Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $36,000 salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $36,000 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 [email protected]. This week, I spoke with a 28-year-old woman that makes $36,000 a year. Here’s how she spends her money.

The basics:

Industry: Real Estate
Position: Accounting Associate
Salary: $36,000, which is more like $28,314 after taxes.
Additional income: We get bonuses quarterly up to $400.
Who you bank with and why: Wells Fargo. My father banked with Wachovia, so when I moved here, I opened an account with them as well. When they became Wells, I chose to stay with them.
Savings: I have $25 that automatically goes into my savings account every month. The trick is getting it to stay there.
Age: 28

Monthly expenses:

Rent: My share is $400
Roommates: 2
Neighborhood: Steele Creek
Utilities: Between internet, water and electricity, it varies between $70 and $100 per month, depending on the season. It’s always higher during the winter.
Student loans: $705
Car payments: $267
Car insurance: $120
Transportation: I pay around $60 for gas each month, depending on weekend or long distance travels.
Phone bill: $100
Credit card: $100
Hulu: $12
Netflix: $13
Spotify: $11
Pet costs: $33 for dog food

Three financial goals:

Create passive and additional streams of earned income. I’m not a fan of the traditional work model that includes working all your life for someone else and then eventually retiring in your fifties or sixties. However, for the time being, I would like to:

  1. Make at $10,000 more annually with my day job
  2. Sell my business plan for a venture I’ve got in mind
  3. Invest in a few rental properties. I also have a few original ideas (not MLM) where I project I would make up to an additional $3,000 to $4,000 per month.

Pay off my credit card debt and student loans. It all comes out to about $75,000 and that’s only for undergrad. $3,000 of that is credit card debt, but the rest is from my student loans. As a high school senior with an extremely poor concept of finances, I was more concerned with escaping to the U.S. for college than I was with the cost being a tragic burden to my life years after I graduated. I plan to either win the lottery or win big in the poker circuit to pay it off. HA! Seriously, I am currently maintaining the my student loan payments while I aggressively tackle the credit card debt. Once that’s paid off, I’ll put more toward my student loans.

Live below my means. We’re a consumerist society and I’ve personally contributed more than my fair share by making unnecessary purchases and ultimately failing at budgeting. What else can I do when I’m bombarded daily with ads and e-mailed coupons, discounts that reflect significant savings and more? The list goes on. I intend to craft a life of necessity until my debt is nonexistent and I have at least $10,000 in savings. Then – and only then – will I allow myself to indulge a little more.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Sunday

I had a morning date to watch The Shack and picked up a couple of juices, but he paid for the movie ($4.27). Afterward, I went grocery shopping, spent $72.48 and made lunch (sandwiches) and dinner (Greek pasta) using what I bought.

Total spent: $76.75

Day two: Monday

I ate eggs and sausage at home with items I already had for breakfast ($0) and made my car payment before leaving the house ($266.95).

I brought leftovers to work for lunch and ate PB&J sandwiches for dinner ($0).

Total spent: $266.95

Day three: Tuesday

I ate avocado and sausage at home, again with items I already had, for breakfast. $0

Made half of a student loan payment that’s due at the end of the month ($219.27).

Even though I brought Greek pasta leftovers again for lunch, I also spontaneously went to Home Goods on my break, which was a bad idea. $36.04 

After work, I went to Target to get a bottle of wine for dinner, a few items for my dog and toiletries ($69.52).

We made stir-fry for dinner using groceries we had on hand, and it was amazing. $0

Total spent: $324.83

Day four: Wednesday

I had tea and cookies for breakfast when I got to work and stir-fry leftovers for both lunch and dinner ($0).

I paid my phone bill today for $100.54.

Total spent: $100.54

Day five: Thursday

I drank coffee and ate a PB&J at home for breakfast, snagged free fries and half of a chicken burrito for lunch and finished the last of my stir-fry for dinner. $0

Total spent: $0

Day six: Friday

Had a boiled egg for breakfast at home ($0) before paying my gym membership fees ($19.99). I’ll probably cancel my membership this weekend.

We’re having a St. Patrick’s Day potluck at work, so I went to Harris Teeter and picked up ingredients for punch ($3.24). Because of the potluck, my tummy wasn’t feeling the best, so I skipped dinner tonight.

Total spent: $23.23

Day seven: Saturday

I had cream of wheat for breakfast at home before going to the park with the dog and eating eggs and toast for lunch afterward. $0

Dinner was chicken with rice and carrots, using groceries I already had. $0

Total spent: $0

Total spent: $792.30
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $79.99
Bills – $606.75
Shopping – $105.56

What I learned: I learned that my finances are dominated by bills and that I don’t have the luxury of deviating from a strict budget. The Home Goods and Target purchases weren’t necessary, and I could have used more self control in that area. I have come a long way as I used to eat out all the time (I’m talking breakfast, lunch and dinner), but I’ve succeeded in meal prepping and eating the food I have at home. It’s a challenge living on a strict budget and not being able to indulge, but I’m confident that the the sooner I become better at managing little things, I’ll be able to master a lot.

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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