A Week In South Carolina On A $59,000 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.

Today: a teacher who makes $59,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides.

Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 28
Location: South Carolina
Salary: $59,000 (teacher salary: $49,000, plus $10,000 side jobs for school).
Net Worth: $38,000 ($12,000 in my Ally high-interest savings account, $930 in my checking account, $5,100 in my Acorns investment account, $15,000 in my pension and $15,500 car value, minus debt. When I started teaching, I racked up $3,000 in credit card debt due to unforeseen car expenses, unwise financial decisions and not receiving a paycheck for four months while I trained with Teach for America. I’ve worked very hard to resurrect my financial situation).
Debt: $7,500 on my car loan, $1,900 in student loans and $500 left on my Apple credit card.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,415 plus around $10,000 per year for the different side jobs I do for school.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $950 (I live in a two-bedroom duplex on a quiet dead-end street. I have a great landlord and have lived here for the past five years. I had been trying to buy a house but after the one I really wanted fell through and the market skyrocketed, I decided to keep renting since I have such a great situation).
Car Loan: $318
Apple Watch/iPhone: $40
Auto Insurance: $106
Car Payment: $318
Gym: $47
Internet: $57
Phone: $32
Utilities: $130 (this includes electric, water, sewer and trash removal).
Netflix: $16.42
Hulu: $8.32
Peacock: $5.39
Acorns: $3
Tithe: $280 (I know tithing can be controversial but I do it because as a Christian, I believe I’m trusting God with my finances when I give back 10%. I know it probably sounds crazy to non-Christians but it means a lot to me! I also go to a church where they are very transparent with exactly how that money is being used to better the community in practical ways and not to make leadership rich).
Donation: $38
Savings: $100 to my long-term savings account and $25 to my Acorns account. I also save all my stipend checks throughout the year.

Annual Expenses
Fitness App: $65

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?
I always expected I would go to college. Both of my parents went to college and my dad went to graduate school as well. I loved school and never saw any other path for myself. I also grew up in a small rural town and going away to college gave me the opportunity to grow in so many ways that I don’t think I would have otherwise. I went to a small private college and received around $5,000 per year in academic scholarships. My parents paid $6,000 per year and I worked 15-20 hours a week on campus/took out loans to cover the rest. I graduated with $24,000 in loans. I was able to pay off most of my loans fairly quickly after college because I joined a program that gave me an education stipend for my time of service. I earned my master’s in education as well, which was paid for by my school district.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I remember very clearly the complicated budget spreadsheet that my dad and mom kept on our fridge. For a long time, that’s what I thought budgeting was and I avoided it at all costs. It wasn’t until I graduated college and found Mint that I actually started budgeting myself. My parents also had very different ways of dealing with money. My mom loved Dave Ramsey and wanted to do the cash envelope system, which we did for a while, and tried to avoid credit cards. My dad on the other hand loves a good deal so he would spend money on something that we might need in the future but didn’t need in the moment. He is very savvy with reward points and credit cards so he preferred using them. I learned I should have an emergency fund but we never talked about retirement or investing.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting the summer before I turned 15. I liked kids and thought it was time to start working. My first real job was as a lifeguard when I was 16. I felt very grown-up and was able to get a tan as a bonus. I saved most of my paychecks for college.

Did you worry about money growing up?
We moved when I was 13, which was just before 2008 and the Great Recession. My dad took a job that was a good move professionally but came with a pay cut. I remember eating a lot of oatmeal for breakfast and beans and rice or soup for dinner. We never ran out of food or were in danger of losing our house but we downsized to one car and felt a change in our lifestyle. The only time I was really stressed about money was when I graduated high school and there was just not enough money for me to go to college. I ended up taking a gap year, which was the best thing I could have done. My dad’s financial situation improved drastically over the next few years and money became much less of a concern.

Do you worry about money now?
I don’t worry about money day to day. When I look at retirement calculators and think of inflation, it does start to worry me. As a teacher, there isn’t much upward movement in regard to salary. We have a small increase each year but honestly, that barely covers the cost of living. I work several side jobs for my school in order to put away more in savings. I’d love to buy a home and have a family in the future but I don’t see really how that is going to happen realistically. I live in a relatively low cost of living area but I’m still feeling a little strapped. I know there are definitely areas where I can tamp down on spending to help make my financial future more secure.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible at 22 when I graduated college. I was on my dad’s insurance until 26 but I paid for everything else.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My dad gifted me a car worth $3,000 my first year out of college. That really helped me save up an emergency fund and I’m very grateful.

