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A Week In Baltimore, MD, On A $45,500 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.

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Today: a Digital Ad Strategist who makes $45,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on a mortar and pestle.

Occupation: Digital Ad Strategist
Industry: Digital Marketing
Age: 25
Location: Baltimore, MD
Salary: $45,500 + $2,000 annual bonus
Net Worth: I have about $2,500 saved between 401(k) and personal savings, but with debt included it’s -$61,448.
Debt: Credit Card Debt: $1,043, Student Loans: $56,310, Car Loan: $6,595
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,488
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600 (I split rent between myself and two roommates, so total is $1,800)
Car Loan: $170
Student Loans: $100 (used to be more but I brought it down due to COVID)
Credit Card Debt: $50-$400 depending on other expenses/cash flow
Health Insurance: $60
Car + Renter’s Insurance: $120
Phone Bill: $80 sent to my mom because we still share a family plan
401(k): 5% contribution, so like ~$75 per paycheck
Utilities: ~$40 (this is my contribution — split between me and two roomies)
Spotify: $10
Netflix: I use my parents’ account
Hulu: I use my roommate’s account
NYT Subscription: $4
iCloud Data Plan: $1.99
Sephora Play: $10
Internet: $20 (my contribution — split evenly between me and two roomies)
Savings: $1,200
Donations: $30 monthly recurring transfers to COVID relief (plus whatever I can donate along the way)



























Day One

6:37 a.m. — I wake up early without any alarm due to high anxiety. I’ve been having a rough couple of days due to my Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and endometriosis combined — lots of anxiety, depression, and intense cramps. The intense emotions usually last between four and six days and then end when my period arrives. I had laparoscopic surgery a few years ago which helped immensely with the amount of physical pain I experience, but it still can get bad right before and during my period. I bum around on my phone for a while and see an email encouraging donations to some COVID relief groups I really admire. I donate $20 through Apple Pay because I have really appreciated their leadership. I finally get up and do 30 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of meditation before starting my workday. $20

10:07 a.m. — I make a really delicious cortado-kinda-thing for myself with the Nespresso machine and milk frother that I stress-bought a couple of weeks ago. It was definitely an indulgent purchase, but it is making me so happy that I feel no regret. I eat avocado and tomato on buttery sourdough toast while I set up automatic transfers of $300 to my savings from my checking account once a month when my first paycheck hits. I honestly have been awful with saving, but with COVID and the looming threat of potentially getting let go from my job, I’ve had a major reset with how I think about saving. It’s also gotten easier to allocate money to savings and donations now that I have minimized my once mammoth credit card debt, which at its highest was around $8,000 a couple of years ago.

1 p.m. — I eat a big lemony kale and spiced lentil salad that I made a couple of days ago. It has lots of feta, scallions, and green olives in it and it still tastes amazing. Work is slow today and it’s rainy and cloudy out. I’ve noticed it’s usually slower on Mondays and Fridays and picks up during the middle of the week. I get my heating pad for my cramps and start revising my resume. I take some ibuprofen for the increasingly painful cramps. By 2, I’m actually very relieved/excited when I receive some emails that force me to jump back into work. I listen to Kari Faux while working on edits to the newsletter, finalizing the distribution list, and answering some emails from clients.

4:13 p.m. — I finish up with everything and then do a quick 15-minute cardio workout on YouTube to get some good endorphins flowing. Then I take a shower and deep condition my hair. I am just about to take out all my hair products and get started when my roommates, F. and M., ask if I need anything from the store. I live with two of my best friends and I’m super thankful to have them during this quarantine. F. says she’ll get me the jalapeño veggie straws and wine that I wanted. I do a quick twist out while watching Terrace House and pay F. $15 for the groceries. $15

5:31 p.m. — I eat some leftover chicken parm and pasta that we got from a local restaurant the night before — the pasta was disappointing, so I revive it in a pan with a little olive oil, smashed garlic, and seasoning. I eat outside in our fenced-in backyard while reading Where They Found Her. I get so into it that I continue reading it inside and before I know it, it’s 8 and I’ve finished the whole book. The ending is crazy and creepy. We have a lot of new shows to watch, so my roomies and I get our snacks together (Tate’s Cookies, kettle corn, tea) and watch the new Killing Eve, Insecure, and Good Girls in that order. We spend a lot of time shouting at the characters through the TV and just chatting in general before going off to bed.

