A Week In Philadelphia On A $150,000 Salary


Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

This week: an attorney who makes $150,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a new bit for her horse.

Occupation: Attorney
Industry: Legal
Age: 32
Location: Philadelphia
Salary: $68/hour (~$150,000 this year)
Assets: $65,000 (spread through various checking and savings accounts); $92,000 in retirement accounts (simple, traditional and Roth IRA)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): Anywhere from $3,000 to $3,800.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs:

Condo Fees: $810 (includes water, gas, access to gym). I live alone in a one-bedroom condo that my parents purchased when I started law school, but I took over all the finances when I graduated and started working.
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Apple Music: $11
Sirius XM: $6
Farrier: $287
Horse Supplements: $92
Internet: $35
Toyota Connected Services: $16
Board: ~$2,400
Electric: ~$30 (varies depending on the weather)
Simple IRA: 10% of each paycheck goes directly to my Simple IRA

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes. My parents promised my sibling and me that if we attended undergraduate school in state, they would also pay for grad school. I went to an in-state school for undergrad, and my parents did pay for grad school. There was no expectation to go to grad school if I didn’t want to, but I was definitely expected to go to college.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn’t have many conversations about money. I knew that we were comfortable. I also knew that when my parents wouldn’t buy me something, it wasn’t because we couldn’t afford it, but that they weren’t going to buy me something just because I wanted it. They were careful to teach me to be frugal and really consider things before buying them.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Camp counselor at a local camp where I grew up. I found out about it through a friend of my mother’s and applied.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No.

Do you worry about money now?
A little. I am comfortable now, but I picked a very expensive hobby as a child, and while my parents were nice enough to finance it sparingly through college, I was on my own when I started making money. I saved for four years after graduating law school to be able to purchase a horse during COVID-19. I also horse show during the warmer months and often have a lot of expenses related to that that I have to think about when deciding whether I want to purchase something not in my monthly budget.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I graduated law school at 26. My parents very generously supported me through law school, and still occasionally pay for things, but I am pretty much on my own. If something were to happen though, they would have no problem supporting me financially, although I have a healthy savings account.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, when my sister and I were born, we received treasury bonds. We probably received one or two every year until my great grandparents died. They have extensive maturity rates, so they have only come due in the last five years or so. The last time I cashed in some bonds, it came up to about $3,000.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I get out of bed. After making some coffee, I browse the internet for about an hour before getting a Greek yogurt out of the fridge for breakfast. After brushing my teeth, I open my work laptop and go through any emails I missed after I signed off for the day yesterday.

9 a.m. — I log onto Zoom to start a meeting with a team I’m working with for a client’s project. I’m expecting two other people to log on, but only one does. We decide to get started, even though we both need the third person to sign off on the changes we’ve made to this project.

10:30 a.m. — Our meeting ends without the third person joining, but I think we’ve managed to answer most of the questions we had. I send an email to the third person outlining the changes we made and reiterating the questions we had in hopes they’ll respond.

12 p.m. — I don’t feel like putting much effort into lunch, so I make a pre-made ramen noodle dish and browse Reddit while I eat.

1 p.m. — I spend the rest of the work day reviewing and editing the same project.

5:30 p.m. — I still don’t feel like cooking, so I pull a frozen single serving lasagne out of the freezer and have that for dinner. I keep a few frozen meals in the freezer for the times where cooking seems like a chore. I turned on the Phillies game halfway through and watch them win. After the game ends I spend the rest of the night watching Monk, which I never watched originally when it was out. I brush my teeth and wash my face with a Cetaphil cleanser before applying a retinal and going to bed around 9:30 p.m.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6 a.m. — I crawl out of bed at 6 a.m., as I do every Tuesday. I board my horse, Y., about an hour outside Philadelphia with my trainer. My job allows us a lot of flexibility in our work hours, and they don’t mind me working half days on Tuesdays, so I can take a lesson with my trainer in the morning. I make a small coffee, brush my teeth and put on sunscreen. I throw on a pair of breeches and a tech shirt, grab a jacket, and then am out the door by 6:40 a.m. in order to beat the traffic out of the city.

7:30 a.m. — I arrive at the barn and park right by Y.’s stall. He has a window to the outside, so I spend a minute saying hello to him until he gets his breakfast from one of the barn staff and abandons me for better things. While he’s eating, I get my equipment together, brush him off and tack up. I have a productive lesson with my trainer, and by the end, I can feel it in my abs and hip flexors. My trainer and I discuss potentially changing Y.’s bit, and the expenses for a show we’re planning on attending in Ohio. I haven’t submitted my entry for this show yet, but I know this will probably be the most expensive show of the year, just due to the expense of hauling the horses to Ohio.

