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A Week In Boston, MA, On A $114,000 Salary

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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 strategist who makes $114,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on sauvignon blanc.
Occupation: Strategist
Industry: Retail
Age: 30
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $114,000
Net Worth: $571,220 (home equity: $237,000 (I own my home on my own and my husband contributes to the mortgage); company stock account: $55,858; investment account: $108,730; Roth IRA: $71,972; traditional 401(k): $97,660). My husband and I have a shared credit card for shared expenses, but we do not share joint savings or investment accounts. We split expenses like our mortgage and house-related utility bills mostly 50/50, but I generally end up paying a bit more since I earn more than he does. Someday, we might combine our finances more but right now, before we have children, this works well for us.
Debt: Mortgage: $203,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,434
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,850 (My husband and I split this, with me paying $1,050 and him paying $800. He also pays the $250 condo fee.)
Husband’s Student Loans: $300 (I do not have any personal loans, but I am helping my husband pay off his student loans.)
Netflix: $15
Max: $16
Peloton: $44
Pilates: $149
Commuter Rail Pass: $250
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, there was no question that I would attend higher education. There was no pressure to pursue a certain career and I was free to choose the college and major that I wished, but I was expected to get a bachelor’s degree. My parents paid for 100% of my education and my housing while in college, for which I am immensely grateful.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents are both self-made and highly aware of finances and money. They were always educating me on how to invest and save, but also encouraged me to enjoy the money I earned and use it for things that made me happy. My parents learned very smart financial strategies on their own and I am very grateful for all they passed down to me. They started investing for me before I was born, which has helped me worry less about falling behind on savings. Since they both grew up without much money, my parents were frugal in their own ways and open about limits they think are too much money to spend on certain things. They were always looking for the best price for non-essentials or retail items, but were willing to pay for investment opportunities, real estate, dinners out, gifts, and vacations. They instilled in me that I should be financially independent and not rely on a romantic partner to cover my expenses.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a hostess at a local restaurant. My parents bought me a car when I was 15 to begin learning to drive with and told me that if I was going to have a car, I needed to have a job to pay for gas. They paid for my car insurance, but I needed to start learning some responsibility as I was beginning to grow up. I loved earning my own money and watching my bank account grow and quickly picked up a second job at a clothing store to work as many hours as I could after school. I paid for the gas in my car, eating out with friends, and treating myself to shopping, but aside from that I was able to save a good amount to have for personal expenses when I started college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I did not worry about money growing up because my parents were very generous with me, so I always felt secure. As a child, I did not think much about money and knew I was able to have what I needed, whether it was groceries or gymnastics lessons. Through their generosity, I was also able to save the majority of the money I earned from working as a teenager and begin investing and growing it. I wouldn’t call it a scarcity mindset, but I did develop a need to make and keep as much money as possible, and spending any of my own money now gives me anxiety.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, I would say I have a good amount of financial anxiety. It is the same mindset that I developed as a teenager around wanting to make and keep as much money as possible, only now at a larger scale that I am an adult with a full-time job’s salary. I know that I am financially secure, but I always feel like I could be doing better or saving more. I still worry about spending too much grocery shopping or having any balance at all on my credit card, even though I make sure to pay the balance in full every month. I need to remind myself often that I have enough and everything is going to work out, but it does keep me up at night.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say I became fully financially responsible for myself at 23 when I began living on my own. I had been working my full-time job for a year and became responsible for paying for all of my own housing and living expenses. I bought a car to replace the one my parents got me as a teenager and was responsible for my car payment as well. I do know that if I lost my source of income, my parents would help me financially, but they have instilled in me that I need to rely only on myself and would set a boundary that I needed to provide for myself after some time.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, my parents gifted me $250,000 as a downpayment for my first house. They told me that owning real estate was extremely important for financial success and eventual financial freedom and I am so fortunate for this gift. It has helped keep my monthly expenses low and free up money to enjoy traveling and hobbies.

