Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $38,500 salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $38,500 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 $38,500 a year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Nonprofit
Position: Marketing Director
Salary: $38,500
Savings: $250 goes into a separate bank account every other week
Age: 23

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $985
Number of roommates: 0
Neighborhood: South End


Electric – Usually $50 per month
Cable & Internet – $114
Water – $5 a month or so

Student loans: N/A. Thanks, mom and dad, for having the faith to invest in me before birth! I am a lucky gal.
Car payments: Paid in full
Car insurance: Bundled with renters insurance, it’s $145
Transportation costs: $50 per month for gas
Phone bill: N/A. I’m on my work’s plan.
Insurance: N/A. I’m still on my parents’ plan (it’s a long story).
Spotify: $9.99
Hulu: $7.99
Pure Barre: $129
Le Tote clothing subscription: $64. This keeps me from online shopping and stocks all my work clothes for me.

Three financial goals

Put a down payment on a house in the next 5-7 years.

Travel at least once a year.

Begin saving for retirement. Only 40 years to go, baby…

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Sunday

I slept in and skipped breakfast (already saving money, don’t call me a hero) but headed over to Trader Joe’s to stock up on groceries. I meal prep for all 3 meals, so this will be the only food shopping I do this week. I spent $52.58.

I spent the rest of the day reading, watching TV, catching up with friends and cooking my little heart out.

Total spent: $52.58

Day two: Monday

I got up at six, did some yoga in my living room (which is also my bedroom and kitchen because studios are ridiculous) and drank some tea. Before I drove to work, I put all the ingredients in my crockpot for a black bean and beef stew that I’ll eat throughout the rest of the week. Finally, I sprayed in some dry shampoo (this is anonymous, you’re not judging) and headed off to work. While I was driving I ate a slice of the baked oatmeal I made last night.

I nibbled all day on all the snacks I pre-packed (popcorn with olive oil and snow peas) and around 1 I ate the lunch I cooked on Sunday. This is a theme – I almost always work through lunch. Today it was sweet potatoes and turkey cooked together with peppers and spinach, topped with goat cheese.

After work I hit a 5:30 barre class and sweat like a total maniac. Nobody else is sweating – one girl has a full contour and honestly, I don’t get it. I get back in my car and drive home to my crockpot. I shower, eat dinner, and settle into bed with a book, where I’ll sleep soundly until I wake up and answer emails around 3 a.m. because that’s normal?

Total spent: $0

Day three: Tuesday

I wake up at six, do some yoga and get ready for work. I contemplate my mundane existence only briefly as I watch an episode of The Office while brushing my teeth and flossing (you can tell by my boring life that I’m 100% the type to floss, we’re all thinking it). I grab another baked oatmeal slice and head out the door.

Work flies by as it always does. Nonprofit work is wild in that way. I eat another depressing desk lunch looking like a deflated Ina Garten.

Before I know it, work is over and I head out to drinks with some coworkers to celebrate one of their last days. We go to Seaboard down in Matthews and I have one beer ($5). I head home, heat up some beef and black bean crockpot soup and fall right asleep listening to the storm ($0 #nature).

Total spent: $5

Day four: Wednesday

I woke up and went to a 6:30 barre class and eat some of my pre-made breakfast bar on the way (and decide my rapper alias would probably be “baked oatmeal”).

Work, snacks, desk lunch, grind, repeat… I finally tune back into the world and realize it’s 5:00 and I’m meeting a colleague/friend for dinner at 5:30 over at Bonterra. On my way there, I stop at CVS to pick up a prescription ($5) and I pay with assorted coins and loose dollar bills in my purse because healthcare.

I roll up to Bonterra and it’s gorgeous! Since I’m a total plebeian, I normally couldn’t afford to eat here, but it’s restaurant week, baby, and I’m living on the edge. For $35, I gorged on scallops over brisket, hanger steak and potatoes and a s’mores brownie washed down with a glass of red wine for $8. After tax and tip I would have ended up spending $51, but she unexpectedly picked up the tab for the evening (holy generous).

I’m pretty full so I essentially roll home and climb into bed for my nightly (coma) rest.

Total spent: $5

Day five: Thursday

I wake up five minutes before my 6 a.m. alarm and I feel great! So obviously I lounged in bed and scrolled through social media until I got so deep, I realized two things: 1) My elementary school bully got married??? and 2) It’s 7:30 and I need to get ready for work in 10 minutes, which is a problem because I look like Howard Stern in a nightgown. I made it into the office by 8:05 covered in granola bake crumbs like the celebrity I am.

I eat the usual all day, by now you know the drill. I’m out of the office most of the day for meetings, so having pre-made food helps a lot on the go! I head over to a 5:30 barre class after work and it’s back to black bean soup tonight.

Total spent: $0

Day six: Friday

I slept like an angel baby last night, so I was reluctant to get out of bed. I finally roll into some casual Friday attire and get to work around 8:08. I’ve already worked 36 hours this week, so today will be half a day (in theory). I tend to keep up with emails throughout the day anyway.

My boyfriend came into town around noon and we spent the afternoon hanging around the pool at my apartment. Around 2, we decide to walk over to Jeni’s and grab a scoop of ice cream. I had the peanut butter & chocolate and it was to DIE for. Totally worth the hype. My boyfriend bought (aww), so I didn’t spend a dime on this delicacy.

Around dinner time, we did not feel like cooking, so we ordered Leroy Fox takeout. The chicken was meh, but the brussels sprouts and mac & cheese were lovely. We split dinner and I Venmo’d (Venmoed, Venmo’ed????) him $15 for my half. We spent the rest of the evening watching movies and nursing food comas.

Total spent: $15

Day seven: Saturday

My boyfriend and I are both pretty early risers, but we slept in until around 8:30. We decided to go for a run, which I hate, but he loves, so we compromised by stopping for every dog we saw on the sidewalk and also power walking through the streets in Dilworth with the prettiest houses. So we ran for about 10 minutes max, oops. We finished off with some yoga and breakfast back at my apartment.

Around 1:30, we hopped on the light rail to catch a matinee performance of Book of Mormon at Blumenthal (we bought tickets a few weeks ago). It was brilliant. The music, the dancing, the comedy, it was the perfect package. Coming from someone who was a star in their eighth grade play, this review should be taken very seriously.

After the show, we walked over to McCormick & Schmick’s to celebrate the end of restaurant week. We got what we deserved for going to a chain, let me tell you. It was hands down the worst meal I’ve had in ages. Cold steak, undercooked potatoes, gooey calamari. Such a disappointment. The staff was also rude and our poor waitress was clearly frazzled. I was so excited to get the check and run (not walk) out of there. My boyfriend and I split the meal ($35 each), but after tax and tip I spent $38. We walked home hoping to burn some calories and boost our mood, mission accomplished!

Total spent: $38

Total spent: $115.58
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $115.58

What I learned: 

I live a life of sheer monotony, but that honestly keeps my spending in check. Looking at my salary, you probably think my financial goals are a joke, but I squirrel away as much as I can! Most of my expenses are really trackable and just monthly, and I keep myself on a tight budget, so nothing was really too surprising. But I did realize I was less tempted to buy silly things because I was monitoring myself all week. However, between this exercise and my job, it just reminds me of how lucky I am to grow up like I did with so much support. It’s important to give back y’all, privilege is real and needs to be shared!

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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