Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $36,000 salary

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Our Cash Confessional series, in partnership with Bank of America, takes a personal and anonymous look into how people of all ages and incomes spend their money in the span of seven days.

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Kylie at This week, I spoke with a 23-year-old woman that makes $36,000 a year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Retail
Position: Lead Assistant Store Manager (I’ve been with the company for 7 years)
Yearly salary: $36,000
Extra income: Any overtime offered throughout the year! Hello, time and a half! I also sell old clothing and am considering becoming an Uber driver in the next few months.
Savings: Religiously following a plan of having only $1,000 in savings for emergencies. Besides 8% going in to my 401(k), everything extra I have is going straight to paying off debt.
Age: 23

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $0 currently, thank you to my lovely family! Beginning January 1, it will be $500.
Number of roommates: None, but beginning in 2018, I will have one.
Neighborhood: I currently live in Ballantyne with my father. In the next three months, I’ll be moving down to Rock Hill. It’s a huge money saver, and I still have access to the Queen City!
Utilities: $100 directly to my parents.
Student loans: Lucky to have paid cash for school with my full-time job. I have been in school longer than most, but I am thankful to come out debt free!
Car payments: $360. I wish I could get rid of this thing.
Car Insurance: $105, thanks Geico!
Transportation costs: $80 a month on average
Phone bill: $60
Insurance: Nothing as of now. Thankful for my father who plans to cover me until my time is up!
Pet care: Usually $25-$60 a month
Car maintenance: $25-$50 for washes, oil changes, etc. It’s always a precautionary line item in my budget.

Three financial goals

I want to be 100% debt free by the time I’m 25.

I would like to cash flow the rest of my way through college.

Up my annual contribution to my 401(k) to 15% once my debt is paid off in full.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Friday

$420.60 completely pays off my Best Buy credit card before my interest rate kicked in a year after having it (success!). I’m going to close this account ASAP.

$147.34 paid a vet bill for Bella’s yearly physical and other prevention procedures and $30 went to grooming (including tip).

I paid $102.56 for my car insurance.

$14 at Red Clay – hello pumpkin cider! Plus $13.91 at Blaze after Red Clay.

Uber rides were $8.56 but my friend gave me $5 toward them. $3.56

Total spent: $733.97

Day two: Saturday

I spent $29.29 at Michael’s on a new happy planner. They were 40% off, plus I had my 20% coupon.

I worked all day Saturday, so no chance to spend any more money.

Total spent: $29.29

Day three: Sunday


Working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. helps keep me from going out and spending!

Total spent: $0

Day four: Monday

I ate an early bowl of oatmeal, hit the gym, had a protein shake and went to work.

Had $4 worth of Chick-fil-A on my lunch break.

Total spent: $4

Day five: Tuesday

$14 worth of gas was put into my tank. I crossed the SC border to get it cheaper.

Today is my day off, so I spent $13.76 on sushi for lunch. I have evening classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so most of these days are spent doing homework.

I made my $335 Honda car payment (wish I could get out of this payment so bad).

Total spent: $362.76

Day six: Wednesday

No spend Wednesday!

I bring my lunch to work 99% of the time.

Total spent: $0

Day seven: Thursday

I spent most of my morning doing an accounting exam at Starbucks. $10.03 for the necessary coffee and breakfast sandwich!

$22.87 on gas today… way too excited about saving $0.25 on each gallon of gas! Thanks, Shell!

Total spent: $32.90

Total spent: $1,162.92
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $55.70
Bills – $858.16
Transportation – $40.43
Miscellaneous – $206.63

What I learned: I stick to my budget very well. I use cash as often as possible, and yes, I look like a crazy person when I pull out my cash envelopes, but I honestly don’t care. I am so excited to keep working toward paying off my last 2 credit cards, one personal loan and then my car to be debt free!

I spent $1,162 over 7 days, a huge chunk of this was getting rid of a nagging credit card I’ve had for a year, and paying my car bills. Buying a brand new car when I was 21 was a huge mistake! Should have waited.

As soon as I get my debt paid down, I hope to save more money and contribute more to my retirement.

Build your financial know-how with free tools and information to help you make more confident decisions. Visit the Bank of America Better Money Habits site today.

Need 1:1 guidance on getting your finances in order? Schedule an appointment with a Bank of America specialist today or stop in your local financial center.

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