Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $46,000 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 kylie@charlotteagenda.com. This week, I spoke with a 28-year-old woman that makes $46,000 a year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Education
Position: Exceptional Children’s teacher
Yearly salary: $46,000 before taxes
Extra income: I work a part-time job during the weekends, and babysit the occasional evening here and there, which is anywhere from $100 to $200 additional income monthly.
Savings: I try to put at least $100 into savings per month
Age: 28

Monthly expenses:

Note from the participant: At the start of each month, I create a budget using You Need a Budget. I then update this frequently throughout the month as I spend so I consistently know how much I’m spending and on what. This has helped me cut back on unneeded expenses and allowed me to create more of a balance based on my priorities in my spending.

When I first graduated from college, I had my student loans deferred for a year as part of a post-grad program I was a part of. Instead of doing the smart thing and saving, I spent pretty naively and am still paying off credit card debt. I have recently transferred these balances to a card that acquires 0% interest during the first several months, and, by paying a minimum of $300/month, I am well on my way to having that completely paid off by April. Thank goodness!

Rent: $450
Number of roommates: 1 (boyfriend), unless you include my cat, which of course you do, so 2
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
Utilities: 

Electric – Around $50
Cable/Internet – $40
Compost – $10

Student loans: $366
Car payments: $300.64
Car Insurance: $67.12
Transportation costs: I budget about $60 for gas/transportation monthly. My car is fuel efficient, and I include Uber trips in this as well.
Phone bill: $75. I’m still a part of my family plan, and transfer my share to my parents monthly.
Insurance: Renters insurance is $21.75
Netflix: $10.71
Spotify: $16.08. I have the Family Plan and split this with my boyfriend
Pet Wellness Plan: $30.95. This covers annual comprehensive exams, teeth cleaning and any needed vet visits throughout the year.
You Need a Budget subscription: $5. This has revolutionized my spending!
Monthly ACLU donation: $10
Washington Post All Access subscription: $9.99
Annual Thrive Market membership: Free for teachers!

Three financial goals

Build up a healthy emergency fund that would cover monthly expenses for at least 3 months.

Pay off all debt within the next 5 years. Part of this goal is dependent on receiving a TEACH grant for working in a Title 1 school as an EC teacher (special education) for a minimum of 5 years.

Be able to comfortably take vacations that aren’t solely planned around an upcoming holiday to see family or attending an out of town wedding.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Wednesday

I wake up at 5 a.m. and have half of an RX bar and add an electrolyte tab in my water from home before my 5:30 a.m. MadAbolic session. I bought 10 sessions at the beginning of the month (right before I realized I couldn’t justify this in my budget any longer) and need to use the remainder of my classes before they expire). I also prep a protein smoothie for after the workout. $0

I shower there and go straight to work. Mornings that I work out before school are always long, so I make a coffee with the Keurig machine in the work room and add pumpkin spice creamer. $0

For lunch, I eat tuna salad I brought from home along with a whole wheat bun from the cafeteria because I’m out of crackers. $0

Throughout the day, I snack on an apple, a couple of chocolates I had hidden in my desk, the rest of my RX bar from earlier, and a Zevia-flavored water. All packed from home. $0

Tonight is a parent night at our school, so we will be here until around 7 p.m. Our administrators provide dinner. I have some raw vegetables with hummus and a slice of veggie pizza. Later in the night, there is a leftover strawberry cream cheese pastry so I obviously grab that before I go home. $0

I have some white cheddar popcorn in the pantry when I get home and relax for the rest of the night. $0

Total spent: $0

Day two: Thursday

Another MadAbolic morning begins with an RX bar and electrolyte tab from home.

After the workout, I shower and get ready ahead of schedule, and have time to stop at Amélie’s for breakfast before work. It’s payday tomorrow, and I have some money left in my “Dining Out” budget, so I enjoy this decision. I get a brown butter pecan almond milk café crème, an egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant with tomato and spinach and a bottle of water (I usually just fill a canteen from home, but it is in need of a good scrubbing) and eat it at my desk. $13.80

By 11 a.m., I’m feeling tired. I’m trying to wait until later in the afternoon for more coffee, so I opt for an apple that I brought from home instead.

