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Money Journal: 1 Week in St. Paul’s Summit Hill Neighborhood on a $75K Salary

How far do the dollars of a 27-year-old bookkeeper/assistant go?

Bruno Kelzer via Unsplash|

We’re testing new photo angles, since we’ve pretty much exhausted stock art of dollars, coins, credit cards, and piggy banks. Here’s a lonely shopping cart!

Welcome to Racket’s Money Journal series, where you can snoop on the finances of an anonymous Twin Cities neighbor. Interested in submitting your own? Email for instructions on over-sharing the monetary details of your life! H/T to Refinery29 for pioneering a tremendous concept that we’re excited to localize.

Personal Information

Job: Bookkeeping at a small business and assistant (paid cash) 
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Summit Hill 
Education: Bachelor’s degree
Salary: $31,500 as a bookkeeper, $31,200 at other job PLUS variable tip money income; roughly averages to $75K a year between the two. 
Partner’s salary: N/A
Dependents: N/A
Estimated net worth: $12,000


Credit cards: I have a credit card that I use solely for work expenses that gets paid off in full each month. 

Vehicle: None. I bought a 20-year-old sedan for $3,500 in 2021 and paid cash. It’s ugly yet extremely reliable, and while I dream of owning a car with AWD, I will probably hold off until this car gives out. 

Student loans: $28,730 in a mix of Perkins and federal loans. If loan forgiveness goes through, I will owe $18,730. 


Retirement accounts: LOL. I’m going to open a Roth IRA this year. 

Non-retirement cash: $40,008 in bank (spend and savings accounts). 

Miscellaneous things: I have an iPad that I could pawn if I had to. 

Monthly Income

Paycheck amount: I get a paycheck for $1,093.33 every other week for bookkeeping, and make $600 a week before tips at my other job. That pays cash, so I have to pay quarterly taxes on that. All in all, I make $4,586.86 a month guaranteed.

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $570 of the $1,570 rent for a three-bedroom apartment I share with two roommates. Our overall rate is a little lower than others in our building because my friend group keeps swapping one person out at a time so our landlord considers it the same lease. The Theseus Ship of leases, if you will. [Ed. note: We will!] I pay slightly more than a third because I have a larger bedroom. 


  • Electric/gas: $50.
  • Water, trash/recycling, sewer: Included in lease. 
  • Phone: $50, paid to my dad so I can get his 55+ discount. 
  • Internet: $33/$100 split with roommates.


  • Health: $170. I pay out of pocket, and recently upgraded plans in order to have therapy visits covered. 
  • Dental: Who the hell has dental insurance? Grow up. 
  • Disability: None.
  • Car: $126.33 per month, paid in two lump sums of $758 a year. 

Retirement: None 

Gas: $120 per month.

Groceries: $240 per month.

Subscriptions: $15 to Patreon, $10 to Spotify, $42 for the gym. I don’t watch very much TV so I borrow log-ins from friends.

Money Talk Q&A

Did your family talk about money growing up?

Not really. We were upper-middle class, and my parents strongly encouraged us to get a job as soon as we were 16. Half of the money we made was set aside for college. We talked about how it was crucial for my siblings and me to get scholarships if we wanted to go to the schools we did. Outside of that, we never talked about money beyond the basics of saving and not spending unless we were sure that we needed something. 

Did you worry about money growing up?

No. I’m sure there were concerns (parents built a house in 2004, refinanced in 2012), but that was never discussed in front of me or my siblings. 

At what age did you become financially independent

Somewhere between 23 and 25. It’s fuzzy because I moved back in with my folks for a time due to a lease falling apart, but I’ve been responsible for my own insurance, car, loans, and day to day costs since I graduated college. 

How did you learn how to budget your life?

