Nov 30, 2016 - Money

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a $20,000 salary

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 25-year-old woman who makes $20,000 per year. Here’s how she spends her money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: Hospitality
Position: Guest services
Yearly salary: $20,000. I’m currently hunting for a side gig to help keep my head above water. [Related: 19 Charlotte side hustles that will bring in the cash without burning you out]
Who you bank with and why: I’ve been with Suntrust for about ten years, because that’s where my parents bank. I’ve been shopping around for a new bank, but nothing has seemed to meet my needs yet.
Savings: I try to put money into savings, but there’s not always enough to go around after bills and everyday life.
Age: 25
Gender: Female

Monthly expenses:

Rent: $363 for my share
Number of roommates: Two
Neighborhood: West Harris/Davis Lake

Electric – $52
Internet – $60
Water/Gas – We just recently moved, so we haven’t received a water or gas bill yet. We’re nervously waiting.
Renters Insurance – $17

Student loans: They’re supposed to be $150 per month, but they’re currently in forbearance for the last possible time, because I’m POOR.
Car payment: $327 per month
Car insurance: $107
Transportation: $80
Phone bill: $65
Insurance: I have two months left on my parents’ insurance and I am hanging on for dear life. When that ends, I guess I’ll just try not to die since I can’t afford what my company offers and I’m not eligible for Obamacare.
Credit card: I try to pay at least $100-$150 per month. My balance is much higher than it should be.
Medical bills:
I have two outstanding medical bills from 8 months ago, and they’re now down to $214 and $84.

Three financial goals:

Pay off my credit card. Getting one was a terrible idea to begin with, but sometimes it covers the gaps between paychecks.

Pay off the rest of my debt. I have $30,000 in student loans, $15,000 left to go on my car, I owe my parents $300 and I have $300 in medical bills. I’m drowning over here.

Save. I’d like to have at least $5,000 in my savings by the end of next year.

Money Diary: How I spent my money last week

Day one: Sunday

I woke up late of course, and rushed off to a work meeting, but I had to stop for gas and only had the patience to wait for $12 worth.

Made coffee at home and had cereal for lunch and dinner at my parents’ house, so my meals for the day were $0.

Basically, I did a whole lot of nothing, which is fine because nothing is free (see what I did there).

Total spent: $12

Day two: Monday

I woke up late again because that’s just who I am as a person, and my boyfriend drove me to work and then brought me Starbucks because he’s fantastic.

Dinner was leftovers from a dinner party I had Saturday.

I almost had a heart attack when I thought I forgot to pay my car insurance, but in some adult-like haze, I actually paid it a week early. Success.

Surprisingly, it was a $0 day.

Total spent: $0

Day three: Tuesday

I woke up to a text from my bank informing me that my checking account balance was down to $11.63 and I tried not to cry. Cue the $20 transfer out of my savings, just in case. 

I slept through breakfast and skipped lunch because my cabinets are empty. My saint of a boyfriend brought me Starbucks again (my dating advice: get you a man that keeps you caffeinated), and after a few hours of my stomach grumbling at me in anger, my boss and I decided to order Chinese. $20 including delivery and tip. 

I checked my email while at work and lo and behold, a $10 promo for Knockaround sunglasses was waiting for me in my inbox, on top of a 70% off sale. A coupon AND a sale- that’s a justified purchase, right? I bought two pairs ($16.81).

After work, I skated through Harris Teeter for a few items. Their sales never let me down – I got $35 worth of groceries for $15.01

Total spent: $51.82. Today was an expensive day.

Day four: Wednesday

I am crawling to payday. Today’s bank text says my balance is $0.68. Cue another transfer, just. In. Case.

I made coffee at home and had cereal again for lunch. While it was unfulfilling, it was $0

It was a busy day at the front desk, so I worked up an appetite. I hadn’t had any leftovers to pack up quickly and bring to work with me, but then my boyfriend brought me Chipotle for dinner (I’m telling you, I won the dating lottery).

I needed to get gas to get home, but since I’m broke right now, I used the credit card to fill up ($26.89).

Total spent: $26.89

Day five: Thursday

Thursdays are my freaking favorite. Why? Three words: Midnight. Direct. Deposit.

I had a dentist appointment at 9 a.m., and luckily it was covered by my days-are-numbered insurance, so I spent $0.

I went straight for the coffee afterwards and picked up a latte at Starbucks ($5.15) before hitting a weekday brunch with my boyfriend at Famous Toastery for $20.14.

Ran a few errands before heading to work, and had to grab another coffee to fight the afternoon fatigue ($2.81) and snagged a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme to share with my coworkers while I was at it ($10.27).  

I walked to Valhalla for a glass of Chardonnay while I was waiting to be picked up after work ($9) and got roped into going to Label. I stuck to being the DD since being sober is free and I hate clubs. I went home early (2:30 is early, apparently) and the others went to an after party.

Total spent: $47.37. Ugh.

Day six: Friday

I was rudely awakened at 7:30 a.m. by my roommate, who wanted to be picked up from wherever the after party was. I grabbed some Chick-fil-A breakfast after collecting her because I earned it ($8.55) and promptly went back to sleep.

Today is my day off, so I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom and eventually went grocery shopping. I shop at Aldi because the prices are so low; it doesn’t matter to me that the brands are “generic” since my dollar usually goes further. I spent more than planned ($64.06) and also had to stop at Harris Teeter to get a few things not available at Aldi ($29.89), but hopefully this will keep the kitchen stocked for a while.  

Total spent: $102.50. Double ugh.

Day seven: Saturday

Today is a bittersweet day because while my paycheck might have cleared, I have to spend it all on my bills.

To get through it, I gave my Starbucks card to my boyfriend and he picked up coffee for me and my boss ($12.31). Do you know how many years I waited for Starbucks to get a rewards program? Forever. It doesn’t feel like the most rewarding program, but at least I get a few freebies here and there.

Dinner is pumpkin ravioli left from last night ($0) before settling in to pay the bills.

I made my car payment ($327), a credit card payment ($50), my portion of the power bill ($42.04) and an outstanding balance for internet ($4.54). I also pulled out my portion of the rent ($363).

My friends wanted to go out, but I’m scared of spending any more this week. I drove them to NoDa and went home where I called it a night instead.

Total spent: $798.89. Help me, I’m poor.

Total spent: $1,039.47
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $197.19
Bills – $786.58
Transportation – $38.89
Miscellaneous – $16.81

What I learned: I nearly died when I saw my spending total – I did not realize how much simply trying to live was costing me and I know now that I definitely need to find a source of additional income. Saving is so important, but I’m quick to transfer funds into my checking account. That’s a bad habit.

I’ve fallen off the wagon with planning meals ahead. I know that a lot of my income goes toward groceries and eating out, but I need to get back on track to save a few dollars – this includes making coffee at home and not paying the salary of Starbucks’ CEO.


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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