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Real Cash Chronicle: Here’s How I Spend, Save and Invest

PNC’s Point of View editors asked an early career communications professional how she is working to achieve her financial goals.

PNC’s Point of View editors asked an early career communications professional how she is working to achieve her financial goals. Here’s what she told us, and what our expert says she can do to achieve her goals.

Profile

Industry: Finance

City: Pittsburgh

Yearly salary: $62,000

Savings: At least $500 per paycheck (bi weekly) goes into my savings.

Age: 26 

 

Monthly Bills

Housing: $1,025/month

Utilities: About $70/month

Student loans: $0 - thanks Mom and Dad!

Car payments (including insurance): $444 a month; $760 remaining balance on my insurance for this year

Transportation: bus pass $90/month

Phone bill: $0 (still on the family plan)

Recurring charges:

  • Make-up subscription box: $10/month

  • Wellness subscription box: $33/month

  • Music subscription service: $10/month

  • Food/cooking delivery service: $47.95/week (sometimes I skip weeks) 

Credit card payments: I pay off my credit card in full as soon as it has a balance so that I don’t carry any debt. 

Retirement accounts or other investments: $95.38 or 4% per paycheck to 401(k)
 

Financial goals

  • Short term: My biggest focus right now is feeling financially comfortable. To me this means being able to afford things like weekly food deliveries and going out to eat with my friends. This also means being able to take spontaneous trips or pay large bills without putting too much of a dent into my savings.  

  • Medium term: My mom and I have always wanted to travel to Tokyo (mainly to visit Tokyo Disneyland). I’m hoping to be able to pay for the full trip for both of us before my 30th birthday. After pricing this out (including park tickets and a generous cushion for souvenirs and meals) this trip will cost about $8,000 for two people.  

  • Long term: I’d like to be a homeowner one day. I’m not sure when that day will come, and I don’t want to put a deadline on it, but I do want to feel prepared when that day arrives.

Two women laughing in yoga tree pose

Money Diary: 7 Days of Spending 

Sunday

I woke up early and decided to go to Target before it got super busy. I subscribe to a meal/cooking delivery service and all of the recipe cards are beginning to stack up. I buy a binder and a three-hole punch so I can begin compiling them all in one place. I also pick up a few items from the grocery department. With tax, this trip costs about $26. Usually I lose all control when I go into a Target, so I consider this a huge success.  

Typically I cook a lot on Sundays, but today I’m craving sushi. I try to order food only when I really want it. As I’m scrolling through the options, I find a Sunday bento box special. It sounds fun and it’s a decent price for a lot of variety for $12. As a $5 add-on I can get some sashimi and I say, “yes.” All together the delivery is about $20. I decide that the bento box was a good choice, as I usually end up spending about the same on three sushi rolls anyway and the bento box came with enough food for both lunch and dinner. Life is good.  

Total spent: $46 

Monday

Mondays are my work from home day, which is nice because I get to do my laundry. All together the process costs $3.25 in quarters.  

In between emails I make myself a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee instead of walking to the shop at the end of the street. This is convenient because not only do I save a couple dollars, but I also get to stay in my comfy clothes. $0 

My food delivery box comes just in time for dinner. Exciting! This week is seared salmon with vegetables and a spicy chicken and rice bowl. I know that $48 a week can be kind of pricey, but I really enjoy learning how to cook the meals. I also found that because I cook for one, I was overspending on ingredients that I never got a chance to use/finish, or I would overspend on pre-made foods at the grocery store out of convenience. I make the chicken and rice bowl so I can keep the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  

Total spent: $51.25 

Tuesday

I wake up and make a quick breakfast so I won’t buy a bagel, then I catch the bus to downtown, $0. My new credit card came in the mail yesterday, and I remember that I must use it to activate it, so that’s the perfect excuse to buy a vanilla latte ($4.44) before work.  