Day One

9 a.m. — I love to go to Pilates on Sunday morning! I have a monthly membership, so I don’t pay for individual classes each time I go. Today the studio had some cute new sweatshirts available and I buy one for myself. Supporting a small business I love and being comfy is a win-win in my book. $45
10:15 a.m. — After Pilates, I go with a friend to get açai bowls and catch up. I add an extra scoop of almond butter to my bowl, which adds a dollar to the original amount, but it is so worth it. The nut butter is the best part. $14.89
11 a.m. — Grocery shopping for the week. I cook most of my meals at home and spend most of the rest of the day meal prepping. I get carrots, celery, onion, garlic, lentils, and kale to make a soup for the week. I also buy chocolate chips to make a batch of cookie dough to keep in the freezer. I get bread and peanut butter and treat myself to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. I am generally a pretty inexpensive eater since I don’t eat meat, so groceries don’t usually break the bank unless I have been shopping too much. $72.35
6:30 p.m. — I make dinner for my husband and me using our new groceries. I make pasta and garlicky charred broccolini — it’s delicious.
Daily Total: $132.24

Day Two

8 a.m. — I make peanut butter toast and green tea for breakfast using the groceries I bought yesterday. This is pretty typical for my weekday breakfasts. I am a creature of habit when it comes to food.
9 a.m. — I use my prepaid commuter rail pass to get to work. This is a new expense as we have just begun returning to the office. It takes a $250 chunk out of my paycheck that I will need to learn to adjust to — probably clothes shopping less or minimizing dinners with friends. So far, it has been a tough adjustment, figuring out the new way of life and this new expense that I am definitely feeling, but it is nice to see my coworkers a few days a week.
12 p.m. — I brought my own lunch to work that I meal prepped yesterday, but I walk with a friend to a coffee shop to pick up her sandwich. While I am there, I treat myself to another green tea. It’s cold out, so it’s nice to have a warm drink to walk back to the office with. $3.48
7 p.m. — I cook dinner with the groceries I bought yesterday. Tonight, it is a red lentil curry dish that is super simple to make and uses the extra lentils from my lunch soup and some of the veggies that I bought at the store. I really enjoy cooking and like the meals that I make, so I enjoy saving a lot of money by cooking and not going out as frequently.
Daily Total: $3.48

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — My husband and I go for a walk with our dog and stop at our favorite coffee shop. I get my green tea from here today instead of at home and he gets an Americano. I pay for both of us. We do this frequently and usually put the expense on our shared credit card, but today I put it on my own debit card since we are working to pay off our credit card after coming home from traveling recently. $5.67
11:30 a.m. — Lunch! I am working from home today and skipped breakfast since we were out walking for a while. I make myself a veggie and hummus sandwich. I even add a few chips on the side and a seltzer.
3:30 p.m. — I receive a Venmo request from a friend to cover the lodging cost for an upcoming trip we are taking. We are going skiing for a long weekend in Vermont with a few of our friends. This is one of the times that I cover the expense for both my husband and me, since I earn a bit more than he does. I don’t mind doing this, but the large payment takes a chunk out of my checking account. I wish my friend would have waited to request until payday, but I know they also want to get their credit card paid off, too. $562
6:45 p.m. — I go with a friend to see the new Mean Girls movie. It is great! Our theater does a $10 ticket special on Tuesdays and I treat myself to a small popcorn. Skipping breakfast and movie theater popcorn for dinner isn’t my healthiest day on record (or my cheapest), but I enjoyed my time so it was worth it. After the movie, I am a bit hungry and I have some leftover pasta from last night. $17.80
8:30 p.m. — Scrolling social media on the couch always gets me. I see an ad for a sweater I love and I buy it. I think back and forth a lot to justify spending the money since I just paid a lot for the upcoming ski trip. I use Afterpay to split the cost across six weeks and then it doesn’t feel so much right now. This is a bad habit, but something I definitely do pretty often to lessen the financial hit of shopping in the present. I also got the sweater on sale, so that makes me feel better about my purchase. The total is $71.90, but I only have to pay $18 today. While I am online, I also get an email from the pet store about a sale on the wet food my dog loves. $20 off a $50 purchase is something I can’t resist when it’s something I know I will use. I buy my dog a case of food that will last him through the month ($32). $103.90
Daily Total: $689.37

