A Week In Somerville, MA, On A $90,000 Salary

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a regulatory affairs manager who makes $90,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on movie snacks.

Occupation: Regulatory Affairs Manager
Industry: Biotech
Age: 37
Location: Somerville, MA
Salary: $90,000/year
Bonus: ~$8,000 to $15,000 year-end bonus
Partner’s Salary: $45,000/year
Paycheck (2x/month): $2,251. This includes taxes, $200/month FSA, and medical, dental, and vision insurance for my partner, Eric*, and myself.
Check From Eric: $1,428.80

Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $1,300/month to rent a one-bedroom apartment with a yard, deck, and driveway. (Free parking is a major bonus.) Our apartment is very, very cheap in part because the unit shares utilities with the other tenants (one-third us, two-thirds them), meaning we have less control over our costs.
Loans: $100/month for husband’s car loan. I finished paying off my student loans last year. Partner student loans are also $0.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Transportation: My employer subsidizes my monthly T pass and I pay $40 each month (taken from my paycheck).
Netflix: $10
Invisalign: $133/month (for 18 months)
My Cell Phone: $5o
Partner’s Cell Phone: $15; he’s on his family’s plan.
Car Insurance: $120
Internet: $45
Electric: $37.30
Gas: $38.64
Groceries: $415
Amazon Prime: $100/year
Gym: $25 (work subsidized)
401(k): $276.93/week from my paycheck and company matches 6%. I save for Eric’s retirement too as he has no benefits.
Check To Eric: $980

Day One

6:40 a.m. — It’s Friday so I’m allowed to work from home, one of the perks of my smaller biotech company. Everyone in my department works from about 6:30/7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m./4 p.m. so I’m up early with my coffee and cereal. I love my job; a couple of years ago I switched careers and got a salary bump. Because I graduated prior to meeting Eric, I used my salary to pay off my grad student loans last year. I’m also adding to our house down payment fund using my raise. Paying 20% on a condo or house around here costs at least ~$120,000, so despite our income, we struggle to meet our financial goals. I’ll pay two-thirds of the mortgage payment due to my higher income but we just throw everything we can into the down payment fund at this point. I log into my credit card account and pay the monthly balance. We put everything on our cards to get points and cash back! $1,130

12 p.m. — I make a turkey sandwich and eat an apple, and remember to write Eric my monthly check ($980). Our financial situation is probably the most controversial part of our relationship (aside from the polyamory) as we maintain separate finances aside from the house and retirement funds. When we moved in together, we worked out how much we each spent; the check covers my half of the household costs for the month. It also takes into account that I pay for half his insurance since I have him on all my insurance (health, dental, vision, life, disability). Since Eric and I are married, people think maintaining separate finances mean we are selfish or juvenile. But we don’t want to juggle multiple accounts, watch our balances, and check in all the time about spending. We both know how much we have in our accounts all the time, but it takes all the accounting headaches out of the finances to keep them separate.

4 p.m. — After work, my close friend comes over for a bike ride on our town bike path. We stop for oatmeal cookie ice cream ($4.75) and water ($2.25) during our ride, then end at her house where several other close friends come over. We order eggplant and pepperoni pizza (my part is $10) plus I buy wine for the group ($11.99). I ride my bike home; I always bike, walk, or take the T. $28.99

Daily Total: $1,159

Day Two

7 a.m. — I get up early and do our laundry, which costs $2 for each load on our second-floor landing. I save $1 on some of the dryer loads by hanging up my work clothes. I find they last longer that way. $5

12 p.m. — Eric and I take a long bike ride and stop to buy groceries for lunch (pork chops and quinoa and carrots) at home. Eric is a fantastic cook, so it’s not a hardship to eat in. $17

2 p.m. — Eric takes the car to the mechanics. I’m like a 1950s housewife when it comes to the car; it’s totally Eric’s domain. It’s embarrassing but I justify it with the fact that I rarely drive. Because of that, I pay for one-fifth of the maintenance and gas, and nothing for the monthly car payment or insurance. (It was $120 and dropped a ton when we got married, so I save Eric money.) The maintenance check costs $313, and my share is $62.60. $62.60

