A Week In Fairfax County, VA, On A $108,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a software engineer who makes $108,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on bubble tea.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Software
Age: 22
Location: Fairfax County, VA
Salary: $108,000 (+$12,000 signing bonus)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,363
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $300 (Since I just graduated from college earlier this year and housing is expensive, I'm living at home with my parents for a bit. The rent I pay them is also supposed to cover the food they buy and my phone plan. My friend, T. and I are planning to move in together next year after we have both saved up some money!)
Loans: $0 (My parents paid for my college tuition and I paid for living expenses - rent, food, books, etc.)
401(k): $900
HSA: $130
Car Insurance: $109
Spotify Premium: $5.99 (trying to ride out my student subscription)
Patreon: $5 (I support Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, one of my favorite podcasts!)
Personal Investments: $4,000 (Most money I don't spend goes into my personal investment portfolio)
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Day One

6:45 a.m. — Even though it's a Sunday, I wake up early because of daylight savings last night. I quickly go down to the kitchen to grab a slice of the bread that I made yesterday. I end up staying in bed for two more hours re-reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in preparation for a HPST live show later in the week.
9 a.m. — I start searching for somewhere to get my car serviced. I got my car used last summer and for my first car service I went to the dealer and felt very ripped off. I find a place near my work with good reviews, but they aren't open on weekends, so I wait to call them until later in the week. I read an article about how to be a better friend and send it to my college roommates (not because they need to be better friends, they are already the best!) that I will be seeing later tonight and this weekend. I spend more time surfing the internet and read some Money Diaries.
11 a.m. — I get hungry early because of daylight savings and eat leftover Chipotle that my brother bought last night. I think about running, then feel guilty about not going because I haven't been good about staying active, but end up deciding to go for a walk instead. I listen to the HPST podcast and walk a two-mile loop.
12:30 p.m. — I go to the grocery store to grab ingredients for my meal prepping and snacks for the rest of the week. I grab tofu, sesame oil, soy sauce, mushrooms, bell pepper, cabbage, rice, clementines, and beans. I get home, start cooking the rice, press the tofu, and sit down to read more while I'm waiting. I cut up the vegetables and fry them with the tofu from a recipe I found on my favorite recipe blog — Minimalist Baker. $32
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3 p.m. — I leave to meet my friends/college roommates and it takes almost an hour instead of the usual 35 minutes (traffic on a Sunday afternoon, really??). We park at different ends of the mall and meet in the middle at the food court to grab something to eat. We decide the mall is too loud and crowded, so we go to Silver Diner for dinner where I split a milkshake and a tofu banh mi sandwich. One of my friends has to leave for work and the rest of us head to IKEA to help find bedroom furniture for my friend, H.'s, new apartment. $13
7:30 p.m. — We leisurely walk through IKEA and get to the end 30 minutes before closing, but we missed the bedside tables, so H. and I fast walk through the IKEA maze to find one he likes. He buys us Marabou chocolate for helping him pick out the furniture and we all head our separate ways. When I get home, I watch my favorite episode of New Girl ("Cooler") before going to sleep.
Daily Total: $45

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up, take a shower and head straight to work, since my company provides breakfast for everyone on Mondays. This week they have mini quiches, one of my favorites! I scoop out pineapple and strawberries from the fruit salad (Does anyone actually eat the cantaloupe and honeydew melon?). I brew a cup of tea and eat in the quiet office since I am usually the first on my team to arrive. I read through some emails and start coding as other people start to show up.
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10 a.m. — My team has a meeting to discuss what did and didn't go well over the past couple weeks. Usually, we don't get through all the topics that people want to discuss, but we end early for the first time in months!
12 p.m. — I heat up the tofu stir-fry that I meal prepped for the week and eat lunch with my team. Most of my team takes an hour lunch together where we chat and play a board game everyday. Mondays are pretty unproductive because we head to lunch right after our morning meeting and the afternoon is dedicated to employee learning time.
4 p.m. — We have a company-wide meeting, where we listen to our CEO speak. The only reason people usually go is the free dinner and happy hour afterward. As the company has grown, they have stopped providing as much free food, and people are not happy. Instead of dinner, they serve light snacks, none of which are vegetarian, so I head out as soon as it is over to meet my friends, T. and H. at the mall. I grab bubble tea to compensate for my lack of dinner. T. doesn't eat all her bubbles (which are my favorite part), so she gives the rest to me. $6.60
6:45 p.m. — We go to the movie theater to see Parasite, where H. complains about the ridiculously expensive tickets. When we get into the theater, the trailers are super loud (93 decibels according to H.'s phone app), so he goes to complain. By the time the movie starts, they have turned it down to an acceptable noise level and the movie is amazing!! $14.99
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10:30 p.m. — After driving home, I catch up with my mom for a bit and read analysis articles of the movie. I usually don't watch scary movies, but my friend, S. (who also doesn't like scary movies) raved about it and said it was not too scary for me to handle. Still, when I got home, I check in my closet and under my bed, then watch an episode of Bob's Burgers to distract my mind before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $21.59

