A Week In Baltimore, MD, On A $62,878 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today, as part of Your Spending In Your State: a media relations representative working in health care who makes $62,878 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on a turkey hoagie.

Occupation: Media Relations Representative
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 25
Location: Baltimore, MD
Salary: $62,878
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,890

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $550. (I rent a two-bedroom row-house with my boyfriend, James*, for $1,300 total. He pays more because he makes more. We definitely got a steal because it usually costs way more to rent in Baltimore.)
Student Loan Payment: $180.53. (I have paid off ~$3,000 so far and have ~$12,000 left.)
Insurance (Health, Dental & Vision) & FSA Contribution: $175.92
403(b): $290.22, with 4% company contribution
Parking Garage Pass: $142
Car Insurance: $120.61
Car Payment: $241.66
Phone: $50. (I’m still on my parents’ plan, but I pay them to cover my unlimited data and Galaxy S7 payment.)
Utilities: ~$120
Roth IRA: $250
Savings: ~$700. (I have a little over $8,200 in savings. I have savings accounts for house stuff, major purchases, a Betterment investment account, and travel.)
Credit Card: ~$300-$500. (I have about $1,500 total in credit card debt.)

Day One

8:30 a.m. — A few minutes late to the office-wide meeting, which usually runs for two hours. There’s no attendance-checking process but rumor has it the senior VP somehow notices if you’re absent, so I make sure to attend every time. I spend the meeting answering emails on my phone and chatting with my coworkers over Snapchat message.

11:30 a.m. — One of my coworkers has a meltdown about her workload and I stay out of the way. I eat my lunch (Greek yogurt, string cheese, a turkey sandwich on sourdough, and an apple) while looking at edits for a paper and Skype messaging another coworker about the mental health toll this job takes on all of us. It’s an extremely high-stress environment and we’re VERY understaffed, so we’re all feeling it.

1 p.m. — Talk to one of my favorite clients on the phone about a big, upcoming project. Shoots like these always take a lot of time to coordinate, so I want to start the process ASAP. His star is rising and I hope he remembers me when that day comes. (I’ve already told him to hire me as his personal PR gal when he makes it big.)

2:30 p.m. — Someone on another team invites me and the meltdown coworker out for gelato. We don’t work with her directly or even that often indirectly, but she invites the two of us out every so often because she knows how crazy things on our team can get, and feels bad for us. I get a cone with two scoops and she generously pays. I make a note to invite her to lunch soon.

5 p.m. — Meltdown coworker, Skype coworker, and I go across the street to a bar for happy hour. I order a glass of red wine and BBQ wings while we bitch about the current state of work and talk about college flings. Right after I pay, a guy carting in boxes accidentally knocks my bag over, which causes my water bottle to spill all over the ground. He apologizes profusely and insists on giving me $10 for "coffee" for my troubles. I tell him it’s honestly no problem but he puts $10 on the table and leaves. I’m not mad about it! $16

7 p.m. — Home and still a bit hungry, so I heat up half of a leftover sweet potato and roasted chickpeas from last night while reading Money Diaries. I open the water bill and Venmo my half ($18.59) to the landlord.

9:30 p.m. — My boyfriend, James, mentions that he needs new toenail clippers, so I order a pair on Amazon, along with 108 tampons because I only have four left. $18.88

11 p.m. — Answer work emails, including one from a really needy reporter who’s emailed five people in my office even though I told her I was handling it. My job requires fielding media requests (reporters wanting doctors who can be quoted for their stories) at all hours of the day. Sigh. Go to bed and pass out.

Daily Total: $34.88

Day Two

9:15 a.m. — Roll into the office a bit late since I’ve worked late or come in early a few times in the past two weeks. Also, I’m currently doing the job of multiple people and kicking ass, so they can deal with me coming in a little late. Get to my office to see an award certificate on my desk for getting great news placements two weeks in a row, along with a little trophy. My team is so extra and I love it.

