A Week In Louisville, KY, On $13 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 Yorkmag, for the inspiration.)

Today, a document clerk in Louisville, KY, buying plane tickets to New York and showing her sister around town.
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Industry: I work part-time at a law firm as a document clerk, and one day a week at an upscale grocery store. I’m starting grad school for speech pathology in the fall.
Age: 23
Location: Louisville, KY
Wage: Law firm as a document clerk for $13 an hour, with 37.5 hours a week. I also work 8.5 hours a week at a grocery store for $9.50 an hour.
Paycheck Amount (every 2 weeks): Around $850 after taxes and the parking-garage fee
# of roommates: 0

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $530
Loan Payments: None (yet)! I was blessed with a school that gives great financial aid as well as some scholarships.
Utilities: Now that it’s summer, about $40. I’m cold-blooded, so I keep it hot.
Transportation: $40 for the parking garage, taken out of my paychecks. $50 for gas. $75 for car insurance.
Phone Bill: $0. Still on the family plan.
Health Insurance: $0. Still on my parents’ plan.
Savings: I automatically send $50/paycheck ($100/month) to a high-interest savings account, and $25/month to a 529 account for education expenses. At the end of the month, I transfer as much as I can afford to savings. It’s been as high as $400 and as low as $0, depending on if I have to make big purchases that month.
Spotify: $10
Gym: $10
Netflix: Free (I use my family’s account)
Charity: $38
Internet: $35

Day One

11:30 a.m. — Breakfast at work. I eat all of my meals late. I keep peanut butter, oatmeal, and trail mix at work and always bring a banana so I can mix and match.

3 p.m. — I eat a salad I brought from home with greens, sorghum, sauteed carrots and mushrooms, and halloumi cheese. I stayed up until midnight last night food-prepping, because I didn't have time to do it earlier. This salad makes it worth it.

4:45 p.m. — I head to the gym after work and stop by Kroger (grocery store), which is right next door. I’ve been feeling really worn out today, so I get a Powerade Zero. I also get some corn tortillas because I’m out and they’re a staple. $3

7 p.m. — I make some quick tacos for dinner with the tortillas and ingredients I had around, and watch two episodes of Girls (finally catching up).

8 p.m. — My sister is coming to visit in a few days, and I’m making her some natural beauty products for a birthday present. I go to a local natural/health-food store and get a grapefruit (I’m going to use the peel for a toner) and some glass jars and containers for my concoctions ($11). I talk myself out of buying all of the delicious, overpriced food that they have. I still need one more jar of a specific size, so I run to Target to get it from the dollar section. Of course, I end up wandering around and get four La Croix and a little basil plant, too ($8). $19

10:30 p.m. — My boyfriend comes over so we can watch Game of Thrones, and he brings me guacamole from his dinner stop on the way over. I use it to make more tacos, since I’m still hungry.

Daily Total: $22

Day Two

12 p.m. — Breakfast at work again, and plenty of free office coffee. It’s not great, but I had to do grad-school student-loan paperwork last night, and it scared me into trying to save more money.

2 p.m. — I always use my lunch break to take a walk, so today I walk to CVS and get a birthday card for my grandma. Cards are very overpriced and very cheesy, but I do my best. $5

3 p.m. — My boyfriend and I are going to New York next month to visit some of my family and friends, so I finally bite the bullet and buy plane tickets ($600). I put them on my new credit card, which earns miles, so at least I can use those for something in the future. Tickets are $300 each, and he’ll pay me back for his share. This is an unusual purchase for me. $300

5 p.m. — I bring two bags of clothes to a consignment store to sell. They only offer to take two items for $7, which is annoying but better than nothing.

5:15 p.m. — I’m starving and need a couple things at the store, so I run next door to Kroger and get some food from the salad bar, along with soy milk (I use a $1 off coupon, yay me!) and gluten-free crackers. It totals to $7, so I basically got it for free, right? $7

8 p.m. — One of my friends who moved away two months ago is back in town on her way to a wedding, and is crashing with me for the night. We get dinner at a vegan place I’ve been wanting to try. I get a rice-noodle-and-vegetable dish, but it’s super bland so I only eat a bit ($11). I’m going to take the leftovers home and add sauce. We get a drink at a cheap pub nearby ($4), then go to another bar for another drink. We also split grits because neither of us was satisfied with dinner ($11). $26

Daily Total: $338

Day Three

8:40 a.m. — We stayed up too late last night, and office coffee isn’t gonna cut it. I walk to Starbucks and reload my card with $10, then get an Americano. $10

12 p.m. — Finally get around to breakfast at the office. I have some leftover zucchini bread that I made a while ago with peanut butter (I keep a jar at work) and trail mix from home.

2:30 p.m. — After walking outside for half an hour in muggy heat, I eat some nuts and more Powerade.

3:15 p.m. — Lunch at my desk. I have another carrot-and-sorghum salad (I made two when I meal prepped). It’s just as delicious as the first one, even though it’s been three days.

8 p.m. — It’s date night! We go to an Indian restaurant for dinner. It’s delicious, and he pays (even better!). We walk around afterward and end up at a bar down the street. I buy us drinks, and we play a game of pool. $8

11 p.m. — We both have to work in the morning, so it’s sort of an early night.

