A Week In Washington D.C., On A $62,000 Salary

·16 min read

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Today: an immigration attorney who makes $62,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an air freshener.

Occupation: Immigration Attorney
Industry: Law
Age: 28
Location: Washington D.C.
Salary: $62,000
Net Worth: -$22,180 (Investment accounts, $6,759; savings, $11,023 — minus debt)
Debt: $39,000 in debt to my parents for law school
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,947.30
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,486 including all utilities except internet. I live alone.
Student Loans: ~$300 (paid to my parents)
Parking: $280 (It’s ridiculously expensive, but I prefer to park in the garage rather than on the street.)
Internet: $54.83
Amazon Prime: $14
Pandora: $11
Hulu: $23 (I should probably cancel considering I almost never watch it.)
Netflix: $0 (Still mooching off of my parents’ account.)
Phone: $0 (Still on a family plan with my family.)

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 think my parents expected it, but I’ve also wanted to go to college for as long as I can remember. I attended an in-state public school for undergrad and my parents paid for tuition and expenses. I attended a private law school, which was paid for in part by a scholarship, in part by selling stock that my parents bought for me when I was a child, and in part with my parents’ help. I am now paying them back for the amount that they gave me for law school. They are very lenient with the repayment terms — I pay as much or as little as I can each month and they do not charge interest.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents mostly shielded me from their finances, but they were relatively frugal and definitely lived well within their means. I don’t think we ever had any specific conversations about money, but they are very practical when it comes to money and I think that rubbed off on me.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a lifeguard when I was 16. I got the job because my mom was bugging me to get a job and because I was a competitive swimmer at the time, so lifeguarding seemed like a natural choice. I only worked a few hours a week so I didn’t earn much, but it was nice to have some spending money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. The only time I was sort of worried about money was during the 2008 financial crisis. I was in high school and afraid that my parents would lose their jobs. Thankfully that did not happen.

Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I think about money a lot and I try not to spend more than necessary, but I know that I can cover all my expenses and then save a bit, so I’m not worried.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
28. I relied on my parents a lot in undergrad and law school. If I were ever in need, I could count on my parents for financial support.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents invested in stocks in my name when I was born. I still have some money in them. Some of the money went to pay for my education.

Day One

8 a.m. — Wake up. Decide it is too early to be awake on a Saturday after a hectic Friday. Go back to sleep.

9:30 a.m. — Wake up again. I make breakfast for my boyfriend and me. He has eggs and toast while I have cereal and coffee. We eat and chat on my patio.

1:30 p.m. — After much procrastination, I head out for a short run. Today’s run is only a mile-and-a-half because I’m running a 10-mile race tomorrow! I’m excited for the race. It’s the first time I’ve run this distance and I can’t wait to see what my time will be. I walk around the National Mall after my run to cool down.

2:30 p.m. — I get back to my apartment and eat pasta for lunch. I read over the details for the race tomorrow while I’m eating. After I eat, I head up to my building’s rooftop sundeck to read and relax for a bit. I’m trying to rest a lot today to save my energy for tomorrow.

7 p.m. — I come back down to my apartment and make dinner. More pasta! Gotta get my carbs in before the race. I eat dinner while reading.

9 p.m. — I go to bed early. I have to be up at 5 a.m. tomorrow for the race.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5 a.m. — I wake up bright and early so that I can eat (and digest) breakfast before my race. I have a bagel with cream cheese, two bananas, and coffee for breakfast. Then I get dressed and ready for my race. Around 6:30, I walk to the race starting area which is about 15 minutes from my apartment. The weather is a bit chilly — perfect for running and a nice respite from the heat and humidity of summer in D.C.

6:45 a.m. — I arrive at the starting line a bit too early for my 7:50 a.m. start. Oops! I take my time checking my bag, using the restrooms, then wander over to the starting corral. Because I did not have a seed time, I am assigned to the slowest starting corral, which starts last. I chat with the other runners while waiting for the race to start. I paid the $86.40 registration fee when I registered for the race in July.

7:52 a.m. — It’s go time! Only a half-hour after the elite group of runners, lol.

9:18 a.m. — I finished the race in an hour and 25 minutes. That was about the time that I was hoping for and the run felt great… until the very end when it got super tough. I find my boyfriend, watch the awards ceremony, eat some snacks provided, and drink some water. Then I walk back to my apartment to shower and change.

12 p.m. — After a shower and some downtime, I head out to lunch with my boyfriend. We eat burgers and fries and he pays. The perfect post-race meal!

