Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a single mother’s $42,000 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 36-year-old woman that makes $42,000 a year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Construction
Position: Accounts Payable
Yearly salary: $42,000
Extra income: $350 per month doing pay roll for a cleaning company. I also work other small jobs, and Uber and Lyft on the side when I have to, but it doesn’t pay much, so I’m looking for other avenues to make money.
Savings: I’m not currently putting anything into savings
Age: 36

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $640
Number of roommates: My 2 kids
Neighborhood: North Charlotte
Personal loan: $130
Credit card payment: $200
Utilities: 

Electric – $120
Water – $60
Phone – $247.60 for 2 cell phones
Internet – $100
Gas – $60

Car payments: $135 every pay period, so a total of $270 per month
Car Insurance: $150
Transportation costs: $260 per month for gas because I work on the opposite side of town.
Insurance: None
After-school care for my 5 year old: $360
Tithes and offerings: $260
Hulu: $12.78
Netflix: $14

Three financial goals

Double my salary within a year. As a single mother of two (one 18 year old and one adopted 5 year old), I’m looking for a new job so I can make more money and work less in order to spend that time with my children.

Pay off my credit card by next year.

Pay off my personal loan within a year.

How I spent my money last week

Day one: Monday

I spent $5.08 at Food Lion on pineapples and apples. I try to make this my lunch throughout the week in conjunction with popcorn and peanuts. I don’t eat much because it costs money to eat, so I try to ration my portions and buy food that I would eat and not waste.

I got a small french vanilla cappuccino at 7-Eleven for $1.08 because I need caffeine in the morning and I love this cappuccino. It’s much cheaper than Starbucks and Panera Bread.

I had a salad for dinner last night, so by the time lunch arrived, I was starving. I had salmon with broccoli and carrots but no rice for $10.77.

After work, I went home and ate a small salad with honey mustard dressing and I made my son a toasted turkey and cheese sandwich. That’s what he wanted – he loves sandwiches.

Total spent: $16.93

Day two: Tuesday

I worked out and I drank water after my work out, and because I wasn’t as hungry as I was on Monday, so I stopped and got just my usual french vanilla cappuccino from 7-Eleven. I’m so addicted. $1.08

For lunch, I ate some of the apples that I purchased on Monday and I had a few peanuts.

For dinner, I ate a salad with honey mustard dressing and had some leftover veggie chili. My children had chili as well for dinner.

Total spent: $1.08

Day three: Wednesday

On Wednesday, I worked out and had water again in the morning. On my way to work, I stopped by 7-Eleven and got another french vanilla cappuccino for $1.08.

For lunch, I ate some of the popcorn that I had at my desk and had some more apples from Monday. I forgot that I needed to complete a CE course, so during my lunch break I took a FEMA Class Continuing Education course. The course cost $29.70.

For dinner, the kids had pizza and I made baked salmon with broccoli and carrots for dinner. I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago and already had the ingredients in my pantry and freezer.

Total spent: $30.78

Day four: Thursday

When Thursday rolled around, I felt tired. I worked out, and on my way to work I stopped by 7-Eleven to get my usual (french vanilla cappuccino) and I spent $1.08.

I ran out of apples and pineapples, so I purchased lunch and I spent $10.77 for salmon.

I’m sure you’re asking, “Why does she only eat salmon?” I don’t eat meat and I have crazy food allergies, so there isn’t much that I can eat. I limit my food to seafood, vegetables and fruits. I drink water throughout the day as well.

After I picked up my son from after school, he asked me if I could take him to Wendy’s because he was good this week. I gave in and got him what he wanted from Wendy’s – that was his treat for the week. $4.21

Total spent: $16.06

Day five: Friday

I woke up late and didn’t have time to work out, but did have time to stop to purchase pineapples from Food Lion and I spent $4.07. This will be lunch I because I’m really not that hungry. I stopped by 7-Eleven and purchased a $1.08 french vanilla cappuccino.

Today was payday, and I have 3 drafts that are debited from my account each pay period. They are:

  • $135 car payment, auto-drafted every other week
  • $65 personal loan payment, auto-drafted every other week
  • $100 credit card payment, auto-drafted every other week

I put gas in the car for $12.87 and got more food for $46.89.

I transferred $20 transfer to my daughter’s account today. Sometimes I’ll send her money for breakfast, gas, snacks at school, etc.

Total spent: $384.91

Day six: Saturday

I woke up and went to pick up something for a friend and mailed it to them, but they paid me back. I got my french vanilla cappuccino for $1.08 at 7-Eleven.

Total spent: $1.08

Day seven: Sunday

I went to church and tithed $140. Afterward, I went to Wendy’s because my child said he really wanted chicken nuggets ($2.14), KFC for a potato wedge and a chicken sandwich for my daughter ($7.03) and a salad, dressing, salmon and veggies for myself for $16.18.

Total spent: $165.35

Total spent: $616.19
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $113.62
Bills – $300
Transportation – $12.87
Education – $29.70
Miscellaneous – $160

What I learned: This past week, I was very aware of my spending because I actually held myself accountable for it.

I really wanted to purchase some seats and things for my house, but I realized if I’m not careful, I can spend money and have to work my odd jobs to replace the money that I spent. I wanted to spend money on things like new outdoor lights, paint for my home, hiring an electrician to replace things that are wired incorrectly, pressure washing my home, replacing locks, etc. I also wanted to purchase a pair of shoes this week ($25 or less), but I thought about how I could use that to transfer to my credit card balance.

I realized that I need to work a second job in order to afford these things and I hope to get another job in January. This challenge has taught me to be very diligent on what I spend and to spend only on the things that I need and not what I want.

That will be a challenge for me but in order to get out of debt and live a better quality of life this will be necessary.

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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.