alcohol consumption since it doesn’t make me feel good anymore and also doesn’t align with my fitness goals. Is that what your 30s are like? Child’s pose but no child-like energy! Everything seems to cause a headache and a backache!
1:30 p.m. — I normally go for a morning workout class on the weekends, but my friends and I are going to the Philly Spin charity event instead. It’s basically four hours of spin, raising funds for the City Hospital of Philadelphia. I take the train to get there. I FaceTime with my nephew on my way and since he is obsessed with umbrellas these days he gets excited to see me walk around with one. I love him so much! After living a year in Philly, I am finally getting more comfortable taking the train but try to avoid it alone at night. I bike for about 90 minutes and my two other friends bike for the rest of the time. It was well-organized, emotional, and a fun event! We celebrate post-event with two drinks and dinner. $44
9 p.m. — I am home after the event. It was raining and dark so we just Ubered back (I pay for the Uber since they did for the night before). I am exhausted so I shower quickly and get in bed by 9:30 p.m. and pass out. Thanks to the alcohol and going to the bed too early and the daylight saving, I am up by 4:30 a.m. again! $18.22
Daily Total: $62.22

Day Six

9 a.m. — Get off my bed after a few sleepless hours here and there and get ready for my Pilates class. The gym has been a great place to meet new women my age and be friends with them. Also, the social interaction at the gym is not draining at all! We motivate each other to go to classes, workout more, and it’s just a very positive environment. I get a smoothie at the gym with my points which accumulates over time with each class I attend.
11 a.m. — Walk back with my friend who lives in the same building and also goes to the same gym as I do. I am ready to stay in all day and read and nap since it’s super cold and windy outside
4 p.m. — After all the laying around and reading my book, I get a boost of energy and start meal prepping for the next week days. I make spicy turkey and quinoa pilaf, roasted brussels sprouts with hot honey, and baked sweet potatoes. I clean up right after. There is no bigger joy in the world than living alone to a clean space and not having to deal with a man-child to do the most minimal house chores.
7 p.m. — I eat my dinner and a group of girls who live in the same building as I do walk over to a friend’s apartment to watch Damsel on Netflix. My friend lives in an apartment complex with common areas with large TVs so we just watch it all together without necessarily having to go inside her apartment. The movie is short and we have a good time. The movie was just okay, but the company was great.
9:15 p.m. — We walk home and try to stop at two pharmacies, but they were both closed so early! Your girl has been constipated for the first time in maybe… 25 years, and trying to get some Miralex leads to an adventure in the city. We finally find a Target that’s open late. My friends are the sweetest and decide to walk with me in the wind and rain. No other better bonding activity than bowel movement, I guess! I purchase a pack of Miralax and bananas for my weekly protein shake. $22
Daily Total: $22

Day Seven

8:45 a.m. — It’s Monday again! I have my breakfast and make my coffee while group chatting with my sister and my mom. We catch up for a few minutes and I sit at my desk. We have an all-staff call at 10 a.m. so I just catch up on some emails and plan my work day.
12 p.m. — After a Teams frenzy and multiple technical issues, I am done with my two back-to-back meetings (which started at 10 a.m.). I work for 30 more minutes and quickly find time to eat my lunch before another meeting at 1 p.m.
5 p.m. — Wrap up with work with close to no breaks. Today was super busy. I try to listen to a podcast in the background but cant’t focus while trying to get some writing done. I quickly change and walk over to the gym for my Monday spin class with my friend. I also panic a little about how much money I spent this week and vow not to spend so much next week — I should be okay since I don't have to laser or buy another flight ticket.
7 p.m. — I came back after my spin class and a quick walk with my friend. I still have a lingering headache from the alcohol and just feel exhausted and annoyed overall. I shower and have a protein shake and three falafels for dinner.
9 p.m. — I am in bed and try to read a couple pages but get distracted by news and social media and just get very upset with the state of the world now and how unjust the world is. I toss and turn and finally fall asleep, praying that the Miralax kicks in tomorrow.
Daily Total: $0

The Breakdown

If you or someone you know is addicted to gambling, please get help. Call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-426-2537.

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