Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: A marketing manager working in life sciences who has a $230,000 joint income and spends some of her money this week on pajamas.

Occupation: Marketing manager

Industry: Life sciences

Age: 29

Location: Chicago

Salary: $130,000 (plus a $17,000 annual bonus)

My Husband’s Salary: ~$83,000 (His income varies because he’s a freelancer.)

Net Worth: $18,798.23 (personal checking: $2,122.47; combined checking: $1,287.33; personal savings: $22,043.35; 401(k): $75,840.43; Roth IRA: $8,170.58; crypto: $206; HSA: $943.07; car: $20,000; condo value: $48,925; my husband’s assets: $50,000; minus our home loan below.) My husband, F., and I have been together for eight years and got married last year. We split most of our household purchases equally, including groceries, which go on our “family” credit card. I pay for his health insurance as well as car insurance. F. had a very old car he sold this year, and I bought a new car, which I paid off, and we share it. We contribute $1,800 a month to our shared checking account and keep our personal checking accounts separate.

Debt: $210,740 (home loan: $179,096, combined student loans: $31,644)

My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,020

My Husband’s Paycheck Amount: varies

Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,388

HOA Fees: $340.53

Student Loans: $1,000 (Only $230 is due, but I overpay so I can hopefully pay them off in the next year.)

Internet: $10 (My work reimburses me $40 a month.)

Gas & Electricity: $40–$80

Phone: $82.44

Car Insurance: $99.64

Medical, Dental & Vision Insurance: $234.40 (This covers me and F. and is not a shared expense.)

HSA: $83.32

Liquid Savings: $1,000

401(k): $1,200

NYT Cooking App: $5

Netflix: $16.88

Spotify: $16.34 (family plan)

Apple iCloud Storage: $2.99

Peloton: $12.99

Wine Club: $45 (This is technically an anniversary gift for F. I got him a wine tasting journal and the wine club membership, so we can do home tastings every month.)

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, but not necessarily from my parents. My dad never finished college, and my mom didn’t end up using her degree, so my parents never made me stress over academic success. However, I attended an academically rigorous public school, and it was 100% the expectation that all graduating students attend college and earn high scores on the SATs/ACTs. I went to a private liberal arts university that was definitely not cheap. I paid for part of it using $25,000 in settlement money I received from a childhood injury. My parents paid for what they could afford, and I received financial aid and merit scholarships. When I was a senior, I ended up making one of my tuition payments using money I earned at a summer internship. When I graduated, I had $27,000 in student loans. In 2023, I got a job that increased my salary by 75% and I’m currently using some of my additional income to aggressively pay down these loans. I don’t want to carry this debt into my 30s. I feel incredibly lucky to have had a manageable loan amount through my 20s but am very hesitant to pay for more higher education, like an MBA, at this point.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?

My parents did not educate me on money beyond telling me to put money into my savings — and then never following through with making sure I did so. My parents owned their own business, and it didn’t fare well during the economic crises of the 2000s. They got into business debt and in over their heads on a mortgage, which led to a lot of financial instability. When there were conversations on money, they were always about not having enough of it, which was wildly confusing considering we lived in an upper-middle-class community. Tax-advantage accounts and employer 401(k)s were totally foreign to me when I first started working. I still feel like I’m behind on my financial knowledge and have a feeling I’m holding on to cash that could be invested in a money market, but I feel overwhelmed and unsure if I’m making the right decisions to grow wealth and build financial security.

What was your first job and why did you get it?

