A Week In Durham, N.C., On $15 An Hour

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

Today, a barista in North Carolina prepping for her honeymoon, splitting all costs with her husband.
Job: Visual resources graduate assistant at a public university library (20 hours a week); barista (12 hours a week)
Age: 26
Location: Durham, N.C.
Salary: Hourly employee: $15/hour as a graduate assistant and $13.75/hour as a barista.
Paycheck Amount: $1,050 (visual resources) and $505 (barista) per month after taxes. My husband works as a contracted corporate archivist for 14 hours a week, and a library page, for $895 and $750 a month, respectively. We're both in graduate school full-time while working. My husband and I each maintain separate checking and savings accounts, but end up paying most of our paychecks into our joint credit card where almost all of our purchases go.
# of roommates: 3 (husband and two cats)
Monthly Expenses
All of these expenses are split 50/50 between me and my husband. Most are put on our
joint credit card.

Rent: $595, $297.50 for my half
Health Insurance: The full cost of our medical insurance is $772.82 per month, but we get a $400 per month discount from the health insurance marketplace, making the monthly payment $372.82; $186.41 for my half.
Dental Insurance: $42.90; my half: $21.45
Utilities: $190; my half: $95
Groceries: $480; my half: $240
Restaurants: $200; my half: $100
Gas: $120; my half: $60
Car insurance: $80; my half: $40
Netflix: $9; my half: $4.50
Renter's Insurance: $120 per year; my half: $60
Phone Bill: Free; both of us are still on our families' plans.
Hulu: Free; using our friend's login.
Savings: Digit usually saves me around $100 per month; I have $4,500 in federal student loans from grad school, but I am not paying them back until I graduate.

Day One

8:10 a.m. — I wake up and make Panama coffee in our Bonavita to have with a ginger carrot muffin from Trader Joe's. One major perk of my job as a barista is a free half-pound of coffee beans each week, which is worth about $34 per month.

10 a.m. — I head to therapy and write a check for a month's worth of appointments ($100 for two). $50

11:30 a.m. — I have a burrito bowl for lunch made with brown rice, Soyrizo, corn, bell pepper, pinto beans, lettuce, and cilantro cashew crema.

12 p.m. — I arrive at work and make a single soy cappuccino for myself.

2 p.m. — I eat a raw date and coconut snack from work.

2:30 p.m. — I make a small iced Americano.

5:30 p.m. — Finally get home, wash all the coffee grinds off, and eat some hummus and crackers, while my husband and I decide what to do for dinner.

6 p.m. — I usually go on a run later at night, but it's supposed to thunderstorm, so I go now. Free exercise!

7 p.m. — Back from our run, we split a Clif Builders bar in lieu of a protein shake.

8 p.m. — I noticed our change jar was full, so I decided to cash it in at Coinstar and go out to dinner to celebrate getting our central air conditioning unit replaced. We save change from tips I get as a barista (which is usually an extra $2 an hour) and random change. We use that money to treat ourselves. (+$90, $82 after Coinstar's cut). We pay for parking in a garage since there's an event downtown and it's all we can find — $7, but it's a joint expense, so we split. We share an appetizer and each order an entree and dessert. The total comes to $49 plus tip ($65). We are planning to use the last $10 from the change jar to go out to a cheap taqueria soon. $36

Daily Total: $86

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up and start coffee.

8 a.m. — I arrive at work and eat steel cut oats and leftover dessert from last night's dinner date for breakfast.

11 a.m. — I eat leftover seitan chicken and waffles from last night's dinner for lunch.

2:30 p.m. — I eat a later lunch, another burrito bowl.

4 p.m. — On the drive home from work, I eat Clif Builders bar.

4:30 p.m. — My husband and I are preparing to go on our honeymoon, so we are spending a bit extra to have a few things for our trip. I buy a neck pillow and packing cubes for myself. $20

4:30 p.m. — We also make some joint purchases: an international adapter and a carry-on backpack ($137). We also restock the cat litter and canned cat food ($33). We split all these costs. $85

5 p.m. — I pay off flights between Barcelona, Milan, and Berlin from our honeymoon fund, which is all the money we got from family and friends at our wedding. Total is $550, but we split. $275

6 p.m. — I meet friend for dinner at a local BBQ place with awesome vegan options. I order enough food for my dinner, and lunch tomorrow for my boo: barbecue tempeh, slaw, pickles, and fried okra. $18

Daily Total: $398

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and make coffee.