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up feeling really sleepy, because I didn't fall asleep until 11:30 (over an hour past my bedtime!). I get caught up reading about the people who are running for positions in my district. I wasn't planning to vote, because the senate and house positions were running unopposed for my district. However, after reading that a candidate for a board of supervisors position supports preserving “public female modesty”, I decide I should really go vote. I see the time, quickly get dressed, and grab my lunch, then head out.
7:30 a.m. — I'm so absorbed in my thoughts about elections that I miss the bagel place I was going to stop at for breakfast. When I arrive at work, I eat a cookie that one of my co-workers brought in, which is not the best breakfast, but at least I remembered my multivitamin! I go to the kitchen to grab some granola and pretzels.
12 p.m. — I go to the kitchen to heat up my tofu stir-fry. My team eats together as usual and we play a game called Saboteur.
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3:30 p.m. — I pair with another developer for the rest of the afternoon. Since I am relatively new to the company and fresh out of college, I often pair with a more senior developer to learn from them. He asks if I want to go grab coffee/tea and I lecture him on how caffeine can keep you up at night if you drink it this late in the day.
5 p.m. — I drive straight from work to my voting location while listening to a HPST podcast. There's no line so it takes less than five minutes to get checked in and fill out my ballot!
7 p.m. — I meet my ex-boyfriend for dinner at a sushi place. (We decided to stay friends after the break-up because we have been friends since middle school, but things didn't work out romantically). We split vegetable spring rolls and a veggie sushi platter, while we chat about work, poker, and our lives. His best friend was running a senate campaign, so he nervously checks the results online throughout dinner (his candidate loses 48% to 52%). He pays for both our meals since I picked up the check last time.
9 p.m. — I get home, get ready for bed and read Harry Potter until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I wake up a little early to do yoga this morning. I've had a hard time exercising regularly with a full-time job, so I just try to fit it in when I can. I shower and call the auto shop I found on Sunday to schedule my car service for tomorrow. I bring toast to eat in the car and as I'm pulling out of the driveway remember that I left my lunch and a pumpkin cheesecake for my co-workers inside. I run in and grab them before heading out.
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10:30 a.m. — I have a meeting with the head of my department. Even though it is only 15 minutes, I'm nervous because of how intimidating and direct I've heard he is. He asks lots of rapid-fire questions and tells me to email people in the department when I bring up something negative.
12 p.m. — I eat my tofu stir-fry and take a slice of the pumpkin cheesecake for myself. We play Codenames today and my team narrowly wins each time. We play up until the last minute and run to our team meeting at 1.
3 p.m. — I am super tired, so I go and get a cup of tea. (Literally against my own advice of no caffeine in the afternoon, but it will come back to haunt me later).
5:30 p.m. — It's engineering board game night and they provide dinner! I grab a veggie sandwich from Potbelly and a piece of cheese pizza. I learn how to play a new game called Evolution and lose miserably.
8 p.m. — I listen to the Women of Pop playlist on Spotify on the drive home. It is much shorter than usual without the traffic, yay! At home, I say hi to my parents, clean plastic containers from my past three lunches, and eat the last piece of pumpkin cheesecake and a clementine.
8:30 p.m. — I am usually not this busy during the week and socializing this much has taken a toll on my introverted self. I'm glad to have a little time to relax by myself, so I read Money Diaries and meditate (I really enjoy the benefits of meditating and I have tried to meditate right when I wake up or right before bed, but they both lead to me falling asleep. Now I end up meditating around once a week).
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10:30 p.m. — After laying in bed for 30 minutes without falling asleep, I get up to take melatonin. I wonder if the tea I had this afternoon is keeping me up. I watch an episode of Bob's Burgers while waiting for the melatonin to kick in.
11:30 p.m. — I've never taken melatonin before, but I think it is working? I end up falling asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:55 a.m. — I really don't want to get out of bed, so I tell myself I have five minutes until my next alarm. Usually, I fall back asleep, but this time I just savor the warmth of my bed. I get ready, grab some toast, and head out to my car.
7:45 a.m. — I get to the auto shop and they ask if I need a ride to work. I assume they mean they are going to drive me and say yes. The shop owner tells me someone will meet me at my car to ride with me to work, so they can take my car back. I don't check my GPS and end up taking the long way. We make some small talk at first, then listen to the radio for the rest of the ride.
12 p.m. — I am super groggy all morning, so I vow to never take melatonin again. Tofu stir-fry for lunch, then we play Avalon. The shop calls to ask if I want them to replace my torn windshield wiper. I say yes hoping they aren't trying to rip me off.
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4 p.m. — I leave work to go pick up my car from the auto shop. I debate taking an Uber but it's only a little over a mile away so I start walking. I feel a droplet (shit) and check the Uber prices again. They have gone up in the past five minutes and it feels too excessive to take one now that I'm less than a mile away. Luckily, someone had the foresight to store an umbrella in my backpack, instead of the car (thank you past self!).
4:30 p.m. — I get to the shop and pay for the oil change, tire rotation, belt inspection, and new wiper blades. Car maintenance is expensive, but this place is so much cheaper than the dealer. I get to test my new wiper blades — who knew that wiper blades aren't supposed to squeak every time you use them? $174.52
5:30 p.m. — I get home and ask if my mom can drive me to the metro for the HPST show tonight. She says yes and asks if I've eaten any dinner (whoops I would have forgotten, thank god for moms!). I eat leftover barbecue jackfruit with couscous and grab a clementine. She drops me off and I read Harry Potter on the metro.
7 p.m. — The show is funny, thoughtful, and the highlight of my week thus far! The hosts look much different than I imagined from the podcast. On my way back home, I notice I only have $3 left on my metro card, so I add some money to it. $10
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10 p.m. — My mom picks me up at the metro and asks how the show was. When we get home, I grab more toast to eat and head up to bed, crossing my fingers that I can sleep better tonight.
Daily Total: $184.52