I started babysitting when I was 12 and continued to do so beyond college to make supplemental income. I was THE babysitter in my neighborhood and, at one point, had five families on my roster. Because we lived in an upper-middle-class neighborhood when I was prime babysitting age, the cash was consistent and gave me enough spending money for clothes and other extra things. I never saved any of it.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, I worried about money every day. I want to make it very clear that we were not poor, but we were financially unstable due to my parents’ business decisions, which is something I’ve spent a lot of time unpacking in therapy. We moved houses and schools several times because of that instability, and it led to a lot of stress and uncertainty in my adolescence. I found my parents’ financial struggles embarrassing and would try to hide it by keeping up appearances with my babysitting cash. Because my parents did not focus on saving for retirement, I worry about their money situation even now.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes and no. I have worked incredibly hard to build my own financial safety net. My first job out of college paid $38,000. I know what it feels like to agonize over a grocery bill and the cost of socializing with friends — I don’t take my current lifestyle and income for granted. I also know lifestyle creep is a real thing and I try to keep myself in check as I continue to advance in my career. I feel lucky that my partner and I share similar financial goals, and we prioritized buying a condo over balling out on a wedding recently. Owning our own place makes me feel very safe and secure! I do worry about whether or not we will have enough to support a family one day if we make that decision together. I’m aware that that sounds absolutely ridiculous because so many people raise families with far less. I just don’t want my kids to grow up with financial instability.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?

When I graduated from college, I had a full-time job lined up, which started one week after graduation. Because I interned a little bit, I had about $1,000 in my bank account and didn’t have to start paying my student loans for a few months. At this point, I became financially responsible for myself. I paid my rent, health insurance, travel — everything except for my phone bill. I got off my parents’ phone plan two years ago and wish I would have done that sooner! I don’t have a financial safety net, so I have job hopped every two or three years to increase my salary and build my own safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

The only passive money I have ever received was from the settlement money I got as a child from an injury.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I wake up as late as possible. We were at a wedding over the weekend and got home after midnight last night. I get ready quickly for my first meeting to kick off the week. After it wraps, F. makes me a pour-over, and I drink my coffee while I catch up on emails.

11 a.m. — I think about ordering lunch so it arrives after my next meeting. I open up my Sweetgreen app, and when I get to the checkout screen the total is $26. Too much. I close the app and decide to grab a sandwich later. My meeting wraps up around 12:30 p.m., and I’m starving. I leash up the pup and walk several blocks to a local café to grab a turkey sandwich. $13.29

5:30 p.m. — Work wraps up, and I pull shrimp out of the freezer to thaw. I work on my holiday needlepoint project while F. noodles on the guitar. I’m making him a Christmas stocking! I got into needlepoint earlier this year and realized that painted canvases can be expensive ($50 to $200 each), so I create my own designs on blank canvas to save money. I head into the kitchen to make dinner. Tonight is a simple pantry pasta with shrimp and leftover Rao’s pasta sauce. F. and I chat about the day and snack on cheese and olives while I prepare dinner.

7:30 p.m. — After dinner, I quickly clean up. We end up getting a little flirty and having sex before we settle in for some TV. I work on my needlepoint project while we watch whatever’s on PBS before bed.

Daily Total: $13.29

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I’m up early for a training call with the European/Global team. I get ready and put on light makeup because I’m expected to be on camera. I quickly make a latte using the Breville espresso maker I treated myself to with my signing bonus last year. I LOVE using it! I grab a cherry-date power ball as a snack and sit down at my desk just as the session starts. I’m surprised by how engaging the training is and I end up with great takeaways. During a break, I walk the dog and feed her. The last 30 minutes of training are a challenge, and I’m starving. I make an egg sandwich, eat an apple, and take a YouTube break.

10:30 a.m. — I’m back at my desk to go through emails, but I enjoy a brief pause first. The weather is getting cold, and I want to pick up winter PJs. I google pajamas, and Hannah Andersson is the first option that pops up. I haven’t worn Hannah Andersson since I was five, but the women’s PJs look cute! I put the same cotton set in three different colors in my cart and checkout. $213.56

12:15 p.m. — Back to work before a 12:30 p.m. meeting. The team reviews images and provides agency feedback for the next round. I love supporting design projects! I take a break and do a 45-minute Peloton strength training workout. I take Adrian’s class, and it kicks my butt!