10 a.m. — Decide to browse Groupon since they have a 25% off sale today. (I honestly only buy Groupons when they’re on sale because I’m cheap AF.) I buy two Paint Nite tickets because J. and I should probably get out of the house more often. Facebook showed me an "On This Day" photo of us at a Paint Nite about three years ago and we looked like babies. $30

11 a.m. — Finally bite the bullet and make an appointment for a consultation with the scar revision center at the hospital. I don’t have any serious problems, but I scar extremely easily and don’t love the way my arms and legs look as a result. The woman on the phone says I have to pay a nonrefundable consultation fee and they don’t accept my FSA card. Ugh: Beauty truly costs $$. I’ll probably still try to submit the receipt and get it reimbursed later. I check the FSA website, which says medical consultations are eligible, so I have hope. $100

12 p.m. — I have a team meeting to talk about new stories we’re working on. I text one of my more prominent clients to get the scoop on a fake Facebook account made under his name. Never a dull day at this job, I swear.

12:30 p.m. — Back at my desk eating lunch. I’ve been eating the same exact one nearly every weekday for the past two years and I’m not ashamed. I’ve gotten it down to an art and know exactly how much is necessary for each ingredient for a week’s worth of sandwiches for me and J.

1:30 p.m. — J. Venmos me for half of the Paint Nite, even though I wanted to pay for it as a date! He also sends $750 to reimburse me for covering his share of rent this month. He owns a condo in our old state and he’s remodeling the bathroom before getting a new tenant. I paid all of our rent this month so he could pay the remodeling deposit first. I put the money back into my emergency fund.

3 p.m. — After spending some time preparing press releases for distribution and coaching a coworker on how to respond to an email, I remember that there are Groupons available for a great lunch place (normally $10 for a combo meal) and a smoothie place (usually $5 for a small) by my office. Use the 25% off coupon again! $6.94

5:30 p.m. — We have dinner plans but I’m super hungry, so I cut off the end of a bread loaf and eat it with a slice of cheddar. I also eat a few organic gummies I got in a gift box for Christmas.

7 p.m. — Finally at the restaurant, Stang of Siam, and I’m already in a great mood because we got a prime parking spot right across the street. This West Coast-transplant still doesn’t understand the fiasco that is East Coast street parking. Why aren’t cities built around cars? The Groupon is good for two glasses of wine, an appetizer, and two entrees. We get two glasses of Malbec (and the pours are GENEROUS), pumpkin curry puffs, pineapple fried rice served in half a pineapple (super ‘grammable), and roast duck red curry. The food is delicious and James is pleased because his food is actually spicy. (I did ask the waiter, in Thai, to please make it "spicy enough for Thai people, not for white people.") I leave the $10 from the bar guy last night as a tip and James throws in $6. $10

9:15 p.m. — We get cozy and settle in to watch the most recent episode of The Resident.

11 p.m. — PTFO.

Daily Total: $146.94

Day Three

8 a.m. — Wake up feeling incredibly well-rested. Lay in bed with J., scrolling through social media and chatting for an hour. We’re driving out to Philly later today to visit a friend who lives there and watch the Super Bowl. We debate whether we should use our gym memberships for the first time this morning before heading out. Ew.

9:30 a.m. — I notice my federal tax refund was deposited into my checking account! I put $500 towards credit card debt and spread the remaining $700 across my various savings accounts. I’ve already allocated the $111 from my state return to go towards my March "cash" budget. (I don’t actually pay for anything in cash but I call it that because it’s the amount I allocate towards paying my estimated next month’s expenses.)

11:45 a.m. — Somehow spend an hour and 45 minutes at the gym, which is truly wild considering this was about the tenth time I’ve ever stepped foot in a gym IN MY LIFE. Working out isn’t actually that bad – it’s the thought of working out and leaving the couch that’s the most difficult. But who knows — I don’t really know what I’m doing so maybe if I were doing it right, the gym part would be difficult, too? We head home to shower and pack for the weekend.

2:30 p.m. — Stop by Wawa to fill the gas tank and grab food on the way to Philly. I’m not super hungry because I ate the leftover pineapple fried rice, but I get a turkey, bacon, and avocado junior hoagie and a small mocha. One does not simply walk into Wawa without getting something. James gets a regular-sized turkey hoagie with approximately 20 toppings on it and a small decaf coffee. I pay for the food and he pays for the gas. This and the rest of what I spend this weekend will come out of my travel budget, which I use for basically any out-of-state trip. $14.81

5 p.m. — Make it to Philly a bit late because James spent literally 30 minutes in the Wawa bathroom and we got stuck in traffic. Our friend is out, so his roommate lets us in. J. takes a nap while I browse the Internet.