1:30 p.m. — After lunch, we get ice cream sandwiches. I pay since he paid for lunch. We eat our ice cream and head back to my apartment. $14.40

5 p.m. — I wake up from my nap and my boyfriend goes home. I do some yoga to stretch and recover after my run.

8 p.m. — I’m not that hungry so I have some Greek yogurt for dinner. I go to bed around 10:30 p.m.

Daily Total: $14.40

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for work. I grab a bagel and banana for breakfast and drink my coffee on my way into my office. I am not a morning person. I arrive at my office around 9 and think about what I have to do today. I realize that this is a relatively light week and a relatively light day. I prepare for my hearing on Thursday and do some other little tasks that need to be done.

12 p.m. — Coffee time with my coworkers! We all walk to a local coffee shop a few blocks from our office and my boss treats everyone to lattes. I work at a small firm and we try to do fun things like happy hours, activities, or coffee every so often.

1 p.m. — Back to the office! I eat a late lunch of leftover pasta, yogurt, and a banana, while reviewing more of my upcoming cases. I know this is a weird combination for lunch, but I really do not like cooking so I usually just grab whatever is in my refrigerator.

5 p.m. — I leave the office for the day and stop at the store on the way home for a few household items… and a few impulse buys. I get air freshener for my apartment, air freshener for my car, bars of hand soap, body wash, dish soap, toilet paper, pineapple chunks, a pack of gum, and apple cider donuts. I really should not shop hungry. $48.49

6 p.m. — I get home and sit down to relax for a bit. I look at the results from my race yesterday. Pictures from the race are also up so I look through them and realize that the woman in front of me is blocking my face in about half of them. I’m still proud of my result!

7:15 p.m. — I go for a walk. My body is still recovering from the race yesterday, but I need some sort of activity today. I walk about three miles around the Mall and national monuments.

8 p.m. — I get home from my walk and eat a late dinner. I have frozen paneer tikka masala and garlic naan from Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s frozen meals!

12 a.m. — I read for a little bit before going to bed.

Daily Total: $48.49

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Wake up suddenly and realize that I overslept! I rush through my morning routine and make it to the office only a little bit late. I spend the morning preparing for my hearing this week.

12 p.m. — Because I didn’t have time to pack a lunch this morning, I order a burrito from Chipotle. I really don’t like cooking, but I try not to go out for every meal. I probably eat out more than I should and it is one of my splurges. $9

1 p.m. — I get back to work and review files for my upcoming cases.

5 p.m. — I leave work and get home about 5:30 p.m. I have the urge to go for a run, even though the weather is not great — about 90 degrees and humid and sticky. I end up running about three miles then walking for a while to cool down.

7:30 p.m. — I arrive home and lay on my yoga mat for a few minutes before my boyfriend calls. I have a habit of lying down on my yoga mat after a run, telling myself that I will do either yoga or strength training. Usually, neither one happens.

8:30 p.m. — After showering and eating a dinner of boxed macaroni and cheese (again, I do not like cooking), I head over to my boyfriend’s place. We watch TV and chat about our days. I spend the night at his place.

Daily Total: $9

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I wake up earlier than normal so that I have time to go back to my apartment and get ready for work. My boyfriend surprises me with breakfast in bed, which is super sweet of him! I get to the office around 9 and continue preparing for my hearing this week. This week is relatively light with the exception of my hearing, so I spend most of my time and energy this week on that.

12 p.m. — I eat gourmet toast ($14) and a smoothie ($8) for lunch and my boss pays. This is an office tradition — my boss buys lunch for everyone on Wednesdays when we have our weekly staff meetings. Normally we would eat together, but because of COVID, we eat in our own offices before the meeting. Although our staff is all fully vaccinated, we are still very cautious and wear masks in the office. I am very thankful for this perk and I love that I don’t have to feel guilty for not bringing lunch at least one day a week. Today I order toast with smoked salmon, herb cream cheese, cucumbers, and lemon. My smoothie has pitaya, mango, strawberry, lime juice, ginger, and coconut water. It is delicious and I made a mental note to order it again, even though it’s $8 ($22 expensed).

1 p.m. — We have our weekly staff meeting where we talk about our cases, what we have been working on, and our upcoming cases. The rest of the afternoon is relatively uneventful and filled with more hearing prep!

5:30 p.m. — I get home from work and have a quick dinner of Trader Joe’s frozen Paneer Tikka Masala. I told you I don’t like cooking!

