Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $46,000 salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $46,000 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 This week, I spoke with a 26-year-old woman that makes $46,000 a year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Marketing
Position: Social Media Manager
Salary: $46,000
Extra income: I sometimes (rarely) earn about $100 for articles I write for online publications (#sidehustle, kind of). I also have an investment account that was set up by my great-grandmother for me many years ago, but I don’t touch that, ever.
Who you bank with and why: Bank of America. They were the first bank I went to, and I’ve never really questioned it. That said, aside from the occasional account freezing when I’m out of state (which I actually appreciate), I’ve never had any problems with BOA.
Savings: I’m trying to put money into savings. In fact, my dad helped me put together a budget sheet in an Excel doc, where I input every expense. The idea was to help me save, and I’m getting there, but it’s been a learning process.
Age: 26 – almost 27.

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $1370 + a $20 pet fee + $20 for trash pick-up. It makes me cry, too. This is one of the main reasons I struggle to save. I was in a bind at the end of 2015 and had to find a new apartment stat, which is how I found my studio in South Park. Don’t get me wrong, I love my studio apartment – I just don’t love paying almost $1400 for it.
Number of roommates: 0
Neighborhood: South Park
Utilities: Cable and internet are a combined $120, though admittedly my parents help with this when I’m struggling to make ends meet. Fun fact: I also have a landline, which is embarrassing, but it came with the cheaper package. Full disclosure, though, I use it regularly. Cell service in my apartment is subpar!
Student loans: None
Car payments: Paid off
Transportation: I would guess that I pay around $80 for gas each month, which is a reason I love my Honda.
Phone bill: $40 – I’m so embarrassed to admit that my parents still pay for this. I’m still on their family plan.
Insurance: I get health insurance through work and pay $50 each month for it.
StitchFix: $20 + whatever I buy. I freeze this account on an as-needed basis and depending on that month’s budget.
Netflix: $11
Dermatologist: I have a $450 bill that I need to pay from getting a pre-cancerous spot removed last winter. Insurance was only able to cover some of it.

Three financial goals:

Save a minimum of $200 each month. The start of this year has been hard, thanks to a few medical bills, bridesmaid duties, trips out of town, and car issues, but my goal is to put aside a minimum of $200 every month. As a sub-goal of this, I need to think ahead. I have out-of-state weddings and bachelorette parties to attend this year, which means I need to start saving now so that those expenses don’t totally wipe me out when they arrive.

Provide my share for a house at the end of 2017. At the end of this year, my boyfriend and I are hoping to buy a house together. Because of my investment account, I can contribute my share of it, but my goal is to contribute my share, without depleting that account. Which will mean making some major moves in regard to savings.

Only buy what I need. This applies to groceries, shopping, anything. I’ve been working to be more mindful on asking myself Do I need this? before buying anything. I’m your classic impulse buyer, but I can’t afford to be. I’m working to be more thoughtful about all of my purchases (i.e.: No, I do not need that $9 lipstick from Walgreens).

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Monday

Two of my best friends from college were in town for Presidents’ Day weekend. We went to Asheville for the day on Saturday and spent Sunday at the mall and brewery hopping. We also love, love, love to try a little bit of everything when we’re at a new restaurant together, so needless to say, I’m grateful that I didn’t start this diary on Saturday.

On Monday, one of my friends was still hanging around Charlotte before her flight left, so we started the day with coffee and breakfast at home: $0.

Then we went for a quick walk at Freedom Park before eating our hearts out at Dish: $14.03. While at Dish, I fell in love with one of the paintings on the wall by a local painter, which happened to be on sale: $100. I still love this purchase, so I don’t have any regrets for bringing some local art into my home!

After lunch, we stopped at Paper Twist, where I purchased a thank you gift for my mom, who was watching my dog for the weekend: $26.81.