7:30 p.m. — After our friend gets back, we decide to walk to Chinatown to try Nan Zhou’s Hand Drawn Noodle House. The wait is insane, so we walk down the street until something catches our attention. We walk into a food court of sorts, and while it doesn’t have any authentic options, the kitschy fusion food intrigues us. We pick Coreanos, a Mexican-Korean fusion place, where I get double-fried Korean chicken tacos and a can of Coke. Eh, it’s okay. $12.97

8:15 p.m. — On the way out, we stop at a rolled ice cream place, where I get the Cookie Spree – cookies-and-cream ice cream, brownies, an Oreo, cream Pocky sticks, and chocolate syrup. $t

9:30 p.m. — We’re back at the apartment and decide to get drunk in our pajamas. We convince our friend to start Westworld, and he gets totally hooked. I make myself a vodka Sprite and drink it while we watch. Our friend asks us if there will be zombies later in the show, and I do my best not to give any spoilers.

11 p.m. — Slightly drunk but weirdly very motivated to do some adulting, so I research refinancing my student loan. Get a quote from SoFi and figure out I can reduce my interest rate by about a half percent, which will allow me to up my monthly payments by just $50 but pay it all off in five years. I’m making the last payment on my car this month and have been wondering how hard I should go on my student loan versus investing the money. If I stayed with my current loan holder, I’d have to pay $470/month to pay it off in five years, so refinancing will allow me to put just a bit more towards the loan, still save a bulk of my old car payment, and meet my goal of paying it off by the time I’m 30. I’ll check other rates when I get home.

Daily Total: $34.78

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — Sleep in a bit. Shower and help clean the apartment because it’s game day! Fly, Eagles, fly!

10:30 a.m. — We all walk over to Reading Terminal Market and I debate whether to get a roast pork sandwich from DiNic’s or crepes from Profi’s Creperie. I got John’s Roast Pork when we visited last month (and it was DIVINE — 10/10 would recommend) and want to try the famous DiNic’s, but I behave because we’re going to pig out later tonight. I get a Nutella-banana crepe and James pays for us and our friend. I grab two coffees for the guys and a mocha for me from Old City Coffee. $9.10

11:15 a.m. — Still kinda hungry, so we each get a bagel from Market Bakery. I get an onion bagel with chive cream cheese. J. pays for all of us because of the $5 card minimum. I Venmo him for mine. $3

12 p.m. — We still have six hours to kill before the game, and our friend heads upstairs to play basketball. James has never seen the Rocky Steps, so we walk the mile there in the drizzling rain. We walk up the steps and enjoy the view for a bit. I hold J. and reminisce about the last time I came to this museum nearly a decade ago. I was dating a guy who eventually dumped me for not going to his church and got married less than a year later. Life is wild, y’all.

1:30 p.m. — Back at the apartment. I help clean more and get another rate quote on refinancing my student loan. This place gives me nearly the exact same interest rate, but I would also get $250 to pay off my principal since there’s a promotion for AAA members. I make an account and plan to officially apply in a few days.

6:30 p.m. — The game starts and we have an array of apps, alcohol, and pizzas. I eat two pieces of pizza and what feels like a bucket of guac, plus a few Coke and Fireball drinks. James paid for the pizza so we all Venmo him our shares. $5.50

10:30 p.m. — HOLY SHIT the Eagles won! I take a shot and go down into the streets and riot with everyone else. It feels like the entire city’s out here. I’m not even a huge football fan, but it’s an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience to be out here with hardcore Eagles fans. I’ll never forget this insanity. James and I bounce when people start smashing the stoplights and throwing glass into the streets. There are people throwing fireworks into the crowd from the skyscrapers and a group marches by with a full stoplight they somehow dismantled. The celebration is now in dangerous territory and we don’t want to get hurt.

1 a.m. — Realize we’re not going to make it out of the city tonight, so we crash at our friend’s place and plan on driving to Baltimore in a few hours once the streets are cleared.

Daily Total: $17.60

Day Five

4:45 a.m. — Wake up to make the two-hour-plus trip back to Baltimore. I feel like shit, and five hours ago somehow feels like a decade ago. I pay for parking since James paid last time we were here. Also, the poor guy is driving. $14

7:15 a.m. — Back at home and take a short nap before heading to work. I feel really bad for our cat, who is exceptionally needy and is yowling nonstop because he missed us. My first meeting isn’t until 10, so I plan to make it to the office then.

