Money Diaries logo

A Week In North Carolina On A $42,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of McDonald's.
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 visual coordinator who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an Oreo McFlurry.
Occupation: Visual Coordinator
Industry: Fashion/Retail
Age: 28
Location: North Carolina
Salary: $42,000
Net Worth: ~$98,000 ($38,000 in checking, $15,000 in savings, $16,000 in a 401(k) through my job, $26,500 in a brokerage account, and $5,000 in a Roth IRA minus debt.)
Debt: $2,482 left to pay off my car
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,615.37
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,250 for rent (going up to $1,300 next month) split evenly with my boyfriend
Car Payment: $250
Gas/Electric: $70-$150
Hulu: $7.46
Cell Phone: $129 quarterly to my mom
Internet/Water: Boyfriend pays
Donations: $200
Health Insurance: $128
Dental: $9
Vision: $6
401(k): I contribute 12% per paycheck, which totals around $390/month
Advertisement
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 was a social expectation in my hometown to attend a four-year university after high school. I didn't really think about other options and am ultimately happy with my decision. Neither of my parents graduated from college so it was important to them that my sister and I get degrees. I was fortunate enough to qualify for financial aid which covered most of this, in addition to a 529 plan started by my grandmother.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We had very surface-level conversations about money. My parents taught me the usual things of never spending outside of my means and the importance of working to earn my own money. Most of what I learned about investments came later from my financial advisor.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job as a bus girl at a restaurant when I was 15 that paid maybe $40 a week. I got the job because I wanted to have my own spending money. I've worked ever since.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I don't think I ever worried when my parents were still together. We were very middle class. When they divorced, I became more privy to my parents' financial struggles. My mom had racked up tons of credit card debt and my dad really took a hit when he had to get an apartment on his own.
Advertisement
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, I wish I didn't worry as much. I know I'm okay day-to-day and I would be okay in an emergency. I'm more concerned with the thought that I know one day I will want to buy a house or have a wedding or children. I'm very lucky to have saved as much as I have, but know it could be gone in a second.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Technically, I did not become fully financially independent until 25 when I was taken off my dad's health insurance. I have been paying for my rent and all other bills since graduating college. I have my savings and I know my family would help out if I was ever in serious financial trouble.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I am very lucky to have grandparents who saved everything they could. One grandmother invested $5,000 in CD and 529 college plan for me. My other grandmother recently passed and I inherited $15,000. These things along with various gifts from my parents have allowed me to enter adult life debt-free, which I know is an advantage very few people get, and I'm very aware of this privilege.

Day One

9:45 a.m. — I am dog-sitting for my parents this weekend so I wake up to get ready and drive the hour to their house. I woke up too late for Starbucks, so coffee from home and a Clif bar for breakfast it is!
Advertisement
11 a.m. — We're using this weekend as an excuse to have a staycation for my sister's baby moon, so I meet her and my friends to get pedicures. I get green polish since it's all the rage right now, but my sister says my toes look like vegetables. $50
12:30 p.m. — We go to Publix to stock up for lunch (black bean burgers, cantaloupe, chicken salad, cheese, burrata, tomatoes, arugula, seltzers). My friend pays and I Venmo $30. $30
1 p.m. — We make lunch and have drinks by the pool (Aperol spritz for me and grenadine sparkling water for my sister).
6 p.m. — Mad dash to get ready for dinner where we get strawberry bruschetta and truffle fries for the table. I get a Caesar salad and two espresso martinis. I also share my friend's crab dip. The others pay for apps since we covered groceries earlier. $26.63
9 p.m. — We get home and spend forever trying to find Pete Davidson's last SNL episode on my parents' smart TV just to see that he's only in one scene. I get in bed around midnight and fall asleep a little after 1.
Daily Total: $106.63

Day Two

10:30 a.m. — I'm woken out of my slumber to be asked if I want coffee (a very good way to wake me up). I ask for an oat milk vanilla latte and send my sister money. $6
11 a.m. — I make brunch at home of eggs, fruit, and cinnamon rolls.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — After walking the dogs, we have another pool day. We get hungry around 3 and place an Uber Eats order. I split black bean nachos with my boyfriend (who also joins us) and Venmo $15 to my friend who ordered. $15
5 p.m. — Our friends leave and I go with my sister to visit our 97-year-old grandma. She's the best.
7 p.m. — Leftovers and more SNL before bed. I end the night with a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich and put the dogs and myself to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $21