10:45 a.m. — After I finish up at the barn, I stop at Wegmans on my way home. I purchase a cantaloupe, a quarter of a watermelon, a can of chickpeas, farro, two lemons, an onion, dried mango, dried apples, a chicken Caesar sandwich for lunch, and a mini quiche. I don’t need the quiche, but shopping hungry is always a bad choice. $93.71

12:30 p.m. — After I shower, I sit down with my sandwich and online shop for bits for Y. I want the same mouthpiece with a different cheekpiece, and find it on a few different websites. The brand’s website has the bit available for a seven-day trial, but it’s the most expensive. I finally decided to purchase it from the UK with a 30-day trial. That will give me time to try it out with Y. between the bit arriving and the show I have currently scheduled at the end of the month. $133.10

1 p.m. — As I’m going through my work emails, I see a reminder from our office manager to purchase our attorney’s licenses for this year and send her the receipt. I cringe when I put it on my credit card because it has definitely gotten more expensive, but I know it will be reimbursed. I spend the rest of the day reviewing and editing a large project for my client. $282.56 (expensed)

5 p.m. — Using the ingredients I bought today, I make a chickpea and farro salad that should last me the rest of the week. I watch the Phillies beat the Blue Jays and then go to bed early like I usually do on Tuesdays.

Daily Total: $226.81

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I debate staying in bed for a little while longer, but decide it won’t be any good if I don’t stick to some sort of routine. I take my time making coffee and browsing the internet before brushing my teeth.

9 a.m. — I eat a yogurt while I check my email. Once I respond to a few people I turn my attention to the project. I’ve been working on it for months, and we should finally be done with it on Friday. Until then I focus on making sure what I’m responsible for is complete.

12 p.m. — While I eat the chickpea and farro salad I made yesterday for lunch, I do some online shopping for black denim shorts. I made plans with my dad to attend a Phillies game later this summer, and I bought a new Phillies jersey a few months ago that I really want to wear with black denim shorts. After a little while I find what I’m looking for at GAP. I throw in a lightweight sports bra for low-impact exercise with it. $53.96

6 p.m. — I decide to make the quiche I purchased yesterday for dinner, and it takes about half an hour to bake. While I’m waiting, I tune into the Phillies game, which I then have to turn off because I can’t watch them struggle against the Blue Jays.

9 p.m. — I brush my teeth and put on retinal, then climb into bed and go through my Kindle before deciding on a book to reread. I read for about an hour before going to sleep.

Daily Total: $53.96

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Same old, same old. Consistency is key. It’s also payday, so I check out my bank account to see how much I made this pay period. I get paid an hourly rate, so my paycheck varies every time depending on how much I’ve billed. I can get a rough idea based on how many hours I’ve worked, minus all my taxes/healthcare/retirement deductions, but I never feel like doing the math. This pay period I made a little extra due to receiving a payment from an outside client that gets applied directly to my paycheck.

9 a.m. — I put out a bunch of little fires with some of my other clients. I spend a lot of time emailing back and forth attempting to solicit some more information, but eventually just end up calling them to clarify what it is they want. After that I spend the remainder of my day reviewing and editing this never-ending project, although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

5:30 p.m. — There’s no Phillies game on for me to watch tonight, so I browse Netflix (paid for by my parents who generously let us use their account) and find a heist movie. It’s stupid, but entertaining. Once it’s over, I channel surf for a while before deciding I could just read. Do my nighttime routine and then read for an hour or so. Asleep by 10 p.m.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — I get up early because I go into the office on Fridays with all my other coworkers so we can have a meeting about the upcoming week. After having some coffee, I brush my teeth, moisturize and sunscreen, and then put on some minimal makeup (concealer, eyeliner, mascara). During COVID-19 I got really used to not wearing makeup, so I’ve really toned down what I wear now. After throwing on jeans and a printed sweatshirt with outlines of birds on it, I put on a pair of diamond studs and my Apple Watch. It sometimes feels weird to be this casual going to a law firm when I used to wear business professional and heels to work every day before the pandemic. I’m very much in favor of this casual side. I put on a pair of Bean Boots because it’s threatening to rain, pack up my work laptop, and put on a podcast for the 30-minute walk to my office.

