A Week In Washington, DC, On A $72,000 Salary

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

This week an Analyst working in Government Consulting who makes $72,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on moisturizer.

Occupation: Analyst
Industry: Government Consulting
Age: 24
Location: Washington, DC
Salary: $72,000
Net Worth: Negative net worth as my student loans are greater than my savings. That said, for savings I have: $6,000 in my high-yield savings account, $3,004 in my 401k (I contribute 6% of every paycheck, which is the maximum that my company matches (25% match)). I plan to up to 7% after this promotion cycle. I wasn’t great at saving my first year on the job and am actively trying to save more now.
Debt: $26,513
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,820 (exact amount varies based on deductions including 401k, health insurance, and $70 to my Metro Card pre-tax)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,287 (I live with one roommate in a two-bedroom apartment)
Student Loans: $308 (All of my debt is student loans (all public) to cover what was not paid for by scholarships)
Utilities: ~$40 (my share of gas and electric, the building pays for water and WiFi)
Renter’s Insurance: $14.74
Spotify Premium: $9.99
Netflix: $12.99 (my mom pays for Hulu and AT&T TV NOW)
Phone: $75 (I send my mom $75/month to cover my phone bill, as it is cheaper than having my own plan)
Unlimited CycleBar Membership: $52.74 (my work pays for half, on-pause for now)
Apple iCloud Storage: $2.99
High-Yield Savings Contribution: $500
Donations: I do not have a monthly donation budget but usually end up donating between $200-$300 each month to different organizations/projects.
Therapy Co-Pay: $50 (I put this aside every month for therapy twice a month)

11 a.m. — After forcing myself to go back to sleep a few times, I finally wake up around 11. This is slightly later than I normally wake up on weekends but 1. who cares, it’s a global pandemic and 2. I was working until 3:30 a.m. last night. I work in government consulting and my hours are usually pretty normal but my current project is a bit of a mess, to say the least. I’m looking forward to moving on to the next project but mostly just feel lucky to be employed.

11:15 a.m. — I throw some laundry in, clean my room, and jump in the shower — many things have been sorely neglected this week. I also spend some time researching new credit cards. I only got my first credit card last year so I think I could be eligible for better ones now. I know I am in a privileged position financially, but thinking about personal finance stuff stresses me out immensely. Growing up, my family’s financial situation fluctuated wildly, and, after much discussion in therapy, I’ve realized how much this has messed with my perception of my own money (and how I cope by avoiding the subject entirely). I’m trying to be better about it, which is one of the reasons I am writing this diary.

12 p.m. — My girlfriend (plot twist!), K., comes back from her run. We don’t normally live together and have only been dating for about four months, but when my roommate went home to their family’s house, we decided it made sense for her to “move in” and prevent both of us from fully losing our minds in solo quarantine. So far, so good! We’ve discussed moving in together for real later this year, so it’s nice to have a sort of trial run.

1 p.m. — I worked on a campaign before moving to D.C. and my old boss is hosting a virtual event for the campaign he’s managing this cycle. I send in the recommended donation and join the event while I eat leftover chicken pad thai for lunch. $25

4 p.m. — We decide to throw on our masks and check out the park by my house to see if it’s too crowded to distance properly. I love all of the green spaces in D.C. and feel so lucky to live down the street from my favorite one. It’s not empty but there is plenty of room for us to tuck away far from any other groups. I feel anxious going anywhere these days but I try to remember that it’s important to find sustainable ways to follow recommended practices for the long run. I run back to my house to grab a blanket.

7 p.m. — We have almost all of the ingredients for an incredible recipe we made a few weeks ago — cauliflower tacos with an almond crema from Bon Appétit — so we decide to make it again. We’ve gotten really into making fresh corn tortillas and I absolutely hate myself as I type that out. The tacos are excellent. After we eat, we FaceTime with my mom for an hour or so. I only came out to her as bi last year and it means a lot how much she loves K.