2 p.m. — I set up my iPad in the kitchen for my last meeting of the day so I can work on getting dinner ready at the same time. I’m camera-off but still participate in the conversation as I shred chicken. I finish up my meeting and the food I’m cooking and make myself a bowl for a late lunch. I eat while connecting with a colleague on a budget-related question.

3 p.m. — F. and I walk the dog to a park. In the summer, we walked here at least once a day — now it’s getting harder with the sun setting so early and temps getting cooler.

5 p.m. — I walk to get a quick massage in my neighborhood. I recently decided I don’t love a full-body session and like that this shop offers 25-minute massages. When it’s over, I notice that they actually gave me a 50-minute massage but only charged for the 25-minute service ($50). I tip $25 as if it was the 50-minute service. $75

6:30 p.m. — On my walk back, I stop at the local market to pick up a few items to hold us over before we make it to Costco this week. I buy two pints of tomatoes, two avocados, queso fresco, two packs of Justin’s peanut butter cups, one pound of sliced deli turkey, Wasa cracker crisps, and Good Culture cottage cheese. Groceries go on the family card. $37.82

6:30 p.m. — F. heats up dinner, while I take a shower. After we eat, I settle into my needlepoint project and watch the latest season of The Great British Baking Show. F. noodles on his guitar in the next room.

9:30 p.m. — We’re ready for bed and read for 30 minutes before turning the lights off at 10.

Daily Total: $326.38

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I’m up early again for training at 7 a.m. I get ready quickly and sign on. I drop out of the training around 7:30 a.m. for a different meeting and hop back on around 8 a.m. to continue. F. brings me a pour-over at some point in the morning.

10 a.m. — The wool rug we ordered over a month ago arrives, so we roll it out and admire our decision. We look up coffee tables on Etsy and talk about the pillow covers and wall art we plan on purchasing to finish the room. Decorating is one of our hobbies, and we both love hosting so we’re happy that we’re able to prioritize spending money on our home!

11 a.m. — I’m feeling pretty tired so I grab my work iPad and sit on the couch. I prep a few notes for a meeting I have later in the afternoon and work on the timeline for a project I’m managing next year.

12 p.m. — I have a networking call with a woman on the global team. I’m starting to put more effort into networking within my company and think about what’s next for me as I grow my career.

1 p.m. — I head into the kitchen and make a little lunch. I’m big on the cottage cheese trend and make a bowl with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, za’atar, balsamic vinegar, and flaky salt. I eat this with a side of Wasa crackers and watch Alison Roman’s 2023 Thanksgiving special on YouTube. Very exciting!

1:30 p.m. — The special reminds me I need to pre-order my turkey. I order an Amish turkey and extra turkey wings for stock from an independent butcher near me. This year will be my third time hosting and making the whole Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m not too stressed. $83

2 p.m. — I call into my final meeting of the day. Afterward, I check back in on my emails and respond to a few chats.

3:15 p.m. — I change into my workout clothes and do a 30-minute Peloton strength class with Rebecca Kennedy. I’m tired but still want to commit to my workouts. When the class is over, I stretch on my mat and finish watching the Alison Roman special.

4 p.m. — I walk the dog around the block before the sun sets. I get back inside, and F. mentions going to Costco. We do a little tidy then head out to shop.

6:45 p.m. — We get back from Costco, and I’m surprised that the shop was less than what we typically spend. We buy two Greek yogurts, Rao’s pasta sauce, frozen blueberries, frozen salmon, frozen shrimp, frozen strawberries, peanut butter, avocado oil, canned tuna, truffle parm seasoning, sandwich thins, spinach, a salad kit, pears, apples, bananas, Waterloo sparkling water, and eggs. $216.16

7 p.m. — The groceries are put away, and we realize we forgot to stop at the local market for popcorn kernels. We walk to the market for them. $7

7:30 p.m. — Dinner! We eat leftovers from the day before. I think I’m still behind on sleep from the wedding weekend and early mornings. I’m so tired I let myself lounge on the couch and scroll on my phone.

