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A Week In Cincinnati, OH, On A $56,000 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.

Today: a teacher who makes $56,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Ganni t-shirt.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 32
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Salary: $56,000
Net Worth: ~$440,000 (HSA: $1,110, 401(b): $50,500, investments: $29,000, Saving: $120,000, rental property: $240,000 (I own this outright))
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,100 from my main job, $800 from my rental property after tax, and $100-$200 from my side gig as a tutor.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,640 (including $100 parking and $50 dog fee)
Electric: $30
Gas/Water/Sewage: $150
Internet: $50
Phone: $70
Gym: $55
Home/Car Insurance: $160
HSA: $10 pre-tax
401(b): $500
Savings: $200
Netflix: $15.89
Hulu/Disney+/HBO: on my boyfriend's account
Spotify: $10
Storage: $80
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, I grew up in China and education is super important to us. When I was a little kid, I was told that everyone has to go to college to have a job. I studied abroad in the United States for part of my undergrad degree and got my master's degree here as well. My parents paid for my education.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Unfortunately, my parents gave me zero education in terms of money. They only occasionally talk about buying properties as investments. They talked negatively about investing in stocks since some of their friends got into debt by making bad choices with stocks. Because of this, real estate was the only way I was taught to invest my money growing up.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was an English tutor in China when I was in high school.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Fortunately, no. My family makes good money and has stable real estate investments, so we never had to worry about anything. I never wanted for anything and they have been very generous over the years. On the other hand, they are pretty frugal with themselves and invest all their spare money in real estate.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, I feel like I spent way too much money in my earlier years and I always tend to buy things that I really cannot afford with my income. I worry about affording kids or being able to retire. I work a few side gigs so I can spend that extra income buying things that I like and save my other income.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At 24 when I started my first job after grad school. I do have a financial safety net since I started to invest in my retirement pretty early and am debt-free.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, my parents gifted me a house when I found my dream job. I don't live in the house and use it for passive rental income instead.

Day One

6:20 a.m — I wake up and it is another Monday! I drag myself out of bed, chug a cup of water, and feed my dog.
6:35 a.m — It is time to do my morning workout. I turn on the TV and watch an episode of White Lotus while doing a 40-minute HIIT workout on YouTube. Then I shower, get dressed, and have a smoothie. I take the dog out quickly then head to work.
8:20 a.m — I started my first block teaching. Today I am teaching three 90-minute blocks.
11:20 a.m. — My school offers free lunches to all teachers. I get a full salad with tons of vegetables and curry cauliflower. I also get a small box of fruits.
5:30 p.m. — After a tutoring session, I finally get home. I take my dog for a long walk since it's too cold for the dog park.
7 p.m. — I make Japanese curry for dinner. I feed myself and the dog and then watch Netflix while I scroll on my phone. I get in bed at 9:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6 a.m. — This morning I am going to my favorite boot camp class, so I'm up earlier than normal. I quickly take the dog out then head to class.
2 p.m. — I have a quick break at work and do some online shopping. I see Ganni on Farfetch and am instantly intrigued. I get myself a shirt, sweater, and denim dress. $416
3:30 p.m. — I stay late today since we have a faculty meeting until 5pm. During the meeting, we are provided with free snacks and drinks. I grab a bag of chips and Diet Coke.
5:15 p.m. — I get home and take my dog to the dog park. I have leftover curry for dinner.
7 p.m. — I FaceTime my family in China. I try to video chat with them once per week, but because of China's extreme COVID policy, I have not been able to visit them for a long time. I really miss them, but with technology, my life is a bit easier.
Daily Total: $416

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I get up and do a Pilates workout. Then I take the dog out and head to work.
3:30 p.m. — I finish work and head home. I take the dog for a walk to USPS and drop off a return package.
5 p.m. — I go to the grocery store. I like my food fresh, so I prefer to do multiple smaller trips. This time I get salmon, broccoli, green onion, toast, avocados, and bananas. $21
5:30 p.m. — I make grilled salmon and brown rice for dinner. I clean up and then sit down with Netflix to watch Wednesday. I text my boyfriend a bit and get in bed at 9.
Daily Total: $21

