Cash Confessional: A 24-year-old old learns to get by on a $23,000 salary – $12,000 less than she’s used to making

Cash Confessional: A 24-year-old old learns to get by on a $23,000 salary – $12,000 less than she’s used to making
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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

Editor’s Note: This week, I spoke with a 24-year-old woman who recently went from making $35,000 to $23,000 – here, you’ll see a comparison of her new spending habits compared to her old ones as she adjusts, plus what the change has taught her.

Week 1: $35,000 salary

The basics:

Industry: Sports
Position: Sales
Salary: $35,000
Savings: 10% of each paycheck goes into my savings, and I use Bank of America’s Keep the Change program
Age: 24

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $500
Number of roommates: 3
Neighborhood: Prosperity Church
Car payment: $252
Student loans: $200
Transportation costs: $20-$40 per month for gas
Phone bill: $94.55
Car insurance: $108
Credit card: $200
Netflix: $8.55

Three financial goals

Pay off my car in 5 years instead of 6 years.

Pay off my student loans ASAP.

Bump up my savings percentage from 10% to 20%.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Monday

I started this week finishing up the last leg of a family vacation, so this week is a little different than a normal week.

My breakfast for the entire “work” week is literally an everything bagel with cream cheese, an apple and two cups of coffee, so we can skip this for the remainder of the week.

Lunch was leftovers from the night before. But around this time, my family was driving me a little crazy, so I hopped in my car and drove around for a bit. I stumbled (maybe not) across a Target, where I had a couple of things I needed to return (+$48.76), but of course turned right around and spent most of that money ($43.12).

By the time I got home, everyone was a little sun-drunk and doing nothing, so I joined in the fun. For dinner that night, we ordered pizza and watched movies. My parents paid for the pizza.

My student loan payment cleared ($200).

Total spent: $243.12

Day two: Tuesday

I woke up, had my usual breakfast, and spent some time by the water. Lunch was leftover pizza, followed by an afternoon nap.

By the time I woke up, my parents were starting to clean the rental and get everything together so we could leave in the morning. I checked the refrigerator and we had enough stuff for cold cuts and chips for dinner.

My Netflix subscription drafted today ($8.55).

Total spent: $8.55

Day three: Wednesday

I woke up, had my usual breakfast and finished helping my mom tidy up the rental. We packed our cars and went our separate ways. On the way home, I stopped to fill up my car ($20).

When I got home, I should’ve started getting my life together to return to work Thursday, but instead, I headed down to the pool. My roommate met me down there and brought watermelon smoothies for us to snack on.

We got home pretty late in the afternoon, so I made us a couple of black bean burgers with homemade sweet potato fries. We had all this stuff at home, so I spent no money!

Total spent: $20

Day four: Thursday

I woke up, got ready for work and had my usual breakfast.

I went home for lunch (perks of living so close) and had a leftover black bean burger and some Cheez-Its. In an attempt to save money, I make my own cold brew coffee at home, so I poured a glass and brought it back to work with me. I checked my bank account and noticed I had an “extra,” so I made a credit card payment ($80).

After work, I went to Staxx for their free Bootcamp class. I was so tired afterward that I made a protein shake and peanut butter toast for dinner.

Total spent: $80

Day five: Friday

I woke up, got ready for work, and had my usual breakfast, but instead of making my second coffee at home today, I had some money on my Starbucks rewards card, so I treated myself to a coffee.

I went home for lunch (again) and had a protein shake and carrots with hummus. Our offices closed at noon today (yay for super short weeks!), so I headed down to the pool.

When I got home, I packed a bag because I was staying at my boyfriend’s for the weekend. He made dinner and we went to see Deadpool 2. He paid for the movie tickets.

Total spent: $0

Day six: Saturday

We woke up pretty early and made protein shakes before heading to the Whitewater Center for the 9:30 a.m. yoga class. He has a season parking pass, so we didn’t have to pay for that.

After yoga, we went to back to his place and he made breakfast. He, hands down, makes the best pancakes.

I spent the afternoon with my best friend, and we went shopping and ran errands. I spent $7.35 at Campbell’s Greenhouses and Nursery on the prettiest sunflower plant, $5.35 at Tropical Smoothie for a watermelon smoothie and $8 at Le Macaron.

We finished the night out by watching Eat Pray Love.

Total spent: $20.70

Day seven: Sunday

I woke up pretty early on Sunday, but it was too hot to make breakfast, so I settled for cold brew coffee and a banana.

I ran to the grocery store to pick up food for the week ($46.87).

I made a big batch of pasta salad for lunch (seriously, it’s way too hot to cook anything), and my roommate and I brought a little with us to the pool and spent the afternoon down there.

Dinner was a sandwich and pasta salad.

Total spent: $46.87

Total spent: $419.24
The breakdown:

Bills – $288.55
Food and drink – $60.22
Transportation – $20
Shopping – $50.47

What I learned:  I already accepted my new position, so I’ve spent the past couple of weeks significantly cutting down my unnecessary spending. I think this week was a good week. However, it never fails, when I’m with my bestie I spend money.

