A Week In Columbus, OH, On A $52,700 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: an environmental scientist who makes $52,700 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on hotels and a Snickers bar.

Occupation: Environmental Scientist
Industry: Environment
Age: 31
Location: Columbus, OH
Salary: $52,700
Paycheck (Biweekly): $1,383

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $683. (I split the full $1,250 cost with my boyfriend and give him a little extra to over electric, gas, and internet.)
Car Payment: $430
Student Loans: $105
Health Insurance: $58.90
Dental Insurance: $8.99
Retirement: $121.63
HSA Account: $4.15
Gym Membership: $19.99
Hulu: $13. (We don’t have cable, and my boyfriend pays for Netflix and Amazon Prime.)
Bed: $62. (We bought a bed when we moved in together. I pay that bill since he pays for most of the utilities.)
Dog Insurance: $74
Credit Card: $200. (I have a zero-interest credit card, and I put some taxes I owed last year on it, as well as a couple of other things; it’s almost paid off.)
Renters Insurance: $13
Savings Account: $300

Day One

7 a.m. — I always set my alarm for 6:45, but I never get up when it goes off, especially on Mondays. I wake up my boyfriend, and he hops right out of bed, lets the dogs out, and starts getting ready for work. I check my phone quickly and get out of bed, too. I work in a very relaxed office, and I spend a good amount of time outside. This week, I am in the office, so I feed the dogs while I pack my lunch and make a smoothie for breakfast. I am out the door around 7:45 with the dogs in tow. Like I said, it’s a very relaxed office so the pups tag along.

8:15 a.m. — Get to work. I settle in, start drinking my smoothie, check my emails, submit my time card from the week before, and look at my W-2 forms. The last two years, I have owed over $2,000, so I’m triple-checking to make sure everything is entered correctly. I work two shifts a week as a server at a restaurant and having two incomes always screws me. It’s been amazing and terrible at the same time. I currently work on Saturdays and Sundays, so I never have a day off unless I request one — and I only ever do that when my boyfriend and I have bigger plans. No lazy Sundays in bed for me.

2:30 p.m. — Eat lunch very late today (leftover tacos, a small salad, and an apple) — all things I brought from home.

5 p.m. — Leave work to drop the dogs off and go straight to the gym. I eat a yogurt before I head back out. I’ve been trying to switch up my exercise routine so I don’t get bored, but I like to go on Mondays so I start my week off feeling accomplished.

8 p.m. — Make dinner for myself; my boyfriend had a work event tonight, and he’s already fed. I feed the dogs, and he does the dishes. We had friends staying with us for a couple of months, so he makes progress on setting back up our office after the dishes are done.

9 p.m. — Boyfriend finishes installing updates on our desktop computer and setting everything up. I start updating my résumé and LinkedIn profile. Finding jobs in my field is challenging, especially if you can’t relocate, but a client shared a job they thought would be perfect for me, and it is! I’m hoping it works out. Although I love the flexibility of my job, I feel like there isn’t much room for growth. Because the staff is small, I get stuck doing a lot of lower-level tasks I hoped to avoid by getting a master’s. My boyfriend started a new job recently that he loves, so unfortunately, relocating isn’t an option right now. (Though I love moving around!)

11:45 p.m. — Finish up my résumé for the night. (I decided to completely redo everything, including the formatting.) I shower and read a little. My resolution this year is to read at least one book a month, but this is way later than I like to go to bed. I’ll regret this in the morning.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Ugh, my phone died overnight (I didn’t connect it to the wireless charger properly) so I am super late. I rush around, pack up leftovers for lunch, and make a smoothie. My boyfriend deals with the dogs this morning because I’m so behind. I am out the door in 40 minutes, but while trying to put the dogs in the car (we didn’t put their leashes on) one decides to go for a romp in the neighbor’s yard. We panic for 10 minutes, trying to get control of her. I never let them off leash outside of fenced-in areas because I’m too paranoid. The one day I decide to give it a go, it fails miserably! At least the puppy jumped right into the car.

