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A Week In Baltimore, MD, On A $129,000 Salary

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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.

Today: a communications specialist who makes $129,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on plants.

Occupation: Communications Specialist
Industry: Public Health
Age: 48
Location: Baltimore, MD
Salary: $129,000
Paycheck Amount (every 2 weeks): $2,686 (take-home after taxes, health insurance, and retirement)
Gender Identity: Woman, bi





Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,284 (mortgage and insurance for a four-bedroom, 2.5-bath restored 1924 colonial)
Loans: $0 (finished paying my BA loan ten years ago; got my MA for free on a merit fellowship)
Car Insurance: $72
Health and Dental: $170
Retirement: $730 (+$245 agency match; I have about $310,000 saved in my work TSP account)
Liquid Savings: $900 (I have $56,000 saved, earning 1.9% interest.)
Cell Phone: $0 (on my boyfriend’s plan)
HBO: $15 (through Prime)
Netflix: $8
Internet: $75
Utilities: $175 (average for gas and electric)
Alarm System: $42
Gym Memberships: $52 (I belong to a Gold’s Gym and my fitness center at work.)












Day One

6:05 a.m. — Wake up without an alarm and enjoy some lovin’ with my guy. He’s 38 and runs a local charity, and he’s been living with me for about a year and a half. Since it’s a nonprofit he makes much less than I do, slightly more than half.

6:45 a.m. — I head to the kitchen, whip up a quick breakfast sandwich for him, and drink a giant coffee with cream. We do a little morning dance to some synth pop (a morning ritual), and I’m out the door by 7:30.

8:23 a.m. — I settle in at my office. It’s a huge company with lots of perks. I immediately go on Amazon Prime and order a NYX brow gel for my friend L. A small thing ($5.67), but she mentioned wanting one this weekend, and I know she’ll never get around to it. I order one for myself, too. $11.75

10:24 a.m. — I take a break to eat an apple and a cheese stick from home. It’s the beginning of the month, so my boyfriend Venmos me his contribution to the house and grocery expenses ($750). I own our house, which is almost paid off — less than $50,000 left, woohoo! I bought my first house when I was 26 (this is my third) and am finally benefiting from the built-up equity. Having a paid-off place is a huge goal for me: I grew up poor with a single mom and resolved to never be dependent on a partner for my living situation.

11:45 a.m. — I’m somehow always starving. I eat a packed lunch at my desk — a plain salad with a few rice dolmas from Trader Joe’s. Later, I eat a tuna pouch in water for a snack (sad), then do a mile walk around the campus trail with a colleague. It’s a slow week, so I leave the office around 4.

6 p.m. — At home, I prep a few lunch items for the week (mostly more sad salads) and head to a HIIT step class at Gold’s. I LOVE this class and never miss it. My friend N. is in town, and I take her with me on a guest pass (free). My guy has a membership at LA Fitness, so he heads over there for a workout. That gym is a lot closer than Gold’s, but doesn’t have good classes.

8 p.m. — Home and making tilapia fish tacos. I make them with Trader Joe’s chili-lime seasoning, corn tortillas, and cabbage slaw made with my own patented mix of sour cream and Asian garlic-chili paste. So good! I could eat fish tacos every night. Finish with a giant glass of Chardonnay and trashy Netflix. We’re in bed with a book by 9:55 — our rule is no phones or screens in the bedroom. We’re both asleep by 10:30.

Daily Total: $11.75

Day Two

5:50 a.m. — Wake up to smooches from my sweet guy and decide to take a mental-health day. This is a rare occurrence (so I have 700+ hours of accumulated sick leave!). I email my boss and a few colleagues to say I won’t be in (and feel only slightly guilty), then make an egg sandwich for my man before he heads to work. I make him breakfast most mornings. Of course I don’t have to, but it’s how I show my love and I know he appreciates it. Coffee for me.

7:30 a.m. — I drive to the gym and run three miles on the treadmill. After, I stop for gas ($17.62) and a car wash ($8), then pick up a few backyard plants and a bag of mulch from Home Depot ($36.76). $62.38

9:30 a.m. — At home, I eat some sourdough toast with avocado and smoked salmon, then spend the rest of the day working in the yard and reading on our “catio.” This past spring, we had part of our open back deck screened in heavy-duty wire so our four indoor cats can hang out there with us. The cats love it and so do we, so it was well worth the $3,600 price tag. I cover 100% of any house repairs or upgrades. The house is in my name, and until/if my guy and I decide to get married, I consider all house expenses to be my responsibility.

