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
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