A Week In Atlanta, GA, On A $30,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Nature's Bounty.
Welcome to Money 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 grad student who makes $30,000 per year and spends some of it on fish oil softgels.
Occupation: Genetics Ph.D. Candidate
Industry: Science
Age: 28
Location: Atlanta, GA
Salary: $30,000
Paycheck (Once A Month): $2,068
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $819 for my half in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in a new building. (This is after a 50/50 split with my partner.)
Loan Payments: $448. I'm paying off a balance transfer before the 0% APR period ends.
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Utilities: ~$95 for my half of water, gas, trash, power, internet.
Netflix: $10
Amazon Prime: $4 for the student rate
Cell Phone: ~$42 for Google Project Fi. (This changes based on the previous month's usage.)
Savings: None, as I'm paying down debt.
Health Insurance: $0 — taken out of paycheck.
Medical: $45 for dental insurance, cleanings, America's Best eye care club, contacts
Car Insurance, Registration & Gas: $115
School Fees: $58
Trips & Events: $100 — I pay for many of these annually, but I like to budget my money monthly, so I save money for these items accordingly.
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9 a.m. — I wake up and my partner, M, and I make breakfast: low 'n slow scrambled eggs, bacon, and avocado toast. M and I share the cost of groceries, and we only Venmo each other if the total is above $35 for a single trip. I generally spend about $150 or less per month on groceries by shopping at Kroger and stocking up on meat at Costco every few months. (We spent $258 there a few months ago and only go twice a year using Costco cash cards.) We make some iced coffee at home with almond milk and stevia.

12 p.m. — We spend the next couple of hours catching up on Veep and Chelsea, and then I get ready to head out. As soon as I'm about to leave, however, our power goes out. Our parking garage uses an automated gate, so I worry that I'll have trouble leaving and ask a security officer walking through the garage for help. He tries to open it but has to call someone else to crank it open. After about 15 minutes, I'm free!

12:40 p.m. — I arrive at the American Red Cross a little late for my platelet donation appointment. Luckily there's a 15-minute window, and not many people are here today. I've donated platelets three times before (all last year), but the first two times were pretty difficult and I had to cut my time short due to severe nausea. The fourth time I came about five months ago, they didn't stick my vein well, and the needle that delivers the saline plus the rest of your blood back to you wasn't inserted straight, so I had cut that appointment short as well. I'm hoping this time will be better.

1:30 p.m. — I answer questions for about an hour, and then we start. Three minutes after they start drawing, I feel the pressure building in my right arm and think I'm having the same problem as last time. Another worker comes over and tries to find a new spot to stick, but my right arm apparently sucks and I just don't have any other available area. The guy bandages me up and puts an ice pack on my arm. I feel bad for wasting their time and being unable to help, especially since I don't have much money to donate. There is a high demand for platelets and you can donate every seven days, as opposed to every eight weeks for whole blood. Despite my experience, people with nice veins can donate blood pretty easily!

2 p.m. — Since I'm finished way earlier than planned, I decided to run a few errands. I stop by Kroger to pick up my prescription, which is fully covered by my student insurance. The pharmacy tech tells me I have a $2 coupon and she rips it off for me to use on groceries. I buy toothpaste and M texts me to get lime juice and club soda for a cocktail he wants to make. I also pick up a small pack of blackberries because I've been craving them lately. $2.84

2:30 p.m. — I stop by T.J. Maxx to see if they have any shorts. I get a pair of blue and white striped ones that fit perfectly and also spend way too much time mulling over a serving tray to use when we grill by our pool. I decide not to get it, but I do get a little pineapple trinket that opens up to hold stuff inside. I totally forget to use my $10 gift card, which was part of the reason I came here in the first place. $25.05

3:30 p.m. — I get home and clean up a little, then have some ice-cold lemon water while I sit outside and read on our patio.

4 p.m. — M comes home and we change into our swimsuits to hang out by the pool and read. We live in a new building with a pool courtyard area that reminds me of a resort, so I love coming out any chance I get.

6 p.m. — I have to go to lab and work on things I should have done yesterday, so I drive in and park in the lot behind the building. The gates are open after hours, which include weekends.

9 p.m. — I get home to see one of our friend's hanging out. We watch some Summer House, eat leftover onion rings I made the other day, and decide to order dinner. I really wanted to have leftovers because I'm on a tight budget and already went over mine for today, but our friend hasn't eaten either, so I bite the bullet. We order wings on Postmates; the delivery fee is a real bummer.