8:30 a.m. — Get to work and luckily, my boss isn’t there yet. I have a pretty easy day. I drink my smoothie and make a list of the things I want to get done. I check my bank account because I forgot about a scheduled payment on my LOFT credit card. I bought a dress for my boyfriend’s holiday party last month and set up the payment to pay in full on the due date. $42.73

1 p.m. — Give in to temptation and get broccoli cheddar soup from Panera and then eat my apple as well. I watch part of the recent Scandal episode on Hulu while I eat. My boyfriend pretty much refuses to watch any of my guilty pleasure television shows so I usually save them for the gym and while I eat lunch. $6.39

3 p.m. — The restaurant just called, begging me to work tonight. I normally only work on Saturdays and Sundays but a coworker has the flu. I’ll have to rush out of here to drop the dogs off home and get back to the restaurant. I’ll be a little late but beggars (the restaurant) can’t be choosers. At least this will help even more with my taxes. After the last two years of being blindsided with taxes (the first year, my company didn’t take the correct taxes out, and last year, I picked up my second job), I’m determined to be a little more prepared this year. I have been saving up and planned to leave the restaurant after I paid my taxes this year, but since we decided to go to Hawaii, I’m going to work until we leave to save money so we don’t have to pick and choose what we do.

9 p.m. — Quick, very slow shift; I’m already home. Didn’t make much money but it’s more than I had at the beginning of the day — and $43 won’t hurt. I inhale a yogurt because I haven’t eaten anything except a few French fries since lunch. Get ready for bed and read. I’m asleep around 11.

Daily Total: $49.12

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I wanted to see see the lunar eclipse and supermoon this morning, but of course it was cloudy. I am convinced that it’s cloudy every time there is supposed to be a neat astronomical event. We do our normal morning routine, and I try a little harder today to look nice and put makeup on. I am going to a new dentist today.

8:15 a.m. — Get to work, where I catch up on what happened during the State of the Union. I am very much a liberal and cannot listen to our current president talk; it makes me too angry or sad, depending on the topic. I usually read his speeches or a synopsis the next day because I still want to be informed.

11:15 a.m. — Ugh, I have five cavities! I go to the dentist every six months, religiously, but I feel like I haven’t gotten the best care since I’ve move here. I decided to go try my boyfriend’s dentist and this checkup confirmed that! At the end of the week, I’ll have to get three of the cavities filled in; after that, we’ll schedule the last two. (One of the cavities wasn’t filled right and needs to be redone.) I’m so annoyed! My dental insurance covered this exam but I’ll have to use my HSA card to pay for my portion of the fillings. I have a $50 deductible, and then my insurance will pay for 80% of fillings after that.

1:30 p.m. — I eat lunch (yogurt, a granola bar, and raw cauliflower with dressing). I usually bring leftovers but I didn’t cook last night so it’s bit of a thrown-together lunch today.

5 p.m. — Load the pups into the car and head home, eating an apple on the way. My boyfriend may be working late tonight as well. I’m trying to decide if I want to make dinner for myself again or order a pizza after I work out. Currently, pizza is winning.

6:30 p.m. — I sat in traffic forever! I’m doing a DVD workout tonight. I like changing it up but both dogs tend to get in my way or lick my face while I’m moving. I get a check from Victoria’s Secret in the mail. I accidentally overpaid my account last month so they sent me the balance ($11.40). My boyfriend gets home shortly after I finish and he wants pizza, too! He pays.

9 p.m. — Get back to updating my résumé and cover letter. Cover letters are the worst. I absolutely hate writing them and always feel like I am not saying the right thing. I get sucked into formatting and Googling good cover letter tips, and don’t realize I’ve been working on it for two hours. Go to bed around 11. This week is killing me. I try to be asleep around 10 most weeknights.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

9 a.m. — I get to work late today. My boss is out of the office, so I slept in a little. Office days are usually pretty light, but field days can easily be 10 or 12 hours long. So, when we have the opportunity to sleep in a little bit, we usually take it — and I have very little to do today. I drink my smoothie and check my bank account. I probably do this more than I should, but I never understand people who don’t know how much money they have in their accounts.

10:30 a.m. — It’s officially February — I bite the bullet and submit my taxes. I still have to file my city taxes (Ohio has state and city taxes) but those are usually pretty accurate and not altered much by having a second job. I have a separate tax savings account, but although I put the money aside for this very purpose, sending this much money off isn’t exactly thrilling. $1,430

1:30 p.m. — Eat lunch: BBQ pulled chicken I made last night in the crockpot, yogurt, and raw cauliflower with dressing.

5:15 p.m. — Drive home. I was going to go to the gym but a friend I haven’t talked to in awhile calls. By the time we get off the phone it is almost 6:30. I munch on a couple of cookies my boyfriend brought home from his work function last night.

7 p.m. — Time for dinner. I roast brussels sprouts to go along with the leftover chicken.

