Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $35,000 salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $35,000 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 23-year-old woman that makes $35,000 year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Marketing
Position: Account Coordinator
Yearly salary: $35,000
Who you bank with and why: BB&T was the primary bank in my hometown when I opened my first account at 15 and it was also where my parents banked, so I didn’t put much research into who to bank with at the time. I recently opened a second emergency savings account with Barclays due to their deals (with a 1.00% APY, the interest rate is close to the highest out there).
Savings: I put $350/month into a savings account that I haven’t touched in months-I worked hard to break myself from the habit of transferring money out of my savings to pay for things I shouldn’t be purchasing. However, I will probably dip into that savings when it is time for me to buy a car, a house, or to finance my wedding. I also put $300/month into a travel account that I use to save up for big trips or even just concerts or sporting games with friends- it allows me to have fun with my friends without worrying about money. I also put 10% (5% pre-tax and 5% post-tax) of each paycheck into a 401k account. Finally, I just opened an emergency savings account that I hopefully won’t have to touch until retirement or my kids (hopefully) go to college. I plan to put $150/month into it at first, increasing the amount as I go.
Age: 23

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $780
Number of roommates: One
Neighborhood: Wesley Heights
Utilities: $150-$200 per month that’s split between the two of us.
Student loans: I had a few scholarships and went to school in-state, so that made my college more affordable than some daycares in Charlotte. My parents covered the rest of my tuition while I covered everything else, so I don’t have loans. Shout out: They’re amazing people who made sacrifices for my siblings and me, which I can never repay – I just hope to be able to do the same for my children someday.
Car payments: None. My car is used and was bought with cash. This is my biggest piece of advice to people my age – buy a decent-running, used car with cash and it’ll really pay off in the long run. There’s no sense in paying for something that’s depreciating value.
Car insurance: Covered by my parents until I buy my next car.
Transportation costs: $60/month for gas and Uber. I split Uber with my friends, so they’re rarely more than $4 per night. I also have a very short commute to work and I fill up about once every three weeks. If I go out of town, my friends and I split the gas.
Phone bill: Since my parents still pay for my older siblings, I’m still on their bill and I pay them if I go over my data or buy a new phone.
Credit card: I don’t have one, but I plan to get one soon.


Three financial goals:

Buy a used car with cash once my current car gets worn down.

Buy a house.

Pay for my wedding.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Sunday

I had originally planned to have a big day outdoors, but due to the weather I stayed in bed and caught up on some reading and cleaning before having leftovers for breakfast and lunch while I was busy doing some more spring cleaning around the apartment.

I took a break to go to Target to get some things I needed and meet up for dinner with friends afterwards. I had planned on only getting a makeup organizer and lotion, but I was on the phone with my mother who convinced me to get a shelf that I had been wanting as they may not always have it ($36). All in all, I was proud of myself for not going overboard.

I met up with my friends and went to Sabor where I got the supreme nachos ($7.50).

Total spent: $43.50

Day two: Monday

I woke up and worked out this morning using a workout app I bought on the App Store that work reimbursed ($0). A Lunabar that I bought for bulk on Amazon last month was my breakfast ($0).

I drove to work and since I’m not a coffee drinker, I started my day off with a large water ($0).

Due to the rainy weather on Sunday, I put off going to the grocery store for another day. I packed a Lean Cuisine for lunch but by the time I got to work, my friends wanted to go out for a coworker’s birthday. I agreed and one covered the lunch ($0).

After work, I went over to a friend’s house where we split takeout ($5).

Total spent: $5

Day three: Tuesday

I woke up and worked out in my apartment complex’s gym using the workout app. Breakfast, once again, was a Lunabar and water.

For lunch, I had the other half of my sandwich that was left over from yesterday and some yogurt that I had at work already ($0).

I received a coupon for HelloFresh from a friend for $40 off, so I ordered my first box and it will be delivered next week. I think this will pay off as it is 3 meals for 2 people – my boyfriend and I split the cost so it ended up being ($10/person). We normally spend more than that when we go to the grocery store for one meal and hopefully we’ll have leftovers for lunch!

After work, I worked out and went on a walk before my boyfriend and I cooked dinner using combined food/leftovers we already had ($0).

Total spent: $10

Day four: Wednesday

I skipped my morning workout in favor of one after work and slept in a little. For breakfast, I had yet another Lunabar, but at least I’m switching up the flavors!

Coworkers invited me out to lunch again, but I declined due to the Lean Cuisine I had waiting in the fridge.

After work, I worked out and went over to my friend’s house where she was hosting a gift party of sorts. I ate dinner there and ended up buying some face wash and moisturizing products that should last me the whole year ($83).

Total spent: $83

Day five: Thursday

I woke up early and didn’t work out due to a doctor’s appointment I have thirty minutes away. I fought rush hour traffic to get to work – the good news is that I was on time, but the bad news is it used more gas than I usually use in my morning commute, so I filled up after work ($15).

For breakfast, I had yet another Lunabar. I forgot to pack a lunch, so I headed to the grocery store where I grabbed some food that should last me at least 2 meals ($10).

After work, I went to the gym and then over to my friend’s house to watch the draft. My friend made burgers so I Venmoed him $7 for the burger and a few of his beers.

Total spent: $32

Day six: Friday

I woke up early and worked out. I’m really starting to realize that I should probably expand my breakfast outside of water and Lunabars, but they’re fast and easy, so they should do for now.

Went out to lunch with a few coworkers and rounded my meal up to the nearest dollar to help charity so it ended up being $11 even.

For dinner, we made a frozen pizza that I already had before we went to a concert ($22) and my friends and I took turns buying rounds ($50).

Total spent: $83

Day seven: Saturday

I woke up and ran some errands where I got a shirt I had been needing ($22). Afterward, I met up with some friends at the pool before going and grabbing dinner and drinks ($32) and ending the night by watching a movie on Netflix.

Total spent: $54

Total spent: $310.50
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $132.50
Transportation – $15
Shopping – $141
Miscellaneous – $22

What I learned: I originally wanted to keep the diary for 2 reasons:

  1. I think my situation is common for young people in Charlotte (income with minimal bills – only one of my friends has student loans and car payments), so I wanted to do this to see if I spent and saved more than the average person in my situation. I learned that while I do a good job of saving money and not touching my savings, I could do a better job about eating out less and getting less drinks. Obviously, I don’t want to deter my social life, but spending $70+ on a Friday isn’t smart, period.
  2. I am moving in July and my rent will increase (shocker). I wanted to make sure that I can still save at my current rate, even though my rent will increase and my income will stay the same. I do think that this will be possible for me, if I cut back some on things such as eating out, drinks, and shopping.

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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