Day Six

7 a.m. — I lay in bed for 10 minutes before I realize I need to take a shower and pack for my weekend away — no time to waste! I leave a little late and actually remember to stop at the bagel place this morning for breakfast. I use a gift card I got a while back. I eat it while I drive the rest of the way to work and I'm only 10 minutes later than usual.
9:30 a.m. — I have a meeting with my manager. He lets me know that I should feel comfortable taking vacation and leaving early if I need to (then I tell him that I already planning on leaving early today). When the meeting is over, I see an email that I have been charged for Headspace. They charged me the student price for the year even though I'm no longer a student (but I'm not complaining!) $9.99
12 p.m. — Tofu stir-fry for lunch and we play Avalon again. There aren't many games that are good for this many people, so we usually end up rotating between the same games.
3 p.m. — I leave work early to beat traffic on the way to Charlottesville. I pick up T. on the way and we drive to our other friend, K.'s, house, so she can drive the rest of the way.
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6:45 p.m. — We arrive at our friend S.'s house (she stayed a fifth year at our alma mater to get her masters in teaching) and go to local restaurant for salad/rice bowls (not usually a salad person, but these are so good that there is always a line out the door!). $10.70
8 p.m. — We catch up with each other for a few hours before getting ready for bed. We set up an air mattress for T. and I to sleep on. K. goes out for the night, comes back around 3 a.m., and crashes on the couch.
Daily Total: $20.69

Day Seven

7:55 a.m. — T. and I wake up and whisper to each other about our plans for the day, so we won't wake up S. We decide on a pie restaurant and head out when she wakes up. (K. stays at the house, only getting up to move from the couch to the bedroom to fall back asleep). T. and I split a chocolate hazelnut pie and a potato and brie pie (pie > cake) and I get a hot chocolate. $8.62
10 a.m. — We walk around the little outdoor mall and I buy a cute print. $21.06
11 a.m. — We bring back a pie for K. and start discussing where we should go on vacation next summer. We are all very indecisive people, but we narrow it down and choose Scotland! We start excitedly looking at pictures, itineraries, and Airbnbs. We eat our leftovers from last night as a snack while planning.
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1:45 p.m. — We decide to go to a cidery to get out of the house for a bit. The 45-minute drive goes by quickly, because of the perfect view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and fall foliage. We listen to Christmas music to get into the holiday spirit (If thanksgiving had good music, I would listen to that. For now, I will listen to Christmas music whenever I please, November included.)
2:30 p.m. — We split flights of cider and fries and chat about work crushes. We assure S. that the eight year age gap between her and a 30-year-old teacher at her school isn't too much. $5
4 p.m. — We head home, so K. can grab dinner with girls from her sorority. The rest of us go to a pho restaurant around 6. After the meal, we stop at Trader Joe's to grab popcorn kernels and a brookie (brownie/cookie hybrid that I highly recommend). $11.29
8 p.m. — While S.'s roommates are pregaming with friends in their rooms, we watch one of our favorite New Girl episodes ("Quick Hardening Caulk") and one of the new Queer Eye Japan episodes. We have to turn subtitles on until all her roommates leave for the party. It's finally quiet once they leave and soon after we all get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $45.97
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
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