8:30 p.m. — We make popcorn in the Whirly Pop (it’s the best) and try out the truffle parm seasoning we bought at Costco — it’s a winner.

10 p.m. — We’re in bed, reading for a few minutes before turning off the lights.

Daily Total: $306.16

Day Four

7 a.m. — I sign on for my training call. We get a brief break about an hour in, and I make myself a pour-over. The dog is doing her pre-puke-for-attention schtick. I sneak away and take her on a walk around the block and feed her.

10 a.m. — Training ends, and I jump to another call. This is a weekly touch-base with a colleague I really like. She’s a woman not much older than me but leads a small team. We’re working on a few projects together, and I’ve been looking to her as an example of great female leadership!

11 a.m. — I’m getting late-week work scaries and scroll on my phone to cope. I haven’t accomplished as much as I want to because of the morning training sessions. I put on the La La Land soundtrack and send a few follow-up emails to keep projects moving.

12 p.m. — I make myself a lunch of Wasa crackers topped with turkey, cottage cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, and eat this with a Waterloo sparkling water while listening to the Lucy Hale episode of Call Her Daddy. I have a lot of sober people in my family so I find this episode interesting.

12:30 p.m. — It’s a beautiful day, so I leash up the dog and run out for command hooks and CeraVe PM moisturizer, but I forget the hooks and only end up buying the lotion. $22.11

12:45 p.m. — I swing by the wine shop and pick up two bottles for the dinner party we’re hosting on Sunday. I get a 10% discount as a wine club member. $33.74

1 p.m. — F. is home when I get back, and we plan out the pillow covers for the couch. We go with five covers from Crate and Barrel. This is a fun little break and makes me excited to get the condo ready for hosting Thanksgiving! $230.82

2 p.m. — F. heads to the gym, and I have dried cherries and cashews as a snack. I work on preparing a pitch deck for our annual sales meeting. I listen to the Note to Self podcast as I work.

4 p.m. — I wrap up work, and F. and I walk the dog around the block just as the sun is setting.

5 p.m. — F. calls his parents, and I read my book before we make dinner.

6 p.m. — We throw together a quick dinner: salad kit and roasted salmon. A glass of wine sounds nice, but we have a big social weekend, so I skip it and have a sparkling water instead.

7 p.m. — It’s still early, so we stay at the dining table and talk. This turns into us listening to music and dancing like goofballs in the living room. The dog thinks it’s playtime and joins in. By 8, we wind down and watch TV before getting ready for bed.

Daily Total: $296.67

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I get to sleep in a bit this morning. Although, I’m in a bad habit of checking my phones (work and personal) immediately, so I end up responding to a few chats from my East Coast colleagues. F. makes me a pour-over, and I’m at my desk getting started for work. I have an 8:30 meeting.

9 a.m. — After my meeting, I check back in on emails and prep notes for a meeting I’m running this afternoon. I still feel like an imposter running meetings and leading projects but I’m working on it. F. and I take the dog on a walk. It’s another beautiful day.

12 p.m. — Meetings are wrapped, and I see a message about a coworker’s dad passing away. I venmo my colleague $10 for the gift and card we’re putting together. $10

12:15 p.m. — I take a break to run errands for the dinner party we’re hosting. I pick up oregano at the spice shop, stop at the butcher and get one pound each of ground beef and pork, plus a huge hunk of parmesan. I grab a cookie from the bakery, then head to the market for oranges, lemons, parsley, orzo, lettuce, anchovies, onions, and carrots. I also pick up more turkey and Good Culture cottage cheese. $65.14

1:15 p.m. — I get home and make the same lunch I had yesterday and have a pear on the side. Claire Saffitz’s Thanksgiving video is out, and I watch while I eat. After lunch, I share the cookie with F. and get back to my desk for more work. I also send the Claire Saffitz video with a few of my coworkers who have been talking about Thanksgiving menus.