8:30 a.m. — I toast another orange ginger muffin.

11 a.m. — I eat a Clif Builders bar before work.

12 p.m. — I get to work at the coffee shop and make a soy cortado.

2 p.m. — I eat another free raw snack.

3 p.m. — My husband goes by Sally Beauty Supply while I'm at work to pick up hair dye and developer for me, two months' worth. $9

5:30 p.m. — We head to Whole Foods for some groceries for this week: salad greens, golden beets, bread, hummus, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, cauliflower. We also grab a salad and cornbread from the hot bar to split for dinner tonight. ($43 total) $21.50

6:30 p.m. — We go on a run.

7:30 p.m. — Dinner is warmed black beans with the last of the cilantro crema and cornbread with salad.

8 p.m. — My husband decides to make oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert. Half the cookie dough goes in the freezer for later use.

Daily Total: $30.50

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up and have coffee and oatmeal raisin cookies from last night.

1 p.m. — I make mac and cheese with roasted broccoli for myself, and extra for lunches.

6 p.m. — I go to the Asian market to pick up a few things that are way cheaper than at Whole Foods to help with meal prep for the week: mushrooms, tofu, cilantro, scallions, togarashi. ($9 total) $4.50

7 p.m. — I prep salad toppings for the week: roasted chickpeas and pickled red onion.

9 p.m. — For a cheap date night, my husband brings home two movies from the library: The To Do List and Magic Mike. Double feature!

Daily Total: $4.50

Day Five

8 a.m. — I get up for work and there's no coffee left at home, so I make a triple 8-ounce soy latte when I get to the coffee shop. I also pick up a half-pound of Nicaraguan beans for home and eat a Clif Builder bar.

2:30 p.m. — When I get home, I have soy-and-ginger-marinated golden beets with pickled onion and rice for lunch.

7 p.m. — Relaxing tea and the last oatmeal cookies to unwind from a hectic day.

8 p.m. — We watch a movie from Hulu, and I have a snack of toast with avocado and tomato. I also pop some popcorn.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8:30am — My husband makes a big brunch spread: tempeh sausage crumbles, banana French toast, tofu scramble with kale. We also drink a lot of coffee.

12 p.m. — I run some (more!) errands to prepare for our trip to Europe: maps from Barnes & Noble ($26) and a crossbody bag from Walmart ($14). ($40 total) $20

1 p.m. — On a rare day off together, we hit up a coffee shop to grab some espresso and play gin rummy. I win. $4

2:30 p.m. — Since all that winning made me hungry, we stop by a Mediterranean restaurant. We order two massive meals with enough leftovers for next day's lunch. ($20) $10

4 p.m. — Afterward, we stop by a local comic book shop to keep our date going strong and get
volume 6 of Saga, which we've both been eagerly anticipating. ($15) $7.50

5 p.m. — Back at home, I buy a travel wallet on Amazon because Walmart didn't have one. $6

Daily Total: $47.50

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I bring coffee and steel cut oats from home.

12 p.m. — Lunch is mac and cheese and salad packed the night before.

3 p.m. — I pick my husband up from work, and we pick up the 100 euros we ordered from the bank. The money comes from our honeymoon fund.

4 p.m. — It's 100 degrees with 70% humidity, so we stop for some bubble tea. I get honeydew; the dude gets taro. (total $8) $4

4:30 p.m. — Another stop at Whole Foods for B12, which is on-sale. ($12 total) $6

7 p.m. — Dinner is a homemade veggie burger, salad, and some more mac and cheese.

8:30 p.m. — We finish off the night with Skeleton Twins, tea, and some much-needed relaxation.

Daily Total: $10
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

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. For more money diaries, click here.


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