I’m An Attorney, I Make $90,000 & I Escaped Domestic Violence

    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: an attorney who makes $90,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a one-year sobriety AA chip.

    Editor’s note: This is a follow-up Money Diary. You can read the first diary here.

    Trigger warning: This Money Diary mentions domestic violence.

    Occupation: Attorney
    Industry: Law
    Age: 41
    Location: Albuquerque, NM
    Salary: $90,000
    Net Worth: $710,553 ($1,134,502 in assets and savings minus debt).
    Debt: House 1: $262,000. House 2: $280,000.
    Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,711.03
    Pronouns: She/her

    Monthly Expenses
    Mortgage: House 1: $1,084. House 2: $1,315.
    Health Insurance: $59.99 (deducted from my paycheck).
    Utilities: $90-$190 (varies by season).
    Internet: $67
    Streaming (Apple Music, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu): $37 (I pay for Apple Music and Netflix and trade for the others).
    Phone: $109 plus $1.07 for additional iCloud storage.
    Savings: $500 to my emergency fund, $200 to a regular savings account, $200 to travel, and $200 to a professional expenses account.
    IRA: $400
    Investments: $200

    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 honestly don’t know what my parents expected of me when it came to college. We never talked about it, they didn’t save for it, and they didn’t help me prepare. They thought I was smart and stupidly trusted me to be mostly unsupervised, so I barely graduated from high school because I skipped school constantly. I suspect they expected me to go to college and figure it out on my own. I applied to one sickeningly expensive school that sounded amazing, got in, and paid for it entirely with loans. It actually was amazing and worth every penny. I went to a state law school and also paid for it with loans. I graduated with $208,000 in debt, paid most of it off, and had $58,000 forgiven through Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

    Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
    My parents did nothing to educate me about finances. My parents were teen parents in a tiny speck of a town in New Mexico. We were poor, like government cheese poor (but, honestly, it’s the best cheese and I’ll die on that hill). When I was in college, my parents bought a small business and grew it very successfully, started a few more businesses, and now they are multimillionaires. As I’ve matured in handling my own finances, I’ve initiated more conversations with my dad (my mom will always be hopeless with money) about what I should do with it. I think, to an extent, he and I are both learning as we go.

    What was your first job and why did you get it?
    I got a job cooking and doing light housework for a very mean old woman when I was in high school. I primarily used the money to fund my habit of skipping school. My first “real” jobs were work-study jobs to pay for living expenses in college.

    Did you worry about money growing up?
    Absolutely. My parents fought about money constantly because there was never enough and neither of my parents knew how to manage it. It was frightening at times. As a kid, I didn’t necessarily know what the consequence of not having money would be, I only knew that the lack of it made me feel extremely unsafe because of their fighting.

    Do you worry about money now?
    Certainly less than I used to. In addition to having my student loans forgiven this year, my ex-husband bought me out of a home we owned together for $67,000, and I got a $30,000 raise. Now I have a good cushion for expenses and am saving and investing. I don’t worry about emergencies, which used to be my biggest concern. Now I mostly beat myself up about spending money on things I don’t think I need, even if I can afford them.

    At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
    I became financially responsible for myself when I moved out at 17. After spending my entire savings recovering after two DV relationships, I am finally my own safety net again and could not be more pleased. That being said, if things got catastrophic, I know my parents could help.

    Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
    Yes. My aunt and uncle both died unexpectedly and were childless so I received $60,000 from their estate. I used it to pay off my private student loans. When I got divorced, my dad gave me $25,000 as a down payment on a new house because my rental wouldn’t let me keep my dog. Then I found myself in a violent relationship and had to run away from the isolated town I was living in to preserve my safety and sanity. My parents helped me to move, which I think totaled about $10,000. And if that weren’t enough, they gave me a $35,000 discount so I could buy one of their houses. Finally, I’m co-owner of a house with my dad that was also a part of my aunt and uncle’s estate. That house is worth about $380,000 and I will own it fully when they pass. I don’t count it in my net worth because 1) they live there now, and 2) they will never die and therefore they will live there forever. I refuse to believe otherwise because, after everything we’ve been through, I want them to spend all of eternity in their lovely little courtyard, holding hands.