9 p.m. — We open a bottle of wine I got from an awesome local natural wine shop a few weeks ago and play Mario Kart for a couple of hours. K. is much better than me and insisted I include that in this write-up. I was debating selling my Nintendo Switch (I mostly got it for Animal Crossing and just… do not get the hype… please don’t yell at me in the comments…) but we’ll see. We finally fall asleep around 2 and I know for a fact I will not feel good tomorrow.

Daily Total: $25

Day Two

8 a.m. — I did not feel good tomorrow. We fall back asleep and don’t get up until 11 a.m. again. I love this song!

11 a.m. — We finally drag ourselves out of bed and I run downstairs to pick up my weekly produce delivery. I started getting the boxes again during the stay-at-home order to help limit grocery store trips. I love getting them — it forces me to be a more creative cook and it feels like a present (that I paid for). This week’s box comes with baby potatoes, blueberries, broccoli, lettuce, cantaloupe, kale, and sweet potatoes. I also added cilantro and a bag of coffee beans. I use the beans to make coffee in my french press. It is not very good and yet I finish the entire cup immediately. $32.47

12:30 p.m. — I start cooking some pinto beans I soaked overnight. Soaking my own beans makes me feel like a resourceful pioneer woman. We cook up the potatoes and more corn tortillas for breakfast tacos. They are the best things I’ve ever eaten. While we cook, we play a bunch of live performances on YouTube. We watch Brandi Carlile at Austin City Limits, the Tallest Man on Earth on KEXP, Sharon Van Etten on La Blogothèque, both Anderson Paak/The Free Nationals Tiny Desks (he is so charming!), and boygenius at Brooklyn Steel.

3:30 p.m. — I take the world’s longest shower and do my full hair routine. I’m using the Ouidad VitalCurl shampoo and conditioner these days (apparently Devacurl makes your hair fall out? scary!) but I don’t think I’ll repurchase after I run out. I wash my face with the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser and moisturize with K.’s Glossier Priming Moisturizer since I’m out of mine (Clinique’s Moisturizing Lotion+) Hands-down best part of dating another woman is doubling my product options. I order a new moisturizer. $29.68

4:30 p.m. — One of my best friends, R., is leaving DC for law school and today is her official moving day. She has some things to return, so she stops by outside my building. It’s the first time I’ve seen her in over a month and not being able to hug her makes me want to cry. I was extremely lucky to have so many close friends from college in DC when I moved here. Many of them are now leaving, and this is certainly not how I pictured the end of that era — I know it’s even harder for them. She leaves my stuff at the bottom of my steps in addition to an extremely random assortment of gifts/trash (Starbucks K-cups, very large candles, 1/3 of a bottle of gin, a single can of Truly, and so many Body Shop moisturizers and exfoliators, among other things). She encourages me to throw most of it out, but I do keep the gin, single Truly, and an avocado eye mask from Glow Recipe (after disinfecting them all).

6:30 p.m. — K. joins her weekly family Zoom call and I decide to grocery shop. I’ve started exclusively going to the smaller shop by my house. It’s a much less overwhelming experience, it’s always well-stocked, they require masks to enter the store, and I get to support a local business. I effectively blackout, forget most of what I wanted to get, and end up with English muffins, Tollhouse cookie dough, ground turkey, goat cheese, half-and-half, greek yogurt, black beans, canned tomatoes, oat milk, soy sauce, Bonne Maman blueberry jam (my favorite), onions, garlic, and two absolutely massive limes. Good enough. I try to buy beer and then embarrassingly realize I just brought my credit card and have no ID. K. sends me $20 on Venmo (she’s a vegetarian and I still feel like I should pay more for groceries in my own house, even though she insists otherwise). $29.31

8 p.m. — I make yogurt flatbreads that I saw on my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. We’re still fairly full from 2 p.m. breakfast so for 8 p.m. dinner we have a few flatbreads, lettuce from my produce box dressed in a simple vinaigrette, and a glass of red wine. It’s like we’re in France! I feel very chic. We start watching A Secret Love, both burst into tears approximately seven minutes in, and never stop. It’s about a lesbian couple who kept their relationship a secret for over 60 years (but it is also about aging and death and family and it is so! sad! and! beautiful!). Not to get too sappy on Money Diaries but it makes me feel unbelievably grateful to get to love K. so openly and visibly. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants and it is not lost on me how lucky we are.