Day One

5:20 a.m. — My alarm goes off and my Hatch light comes on. I wash my face with The Ordinary Glucoside Foaming Cleanser and moisturize with La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer. I notice that a pimple on my neck is still not clearing up and it’s been almost a month. Of course this sends me into a spiral of looking at skin cancer images on Google.

6 a.m. — I stop spiraling and look for a dermatologist in the area. I find one and fill out the Google form to request an appointment and hear back almost immediately. My appointment is scheduled and now I can relax since my anxiety is always alleviated by action. I feed my cats and make an espresso with steamed milk and two slices of this banana bread/cornbread hybrid that I made with honey-roasted walnuts. I usually try to eat more protein than this for breakfast but it sounded so good. I watch some YouTube Shorts while I eat breakfast.

6:30 a.m. — I leave for the gym and do a 30-minute upper body workout. I’m really pleased with the progress I’m making in strength. I use the app Fitbod and love it since it gives you a workout each day but is easily customizable. It’s $65 for the whole year and very worth it in my opinion. The gym is always pleasantly quiet in the mornings and I leave feeling productive and relaxed.

7:40 a.m. — On my way to school to teach summer school my right rear tire pressure light comes on. I stop for air. I leave my car with the mechanic for a tune-up. $1.60

10:30 a.m. — Summer school this year has been very chill — a welcome change from previous years! I email our finance director about setting up a 401(k). I have a pension plan with the state through the school district but after chatting with a work friend I have decided it’s smart to set up a 401(k) as well. I reset a few quizzes for students and work with them on questions they have about the material. I work on my flipped classroom unit plan for next year before my brain decides that’s too much work for summer mode.

12 p.m. — I order a pair of leggings on Amazon that are supposedly dupes for the Lululemon ones. I eat an apple with peanut butter. I also drink a Core Power Elite protein drink. My lunches have been a little weird lately since I’m working summer school. I’ll usually have snacks and then eat a late lunch when I get home around 3. $30

2:30 p.m. — I stop by Starbucks and get a grande caramel macchiato to sip on while I wait for my car. It’s $6.22 but I have a gift card. I call my best friend from college and we catch up. We’re both watching the show Alias and she’s been very good about not spoiling anything since I’m way behind her.

4:30 p.m. — My car is finished. The tire had to be replaced since there was a nail in a place that couldn’t be patched. I call my mom and catch up with her. $181.83

5 p.m. — I speed-vacuum the house and put away the dishes in the dishwasher before I need to leave for youth group. Every week I spend a couple hours mentoring some girls in my small group. It’s given me a great sense of community and really helped me feel a part of things.

9 p.m. — I get home from youth group and feed the cats, who are not pleased with the late hour of their meal. I wash my face, brush my teeth, turn on the rain sound on my Hatch and fall asleep almost immediately.

Daily Total: $213.43

Day Two

5:20 a.m. — Another day, another Hatch alarm. I snooze for 10 minutes and then force myself out of bed. I wash my face, brush my teeth and feed the cats. I make my coffee and eat a couple of slices of banana bread. I watch part of an episode of Alias before forcing myself off the couch to put on workout clothes. When I arrive at the gym I can already tell that my lack of protein for breakfast the past couple of days is catching up with me. I have to lower the weights for a couple of exercises. Oh well!

7:30 a.m. — I call my mom on the way to work. I get to summer school and settle in for the day. I help a student get started with a new unit. I continue working on my unit plan for the novel we’ll be reading next semester.

10:15 a.m. — I eat an apple and talk about educational equity with a coworker. I also eat a cheese stick and dream about lunch.

12 p.m. — The school lunch arrives and I eat a ham and cheese sandwich and a bag of cheddar SunChips. It hits the spot and we all have a rousing discussion about the Harry Potter series and whether it was worth it to do a reboot so soon after the original movies came out. Once again, I’m so thankful this summer school experience has been so peaceful and enjoyable. I’ve taught summer school every year in order to hit my financial goals and up to this point, it’s been a rather stressful endeavor.

2:30 p.m. — I leave school and drive home. I see that my Walmart grocery order has been delivered. I have a free trial this month and have been loving the convenience. I don’t plan to extend after the trial but I’ll definitely take advantage for now. I ordered milk, an air filter for my air conditioner, turkey bacon, a Reese’s Take 5 bar, butter, strawberries, bananas, cream cheese, eggs, Dave’s Killer Bread English muffins, and bagels ($51.36). I take a brief nap until my sister calls me and I wake up. We catch up for a while and go over logistics for my visit to her this weekend. $51.36

4 p.m. — I toast one of the bagels I got and eat it with cream cheese and some sliced strawberries. The strawberries are perfectly sweet and taste like the embodiment of summertime! I watch part of an episode of Alias before I need to get ready for practice.