    Day One

    6:45 a.m. — I wake up at my boyfriend, D.’s, to a number of aggressive texts from my boss about the court calendar for today, which sends my anxiety through the roof. I decline to respond because 1) work/life balance, and 2) I’ve been on vacation and don’t actually have any information for him. I was paid last night so I also open my banking app, confirm that all the transfers to my sinking funds and investments were made, and pay half of my mortgage. I also get a few presents for my boyfriend and buy myself a one-year AA chip because my soberversary is in six days ($108). I then move $1,300 from my travel fund to pay my credit card for the vacation we just took. I still owe D. for my half of our hotels and Taylor Swift tickets, which he battled the queue for on my behalf. He hasn’t sent me an invoice yet, so I hold off on Venmoing him. $108

    9 a.m. — I eat a Larabar and gossip with my co-worker, T. I’ve missed so much interoffice drama since I was gone. I give him a day-by-day breakdown of our vacation, which I’m certain is mind-numbingly boring for him.

    10 a.m. — I do the hearings that caused such a stir this morning and they are entirely uneventful and not worth the panic.

    12 p.m. — I eat leftover curry that I bought yesterday. I haven’t been home in almost two weeks so there was no opportunity to make lunch. My body, my brain and my bank account are desperately tired of eating out. I also run to D.’s because he gave me a cute little recliner for my office. I arrange it with a blanket and throw pillows.

    5:30 p.m. — Exhausted, I head to D.’s house. I stop on the way to get gas. When I get there, I find that he’s ordered pizza. He pays for it. I serve as a voice of reason as he downsizes some belongings. He tends to get really bogged down in nostalgia and can’t get rid of stuff as a result. We make great progress though! $27

    8 p.m. — After I meet with my AA sponsor, D. and I watch an old season of The Great British Baking Show and cry when a beloved contestant goes home. The most recent season was so terrible that we’re revisiting the older, less racist ones. Afterward, we head to bed and have our nightly disagreement about which sleep sound to use. I’m team brown noise, he argues for creaky ship. We compromise with train.

    Daily Total: $135

    Day Two

    4:45 a.m. — I wake up with anxiety and scroll the cursed bird app until D. wakes up.

    8 a.m. — I discover that my car has been rifled through and all of my jackets have been stolen. I’m bummed because I really loved some of them, but it was 25 degrees last night so it’s my sincere hope that whoever took them really needed them. I get to work and buy two new light down jackets to replace the four I lost because I am now also cold ($109). I also find that my foundation from Il Makiage has shipped (paid for last week). I totally succumbed to Instagram advertising with that one, but it’s the only foundation I’ve found that doesn’t slide completely off my face so I keep using it. $109

    9 a.m. — My darling paralegal brings me a latte. We both jump onto a Zoom staff meeting that goes until noon with no progress.

    12 p.m. — We take a break and I heat a truly disgusting frozen curry bowl that I scrounge out of the freezer. I hate every bite. D. shows up to surprise me with flowers and a $100 prepaid Visa card to replace the jackets I lost. He also picked up a prescription for me because he knows I’m completely overloaded today. I cry a little bit and kiss him all over his face because it’s so sweet and I’m so stressed out.

    4:00 p.m. — After five hours of meetings, I leave early to pick up even more prescriptions and a package from the post office ($35). Having been gone for two weeks, it turns out there are many packages for me, including dog food and coffee that I have auto-delivered. I also received a box of meals from Freshly. I signed up for a meal delivery service because my last Money Diary made me completely ashamed of my food waste. This makes packaging waste, which is no better so my guilt isn’t assuaged, but I do occasionally eat a vegetable now. It is, however, disgusting, and I do not recommend it. $35

    6 p.m. — I fold clothes while listening to my AA group. I eat a Freshly meatloaf with broccoli and mashed cauliflower and a piece of buttered toast as the meeting wraps up. I try to get a Topo Chico from the fridge but instead drop two on the floor and spend 20 minutes cleaning up shattered glass. I cut my face while doing it and wallow briefly in self-pity with my knees in a pool of cold seltzer.