Day Four

8 a.m. — Breakfast is peanut butter toast again. I drink my green tea at home and get ready for another day in the office.
9:30 a.m. — I use my monthly pass for the commuter rail to work. I drink more tea from home out of my to-go cup and listen to my favorite podcast, Giggly Squad.
12:45 p.m. — Lunch! I get a seltzer and a bag of chips from the vending machine at work. To ease returning to the office, they have made all snacks free, which I am happy about and definitely take advantage of. I have more of my meal-prepped soup that I made on Sunday.
6 p.m. — I go to Pilates again, using my monthly pre-paid pass. I love to exercise to unwind after a day at the office. Wednesday is especially a good time to unwind right in the middle of the week. The monthly membership feels expensive up front, but it is worth it to not worry about spending money each time I am deciding if I want to go to a class or not.
7:30 p.m. — My husband calls me on the way home from Pilates and asks me to pick up a pizza from a new place by our house. It’s late and I don’t feel like cooking, so I get it. One large cheese pizza for us to split. I put this expense on our shared credit card ($19.20 total, $9.60 for my half). $9.60
Daily Total: $9.60

Day Five

8 a.m. — Breakfast is peanut butter toast again. Free and delicious, as always. My husband and I go walking again with our dog, but I brought my own tea in my to-go cup with me today and do not buy anything at the coffee shop.
11:30 a.m. — I get a marketing email from a clothing brand I like that they gave me a $10 off coupon and are having a sale. Girl math would say I would be losing money if I didn’t buy something — still, I am frugal and just buy a simple black long-sleeve bodysuit. I get it for a fraction of the price and it is a staple piece so although it’s not an expense I planned for, it is a good investment in my mind. $15.20
12 p.m. — I am working from home today and finish off the meal-prepped soup I made on Sunday. I will have to make a new batch for next week. I run down to the corner store and get myself a ginger ale to go with it. $2.50
6:30 p.m. — My husband and I make tacos for dinner using groceries we have in the house and watch a new documentary on Netflix. We love watching true crime or comedy and the two subscriptions we pay for, Netflix and Max, have plenty. We also have Peacock from my parents to watch The Office, our favorite!
Daily Total: $17.70

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — My husband and I walk to get açai bowls today as a Friday treat. I pay for both of us. Again, I add the extra scoop of almond butter to my bowl for a dollar more. So worth it! It’s an unseasonably warm day so I go for a run after our walk. I love running because it is outside, healthy, and free. $29.88
12 p.m. — I sneak out during my lunch break to go to another Pilates class. Again, I use my monthly membership and don’t need to pay today. If I were to do a drop-in class, it would be $25, so the monthly pass is well worth it.
7 p.m. — It’s Friday night and we go to dinner with friends. I love to see friends, but I get nervous going to big group dinners because splitting the bill always ends up costing more than I ordered for myself. This year, I have decided to speak up and suggest someone puts down a card and everyone pays for their meal. This gives me less anxiety and makes me feel less resentful when someone at the table is ordering their third glass of wine that I don’t have to pay for it. I order one glass of sauvignon blanc and a cauliflower steak tonight. It’s delicious and something I don’t cook for myself at home so worth going out and paying for. $42
Daily Total: $71.88

Day Seven

9 a.m. — It’s Saturday! Breakfast is peanut butter toast and green tea again.
11 0 a.m. — The museum in my town has a new exhibit on fashion in the 20th century that I go to see with a friend. As a resident, I get free admission, which I love. I buy a water at the concession stand in the museum. $2
12 p.m. — On my way home from the museum, I pick up some lunch at one of my favorite Mediterranean takeout spots. I get a falafel pita wrap and a ginger ale. I normally try to eat lunch at home, but I justify treating myself a bit on the weekends. It is worth it! $13.50
6:30 p.m. — I notice my gas tank is running low, so I go to fill it before returning home. I try to stop the gas pump at $25, but it goes slightly over. This is almost a full tank, but I get anxiety about spending a lot on gas at one time. For some reason, this feels like an unwanted expense even though it is a necessity. $25.14
6:30 p.m. — A quiet night at home for dinner after a day hanging out with my family and doing chores. I make a big bowl of pasta and salad for my husband and me and we open a bottle of wine. I don’t like winter, but I do love cozy nights at home. We snuggle on the couch the rest of the night and read and show each other funny videos on our phones until it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $40.64
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