Oct 12, 2016 - Money

Cash Confessional: A week of spending on a $20-an-hour wage

km skyline romare bearden cash confessional

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 26-year-old woman who makes $20 an hour. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Banking
Position: Staff Accountant
Salary: $20 an hour (I’m a contractor). I work 40 hours a week with opportunities for overtime.
Who do you bank with and why? I bank at N.C. State Employees Credit Union. My dad is a State Employee. I do not have any commercial bank accounts, I’m afraid of the possible fees. I keep a credit card open with NC SECU as well just in case. It has a very low interest rate.
Age: 26
Gender: Female

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $555 is my share between us three roommates.
Number of roommates: 2 – my boyfriend and another roommate.
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
Water: $10 for my share
Internet: $25 for my share
Electric: $35 for my share
Phone bill: $125. I should really switch carriers.
Transportation: $60 a month, which includes gas and a couple of Lyft rides.
Student loans: $214. I have about $14,000 left to pay. Thankfully I only took out loans for my one year masters program.

Auto and rental insurance: $120
Life and disability insurance: $66

Three financial goals:

Be debt free in 4 years. This includes credit card, student loan and car loan debts.

Build up $1,000 in savings before adopting a rescue kitten. I’m looking for this to happen in the next year or so.

Be a home and dog owner in the next 5 years.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Monday

I hesitate to even mention this, but last weekend I signed up for an online monthly subscription box for candy and the charge hit my credit card on Monday. Black coffee and sour gummy candy are my study staples. I read that author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) also swears by this combination when she writes (she must’ve learned it from me). I prepaid for a six-month subscription for $135.94

I reserved a rental dress for a friend’s wedding in October from Rent the Runway. I wear formal clothing so infrequently that I’d rather rent and stay on-trend than buy. $84.67

I was running a bit late for work, so I grabbed a Starbucks hazelnut double-shot can of coffee from the convenience store nearby (as opposed to waiting in line at Starbucks). $4

Purchased a glass vase on clearance at Marshalls for my succulents that I just ordered online. $12.87

Did a Harris Teeter run with my boyfriend for emergency groceries (I was out of town the previous weekend and we put off our weekly Sunday grocery run)  and it was $20 for my share.

Total spent: $257.48

Day two: Tuesday

My boyfriend and I split a pumpkin spice bagel and cream cheese from home on our commute and drank a cup of coffee provided free from our communal apartment complex coffee machine. $0

Brought my lunch from home which consisted of yogurt, a mini Larabar, baby carrots, dried seaweed snacks and a PB&J sandwich. This wasn’t eaten all at once — I am kind of a grazer at work. $0

I got that 2 o’clock feeling and grabbed a coffee and seasonal cookie from Starbucks ($10) to replenish my Starbucks card. It was double-points day, so I justified it to myself.

Dinner was more leftovers. $0

Total spent: $10

Day three: Wednesday

I had a bagel and yogurt from home for breakfast for $0.

I had to leave work early in anticipation of more protests, so I grabbed a Lyft at 3:45 p.m. to go home. It was $9.44 + $1.00 tip because the driver was making an extra effort to get me home fast. $10.44

Total spent: $10.44

Day four: Thursday

We were told not to go into Uptown to work because of the state of emergency that had been put into place. I studied for my professional exam at home, drank free apartment coffee and ate from the pantry, all for $0.

Total spent: $0

Day five: Friday

Breakfast was more yogurt and fruit from home for $0.

I grabbed lunch with a couple coworkers at Hasaki Grill and got a teriyaki steak combo with spring roll and soda for $12.64.

My boyfriend grabbed a Chopt salad and wrap for us after a rough day at work. Our finances even out by the end of the month anyway. $0

Total spent: $12.64

Day six: Saturday

I had to go into work to make up hours from the office being closed Thursday. Made myself a cup of coffee at the office that came complete with its own set of first world problems:


I brought leftover Chopt salad from home and a couple snacks to graze on throughout the day. $0

When I returned home from work, I watched an episode of Law and Order and then went to Festival in the Park with my boyfriend. Satellite parking across the street from Freedom Park charged $10 and went to the Levine Children’s Hospital. I split the cost with my boyfriend for $5.

Walked around and got a small slushie from the slushie truck there (I think we earned it!). $3

Returned home from the festival and rented Idiocracy in HD through Amazon Prime. Worth a rewatch, considering the state of the country recently. $4

Total spent: $12

Day seven: Sunday

For breakfast, we bought a four-pack of lemon poppyseed muffins from Harris Teeter on our way to outdoor activities at the U.S. National Whitewater Center! $4.09

We get to the Whitewater Center and since we already have a parking and season pass in our possession, we spend $0 on the way in.

We brought Clif bars, fruit snacks and our water bottles to replenish ourselves after our paddle boarding excursion and watched rafting groups pass us while we found shade on land. $0

We had a late lunch of leftovers in the fridge: the dregs of my BBQ chicken salad and cranberry juice. $0

Spent the afternoon volunteering at a local nonprofit, and ate leftovers from provided meal for dinner. $0

We went for our weekly grocery trip at Harris Teeter and I spent $40 for my share.

Daily total: $44.09

Total spent: $346.65
The breakdown:
Food and drink – $229.67
Transportation – $15.44
Shopping – $84.67
Miscellaneous – $16.87

What I learned:

Planning goes a long way. I’m proud with the progress I’ve made over the past few months with meal planning and grocery shopping — it really does save a ton of time and money. However, you can’t plan everything, stuff happens.

My spending on food fluctuates a lot week-to-week. I was lucky to have food available at work and volunteering, also some leftovers last longer than others. That’s not always the case every week.

If I had more weeks like this I should be dedicating some of my earnings to savings. Hint: have more weeks like this!!

Build your financial know-how with free tools and information to help you make more confident decisions. Visit the Bank of AmericaBetter 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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