2:30 p.m. — My focus is waning, and my inbox and chats have been quiet all day. F. and I sort laundry, and he throws a load in the washer. We live in an old building without in-unit hook-ups so we have to pay. $2.75

3 p.m. — I do the same 45-minute Peloton workout from earlier this week and watch another episode of The Great British Baking Show while I lift weights and keep an eye on Adrian.

4 p.m. — I hop back on the computer to clean out my inbox and make sure my to-do list is ready for me on Monday. I really don’t want to do this, but know Monday Me will be grateful I did.

4:15 p.m. — I get ready for the evening: I do a full face of makeup, a blowout, and put on a cute outfit. F. takes the dog out while I get ready.

5:30 p.m. — We’re going out for our friend’s 30th birthday dinner and discuss whether we should take the train or drive and use SpotHero for parking. We settle on driving and SpotHero. $10

6:30 p.m. — Dinner is at a super packed Italian restaurant. It’s not my vibe as an introvert, but the company is really good, and we get to celebrate our friend! We order a carafe of wine and lots of different Italian plates. When the check comes, someone puts their card in, and F. and I venmo them $35.50 each. $71

9 a.m. — After dinner, we walk to Ghirardelli and hang for a while longer. F. and I split an overpriced sundae. $20

Daily Total: $178.89

Day Six

8 a.m. — We wake up and cuddle and have sex before we get the day going. F. makes us pour-overs, and we recap last night and talk about weekend plans.

10 a.m. — I meet my friend for a coffee and pastries and a walk. I treat. $25

11:30 a.m. — After I part ways with my friend, I stop at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few more items for the dinner party tomorrow. I buy bottles of sparkling water, grilled olives, roasted nuts, sugar, flour, gem lettuce, a green juice, creamer, a baguette, and flowers. $76

12 p.m. — I get home and do a kitchen tidy before I prep for tomorrow. I spend the next couple of hours washing lettuce and making Caesar salad dressing and cookie dough.

2:45 p.m. — I’m exhausted. I know I’m overbooked this weekend and am so close to backing out on plans tonight. I eat an orange and continue watching the Claire Saffitz Thanksgiving special.

3 p.m. — F. is making a turkey sandwich in the kitchen, and I ask him to make me one, too. We chill for the rest of the afternoon trying to gather the energy for the concert we’re about to go to. I already know it’s going to make me feel old and tired.

5 p.m. — F. starts a quick dinner of shrimp and rice for us, while I slap on makeup and change out of the sweats I wore all day. When I’m done, I toss salad greens, and eat dinner. Before we leave the house, I tuck a disposable heating pad in my pants for the low-back period pain I’m experiencing.

7 p.m. — We find free street parking, meet up with friends at the concert venue, and watch the opener before Slow Pulp comes on. F. gets a Modelo, and I get a Topo Chico. $12

9:30 p.m. — We’re home from the concert and have a little nighttime snack of apples and peanut butter while watching PBS before getting ready for bed.

Daily Total: $113

Day Seven

8:45 a.m. — I’m so grateful to sleep in and get a good night’s rest before having friends over later today. F. makes me a pour-over, and I spend the next few hours baking cookies and prepping other food items.

10:30 am — I take a kitchen break, and we walk the dog. We stop for cortados, and I use my work credit card to expense them (my company lets us expense coffees up to a certain amount if we hit our goals).

11:30 a.m. — Back home. F. makes us scrambled eggs and toast. I eat and spend the rest of the afternoon cooking and getting the dining room ready for company.

5 p.m. — F. and I pour wine and wait for our friends to arrive for dinner. We’re serving Italian wedding soup, Caesar salad, focaccia, and lemon butter cookies for dessert. It’s a lot of work, but I love hosting and cooking for friends.

8 p.m. — Everyone leaves, and we do a quick clean up. F. and I unwind and watch TV before getting ready for bed.

Daily Total: $0

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