My Own Money Diary for a Week – Where I Spend and Save

If you're reading this site, you're interested in personal finance, and so you've probably already heard of the “Money Diaries” series on Refinery29. I've been a fan for awhile, mostly because I'm nosy and enjoy peeking (and, okay, judging) where others spend their hard earned dollars. Honestly, the comments offer some of the best reads.

They also recently published a money diaries anthology. Click here to get your copy.

Since I find it so addicting, I thought it would be fun to catalogue my own spending for an entire week. Admittedly, it's been awhile since I've tracked my expenses by writing each transaction down after the fact, but it's always a good reminder when budget and saving.

Okay, here we go.

About Me

Occupation:
Industry: Advertising
Age: 31
Location: Atlanta
Annual Income: $150,000k+ (this is a hybrid number between my full-time salary (which I cannot disclose) and the earnings from this site, which is my side hustle.)

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $2,500 (of which I pay half, my fiance' and I split expenses)
Student Loan Payment: $0
Gas: $0
Electric: He pays
Gym: $179 (Pure Barre)
Massage Membership: $99
Internet: $70
Cell Phone: $108
Health Insurance: Deducted from paycheck, it's around $150 per month.
Netflix: $0
Hulu: $9
401(k): My company matches my contribution. It's 5% of my salary, which I can't disclose.
Public Transportation: $42.00 per month
Lawn Service for Rental Property: $80
House Cleaning: $85
Grocery Delivery: $15
Water: $70
Storage Unit Fee: $42
So here's a note about my monthly expenses. I have a separate bill pay account and honestly, it makes my life so much easier. I know how much my monthly expenses are (do you?) and so I have 50% of my paycheck directed into that account every two weeks. My bills are on autopay and I literally don't have to think about them. Before, I was constantly forgetting to pay something or scrambling to move money around from checking to savings. It's made managing my finances so much easier. Automating also works for things beyond saving money.
With that said, the spending you'll see below is from my “discretionary” or spending account.

Money Diary – Day 1

8 a.m. – I wake up, take out the dogs, and make coffee and breakfast at home. I work from home on Mondays and Fridays, so it's easy for me to get by without spending much money. I brew coffee in my french press and eat a bagel.
12 p.m. — I make a salad for lunch at home. Normally, I have very few groceries on hand, but since we are buying a house soon, I loaded up on goodies from Trader Joes the day before (Sunday.) This feels a bit like cheating, since I spent a lot the day before, but here we are.
3 p.m. — I have my afternoon snack of a packet of Trader Joes “A Handful of Olives” (seriously, so good) and a Babybel cheese.
7 p.m. – Rich comes home and we got to Moe's for dinner. Since I buy groceries and cook all the meals (although the schedule in the week below precluded me from doing so) he usually covers our weekday meals out (his version of cooking.)
Daily Total: $0 (No spend day! Hooray!)

Day 2

6 a.m. — I wake up early twice a week to hit up a 7 a.m. Pure Barre class.
9:30 am – After a class and a shower, I arrive at work. I tend to pick up coffee from the Starbucks in the lobby of my building as a treat for those days I am “in office.” I usually try to limit myself to either a coffee OR a lunch. Back when I was spending mindlessly and doing both I would spend about $15-$20 each day I worked from the office. Yikes. The coffee is $3.97
12 p.m. —I packed lunch, but it was super sad and they had mac n' cheese downstairs so I go with a coworker and buy a small side of Mac n' Cheese to go with my salad. $3.12
7 p.m. — In a totally unplanned move, our wedding tasting event falls this evening, so we get a free dinner trying all of the entree options with our caterer. Free booze, too. $0
9 p.m. — At home, much of what I ordered during Labor Day Sales arrives. Again, I already paid for it, but it still feels like cheating. I'm beginning to feel this diary is going to be an inaccurate depiction of what I spend in a given week.
Daily Total: $7.09

Day 3

9:30 a.m. — I don't get up early for workouts on Wednesdays, but do go into the office. I'm running a bit behind on this day, so I grab an RXBar that I bought at Trader Joe's on Sunday for breakfast and still pick up my usual coffee. $3.97 (They know my name, order, everything. It's slightly embarrassing how little I vary up my morning coffee order.)
12 p.m. — Went to a work lunch where food was provided. $0
4 p.m. — This particular week was very wedding event heavy. On this day (A Wednesday) we were having our second engagement shoot, but this time with the photographer shooting our wedding. I leave work early to meet the makeup artist at my apartment. I'd already paid a deposit, but I pay an additional $60 for her services.
6 p.m. – Rich was running late from work, so I bought sodas for the photographer and myself to beat out the heat. We were waiting outside at Ponce City Market on a particularly humid day. $7.20 (for two sodas – I know!!!)
8 p.m. – After the shoot, Rich and I grab dinner. He pays.
Daily Total: $71.17