10 p.m. — It starts pouring and we open the windows, sit in the windowsill and watch the most amazing thunderstorm. We talk about the movie and our relationship and it all feels so surreal. Shockingly, the movie about dying lesbians does not put us in the mood for a wild night so we head to bed fairly early.

Daily Total: $91.46

Day Three

8:15 a.m. — We wake up before 11 a.m. I have some cold brew I made in the french press overnight and a toasted english muffin with butter and jam. Now we’re in England!

9 a.m. — I join my daily 9 a.m. stand-up call for work. Sometimes I find the calls a bit unnecessary but it is nice to have some structure. I’m planning to talk to my manager today about leaving the project earlier than planned to join another project that’s more aligned with my interests and career goals. My mental health has really suffered on this project due to a combination of the hours, team dynamics, and expectations, and I don’t think I can handle another four months without something changing. I know they appreciate me and the work I do, which is great, but it makes me feel guiltier about trying to leave. I am dreading the conversation and feel nauseous all day. I wish I could talk to my therapist and plan what I want to say, but I don’t have an appointment scheduled until next week.

1 p.m. — I’m on and off calls all morning. K. works for the government and her schedule is much more flexible than mine so she makes the bed, does some dishes and cleans up around the apartment. It makes me feel terrible but she insists that she genuinely loves cleaning so… whatever makes her happy. For lunch I have leftover flatbread, beans, and some kale with the vinaigrette I made.

3 p.m. — I have the call with my manager. She’s so hard to read but she doesn’t seem NOT supportive and I think we land on me staying through June (it was originally supposed to be September). I know we’ll have to have follow-up conversations but, for now, I’m proud of myself for advocating for my needs.

6:30 p.m. — After realizing I forgot to get basil from the store yesterday, I texted my friend with a basil plant to see if I could take some. I literally feel like I am in Animal Crossing or Oregon Trail or whatever. I walk 20 minutes to her house, where she leaves the basil outside for me. I listen to a podcast for the first time in weeks and realize how much I missed it — I normally listen on my commute which obviously does not exist, for now. It’s a spin-off of my favorite podcast (Reply All) where one of the hosts is trying to train himself to enjoy horror movies.

8 p.m. — We make my favorite vodka sauce recipe (from Basically, again) and top it with the basil I scavenged for. It is heavenly (huge shout-out to the 4 oz. of parm).

8:30 p.m. — K. and I split an edible we have in the freezer. I have had some not awesome experiences with edibles in the past but these ones are perfect and I love them. K. recommends we watch Middleditch & Schwartz, a long-form improv show, and it is so funny. We fall asleep around 1 AM.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:50 a.m. — We stay in bed until a full 10 minutes before I need to be working. I have another english muffin with butter and jam, which I’m pretty sure is the best food in the entire world.

9 a.m. — More boring work, calls, doing report edits, you’re bored to tears, I’m bored to tears. I’m glad that my first job out of college lets me use my brain (usually) and own a lot of my own work, but consulting is certainly not my passion or what I want to do forever. I got the job through the on-campus hiring process and it was nice to know what I was doing so early, but sometimes I wish I had taken more time to see what else was out there.