12:32 p.m. — I have two vegan hotdogs (no bun) and a cheese stick for lunch. Later, our yard-service guy shows up to mow the lawn. I pay him with a check ($60). We could do the mowing ourselves, but our yard is huge, and it’s so great to just have it done. Plus, this way we don’t have to buy, store, maintain a mower. $60

6:05 p.m. — My man brings home Indian takeout, along with a few six-packs of fancy beer and a couple bottles of wine (he paid). The food is super-atomic-level spicy, just the way we like it! My friend N. comes over, and we all have dinner outside on the front porch.

7:30 p.m. — We’re joined by friends K. and C., a married couple who also know N. and live nearby. They’ve also brought a bottle of wine. We chat and drink wine outside till the fireflies come out, then everyone goes home. My favorite way to spend an evening! In bed with my man and my book at 10:23.

Daily Total: $122.38

Day Three

6:10 a.m. — We wake up naturally and lounge a bit in bed. I stopped using alarm clocks 10+ years ago because I hate them, and life is short. I’m a morning person by nature, so happily this works out for me.

7:54 a.m. — I arrive at my office and catch up on emails from yesterday. Fortunately, there’s nothing too urgent. I explain to an older colleague why he shouldn’t use Comic Sans font for a professional conference announcement — or anything, ever. He honestly had no idea (LOL).

11:10 a.m. — Meetings and more meetings. My office has a liberal telework policy, and mid-week is when people are most likely to be physically in the building. Personally, I prefer coming into the office to work. I eat an apple at my desk. Lunch is, once again, a plain salad with dolmas, at my desk.

5:05 p.m. — Home from the office. After two nights of socializing, I’m happy to spend a quiet night in with my man and our cats. We eat ahi and avocado tacos on the sofa, then watch a movie on Prime, during which I also eat some trashy potato chips and have two glasses of wine. I am powerless in the face of a salty snack! In bed with lights out by 10:38.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I wake up slightly later than usual, but that’s okay. I make an English muffin with peanut butter and honey for my guy and coffee for me. We do our dance, and I still make it to the office by 7:52. My friend comes by to tell me she loves the brow gel (yay!). Later on, I eat an apple and a cheese stick at my desk.

11:30 a.m. — Time for a cardio class at the work gym downstairs! It’s SO NICE to have a gym right in the building. After, I repair myself in the locker room as best I can and head back up to my desk. I eat a salad of spring mix with black beans dumped on top. (I know, all my lunches sound amazing, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me!)

6:30 p.m. — Home with my guy. I make a homemade pizza with homemade olive tapenade, artichokes (canned from Trader Joe’s), roasted portobello mushrooms, and goat cheese, topped with fresh basil. It’s so good! I eat three pieces. We watch an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix, then sit outside with a glass of wine and watch the bats come out. Bed by 9:50.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:02 a.m. — I make breakfast pizza from last night’s leftovers for my man (he’ll eat anything with a fried egg on it) and glug my coffee. I’m working from home today, so I have time to get in a run before logging on. I drive to Gold’s and do three miles, then stretch. At home, I make some sourdough toast with avocado and smoked salmon.

11:21 a.m. — In between work emails, I put in an online order at Total Wine (a GIANT alcohol store) for my guy to pick up on the way home. I use a coupon and a $5 reward, so the final total is $177.96. I get 15 assorted bottles of wine, along with a bottle of bourbon to give as a gift at a birthday party next week. $177.96

1:53 p.m. — I eat an ear of fresh corn and a vegan hotdog for lunch. Later, I also eat the last piece of last night’s veggie pizza.

6:30 p.m. — My guy is home and we decide to go out, so I pull myself together after spending the day in gym clothes. This means full makeup for me: foundation, Urban Decay shadow, Thrive liner, and gloss. We each check Uber and Lyft — we both have cars, but parking downtown is a pain, and we never drive when we’ll be drinking. My Lyft is cheapest, so I order a ride downtown. $14.46

6:50 p.m. — What a nice night! We stop first for fresh buttery lobster rolls (he pays) and eat outside by the water. We walk around people-watching, then stop at an upscale steakhouse for drinks at their dark and fancy bar. I have a wine and my guy has an Old Fashioned (he pays). We wander back through some outdoor bars and listen to a band, then stop at a country bar for another round of drinks ($14 plus a $3 tip — I pay). We see a group of women celebrating in matching pastel “She only turns 30 once!” shirts. I want to tell them that’s absolutely not true, I myself turned 30 at least nine times. LOL. $17

9:45 p.m. — We’re walking around the city, one of my favorite things to do! Baltimore gets a bad rap, but I love it and have never felt unsafe here. My guy is hungry again (because men), so we pop into a little French bistro I’ve never noticed before. We sit at the bar and I have another glass of wine; he has a Gruyère cheeseburger and fries (he pays). I help him out with the fries, which are delicious. A man sitting next to us in a business suit tries to get me to share his dessert — he even has two forks ready. I decline, and he’s strangely aggressive about it. Weird.