Day 4

6 a.m. — Up early again for Pure Barre. I also drop my dog, Roo, off for puppy daycare 1-2x a week and it's on the way to the studio. Because we drop off early and pick up late, the fee (normally $22) nearly doubles to $42 for the day. Since I go so early on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I use my fiance's car to go to class, so I don't have to pay for a Lyft.
9:30 – At the office again, in addition to my usual coffee, I get a banana for breakfast to go with my RX Bar.
12 p.m. — Another free lunch. Steak salad from Ray's in the City. Yum! My coworker pays. $0
4:30 p.m. — I meet one of my girlfriends for a happy hour. It's been my worst work week in awhile (possibly all time) which is why my coworker bought my lunch, and why I drink 3 glasses of rose with my girlfriend. I get tipsy and order an appetizer. My bill is $70 including the tip. (Hey! Total honesty, right?)
7 p.m. – I take a Lyft from happy hour to my book club meeting. $23.00. This is expensive for a Lyft, but I don't have a car so I'm used to these fees when I need to go somewhere. Dinner is graciously provided at book club.
9:30 p.m. – Girlfriend gives me a ride home from book club and I'm in bed by 10.
 Daily Total: $135

Day 5

8 a.m. — Since it's Friday, I'm working from home again. I sleep in a bit, make my own coffee.
11:30 – I get a Lyft to take me to Pure Barre for a 12:00 class. $5.82
1 p.m. – Lunch with two of my girlfriends who also go to barre at noon on Fridays. We don't do this every week, but it's nice when we do. I get a salad and a diet coke at a restaurant close to the studio. $19
2 p.m. – Lyft home – $5.82
6 p.m. – I move $268.74 into my savings account. I get this money from apps that “save the change” for me and every two weeks I move all this money from the apps into one account. It sounds a little backwards, but this method works for me and I enjoy watching the money pile up in one place.
7 p.m. – Rich arrives home. We're spending the entire day tomorrow (Saturday) looking at houses, so we decide just to take it easy on Friday night. He brings home pizza and we binge watch the second season of American Vandal.
Daily Total: $299.38

Day 6

8 a.m. – Up early on Saturday to get ready for a day full of home tours. We go for coffee and bagels down the street. He pays.
9:30 a.m.- First home tour appointment (this ends up being the house we make an offer on!)
1 p.m. – Quick lunch at Taco Bell $18.92 for us both.
5:30 p.m. – We wrap up with our real estate agent, Jim. We toured 12 houses on this day and we arrive back at home thoroughly exhausted. We have another full day of activities for the following day (Sunday) so we stay in again, rest, and I cook dinner at home. $0
Daily Total: $18.92 

Day 7

9 a.m. – Up and at em again to get ready to meet our agent at Rich's house, which we are currently preparing to put on the market. We're going to do some cleaning and yard work at this property today. We both sleep in, wake up late, but are on time to meet up at 10 a.m.
11 a.m. – We make a brief trip to a Pike's Nursery. While the boys shop for flowers and pine bark, I run into the Kroger next door and get a chicken finger plate for breakfast $6.17. (You can also judge this too.)
12:30 p.m.- After some yard work, we rush back to our apartment and get ready for a 2:00 wine tasting and late lunch with my Dad to celebrate his birthday.
2 p.m. – Wine tasting. I treat everyone. – $90.00
3 p.m. – I purchase two bottles of wine I enjoyed from the tasting. $52.00. I don't really drink these but keep them on hand for when people come over or when we want to give a gift.
3:10 p.m. – We enjoy a nice tapas-style lunch for my Dad's birthday. My brother and I split the bill ($150 a piece, for the full dinner and drinks for six people including tip.) I shouldn't have to explain this, but yes, it's a nice treat but I'm a fan of birthdays and like to splash out for the people I love.
5:30 p.m. – Once lunch wraps up, Rich and I drive over to the house we loved and look at it again. We decide we're going to come back in the morning and evening the next day to look at traffic patterns to and from the house before we put in an offer, but we're pretty smitten.
6 p.m. – We arrive back at the house. We both do a bit of work: him for his full time job, me for my side hustle. I cook dinner. $0
Daily Total: $298.17

The Breakdown

 

  • Food + Drink = $132.25
  • Entertainment = $90 on wine tasting for Dad's Bday.
  • Home + Health = $0
  • Clothes + Beauty = $60 on makeup for engagement shoot
  • Transport = $34.64
  • Savings = $268.74
  • Other = $244.00

Weekly Total = $829.63

 

Final Thoughts:  Some weeks I spend more than what's here on groceries, clothes, and health. Other weeks I spend less on going out to dinner and paying for other services. All-in-all I would say it's slightly elevated, but you can see here I clearly value food and treating friends and family.

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Jennifer Jank
    October 9, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    It’s hard to extrapolate someone’s spending just from a week! I often advise my clients to look at three months when they’re trying to figure out how much they actually spend. One month could be lower than usual or higher. I also find that when people think a month is unusually high… it often isn’t.

    Also, French press FTW!

    • Reply
      Lauren Bowling
      October 9, 2018 at 4:02 pm

      I’m still not sure if I’m doing the french press right. I may need a tutorial.

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