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — Woken up by the dogs, but they come snuggle me and we go back to sleep.
10:30 a.m. — I finally get up to feed/let the dogs out and start some cleaning. I take a break to get breakfast (egg and cheese biscuit, fries, Diet Pepsi, strawberry muffin, and a new mixed berry pie to try later). $11.60
1 p.m. — I finish cleaning my parents' house and start the drive back to my house to get ready for the week. Stop for Starbucks and reload my app. $25
4 p.m. — Spend the afternoon reading and watching TikTok. I finish my muffin and coffee from earlier.
9 p.m. — My boyfriend and I eat hot dogs, baked beans, and leftovers for dinner. Eat my dessert in bed and fall asleep around 1.
Daily Total: $36.60

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and quickly get ready by brushing teeth, braiding my hair, and putting on jeans and a white blouse, and we're out the door. I travel weekly for work and I'm starting a trip today so my boyfriend drops me off at the airport to pick up my rental car.
Advertisement
10 a.m. — Stop for coffee. Been trying to find a new Starbucks drink and lately, it's been iced coffee with toffee nut syrup. $4.22 but I reloaded the app earlier this week.
3 p.m. — Late lunch in the car. I packed leftover salad with chickpeas and half a black bean burger.
7 p.m. — Finish work for the day and check into my hotel. I go for a quick walk on the treadmill to hit my 10,000 steps!
9 p.m. — Get sushi and a side of fries for dinner and a Diet Pepsi at the hotel which will all be expensed. Eat in bed watching The Office ($36.39 expensed).
11 p.m. — Shower and get ready for bed. Take vitamins (allergy meds, spironolactone, vitamin D), apply moisturizer, and brush my teeth. Read until 1.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

9 a.m. — Wake up to get ready for work. I finish some work and then get myself a Dunkin' butter pecan coffee and a blueberry doughnut. ($4.20 expensed)
2 p.m. — Sad lunch of warm pasta salad in my car. While scrolling my phone, I impulsively buy tickets to the Van Gogh Immersive Experience for next weekend. $99.80
7 p.m. — Get to my hotel to check in and drop off stuff. Contemplate working out, but I go to Marshall's instead to try to find the Zara stuff everyone has been talking about. No luck.
8 p.m. — Go to Whole Foods to get chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for tonight and coffee and a GoMacro bar for tomorrow ($10.76). I also order a Cava greens & grains bowl for dinner ($11.18). Watch TikTok and read Normal People until bed ($21.94 expensed).
Advertisement
Daily Total: $99.80

Day Six

9 a.m. — Wake up and get ready while drinking coffee and eating the bar I got yesterday.
3 p.m. — Finish the store and get a late lunch of a Starbucks Impossible sandwich and iced black tea lemonade. Expense this plus tip ($12.21 expensed).
4 p.m. — I begin my four-hour drive home and start When Dimple Met Rishi on audiobook. Start to feel snacky and eat a bag of white cheddar popcorn I got at the hotel last night.
8 p.m. — Get gas and drop off the rental car at the airport. Expense gas ($46.57) and the rental car charge ($231.48). My amazing boyfriend picks me up ($278.05 expensed).
9 p.m. — After sanitizing everything and showering, my boyfriend heats up some potato curry, rice, paratha, and Trader Joe's pumpkin samosas for dinner. I realize I didn't donate for pride this year. I give a $25 donation to my local LGBTQ+ center. $25
10:30 p.m. — Heat up some pecan Kringle from Trader Joe's. No reading tonight and I'm out by midnight.
Daily Total: $25

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — Up early for a dermatologist appointment. I struggle with general alopecia and have been on a mission to figure out the root cause. It's likely hereditary, but I have the doctor check my thyroid again. They recommend over-the-counter vitamins and upping my dosage of spironolactone. I pay a $40 copay. $40
9 a.m. — I get my boyfriend and myself Dunkin' coffees and (free) doughnuts for National Doughnut Day! $7.67
Advertisement
1 p.m. — I work from home today and have a half day because of summer Fridays. I spend the morning reaching out to stores, doing expenses, and other boring office work.
5 p.m. — I waste most of the afternoon, but am feeling spicy and watch the 365 Days sequel on Netflix. Very unsure how to feel.
7 p.m. — Boyfriend gets home from work. We both didn't eat as much as we should have today and feel awful so we try to order Chinese delivery on Uber Eats but realize the coupon doesn't work so settle for BurgerFi instead. My boyfriend pays. I decide I also need a McDonald's Diet Coke and OREO McFlurry. I pay for the McDonald's. $5.40
8:30 p.m. — We eat our dinner while watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and head up to bed around 11. Very excited to sleep in tomorrow!
Daily Total: $53.07
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement