How a HR Analyst in Pittsburgh Does Money

Susan (not her real name) is a 32-year-old HR analyst in Pittsburgh.

So, Susan, how much are you making?

Currently my annual salary is $65K. I can also get a bonus each year thats between around 3–7 percent; it’s based on an algorithm that includes both my performance and the performance of the company.

So your max bonus is around $4,500?

Ha, I guess! I don’t know if I’ve ever actually gotten that much though. 🙂

Fair enough. I’m going to assume it’s due to the performance of the company, LOL. 😉

Ha, thanks.

So how does that income compare to your expenses? Where does your money go?

My biggest monthly expense is my rent ($900), followed by my student loans ($500) and car payment ($300).

I put $400 per month into various savings accounts, and $150 into my Roth IRA each month.

I budget $175 for groceries and $175 for gas each month. I have a charitable giving budget of $50 that I don’t always use, and the rest is, like, my car insurance and internet.

I also have a very large budget just called “other” that’s $600 but I literally always go over.

What goes into your “other” budget? Is that clothing, entertainment, etc.?

I use “other” for going out to eat, clothes, going to the movies, etc. as well as things like car repairs. Basically anything that isn’t a fixed monthly expense.

“Other” also covers traveling, which is why I frequently go over. I can never say no to a travel opportunity.

That makes sense. Where was your most recent trip?

I went to the Everglades over Thanksgiving. But also my family lives on the other side of the state, so even going home for Christmas sort of counts as “travel” since I need to pay for gas and tolls on the turnpike, etc.

I hear you there. I’m already setting aside money for next Christmas’s travel.

My sister just had a baby and she lives 5.5 hours away so… can’t wait to see how that affects my travel expenses!

So tell me a bit more about how you do money. Do you use a specific budgeting software? When you go over budget, does it come out of savings? How do you make sure everything balances?

I use Mint and I also have a spreadsheet. With Mint I use their budget system. I don’t know why I keep using it because everything is either a fixed amount per month, or it goes into that “other” which I always go over. I could probably stop using Mint altogether but I like the ease of checking everything everyday in one place.

The spreadsheet is basically a checkbook but it goes into the future. I have it projected out over a few months, so I can make sure I’ll have enough in my checking account to cover everything that comes out of there (especially important since I have all my bills on auto debit). If I see I’m going to go into the red soon, I’ll move money from my savings over to my checking. i guess in theory I could also spend less but I’ve never thought to do that until just now…?

I use the one credit card I have for almost all my spending, so that’s just one monthly payment I have to worry about. I used to get paid monthly when I worked abroad, and found that way easier to manage than getting paid biweekly!

Do you have any debt?

I have about $55K in grad school loans, and my car loan is less than $4K and I’ll pay that off at the end of this year!

Nice! Also, where were you working abroad?

I lived and worked in Germany for about 4.5 years before moving to Pittsburgh.

Very cool.

So you mentioned that you hadn’t really thought about spending less before. That suggests you are earning enough to meet your needs without feeling strapped for cash. Is that correct?

Yes, I would say so. Sometimes I wish I could save more, but I do tend to be frugal in enough parts of my life. I think I’m doing okay.

How much do you have saved currently? In both retirement and non-retirement accounts.

I have a regular savings that’s tied to my checking and a “high yield” savings (lolz) and in those combined I have about $10K.

I have a Roth IRA with about $23K and a 401(k) with about $44K.

You sound like you’re on target for retirement, then.

I literally always feel like I won’t have enough.

Don’t we all, haha.

My grandma is 94 so… idk how much I’ll need to support myself for that long!

Do you have any other large goals you’re saving for?

At the moment I don’t have anything in particular I’m saving for. I moved last January and that really drained my savings, so last year I spent just refilling that regular savings account because it was almost zero.

Moving is expensive, that’s for sure.

So I’m just continuing to save the same amount as last year and hope a use for it comes up someday. Real estate in Pittsburgh is affordable, but I don’t know if that’s something I want to take on as a single person. I really like having a landlord to call!

I totally agree. Especially when you have a good landlord!

What do you think you do really well financially and what do you wish you did better?

I wish I had started saving for retirement earlier. When I was living in Germany, I didn’t save at all… mostly because the language barrier terrified me and going to a German bank was simply not something I was going to figure out!

I think I’m really good at keeping tabs on my money. I check mint at least once a day, and I’m a spreadsheet junkie so I have things tracked and projected and I know when I should hit certain goals. Like, I know I should increase my savings account balances to $15K before the end of this year, if all goes to plan.

Very cool!

Or I could go on a million vacations and that could change but… at least I’m trying. 🙂

Eh, it’s all about what you value.


Anything else you think Billfolders should know about the way you do money? Anything unique or interesting to share?

Hmm. I think just being aware of what you have going on is such a good step to take. I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about how we were freaking out about spending too much and not saving enough, etc. But after sitting down and really looking through the numbers, we both concluded we’d done better than we thought. I think probably the fact that it was Christmas time was not helping with the budget anxiety, LOL.

Well, here we are in the new year, and may we do better than we think once again!

Last question, then: aside from the above, do you have any advice for Billfold readers?

I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice, haha. I don’t even know if I’m doing any of my own stuff right!

You sound like you’re doing well! You’re saving, you have goals, you track your expenses, you have projections of where your savings will be at the end of the year, and you have a lot saved for retirement especially compared to your peers. 😀

I’d say you’re doing just fine.

Ha, well, that’s true. I guess that the advice should be “believe in yourself!” 🙂

That’s great advice.

Photo credit: David Wilson, CC BY 2.0.

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