8:50 a.m. — Wake up, shower, use the Starbucks app to order a mocha, and head to work. I somehow don’t feel as awful as I expected to. Just a little cloudy-headed, but not terribly tired. Maybe I’m not as old as I think.

10:30 a.m. — Ask my boss for advice on how to delicately push back on a client who made an outsized promise to a reporter. It takes a lot of coordination to get film crews around campus (we have to alert security, get them parking, and make sure patients aren’t around the area we’re filming), so the access they want isn’t feasible.

12 p.m. — Get a free lunch (turkey bacon sandwich on ciabatta and a Diet Coke) from a conference that I’m presenting at today. My presentation goes off without a hitch, much to my surprise. I thought I’d be useless after last night. The doctor that invited me to present actually yelled at me and made me cry last year (for something that wasn’t my fault), so I was a bit nervous to finally meet him in person, but he was incredibly pleasant.

4 p.m. — I think about what life would be like if I started going to the gym regularly and remember that I need sports bras. I buy a three-pack of cheap Fruit of the Loom ones on Amazon Prime. Maybe someday (like when I get abs) I’ll be at the level of wearing ONLY a sports bra as a top and can get cuter, more expensive ones. For now, I just need the basics to wear under my raggedy t-shirts. $13.25

5:30 p.m. — Home. Give extra attention to the cat, remove chicken from the freezer to thaw, finish my application for the student loan refinancing and watch a video about contributor applications for a position I’m interested in. I applied last week and am anxious to hear back! I write for a living, but there’s only so much room for creativity when you’re writing about medical research. In my personal time, I love to write about culture, so this opportunity sounds incredible to me. There’s a ton of interest though, so I probably won’t hear back for at least a month. I also answer a media request that rolled in from a major outlet.

7:30 p.m. — James is finally home and we sit down to eat crispy parmesan chicken breasts with sautéed garlic zucchini and leftover sweet potatoes together. I’m the primary cook in our house because cooking is relaxing for me and I show my love through cooking (a very Thai value that my mom instilled in me). J. says he’ll probably go the gym tonight and I spend the next hour thinking about whether I want to join him.

10 p.m. — I decide to go to the gym after all, and spend an hour on the rowing machine, working out my arms and learning to use that crazy machine that you can move into different positions for different workouts. I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m proud of myself for at least going and trying new things. I message our old roommate/my BFF, who works as a personal trainer on the side, and he confirms: "Action over everything." He says overthinking exercise leads to analysis paralysis. So motivational.

11 p.m. — I spend time organizing my planner for tomorrow (any Plum Paper ladies out there?), and hit the sack.

Daily Total: $27.25

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — Wake up and groan. I was in the middle of a good dream before my stupid alarm clock went off. Lay in bed for a few extra minutes before getting up to get ready. James is halfway through his daily 30-minute shower.

11 a.m. — I was supposed to get lunch with coworkers today, but one of them had a conflict so we had to reschedule. I’m slightly annoyed because I could’ve packed lunch today and now I have to buy lunch twice this week. I grew up in a low-income immigrant household where my mom often told me how short we were on rent and other bills, so now as an adult, I often feel overly guilty or frivolous for spending money. I’m trying to work on it, though, because I know I’m not in the same situation as my parents were and life is meant to be enjoyed.

11:30 a.m. — Trying to complete a media request from a few hours ago and am annoyed because a reporter is trying to get our doctor to comment on a specific real case, which we don’t allow.

12 p.m. — Pick up lunch with a coworker; I get a curry chicken wrap and a can of Coke. Back at my desk, I coach the doctor about not commenting on the case and eat the wrap, which is incredible. Now I remember why people buy food all the time. The wrap is too big for one meal, but kind of too small to split into two meals. I reach the halfway point and have to make a decision. I save half for tomorrow. $10

12:30 p.m. — Start downloading a Spotify playlist on my phone so I can listen offline. I’ve been on the free trial period of Spotify Premium and will have to start paying the fee at the end of the month, but it’ll be worth it if I go to the gym regularly and listen to my music. I need music in the background to help me concentrate. This reminds me to browse Amazon for an armband and new headphones for my phone. You can tell I’m really getting into this gym thing. Hopefully, it’ll become a lifelong habit instead of a fleeting high for only a few weeks. I’m really going to hold myself accountable, especially now that I’ve invested money into it. $15.46

2:45 p.m. — Trying to finish up a press release but keep getting distracted by incoming emails from doctors wanting me to look at their research papers and promote their community events. My coworker Skypes me about going across the street for shots. I invite her over to share the bottle of Fireball I keep in my drawer instead. We each take a shot and complain about work – two people quit at the end of last year, and we’re starting to feel the pain.