5:30 p.m. — I drive back to school for track practice (I’m the coach). We have an excellent practice and I’m really proud of the progress my kids are making. Most of them haven’t run at all since last season so we’re working on building their base back up. It’s pretty hot and humid but no one complains.

7:30 p.m. — I drive back to my house to quickly change into something less gross and pick up my dinner. I feed the cats and then I drive to my friend’s house where she hosts our weekly group. It’s casual and so much fun.

8:30 p.m. — One of my friends decides she needs ice cream immediately so I volunteer to drive us to the grocery store. We each grab our own pint. $4.99

9:30 p.m. — I head home. I do my skincare routine (the same cleanser from the morning and Olay Retinol24 cream), brush my teeth and go to bed.

Daily Total: $56.35

Day Three

6:20 a.m. — I sleep in today since I’ll go to the gym later in the day. I do my skincare routine, brush my teeth and feed the cats. They appreciate that we’re back on schedule. I make an English muffin, spread it with cream cheese and fry an egg to go on top. I slice some strawberries and have that with my Nespresso and steamed milk. One of my friends told me how much she likes using the Vital Proteins collagen in her coffee for added protein so I add it to my Amazon cart but don’t click buy. I’ve been trying to wait on purchases for at least a couple of days since I struggle with impulse buying.

8 a.m. — Back at summer school. Same routine: Get students started with work, check in with them about their progress and work on unit plans for next semester.

11 a.m. — I realize that I didn’t get my air filter in my delivery so I chat with Walmart support and they immediately refund the amount and give me a promo code. Lovely customer service! I snack on an apple. Our new principal comes in and we chat about the upcoming semester.

2 p.m. — I stop at Walmart to pick up Yum Yum sauce and sriracha for the chicken I’m making for lunch. I also get some more apples, vinegar and gum. $18.24

2:30 p.m. — I also get gas while I’m there. I get home and give the cats a few kibbles as a snack. I make pan-fried chicken breast with roasted garlic broccoli and rice and top it off with the Yum Yum sauce and sriracha that I got. I watch Alias while I eat. $24.40

6:30 p.m. — I text my friend, N., to confirm we’re on for dinner and agree to meet at the gym. I get there around 6:40 and as I see the suspiciously empty parking lot, I remember that the gym closes at 7 on Fridays… Well, running it is. I came dressed in leggings prepared for the air conditioning so it is a tortuously humid run.

8 p.m. — Stretched and finally headed to dinner. We go to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I get a chicken taco and N. gets a chicken quesadilla and a cheese quesadilla. My bill is $4.75 and I tip $10. I head home, do my nighttime routine and go to bed. $14.75

Daily Total: $57.39

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I get up to drive to my sister’s house for the weekend. I have a ridiculous aversion to packing so of course I haven’t done that yet. I fly into action, picking out a few outfits and making sure to pack my workout clothes since we want to work out together. I quickly make an English muffin egg sandwich and slice some strawberries as well as make a coconut iced espresso. Then I feed the cats and I’m out the door. They are grazers so I just make sure that they have plenty of food and water in their dishes to last them until Monday. I always have someone check in on them if it’s more than a weekend but for weekend trips like this, they’re fine on their own.

10 a.m. — I pull into a Starbucks because I run out of data and need to buy add-on data. This rolls over if I don’t use it up by the end of the period. $10

11:30 a.m. — It feels like every time I look at my GPS, the ETA is later. I-95 ends up being very crowded and full of accidents so it’s pretty much stop-and-go traffic for a few hours. I stop to fill up again towards the end of the trip. I’ve been driving for eight hours by the time I get to my sister’s, S., house. $21.77

4 p.m. — S. has boba waiting for me — what an angel. It’s just the thing I need to revive me. S. shows me to her room, which she’s reorganized just in time for me to come. I can tell she’s gone out of her way to be a great hostess.

7 p.m. — I hang out with S. and her awesome housemates and then they make dinner, which is delicious chicken fajitas with homemade guacamole. I place an order for the Hydro Flask I’ve been looking at for a while. $36.41

10 p.m. — By 10 I can’t keep my eyes open so I say goodnight, do my nighttime routine and go to bed. S. is so sweet and gives me her bed to sleep in. It is so comfortable.