    8 p.m. — I respond to a couple of work emails and finish a motion before meeting with my sponsee. After our meeting, I take a giant mug of herbal tea to the bath and read. Tonight it’s Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. I do a hair mask while I soak. I have a complicated haircare routine, like some people do skincare. My hair is long, straight and fine but there’s a ton of it. This climate and the local hard water wreak total havoc on it. I broke down and started buying high quality (read: expensive) hair products and it’s finally growing back and not breaking as often.

    10 p.m. — I fall into bed alone for the first time in what feels like ages and immediately starfish on clean sheets like the bed hog that I am. I fall asleep quickly.

    Daily Total: $144

    Day Three

    6:30 a.m. — Happy Thanksgiving! I wake up to the sound of voices near my bedroom window, which startles me. I lumber out of bed and make half a pot of coffee. My high hope was to get up and immediately do yoga but instead I take my coffee back to bed and place a grocery store pickup order for tomorrow. I order apples, grapes, onions, bell pepper, green beans, green onions, salad kits, cheddar, Gruyère, parmesan, milk, maple yogurt, coffee creamer, cream cheese, macaroni, bread, English muffins, panko, bacon, and andouille. $82

    8 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed, change into workout clothes, roll out my mat and do a half primary series, using a guided video on YouTube. I make a lot of modifications because I’ve been having leg cramps and every vinyasa is turning my stomach (which I steadfastly maintain is not related to the pre-yoga coffee).

    9:30 a.m. — I make an egg sandwich and another cup of coffee while texting family. Then I tidy the kitchen while listening to the If Books Could Kill pod. I’d seriously follow host Michael Hobbes anywhere. He’s a genius. As though to underscore this point, I listen to his other podcast, Maintenance Phase, while getting ready to head to D.’s. I make a to-go tea on the way out the door.

    12 p.m. — I get to D.’s and find that he’s gotten us cannolis. We have a cannoli toast then pack up dessert to bring to my parents’ house for family dinner.

    2 p.m. — On arrival at Mom and Dad’s, I immediately shower my three dogs with all the love and kisses in the world. My parents were dog-sitting while I was out of town and this is the longest we’ve ever been apart. I can hardly live without them, I love them so much. Once I say hi to them, D. and I run out to grab a few ingredients my parents need. $9

    4:30 p.m. — We sit down to eat and have a lovely meal with my parents.

    6 p.m. — D. loads the leftovers and I load the dogs and, after many hugs and I love yous, we head out. We stop at D.’s on the way to my house so he can grab a case of Spam, which he inexplicably has. I stop and get gas before the final push home. $26

    8 p.m. — We unload the car and settle in to watch Saving Mr. Banks on Disney+. I ugly cry. Then we head to bed and discuss the merits of trains v. creaky ships again. He starts snoring and I pray a little to privately express my gratitude, which feels endless.

    Daily Total: $117

    Day Four

    6 a.m. — Q., my furry senior citizen, alerts me that it’s time to go outside and have breakfast, so I rouse myself and let them out, feed them, and make a pot of coffee. Then we all pile back in bed. I read the New York Times.

    9 a.m. — I throw on leggings and a hoodie and run out to pick up the groceries. When I get home, I put on a Steve Earle record, make fried Spam and egg sandwiches with hash browns, apple slices, and grapes. D. does the dishes. Then we digest while watching The Great British Baking Show.