12 p.m. — It’s technically Giving Tuesday, which I am not a big fan of for a variety of reasons, but I remember I have some of my stimulus check left to donate. I am so fortunate to still be receiving my usual salary, so I decided to donate half and keep the rest for savings/buying one splurge item (I went with a stupidly expensive, but gorgeous, linen bedding set from Bed Threads — I am no Mother Theresa). I sent my first donation to a relief fund for local sex workers last week and decide to donate the rest there, too. Over the past year, I’ve gotten very involved with my local abortion fund and have realized how crucial it is to support smaller, community-based organizations and mutual aid projects whenever possible. Organizations like these typically have no fundraising budget and are not going to benefit from a massive Giving Tuesday campaign, so I’m happy to do my small part. $200

1 p.m. — Leftover pasta for lunch (still so good) while I read Ask a Manager and play with my cat, Lentil, who I adopted a little over a month ago. I had been wanting a cat since I moved to D.C., and now seemed like as good a time as ever. After spending the first three years of her life as a community cat, she came to the shelter in November after getting stuck in a sewer grate and breaking her pelvis. Now, her pelvis is almost as good as new and she is truly the sweetest cat; we always marvel at how crazy it is that she’s only been an indoor cat for half a year. She is also the cutest cat in the entire world. I know everyone thinks that about their cat but that’s impossible because Lentil is the number one cutest.

6:30 p.m. — I make fried rice for dinner to get rid of the leftover rice in my fridge and some vegetables that I got in my produce box, including broccoli, onion, carrot, and cabbage. It is solidly mediocre.

7 p.m. — K. and I binge a bunch of episodes of Normal People on Hulu. I finished the book in a day last year and am realizing I forgot a ton of the plot. The show is exactly what I was hoping for — super dramatic, almost soapy, but well-acted and beautifully shot. The actor who plays Connell, Paul Mescal, is phenomenal and also just incredibly hot.

9:30 p.m. — We finish the night reading in bed. A friend organized a book club focused on reading books by women of color. Right now, we’re reading “A Long Petal of the Sea” by Isabel Allende. I’m enjoying the book but I am way behind where I should be by now since we’re meeting tomorrow (spoiler alert: I do not join the book club meeting).

Daily Total: $200

Day Five

8:15 a.m. — I wake up at the crack of dawn (8:15 a.m.), make coffee in the french press, and have my last english muffin with butter and jam.

9 a.m. — I spend the morning working on templates in PowerPoint, which is actually one of my favorite parts of my job. I love figuring out ways to distill large amounts of information into an easy-to-understand narrative, and I know this is a useful skill I will take to whichever job I have next. Generally, I just love graphic design and detail-oriented work. Though an ex-boyfriend who is a professional graphic designer once told me that just spacing out letters in titles was “not graphic design,” my gorgeous slides would beg to disagree.

12 p.m. — I have a strange urge for coleslaw (someone once told me I have the cravings of a constantly pregnant woman). I throw together half of the red cabbage I got in my produce box, shredded carrots, mayo, apple cider vinegar and some spices and it turns out pretty good. I add some goat cheese and crackers on the side and, voila, lunch!

1 p.m. — Still editing slides so K. and I throw the first episode of Season 2 of Love Island on in the background. It is the first time I’ve watched it and I’m already addicted. I love the way they talk! I have no clue what they’re saying!

2 p.m. — It’s my best friend’s birthday so I FaceTime her while she opens the gift I sent (a makeup kit from Glossier). We’re throwing a Zoom party for her on Saturday so we only chat for around 15 minutes before I get back to work.

5:30 p.m. — I wrap up work and put on exercise clothes. I started 30 days of Yoga with Adriene but clearly have been slacking the past few days. I light my Palo Santo candle from Brooklyn Candle Studio (so good) and pick up on day 7. I can feel that I haven’t stretched in a few days but still enjoy it. This is my first time doing yoga consistently and I see the appeal.

