Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $60,000 paralegal salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $60,000 paralegal 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 Lauren at

This week, I chatted with a woman in her twenties who works in the legal field. She’s focused on paying off her car, bolstering her retirement account, and taking her mom on vacation. Here’s how she spends her money.

The basics

Industry: Legal


Position: Paralegal

Salary: $60,000, plus work bonuses (vary by the year) and roughly $5,000 earned playing music as a side gig.

Savings: Minimum $500 per month. I also have a Digit account, which is currently putting away probably $200-250 a month. I have an online savings account through Ally that has a great interest rate, as well as a separate account for vacations. I contribute 3.5% to retirement (will increase to 4.5% next year) and work matches up to 3%. I have a separate Roth IRA, but haven’t contributed much this year due to building a house and the expenses that come along with it.

Age: 23

Monthly expenses

Rent: $1027. Also paying interest on a construction loan. This amount increases monthly based on the draws. Right now it’s pretty low because it’s in the early phases, so it’s about $60ish a month.
Number of roommates: 2 dogs
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Utilities: Water: $20, Duke: $50. I don’t have cable and I use the apartment’s free WiFi for Netflix. My dad pays for a family subscription.
Student loans: $0. I worked throughout college to pay cash for undergrad.
Car payments: $307. Last December marked the start of my first car payment and made me wonder what I was doing with $300 monthly before I bought this. I’m pretty far ahead and hope to pay my car off at the 2.5 year mark.

Car insurance: $1800 a year – I pay twice a year so I don’t have to think about another monthly bill.

Transportation costs: $150ish in gas/Uber. I drive a good amount and my car is a gas guzzler.

Phone bill: $125. This seems high.

Insurance: Health insurance is covered by work.

Any extra costs not previously mentioned: Dogs: Depends on how many toys and bones I buy. Maybe $75 a month including food.  Apple Music: $15.  I pay for a family subscription for my mom/siblings. Storage unit: $125 a month.

Three financial goals

  1. Increase savings and retirement contributions
  2. Pay off my car early
  3. Be able to go on awesome trips and take my mom with me.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week


Woke up before 7. Brought my dogs to my parents and left for the Biltmore with a guy I’ve been seeing for a couple weeks. I had apartment coffee and a granola bar to tide me over. When we got to Asheville, he picked up sandwiches for $15. I had purchased the red wine/chocolate tasting tickets prior to today ($53) and he got the house tour tickets for $180. I was dying of thirst and got us a liter of water to share for $4.23, before realizing we had to chug it before taking the tour. I also purchased my favorite wine that we tasted for $25.68 before leaving. We got back into town and he ordered dinner through Postmates. ($35)

Total spent: $29.91


Wishing I would have grocery shopped last night. I ate cottage cheese and granola for breakfast at the office. Hopped on Amazon to see if there were any good deals for Cyber Monday. I thought about these really cool slippers but passed.

My dogs will just think they’re toys. For lunch, I had avocado toast and some chips I found at a gas station. Again, really low on food. I had a promo code from Amazon towards Whole Foods Prime Now, so I decided to order most of the groceries I needed this week online and get them delivered tomorrow morning. So easy, and their kosher baby pickles are MY FAVORITE. Spent $39.43. On the way to my parents to pick up my dogs (they kept them overnight Sunday), I grabbed my mom’s favorite candy bars from the gas station because she wasn’t feeling well ($2.25). My dad took us to dinner and picked up the tab.

Total spent: $41.68


I packed oats, strawberries, honey, and almond butter to make oatmeal at the office ($0). My construction loan interest check came out of my account today ($61.27). I went home on lunch to take the dogs out and put away the Whole Foods delivery. I had a pickle and peanuts as a snack. Lunch was crackers and cottage cheese. I eat like an 80 year old. At 5 pm, I had a music practice with someone I’m doing a show with in a few weeks. We practiced in the apartment club room since it’s way more spacious than my apartment. I headed to Haberdish at 7 pm for a friend’s birthday. I’d been meaning to eat there for a while and it did not disappoint! I spent $33.25 on fried chicken, a side of mac & cheese, and a drink. We stopped by another friend’s house for a little bit. I helped myself to banana pudding and played with the dog. Home by 10:30.

Total spent: $94.52


My uHaul payment autodrafted today ($114.95). I can’t wait to be in a normal-sized house again with all my stuff nearby. The framing on my new place started this week, so things are finally moving. I had peanut butter and Greek yogurt for breakfast. Seriously thought I hadn’t used my Chick-fil-A calendar card this month, so I went there anticipating spending like $2, but apparently I had used it already. I got chicken strips and a small fry, then went back for a cookie to reward myself for having a small fry ($6.86). After work, I took the dogs on long walks and started cooking dinner. While the salmon was in the crockpot, I got in a workout at the apartment gym. It still wasn’t done cooking by the time I finished exercising, so I did laundry, dishes, and packed away all my warm weather clothes.   The rest of the evening was spent watching Grey’s Anatomy with the dogs. Solid night.

Total spent: $121.81


I packed a homemade parfait for breakfast and dill pickle almonds for a snack. A work lunch was scheduled at Burton’s and the client picked up the tab for us. Eating for free is in my top 5 hobbies. The dogs got more long walks after work, and I made myself go to the apartment gym again. Dinner was last night’s leftovers (salmon and couscous).

Total spent: $0


Payday! ($1757.38) This check is a little more than usual because a few hours were mistakenly not included in my last pay period. $125 automatically went to savings. I ate oatmeal from home again. Groupon was offering a $20 voucher for Uber for only $10, so I bought that. Another company from the building came into the office and needed a notary, so I made $10. A few of us from work had lunch at Sabor and one of the bosses picked it up (freeeee). I had a burrito bowl and $5 margarita. I needed to fill up my tank on the way to the veterinarian ($40). The dogs’ annual checkup cost me $178 – about half the cost of last year, since they’re growing up and don’t need as many vaccinations.

I dropped my dogs off at my parents’ for the evening and went to my friend’s house afterward to watch House of Cards. We took a $5 Uber to the Roxbury, but I ended up getting a $5 credit because the driver kind of sucked, so that was a break-even. I spent $24 on cover and drinks, and then we had a late-night bite at Red Eye ($12).

Total spent: $224


I went to get breakfast with my brother and a friend at a local dive. My breakfast cost about $4, but my brother picked it up and I left the tip ($4).

The rest of the day was spent mostly napping and playing with the dogs. I played music with my siblings locally from about 6 – 10 pm. I made $100 + $41 in tips. The amount I make playing music varies every time, but this was a decent night. My little sister wanted to stop by Arby’s on the way back home ($6).

Total spent: $10

The breakdown: $561.92

Bills – $215.65

Food and drink – $118.27
Transportation – $40
Miscellaneous – $188

What I learned:

Sorry to be boring, but I’m pretty aware of what I spend, so nothing really surprised me. I usually spend $75ish on food and drinks in a week, as I almost always pack my breakfasts and lunches. This week was a little higher than usual, but I also got a lot of free meals. Shoutout to my bosses! Also, since I know they’re reading this, I could use a raise. I hardly had any bills this week, so that was nice. Dogs are expensive. So is building a house.

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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