7:30 p.m. — I go for a quick walk around the National Mall. I walk about three miles. It is a nice evening and the monuments look beautiful lit up at night.

10 p.m. — Lights out! I have an early morning hearing tomorrow, so I try to go to bed relatively early.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5 a.m. — Today is the day of the long-awaited hearing! I eat a bagel for breakfast and drink my coffee on my way to court. I take the train and allow myself about two hours of travel time just to be on the safe side since the court is far away. The firm pays for my transportation to and from court ($18 expensed).

10:15 a.m. — We won the case! Hearings are stressful, and the prep can feel tedious at times, but moments like this make it all worth it! I am so excited for my client.

10:30 a.m. — I head back to the train station after the hearing. I’m hungry, but too exhausted to walk far for lunch. Work pays for my Lyft ride from the court to the train station ($13.90 including tip) and my train ticket back to D.C. ($9 one way). ($22.90 expensed)

11 a.m. — I get back to the train station and stop at Dunkin’ while I wait for the next train back to D.C. I buy a donut, a bottle of water, and coffee ($8.36 total). I eat the donut and drink most of the coffee while waiting for my train back to D.C. $8.36

12:30 p.m. — When I get back to D.C., I put more money on my Metro card ($20). I try not to have too much money on my card at one time in case it is lost or stolen. $20

1:30 p.m. — I finally return to my office after stopping at a local café for lunch. I order a sandwich with turkey, artichoke, and red pepper and an iced caramel macchiato. I eat in my office while drafting letters to my client. I tell everyone in the office the good news and chat with the law clerk who observed the hearing. $17.30

4 p.m. — I leave work early because I had an early hearing. I return home and message my coworkers about something I forgot to mention earlier, and pay a medical bill from last month’s doctor’s appointment. $50

6 p.m. — My boyfriend and I leave for dinner. He doesn’t tell me where we are going because he wants it to be a surprise. We end up at a local Indian restaurant that we have been meaning to try for a long time. I am dressed a bit too casually, but in all fairness, I was very tired and did not know where we were going. I have the vegetable korma and a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company. The food is great and I make a mental note to come back here. My boyfriend pays to congratulate me on my win in court today! We go home and relax before bed. I fall asleep around 10.

Daily Total: $95.66

Day Seven

8:45 a.m. — It’s Friday! I wake up later than usual because I am working from home today, which means that I have no commute. I am required to be in the office four days a week and I have the option of working from home one day per week, which is usually Friday. Although I like my office and coworkers, it is nice to work from home occasionally. I start work around 9 and get up to speed on my upcoming cases.

12 p.m. — Surprisingly, I’m not that hungry. Still, I want to get out of the apartment, so I walk to a nearby coffee shop. I buy a medium coffee and a blueberry muffin and walk home ($6.49). It’s nice to get out of the apartment for a bit! When I return, I heat up some soup from Trader Joe’s for lunch. Clearly, I really like Trader Joe’s. $6.49

5 p.m. — I finish work for the week and decide to go for a run. I run about five miles, taking breaks as needed since I’m not currently training for anything. It feels great to do an “easy” run once in a while.

7 p.m. — I get home and indulge in my post-workout ritual of lying on my yoga mat doing nothing. After about an hour, I work up the motivation to do a one-minute plank — yay me! For some reason, I love running, walking, swimming, biking, and generally being active, but I hate strength training. After a grueling minute of working out, I jump in the shower.

8:30 p.m. — My boyfriend and I head out for a late dinner. We decide to go to an Italian restaurant that is close by. We are seated quickly, order our food and drinks, and then wait.

9:45 p.m. — Still waiting for our food. At least our drinks finally arrive. Our waitress explains that our order got mixed up and sent to another table, but it’s being prepared now. Okay. The manager also comes over to talk to us and offer us free bread. He also says that we will not be charged for the meal. Our food finally arrives around 9:55 p.m.

10:15 p.m. — After several tries, our server finally brings us the correct check with things we actually ordered. Our entrees were free because of the wait, but we are still charged for our drinks, which is fine because I wasn’t expecting a free meal. I pay the check and leave a small tip because I really don’t know who was at fault for the delay and I don’t want to punish our server for something that wasn’t their fault $21.76

11:30 p.m. — Good night! This is a bit early for me considering it’s a Friday night, but I’m tired, so I go to sleep.

Daily Total: $28.25

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