4:30 p.m. — I send an aggressive response to a colleague who always tries to drag me into things via email. (This time, she attached previous emails and added a "please advise." Ugh.) I’m unreasonably angry because I always have trouble with this person and spend the next 10 minutes trying to calm down. The email she sent wasn’t even that annoying or uncalled for, but my patience is wearing thin from being overworked.

6:15 p.m. — Home and feeling much more zen after calling my mom and grocery shopping. My dad’s birthday is coming up and I tell her that I’m going to send $100 on Friday so she and my dad can go out. I have a chronic illness and my parents sacrificed everything for me. I feel like I owe them something. At the store, I got a five-pound bag of apples, lettuce, salad mix, six wheat rolls, two packs of chicken sausages (BOGO!), half a pound of turkey for sandwiches, feta cheese, yogurt, half a gallon of chocolate milk, kielbasa (something I like to keep in the freezer to cook and eat with rice on lazy days), and a new sink strainer. This should last us for lunch and dinners until the end of the week. I request half from James on Venmo. $22.90

7:30 p.m. — J.’s finally home and we eat leftover chicken from last night with wheat rotini and roasted garlic-and-herb Prego sauce. I eat more pasta because I’m extra hungry after my small lunch.

8:30 p.m. — After showering, I spend the next few hours catching up on How to Get Away with Murder, organizing my savings and debt repayment spreadsheet, and snuggling with the cat while James reads news articles and creates a Zillow ad for his condo.

10 p.m. — Still kind of hungry, I eat a granola bar from the pantry. Pass out in bed an hour later.

Daily Total: $48.36

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Up and peek outside to see how bad the ice storm was. I don’t see anything except ice on windshields. Get an alert on my phone that certain staff has to go in at regular hours, and I’m included. UGH.

9:30 a.m. — Answer emails, organize my weekly work-in-progress document, and make myself a mocha in the office kitchen. Roll my eyes after I pick up a spam call from a guy who wants to give me a "free" cruise to the Bahamas in exchange for me telling my family and friends.

10:30 a.m. — Spent half an hour hiding in a coworker’s office to avoid getting dragged into vetting a potential patient story. Other teams always send highly specific stuff to check. My boss told me that it’s not my job to assess these while we search for new team members, but no one else on my team is available, and my boss isn’t around to back me up if I decline.

11 a.m. — Speak to one of the student loan refinancing companies. They have to verify that I really submitted an application since there’s a credit report alert activated right now. I turned it on after I realized someone was fraudulently using my checking card.

12 p.m. — Heat up the leftover wrap and eat it before a BYO lunch meet-and-greet with the presenter for one of our events tonight. The wrap is messy and a bit smelly so I want to enjoy it in its full glory alone in my office.

2:45 p.m. — Drive up to campus to connect one of our doctors with the presenter, who’s looking to meet engaging doctors for opportunities to work as consultants with Hollywood producers.

4 p.m. — The meeting goes really well! I knew he’d be a great fit.

5 p.m. — The event ends and I sneak two slices of pizza while chatting with my teammates. I get a slice of pepperoni and a slice of cheese and they’re mediocre, but hey, free food!

6 p.m. — Home after the event and upload my latest student loan billing document to the refinancing company for review. I also work on submitting my writing for an award. Applications just opened today! I select my best pieces from 2017, create cover sheets for all of them, and merge them all into one PDF before submitting.

7:45 p.m. — James is finally home and he seems super stressed. He’s been working late the past few days and is trying to oversee the remodeling from 3,000 miles away, find new tenants, and prepare his taxes all at once. I don’t envy him. He pours himself a bowl of cereal (this is why I’m the primary cook; we’d be eating cereal every night otherwise) and calls the contractor to talk about the remodeling while I chat with Amazon Prime about why my sports bras weren’t delivered today.

9:30 p.m. — Our plan was to go to the gym but J. takes a ton of time to use the bathroom. By the time he gets out, I’m already in bed wrapped up in a Sherpa blanket. He joins and so does our cat. We’re definitely not going to the gym now.

Daily Total: $0

*Name has been changed for anonymity.

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