10:15 p.m. — We contemplate going a few more blocks uptown to see a friend DJ, but instead decide to call it a night. My Lyft is still the cheapest, so I order ($14.22). In bed with lights out by 11:28. $14.22

Daily Total: $223.64

Day Six

7:24 a.m. — I drink my coffee on the catio while my boyfriend snoozes, then off to make a 9:30 HIIT step class at Gold’s. I LOVE this class!

11 a.m. — Back at home, we do a few chores. My guy picked up a new part for our sump pump at Home Depot this week (he paid, although I offered to reimburse) and installs it for us. This is my first house with a sump pump, and let me tell you, they’re the worst. Later, we have lunch at home (quesadilla for him, roasted veggies for me) and then slink upstairs for a tiny nap with the cats.

4:35 p.m. — There’s a big art and music festival downtown today, so we tart ourselves up and order a Lyft (mine is still cheapest at $19.76 — I must be on some kind of promo). The weather is perfect for wandering around. $19.76

5:30 p.m. — We visit an artist who makes amazing bracelets out of reclaimed leather. My guy finds a perfect one with cool black studs, and I happily buy it for him ($25). Buying each other street jewelry is another one of our small, corny rituals. $25

6 p.m. — We meet our friends at a new restaurant near the festival. We all have drinks and order street-style tacos (my guy pays), then leave to wander back through the crowds. We eventually duck into a new basement speakeasy for a round of drinks. Wine for me, Old Fashioneds for the guys. It’s a cool, dark, and clubby space; we resolve to come back later and try their food. I pay for all of us ($41.33 + $8 tip), and we head back out into the fray. $49.33

7:30 p.m. — You know it’s time to eat again! Luckily there’s an oyster bar nearby we’ve been wanting to try. I have wine, my guy has a beer, and we share a plate of plump, juicy, perfectly fried oysters. My guy pays.

9:10 p.m. — The festival is winding down, but none of us are ready to go home, so we ride with our friends over to a gay bar in search of some dance music (our friends are a gay married couple). There’s hardly anyone there since it’s so early, but the music is great and the drinks have turned us into shameless and amazing dancers (in our minds, at least). Another round of wine for me and whiskey and Coke for the guys, then I switch to Diet Coke. Our friends pay.

11:04 p.m. — When you leave the house at 4:30, 11 p.m. seems really late, so we call a Lyft to take us home ($19.34). We eat some toast and do some drunk dancing in the kitchen with the cats and still make it to bed before midnight. $19.34

Daily Total: $113.43

Day Seven

6:55 a.m. — This feels way too early, so we roll over until almost 8. After coffee, we divide and conquer the household chores: My guy cleans the bathrooms while I head out grocery shopping. I go to Aldi and get spring mix, apples, bananas, avocados, artichokes, tilapia, salmon, asparagus, shredded cabbage, English muffins, mushrooms, and a couple other things for the week. $66.44

9:45 a.m. — We’re lucky to have a gorgeous state park about ten minutes away, so we drive over to walk the trails — exercise is always good for a hangover. My guy pays the $6 entrance fee, and we do about four miles.

12:45 p.m. — I’m doing a volunteer shift this afternoon for a local rock opera group. I’ve been helping them with some admin work for the past few years, and today I’m staffing a membership table at one of their performances. We drive into the city for lunch first at one of our favorite places. We both have salads: mine with seared ahi, his with steak. I pay ($54.54 + $10 tip). After, my guy drops me off at the theater for my shift. $64.54

6:05 p.m. — Volunteer shift done! My guy offers to come pick me up, but it’s easier to just grab a Lyft ($13.56). The rock opera company has a small supply of a special limited micro-brew I know my boyfriend loves, so I use my volunteer discount to bring him home a six-pack ($10). $13.56

6:30 p.m. — Home to find my guy has not only done the rest of the laundry and all the chores, but he also did another shopping run and made us dinner — shrimp pasta in a white wine sauce. He’s the best! We finish the week with Netflix, wine, and cats on our sofa.

Daily Total: $144.54

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