I eat last night’s leftovers for lunch. $0 

I’m feeling completely drained by the end of the day and I’m not feeling well. I make a quick frozen meal (butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese from Trader Joe’s.10/10 would eat again). $0 

After dinner I scroll through Instagram for a bit and end up on a jewelry website. Bad news. I’ve been really interested in learning about crystals and gemstones lately, and on this website I discover a new one that catches my eye. Larimar is a gorgeous Caribbean blue stone that is known for calming and bringing peace/clarity to the owner. I’m like, “yeah I need that” so I find a cheaper version of the necklace on Etsy for $48.95 (including tax and shipping). It’s a frivolous impulse purchase and I feel kind of guilty, but at least I’m supporting a small business. And it’s pretty.  

Total spent: $53.39 

Wednesday

I wake up still feeling under the weather and feeling guilty about the necklace splurge. I make some coffee so I won’t buy any. I still have about 1/3 of the chicken bowl left from Monday’s dinner, so I add half an avocado to make it more filling. I put the lunch in my bag and also pack a pop tart to deter me from buying a bagel for breakfast. I catch the bus to work. All of the preparation and packing from this morning works, and I don’t buy any food today. $0 

After work I catch the bus and when I get home I have a package waiting for me – a book I ordered from Amazon last week. I used rewards points on the account to make the purchase ($8 otherwise), making it essentially $0. 

I’m still not feeling 100% so instead of the cooking home delivery salmon I make a quick Mediterranean veggie bowl using whatever I can find in the fridge. An end result of couscous, tomatoes, asparagus and some feta cheese makes for a fine dinner. I save the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. $0 

Total spent: $0 

Thursday

I’m a little cranky when I get to work so I buy a small latte to lighten my mood. $4 I eat my veggie bowl leftovers and work through my lunch hour. $0 

It’s my friend’s birthday and we’re going to a trendy restaurant for dinner. I stop by the liquor store and buy her a bottle of wine ($15) as a birthday gift. At the restaurant we all choose a bunch of different plates to share, which comes out to about $100 total. We split the cost and pay only $20 each.  

After dinner we head to a different part of the city to try a new ice cream place that just opened. The pricing is super reasonable and I get two scoops for about $4.  

One of my friends gives me a ride home so I don’t have to pay for one. Nice! $0  

Total spent: $43 

Friday

I wake up and make some coffee and bagel with cream cheese for breakfast then catch the bus to work. $0

By 10 a.m. I decide I need more caffeine to get through the report I’m working on, so I head downstairs for a latte. $4.44

There was still a good amount of my veggie bowl left, so I finish the remainders for lunch. $0

I catch the bus home, finally make the salmon meal and spend the evening catching up on TV shows I missed this week. I go to bed early and I have no regrets about this lazy Friday night.  

Total spent: $4.44 

Saturday

I spend most of my Saturday morning reading and relaxing. I make some soup for lunch using noodles, spinach, carrots, tomatoes and some chicken broth that I already had in my kitchen $0.  

In the evening I go to a yoga class with a few friends. The class was a special event class to honor the late musician Mac Miller and all proceeds go to a good cause. I make a $10 donation. This was one of the best yoga classes I’ve been to and I make a mental note to go more regularly starting next week.  

After yoga we go to a Mexican restaurant and get nachos, wings and margaritas. Calories out, calories in. Oh well! We split the bill, costing us about $25 each with tip.

Total spent: $35

 

Insights

What I learned: A large amount of my weekly spending is on food. When I can make it work, the home delivery meals can last almost the full week for both dinner and work lunches, helping me cut back on weekly trips to the grocery store. Coupled with the enjoyment I get out of learning to cook, this makes the steep price tag worth it to me. However, packing lunch is only effective on my wallet when I don’t use the money I saved to make impulse purchases on pretty necklaces. 

What PNC expert Kathleen Perko says:

One of the best things this young professional does is spend money mindfully. I like that she understands that home delivery meals can be expensive, but she really stretches out their worth to her. One idea she might consider  is automatically increasing her 401(k) contribution, so investing for retirement is a gradual process that won’t pinch as much later. To meet her longer-term goals, she should consider using automatic transfers into a savings account earmarked for her travel and house-buying goals. That should be easy for her, as she is already very good at regularly saving money.

 

Want to know more about managing your money? » 

Real Cash Chronicle stamped on notebook paper

PNC expert Kathleen Perko says she tells young people starting careers to save for retirement from the first job. It’s easier to invest the money from the start rather than adjusting a lifestyle later.


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