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A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $53,388 Salary

Photo: The Sound of Vinyl
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 writer and breathwork facilitator who makes $53,388 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Whitney Houston record.
Occupation: Writer/Breathwork Facilitator
Industry: Various
Age: 28
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $53,388
Net Worth: $5,004.97 ($11,874.65 in savings, $1,997.40 in checking, $9,677.23 in my Vanguard retirement account minus $18,544.31 in student loans).
Debt: $18,544.31 in student loans.
Paycheck Amount: ~ $4,449 from various checks throughout the month.
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $650 (my partner and I rent a house with two roommates, and we have separate bedrooms).
Student Loans: $303
Gym Membership: $25
HBO Max: $9.99
Substack/Patreon Subscriptions: $50
Cell Phone: $101.04
Health Insurance: $290
Compost: $18
Dental Insurance: $18.91
Vision Insurance: $12.61
Pet Insurance: $16 (my half).
Work Expenses: $193.10 (email platform, podcast platform, accounting software, website, etc. I write all of these off).
Spotify: $7
Taxes: I put aside money for taxes each month to make quarterly tax payments, but it depends on how much I make.
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, definitely. My mom was the first in her family to go to college and my dad's mom didn't get to go to college until much later in life. Education was important to them and it was always assumed we would go to college — I started dreaming about where I'd want to go when I was in middle school. My parents helped me pay for school, for which I'm very grateful, and I got some merit scholarships from my university as well as a few local organizations in my town. I paid for the rest with loans and graduated about $26,000 in debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My dad always handled the money and my mom was a stay-at-home mom after my younger sibling was born (when I was about 5). They both taught us the importance of saving money, working hard and not being too good for any type of job. They also taught me to be really wary of taking on debt, especially credit card debt, and to minimize my fixed expenses as much as possible. I don't remember much financial education beyond that.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was 14, my dad started running my uncle's company. My first job was working as an administrative assistant in the office with my sister. I made $7.25 an hour and got to keep the money for fun things. After that, I mostly worked in restaurants as a host and server.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I did a little bit. I think we were solidly middle class when I was young, and my parents started to have a lot more money as I got into high school and college. My parents didn't give me money for extra things (like if I wanted $5 to get lunch with friends) and said things like "we can't afford that" or "that's too expensive" regularly. I think they were actually very frugal and good at saving money more than there was an actual deficit of funds.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes! I have no idea how people ever afford to buy a house or have a baby (my partner and I are queer so there is an added layer of potential expense) or save for retirement while still being aligned with socialist and anti-capitalist values. My income is really variable and I make more than my partner, who works at a nonprofit, and we both worry about how we're going to make some of these life things happen.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I mainly became financially responsible for myself after I moved to Philadelphia at 22. Back then, my parents did help me pay my rent for one month (I paid them back) and would have helped with money if I needed it. I came off their health insurance at 26 and became 100% financially responsible for myself then. I came out to my parents shortly after, which meant losing a financial safety net in them.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My partner, S., works from home today so we both get to sleep in a little bit. We wake up slowly, cuddle with each other and our cats, and end up having sex before getting the day started. They've been having migraines this week but not today!
10 a.m. — We make banana chocolate peanut butter smoothies for breakfast with dates, oat milk, fresh spinach from our veggie CSA box, hemp seeds and flax seeds. They're really good and we drink them on the couch while we work side by side — writing time for me, working time for them.
12 p.m. — My partner has meetings all afternoon so I walk to a café to get some work done. I've been trying to walk more regularly throughout the winter and have had a hard time focusing all week, so a café feels like a good idea today. I order a vegan sandwich at the coffee shop. $7.75
3 p.m. — As a full-time freelancer, I always forget that working at coffee shops exists. There are too many days where I don't even leave the house until the evening. I need to do this more — I'm so productive and have way more energy. I do some writing for clients, edit a podcast episode for next week and catch up on emails and Slack. On my way home for couple's therapy (virtual this week), I stop at the dollar store to pick up body wash and coffee filters. $5.16
5:30 p.m. — After therapy ($45 for my half), we do a little cuddling aftercare before S. runs off to pick up litter for our cats and movie theater treats for us. I cook dinner while they're out: pasta with Primal Kitchen alfredo sauce, vegan Italian sausage, onions, broccoli and spinach. While I cook, I also unload and reload the dishwasher and check on the sauerkraut I'm fermenting. S. is running late for their event tonight so I eat without them and do a Yoga with Adriene video. I'm doing her 30-day challenge and I missed my regular morning yoga time this morning so it feels good to stretch before we go on our movie date. $45
8 p.m. — S. comes home and we head out to the movies to see I Wanna Dance with Somebody (we bought the tickets a couple days ago). The movie is amazing and heartbreaking. Also, apparently everyone knew this, but I didn't know that Whitney Houston was gay! It sheds a whole different light on her life and death. When I get home, I order two of her records from Target. $52.40
Daily Total: $110.31