11:30 p.m. — My boyfriend, A., and I FaceTime for an hour or so before bed. We are quarantining separately because I live with roommates, he lives with his family right now, and he’s been working on and off outside the house, so we’re both just trying to be good community members! We haven’t seen each other in six weeks now, but we’re having all kinds of important emotional conversations via FaceTime that I think are really progressing our relationship in super healthy ways. After we hang up, I text with my mom, who I’m very close with, about my anxieties before finally going to sleep at the absurd hour of 12:45 a.m.

Daily Total: $35

Day Two

8:45 a.m. — I try to get up roughly 12 times but the herbal sleep tea I drank last night has me severely knocked. I finally get up and see a bunch of work emails coming in. I answer a few from bed then quickly make an espresso and avocado toast and start the day officially.

1:17 p.m. — I’ve been working since 9 with only a quick break to eat more leftover salad, so I take a break. It was supposed to be rainy, but the sun is actually out! I sit outside in the sun with my roomies on the back patio. We chat until it starts to sprinkle then relocate indoors so F. can make perogies. We’ve been making tons of new foods with all this extra time and it’s been really fun.

2:30 p.m. — My cramps are starting back up so I take ibuprofen, make raspberry leaf tea, and crank up the heating pad while I continue answering emails. One client is being particularly intense today, but I’m honestly not mad at it. I love solving problems in high-pressure environments, so a little drama from a client is fine by me. Additionally, our supervisor has made a strong emphasis on taking care of ourselves during these strange conditions, encouraging people to take whatever time they need which makes me feel a little less stressed about work. The cramps skyrocket from a 2/10 to a 6/10 so I decide to lie down. I am praying I don’t have an ovarian cyst or something like I’ve had in the past. It’s starting to storm outside so I try to focus on the thunder I’m hearing instead. After resting, I make an early dinner of more leftover chicken parm and doctored pasta.

5:46 p.m. — My mom texts me and my sister to drop the bomb that they are going to have to put the dog down tomorrow morning. He hasn’t been doing well recently and she’s been warning us that it would be soon, but we didn’t think quite this soon. I give myself some time and let myself cry and be upset for a bit. I know that other people are in far worse circumstances right now, but I just can’t believe that he won’t be there the next time I’m able to go home to visit my family. I know that my dog will be free of pain and that this is what’s best for him, but I’m almost more worried about how my parents will handle it since they treated the dog like their third kid.

9:02 p.m. — I have a glass of wine and popcorn with my roomies while we watch Rupaul’s Drag Race. It’s their first time watching it and probably my 300th time. I thought we should start with season six since it’s one of my favorites. I still feel pretty anxious but I really need the distractions right now. I text with my boyfriend and parents a little more before I go to bed around midnight.

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I could pretend that I spring up, make my bed, change into real clothes, and eat a balanced breakfast… but what I really do is roll over, brush my teeth, make coffee, and answer emails from my bed with the heating pad. At least ten new work emails came through in the night, most related to the client drama I brought up yesterday. The vertical I work in can be very fast-paced and if things are not expedited, clients can get moody easily. Luckily, my supervisor jumps in on some of the more difficult questions and we update our higher-up about the situation to make sure all the receipts are in check. Since my boyfriend has been telling me he hasn’t been sleeping well, I decide to send him some sleep aids: Tulsi Sleep tea, Honey Lavender Stress tea, and Calm Magnesium. I also add in a beard oil to get free shipping since it’s on sale for $6. Ultimately, I spend $29.75. Something about the quarantine is making me want to give people lots of gifts. $29.75

10:27 a.m. — I chat with my work friends and they remind me of a workout I suggested. I get up and do a 45-minute barre workout off of YouTube. After I shower, I heat up a frozen tamale and eat it with avocado and hot sauce in the sunny backyard. I’m trying to get some sun and air before I have to be in back-to-back meetings all afternoon. My roomies come out and they catch me up on their work drama.

12:20 p.m. — My mom calls me to talk — they went through with putting the dog down today. She’s crying into the phone, which of course makes me cry immediately. My mom is one of my favorite people in the world and I never want her to feel bad. I take some Rescue Remedy and try to pull it together for my afternoon of meetings.