Day Four

6 a.m. — Up early for a boot camp class. After class, I go home, take the dog out, and then head to work.
4:30 p.m. — I finish my work day and head to a local boutique where I've picked up a shift. I took this gig during the summer since I like fashion and working at this store gives me opportunities to try on lots of new things. Also I get a sweet employee discount! My task today is to unpack some boxes and steam clothes. Toward the end of the shift, I buy myself a reusable shopping bag from Baggu. $10.20
7:15 p.m. — I get home and am too tired to cook. I make some frozen dumplings from my fridge and add some broiled broccoli.
8 p.m. — I give my boyfriend a call to let him know that I got us a dinner reservation tomorrow. He is really busy with work during the week so I usually only see him on the weekends. I like this set up because I get more alone time and we get more excited to see each other during the weekend. We always go get a fancy dinner on Friday and have a fun night to reward ourselves. I am excited about the weekend.
Daily Total: $10.20

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — It is Friday and super nice out, so I take my dog for a run. After the run, I take a shower, pack my breakfast (homemade chia seeds pudding), and head out to work.
12 p.m. — I get a salad and some fruit for lunch from the cafeteria.
4:30 p.m. — I have a quick boutique shift today before dinner. The store is not very busy, which allows me to rest a bit. I try on some holiday dresses at the store. I want a dress from the brand Saylor, but I just purchased some clothes earlier this week, so this dress will have to wait.
7 p.m. — We are dining at a local Italian restaurant. It took me two months to get this reservation and the food is delicious. We order two appetizers, two plates of pasta, and three cups of wine. My boyfriend, N., pays for dinner.
8:30 p.m. — After dinner we get drinks at a nearby bar. I love living in such a walkable areas. I pay for drinks. $33
11 p.m. — We call it an early night and head back to my place.
Daily Total: $33

Day Six

8 a.m. — I am a bit hungover from last night and get up to make myself a smoothie with ginger, kale, beets, banana, spinach, mango, and coconut water. It does not taste the best but helps me to detox from drinking last night. I also make avocado toast for N., because he refuses to drink my smoothies. He says it is too “healthy” for him, which means it tastes disgusting.
10:30 a.m. — N. goes back to his place and I go to the gym to do a weightlifting class.
12:30 p.m. — After the workout, I make brunch. I make avocado toast with an egg and hot chocolate with some collagen powder. After lunch, I do some cleaning and laundry and then head over to N.'s place.
3 p.m. — I go to look at an apartment I'm thinking about buying. It's in a great area, but the bathroom situation is super weird and I don't want to buy a place I have to heavily renovate.
5:30 p.m. — Saturday is usually our ramen night, so we go to our favorite ramen spot in town. While we wait for a table we get a beer from the brewery next door. $7
7 p.m. — We get two Chinese-style ramen, an appetizer, one sake, and one beer. They mess up our order so the appetizer is free for us, yay! The dinner is as delicious as usual and I pay for it. $53
8:30 p.m. — Before we head home, I grab a pint of my favorite ice cream. $9
Daily Total: $69

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I am going to have avocado toast again for breakfast. I usually bring some bread, eggs, and avocados to N.'s place from my place, since N. has nothing in his fridge like a typical bachelor. I have to work at the store today, so I decided to skip my workout and just chill with N. in the morning.
10:30 a.m. — I am going to do a quick grocery shopping before I start my shift at the boutique store. I get chicken, avocado, celery, beets, pineapple, oranges, kiwi, spinach, kale, carrots, eggs, and milk. I also put in a to-go order for pho on my way back to my apartment, so I can pick it up and eat before my shift starts. $80
6:30 p.m. — I get home after my shift and start to make my dinner. I am making vegetable soup tonight.
9 p.m. — I take melatonin and browse on my phone a bit before sleep. What a productive week!
Daily Total: $80
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