A Week In Boston On A $14,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We asked a millennial woman how she spends her hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.)

Today, a 22-year-old working at a health center for a post-graduate service program.
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 22
Location: Boston
Salary: $14,000
# Of Roommates:

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600
Gym membership: $2.50 per month.
Loan Payments: $0. The program that I work for rewards educational grants for student loans.
Utilities: ~$30 after being split three ways.
Transportation: $75 per month for an MBTA pass, expensed by the program.
Phone bill: $40 per month. I use last year's tax return for this.
Health Insurance: $0, covered under my parents until I turn 26.

Day One

10:30 a.m. — I visit my alma mater for an interview and decide to stick around to chat with my graduate advisor. I'm starving afterwards since I didn't eat breakfast. Another three hours on the bus without food sounds unappealing, so I quickly order an egg white omelet and a raspberry muffin from the student cafe. Cue nostalgia. $7.80

11:00 a.m. — I proceed to get on the bus and pass the f*ck out. $26.00

6:30 p.m. — I stop by my local grocery store. I typically try to shop on the weekends, when sales are taking place. I qualify for federal assistance so I receive $194 per month for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT and try to budget around $30 to $40 a week, with the surplus used to buy splurge items that aren't part of my core staples (ice cream, interesting fruit), or groceries for my parents. Today, the store has a sale on grapes. Some Cheez-Its and goat cheese find their way in my basket too. Oops. $12.50

7:00 p.m. — I walk back home, fix myself a dinner of grapes, goat cheese, crackers, and leftover pork buns my mother so graciously made for me. Then I crack open my latest library find: Atul Gawande's Being Mortal. Best Friday ever.

Total amount spent: $46.30 ($12.50 from EBT)

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for work. The bulk of my patients are busy during the weekdays so I try to meet them on Saturday mornings. I make a berry smoothie from my stash of frozen fruit and have a square of caffeinated chocolate my friend gave me.

10:00 a.m. — I'm hungry. I eat some cheese and crackers I brought with me.

12:30 p.m. — Lunch is leftover pizza from my mother that she gave me when I visited her last weekend and some grapes from yesterday.

1:00 p.m. — I decide to return some books to the library, and then I head to my local community center to hit the elliptical. My community center gym membership is a steal at $30 a year.

2:00 p.m. — Refreshed after my workout, I walk to my local Chinese grocery store, where they have dirt cheap sales on the weekend. I snag two papayas, four eggplants, one bag of pea shoots, and a bottle of soy chili paste. $12.82 (EBT)

3:00 - 5:30 p.m. — I volunteer at the local women's shelter so I help with dinner prep. Afterwards, I fix myself a plate of mashed potatoes, BBQ chicken, and broccoli, a nice volunteer perk. Yum.

7:30 p.m. — I head over to the Fenway area to celebrate my friends’ birthdays with dinner and clubbing. Since I already ate earlier, I opt for a pear margarita at the restaurant and cranberry vodka at the club ($22.27). I resist the urge to Uber home at the end of the night, even though public transport takes forever (approximately one hour). Can’t forget the cover charges as well; we go to two clubs, with a $5 cover each. Total: $32.27

1:00 a.m. — I arrive back home with the drunchies and finish off my Cheez-Its from yesterday.

Total amount spent: $45.09 ($12.82 from EBT)

Day Three

10:00 a.m. — I wake up feeling surprisingly productive and prep various lunches for the week and today. Since I teach cooking classes at work, a lot of these ingredients are leftovers. Win! I make some bacon carbonara, roasted sun dried tomatoes and asparagus, yu xiang eggplant, and steamed egg whites with scallions and crab.

1:00 p.m. — It’s such a gorgeous day out, so I walk with my roommate to our local grocery store. Food shopping is my version of retail therapy, so I grab some frozen fruit, some pumpkin bar mix, bananas, grapes, and garlic bread. The pumpkin mix and the garlic bread were both finds from the discount shelf — I always try to buy dry goods on sale that can be used later (beans, rice, lentils, or cake mix). $15.68 (EBT)

3:30 p.m. — I get hungry again, so I polish off my goat cheese and crackers, as well as a papaya.