I am terrible at following a budget. The method I’ve developed is to pay all my essential bills (rent, utilities, insurance, etc.) at the start of every month so I don’t forget to. For a long time, I worked retail or gig jobs in addition to my part-time bookkeeping job, so I’ve never had extra money to spend on non-essentials. I recently got a new job that doubled my income, but I still have a hard time buying material items without feeling guilty, so most of that money gets put in the bank. It helps that I regularly work over 40 hours a week, so there’s not a lot of time to think about what I wanna spend my money on. 

Have you ever received inherited income, major financial gifts, or large insurance payouts?

I inherited a little over $15,000 from a family member. I anticipate using it to clear my student loan debt, but I’m possibly going to use some or all of it towards a down payment on a house. 

Do you worry about money now?

Yes. I make more money now than I ever have in my adult life, but now that I’m not living paycheck to paycheck I have the ability to make choices with my money, which is intimidating. I also have a few relatively expensive vices—cigarettes, bar food, tequila. I don’t worry as much about immediate expenses as I used to, which is great; but I’m trying to pay off my loans, save for a house, and quit my bookkeeping job within the year. There are people in my life that think I’m crazy for giving up that salary, but working in an office makes me absolutely miserable. I know I can be happier even if I make less. I don’t have expensive taste in clothes, homegoods, or entertainment, and I rarely travel. Even if I end up getting a second job again, I feel like taking a break from working two jobs even for a few months will be worth it. 

How much do you think a person or household needs to earn to live comfortably in the Twin Cities?

If you have a live-in partner or roommates, I would say minimum $50,000/year per person. A single person would probably need to at least make 80K, simply because rent is so expensive for one-bedroom apartments within the Cities proper. 

Money Journal

(Note: Since I make cash tips, I’ve included those amounts as they happen during the week.)

Day 1

8:45 a.m.: $10.44 at Caribou Coffee.

3:45 p.m.: $20.32 at CVS.

Day 2

9 a.m. $7.81 at Speedway.

2 p.m.: $14.75 for lunch at Due Focacceria. Normally I try to get lunch food that I can eat half of and then bring home the rest for dinner since I rarely have time to cook, but the prosciutto was calling me. 

8:15 p.m.: +$70 in tips.

Day 3 

8:50 a.m.: $7.44 at Speedway.

9 a.m.: $24 at Tobasi Stop for two packs of cigarettes. Don’t start smoking, even if it’s the only way to get a break at your serving job that you picked up to cover college textbooks.

1:15 p.m.: $15 at Chipotle.

1:20 p.m.: $20 for mutual aid request.

8:30 p.m.: +$80 in tips.

8:35PM - Post-work bar $32 

Day 4 

5:17 p.m.: $22.31 at CVS for Muscle Milk, pop, and Eggo waffles. Balanced nutrition! 

Day 5

11 a.m.: $40 for therapy.

12:30 p.m.: $78.11 at Menards. This was for a craft project. 

5:15 p.m.: $24 at the smoke shop.

Day 6 

9:30 a.m.: $7.44 at Speedway.

1:45 p.m.: Poke bowl/miso soup lunch, $17ish.

8:45 p.m.: $160 tip out.

9 p.m.: Post-work bar, $34. I’m hungry, but by the time I get to the grocery store it’ll be nearly closed, and by the time I get back home it’ll be 10 p.m. and I won’t want to cook. Bar it is. I get a cheeseburger, add bacon. I get a beer and a shot too. I'm looking at this diary. I’m spending too much money. it’s still more money than I’ve ever had. I get another beer, ask for the check at the same time so I can chain smoke out back. I pay cash. I’m out back. Someone bums a smoke from me and then leaves. I light another cigarette, chug my beer, remember that I have a frozen pizza in the fridge so I didn’t even need to come out tonight. 

Day 7 

8:45 a.m.: Tobasi Stop, $24 smokes plus $30 gas. The mileage of a 20 year old sedan cannot be praised enough. 

2:25 p.m. $7.44 at Speedway.

7:30 p.m.: $9.38 at McDonald's. Chicky nuggies.

Total: $445.44 spent, $310 made in tips, net $135.44 for the week

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