5:03 p.m. — I take breaks between meetings to cry, not really about just the dog, just everything. My meetings end and I join my roomies outside on the back patio to be in the sun while I go through my new Bon Appetit magazine and journal. I see that my acupuncturist is doing tele-appointments for Traditional Chinese Medicine consulting, so I book an appointment for next week. I have seen some success with TCM for PMDD and endo in the past, so this makes me feel more hopeful. I also contact a therapist I’d been talking to in the past to see if she can do virtual appointments. I call my mom again to check on her while I’m cooking. She sounds better but she’s still really sad, so I send her $30 so she can get a nice dinner. My sister agrees to pick it up and bring it to her (they live in the same city while I am further away). $30

8:54 p.m. — I make quinoa sweet potato spinach fritters, but they are kind of disappointing in the end. Just not a lot of flavor, so I add toasted sesame oil and fish sauce to them and eat them with kimchi. After I clean the kitchen, my roommates and I finish Little Fires Everywhere and then watch Rupaul while F. gives out the Rice Krispie treats she made earlier! I drink lots of water and FaceTime with A. for a little while before bed, and go to bed at 12:45 am… again, ugh.

Daily Total: $59.75

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and get ready quickly because I have two meetings at 9 and 9:30 this morning. After my meetings, I make a piece of toast with vegan cream cheese, lox, and tomato and have an espresso.

10:33 a.m. — I chat with my friend who’s completing her master’s degree abroad. She breaks down and tells me that she’s been struggling financially since she lost work due to COVID and she’s feeling sad and stressed out. When she says she is worried about affording food, I send her $25. It isn’t a lot, but it’s something. We argue back and forth about it until she finally accepts. I don’t make a ton, but I recently received a small raise and I am in a more secure financial situation than a lot of people in my community so I feel like it’s my duty to help people when they need it. I don’t come from money so even before COVID, I would sometimes send money to my family since they often experience financial hardship. $25

3:14 p.m. — My period is here, so I am feeling so much better and very positive and energetic! I eat leftover sweet potato fritters with kimchi for lunch while video chatting with three of my work friends. It’s great to see friends and one of them got an offer to join our team, so we’re excited to possibly have her join! We go through some pros and cons of the offers she received with her. Then I have a meeting with a peer where we strategize and discuss some positive feedback we’ve received recently. Today is super busy because I finally sent the newsletter I’ve been working on and clients have lots of questions. I listen to Flo Milli while I respond to emails. I work until around 5:20 pm and then pass out in my bed for a good 30 minutes.

8:22 p.m. — I finish making THE Bon Appetit onion and scallion galette that everyone is making. The end result is so good, it’s super buttery and rich to the point where it gives me a little bit of a stomachache. M. tries some and can’t stop talking about how good it is so I feel like that’s a good sign. I drink ginger tea while I watch the Catfish documentary with my roommates. We love the show but we’ve never seen the movie. After I finish my tea, I feel better so naturally, I eat… more butter. In the form of a Rice Krispie treat. When the movie ends, I pass out around 11.

Daily Total: $25

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — It’s really hard to wake up, but I get up at 8:30. I work for a little bit and then do a 30-minute YouTube workout and shower. I put in a load of laundry and try to start my work laptop up again, but it won’t respond. I message a couple of people letting them know I’m having tech issues and go into troubleshooting mode. Nothing I try works so I just let it charge for a while while I deep condition my hair, do my product routine, and braid it into two french braids. Normally I’d do a twist out or many smaller braids but my arms are dying from that workout right now and I can’t imagine holding them up that long. I eat some of the galette and drink one of my homemade cortados while I do more research on getting the work laptop to start up.

12:04 p.m. — By noon, I still haven’t figured out how to get it to work and it’s really bothering me. I text my supervisor to let him know that I’m offline and unsure of when I’ll get back up and running. For full context, I can’t do my work from any other laptop except the one I was issued from work due to security clearance complications. He tells me not to worry about it and to just take the afternoon off since things are slow anyway, which is typical for Friday afternoons. I watch more Terrace House before starting a new book, Pleasure Activism by one of my favorite authors, Adrienne Marie Brown.

3:17 p.m. — The cramps are back! And this time they come with nausea. I make stomach ease herbal tea and plug in the heating pad while I lie on the couch. I read until my roomies stop working around 4 and we start watching Rupaul again.

6:32 pm – F. has the horrible-wonderful idea to order Domino’s, so we get a large pizza with pepperoni and pineapple. I give her $7 for my share. When it arrives, we eat the whole thing between the three of us while we chat about random things. $7

9:10 p.m. — We’ve been saying we were going to, so we finally sit down with some wine to watch Parasite. It’s really good and super suspenseful. We stay up analyzing the film and discussing it further. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be, but I definitely go to bed afterward feeling super tense.

Daily Total: $7



Day Six

2:24 a.m. — Still awake! The movie unsettled me more than I thought — less so the actual content and more so just my anxiety having something salient to attach to. I text with my mom a little (my parents are both night owls) and then FaceTime with A. (he can’t sleep either) until I finally fall asleep.