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Alarm, cuddles and S. meditating while I read a few pages of Rainbow Rainbow. I head out to meet our friend, H., at our regular every-other-Friday slow flow and rest yoga class (I use a class pack that I paid for in advance). On the walk over, I eat an apple and a Lärabar for breakfast.
11:30 a.m. — This class is the best. H. and I leave feeling all relaxed and stretchy. We stop by the co-op to pick up a few things: bananas, vegan breakfast sausage, bagels and vegan mac and cheese ($31.04). Then I head home to do my writing time and eat last night's leftovers for lunch before a work call at 1. $31.04
4:30 p.m. — After a pretty full couple of hours working next to S. in bed, I'm done working for the day. S. goes to a doctor's appointment so I take a hot bath and read more of my book in the tub to wind down from work for the day.
7 p.m. — S. is home and H. has arrived. They're back over tonight for a sleepover. We make dinner: vegan stuffed shells with tofu cashew ricotta. It's delicious. We do a Whitney Houston singalong and then it's lights out by 11:45. This is a sleepover when you're almost 30!
Daily Total: $31.04

Day Three

9 a.m. — It's Saturday! S. and I wake up, cuddle and meditate in bed before emerging. H. is still sleeping so we head downstairs to get breakfast started. We make everything bagels, vegan maple breakfast sausages, and Just Eggs (vegan eggs) with spinach in them, and add blueberries on the side. H. is still asleep so we also do some meal prepping for the week.
1:40 p.m. — I head out to a queer and trans yoga class at our local studio. I love this studio and it's so good to be in a room full of other queer and trans folks connecting with themselves and moving their bodies in ways that feel good. I use my class pack again.
3:20 p.m. — I stop by the bookstore to peruse a bit and then head to the co-op. I buy trail mix, tofu, bok choy, chocolate peanut butter cups, limes, Just Eggs, lemon ginger anti-nausea chews, coconut water, golden beets and vegan bakery treats. The co-op is convenient but damn, the total is $67.97 and this isn't even our regular grocery shop for the week. $67.97
4 p.m. — I get home and kiss my love! I missed them. I'm also starving so I eat some leftover ziti from last night for lunch. We hang out on the couch and I order S. some ear seeds ($64) from an acupuncturist friend to potentially help with their migraines. I do some laundry and prep a grocery list for the week. I feel inspired so I buy a recipe ebook from a vegan Instagrammer for $9. $73
6:45 p.m. — I finish Rainbow Rainbow and start my next book, Yerba Buena. Then I snack on dark chocolate peanut butter cups and pretzels with hummus while making sesame tofu and bok choy. S.'s migraine meds kick in enough for them to feel up for their dinner plans with a friend, so they head out and I eat dinner with our cats.
9 p.m. — S.'s home! We had plans to go to a kink party but they're definitely not up for the adrenaline of that right now. We stay in instead. They make us tea and we cuddle up in bed with one of our cats and watch an episode of Kaleidoscope. We do some sexy things, get ready for bed, and lights out by 12.
Daily Total: $140.97

Day Four

9 a.m. — We wake up slowly, cuddling and reading in bed, and then I do a yoga video.
10:30 a.m. — Breakfast! I make a smoothie — bananas, dates, peanut butter, cacao, spinach, flax seeds, hemp seeds — and eat it on the couch with our housemate, K., and her partner. After breakfast, I put on some music and cut some fabric for quilting in our craft room. I'm working on a quilt for S.'s birthday. I get as far as I can with the fabric I have, then hop on Etsy to order hand-dyed fabric. $36
1 p.m. — The morning passes quickly as I work on my novel. We eat lunch (alfredo pasta and veggie leftovers) and do cat shenanigans. We're trying to integrate four cats in our house (our two cats and our housemate's two cats) and it's a long process.
3 p.m. — We're going bowling with a bunch of friends and it's time to head out. We all cram into one lane and have a great time. S. and I split a tater tots snack (they pay) and we split our shoe rental and bowling passes (my part is $19). $19
7:30 p.m. — On the way home, we stop by the co-op to get more groceries for the week: breadcrumbs, black beans, refried beans, cornbread mix, chickpea puffs, chili garlic sauce, apples, a red bell pepper, lion's mane mushrooms, ginger, and vegan kielbasa ($45.16). I eat a veggie burger and chickpea puffs for dinner. We're exhausted and fall asleep by 10. $45.16
Daily Total: $100.16