9:30 a.m. — I sit in a meeting with my colleagues for an hour before heading to my own office to get some work done. My boss comes in to discuss a secondary project I’ve been helping on for the past few months. We go over where we are with some of the items and he leaves. I work for about two hours before our payroll person comes down to hand me a reimbursement check for my attorney license registration (expensed two days ago). We talk about politics for about an hour before I can extricate myself from the conversation and head home to get lunch.

2 p.m. — I finally finish my long-term project and spend a few minutes admiring it before closing the document and inputting my billing for the week. I try to do my billing every Friday so I can spend the weekend not thinking about work.

6 p.m. — I watch the Phillies and call my mom to update her on my plans for the weekend. Originally I didn’t have a lesson scheduled with my trainer because she was supposed to be at a horse show, but once she was assigned her ride time, she texted and asked if I wanted a lesson in the afternoon on Saturday. I usually ride early in the morning in order to minimize the amount of time I spend in traffic driving back and forth, but I don’t want to pass up a lesson. I know I’ll end up staying over at my parents’ house Saturday night since they live so close to where I board Y. The Phillies game ends late and I go to sleep right after.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — I sleep in a little since I don’t need to be at the barn early. I do have an errand to run before getting to the barn, so I pack up an overnight bag and grab a package I need to mail. I’m out the door by 9:30 a.m.

10:30 a.m. — I wasn’t able to attend a friend’s baby shower (although I had originally intended to), but I did buy them a gift. I stop at the post office on my way to the barn and drop off the package to mail to them. I then slowly drive through the quiet side roads that lead to the barn keeping an eye out for cops, since I know they are hyper-vigilant in the suburbs. I get to the barn and spend a few minutes cuddling Y., since I haven’t seen him in a few days. I am only able to ride three days a week, and pay for full training, so he gets training rides from my trainer twice a week. I end up chatting with one of the other boarders about her new horse for a while before getting myself ready. My trainer ends up running a little behind, but we have another productive ride. Since it’s rained for the past week, it’s too muddy for some of the fields to be used, so I end up hand grazing Y. for about an hour. $7.90

3 p.m. — After finishing up at the barn, I drive the 10 minutes to my parents’ house. I could have driven back to Philly, but the thought of sitting in traffic and then attempting to find parking by my building wasn’t particularly exciting to me. My parents’ pets are thrilled to see me. I grab a quick shower and then spend the rest of the afternoon with my dad.

7 p.m. — My parents have a dinner reservation, so I heat up a frozen mac and cheese they have in their freezer and have that for dinner. I watch another baseball game (not the Phillies) and end up watching the end with my parents after they return. We all go to bed after the game ends around 10:30 p.m.

Daily Total: $7.90

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm because I can hear my dad downstairs making noise. I come down and make coffee and some toast and catch up with my parents.

9:30 a.m. — I head back to the barn from my parents’ house to ride by myself. Y. feels good and I can tell the work we did yesterday had an effect. After our ride I hand graze him for about 20 minutes until the misty rain turns into more of a drizzle. After I finish up at the barn, I give Y. a quick cuddle then head back into the city.

12:30 p.m. — I stop at Wegmans, which is a huge mistake on a Sunday, but I need food. I get a chicken Caesar sandwich for lunch, ground turkey, more dried mango and apples, fruit fly traps, cotton pads, and a pack of tortellini. There’s surprisingly little traffic and I make it back to the city and find a parking spot in front of my building without incident. $47.31

2 p.m. — After I eat lunch, I pay for my entry for a July horse show. I cringe a little as my credit card goes through, knowing that on top of this, I’ll have to pay additional expenses for shipping, housing, food, and my trainer’s expenses. This show will probably end up costing close to $2,000 when all’s said and done. $628.28

2 p.m. — I also pay an additional $60 for membership to the organization that runs this particular show in order to access their championship. $60

3 p.m. — And because I needed to spend more money, I bite the bullet and buy a new set of protective boots for Y’s legs. I had purchased a cheaper set about two months ago, but he’s already started to wear through them while riding, so I decide to see if the expensive ones are worth the hype. I get a (faintly disappointed) email from my credit card company telling me I have a large balance right now. $198

6 p.m. — I make tortellini for dinner and watch Phillies lose to the Marlins in 10 innings. After the game ends, I decide to read instead of trying to find something else to watch. I spend the rest of the night reading before going to bed around 10 p.m.

Daily Total: $933.59

The Breakdown

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