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A Week In Washington, D.C., On A $52,000 Salary

Welcome to Spending Notes, where we do a weekly deep dive into how our readers spend their cash.


Today: a museum employee who makes $52,000


Occupation: Management Support Assistant

Age: 24

Location: Alexandria, VA

Salary: $52,000 (approx. $1,000 per week)

Day One

Today, I wake up at 5 a.m., as usual—have you ever tried to commute in D.C.? I make a cup of coffee, walk my dog around the block, and head to the metro station. I buy a monthly ticket at the start of each month, so there’s no cost today. Once I arrive at the museum, I pour myself a fresh cup of coffee from our break room and then head to the day’s appointments. Mondays tend to be filled with meetings and today is no exception. My boss orders in on meeting days, though, so free lunch! There’s more than enough of my chef salad leftover for dinner tonight, too. I grab an iced tea from the nearest chain spot and take my typical commute home for the night. Once home, I take some time to search for remote-friendly therapists in Washington, DC. The thought of commuting back into the city once a week for an appointment with a psychologist is hardly appealing. Teletherapy would be a great alternative for me!

Total: $6.50

Day Two

Today’s commute and workday were uneventful. Really, the most exciting part was the sandwich melt I ordered for lunch! After work, I head home and order a house burger from my favorite spot (complete with sweet potato fries and Perrier, of course). While I wait for the delivery driver to arrive, I take some time to look into carpet replacement options. This flooring is getting a little dingy! I come across a company called Plum Carpet and actually fall in love with some luxury vinyl, a hardwood alternative that’s supposed to be super durable and attractive. I want to talk to my dad about whether this would be a good fit and make sure I‘m getting the best price before ordering.

Total: $48

Day Three

Have you ever wasted an entire lunch break dealing with your insurance company? I have! I was previously working with an in-person psychologist, and my insurance company had issues with each and every appointment. Of course, my last session was no exception! That’s part of why I’m excited to find mental health professionals who specialize in online therapy. A fee-for-service setup will be perfect! Today is also the one day of the month I‘m not particularly grateful for being the ”lucky” one in my friend group to have a house of my own—time to pay the mortgage.

Total: $733

Day Four

I’m only working a half-day today, since I have to take my dog, J., to the vet this afternoon. Fortunately, it’s just a wellness visit, and he’s doing great! He’s not especially excited for his appointment, of course, but he’s a lot happier when the vet tech sneaks him a few extra treats. Afterward, I take him back home and head to work. There’s not much happening today, so the afternoon’s an easy one. A few stacks of paperwork, then time to grab a meal on my way home. J. gets some extra snuggles (and a few of my Five Guys fries) for being such a good boy earlier today, naturally.

Total: $100.50

Day Five

Today, I’m focusing more intently on work to make up for the less concentration-filled days of this week. We’re a pretty popular destination for tourists coming to Washington D.C. for the first time, so a lot of our work focuses on those guests. My daily agenda this Friday includes ordering supplies, responding to emails, and scheduling an assortment of meetings. I snack on some leftovers after work, then hang out with J. until bedtime.

Total: $0

Day Six

It’s Saturday, but I volunteered to help out with some events at the museum today. Afterward, we stop by one of the city’s newest rooftop bars, where we enjoy some cocktails before parting ways for the week. It’s a quiet night in otherwise!

Total: $56

Day Seven 

I get to sleep in a bit today, then head off to meet up for brunch with some friends. One of them, E., tries to set me up with a friend-of-a-friend, but I’m not especially interested. As I told them, “J. is the only guy I need in my life!” All jokes aside, it’s great to see them, plus my huevos rancheros and moyetes are tasty! I finish off the week with a few loads of laundry and a movie snuggled up with J.

Total: $37


Total for the week: $981

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