10 p.m. — Attempt to go to bed early, but I end up reading for about an hour. This is such a late week for me!

Daily Total: $1,430

Day Five

7 a.m. — Dentist appointment. Everything goes well and insurance covers most of it — I just have my deductible and the percentage I’m responsible for. I put it on my HSA card, so although it sucks, that is what that money is for. $130

8 a.m. — I have needed to go to Target for like two weeks, but it’s impossible for me to go in there and only get things I need, so I have been putting it off. The dentist’s office is right next to Target though. I finally swing by determined to buy things on my list: acne cream (I never had acne in my entire life, but around age 30, I started breaking out occasionally and it’s the worst), dry shampoo (I’ve been using baby powder, which is … not working out well), and hair ties ($45.33). I also get a Valentine’s Day card for my boyfriend and a peanut butter egg because I’m obsessed ($9.70). Could have been worse — I spent time browsing the face mask and décor aisles. $55.03

9 a.m. — I’v been at work for about half an hour. It’s Friday and I am so looking forward to tonight. Since I normally work late on Saturday nights and during the day on Sundays, Friday nights are the only part of the week that feel like time off to me. I usually try to leave work a bit early and will probably do that today as well.

10:40 a.m. — Check my bank account. I am getting reimbursed $160 for a claim I made on the dog insurance about two weeks ago. As much as I hate paying for the insurance every month, having them reimburse 90% of the puppies’ first-year wellness visit is awesome. I also see that my $95 yearly fee for my Chase Sapphire card went through. I love this card; it has a great points reward system and is amazing when traveling internationally. That being said, my boyfriend has the Sapphire Reserve, which has a much higher yearly fee but much better perks. I transfer all my points to him, and we book travel and redeem points through his account. At this point, I’m not sure if us both having a card with a yearly fee makes sense. This might be my last year I have my card. $95

1 p.m. — I eat leftovers for lunch, a yogurt, and carrots with peanut butter.

3 p.m. — I don’t have much left to do so I screw around online, trying to stay motivated and finish the last thing I need to do today. I have tracked all of my debt since I started seriously trying to pay it off about over two years ago, and I spend far too much time today envisioning how I’ll pay off of the last $6,000 (mostly student loans). It mostly involves fantasies of an SUV and not working a second job.

5 p.m. — Do a quick HIIT workout. My boyfriend and I are going out to dinner tonight, and I need to shower and get ready.

7 p.m. — We have a $25 gift card, but it doesn’t go far at this restaurant. I order one drink, he orders two, and we both get an entree. $85.14

10:30 p.m. — We were supposed to book hotels for our trip to Hawaii, but I fell asleep on the couch.

Daily Total: $365.17

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — Wake up later than I wanted. I like to go to a 9:45 class at the gym, but I slept something like 10 and a half hours according to my Fitbit, so I obviously needed the sleep more. I go to the gym after I eat breakfast.

11:30 a.m. — Boyfriend meets me at the grocery store and we shop for the week. We get lots of fruits and veggies, unsweetened almond milk, he gets lunch meat for himself, we both get yogurt and granola bars, and other items. I pay since he paid last week. $70.14

4 p.m. — I’m closing the restaurant tonight, and I hope it will be busy. I spent too much money yesterday!

11:45 p.m. — Get home from the restaurant. It was busy, and I made good money. I’m so happy!

Daily Total: $70.14

Day Seven

10:30 a.m. — I have to open the restaurant and on the way, I stop at a gas station for an energy drink anda Snickers. $6.97

5 p.m. — Get home from the restaurant; it was somewhat busy, but people always tip terribly on Sundays. What is the deal?!

6 p.m. — Its Super Bowl Sunday but we decide to not watch and book our Hawaii hotels. I order and pay for pizza since my boyfriend bought the pizza last week. (We habitually order pizza once a week.) $19.98

10 p.m. — We’ve finally finished booking everything, and we paid for most of it with points. (We are staying a few different places so it took awhile to sort everything out.) My boyfriend paid about $500, but I paid for and reserved our rental car about a month ago, which evens us out. The total for our trip without airline vouchers and points would have been over $6,000; we only paid $1,500! $117.68

11 p.m. — I deposited my restaurant cash at an ATM when I picked up the pizza, so I throw that on my credit card before bed. Despite my expensive week, our planning and saving has meant that my credit card, checking, and savings account barely saw a hit. Nights like this remind me why working at the restaurant a couple of days a week is worth it. It was a long weekend and my “real” work week is about to start.

Daily Total: $144.63

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