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — It's a long weekend! We cuddle, pet the cats and do a yoga video before making smoothies for breakfast. I drink mine while working on my homework for writing class today. I debated going back to school for an MFA but in the end I decided to just take virtual writing classes on topics I'm excited about with teachers I really want to learn from. I'm very happy with my (debt-free) decision.
12 p.m. — I eat leftovers for lunch, go for a walk and then settle into my desk for my writing class.
4:45 p.m. — My cousin, T., comes over to hang out with us. We make dinner and then sit on the couch and watch TV while I embroider, T. does some work and S. plays on their phone.
9:30 p.m. — T. heads home and I get in the tub with Yerba Buena. I've been taking a lot of relaxing baths recently and it feels so good and de-stressing. I'm also very, very into my book. I get out of the tub and into bed just before 10:30. We do a little more reading, kissing and chatting. Lights out at midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — I'm up early this morning to go for a walk with my friend, B. S. and I cuddle for a little while, then I get ready and meet B. on my porch at 8:30. We walk around our neighborhood for 30 minutes and it's a really nice start to the day. When I get back, S. is still asleep so I move right into this morning's yoga video and breakfast: half an everything bagel with butter and leftover smoothie from yesterday. Afterward, I head to my desk for an hour of writing time, then start working.
1 p.m. — I finish up a podcast interview and surprise, S. ordered us burritos (veggie for me, shrimp for them) from our favorite place! I offer to split the cost but S. covers it, which is very sweet. We take a short little walk after lunch and I make us tea: oat milk matcha latte for me, stress relief herbal tea for S. Then it's back to work.
4 p.m. — I finish a really nice breathwork session with a new client and then I have to finish writing a long-form piece for another client about a very boring topic. Ugh. I procrastinate by reading a review of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and looking through my library account. I'm still 36th out of 301 in line for that book but I have another hold that's come in. Maybe I'll pick it up tonight. Okay, back to work now.
5:20 p.m. — I did it! Thank god. Now I'm done working for the day. S. is done, too, so we catch up a little bit and buy tickets for a kinky class coming up. It's $44 total but we split the cost ($22). We eat dinner together — burrito leftovers for S., the last of the sesame tofu and bok choy for me — and they take an unexpected work call while I run to the library and the bodega. I get red enchilada sauce, honey dijon chips and vegan chocolate chip cookies ($16.76). $38.76
7 p.m. — I'm still hungry so I eat half a bowl of vegan mac and cheese and honey dijon chips while watching The Great British Baking Show. I get interrupted by a text with some really sad family news and the rest of the night is spent crying and processing with S. and our housemate. Bed by midnight.
Daily Total: $38.76

Day Seven

9 a.m. — S. and I wake up, cuddle and call a family member in bed. This is going to be a hard day. Luckily, I have therapy today. I eat half of my leftover burrito and a few cookies for breakfast/lunch (truly a cry for help for me).
11:15 a.m. — I head to therapy ($140). I'm planning on taking the trolley but it's delayed enough that I'm going to be late. I call a Lyft instead ($13.96). $153.96
12:30 p.m. — Therapy is very, very good. I get a comfort lunch from HipCityVeg after ($22) and take another Lyft home to eat in my comfy clothes with our cats ($13.80). The rest of the afternoon passes intermittently watching The Great British Baking Show and cuddling with S. $35.80
6:30 p.m. — Our friend comes over for crafting and Thai food (S. covers). I get my favorite: pad kee mao. I almost rescheduled our hang but I'm so glad I didn't. It ends up being just what I needed. We drink tea, do embroidery and collage and quilt mending, and have a really nice, light time.
10:30 p.m. — Our friend heads home. I eat the piece of chocolate cake S. got me at the co-op today (they're the best) before cuddling, petting the cats and getting to sleep by 12.
Daily Total: $189.76
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