    2:30 p.m. — A little digestive rest turned into three episodes, two naps, a bag of white cheddar popcorn, three chocolates, and an eggnog. While lounging, I discover that my credit card payment cleared from my rental checking account so when my mortgage is paid, it’ll overdraft. I frantically try to fix it but can’t figure out how so I write myself a note to call my mortgage company on Monday. I also transfer $1,200 from my travel savings and Venmo D. for shared vacation costs and Taylor Swift tickets. $1,200

    4 p.m. — My nieces come over for a chat. While we talk, D. and I work on making Cajun mac and cheese with andouille sausage and peppers. I invite them to stay but they’re making dinner together, which is so cute. I pop the mac and cheese in the oven for an hour and we go back to The Great British Baking Show.

    9:30 p.m. — After falling asleep on D.’s lap twice more and finishing all of season six, we go to bed. Tonight, he caves with little resistance and gives me brown noise.

    Daily Total: $1,200

    Day Five

    5:45 a.m. — The dogs are up and so I am, too. I let them out, feed them, make coffee, and head back to the warmth of the bed until I hear the telltale sound of someone vomiting. Ugh, the worst part of pet ownership. Once that’s squared away, I deliver coffee to D. and we make plans for the day. We decide to see Wakanda Forever this evening so I buy two tickets. We agree that he’ll buy the popcorn and candy. $48

    11 a.m. — We meet friends for tea at a formal tea room. It’s fun but unnecessary. All the food is great and the tea is delicious but the formal teatime atmosphere is too stuffy for me and it’s wildly expensive. It’s $219 for five people, which is objectively crazy. Our friend treats. I buy two bags of tea on the way out the door. $36

    1:30 p.m. — We browse a comic book/record store and I have to talk myself out of a $200 R2D2 Lego set. Then we head to the New Mexico United soccer team merch store. We’re season ticket holders, which obviously means we need 17 games’ worth of gear. D. gets a jersey and I talk myself out of a very cool backpack.

    3 p.m. — We stop at D.’s neighborhood brewery. He gets himself a beer and me a root beer. We also order asada tacos, a portobello mushroom pupusa, and an asada torta from the food truck outside. I pay. He and I don’t have a formal way of splitting costs, we tend to just switch back and forth. He does make significantly more money than I do and has more expensive tastes, so he usually takes the pricier things. $28

    6 p.m. — We head to the theater for the movie. Despite having just had a mountain of Salvadoran food, we get popcorn, Red Vines, M&Ms, a diet soda, and a root beer. He pays. D. has to work early tomorrow, so after the movie we part ways in the parking lot.

    9:30 p.m. — Home, piled into bed with the dogs. My heart feels inexplicably unsettled, so I take a sleeping pill and cuddle the dogs and pray a little. I turn on brown noise and tuck myself in with my weighted blanket and hope my anxiety passes.

    Daily Total: $112

    Day Six

    6:30 a.m. — I wake up and take the dogs out. I then give them breakfast while I make a cup of coffee in my Nespresso machine. I take it back to bed and make a grocery list for Sunday dinner. I woke up with a powerful craving for beef rouladen, so that’s the plan. For some reason, I roll over and sleep for another hour.

    9 a.m. — ‘Tis the season for continuing legal education, law babies! I load up an ethics CLE on my app and get ready to take the dogs for a walk. I need 12 hours, which are absurdly expensive individually so I buy an unlimited package. It’s $199 but I pay out of my professional expenses fund. As I get the dogs ready, I see my mom forgot to pack Q.’s harness in their overnight bag, so I quickly order one from Amazon. Worth it to not have to drive three hours to pick it up. $14

    10:30 a.m. — When we get home, I do a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, start my robot sweeper, and eat some leftovers. Then I water my plants, empty the garbage cans, and make the bed. I feel anxious when my space isn’t clean with everything in its place.

    12 p.m. — I give myself a manicure. I bought a gel manicure set at the beginning of the pandemic and never went back. It’s cheaper, sure, but mostly it saves a lot of time to do it myself.

    2:30 p.m. — After four hours of CLE, I head to the grocery store for dinner supplies. I get skirt steak, bacon, dijon mustard, pickles, beef broth, carrots, onion, celery, bay leaves, tomato paste, cabbage, olive oil, toothpicks, one of those chocolate oranges that you pound on the table to open, and a diet Dr. Pepper. I also buy D. two cheap steak knives because he’s the kind of man who’s never cooked, never will cook, and therefore has no kitchen supplies. It’s $52, but I use the prepaid card that D. gave me for my lost jackets.