8:00 p.m. — Roommate dinner! We make stir fry pea shoots, garlic bread, and strawberries with balsamic vinegar.

Total amount spent: $15.68 from EBT

Day Four

7:00 a.m. — Breakfast is some overnight oats with chia seeds and soy milk from the pantry. I inhale another square of caffeinated chocolate.

10:45 a.m. — Exciting news! I receive a graduate school interview through email. I quickly book my plane ticket, courtesy of my parents. I’m lucky to have parents who are able and willing to invest in my education (and will expect all the money back, of course). $340.20 (Parental contribution)

12:00 p.m. — Lunch is bacon carbonara, grapes, and papaya.

1:00 p.m. — I book a hotel for the interview as well. $97.98 (Parental contribution)

6:30 p.m. — I take advantage of the current sale at the Chinese mart again and get two boxes of strawberries, two papayas, a pack of my favorite spicy ramen, eggplants, and scallions. $15.57 (EBT)

8:00 p.m. — Dinner is leftover steamed eggs and crab, eggplant, and strawberries.

Total amount spent: $453.75 ($438.18, parents; $15.57 from EBT)

Day Five

7:00 a.m. — I’m running late so I eat some papaya before rushing out.

9:20 a.m. — Fruit for breakfast doesn’t cut it, so I pull out my work stash of crackers and cheese. I also have some tea (my coworker and I are the type of people who receive lots of tea as gifts), a banana (leftover from the after-school program I run), and a random sugar cookie I found in the break room.

11:00 a.m. — I eat another sugar cookie and fix myself another cup of tea.

12:00 p.m. — I eat my packed lunch: leftover bacon carbonara, eggplant, some grapes and strawberries. I tend to cycle through favorite dishes until I get tired of them.

6:00 p.m. — I finish volunteering at the women’s shelter again and receive a mini-sized pineapple pie. I save it for later.

7:00 p.m. — I unsuccessfully battle the urge for Burger King. After chicken nuggets, fries, and an Oreo shake, I feel mildly disgusting. $6.52

8:00 p.m. — I get home and I’m out of underwear and socks, but don’t feel like paying the coin-operated washer and dryer for such a small load. I wash my garments by hand in the kitchen sink and hang them on the drying rack.

10:00 p.m. — Pre-bedtime snack of strawberries and balsamic vinegar.

Total amount spent: $6.52

Day Six

7:00 a.m. — Some cut up papaya again and a square of caffeinated chocolate.

12:00 p.m. — I accompany my coworker to a local grocery store during our lunch break because all I packed for lunch was fruit. The place is mad expensive. I get some honey BBQ chicken tenders, crackers, and a pack of lemon squares for later. Good thing the chicken tenders were refrigerated, because my EBT money cannot be used for hot, prepared foods. My actual lunch is just the packed fruit (papaya and strawberries) and half the tenders. The lemon squares will be saved for when I’m having a down day. $17.65 (EBT)

6:30 p.m. — I stop by an alumni reception at Harvard Medical School to network with current students and other healthcare professionals. I eat enough fancy appetizers to count as dinner (braised mushrooms, baked brie and baguette slices, chorizo paella, and lots of calamari). Everything tastes better when it’s free!

Total amount spent: $17.65 from EBT

Day Seven

7:00 a.m. — Mixing up breakfast with a bowl of horchata and granola. I get sick of foods pretty easily, so it’s important for me to have a wide variety of breakfast staples in my pantry.

12:00 p.m. — The rest of my chicken tenders, some eggplant, and papaya and grapes for lunch.

6:30 p.m. — My friend comes over for dinner, and I go all out. I make eggplant, garlic pea shoots, honey-ginger-soy salmon, and rice. I always have a huge 20 pound bag of rice on hand, and I usually keep pre-portioned frozen salmon fillets in my freezer. I buy big fillets from Costco at $5.99 a pound (permanent price) and portion them separately. Usually about $20.00 will be enough for approximately two months.

Total amount spent: $0.00
Editor note: Without including travel expenses covered by her parents, or EBT food spendings, this diarist spent $72.59 this week.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day.

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