How a 23-year-old Pennsylvania-based teacher spends:

SALARY: I make $50,000 per year as an elementary school music teacher based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a teacher your salary is non-negotiable. 

  • SAVINGS: I have $12,500 in my savings account right now. 

  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: I live with my parents, so I don't pay rent. I contribute to a 401(k) and I'm on my parents' healthcare plan still. I go to weekly Pure Barre classes that cost me $100 a month. I pay $40 a month for FabFitFun Membership, $10 for Spotify and $40 for manicures each month.

  • DEBT: I am in debt. I only have $10,000 left in student loans, so I make extra payments every month to hopefully pay it off in the next few years.

  • INVESTING: I contribute to my Roth IRA every month.

  • SPENDING VICTORY:  The best thing I ever spent money on was going to Europe in college - we traveled to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. 

  • SPENDING REGRET: I regret leasing my first car rather than buying it.

  • SIDE HUSTLE: I teach private voice and piano lessons, bringing in an extra $400 a month. 

  • CHARITY: The last charity I donated to was Make-A-Wish.

  • IF I WON THE LOTTERY: I would pay for a vacation for my entire family! (Then I'd probably pay off my student loans....) 

  • GOALS: I want to be out of debt and save for a down payment of a house.

How a 27-Year-Old Pennsylvania Research Project Assistant Spends:


We're sharing the spending secrets of one woman each week - completely anonymously. This section draws inspiration from Refinery29's Money Diaries and NYMag's Spending Diaries (gotta give credit where it's due, right?) Click here to take our anonymous survey on spending habits.

  • SALARY: I'm currently a research project assistant. I'd like to go back to school to get my masters degree but I'm nervous to add more loans on to my undergrad loans. After taxes, I make about $30,000 per year. I have not yet asked for a raise.
  • SAVINGS: I have $1,400 in savings. My fiance and I had about $2,800 but recently purchased a new fence and some other items for our wedding. We are trying to keep the savings above $1,000 for emergencies and above that is wedding, vacation and house repairs fund. 
  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: I live with my boyfriend. Our mortgage is about $800 per month without utilities. I have contributed to a 401k since 2015 and I've had a Roth IRA since 2008. I also pay for healthcare. I pay for family Apple Music which is $15 per month, I have a subscription to an e-magazine that is $10 per year and I have a membership to Headspace meditation app which is $100 per year. 
  • DEBT: I pay $300 monthly for my school loans. I have $25,000 in loans and sometimes I pay $50 extra a month, but that is rare. After the wedding, we are going to work toward getting debt free in the next 2 years. I have no credit card debt (I just opened a credit card a few weeks ago for emergencies), and I'm fortunate enough to have my parents' old car that is paid for so I only have car insurance to pay ($40/month). I guess another thing we pay for is the new mattress we bought ($70/month). I'd like to pay that off in 2018 mostly because it's an annoying payment to make every month.
  • SPENDING VICTORY: When I was 25, my dad co-signed on a house with me. I didn't have a credit card and I couldn't get a house loan by myself, but I had been working almost full time and making enough money that I could afford a mortgage & utilities. My dad knew the guy selling the house, it had been on the market for more than a year with no one interested. I believe the final offer was $55,000 which was a steal. It was the cutest first house I could ever dream of. It was awesome having a place of my own, and as frustrating as it was sometimes (peeling paint, replacing hot water tank, cracking ceilings, leaking fridge...) I knew when I was done with this house, I could sell it. I wasn't necessarily throwing all my money away on rent. Fast forward 3 years and I'm finally at the point in my life where I'm ready to sell the house and move closer to the city to work. The commute was getting too long to handle and too expensive to make it worth living an hour away. My now fiancee lives about 15 minutes from my work and I moved in with him. If I were patient I could've asked a lot more for my house, but I settled so that I didn't have to keep commuting back to the house for mail, checking up on safety, etc. The house sold in 3 months and I didn't make all my money back, but I made enough to start an emergency fund. 
  • SPENDING REGRET: When I graduated high school I thought I had everything figured out. I wanted to move far away from home and start over (the teen angst was so real). I went to school for one trimester at a small Pennsylvania college and I realized I hated it and I was lonely and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I applied and got accepted to the school in the city for the spring semester. A combination of terror, being on my own, and depression lead to me barely passing and getting on academic probation. The following semester I moved into an apartment with three dude friends and everything seemed okay on the outside but nothing had changed on the inside and I was still dealing with depression and I didn't know it if that makes sense. I failed out of the school, not even showing up for my finals because I was so behind in all my classes and didn't know how to ask for help. Up to this point, I had financial aid in forms of subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans and luckily a few grants. My parents paid for my apartment living in the city, I want to say it was ~$400/month but I'm not 100% certain.  So my parents made me move back home and get a job. I enrolled in classes at a community college because I refused to give up. I got my associates of fine arts degree, with some Spanish, French and Italian classes under my belt. I realized how much I love learning languages and comparing and contrasting them. I re-applied to that city school, got in, and completed my B.A. in French with a minor in Spanish. I qualified for student work/work study so I was able to make ~$1,200/semester. I lived at home and commuted to Pittsburgh every day for classes. In the summer I was still able to make money working my student work hours. I currently have $22,600 in school loans. Now, who's to say if I started at community college, would I still have fallen in love with languages? I can't say for certain, but! I could guess that I would have a lot fewer student loans. 
  • CHARITY: The last charity I donated to was a local animal shelter. 
  • SIDE HUSTLE: From time to time I'll sell my art, but this is few and far between. I'd love to have the time to make/sell more
  • GOALS: Money goals are always on the forefront of my mind. We are saving for: 1. wedding 2. honeymoon 3. land 4. bus/camper. The wedding is in about 80 days and my fiancé & I both decided that it was very important for us to NOT go into debt over a single day. It will be a beautiful day and we will be married at the end of it. Nice and simple. The wedding and honeymoon are short term (both in September), land and bus or camper are long term. We almost put an offer in on a house 2 weeks ago, but we had very little money to put down and our monthly mortgage would be $1,200 + utilities, which would be very tight for us. We are looking for a simpler lifestyle that doesn't require us to work jobs we don't love, to pay for a house we're never at because we're working so much... We would love to be debt free by 2019 so we have more freedom to choose jobs and location of land/living.  The saving seems so sporadic with a wedding on the horizon, but after the wedding, it will be much easier to save/pay off loans. Currently, I'm trying to learn to budget better, looking up what percentage of my paycheck should go to different categories and use only cash. It is a slow process, but I just need to be less lazy and go to the bank to get the money out.


