A Week In North Carolina On A $26,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
This week: a social media manager who makes $26,000/year and spends it on chicken and waffles.
Occupation: Social media manager
Industry: Retail
Age: 25
Location: North Carolina
Salary: $26,000 before taxes
Paycheck Amount (2x a month): $834.50. My partner and I put most of our paychecks into a joint account. I usually move $500 into the account as soon as my check goes through, but sometimes more or less depending on what expenses are coming up. We use that account for groceries, dinners out together, supplies for our house or pets, and anything else we share.
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Monthly Expenses
Housing: $1,000, split evenly with my partner. (We each pay $500.) I make slightly more than they do, so I usually wind up paying a little more, but we don't calculate it out exactly. I also live with two dogs and two cats.
Student Loans: $0. Thank you, scholarship!
Car: $126.66/month. (This comes out of my personal account.)
All Other Monthly Expenses
Electricity: Usually between $50-100 (split with my partner)
Internet: $42 (split with my partner)
Car Insurance: $72, split with my partner
Credit Card Payment: $77, but I always pay more than the minimum
Netfllix/Hulu/HBOGo/Amazon Prime: I mooch off various family members
Savings: $50-$100, depending on how many other expenses I have that month.
Transportation: ~$25 for gas. (This comes out of my personal account.)
Health Insurance: I'm on my parents' plan for another few months until I turn 26.
Charity: $15. We send a check for $45 to a farm animal sanctuary every three months.
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9 a.m. — I get up and make breakfast: two eggs sunny-side up on a bed of spinach, plus a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and peanut butter, and a glass of OJ. Recently, I've gone from not wanting to eat any breakfast to wanting to eat an enormous breakfast every day. Who knows how long that'll last?

12 p.m. — I have a half day at work on Thursdays and Tuesdays, and I have Wednesdays off, so I usually spend most of that time catching up on emails from the past few days.

2 p.m. — I brought leftovers for lunch today: veggie lo mein.

4 p.m. — I leave work and drive to Trader Joe's. I spend $50.32 there on tofu, bagels, avocados, eggs, frozen pizza, yogurt, olives, tuna, chickpeas, and snacks. Then I go to the Whole Foods next door, which has better produce. My dermatologist put me on antibiotics last week, so I also pick up some probiotics to counteract the side effects. After a discount, the total there comes to $37.06. I pay for the groceries from our joint account. $87.38

5:30 p.m. — I get home, unload the groceries, and take the dogs out. Then I start prepping our lunches for the week. I make a Greek pasta salad with tomatoes, olives, and chickpeas, rice noodles with peanut sauce, several jars of overnight oats to bring to work with me, six hard-boiled eggs, banana date cookies, two batches of baked tofu, and several containers of chopped fruit and veggies. By the time I'm done, I have no desire to cook more food, so I just have pretzels for dinner.

9:30 p.m. — My partner gets home from work. We are both exhausted, watch a few episodes of Community on Hulu, and are asleep by 11:30.

Daily Total: $87.38
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9 a.m. — My partner brings me coffee in bed. My cat has had an upset stomach for a few days that doesn't seem to be getting better on its own, so after I eat breakfast (egg, oatmeal, juice) I call the vet and schedule an appointment for him this evening. My partner gets out of work at 7 tonight, so they will bring the cat in after they get home.

12 p.m. — Drive to work. We have free employee parking in the back, and it's just about a mile from my house, so I don't spend much on gas. I'd like to get my bike repaired soon, so I can start biking to work and stretch each tank even further.

2:30 p.m. — I eat the lunch I brought from home: peanut noodles, baked tofu with soy teriyaki sauce, carrots, cucumber, and bell peppers. I'll definitely be making this again.

8 p.m. — I'm DJing at a bar tonight, so before I leave work I snag some records I've had on hold and use my employee discount. $30

8:30 p.m. — My partner gets home from the vet. Our cat had to get X-rays, so the bill is around $250, but my partner put it on their credit card. We are supposed to call the vet in the morning with an update. I sort through my records and snack on cranberry orange bread.

