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.
What are your most pressing money questions right now? The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of us to rethink and reprioritize our finances. Is there a burning money-related issue that’s come up in the past few months? Is there something you’ve always wondered but have been too embarrassed to ask? Submit them here or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today: a media buyer who makes $37,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a leather backpack.
Occupation: Media Buyer
Location: Cleveland, OH
Net Worth: About $24,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,156.95 – took a 5% pay cut in effect until August due to COVID
Rent: $850 (I live alone in a two-bedroom half of a duplex)
Loans: $0 – my family was very generous with school and my first car
Pet Insurance: $28 (cat)
Gas (cooking/heat): $35 (around $80 – $100 in the winter)
Cell Phone: $51 (I pay my parents for my portion of the plan)
iCloud Storage: $0.99
401(k): 4% (matched by employer)
Savings: $150 (I have around $6,000. It took a bit of a hit with COVID & some large/unexpected purchases the last few months.)
Roth IRA: I contribute my end of year bonus to this — around $18,000
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?
Growing up it was expected that I would attend college. There was no doubt about it. My older brother and I had a small college fund to split thanks to the generosity of family and friends after my dad died. I ended up at a prestigious liberal arts school, so that ran out my sophomore year of college. My uncle stepped in and ended up paying for my last years of undergrad. He also bought my brother, cousins, and our first cars. He’s been very generous with my family and sort of filled the role of father figure right after my dad died until my mom remarried. I sometimes feel guilty when my friends talk about their student loans. I know without my family I would have thousands of dollars in debt, and my college education and current financial situation are a privilege most don’t have.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family never talked about money and told us we should never discuss it with our friends either. We were always told that we lived comfortably and that was all we needed to know. We were asked not to share with our friends that we had a college trust fund helping us with school. We didn’t receive an allowance growing up, but we were also not allowed to get a job during high school. We were always told school is our job. We had money if we asked for it and could justify the cost to our parents. Now, I go to my brother when I want to discuss finances. He’s always open with me about his income and savings. He makes more money than me, but I tend to put more into savings than him (% wise). Our parents will often let us know that they’re here to help should we need anything and now tend to discuss our jobs, what we make, how much of a raise we should ask for, etc., but they don’t talk about their own salaries. My grandfather has always been a great influence. He helped me set up my Roth IRA when I was in high school and was the person I turned to when it came to picking a 401(k) plan.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was the summer before my freshman year of college. I got a job working at the local McDonald’s thanks to my brother. He worked the line in the mornings and put in a good word for me, so I ended up working the front counter and barista position. That same summer I also got a second job at a local pizza shop, as I had sent my resume out to all the local fast food joints in the area. I would often work the mornings at McDonald’s and the afternoon/evenings at the pizza shop. My parents encouraged us to work during college breaks so we’d have spending money while at school. I didn’t get my first salaried job until I graduated from college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I did not worry about money growing up. We lived comfortably and never had to worry about bills. My brother and I didn’t have our own cars, laptops/iPads, bedroom TVs, or anything like that that some of our friends had, but we never really wanted for anything. We could afford to go on family vacations, buy school supplies and new clothes, and join afterschool clubs and sports teams, etc. All we had to do was ask.
Do you worry about money now?
I sometimes worry about money now. I know I’m well off considering most of my friends are either living at home to save money and/or getting their postgraduate degrees and have a ton of student loan debt, but I often compare myself to my expectation on how well I should be doing. I wish I had more savings even though I know my friends are often living paycheck to paycheck. I know I’m financially sound to be able to start saving for retirement now, but I always think I should do more. I feel like I’m at the age where my family expects me to settle down soon. They expect me to find a husband, get married, buy a house — so I’m over here trying to figure out if I can afford a hypothetical house (definitely not anywhere close to ready to being married) or if I should make a career change and move out of state.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself the moment I got my first salary job after graduating from college. My family had this expectation that I would graduate with a job waiting for me like my brother had, but I was a bit lost on what I wanted to do with my degree. I was working part-time at the pizza shop and part-time as an unpaid intern when I got hired at my current job. They took me on part-time as a paid intern. That lasted about two weeks before they decided they needed me to work full time. I was an intern for five months before I became a full-time employee and was put on a yearly salary. I moved out of my parent’s place three months later and have been responsible for myself since. As for a financial safety net, my parents would step in if I ever lost my housing or income. I’ve been told I can always move back home and live with them rent-free should I need to. I don’t believe they would help me financially outside of maybe one or two month’s rent, but knowing I will never be homeless is definitely a weight off my shoulders. I believe my uncle and grandfather would step in should anything become dire, but I also know that I have to prove to my family that I’ve exhausted every possible solution before they would help. We’re big believers on hard work paying off.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
The only thing I can think of is the college trust fund my brother and I shared. When our father passed away from cancer when we were little, his coworkers, friends, and family all donated money to the fund so my mother wouldn’t need to worry about saving for college. I know my parents have received money from relatives passing, but my brother and I haven’t. When my grandmother died, my brother and I received some of her furniture and household items but we didn’t get a check. Most of my kitchenware was once hers, and I like to think she watches me when I bake these days. We never grew up with the mindset that we were owed anything, but that if we worked hard we would live comfortably.
