A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $13,500 Salary

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a graduate assistant who makes $13,500 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on eggs.

Occupation: Graduate Assistant
Industry: Academia
Age: 25
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $13,500
Paycheck: $1,500/month, for nine months of the year.
Part-Time Nannying Job: ~$600. I left my full-time salaried job (where I was severely overworked and underpaid) in order to pursue my graduate degree late last summer. To give you an idea, my current take-home income as a grad student and nanny is actually slightly higher than I was making after taxes at my “grown-up” job. It was a scary risk, but I am so much happier and more fulfilled.

Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $1,000, split 50-50 with my boyfriend
Loan Payments: $0. I’m in grad school and currently not making any payments on my student loans.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Netflix: $9
HBO Now: $13
Health Insurance: $98
Gas: $25-$75
Power: ~$45
Cat Supplies (Food, Litter, etc.): $50
Credit Card Debt: $150 minimum. It’s been a rough year with very unexpected expenses, including emergency vet and dental bills. Those took a huge hit on both my savings and my credit card balance. I’m working hard to compensate for both.
Savings: $150 minimum

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I eat breakfast at home almost every day, especially during the week. Today, I go for kefir with chia seeds, honey, granola, pumpkin seeds, and a sprinkle of bee pollen. My boyfriend is a saint and always makes me a coffee with the Chemex, usually before I even get out of bed. He pours mine into my new, reusable stainless steel Hydroflask travel mug because he knows I’ll be on the go today. After breakfast, I drop my boyfriend off on campus where he works as a professor and Ph.D. student.

10 a.m. — I work two days a week as a nanny to help make ends meet. It’s a great gig because the hours are pretty flexible and the child I take care of is very low-key. She’s getting over a cold and takes two super-long naps today, giving me the opportunity to get reading out of the way for class later this week.

3 p.m. — The family I nanny for NEVER has any food in their house. By the time I’m done, I am starved as I forgot to bring a snack with me. I run around the corner from their house to a local coffee spot since I have a drink card there. I fill up my reusable mug and get a plain croissant to-go. $7 (including tip)

4 p.m. — I drive straight to campus, about 20 miles outside of the city, in order to make it to a meeting for a group presentation. I don’t hit too much traffic, but it still takes me about 40 minutes. Everyone in the group is well-prepared and feeling confident.

5 p.m. — Another meeting. My department is in the interview stages of hiring a new professor and graduate students were asked to meet with each candidate. We’re doing additional vetting and giving them a students’ perspectives on life at the university. The candidate is very impressive — and there is also pizza, so I am stoked. I eat three giant slices, without shame.

9:15 p.m. — I make it home, planning to get more reading done for class, but instead I do yoga and Pilates at home. I used to pay for ClassPass or a gym membership, but I have been using YouTube as my primary source of physical activity for more than five years now; I find workout videos just as effective and motivating. I love Blogilates videos and I also follow a few yoga instructors. I do a 30-minute pilates video plus a quick, 15-minute yoga flow and feel so much more relaxed.

Daily Total: $7

Day Two

9 a.m. — I wake up a little later than I meant to and have to rush to get ready. My boyfriend is still asleep and I forget to make myself a coffee with my breakfast of an egg and toast. I run to a local chain on my way out of town for a small black coffee. $3

11 a.m. — Make it to campus just in time for a meeting with my professor about questions I have on the readings for class this week. After, I head to the graduate student lounge at the library to get work done on an assignment due later this week. I bring leftover lentil soup with me but I’m not hungry and save it for later.

3:30 p.m. — I get home and try to apply myself to my readings for the next couple of hours.

5:30 p.m. — I’m suddenly starving, so I make brown rice to have with my leftover lentil soup. I love cooking and in the colder months, I try to make a big batch of soup once a week; that’s an easy go-to when I’m too tired or busy to cook. Lentil is my favorite soup because it’s pretty high in protein and I can throw in whatever vegetables we happen to have in the fridge.