10:15 p.m. — Our food comes and they forget our fries! I tip our Postmates delivery guy, email Postmates about the fries, and they give me a small refund. Our friend gives me some cash and M Venmos me half of the remaining amount. $11.68

11:30 p.m. — Our friend heads out, and M and I watch L'Avventura, which he picked up at the local indie movie rental store. We both fall asleep about halfway through.

Daily Total: $39.57
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9 a.m. — We wake up and walk to Publix to pick up something for a friend's Memorial Day gathering later today. We end up getting an apple pie; it's $4, and M pays.

10 a.m. — I want to go to the pool because the sun's out and it's supposed to storm later today. M goes to our building's gym, and I make an iced coffee from the Starbucks machine in our club room before going outside. I sit and read Women's Health, and then finally decide to swim after I get hot. No one else is out here today, and I love it.

11 a.m. — Swimming is hard! I quit after doing about 10 lengths and then continue reading under the umbrella.

12 p.m. — M and I shower and get ready for our friend's party. We stop by Urban Outfitters on our way to check out a sale they're having, but neither of us ends up buying anything. We head to our friend's house with the beer we bought last week and the pie.

3:30 p.m. — We have a great time at our friend's house, eating and drinking. There's a ton of leftover food, and we end up leaving with three-fourths of a cookie cake and more beer than we came with.

4 p.m. — I want to stop by World Market because I have a 20% off coupon and it's my favorite store. I see a few things I like but decide to purchase them online because I think they're cheaper on the website. We also stop by Saks Off Fifth and T.J. Maxx. I end up using my gift card at T.J. Maxx and get a striped tank ($10). I convince M to stop by HomeGoods so I can look for a cooler, serving tray, and a basket. I end up finding a cute, white wicker basket that we can use to store blankets ($27). Our last stop is Target to check out their sale. I see a beach towel I like but it's cheaper online, so I decided to wait until I get home for that one, too. $38

7 p.m. — We get home and are exhausted. We heat up leftovers (steak with peppers and onions that we grilled the other day) and eat some of the cookie cake while watching The Bachelorette.

9 p.m. — I go on World Market's website and buy six melamine plates and acrylic glasses for when we grill because we can't bring glass out there ($22). After, I buy a serving tray and the beach blanket from Target I was eyeing ($19). I'm over budget, but I have quite a few items listed on various consignment sites, so hopefully those will pay off soon. $41

10 p.m. — We finish watching L'Avventura and head to bed.

Daily Total: $78
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7:30 a.m. — I wake up and decide to work out. I saved a HIIT workout from Women's Health, so I bring that to the gym with me.

8:30 a.m. — After I shower and get ready, I drink water and have Greek yogurt with honey and blackberries. I pack some iced coffee M made before he left, and a sausage, egg, and cheese burrito from Costco, along with pistachios for lunch.

9 a.m. — I drive to work instead of riding my bike because it's raining. Because I don't have a parking permit (they cost $700), I park off campus and then take the bus or walk the rest of the way.

2:30 p.m. — It's been a pretty busy day, so I eat a late lunch after our lab meeting.

7:30 p.m. — I walk to my car and drive straight home. I'm so hungry!

8 p.m. — I whip up a kale, tomato, craisin, and crispy chickpea salad (I like to sauté the chickpeas in oil until they get crispy, and then toss them with grated parmesan). M grills some hot Italian sausages from Costco downstairs. I also throw the last of the onion rings in the oven to reheat.

9 p.m. — We eat dinner and catch up on Veep.

10:30 p.m. — Pretty Little Liars in bed, then sleep.

Daily Total: $0
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8 a.m. — Wake up, get ready, and pack some cold brew M made. I pack my lunch (leftover salad and sausage) and head outside to check on my bike. I've been bringing it inside our apartment because someone stole all the lights, my portable pump, and my multi-tool from the saddle bag a few weeks ago, but I was in a hurry the other day and left it locked up outside. Our apartment is right above where I lock it, and when I looked down yesterday, I thought my saddle bag might be missing. Sure enough, the bag (which had an extra tube, my new multi-tool, and the rear light) is gone. I contacted management about this last time and didn't get a response, so I'm sure they won't care this time either. I bring my bike inside our apartment and drive to lab because it's raining again.

9 a.m. — I catch the bus and check my previous Amazon orders to see how much my stolen stuff is worth; the total is $93. The only things I need to order now are a new multi-tool and rear light. I'll just be out one spare tube.