6 p.m. — Today is date night with a new guy I’m seeing. Somerville has a polyamorous community, and my goal is to have a permanent relationship with one or two other people aside from Eric. I broke up with an LTR partner recently so unfortunately, I’m back in the dating world. I’m not sure this will turn into anything, but we’ll see. I walk into the square, which is conveniently close to nightlife, and we meet at one of the classier places for dinner. Good conversation, but I don’t think I’m feeling it with him. At the end, I offer to split the bill but the guy insists; I know he makes a lot more than me so it’s fine. We walk around the square and have fun pointing out how old we are compared to the college kids. He told me a story about being confused about Venmo, and I laugh since I still write checks like an 80-year-old. We grab drinks at another bar and I pick up the tab this time. I walk home around 1 a.m. $27.16

Daily Total: $111.76

Day Three

10 a.m. — Eric and I get up and eat bacon, eggs, and toast at home, then take a long hike. We swing by Starbucks after and I pay. It’s kind of a waste of money, but I love my chai tea. $8.45

6 p.m. — My Starbucks pastry tides me over until Eric makes an early dinner of spaghetti, homemade meat sauce, and broccoli. He always makes enough on Sundays for either his lunches or our dinner until Wednesday, which saves money. We head out to our local indie theater in the square to see Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a movie about a poly family. I pay for tickets ($20) and snacks for us ($9), and we love the movie. It makes me sad about not having another partner though. Eric doesn’t care; he’s not dating and hasn’t in years, so he’s not as wistful. We fall into the odd category of being a poly-monogamous couple, which is unusual. We started off both being poly but Eric hates dating and decided to quit. He’s too introverted for it to be fun for him, which I get because I hate dating too, but I have always loved being in a serious LTR with a couple of people so it’s worth dating to get back into a triad. $29

Daily Total: $37.45

Day Four

5:40 a.m. — Coffee and cereal at home. Since it’s Monday, I take the T to the office at 6:45. I know I’ll be I’m hungry later this morning, so I go to the corner café and get a muffin ($3.20) which is pretty much a daily thing. I also pick up a fruit cup for later ($2.65). $5.85

11:30 a.m. — Lunch at the office cafeteria, which is pretty outstanding. I always get a sandwich and a yogurt and either a granola bar or cookie. I used to be great at bringing food into work when I made less money, and this has become my biggest indulgence. I just don’t make an effort anymore to pack food. Our household takeout food budget, which includes lunches like this, is shamefully higher than our grocery bill. Inertia gets me every time though. $10.47

5 p.m. — I’m heading home and I’m starving. Eric took the spaghetti to work for his lunch for the week, and he’s working late today. I’m too lazy to cook, so I get us burritos from our local place. Eric thinks I’m a hero for getting him a burrito even though it’s cold by the time he gets home. We have this quasi-embarrassing habit of eating in front of the TV and watching Netflix until I fall asleep, which is exactly what we do tonight. $19.04

Daily Total: $35.36

Day Five

5:40 a.m. — Coffee and cereal at home. I’m a creature of habit. I get to the office two hours after I get up; it was pouring so my walk to the T and the ride to my office were unpleasant and slow. I never take cabs or Uber though; they add up way too fast! When I walk into the corner café, the ladies get me a muffin as I walk up to the counter without me asking. I’m a baller. $3.20

11:30 a.m. — Lunch at the office cafeteria. Today’s total is less since I’ve skipped the cookie. I know there’s a social hour at work this afternoon and it’s always loaded with food. At social hour two hours later, the catering is on point and I shamelessly grab food and leave it on my desk for later. I’m so proactive. $8.23

3 p.m. — My ortho takes my monthly payment out of my FSA account for my Invisalign. My teeth were always straight as a kid but they shifted as an adult. Since my work pays for a portion, plus I have adult orthodontics insurance coverage for the first time, I decide to get them. I’m on month four of an 18-month payment plan, no interest. My one regret is not getting this done prior to my wedding three years ago, but I couldn’t justify the expense back then.