Daily Total: $18


Day Four

10:15 a.m. — I’m working at the grocery store 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. I go to the Panera next door before my shift starts to get a coffee and scarf down a banana I brought. $2

2 p.m. — I buy some olives and a dolma from the olive bar to have with my lunch, because it looked especially good today. Last night, I threw together a lunch of sorghum, spinach, roasted squash, cheese, liquid aminos, and sesame oil, so that I didn’t have to buy it at work. After I eat that, I’m too full to eat the olives, so I save them for later. $3

5 p.m. — I buy a bottle of cold-brew coffee from the store because I’m not going to make it to 7 without it. Also, I eat those olives. $3

7 p.m. — Freedom! I pick up a few things before I leave, to take advantage of sales and my 20% discount. I get: 2 pounds of strawberries, coconut water, sweet-potato chips, mixed nuts, an apple, and the most adorable potted sunflower, because they’re my favorite. I realize I shop and eat like a rabbit. Some weeks I put together detailed meal plans and do a big grocery shop, but lately my schedule has been so unpredictable that I end up wasting food. It’s been better for me to buy small amounts at a time and combine them with staples from my pantry so nothing goes bad. $12

8 p.m. — We go to a friend’s housewarming party. They had to do a lot of renovations, and it’s finally done enough to visit, so they want to celebrate. I have an unopened bottle of wine, so we bring that.

1:30 a.m. — I get home from the party absolutely starving, so I eat a corn tortilla with hummus, some crackers and salsa, and a piece of cheese. Good enough to last me until morning.

Daily Total: $20

Day Five

9 a.m. — My sister and her boyfriend are coming to town for the day (they’re college students in Cincinnati), so I spend the morning cleaning and finishing her belated birthday present. Nothing like last minute!

11:30 a.m. — We go to brunch at one of my favorite spots. I get my usual: an omelet with three types of veggies and goat cheese. $15

1:30 p.m. — We decide to go to an outdoor show with local bands, and stop by the store on the way to get drinks since it’s so hot outside. I buy some orange juice and lemonade for us. $5

2:30 p.m. — There’s a booth at the show with local crafts and products made from all-recycled materials. I buy keychains for myself and the boy. $6

3:30 p.m. — The music was pretty decent, but it was so hot we couldn’t stay for long. We go to 21C, a hotel/art museum/restaurant/bar. The museum part is free and has some great exhibits. I offer to buy drinks, but the only person to take me up on it is my boyfriend. I buy him a gin and tonic, which is supremely expensive (compared to other places in the area). They make their own tonic, though, so at least it’s good. $11

5:30 p.m. — We get to the sushi place I wanted to take my sister to, but the wait is 30 minutes and they have to head home soon. We go to a different sushi restaurant a few doors down, and while the ambience isn’t quite as nice, it’s delicious. I get a veggie roll and a side of rice, and plan to eat a little more once I get home. $14

7 p.m. — My sister and her bf leave, and I go to my boyfriend’s parents’ house with him so we can do laundry. They’re very sweet, and let me do it there for free, which is a money saver and much more pleasant than waiting around in a Laundromat. We hang out and watch some Breaking Bad (another TV show I’m finally getting around to), and I snack on some cheese. My boyfriend's laundry takes forever, so I'll have to come back.

11:30 p.m. — I eat a bowl of cereal before I go to bed. Dinner?

Daily Total: $51

Day Six

11:30 a.m. — I eat an apple and peanut butter at work, and some trail mix, too (even though I was trying to save it for later...oops).

3:45 p.m. — Lunch at my desk — another sorghum-and-veggie mash-up. I don’t mind eating the same/similar thing for days on end when it’s so good!

5 p.m. — Go to the gym after work and then pop over to the grocery store for bananas, a protein bar (you know, for the gains), banana chips, and some baby kale. $7

7:30 p.m. — Do my laundry, read, catch up on life, and eat some veggies and hummus.

11 p.m. — Stop by the bf’s on my way home because he got me ice cream that I’d been craving. I eat a little of that, we chat, and I call it a night.

Daily Total: $7


Day Seven

8 a.m. — I drop my car off at the mechanic and bike the rest of the way to work. Fingers crossed it’s not an expensive fix.

11:30 a.m. — My parents have an Amazon Prime account, so I browse the deals. I ran out of face wash a couple days ago, and while it was made from “all natural” ingredients, I’m trying to simplify my beauty products. I decided to give the oil-cleansing method a shot and have been researching best oils to use (but putting off buying them because they’re expensive). Amazon has a bottle of argan oil on sale, so I go ahead and buy it. It's about what I was paying for my face wash anyway. $11

12:15 p.m. — I eat a banana and peanut butter (what else) at my desk for breakfast.

2:15 p.m. — My boyfriend is off work today, so he meets me for lunch downtown. We go to Chipotle because (besides it being delicious) I have a coupon for free chips and guac. I get a veggie bowl and end up saving most of the chips and guac because I’m so full. $7

5 p.m. — I bike all the way home because my car isn’t ready yet. Luckily it’s not far, and it’s nice to get some exercise after being cooped up in an office all day.

6 p.m. — Bike back to the mechanic to get my car. It ends up costing $300, which is a bummer since I don’t exactly have extra money lying around, but I know he charged me a fair price. Plus, this is the first time I’ve had to take my car in for a problem, and I’ve had it for almost a year and a half, so it’s not too bad. $300

6:30 p.m. — I make some food with ingredients I already have. I have enchilada sauce, but corn tortillas tend to break if I roll them up for enchiladas, so instead I make a type of “Mexican lasagna.” Basically, it’s layers of tortillas, beans, cheese, baby kale, zucchini, salsa, and sauce. I make it in a big dish so that I’ll have lunches for a few days. I’m running late to my small group (for church), so I have to leave my food to cool while I’m gone.

9 p.m. — My boyfriend and I are going to go see a movie at 9:30, so I buy snacks beforehand and eat dinner while I wait. He buys the movie tickets — what a gem. $3

Daily Total: $321
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