There’s been a ton of attention on Refinery 29’s Money Diaries in the past couple weeks, most of it stemming from the diary of a 21 year old intern in NYC whose parents were paying her rent and providing her with a significant stipend. Yes, I definitely prefer reading the diaries of women, regardless of income level, earning their own money, but, the reality is, there are women like her out there.
With all this renewed attention on Money Diaries, however, it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to do my own Money Diaries post. Katie and Dana have done these diaries before and I loved reading about how other women in the DC area spend money in a typical week.
MONDAY, JULY 23
8:00 AM: After a long weekend in Virginia Beach, I’m back to work and ready to start tracking what I spend! Just a warning, today’s entry will be a long one since it’ll provide some background context.
12:30 PM: When it comes to groceries and more specifically, cooking dinner, I do all the meal planning and grocery shopping. Adam hates the grocery store, I don’t mind it, plus, since I work at home, it’s easy for me to go during lunchtime – it’s usually a 20-25 minute round trip, including the shopping. Lately, I’ve been working on using what we have and being more intentional about buying ingredients that can do double duty in our dinners for the week. Today, I’m just picking up a few small things we need, so I grab bananas and strawberries to have on hand for lunchtime snacking, a jalapeño to add to our dinner, 2 salad kits for Adam’s lunches for the week, and I try out Chloe’s Dark Chocolate Fruit Pops – I’ve been trying to eat super healthy and 4 ingredients with limited sugar seems to fit the bill. When I get home from the grocery store, I throw a couple frozen Trader Joe’s chicken breasts (always have these on hand!), some chicken stock, leftover adobo chilis, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin into the crockpot for dinner. Total: $11.12
6:00 PM: After wrapping up work for the day around 6 PM, I shoot a quick blog post with Adam’s help. Then, I head to barre3 to catch the 7:15 PM class. Ever since I started doing yoga and pilates freshman year of college, I’ve always made fitness a priority in my budget. I’m not someone who enjoys running or just working out at the gym. I love boutique fitness classes and I’m willing to pay a premium for them. Since moving into our current apartment, I’ve been doing the unlimited membership at barre3 – something I’d done previously at other barre3 locations. While I’m not paying for it this week, I will note that it’s $191 monthly and totally worth it given that I go at least 5 times a week.
8:15 PM: I get home after class and Adam is almost done preparing dinner. Back to my “using what we have” strategy, we used the already mentioned crockpot chicken, tortillas (the 40 calorie ones from Trader Joe’s are amazing!), avocado, sautéed onion and jalapeño, queso fresco, hot sauce, and sour cream to make some delicious tacos.
9:00 PM: We relax with some food shows on Netflix while we finalize our wedding invitations and place the order (!!). I bought a $400 credit at 20% off on Minted a few months ago, so that should cover most of our wedding invitations, programs, menus, and place cards, though tonight we just order the invitations, RSVP cards, and details insert. After ordering the invites, I work on a bit of blogging before heading to bed before 11 PM.
Monday total: $11.12
TUESDAY, JULY 24
7:00 AM: While I did post about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale last week, I hadn’t ordering anything until this morning. I finally decide to pull the trigger on a pair of pretty light blue Zella leggings. TBD if they’ll work out in person. Total: $35.90
7:30 AM: I spend the rest of the early morning editing pictures and writing a travel post from a trip to Middleburg a few weekends ago.
12:45 PM: Stop by Target at lunch to grab a present for a first birthday party this weekend. Also pick up a few grocery staples while I’m there. Total: $17.03
6:45 PM: Another evening, another barre class.
8:00 PM: Use leftover pasta from last week with more of the frozen Trader Joe’s chicken to create a skillet pasta dish. It’s surprisingly easy and delicious!
9:00 PM: Work on updating my portfolio site and call it an early night by 10:30 PM.
Tuesday total: $52.93
WEDNESDAY, JULY 25
7:45 AM: Got up a little later than I meant to – we don’t typically set an alarm and these dark gray rainy days make it so hard to get up! Make an iced latte and get to work updating Pinterest before my day job workday starts at 9 AM.
2:30 PM: I usually work from home, but at least once a week I head out to a client in Rockville, MD for meetings. It’s an hour and fifteen minute trek and costs $3.85 during off-peak hours and $6 during rush hour – luckily, I put pre-tax dollars into my FSA account every month to cover it.
2:40 PM: En route to Rockville, I make a quick stop at Nordstrom Rack (it’s right above a metro stop) to return the two pairs of shoes I ordered a few weeks ago that didn’t work out for my wedding (these are the ones that did!). While I’m there, I grab a little candle to bring to a housewarming this weekend. Total: $5.26
6:30 PM: Head back into DC and make it just in time to scarf down a granola bar before 6:45 barre. After barre, I walk over to a yoga studio on H Street for a restorative class. Usually the classes cost about $12 (which is great for DC!), but I’ve had a few credits that I need to use before mid-August – there’s a long story here, but basically someone at one of their other studios did something really bad and this was their “sorry…here’s 5 classes to make up for it.” I refused to ever go back, but, hey, I like the location near my new apartment, so I’ll use them now.
9:30 PM: Get home late, make a quick leftovers dinner, wrap up a blog post, and get to bed.