I also complete my a la carte meal delivery order for the upcoming week, and use a code for 10% off. My boyfriend and I both order our own meals, and my share comes out to $32 for 2 entrees (about 3 servings each), a soup (2-3 servings), carrot pimento cheese and a breakfast bake (2-3 servings). This will last throughout the following week and supplement my otherwise boring food routine of smoothies, tuna, black bean burgers and avocado toast.

Lunch is the rest of my soup from the previous week’s meal delivery that I brought from home. $0

Coffee update: I made it until 2:30 p.m. without getting a cup from the workroom! There are pretzels out as well, so I snack on a few of those. $0

I get home from work and drink a Zevia Water before throwing an entrée from the meal delivery last week in the oven. I have half and my boyfriend has the rest. $0

Before bed, I snack on some dark chocolate while we watch this week’s DVR’ed American Horror Story before heading to bed.

Total spent: $45.80

Day three: Friday

I wake up to an e-mail from PNC to remind me that it’s pay day!

For breakfast, I eat the rest of my breakfast bake from the week’s meal delivery along with coffee from my apartment building’s community room. $0

An RX Bar and Zevia Water will have to do for lunch today. I also get coffee from the workroom. $0

I forgot I brought half an avocado from home to eat, so I have that instead of a chocolate bar I had in my desk when I get hungry in the afternoon. $0

After work, we have a staff happy hour. Food is paid for and I get a cauliflower veggie burger and a glass of wine. With tip, my drink is $8 and I pay with cash.

I get home and snack on more popcorn before heading to sleep early.

Total spent: $8

Day four: Saturday

Another MadAbolic morning means an RX bar and electrolyte tab from home before my class at 7:30 am. I make a smoothie for afterword with ingredients from home. $0

After the workout, I go to work at my part-time job from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m. There are some things I need from Target, so I stop there on the way home.

Magically, I came out with only the things I planned on getting (paper towels, 4-pack RX Bars, 5-pack Kids RX Bars, two kombuchas and a pint of Haagen-Dazs non-dairy ice cream… okay, so that last one wasn’t on the original list, but it should have been). I use my Cartwheel app and save $3.72. I also use the MobiSave App to get the Kids RX Bars for free. $22.72

When I get home, I check You Need A Budget and realize that my monthly subscription for this service has come out ($5) and one of my student loan checks was cashed for this month for $80. Our compost and Spotify bills for November have been withdrawn, which my boyfriend and I split, so my half is $13.08. I pay late fees on several library books for $4.50 (since when have library fees become so expensive!?).

My lunch is about half of a meal from the meal delivery last week. I also drink a kombucha I picked up at Target. $0

It’s a lazy afternoon and I spend it reading while my boyfriend watches college football.

We’re both hungry around 5 and decide to order B. Good and pick it up for dinner. I get the Spicy Avocado & Lime Kale/Grain Bowl, a side order of Real Fries (free because I signed up for their rewards program), a side order of the cauliflower split with my boyfriend and a rosemary lemonade. For dessert, I cracked open the ice cream I bought earlier from Target. All the while, we binge watched the first half of Stranger Things season 2. $15

Total spent: $140.30

Day five: Sunday

I wake up early and make coffee and grain free hot cereal with coconut milk before heading to work at my part-time job from 9 until 10:30 a.m. I’m still hungry by the time I get there, so I also have a Kid-size RX bar. $0

I prep for this week’s meals by cutting up some zucchini and banana to put in the freezer and later add to smoothies. $0

Lunch is leftovers from dinner last night, along with the rest of my kombucha and a small pumpkin spice donut my boyfriend picked up from the store. $0

As this week marks the beginning of the month, I lock in my monthly order from Thrive Market and my Amazon Subscribe and Save withdraws. I always utilize the free shipping over $49 on Thrive and wait until I’m sent a 10% off coupon, which is normally once a month. This order contains a 16 ounce bag of raw cashews to make my own cashew milk, grainless banana muffin mix and muffin cups, my favorite chipotle mayo from Primal Kitchen, natural shower bombs, dark chocolate and Safe Catch tuna. $41.55

Amazon Subscribe and Save is great for things that I need on a regular basis, and with their frequent coupons and 15% when you subscribe to more than 5 items, it has really allowed me to save a ton on things I would normally have to get anyway from the grocery store – and sometimes buy in bulk without the added expense of a Sam’s Club/BJ’s/Costco membership. This month I’ve ordered cacao powder, 2 boxes of protein bars (split with my boyfriend), Nuun electrolyte pack of 4 tubes (which will last several months), 12 boxes of Mary’s Gone Crackers (using a coupon, so this goes from costing $45 to just $25), and a 40 count of Keurig K-Cups for work (another coupon makes this $15 instead of $22). My total is $87.19.