10 p.m. — I head to the bar to start my set. It's a lot of fun, and I get free drinks all night: two whiskey-Cokes and lots of water. I tip the bartenders $3 on the first round, my partner gets the next round, and I make $76 in cash. I get home around 2:30 and fall asleep immediately. $3

Daily Total: $33
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9:30 a.m. — I am so tired. I drink two cups of coffee in bed and call the vet to report back on my cat. They advise that we bring him back in for a second round of X-rays; I hope it will be cheaper this time. I make an everything bagel with avocado and sriracha and get ready for work. My partner doesn't have to be at work until 1 today, so they take the cat back to the vet.

12 p.m. — My coworker is making a coffee run, and I give him $3 from the money I made last night to bring me the biggest coffee he can get. This is going to be a long day. $3

12:30 p.m. — My partner calls to update me on our cat. He's doing a little better, and we don't have to pay for the second round of X-rays, just the medication they sent him home with. It runs us $67, and we put it on my credit card. $67

2 p.m. — I brought lunch from home, but I am not going to make it through the day without waffles. I order chicken and waffles with a side of mac and cheese from a diner across the street (paid for with the cash I got last night) and eat in a nearby park while I read my book. It's exactly what I needed. $16.05

5 p.m. — I need a snack, so I eat the raspberries and orange slices I brought from home.

8 p.m. — I head home, take the dogs out, throw some potatoes in the oven, and sort through my records again. Tonight I'm DJing at a different bar with one of my friends from work.

9 p.m. — My partner gets home from work. We have baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese for dinner; then, I head out to the bar.

10:30 p.m. — I find a free parking spot a block away from the bar. My friend is already there and has everything set up. I order a whiskey and Coke, and then later in the night my friend gets me a shot of tequila. All free! We give the bartenders some of our tips and then split the rest, so I leave with $25 in cash. I get home around 3 a.m. but it takes me a little while to unwind and get to sleep.

Daily Total: $86.05
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10 a.m. — My brain is mush, my legs hurt, and I don't want to get out of bed. It has been a long time since I've stayed out this late two nights in a row, and it's about to be three because my favorite band is coming to town tonight, and I can't miss them. I drink two cups of coffee in bed and then drag myself downstairs. I eat two pieces of brioche toast and head to work.

12:30 p.m. — I eat the jar of yogurt and oats I stashed in the work fridge yesterday. It's mixed with peanut butter, chia seeds, raspberries, and chocolate chips. I want waffles again, but I can resist today knowing that it's Sunday and the brunch crowd will be nuts.

1 p.m. — My cousin texts to tell me that her husband got a new job, and they're moving. She jokingly asks if I want to buy her house, but it piques my interest. My partner and I have been talking about moving and starting a business in the next few years, and the city where she currently lives is on our short list. We definitely weren't planning on moving this quickly, but my cousin would give us a fair deal on her house. It's all hypothetical, but I spend the rest of the day looking at her neighborhood on Google Street View and researching the rent for commercial spaces.

3 p.m. — I take a break from my research to eat the rest of the lunch I brought yesterday: pasta salad I made the other day with spinach and tuna mixed in, plus a root beer.

7 p.m. — I drive home and take the dogs out. It's still light out, and we take a nice long walk. While the oven is heating up for dinner, I decide to attempt to assemble the folding stationary bike we bought a few weeks ago with our tax return. It's actually pretty easy to put together, but the seat is too high for me even at the lowest setting, and I can barely reach the pedals. I decide to worry about this later and make some mock-turkey cutlets, mushroom gravy, and steamed broccoli for dinner.

9:30 p.m. — My partner gets home from work. I got us both on the guest list for the show tonight (one of the many perks of my job), but my partner is not feeling well and they decide to stay home and to go sleep early.

10:30 p.m. — The show is sold out, but somehow there's a free parking spot right in front of the venue. All the bands are great. I peruse the merch table afterwards, but I already have everything they're selling (did I mention they're my favorite?), so I head home around 1.

Daily Total: $0
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8 a.m. — Everything hurts. I'm dying. TGIF — or TGI Monday, since I have two and a half days off after this. I didn't even drink last night, but three nights in a row of bad sleep have me feeling hungover. Plus, I'm super sore from dancing so much. My partner has to go to work early today, so I chug some coffee and take my dog out. I don't know how I'm going to make it through work today. I'm never going out again.