Daily Total: $68.18

Day Five

8:15 a.m. — I groggily wake up and text S. to see if she’s up. She’s awake in the living room, chatting with another friend who slept over. I’m so used to my solo living arrangement that it’s a welcome change to live in a very busy house again. We all have breakfast together and chat in the kitchen. S. makes deliciously strong coffee that I have with half-and-half and a yogurt bowl with berries and granola. Before we know it, it’s time to get ready for church.

9:15 a.m. — I do my morning routine and put on some makeup and a casual dress and white leather sneakers. S. drives and we pull in right on time. It’s a smaller church that meets in an elementary school so we stay and put up chairs after the service. I meet some more of her friends. I’m so happy for her that she has such a great community of people.

1 p.m. — We’re back at the house and I’m starving so I heat up some leftovers from last night. S. and I drive to Loft to peruse. We find the sale section and just when we’re about to leave empty-handed, S. notices some white linen pants. She convinces me to try them on and they’re perfect! We also find some sleeveless tanks. $80.09

2:30 p.m. — We stop in a perfume shop and S. samples a few including Yves Saint Laurent Libre. She has been on the hunt for her signature scent and really likes this one. I find a place online where she can order samples and they’re having a sale. I order two samples for her and ship them to her house. I’m definitely spending more than I usually do but I budgeted for a portion of my summer school money to be used as fun money on this visit so I’m not worried. $10.52

3 p.m. — S. stops at Starbucks and insists on treating me. She orders a mango dragonfruit drink and I get a peach green tea lemonade. It is the perfect drink for a hot afternoon! Some friends text S. and ask her if she wants to play wallyball. I convince her to go, telling her I’m just going to shower and relax.

7 p.m. — S. gets home and we spend entirely too long debating what we’re doing for dinner. I convince her to let me treat her to Thai so I call in the order and we pick it up. I get chicken pad Thai and she gets chicken panang curry. We watch a movie and then go to bed. $36.59

Daily Total: $127.20

Day Six

8:15 a.m. — S. and I get up and have some toast and Nutella as a pre-workout breakfast. She drives us to her gym. She spots me while I do some dumbbell flies with a larger weight than I’ve tried before. I’ll definitely be feeling that tomorrow. We stretch and then drive to a little café near campus. We order lattes, a lemon curd crepe, a chicken cordon bleu crepe and an almond croissant. We sit at a little corner table and chat while we eat. $19.98

2 p.m. —I get on the road to drive home. I listen to two really thought-provoking sermons from one of my favorite pastors.

5 p.m. — I stop for gas and a sparkling water. Thankfully traffic has thinned out and the rest of the trip is smooth sailing. $32.93

8:15 p.m. — Finally home! I feed the cats and let them run around outside. They’re indoor/outdoor cats when I’m home so they’re desperate to be outside. I text S. and my parents to let them know I’m home and to thank S. for such a lovely time. Around 10 I do my nighttime routine and sink into bed.

Daily Total: $52.91

Day Seven

6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I lie there for about 10 minutes until I convince myself to get up and feed the cats. I do my skincare routine and then make a coconut iced espresso, turkey bacon, an egg, half an avocado and half a bagel. I watch some YouTube videos while I eat. Both cats are extremely affectionate this morning so I bask in the unexpected cat love. Then I look at the time and realize I need to leave in five minutes. I slice up an apple, put on some jeans and a T-shirt and walk out the door.

8 a.m. — Last week of summer school! I unlock a test for a student and settle in to work a little more on the next unit plan. This far into summer, I feel no motivation to plan for next year but I know my future self will thank me. During the year I spend at least three hours each Saturday working on planning or grading (and that’s on a lighter week). I need to use my planning period better but after IEP meetings, required department sessions and a serious need to regroup after teaching, I find that I don’t have enough time to both plan and grade. So I’m really trying to get a head start on the planning portion this summer.

11 a.m. — The usual apple snack. I go ahead and buy the Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. $22.23

3 p.m. — Home from school. I heat up my chicken and broccoli leftovers and add a generous amount of Yum Yum sauce along with some sriracha. I watch Alias and then stop trying to fight my heavy eyelids and take a nap. I wake up and the two kitties are snuggled in with me.

5:15 p.m. — I fill up my water bottle and change into shorts then head out to practice. Good thing summer school is ending soon since this whole driving twice in a day thing is getting a little old. Practice is some intervals and the kids are tuckered out.

8 p.m. — I get a peach milkshake from Chick-fil-A on my way home. I watch a couple of YouTube Shorts before doing my nighttime routine, turning on my rain sounds and falling asleep. $5.23

Daily Total: $27.46

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