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February 7, 2013

What It Costs to Be Me

You talk about everything else: relationships, family, work. But money — what you make, what you spend — remains a secret topic among friends. MC rounded up five career women across the country and surveyed their salaries, savings, and splurges.

melissa mcdonnell

Photo Credit: Nancy Newberry

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Melissa McDonnell, 32, Marfa, Texas

Occupation: Director of external affairs for Ballroom Marfa, a nonprofit, and adjunct professor at the Texas Tech School of Architecture

Annual income: $65,000 (combined)

Home, sweet home: "Marfa's a tiny town — population 2,000 — known for art and design. I went to graduate school for architecture at Rice University, and I spent time on a project here. I loved it enough to move! My boyfriend, Carlos, and I split the $800 rent on a one-story house."

Bills, bills, bills: "Gas, water, and trash service cost $120 a month, electricity is $40, and wireless is $30. I put $500 in my savings account, send $700 to my grad-student loan plan, and pay $102 for iPhone service, plus $520 for my car loan. Gas is $65 a tank; I fill up every week when I head to the university in El Paso where I teach. Ballroom Marfa, the nonprofit where I work, covers my health care."

Meal plan: "Carlos and I make omelets first thing. He works nights at a bistro in town, so we meet up again for lunch at the Food Shark, a local food truck. For dinner, I get a salad or gnocchi and wine at his bistro, about $40."

The weekender: "Saturday, I'll take a yoga class, and then around 5 p.m., I walk to the Marfa Book Company for a reading and catered reception, which doubles as a free dinner. On Sunday, we drive 60 miles to Ojinaga, Mexico, to shop at El Super, a big grocery store. Just $40 gets you a full cart and a bottle of tequila."

Only in Marfa: "We're an arts community, so a lot of renowned artists come through. Feist played recently — tickets were $30. Other small towns don't have that kind of cultural programming. In a big city, it would cost more."

Big splurge: "Hair and beauty products. The nearest pharmacy is 50 miles away, so I love browsing sephora.com and bumbleandbumble.com. I spend $60 to $75 a month on products."

The shoe index: "We have a lot of gravel and dirt roads here, so everyone wears boots. I spent $400 on riding boots from Barneys."

The view from the ground: "At Ballroom Marfa, our funding is based on individual giving and grants from groups like the National Endowment for the Arts, so we're very aware of the economic mood. Right now visitors and giving are high, but we're not sure how the end of the Bush tax cuts could affect us." —Whitney Joiner

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