A Week In Iowa City On A $46K 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 cent. (Thanks, New York Mag, for the inspiration.)
Today, a social worker in Iowa City, IA who gets a respiratory infection and is sent to the ER.

Industry: Social Work
Age: 28
Location: Iowa City, IA
Salary: $46,000
# of roommates: 0
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Monthly Expenses:
Rent:
$565
Student loan payments: $467
TV/Internet: $56
Electricity: ~$20
Phone bill: $45
Retirement fund: ~$280

Day One

7 a.m. — Breakfast at home. I have a piece of fish and avocado for breakfast with a Mountain Dew Mini (I'm out of coffee).

10 a.m. —I have a snack of tortilla chips and hummus.

10:30 a.m. — A coworker delivers my order of Girl Scout cookies to my office because I need my yearly supply of Thin Mints. I successfully resist the urge to eat one right away. $12

1 p.m. — I treat my boyfriend to coffee. $10.75

2 p.m. — I eat some Crock-Pot quinoa bake that I made, and also a Thin Mint.

4:30 p.m. — Eat a couple of boiled egg whites with some hummus...and another Thin Mint.

6:45 p.m. — Dinner. Another Crock-Pot dinner from the freezer, but turkey chili this time.

9:30 p.m. — I get drinks with friends at Givanni's and Sanctuary. $19

Total: $41.75


Day Two


8:30 a.m. — I wake up early to have coffee at Starbucks with my boyfriend. We go dutch. $5.64

1 p.m. — I help a friend move, and then my best guy friend and I grab lunch at Thai Spice. I wanted to go somewhere cheaper but my first choice was closed. $24.00

2 p.m. — I drop by an Old Chicago birthday party for the 1-year-old daughter of a coworker (present: $19.08). But hey, I won a prize from my World Beer Tour Card at the party! I treat my boyfriend to a beer since I dragged him along ($13.43). Total: $32.51

3:15 p.m. — After the party, we head to meet a realtor at a house I'm scheduled to see. We realize we don't have enough gas to make it across town, so I fill up a full tank of gas. $17.44

4:30 p.m. — I drop by Jo-Ann Fabric to get some ribbon to replace the ugly leather ties on my Ugg boots. $5.49

7 p.m. — Deadpool double date with another couple. My boyfriend buys the tickets, I buy the pop and popcorn with a coupon. $11.40

9 p.m. — Drinks with friends at 2 Dogs Pub. My boyfriend was quicker in pulling out his credit card so he pays. We go to Joe's Place afterward, but I'm tired so I don't get anything.

Total: $96.48


Day Three


10 a.m. — Breakfast with my boyfriend at Fair Grounds: coffee, bacon, eggs, and a vegan muffin. My treat. $27.08

2 p.m. — I have leftovers from yesterday's lunch.

3 p.m. — Laundry in the coin-operated machine in my building. $9

4:45 p.m. —I grab a "fruit" smoothie from McDonald's. $2.22

5 p.m. — I wait in a crazy long line for a car wash — it's been a couple months so it's due. $8.00

5:30 p.m. — Grocery shopping at Aldi (eggs, red lentils, blueberries, cheddar, soy pasta, pasta sauce, cilantro, vegetable stock, coffee, tea, avocados, hummus, and a houseplant for $36.04). I also drop by Hy-Vee (two pieces of salmon, spinach, quinoa-oatmeal hot cereal, carrots, cumin, lemon, and an onion for $19.12). Total: $55.16

6:15 p.m. — My jerk upstairs neighbors stopped my dryer while I was out so I have to pay to restart the dryer. $1.00

8 p.m. — I make a lentil soup for dinner for me and my boyfriend. He loves lentils; I could do without.

Total: $102.46


Day Four


7 a.m. — Breakfast: Coffee with almond milk, quinoa-oatmeal hot cereal, blueberries.

9:30 a.m. — I have a routine doctor's appointment, co-pay is $5.

10:30 a.m. — I buy an almond milk latte at The Java House to take upstairs to my office. My work friend also brought in tiny scones, which were a little sweet for me. $6.06

2 p.m. — Lunch. I heat up another one of my homemade meals: turkey chili.

4:30 p.m. — I have some tea and a couple of Thin Mints.

6 p.m. — Dinner is salmon and spinach at home. Yum.

10 p.m. — My upstairs neighbors' yelling (the only volume they have) wakes me up. I realize I'm also hungry so I have some buttered noodles. I make poor food choices when I'm sleepy.

Total: $11.06

Day Five


8 a.m. — I call in sick to work (I almost made it through through the winter without getting sick). I make myself quinoa-oatmeal hot cereal and blueberries, plus coffee with almond milk to try to soothe my throat.

10 a.m. — I don't feel well enough to drive and my boyfriend's car is in the shop, so I ask a friend to drop off some sick supplies: Gatorade, tissues, cough drops ($8). I throw my friend some gas money ($10). Total: $18

3 p.m. — I wake up still feeling really bad, but figure I should try to eat something. I have Jimmy John's delivered and then don't feel like eating it. I end up taking Motrin for my fever. $12.00

9:30 p.m. — I run out of supplies and my fever is still climbing, so I call my mom. She suggests alternating Motrin and Tylenol. I don't have any Tylenol so I ask another friend to please bring me some Tylenol. He refuses to take any money. $0

10 p.m. — I give the Jimmy John's another try. It's pretty tasty.

Total: $30.00


Day Six


3 p.m. — I finally get out of bed. I still feel bad, but I am a little hungry. I decide I want the ultimate comfort food — hamburger and french fries from McDonald's. I have it delivered through OrderUp but when it arrives, I don't feel like eating it. $14.77

4 p.m. — I realize that even after Tylenol and Motrin I still have a fever, so I call and ask a friend to take me to the QuickCare Clinic. My co-pay is $0.

4:30 p.m. — I have a respiratory infection. The physician's assistant at QuickCare sends me straight to the emergency room for IV fluids and a chest x-ray. At least I don't end up getting admitted. They make me drink some Sprite before I go because my blood sugar is low. We'll find out in a few weeks how much the coinsurance is for the x-ray and fluids, but the co-pay for the visit is $50.
8 p.m. — My boyfriend brings me an almond chai tea latte and then my friend takes us all back to my place. My boyfriend's car is still in the shop so he takes my car to pick up more Gatorade and tissues. He also gets me a taco and some potato oles from Taco John's and a glazed donut at Dunkin' Donuts per my request. I know I should eat healthier when I'm sick but when I feel so rotten, all I want is junk.

Total: $64.77

Day Seven


8 a.m. — I wake up and have some tea and a donut.

2 p.m. — I wake up again and have some lentil soup from the other day. I eat some popsicles and drink tea the rest of the afternoon while I watch Flashdance and a documentary on parental bonding with adopted Russian orphans.

8:30 p.m. I have some noodles, more tea, Gatorade, popsicles.

Total: $0
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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