8 a.m. — I roll out of bed after surfing social media for a bit and I’m sore all over. My friends and I started a fitness challenge of doing 100x crunches, 100x pushups & 100x leg lifts each day for 30 days. We are only on Day Three today. I have no idea how I’m going to make it when I can barely lift my arms. After getting dressed in some shorts and a tank top, I get the cat situated, make my breakfast (vanilla Greek yogurt with granola and blueberries) and coffee, and get settled at my dining room table within 30 minutes. I’ve been WFH since March thanks to COVID-19, and I’ve finally gotten into a groove.
1:30 p.m. — Lunch! I generally eat later these days now that I have time for breakfast (pre-COVID I’d commute 30+ min to work) and I’m more productive in the morning. I spent this morning following up on emails, doing some data entry, and sorting out a statewide digital plan. My supervisor ended up FaceTiming me thanks to some phone issues and I have a twinge of regret for not looking a bit nicer, but that’s the hazard of living alone and WFH. I decide to work out a little bit (doing this fitness challenge, I’m as weak as a noodle and I’m only halfway done with today) before making a sandwich for lunch. For those of you curious, I use wheat bread with spinach, provolone cheese, salami, turkey, honey mustard, and bread & butter pickles.
6 p.m. — I work a little longer than planned to finish up a project before calling it quits for the day. I decide to finish my workout challenge (seriously, how do people work out all the time?) before taking a shower and making dinner. Tonight’s dinner is a spinach salad with shrimp, avocado, parmesan, and ranch dressing. After dinner, I paint my toes while watching a Harry Potter movie.
10:30 p.m. — My bedtime routine consists of cleaning my face with Neutrogena Cleansing Water, treating some pimples with Neutrogena Rapid Clear Spot Gel, taking out my contacts, brushing my teeth, and popping in my retainer. I’m in bed by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0
1:10 a.m. — Woken by my upstairs neighbors leaving the house. They slam the door on their way out, which happens to be right next to my bedroom. I also get woken by a very loud bird outside my window a little after 5 a.m. I close my windows and throw a pillow over my head before falling back asleep.
8 a.m. — Well, I slept through my first alarm I set for 7:30 to work out. Then again, I didn’t sleep well last night so I probably needed the extra minutes. I get up, get dressed (athletic shorts and a tank top again), get the cat situated, make coffee and the same breakfast from yesterday, and jump on my work laptop, only to notice I forgot to plug it in last night. Great start to a Tuesday, but at least it’s payday. I take a moment to check all my bank accounts and notice my rent check cleared over the weekend. I make a mental note to pay my bills later.
12:35 p.m. — Lunch is a little earlier today thanks to a call at 2. I do half my workout (not as sore today, which is nice), wash the dishes piling up in the sink, and reheat some split pea soup for lunch. I eat it while watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
1:33 p.m. — Back to work. I have some more data entry and client calls today. I’m also fielding responses from vendors over a couple of media plans we have in the works. I do manage to take a break and set up a new kitty litter mat and cat tunnel that were delivered today. Unfortunately, the cat is not very fond of the tunnel. I may need to re-gift…
5:53 p.m. — Done with work for the day, I do the other half of my workout before making another spinach salad for dinner. I eat it while watching Harry Potter. According to my birth control, I’m supposed to start my period this weekend, and I notice I’m almost out of liners. I have heavy periods and like to wear them with tampons as a little extra protection. I order a large pack on Amazon. I spend the rest of my night coloring a paint-by-numbers sheet (my friend ordered a paint-by-numbers, but I’m not fond of painting so she gave me the paper sheet that accompanied it to color with colored pencils) and finishing the movie. Same nighttime routine and I’m in bed by 10:15. $6.97
Daily Total: $6.97
7:45 a.m. — I did not sleep well. The cat woke me up at 3 this morning to play. With the hot weather, he pretty much sleeps all day and goes a bit crazy at night when it’s cooler. I stumble out of bed (not sore this morning, yay!) and get ready for the day. Another pair of athletic shorts and a t-shirt. I should probably mention I don’t have air conditioning and it’s been around 80 degrees all week, so it’s shorts and t-shirts here on out. I get the cat situated, make the same breakfast from this week, water the plants, and get to work. I also pay my gas and electricity bill when I get a free moment (reflected in monthly costs).
1 p.m. — Lunch! I do a quick workout (I really need to start doing these workouts in the morning because I end up feeling gross all day when I work out at lunch) and make myself another sandwich for lunch. I pair it with some sweet tea and a plum before getting back to work.
4 p.m. — I notice ModCloth is having a sale. I decided to take a quick break and do some online retail therapy. I settle on a pair of geometric earrings, a sweatshirt, and a leather backpack. I save 30% with the sale. $87.68
5:15 p.m. — Done for the day! I complete the other half of my workout, shower, hard boil some eggs, put laundry away, sweep up some stray kitty litter, and handwash dishes (no dishwasher). I make myself a spinach salad with parmesan, hardboiled egg, croutons, and craisins paired with a peach for dinner. I end the night watching another Harry Potter movie (can you tell I’m doing a HP marathon?) and working on the paint by number. I go through my nighttime routine and I’m in bed by 11.