8:30 p.m. — My boyfriend gets home and we head out on our weekly grocery rounds. We are both pretty picky about our groceries, so we go to both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods every week. At Trader Joe’s, we stock up on apples, onions, garlic, ginger, peanut butter, crackers, pomegranate, RXBars, brown rice, pinto beans, potatoes, and butter. At Whole Foods, we buy eggs, kefir, coffee, roasted nuts in bulk, salad greens, kale, broccoli, goat cheese, and a frozen pizza. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 14 years, but my boyfriend eats meat so we also grab veggie breakfast sausage, regular breakfast sausage, and ground beef. We split the groceries 50-50, and both end up spending $25 at each location. Before we leave Whole Foods, we both decide we are hungry. I buy us each a slice of pizza. $57.50

Daily Total: $60.50

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I have a fried egg, toast, and veggie bacon for breakfast and my boyfriend makes me a coffee. I drop him off on campus and then head straight to campus myself.

12:30 p.m. — Hunkered down in the grad student lounge again, writing. I really hate buying food on campus because there aren’t any good healthy options and it’s all overpriced. I eat an RXBar and an apple that I brought from home.

5 p.m. — Exhausted, I make it home and veg out, watching an episode of Silicon Valley before I start on dinner. I’m craving carbs so I make myself pasta and a huge green salad with goat cheese, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and a homemade vinaigrette.

5:40 p.m. — My nannying schedule shifted this week so the parents can have a date night. I head over to their place, imagining a productive night of reading and writing.

8:45 p.m. — The baby is in a terrible mood because of her cold and needs tons of extra attention; my productive night quickly evaporates. She finally falls asleep after much back-rubbing, feeding, cradling, etc. I go downstairs to try to get work done but I can’t find the monitor, and as a paranoid nanny, I feel the need to check on her every 30 minutes or so. I try to work but mostly I read random articles online until her parents get home.

11:20 p.m. — They are late but I don’t really mind. Luckily, they round up and give me an extra hour’s worth. I head home, wiped.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I wake up but stay in my pajamas. I have a big assignment due tonight and need to put the finishing touches on it before I can do anything else. I outline the rest of what I plan to write and make breakfast, more kefir with chia seeds, honey, pomegranate jewels, granola, pumpkin seeds, and bee pollen, plus a coffee.

1 p.m. — I finish and submit my assignment. I’m really on edge and I decide to do a workout to cut some of my stress. I use physical activity primarily for therapeutic purposes, but lately, I’ve been focusing on strength training after my boyfriend turned me on to kettlebell workouts. There are so many amazing kettlebell workout classes on YouTube. My favorites so far are on a channel called BodyFit by Amy. (This is not an ad. I just love this woman’s workouts!) I do a 30-minute video and stretch for 10 minutes afterward.

2:30 p.m. — I think my new strength-training routine has amped up my metabolism because I’m ravenous. I spread goat cheese on toast, fry up an egg, and make two veggie sausages.

4:30 p.m. — I head to campus for one of my last classes of the semester.

8:45 p.m. — A few of my classmates decide to meet for beers after class as a celebratory end-of-semester shindig. I stop for gas on the way to the brewery. $15

9 p.m. — I’m so glad to have found a handful of interesting, intelligent, and funny people in my program to hang with. We talk about the program, Ph.D. applications, and conspiracy theories over beers and nachos. $19

Daily Total: $34

Day Five

9 a.m. — I sleep in a little this morning. I wake up and have peanut butter toast with a little bit of honey and bee pollen on top. My boyfriend makes us coffee and I drop him off on campus.

10:45 a.m. — I rush home, drop off the car, and hop on the SEPTA on my way to a doctor’s appointment in Center City. I don’t have a SEPTA card since I don’t take the train that often, so I buy a single-trip ticket. This is my first real doctor’s appointment in over five years. I know that sounds insane, but before I started working at my regular salaried job, I was on a form of Medicare that made it so difficult to see a regular practitioner that I avoided going to the doctor at all — even in cases where I probably really needed to. Now that I buy my insurance from the marketplace, I pay $98 out of pocket each month for my coverage (after the government subsidies). This takes a big hit on my monthly grad student budget, so I finally decided to take advantage of my PPO and make a long overdue well-woman appointment. $2.50

12:15 p.m. — I head back home on the train. $2.50

1:30 p.m. – I decide to squeeze in another workout. This time, I do a 25-minute kettlebell workout and a 20-minute yoga flow. After a quick shower, I am running later than I anticipated. I decide to grab a cup of black bean soup and a side salad to-go from my favorite local café before I head to campus. $10 (including tip)

8:30 p.m. — Mercifully, my professor lets us out early and I speed home.