Wednesday total: $5.26
THURSDAY, JULY 26
7:20 AM: Wake up with an itch to rearrange a few vignettes in the living room (anyone else get these weird bursts of creative energy?), fold a bit of laundry, and then head to Trader Joe’s to grab some essentials we’re out of. A TJ’s opened within a 15 minute walk from the apartment, which has been amazing. Listed to the NPR Politics podcast on the way and pick up almond milk, nuts, carrots, peppers, eggs, and another big bag of frozen chicken. Total: $17.48
12:00 PM: Two on-site client meetings in one week, so another epic metro ride. Bring a granola bar along since these meetings always seem to overlap with lunch.
6:30 PM: Head over to a friend’s house in Shaw for a wine night. I’m trying to cut out most drinking and I almost never drink during the week anyway, so I try a splash of a few different wines, but mostly get into the cheese and crackers.
10:30 PM: I was supposed to meet Adam for dinner, but wine night ran late, so I have to stop by Wendy’s (okay, I have a secret fast food obsession) en route home. I love my neighborhood, but everything closes early, so the post-10 PM food options are limited. Total: $11.31
Thursday total: $28.79
FRIDAY, JULY 27
7:00 AM: Wake up and get right to work wrapping up today’s wedding blog post and another upcoming travel post. I’m able to crank through a fair amount of blog work before my workday starts. Cereal and coffee for breakfast (I’m a cereal addict).
8:00 AM: Thanks to DC to a T’s Instagram, I see that Jack Rogers are on ridiculous sale at Lord & Taylor. I had actually been thinking just last night that I need a pair of dressier black Jack Rogers since I wear my classic ones so often. Total: $38.40
12:15 PM: Squeeze in a lunchtime barre class. I wish they’d do a 45 minute class during lunch because I always end up scooting out about 15 minutes early.
6:15 PM: We had plans to go bowling at the White House this evening – a DC tradition that I’ve never done, but apparently the bowling alley is broken (not the only thing there that’s broken). Instead, we head up to the rooftop pool in our building and relax for a bit while scrolling through articles on the best new restaurants in DC. Decide on the Southern-influenced Japanese spot in Union Market and snag the last reservation for the night.
10:30 PM: Leave O-Ku full of delicious wagyu croquettes and bulgogi. Adam pays since our agreement is that he pays for meals out, while I pay for groceries. I believe the after tip total was around $100. On our way out, realize they have rooftop seating that we definitely would have requested had we known – next time!
Friday total: $38.40
SATURDAY, JULY 28
9:00 AM: Adam and I go to yoga followed by spin on Saturday mornings – both are free in our building (yes, there’s both a yoga studio and a spin studio in the building’s gym and they offer free classes, it’s ridiculous and amazing).
11:00 AM: We decide to take advantage of the nice-ish summer weather and go for a stroll around the neighborhood. Swing by Bazaar Spices at Union Market so I can pick up lavender buds to make more lavender milk lattes. Total: $4.00
11:45 AM: A few weekends ago, a couple at a Shabbat dinner told us about a new bakery, Pluma, near Union Market, so while we’re in the neighborhood we decide to grab breakfast. I decide on the squash blossom quiche, while Adam gets the breakfast sandwich. Both are fine, but not stellar, and Adam’s is way overpriced. Next time, we’ll stick to the baked foods. Again, meal out, so Adam pays.
11:50 AM: Before we eat our sandwiches, we grab coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee. I wish I didn’t, but I love this bougie coffee. Adam would never have bought this on his own, so I pick it up. Total: $9.07
12:20 PM: On our way home, we stop in Trader Joe’s to get coffee and I remember why I never go to the grocery store with Adam in tow. What should have been a $15-20 trip of basics turns into a basket full of what we actually needed…plus manchego cheese, bacon-cheddar dip, spiked seltzers, beer, and who knows what else. Total: $52.03
1:30 PM: Tackle a long overdue deep clean of our apartment, particularly the bathroom. I get way too much enjoyment from a clean space.
4:05 PM: Head down to Bardo at Navy Yard for a friend’s child’s 1st birthday party. I’m not drinking today so no cost there, but I do pull out my phone to do the parking app. Total: $3.35
6:05 PM: Stop by a friend’s housewarming in 16th Street Heights and end up staying longer than expected, despite not knowing anyone besides the hostess – everyone was just so warm and welcoming.
9:00 PM: On our way home, we decide to grab dinner at Timber Pizza in Petworth to see what all the hype is about. We walked up terrified that we’d wait forever based on the queue outside, but their system is super efficient. Can’t beat empanadas and gourmet pizza. Adam pays for the $38 meal.
Saturday total: $68.46
SUNDAY, JULY 29
9:00 AM: No barre for me this morning; instead I work out in the gym in my building.
10:00 AM: Cook breakfast using what we have at home – today, it’s adding some sour cream and a banana that need to be used up to pancakes. Top with strawberries and add an over easy egg on the side.
6:45 PM: On the way back into the District, we stop at McDonald’s (it’s my guilty pleasure, but that’s fast food twice in one week, ugh!) and I grab a cheeseburger, just in case the wine tasting needs a bit of soaking up. Total: $4.75
8:00 PM: Back at home, hang out with Adam and two of his friends that are over for a bit before relaxing with Netflix and, luckily, no snacking before bed.
Sunday total: $44.87
Weekly total: $249.83
WHAT I LEARNED FROM KEEPING A MONEY DIARY
While I already had a pretty good idea of what I was spending on a monthly basis because I am obsessed with Mint.com and sticking to a budget, doing this diary and actually writing out what I was spending every day made me more conscious of impulse purchases – particularly those fast food runs. With a wedding and several big trips coming up, I’m definitely in saving mode and doing this daily check-in of what is actually going out every day is a great way to keep myself accountable.