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A Week In Durham, NC, On A $120,000 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 UX specialist who makes $120,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on breakfast burritos.
Occupation: UX Specialist
Industry: Technology
Age: 29
Location: Durham, NC
Salary: $120,000
Net Worth: $142,851 (personal checking: $11,177, personal savings: $50,548 (for emergencies + wedding/IVF fund), joint account with partner: $8,111, 401(k): $58,197, Roth IRA: $18,874. My partner and I keep our bank accounts and savings separate except for a "family account," to which we each contribute 10% of our income. We use this account for vacations and large purchases for the home. We split rent and utilities equally and we take turns with household expenses and food. She pays for our dog. We also share a car, which she bought outright but pays for insurance by herself).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (4x/month): $1,124
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $587 (my half).
Utilities: $85 (my half).
Cell Phone: $80
Gym: $55
Spotify/Hulu: $9.99 (I trade with my sister and partner for other streaming services).
Compost: $37
Donations: $500

Annual Expenses
The Atlantic: $79.99
Kinfolk Magazine: $95
Tennis Channel: $100
Jewelry Insurance: $228
NYT Cooking: $40
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?
My parents are both very intellectual and both went to graduate school. They never said we had to attend college, but they framed it as a "fun life experience" so I never saw myself not going to college. They saved enough for my siblings and me to attend a state school (rather than private school) and fully paid for all four years, including living expenses. I am supremely grateful to them and know that their saving is why I am debt-free today.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were very frugal and lived within their means with one working parent and four kids, while also saving. We didn't talk a lot about money, but they did encourage us to get jobs as teenagers as a way to gain independence. As a result, I have always felt very capable of providing for myself and take comfort in the fact that if I were to lose my job, I know I could find something else.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
At age 17 I got a summer job as a lifeguard. My parents wanted me to get a job to keep me occupied and because job experience looks good on a resume. They were still paying for my expenses but they marketed working as me being able to do whatever I wanted. This link between money and independence was an important and empowering message to me.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. My parents never talked about household expenses and always provided financial consistency. Wealth wasn't admired by them either. It wasn't until age 11 when I entered private school that I realized how much money other families had. It annoyed me that I couldn't buy the clothes or technology they did. Looking back, I was a little asshole about brands, while my logical mom didn't see the point in buying similar quality for more money.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry about money. I try to always save a portion of my paycheck and know that I can live more frugally if I need to.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent as soon as I graduated college at age 21.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

8:10 a.m. — I wake up in bed alone — my partner, F., gets up early for work on Saturdays and, as usual, I slept through it. I go downstairs and she has left me coffee in a thermos and a good morning note. F. is a HUGE romantic and I tease her for it but I really do look forward to her notes. F. has taken our dog into work with her.
8:30 a.m. — With the morning to myself, I'm excited to read. I love reading and I normally buy books from my local bookstore and/or audiobooks from Audible, but I recently got a library card and was thrilled to find that they carry a lot of the books on my list. Currently I'm reading We Need to Talk about Kevin. F. and I have been having a lot of conversations lately about whether or not we want to have children, so of course I decided this is the time to read a book about a mother raising a sociopath.
11 a.m. — I'm not hungry yet so I decide to do a quick Pilates YouTube workout, during which I become RAVENOUS. When it's done, my mind is on food but I've been trying to practice meditation, so instead I meditate for 15 minutes using a timer app.
11:40 a.m. — I make half a PB&J. F. will be home in an hour and will want to go to lunch together so I don't want to eat too much. I do some cleaning around the house.
1:35 p.m. — We go to a café for lunch. F. gets a turkey sandwich and home fries, I get an herb quiche and salad, and we both get lattes and split a lemon cake. We also get some of their bottled ranch to take home (it's so good!). I pay for both of us. $50.38
2:30 p.m. — We debate whether to go to the mall to look at sunglasses but we both hate the mall so determine it's not worth the weekend crowds. We go home and hang out on the couch on our computers. F. sends me a Vogue wedding article she likes, which sets us both off on wedding research (we're getting married in a year).
4 p.m. — We get ready to go out. My sister has a show tonight so we walk to a cocktail bar to get a drink before the show. We both get a mezcal drink and then a tequila soda. It's $65 and F. pays.
5:55 p.m. — At the show, I buy two tickets for $70. We both decide to get beers to keep our buzz going. F. buys the beers. $70
7:30 p.m. — After the show we wait around to say congrats to my sister. We then walk to a restaurant for dinner but there is a wait so we debate where else we can go. We opt for a bar that has food but when we get there we realize it's not the vibe so we yet again try another place. This time, we find a hotel we really like. It's expensive but we know it's quiet and the food is so, so good. We get wine and charcuterie, then F. gets steak and I get fish. F. pays $183.60. We usually switch off paying for dinner dates and I took her out earlier this week.
10 p.m. — We walk home and F. turns on a basketball game. We talk for a while and then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $120.38