5 p.m. — I’m home and find out Eric has to work late tonight. I’m sort of annoyed I didn’t know that before, because I could have either cooked or gotten a pizza instead of burritos yesterday. I get us a pizza and a salad. We’re usually way better at cooking dinner, partially to offset the amount Eric and I spend on lunches at the office. $21.94

Daily Total: $33.37

Day Six

5:40 a.m. — Coffee and cereal at home. I go into the office, but no muffin today since I’ve stored pastries from yesterday’s social hour at my desk like a squirrel. I score at lunch too because there’s leftover catering which is pretty common in this office. I grab a sandwich and OJ and congratulate myself on being frugal.

5 p.m. — I have a couple of items to return at Ann Taylor. With my new job comes a wardrobe upgrade since the dress code is way fancier. I’ve spent about $600 or so on clothes in the past several months, which is much higher than my usual budget. I take the T to Harvard Square and learn my items are in final sale mode and I can’t get the full value back. Instead, I get $50 in store credit and then decide to check out the sale rack and buy a dress ($65 minus the $50 credit). $15

6:30 p.m. — I catch the T home, although I could walk. As luck would have it, a friend is on my train and I take it as a sign that we should get dinner together. She just moved into my neighborhood and is demonstrating why I like my area so much — I run into friends a lot in my small-big city. She offers to split the bill, but I know she makes far less than me so I pick up the check for dinner plus drinks. She doesn’t know how much I make and I prefer to keep it that way. My income seems high on paper, but really isn’t that great given our area and our crappy college housing. I don’t like telling people what I make because it gives them the wrong idea. A lot of people don’t know the income disparity between Eric and me and assume he makes a similar amount as I do, if not more; people estimate our discretionary income as way higher. $67.30

Daily Total: $82.30

Day Seven

6 a.m. — I struggle to get up, feeling nauseous. I eat coffee and cereal at home and can’t finish it, which is a major red flag since I am always hungry. I believe (and also can’t believe) that I’m hungover from last night even though I drank so little. I rarely drink hard liquor anymore though, and our after-dinner whiskey drinks might be the culprit. I make it halfway to the train and decide to abort my trip to work. I swing by our local bakery on the way back to my place and get fortifications for the day, a piece of blueberry coffeecake and an apple croissant. I have conference calls from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a small break, and I nurse the coffee and coffeecake at my home desk. $6.49

1 p.m. — Since I wasn’t planning on being home, I need to run across the street to get lunch as we have no food at home. Eric will go grocery shopping tonight on his way home from work, but in the meantime I grab a tuna sub. It will last me two days since it’s huge, so it’s a pretty cheap lunch. $8.98

4 p.m. — Done with work for the day and contemplating heading back into work for the company’s weekly free happy hour. Decide against it because I could run into my bosses, which is a shame because the amount of food at happy hour is always enough to make dinner out of. Last week was Indian themed happy hour and they had samosas, rice, chickpea curry, beef curry and chicken tiki masala.

4:15 p.m. — We’re visiting my cousin who lives in the Upper West Side of NYC in a couple of weeks. I check out the plane, Greyhound, and Amtrak options, and end up getting Eric and I Greyhound tickets. Travel is one of the ways I splurge now that I make more; recently I treated Eric to a weekend in D.C. since I was at a work conference. My meals were being comped, and he could use my hotel room. I bought Eric’s plane ticket and a lot of the food, but we don’t spend money like crazy. It was still a relatively cheap vacation. $136

5:30 p.m. — Eric arrives, grocery bags in hand. (They cost $132, but that is covered in my monthly check to Eric.) I help him unload it and I give him extra gas money, as he’s done more errands this week than usual for us. He cooks chicken and rice and veggies, and we unwind to some Netflix. $30

7 p.m. — Seeing new guy again. Eric and I were discussing his pros and cons, and I think I should give him another shot. He seems nice, and he’s clearly looking for something serious. One of the downsides of being poly is that some people think it’s like swinging or always casual, and for most poly people, it’s not. Many people aren’t just trying to sleep around, and you have to sift through people who are. I meet New Guy at a bar that has outdoor seating and I get a Dark and Stormy. It’s unseasonably warm so we have a great time sitting outside and the date goes better than last time. Maybe New Guy is going to be Future Guy. I walk home at 10 p.m., which I can do since my neighborhood is safe and full of people at this time of night. $12 including tip

Daily Total: $193.47

* Name has been changed for anonymity.

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