12:30 p.m. — I eat my lunch with a friend in a break room.

7:30 p.m. — I take the bus back to my car and head home.

8 p.m. — I thawed some Costco salmon last night, so we make Chrissy Teigen's Thai chili salmon with brown rice and (frozen) roasted carrots. I sprinkle cilantro from our plant outside over the rice.

Daily Total: $0
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8 a.m. — I wake up, make yogurt with honey and blackberries, and drink some water. I grab my lunch (leftovers from last night) and bike into lab.

11:30 a.m. — A friend texts me to tell me that she's at a local Vietnamese bakery and ask if I want a banh mi. I say hell yes. I'll save the lunch I brought for another time.

12 p.m. — My friend comes back with the sandwich and I Venmo her for it. $4

2:30 p.m. — I get a notification that a wallet I listed on eBay sold. After all the fees, I'll probably make a $7 profit ($167).

5:45 p.m. — I bike home, starving. My ride is only about 3.5 miles, but Atlanta is hilly, and I'm exhausted. I've been craving ice cream all day, so I have some Halo Top (birthday cake is my favorite) with a zero calorie chocolate topping. After, I whip up chicken nachos with leftover ingredients in the fridge.

7:30 p.m. — I shower and read The Handmaid's Tale on the couch while I wait for M to come home.

9 p.m. — I split the rest of the cookie cake from the Memorial Day party with M while we catch up on Terrace House.

Daily Total: $4
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7:15 a.m. — Wake up and "HIIT" the gym. After, I grab a coffee from the Starbucks machine in our clubroom, check the mail, and get my lunch together. I didn't finish the sausage and salad from the other day, so I throw the leftovers in a container and pack that up to go. I don't shower yet because I'm biking today and will definitely get sweaty.

8:30 a.m. — I head out the door with M, and bike into lab.

11:30 a.m. — Eat my lunch and check out the deals offered today by an online deal club in which I'm a member. They used to require members to write reviews in exchange for deeply discounted (and sometimes free) Amazon products. The reviews are no longer required, and I order a bottle of 120 fish oil softgels for less than a quarter. $0.20

5 p.m. — I bike home, shower, chill for a bit, and get ready for a special dinner M and I planned at a restaurant that opened recently. Reservations only come out once a month, and they sell out instantly, so I'm super pumped even though it will be pricey.

7:45 p.m. — We get ready and Uber over to the restaurant; M pays for the Uber. Dinner is fantastic, with great cocktails, knowledgeable servers, and delicious small farm food. $65.26

10:15 p.m. — After dinner, we walk around to see which bars are poppin'. We end up at a biergarten, and M gets us a round.

11 p.m. — We stop by another bar that was dead when we first walked by; now it's fairly crowded and seems fun. There's a $5 cover, and M gets cash from the ATM inside. I get a round of High Lifes, but the bartender only charges me for one. I tip for two drinks. $5

12 a.m. — We head home, and I get an UberPool. $3.74

Daily Total: $74.20
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9 a.m. — I wake up, make an iced coffee, and head to World Market to pick up the items I ordered earlier this week. They weren't less expensive online after all. I normally hate driving in this city, but weekend mornings are the best time to drive if you have to. It smells like summer, and I'm bumping Outkast. Of course, once I get to the store, I get sucked in and look at all the pretty things. I end up getting a white, pineapple-shaped cookie jar that was unavailable online, paying with my 15% off birthday coupon. $13.82

10:45 a.m. — I change into my swimsuit, head to our pool to swim for a bit, and read Glamour.

11:30 a.m. — I shower and get ready for a brunch to celebrate my birthday, which is in a couple of days.

12:15 p.m. — M and I head to the restaurant in an Uber. He pays.

2:30 p.m. — Brunch was amazing. I had a Bloody Mary and a chimichanga, which M covers for me. He also brought along a cookie cake with sparkling "29" candles and even bought me two books as a gift. I feel very loved and insanely stuffed. Our group heads to a nearby brewery for the afternoon. One of my friends pays for the UberXL, and M pays for my $12 tasting tickets.

6 p.m. — The brewery is hosting a wedding and starts to kick out any stragglers. Some people head home, but the rest of us go back to our apartment building. Two of my friends that arrived later drive us back to our building.

11:30 p.m. — We play pool for a while and order barbecue from a place across the street. M and I split a half-rack of ribs and fries; he pays. I'm so tired by this point that we pass out shortly after the last few people leave.

Daily Total: $13.82
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