Week 2: $23,000 salary

The basics:

Industry: Sports
Position: Hospitality & Events
Salary: $23,000
Savings: 10% of each paycheck goes into my savings, and I use Bank of America’s Keep the Change program
Age: 24

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $500
Number of roommates: 3
Neighborhood: Prosperity Church
Car payment: $252
Student loans: $200
Transportation costs: $20-$40 per month for gas
Phone bill: $89
Car insurance: $69
Credit card: $0 – I finally paid it off from when someone took off my driver’s side mirror
Netflix: $8.55

Three financial goals

Pay off my car in 5 years instead of 6 years.

Pay off my student loans ASAP.

Bump up my savings percentage from 10% to 20%.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Monday

This weekend, my favorite granola cereal was on sale, yay! So I had that, a banana and two cups of coffee for breakfast.

There was a birthday at work today so I stopped at the store and picked up a card and a cookie cake ($18.34).

I usually meal prep on Sunday’s so both lunch and dinner today were leftovers.

I canceled my gym membership a couple of months ago, so I went for a run this evening through my neighborhood.

Total spent: $18.34

Day two: Tuesday

Today was a no-spend day. I had the same breakfast and lunch as yesterday.

I went to the Whitewater Center for yoga and since I bought a parking pass a couple of weeks ago, it was free! I was really tired when I got home, so I had some potato chips for dinner. I know, healthy.

Total spent: $0

Day three: Wednesday

Again, today was a no-spend day. I had the same breakfast and lunch as the day before, and my dinner was a black bean burger and some carrots.

Total spent: $0

Day four: Thursday

I had the same breakfast as yesterday, but I had to stop for gas on the way to work ($26.44).

I had the same lunch as yesterday.

I went to yoga again at the Whitewater Center after work. Unlike Tuesday, I wasn’t that tired, so I made shrimp alfredo dinner. My roommate provided the red wine.

Total spent: $26.44

Day five: Friday

I was tired of my usual breakfast, so I fried some eggs and had them over toast with a banana and two cups of coffee.

Lunch was provided by work.

By 5:30, my best friend and I decided to buy Dierks Bentley tickets at the last minute ($57.84). She covered our beers and Cook Out. Thank God for great friends.

Total spent: $57.84

Day six: Saturday

I’m not sure how, but I managed to get up early enough to eat breakfast before the 11:00 am yoga class at the Whitewater center. My breakfast was granola cereal and a banana, and I barely finished one cup of coffee before running out the door.

I had leftovers for both lunch and dinner…

My phone bill auto-drafted today ($59.29). It’s lower than normal because when I tried to switch my plan, they over-charged me, so they credited my account the difference.

Total spent: $59.29

Day seven: Sunday

This morning, it was only me and one of my roommates, so I made us French toast and bacon for breakfast. I’m not sure where he went after, but I started cleaning. Sundays are my “Get-My-Life-Together” day so I cleaned, did laundry and bought groceries ($65.93).

My meals for the next week include granola cereal (it was a really great sale last week so I bought a couple of boxes), sandwiches and salads so I didn’t have to cook anything today!

Total spent: $65.93

Total spent: $227.84
The breakdown:

Bills – $59.29
Food and drink – $84.27
Transportation – $26.44
Miscellaneous – $57.84

What I’ve learned in adjusting to a lesser salary:

Honestly, I’ve learned that it is not very hard to live on less if you’re smart about it.

I’m not sure if any of you picked up on it, but I love my morning coffee. I usually start every day with two coffees and proceed to have many more as the day goes on. This can be, and has been, my most expensive habit to kick (mostly because I love Starbucks). But how did I kick it? I invested in reusable, BPA-free k-cups, a cold brew coffee maker and a dozen pint-sized mason jars. I decided enough was enough and I couldn’t keep spending ridiculous amounts of money on coffee – and this was months before I accepted this new position.

By the time I reached out to Kylie, I had kicked my daily Starbucks habit. And knowing I could do that, I had the confidence to know I could continue cutting my expenses.

First, I tackled my phone bill and my car insurance. Despite some problems with both companies, I was able to save there. Then I decided to track my variable expenses and cut from there. Y’all, I literally have an Excel workbook that is specifically designed to help me track my variable expenses and make cuts. It is color-coded and organized; I love it. And because of this workbook, I’ve cut out eating out. I’ve cut out shopping. I’ve cut out ridiculously large grocery shopping trips. I’ve cut out a lot; but that doesn’t mean the quality of my day-to-day life has changed at all. Life is what you make of it. I thought taking a massive pay-cut would truly affect my life in a negative way, but it’s only improved the quality of it.

I’m fortunate to have a job that I love that allows me to provide for myself. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who are supporting me through this time. Living with a much smaller income has really taught me to be fortunate for what I have and where I am in life.

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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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