9:15 p.m. — I make a snack of cheese, crackers, and an apple. I pour myself a very large glass of red wine and tuck in for a three-episode binge of the new season of The Crown on Netflix. I’m such a sucker for a good period piece, and Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth, is an amazing actress. My boyfriend gets home and we both hang on the couch, having quality screen time.

Daily Total: $15

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — It’s Saturday, so we wake up later than usual and lay in bed deciding whether to go out for brunch.

11:15 a.m. — We stay in since it just started snowing and we don’t want to brave the cold yet. I make a breakfast salad inspired by my favorite breakfast spot in all of Philadelphia, the Hungry Pigeon. It has a hearty helping of breakfast potatoes, veggie sausage, and fried eggs over salad greens with bits of goat cheese mixed in. My boyfriend makes the coffee and fries up a regular sausage for himself.

12 p.m. — I get a notification that I’ve sold one of my listings on my Depop shop. I’m pleasantly surprised as it’s one of my more expensive listings — $45.50 after Depop takes a 10% fee. Since I quit my job, I’ve been using Depop to sell clothes that I don’t want or wear anymore. In addition to helping me cleanse my wardrobe, I use these funds to save up for my more frivolous expenses, like makeup or clothing. I am a super conscientious shopper, and when I’m not buying used or vintage, I usually try to buy myself one very nice thing each season from a designer or brand I love. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Dusen Dusen and Everlane.) The purchase has to hit a lot of criteria for it to be worth my investment: seasonless, unique, and high quality are key. This month, however, my Depop profits are going straight into my holiday gift shopping fund.

12:30 p.m. — After “breakfast,” we are ready to head out of the house to run errands. We drive into Center City to make a few returns and exchanges at Anthropologie and J.Crew. Though I’m tempted, I don’t buy anything on my short list of holiday gifts. I am the opposite of an impulse shopper, and I still need to go home to read reviews and compare prices on everything I’m thinking of buying. At this point, I’m eyeing an overcoat for my boyfriend from COS; journals and fun pens for my sisters and my best friend from a local Philly print company called Print Fresh; a big candle or something simple for my boyfriend’s parents; a set of special Christmas ornaments for my grandmother; and a pair of festive earrings and a candle for my mom.

2:30 p.m. — It’s snowing really hard and we are both feeling festive and cozy. On our way home, we stop at a new café in our neighborhood for pastries and a hot chocolate; my boyfriend picks up the tab.

6:30 p.m. — Neither of us is very hungry, so I throw together salads of greens, roasted beets, goat’s cheese, broccoli, and tomato for us with a homemade vinaigrette. Afterward, we snuggle up for a movie night. I make us stovetop popcorn with butter, salt, and a little smoked paprika.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — My boyfriend goes on a bagel run so we can make breakfast sandwiches at home, one of my favorite weekend meals. We are running low on ingredients so we assemble our sandwiches with scrambled eggs, more goat cheese, kale, hot sauce, and our breakfast sausage of choice on the side.

12 p.m. — We head to a local coffee shop to camp out and get serious work done. I’m feeling fancy and order an almond milk latte and cover my boyfriend’s plain hot coffee. $8 (including tip)

5 p.m. — After our work session, we drive over to West Philadelphia to see an exhibition at the Institute for Contemporary Art. On our way home, we debate going out for dinner and decide to swing by Whole Foods (again) to pick up basics that we’re running low on: kefir, bread, eggs, cheese, and a few other essentials. We split the total. $17.59

Daily Total: $25.59

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