Daily Total: $87.68
8 a.m. — I wake up extremely grateful for our four-day weekend that starts tomorrow. I get up, throw on some shorts and a tank top, get the cat situated, and make my usual breakfast of coffee and yogurt before logging on for the day.
1 p.m. — Lunch break. I’m on Day 6 of this workout challenge and I’m proud I’m sticking with it. I absolutely hate working out. I complete half before making a sandwich for lunch, paired with some sweet tea and a peach.
3:23 p.m. — A friend texts to inform me the face masks we ordered over a month ago from Athleta finally came in. I venmo her my share. $6
5 p.m. — It’s officially the start of a four-day weekend! I finish the other half of my workout, wash dishes, and throw some laundry in. I decide to treat myself for dinner and order sushi via Uber Eats. I know it’s expensive ($53.79 with tip), especially having it delivered, but all my masks are dirty and I don’t feel comfortable going into restaurants just yet (especially without a mask). I spend the rest of my night finishing my HP marathon and working on the paint by number. I’m in bed by 11:15. $53.79
Daily Total: $59.79
8:30 a.m. — I sleep in a little before getting up and completing a full workout. I’m out of greek yogurt so I make myself some cereal for breakfast before jumping in the shower. I end up watching Hulu before eating a peach, a hard-boiled egg, and a granola bar for lunch.
1:45 p.m. — My friends D. and K. arrive, and we go shopping for some plants for my front porch. I buy lemon balm, peppermint, and some organic potting soil from a local nursery. I make sure all my plants are cat-friendly since he likes to munch on whatever I bring into the house. I’m also currently growing catnip, cat grass, basil, and thyme. I don’t have a green thumb, so they talk me through replanting them into the pots I have. $30.21
2:45 p.m. — We run to Target to get some things for 4th of July (wearing masks, of course). We leave with beer, s’mores necessities, sparklers, and candy. I pay, but my friends venmo me back for their half ($22). Next, we pick up some Chipotle for the way home and eat it at my place ($9.25). We spend the rest of the evening hanging out and playing Catan. $31.25
7:15 p.m. — After they leave I spend the rest of my night watching Hamilton on Disney+. It’s phenomenal! I can’t wait until the theatre opens up again and they come back to town. I complete my nighttime routine and I’m in bed by 11:15.
Daily Total: $61.46
7:25 a.m. — I wake up a bit earlier due to the heat. It’s so muggy today. I spend my morning doing my workout before eating some cereal for breakfast and going for a three-mile walk. For those of you wondering, I also happen to start my period today. Happy 4th of July!
10 a.m. — I get home, quickly change into a bathing suit and head over to D.’s to hang by her neighborhood pool with some friends. For those of you judging me for going out and about in a pandemic, the only friends I hang out with are D., K., and T. We’ve only been hanging out with each other since it all started, and we maintain social distance from others. After getting quite toasty, and unfortunately a bit sunburned, we go back to her house for a cookout with her family. I eat two hot dogs, some chips and a cookie with a refreshing Coke. At this point, we’re all exhausted, so we decide to take a break before meeting up again later.
2:45 p.m. — I get home, change, slather myself in some aloe, feed the cat his dinner so he’ll stop bothering me, and settle down for a nap. I don’t get much sleep, as the cat won’t leave me alone and the neighbors keep setting off fireworks. I call it quits and get up to shower and get ready before heading out the door to pick up D. and K. to go to our friend G.’s place.
6:20 p.m. — G. has a pool, so we hang out in his backyard all night swimming, playing corn hole and can jam, roasting marshmallows for smores, playing with sparklers, and watching the neighbors set off fireworks. I end up having a burger, watermelon, chips, a s’more, multiple marshmallows, and one can of Miller Lite (I’m DD tonight) throughout the night. It’s a bit weird not going to fireworks this year, but I honestly don’t mind it. I definitely don’t miss all the crowds and traffic.
Daily Total: $0
12:20 a.m. — I make it home and immediately pass out after my nighttime routine. My sunburns are smarting a bit, so I slather them in some lotion in the hope it will help.
10 a.m. — I sleep in and decide to skip working out today since I’m incredibly sore from yesterday. The cat decides I’ve had enough time in bed and wakes me to play with him. I make myself some coffee and cereal for breakfast and laze about a bit before starting my day. It’s going to be incredibly hot today and I’m avoiding the sun as much as possible to help out my poor burnt nose. I wash dishes and pick up around the apartment before deciding I’ve had enough.
1 p.m. — I make myself a sandwich for lunch and spend the rest of the day binging Netflix. The new Warrior Nun series is pretty good.
7 p.m. — I decide on a grilled cheese made with provolone and avocado for dinner (you make the sandwich, then open it up after to add avocado slices — super yummy!). I spend the rest of my night relaxing and watching Netflix. I’m in bed by 11:15.
Daily Total: $0
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