11:45 a.m. — Wow, I’m never able to sleep in like this and I’m so grateful. I wake up and eat some of the galette for brunch with a cortado and homefries. I eat outside in the backyard because it’s super sunny. It’s so hot that I change into shorts and apply sunscreen. I spend the next four or five hours outside, reading, coloring, and journaling.

5:03 p.m. — I go inside and do an ab workout with my roommate. I need a snack so I make a smoothie with spinach, banana, frozen mango, and Amazing Grass powder. I do a Kiehl’s face mask I got for Christmas, shower, and put away laundry. I finally tweeze my brows and feel ten times better about my appearance. I make one last effort to get my work laptop to turn on, and it finally does!! This is a huge relief and I’m so thankful it’s working again.

6:14 p.m. — M. and I have big plans to order cheeseburgers and garlic fries from our favorite local burger place — we’re trying to order from at least one small business or restaurant per weekend to help support. I try to give M. money for the food, but she refuses to accept and says that this is her and F.’s treat since I’ve had a hard week with the dog passing away, which is unbelievably kind. We play Mario Kart and Just Dance until we hear a knock on the door. It’s not the burgers, but actually a gift from my friend, Z! She brings us strawberry rhubarb pie with coconut whipped cream and she also brought over her adorable dog (she stands on the sidewalk with a face mask on while we talk to her from the porch, with the dog running back and forth on a long leash between us, don’t worry!). The food arrives right after Z. leaves and we are so excited. I don’t usually eat red meat at all, but every few months or so, I crave a cheeseburger. And this one is really delicious.

8:22 p.m. — After eating way too much, I make more ginger tea and watch The Social Network with my roommates because I’ve never seen it. With all the extra time we’re spending inside, I want to make it a point to watch things I wouldn’t normally watch and catch up on all the movies people have been saying I should watch for years. We take a quick pie break and it’s amazing! I’ve never had strawberry rhubarb pie before and I’m really surprised by how good the combo is. We watch two more episodes of Rupaul afterward and then I text with A. for a while before falling asleep around 1:45.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

11:57 a.m. — Again, WOW. So proud of myself for sleeping in! Usually, I wake up naturally at 9 on weekends, so this is a new record. After waking up and doing a little stretching, I reheat the rest of my garlic fries and make a cappuccino. I chat with the roomies and my family via text. It’s chore day, so I will be deep-cleaning my bathroom and downstairs area. A package arrives for me and it’s a gift from A. — a pink stuffed animal octopus! So cute because it’s my favorite animal in my favorite color. I FaceTime him to say thank you before I start cleaning.

5:41 p.m. — I clean the downstairs common area, my bathroom, and bedroom. The worst part is always scrubbing the bathtub and doing the floors, but if I don’t do this on weekends, my mental health is not as strong throughout the week. I also make a quick chopped salad with chicken, cabbage, carrot, and scallions that comes out very well. I eat some of that before cleaning up, cleaning out the fridge, and running the dishwasher. Then I water all the plants. We are very strict with ourselves that we have to clean the entire house every week, so that we aren’t just sitting in a gross environment while we’re spending so much extra time in it, especially the kitchen (we trade off every week on that one). I reward myself with a little rest and watch Hot Ones on YouTube while I drink a strawberry cucumber seltzer.

7:14 p.m. — M. makes fried chicken and mac and cheese (which she insists I sample and who am I to turn her down?) while I look at recipes to plan grocery shopping for the next two weeks. It was a weird adjustment at first, but now I’m in the flow of it and I’m proud of myself for leaving the house only when completely necessary. After finding a recipe with lots of spices that I want to make, I browse Crate and Barrel for a mortar and pestle. I’ve been wanting one for the better part of a year and I feel like this is the thing I need to really elevate my cooking. I find one for $6 on sale — it’s small but I don’t need a huge one. I decide to also get a new vegetable peeler for $9 since ours isn’t great to justify the $5 shipping. In total, I spend $20.43. $20.43

8:09 p.m. — The roomies and I have been coordinating with our friend who is in L.A. to gift some cupcakes to our mutual friend who’s been going through a hard time with her family. She delivers them to our friend and we FaceTime with them for a bit to say hi! I send my friend $5 for my share of the cupcakes. F., M., and I eat some vegan ice cream while we watch the penultimate episode of Rupaul. I make some Tulsi sleep tea and do a quick bedtime yoga and meditation set before getting into bed to drink my tea with my book. My hope is that I can get a good night’s sleep and finally not stay up too late. $5

Daily Total: $25.43

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