After dropping my friend at the airport, I lounged at home for a few hours before heading to Chopt for dinner: $17.69. I got so many toppings that I spent double what most salads at Chopt typically cost. They offered to name it after me. Awesome.

After dinner, my boyfriend helped me bring my foodie weekend to a close by treating me to TCBY: $0.

Total spent: $158.53

Day two: Tuesday

On Tuesday, I returned to work after a long weekend, but first, I worked out in the morning. I recently cancelled my $60+ gym membership and really don’t miss it – I’ve found that my apartment gym and running outdoors offers me exactly what I need: $0.

I had a protein smoothie for breakfast using ingredients I had at home: $0. After the foodie and shopping weekend I’d had before, I knew it would be a week of homemade eats, so I headed to the grocery store over lunch: $70.98.

On my way back from the store, I had to stop by the UPS to mail a few books I’ve been meaning to share with my cousin (Liane Moriarty, I highly recommend her!): $18.20.

Dinner was tacos, and they were made using the ingredients I’d picked up at the store earlier that day: $0.

Total spent: $89.18

Day three: Wednesday

I made eggs and had a cup of coffee for breakfast at home: $0.

After working hard for a few hours, I enjoyed a smoothie at a lunch meeting: $0.

The rest of the day was a blur of work. I headed home around 6:00 PM, went for a quick run and threw together some of the random ingredients I’d picked up at the store on Tuesday for dinner: $0.

Total spent: $0. Yay!

Day four: Thursday

Again, I ate breakfast at home. Today’s breakfast of choice was a protein smoothie: $0.

I had to run a couple of errands over lunch, starting with yet another trip to the UPS store (they know me well there). I had to send something to a client and get a document notarized: $19.74

My boyfriend came over for dinner, and we grilled turkey burgers and asparagus, using ingredients I already had: $0.

Total spent: $19.74

Day five: Friday

Breakfast was, you guessed it, another protein smoothie: $0. I really need to add some variety to my mornings!

Because I’d done such a great job on eating my perishables throughout the week, I was running low on lunch foods, so I headed to Publix over lunch for a salad and a piece of salmon: $20.21.

After work, I went for a run with my boyfriend before heading to my parents’ in Greenville, SC for the weekend. My parents had picked up take out, so I got to enjoy a delicious—and very free—dinner: $0!

Total: $20.21

Day six: Saturday

Saturday was spent on the road, as my family and I left at 5:00 AM for a 10 hour drive to make it to my niece’s christening on Sunday. I had a bowl of oatmeal before we left: $0.

My parents treated us to lunch ($0) and dinner ($0), so it was a very low-cost day for me. My only purchase was a coffee and a Quest bar at a gas station: $6.56.

Total: $6.56

Day seven: Sunday

My parents covered the hotel room for our visit, and my oatmeal and banana breakfast was complementary: $0.

We had lunch at a family luncheon after the christening, which consisted of the best gumbo I’ve ever had: $0.

From there, we immediately got back on the road to drive the 10 hours back to Greenville, stopping for food along the way, which my parents also paid for: $0.

Total: $0

Total spent: $294.22
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $129.47
Mail – $37.94
Miscellaneous – $126.81

What I learned: 

I rely too much on my parents. Yikes. I’m almost 27; there is no reason my parents should be helping with my cable and cell phone bills.

I’m doing better. I practice a good bit of balance in every area of my life, including my spending. This means, if I spent a lot the week before, I try to be more financially conscious the week after. I was shocked to see that, when it comes to spending money, I’m doing better than I used to. If I’d done this last year, or the year before that, you’d undoubtedly see impulse online purchases and Target shopping sprees. But I’ve gotten smarter about shopping and spending. If I don’t need it or love it, I don’t buy it.

I still have room to improve. Buying a $100 painting after a crazy expensive weekend with friends wasn’t the best idea. (But I do love it.) Neither was spending almost $20 on a salad. Although I’m getting better in some ways, I still have plenty of areas of improvement.

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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