    3 p.m. — I get to D.’s house. We work quietly next to each other for a little while. After we finish, we put together a Lego orchid. It is tedious in a good way and so beautiful. While we work, we snack on Chex Mix and I put dinner together piecemeal.

    5:30 p.m. — This steak rouladen is so delicious. We have them with simple roasted cabbage. For dessert, we have mocha chocolate cake that a friend gave us and tea.

    7:30 a.m. — I head home because we both have early days tomorrow. D. and I spend basically every minute together on the weekends, but we’re both so busy during the workweek that we usually only have time to meet for dinner on Wednesday nights. When I get home, I feed the dogs, make coffee for the morning, pack leftover sweet potatoes and a salad for breakfast and lunch tomorrow, and prepare my bag to go to the pool.

    9:30 p.m. — In bed with the dogs growling at each other over bed space and head pets. I halfheartedly read, but mostly stare at the ceiling with dread over going back to work tomorrow. I turn on train noises to make it feel slightly like the weekend isn’t over.

    Daily Total: $14

    Day Seven

    2:40 a.m. — Q. wakes me to alert me that he needs to go outside. Nothing makes me realize his age more than when he needs to go out at night. I put on some slides and go out with him while he does his business. I can’t get back to sleep right away so I give him head scratches for a while.

    5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I lie there for six minutes contemplating whether I really want to go to the pool. After failing to successfully rationalize my way out of it, I get up and scramble to get my things, feed the dogs, and get out the door. I swim 2,000 yards while praying a little, meditating a little, and contemplating my goals for the day, the week, and the entirety of my existence. Today is my one-year soberversary and nine months since I met D. I reflect on those things, how they came to be, and what my plans are to maintain them. My life is blissfully happy right now, and I just want to keep it this way forever. Since swimming is the only time I feel really happy being in my head and the city is having a 30% off sale on annual passes, I buy one on the way out. I’m fairly confident the employee charged me the teen rate because it’s suspiciously low, but I don’t correct her. $137

    9 a.m. — I eat leftover roasted sweet potatoes and text all of my closest friends that I’m one year sober. The accolades feel amazing. They all ask what I’m doing to celebrate and what I really want is to buy the $500 Lego Hogwarts Castle. Which is, unfortunately, exactly what I do. I don’t even feel bad about it. Drinking almost killed me and I’ve saved so much money not doing it that this feels worth it. $506

    1:30 p.m. — I stuff a salad into my mouth while on hold with my mortgage company. It’s a local credit union whose website comes straight out of 2002, so the pay online option is not available for what I need to do. The lady is really nice and helpful, though. I pay the mortgage on my rental property. This comes from rental income, so it’s no real expense.

    2:30 p.m. — I have witness interviews over Zoom all afternoon so I settle in with a mug of Winter Wake Up tea from Trader Joe’s. Opposing counsel throws a tantrum in the middle, but I’ve found serenity so I just let her cry it out. I may have rolled my eyes. I am serene, but I am human.

    5 p.m. — My best friend calls on the way home from work to wish me a happy soberversary and I immediately burst into tears. She’s been with me through it all; for her to be proud of me is more meaningful than anyone else. I head to my Monday AA meeting, which I host, and everyone is so sweet and supportive. We talk about the benefits of sobriety beyond not drinking, which for me are a settled heart, true gratitude, and a rebuilding of trust.

    7 p.m. — I eat leftover mac and cheese, make coffee for the morning, and clean up before heading to the bathtub. I soak in the tub for an hour and a half while catching up on news and texting with D. about our highs and lows for the day. I’m so exhausted, I get in bed early. Don’t tell anyone, but I turn on creaky ship for the night. It’s nicer than I thought it was and I decide that maybe I’ll let D. have it next time (because love is about compromise).

    Daily Total: $643

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