Day Two

8 a.m. — We wake up but I feel hungover so I grumpily roll back over to sleep more. F. goes downstairs to make us coffee. We spend the next hour lazying around in bed.
9:30 a.m. — We're hungry and decide to walk down to a nearby dive bar that serves breakfast burritos on the weekends. We get to the bar and it's not open yet so we walk to a café to get a coffee. We split a black coffee. $3.38
10:05 a.m. — Turns out the bar won't be opening for burritos this morning so we have to figure something else out. We still really want breakfast burritos so walk back home to get the car and then drive to a breakfast place…but there is a line outside. We decide, screw it, let's go to Taco Bell. But — guess what — they don't have breakfast burritos right now (what is happening?!?).
10:45 a.m. — It's been an hour of trying to get breakfast and morale is running low so we go to Whole Foods for the hot bar and to get groceries for dinner later. We get mushrooms, a bell pepper, red onion and shredded mozzarella for pizza later, mint for a salad and eggs, butter and chocolate to make cookies later. At the hot bar, THEY HAVE BREAKFAST BURRITOS! We get two and F. gets a sandwich for later. F. gets a tea and I get grapefruit juice. We finally eat. $62.98
11:45 a.m. — At home, I put the groceries away and F. switches out the laundry. I throw the ball for our dog in the backyard. Then we all sit on the couch and read for a bit.
2:30 p.m. — F. leaves for work and takes the dog again. I make cookie dough — a recipe from NYT Cooking, which I subscribe to for $40/year. (One of my sisters recently showed me a trick for accessing the recipes without subscribing but I feel kind of bad doing that since journalism has a hard enough time these days.) The dough needs to sit overnight so sadly I won't be benefitting from this labor tonight. I pour myself a glass of wine as consolation.
3:45 p.m. — More reading. My sister, C., texts me and we make plans for her to come over later.
6 p.m. — While I wait for C. to arrive I put on Queer Eye and clean my sneakers with baking soda. C. comes over and she's upset about something that happened with one of our other sisters. We talk about it for a while until she feels better.
7:30 p.m. — C. and I prep the pizza and salad and listen to music. I worry that we won't have enough food if C. stays for dinner so I text F. who says she will get a frozen pizza on the way home as backup. Whenever C. comes over I ask her to stay for dinner — I love cooking and it's nice to share that with others, plus she is single and doesn't earn as much as I do. I never want to be like, okay we're eating now, can you leave?!
8:25 p.m. — F. gets home. We eat and continue watching Queer Eye. Turns out we did need the frozen pizza! After a few hours, C. goes home and I clean up the kitchen.
10 p.m. — F. and I go up to bed. We watch YouTube in bed for an hour and then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $66.36