7:30 p.m. — It’s takeout Wednesday! I am craving Chick-Fil-A but I remember I can get a chicken sandwich and fries from my favorite bar in DC instead and get the beer that I wasn’t able to get at the grocery store on Monday. I order the sandwich and a six-pack of Union Jack IPA, and tip 25%. K. insists on paying me for the beer but I refuse. She makes way less than I do and I wish she would let me pay for things more often, but I don’t want to make her uncomfortable.While we wait for the food, we FaceTime with B., a friend from high school, and he gets to meet K. for the first time. $35.10

9 p.m. — We watch more Normal People as we eat and decide to start Sex and the City. I’ve seen random episodes with my mom before but I’ve never watched all the way through. It is incredible to watch but it has certainly not aged well. I do my weekly face mask — the Drunk Elephant Baby Facial — while we watch. We go to bed around 11.

Daily Total: $35.10

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Wake up, make coffee, work. Nothing new to report! I spend the work day making report edits based on client feedback and starting to think through some implementation plans.

4:30 p.m. — I wrap up early for the day and decide to make biscuits to replace my much-beloved-but-now-gone English muffins. I use the Basically recipe for sour cream and onion biscuits, but swap sour cream for greek yogurt and leave out the green onions to make them more versatile. They turn out much better than the first time I tried to make them and managed to turn the oven off as I put them in.

5 p.m. — I do my yoga while the biscuits bake and K. is out for a run. For some reason, I feel super self-conscious doing yoga (I feel like I am very much missing the point of yoga) so I prefer to do it when K. is out of the house.

6:30 p.m. — I call my grandparents to check in and catch up. I am extremely close with them and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about them, especially now. They’re both in great health and being cautious but it still makes me nervous. We have a lovely conversation and I’m so glad I called. My mom calls as soon as they hang up and lets me know that her Mother’s Day Gift arrived (a pack of Jeni’s Ice Cream pints)! It’s from me and my brother, but really just me because he is a 19-year-old with no income. I talk with her and my brother for a bit before hanging up to make dinner.

7:30 p.m. — I am feeling solidly cooked-out but remember that I have most of a can of crushed tomatoes leftover in the fridge that need to be used. I make a very basic tomato sauce with pasta but it’s still yummy.

9 p.m. — I do some work for my local abortion fund, including drafting an onboarding email to new volunteers — I have loved getting to take on more responsibility throughout the year. I’ll get off my soapbox in a second, but abortion funds around the country are doing such essential and innovative work right now, and I am humbled to play a small part and get to learn from such passionate, intelligent leaders.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — K. makes coffee and I have a biscuit with honey butter to really shake things up.

12 p.m. — We have a meeting with our client about some of our recommendations and it goes shockingly well! I am glad that they seem more receptive than they have been in the past. I kill time for the rest of the afternoon. A lot of people have a negative view of consulting (and government consulting in particular) as redundant, at best, and highly wasteful, at worst. While I have generally been on projects that are the exception to the rule, I still cannot wait to do something different once I finish my two years.

5 p.m. — It’s the weekend! K. and I finish Normal People before kicking off our date night, which is the same as every other night except we wear real clothes and buy more expensive takeout. We get ready in separate rooms and it feels really good to actually look nice. I do my go-to (very) basic makeup routine, using my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, Too Faced Better than Sex mascara, Benefit Brow Zings, and Fenty highlighter. I add some red lipstick from ColourPop and call it a day.

7 p.m. — I set my (coffee) table while K. makes us moscow mules. We order from a fancy Korean place that I love but K. has never tried. We get dumplings and roasted sweet potatoes for our appetizers. For our mains, I get Korean chili-braised chicken thighs and K. gets chewy rice cakes with mushrooms and a sweet soy sauce. We tip 20% and split the cost evenly. $45.97

8:30 p.m. — We open another bottle of natural wine (this one is German and I have absolutely no clue what it is supposed to taste like) and the food arrives — it is heavenly. It feels nice to break up the monotony of quarantine and date night genuinely feels special, even if we are sitting on the floor.

Daily Total: $45.97

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