10:30 a.m. — I make scrambled eggs and eat them on an everything bagel with avocado. I spend as long as I can laying completely immobile on the couch before I finally get ready and head to work.

2:30 p.m. — My boss' girlfriend stops by with quesadillas for him, and I have a bite of one. It's delicious and makes me realize I'm super hungry, so I heat up the rest of the mac and cheese I left in the fridge from my lunch on Saturday. She and I talk about meeting up tomorrow to hit some of the vintage stores downtown. We've been trying to find a time to do this since last summer, and I hope we're able to make it work this time. She seems cool, and I'm trying to make more female friends here. There are too many straight men in my life.

3:35 p.m. — I feel like I'm falling asleep, so I shove all the snacks I can find in my mouth: dried strawberries, a granola bar dipped in peanut butter, and some stale popcorn. I brought more tofu and veggies from home today, but I find myself not wanting to eat them.

8 p.m. — Finally done with work for the day. I'm beat, and my partner still doesn't feel well, so I call in an order for two burritos and pick them up on the way home. They cost $14.65, paid for from our joint account. I am very much looking forward to going to bed early tonight $14.65

Daily Total: $14.65
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10 a.m. — I get up, take the dogs out, whip up some French toast with raspberries and coconut cream, and get back into bed with some coffee and my book. I have stuff to do later, but after several busy days in a row, a lazy morning feels really good.

12 p.m. — My boss' girlfriend texts to say that she's on her way to my house, so I quickly get ready. We head to a coffee shop, and I grab an iced dirty chai ($4); then we stop at a nearby vintage clothing store and browse for a while. I buy a vintage slip, a silk shirt printed with pictures of cats, and a pair of jeans from the '70s. ($34.08) We don't have a ton of time, because I have a therapy appointment, but it was fun hanging out with her. $38.08

2:30 p.m. — She drops me off at home, and I drive to my therapy appointment. There's a $25 copay. $25

4:15 p.m. — On my way home from therapy, I'm super thirsty so I stop at a Sonic and get a lemonade. And some tater tots. $5

5 p.m. — I get home and take the dogs on a walk. This was my first therapy session, and I like my therapist, but it was intense. I need to spend some time vegging out.

7:15 p.m. — My partner gets home from work. Neither of us feels like cooking, and we both get paid in a few days, so we decide to splurge on a second dinner out this week, which we don't usually do. We order pasta from a nearby Italian place and go to bed early. We pay for it with our joint account. $28.89

Daily Total: $96.97
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9:30 a.m. — One of our dogs has a grooming appointment this morning, so we drive across town and drop her off. We'll pay for it when we pick her up. She needs a haircut every two months, and it comes with a bath and a nail trim. I used to cut her hair myself, but she's so squirmy that it's worth it to pay someone to do it for me.

10 a.m. — A local thrift store is having a sale where you fill a bag with clothes for $5. We drive over there and each walk away with a bag full of clothes and a few other assorted odds and ends. I pick up two pairs of earrings, a nice beach bag for the trip I'm taking this summer, and a go-go dancing fitness DVD that I'm intrigued by. $19.96

11 a.m. — We head home and chill out for a little while; I eat the leftover pasta from last night. Around 12:30 we get a call that our dog is ready to pick up. We bring our other dog with us to get her nails trimmed. The trim plus a bath, haircut, teeth-brushing, a treat for each dog (to try to convince them that going to the groomer isn't all bad), plus a tip for the groomer comes out to $64.12, paid from our joint account. $64.12

1 p.m. — After we get home with the dogs, we wind up accidentally taking an extra long nap. Whoops. We wake up and decide to head to a nearby coffee shop/bookstore to look around. I order an iced tea and two cookies, and my partner gets a fancy ginger beer and a muffin. We browse the book side of the store for a little while and then head home. $11

6 p.m. — The cookies make me realize how hungry I am, so I decide to start dinner. We have some veggie meatloaf in the freezer and two baked potatoes in the fridge that only need to be heated up. After dinner, we take the dogs out and settle in for the night.

Daily Total: $95.08
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