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up naturally and fully intend to get up, but then I fall back asleep.
8:55 a.m. — I can't believe I slept that long! F. is also still asleep. I quickly get up to make coffee for us.
9 a.m. — I log onto work as I wait for the coffee to brew. F. comes down and we sit outside to have our coffee.
9:30 a.m. — I check my emails and see what meetings I have for today. Looks like there is only one this morning. The dog starts barking at everyone walking by so we go inside.
10 a.m. — Meeting time. My team is waiting for work from another team, who is behind, so there isn't much to do until then. Once that does happen we will have to work long hours to complete the project in time for release, so I am relishing the free time.
10:45 a.m. — F. tells me she's going to the gym and will pick up groceries for dinner on the way home. She's been asking me to make curry lately so I make a list with those ingredients: lentils, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, green beans for a side. I ask her to also get salmon for tomorrow. There is a technique I want to try where you prep it overnight.
11:15 a.m. — I get ready to go for a run and debate whether to take the dog with me. She's napping and I feel bad for making her do this, but I know we will both feel good afterward. Before we go, I put lemon juice in my hair. Lemon juice reacts with sunlight for a natural (and very cheap) lightener. My hair is dark blonde and gets highlights in the summertime so I like to help it along without having to spend loads of money at the salon.
12:30 p.m. — Back from the run, I chug some grapefruit juice and then take a shower.
1:10 p.m. — F. is home and has made us an egg scramble from leftover chicken and potatoes along with sliced avocado, and toast. She turns on Succession while we eat. I open up my work chat to keep up with what's going on to make sure I'm not missing anything.
2:45 p.m. — I take a break to prep some of the ingredients for dinner tonight. F. and I share a bottled iced coffee. F. has gotten it in her head that she wants to get another dog. She wants to call the people who gave us our dog “just to see” if there are any new puppies. Apparently, they do have a puppy born five weeks ago. I'm torn. While I want her to have a playmate, our house is small and a new puppy means so much training and additional responsibility…
3:30 p.m. — We have a meeting with a potential caterer for the wedding. We want to make food a focus at the wedding. He is delightful and has some really cool ideas for the meal. He says he may not be available on our date but says he'll see what he can do. I really want it to work out!
5:10 p.m. — I cook dinner, prep the salmon for tomorrow, and put a sheet of cookie dough in the oven. F. comes and keeps me company and we talk about the pros and cons of getting another dog. We decide this maybe isn't the right time with everything else going on.
6:45 p.m. — Dinner time! The curry is delicious. We eat and watch more Succession. Afterward, we clean up and go to bed early.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — We wake up to F.'s alarm and I am so not ready to get up, but I manage.
7:15 a.m. — We have coffee and talk about our upcoming days. I then drive F. to work.
8 a.m. — I check my work emails and schedule. Still nothing to do today. I finish a chapter in my book and then book a 9:15 hot yoga class. I usually do yoga and Pilates videos on YouTube at home but I've started to get so stir-crazy working from home that I want the excuse to get out of the house, even if it costs money. $17
9 a.m. — I head to yoga. We have a substitute teacher today and the change of pace is refreshing.
10:50 a.m. — I'm home and hungry. I make a chocolate, oat, coffee and spinach smoothie. I walk the dog and then get ahead on a different work project.
11:45 a.m. — I see an email from the caterer from yesterday saying that he is free on the day we want but that another couple is interested so it'll be first come, first served. I'm thrilled! I immediately text F. But that means I've got to get the go-ahead from my parents. They travel a lot for work and have been noncommittal about their schedule. I send them a group text.
1:25 p.m. — F. gets home from work and she's brought bagel sandwiches. I take a break from work to eat with her.
1:45 p.m. — Back to work but I'm interrupted by my mom saying the date should work for them. I immediately email the caterer, planner and venue to tell them we want that day. Aaaand back to work.
3:29 p.m. — I take a break to look at Airbnbs. My other sisters are coming into town soon for wedding dress shopping and to celebrate my 30th birthday. I feel like I've been harassing them about scheduling lately with all of the stuff coming up with the wedding but I need to get this booked. I see a few options within walking distance of my house and message the owners about allowing my sister's two dogs. I also message the sister group chat to see what dates they all plan to be here.
5:20 p.m. — We prep salmon, rice and broccoli. The salmon turns out to be delicious and I am very pleased. We turn on Conor McGregor's documentary. F. loves UFC and I must admit I find the narratives entertaining.
8:45 p.m. — My sister calls me to catch up. We talk until my niece gets fussy.
10 p.m. — In bed. F. turns on YouTube but I fall asleep immediately.
Daily Total: $17

Day Five

7:05 a.m. — We wake up to F.'s alarm and she checks her phone in bed while I continue to snooze. We eventually get up, have coffee and start the day.
10 a.m. — I have my first meeting of the day, which thankfully finishes early so I have time to sneak in a run. F. joins me on the run and we discuss engagement pictures. I don't really care about engagement pictures and am a little tired of all the wedding decision-making so the conversation doesn't go well.
12 p.m. — At home, I respond to some work messages and then quickly shower. F.'s friend is coming over to meet her and go to lunch. I haven't seen him for a long time so I want to say hi. We catch up briefly but then I have to run to my next meeting.
2:45 p.m. — F. arrives home with a croissant for me. I take it as a peace offering from our tense conversation on the run.
3 p.m. — F. and I go to the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner. It's a local co-op that we like because it's small and very chill and has a lot of programs benefitting the community. We are technically co-op “owners,” which just means we paid a $100 fee one time. F. wants to have chicken lettuce wraps so we get mushrooms, ginger, carrots, cilantro and hoisin. I plan to pay the $51 but F. does while I'm bagging the groceries. I'm kind of annoyed because she's been paying for so much and I don't like not pulling my weight. She brushes me off and says I can take her out this weekend. As we're driving home, I see we're almost out of gas so I stop to fill up, perhaps out of spite. $33.53

4:30 p.m. — At home, F. starts chopping vegetables for dinner and we put on The Ultimatum. We cook dinner — the chicken lettuce wraps are a hit — and then continue watching TV afterward.