- She Spends / Issue #9


A Pennsylvania School Psychologist's Money Habits

  • SALARY: I make $35,550 per year. 
  • SAVINGS: I have about $10,000 in savings right now. I categorize my savings into several buckets - one for my car, one for Christmas gifts, one for birthday gifts, one for a house, one for our dog and one for a vacation. 
  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: My boyfriend purchased a house last year. I currently contribute to the mortgage, paying half, or about $445 per month. I also pay half of our utilities. I am still on my parent's healthcare plan, and I don't yet contribute to a 401K. My boyfriend and I split Netflix and Spotify subscriptions, so I pay about $10 on those monthly. I pay $165 per year to belong to a professional association. I also have an Amazon Prime subscription, which costs $99 per year. I have a car from my parents so my car payment is $100 a month to them plus insurance which is about $70. I also pay them for my phone which is $50 per month. The car payment is an area where I am privileged to save some money thanks to my parents. 
  • DEBT: All of my student loans are from the federal government. I am currently on the standard repayment plan, which is ten years at a fixed rate. It's the lowest overall payment plan, and I pay $694 per month on the loans. I am on this plan because my graduate school loans have an insane amount of interest. The longer I wait to pay them off, the more, in the long run, I will have to pay thanks to interest payments. I currently work in a private school, if I get a public school job and hold that job for 10 years, then I can qualify for loan forgiveness. Getting my masters degree was the biggest hit to my loans. For my master's program, other than a small scholarship, I paid almost everything using unsubsidized loans. So while I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket, the loans are huge and collecting a crazy amount of interest.  If I had not gone to graduate school, my loans would be less than half of what I am paying now.
  • SPENDING VICTORY: The best thing I ever spent money on is either the vacation I took with my significant other to Barbados or Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is super convenient. For example, my dog chewed our food thermometer and I was able to immediately order the same exact one. I didn’t have to try to find a similar one in a store. The second that goes along with that is that it lets me be lazy.  If I do not need something immediately then I almost always order it on prime because it saves me a trip to the store. As for our vacation, we kept costs down by putting up with long layovers. If you are willing to deal with layovers and long travel days, you could fly to Barbados for around $300 any time of the year. It’s cheaper than flying most places in the U.S., and it was amazing so we will for sure be going back.
  • SPENDING REGRET: I can't really think of one...Maybe unnecessary doctors' appointments that didn't actually help me.
  • CHARITY: The last charity I contributed to was a nature preservation.
  • SIDE HUSTLE: I babysit when I get the chance. I also tutor students outside of school. 
  • GOALS: I would like to continue adding to my vacation budget so that we could go on annual or semi-annual trips. I will also be getting married sometime in the next two years…I hope. That will be an expense that I know I need to save for, but have absolutely no idea how much. The internet tells you to start saving for retirement at 25, and I'll be off of my parent's healthcare plan at 26, so those are big milestones too. Where I work the insurance isn't great and I have to pay for it. Worse, there is no retirement plan and my pay is less than ideal. So my biggest goal is to find a new job in the next two years, as soon as possible, but the competition is fierce. My most immediate goal is to ask for a raise in the next month. It’s a tricky situation that I don’t know how to navigate quite yet because my boss controls most everything, but the owners of the school control the budget so I will need to ask her and then she will need to ask them and it’s a whole, stressful thing.


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She Spends Issue #3