I send my boyfriend $16 via Google Wallet for some fresh fruit and vegetables he picked up this morning while I was at work.

We spend the afternoon watching the Panthers play and snacking on chips and coffee from the cafe across the street, which my boyfriend pays for, until I go volunteer at my church in the evening. $0

After church, I eat the last of my weekly meal delivery, continue the weekend Stranger Things binge, and throw in some more ice cream for good measure. $0

Total spent: $144.74

Day six: Monday

I go to MadAbolic again this morning at 5:30, so I fuel up with the usual RX Bar (kids size this time) and electrolyte tab.

It’s a work day, which means I don’t have to be into work until 9 am. I take advantage of this extra time by getting coffee from the community room in my apartment building and watching a Hallmark Christmas movie (it’s never too early!). I have a pretty bad pain in my back, so I throw on a heating pad until I make a smoothie and head out. $0

I get to work a little bit earlier then I need to so that I can clean and organize some things. We have a meeting and then break early for lunch. Due to spending extra time on the couch this morning because of my back, I didn’t get a chance to pack my lunch. We have an hour until our next professional development session, so I go next door to Food Lion and grab a kombucha and Greek yogurt for $4.10.

Most of the day is individual work time, and I’m glad that I brought an apple and raw almonds because the readily available Halloween candy is so tempting. $0

During a break, I order a set of stainless steel smoothie straws. The ones I have are impossible to clean. I have an Amazon Rewards credit card that I make all Amazon purchases and some other random purchases with, and then pay it off in full each month. I use my Rewards Points to pay for the straws, so my total is $0.

My boyfriend wins the MVP award for grabbing me a sandwich from Laurel Market and a Lenny Boy kombucha. I have half of the sandwich and a Zevia Water, and save the rest and my kombucha for tomorrow’s lunch. $0

It’s chips and chocolate for our viewing of the final episode of Stranger Things! $0

Total spent: $4.10

Day seven: Tuesday

I’m slow to get up this morning due to my back, but still manage another smoothie before work. $0

SkillPop releases their new classes each Tuesday, and I’ve been trying to get to another class since my first one (which I loved). I sign up for a class and recruit friends to come along. $35

I eat the rest of my sandwich from yesterday for lunch and make a cup of coffee. $0

It’s a pretty busy day and somehow I manage to have a kombucha and RX bar I brought from home. Also, it’s Halloween, so I snag a snack-size Skittles from the workroom. $0

I get home from work to do a few “chores” around the apartment and eat some of the sparse leftovers from our B. Good meal a few days ago (literally just 3-4 french fries and a piece and a half of cauliflower).

My Amazon Subscribe and Save order is already here, and I excitedly open my box of 12 Mary’s Crackers to find that they are the wrong flavor. When I go onto Amazon to find out how to return, I’m told quickly that they will be sending me a replacement, free of charge, and that I don’t have to return the box I had. It’ll be a while before I have to buy crackers again!

I make tomato soup for dinner and then go on a candy run with my boyfriend to snack on while we watch Halloween movies. The candy is $5.

Total spent: $40

Total spent: $382.94
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $245.36
Bills – $102.58
Miscellaneous – $35

What I learned: I’m pretty happy with my spending this week. I typically pay close attention to my spending as it relates to my use of You Need a Budget, but I hadn’t written down in detail what specific items I spend money on and when. However, I was surprised to realize how much I snack at night!

My groceries are the main area I’m continuously trying to cut spending on. I prioritize eating mostly healthy, whole foods and am always trying to find the best “deal” on certain foods that I eat regularly. The total was high this week due to my monthly Thrive Market and Amazon Subscribe and Save orders. These orders usually last several months, and helps cut down the cost on grocery trips weekly, where I’m only stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

One of my goals was finding balance within my spending, and I think I’m getting closer to accomplishing this by utilizing resources which allow me to save, limiting my dining out, and putting my priorities on paying off debts as soon as comfortably possible.

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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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Kylie Moore
Writer doubling as a travel, wine, and Oxford Comma enthusiast.