10:30 p.m. — We get in bed and again I fall asleep immediately.

Daily Total: $33.53

Day Six

7:15 p.m. — I wake up but fall back asleep until F. gets up at 8. We get ready and then F. leaves for work.
9 a.m. — I get up and start working. I also take a look at our wedding budget spreadsheet and add in some new numbers based on recent emails with vendors. The spreadsheet is getting very detailed but it makes me feel like I have a good idea of what we should plan to spend. Our budget goal is $60,000 and right now the numbers are close to $63,000, which I'm okay with. We will likely get some financial assistance from both of our families but we decided on this budget so that even if we didn't, we could afford to pay for it from my savings.
11 a.m. — I have a meeting with my boss and teammates. Then I finish up a task and send it out for approval. I'm hungry so I put some bread in the oven for toast. I read while I'm waiting. I am almost finished with my book! Only 40 pages to go. As much as I love a challenge, I will be relieved when it's over. I make myself a note to reserve another book from the library.
2:15 p.m. — F. gets home from work and asks if I want to run errands with her. She needs to return a package. We stop by Whole Foods to get lunch and pick up groceries for dinner. Her friend is supposed to come over for dinner so I plan to make pasta. We get shallots, parsley, garlic and tomatoes. For lunch, I get spiced chickpeas, greens and rice. I pay for groceries (finally). $53.84
3 p.m. — At home, I read a little while F. takes a bath. I haven't walked the dog yet and she is getting antsy. I decide to walk her to go get coffee. F. comes with us. $12.38
5:30 p.m. — Back at home, F. gets a text from her friend that he has to reschedule. I start to make dinner but I'm pretty tired and I tell F. I don't really want to cook. She says don't. I feel bad that we bought all the ingredients for dinner but we can make the pasta tomorrow. We order pizza. I pay. $46.80
6:15 p.m. — We make an herb and spinach salad. Over dinner, F. shows me some invitation ideas she likes.
6:45 p.m. — F. buys the new John Wick movie for us to watch ($20). She's been waiting for it to be on streaming and apparently it's only available to buy and not to rent so I guess we own it now!
9:30 p.m. — My oldest sister called me during the movie so I call her back afterward. She wants to talk about birthday plans.
10:10 p.m. — In bed, F. and I watch food review videos.
Daily Total: $113.02

Day Seven

7:55 a.m. — We wake up and get ready for the day. The kitchen has some dishes dirty from the night before so I clean up while the coffee brews. F. leaves for work. I finish the 40 pages left in my book and surprisingly am a little sad it's over.
9 a.m. — I work for a few hours while the dog lies next to me on the couch. After a few hours, I take the dog on my run with me.
12:30 p.m. — Back at home, the dishwasher is done so I unload it while eating a piece of leftover pizza. F. gets back from work. We shower and talk about our days so far. I only wash my hair once a week and it needs it today so I let it air-dry and put away the clothes that have been accumulating on the chair in the bedroom all week. Alas, the bedroom clothes chair!
2:50 p.m. — We walk to a wine shop to pick up a couple of bottles for the weekend. I pick a red wine for tonight because it will go well with the pasta we didn't make last night. The total is $40.45 and F. pays.
3:30 p.m. — F. and I have a meeting scheduled with a potential photographer. We both really like her work and so we're delighted when we all hit it off so well on the call. Afterward, all my colleagues have logged off work early. It's a holiday weekend so I'm not surprised. F. looks up some engagement photo ideas and we pour a glass of wine.
5:05 p.m. — We turn on the movie adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin. F. is not into it. It's sort of artsy and maybe a bit dark for a Friday afternoon. So we turn it off and make pasta. Afterward, we watch Selling Sunset and drink more wine.
8:25 p.m. — F. orders us ice cream from Gopuff and we spend the rest of the evening loudly expressing our opinions over Selling Sunset.
10:10 p.m. — F. has to get up early so we head to bed. Happy Friday!
Daily Total: $0
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