A Week In Pittsburgh, PA, On A $42,000 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.

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Today: an Assistant Managing Editor working in Academic Publishing who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on running socks.

Occupation: Assistant Managing Editor
Industry: Academic Publishing
Age: 28
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Salary: $42,000
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,485 (before taxes) + $100-200/month from massage and freelance writing side hustles
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $470 ($940 total, split evenly with my wife)
Loans: $0 (significant faculty family member tuition discount)
Cell Phone: $0 (riding that family plan)
Health Insurance: $0 (health/vision/dental covered by employer)
Internet: $73 (I pay for internet; my wife pays ~$50 for utilities)
Gym: $10 (+ $39 annual fee)
Spotify + Hulu: $5 (bundled through wife's student account)
Netflix: $0 (wife pays for it)
Amazon Prime: $0 (wife pays $6/month via student account)
HBONow: $16
Roth IRA: $100
403(b): $174 (Right now, I'm contributing 5% of my paycheck; next year, my employer will match 10% if I increase my contribution to 7.5%. Planning on doing that!)
Savings: $50 to shared savings/$200 or so to personal savings (my wife and I each have our own personal accounts and a shared savings account)

Day One

5:30 a.m. — I wake up to a wet nose poking my face. My dog, V., needs to go outside. I'm groggy and feel a little wobbly from one-too-many drinks the night before. V. does her business, I guzzle a full glass of water, and we both pile back in bed.

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9 a.m. — Once again, the dog is my alarm clock. She's been patient to accommodate us sleeping in (weekends are amazing), but she's eager to get out on a walk. My wife, L., is a saint and volunteers to take V. out. I slowly wake up, make some coffee, tidy up our apartment, and settle in with a book. I'm reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.

10 a.m. — L. and V. are back from the squirrel hunt. I make us cheesy scrambled eggs and toast. We watch an episode of Cheer on Netflix while we eat. We're kind of hooked. Cheerleading is definitely not a go-to interest but this docuseries is surprisingly compelling and queer.

12 p.m. — L. and I go for a run. I'm doing five miles and she's planning on continuing on for four more. L. is a runner and training for a marathon. I run for the endorphins. It's unseasonably warm in Pittsburgh — 70 degrees in January. Beautiful, but ugh, climate change.

1 p.m. — Oof. That run slayed me. Maybe I'm still hungover. But I'm glad I got outside and moved for an hour. Leftover pizza and a big glass of water for lunch. It tastes amazing. Under my runner's high delusions, I buy a three-pack of running socks on clearance from Running Warehouse. $14.71

2 p.m. — L. gets back and we hop in the shower. L.'s birthday was on Tuesday, but it also coincided with the start of the spring term (she's a PhD student) so we haven't had a chance to celebrate with friends yet. It was kind of a bummer week for her, so we're going to a gay bar tonight to properly ring in the birthday. We part ways for the afternoon — L. to a coffee shop to work and me to the couch with another cup of coffee and my book.

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4 p.m. — I take V. to the dog park. She's been desperate to play with other dogs and we finally have the weather for it. Thank goodness, there are three other dogs romping around when we arrive. V. jumps into the madness. Few things make me happier than seeing my dog happy. Afterward, I stop at Aldi for groceries (I freaking love Aldi). I pull in a big haul for the week — eggs, milk, bread, tortillas, coffee, butter, veggies, spinach, apples, blueberries, avocados, cheese, snacks, the works. (The total comes to $56.36, but L. sends me $28 to split it.) V. snoozes sweetly the whole way home. $28.36

6 p.m. — I crack open a beer and make dinner — butternut squash and black bean enchilada skillet. I'm trying to get better at cooking. We save a lot of money when we curb our restaurant spending, but my motivation to cook seems to falter mid-week.

8:30 p.m. — Party time! When we get to the bar, it's still pretty dead. We get conversation-cornered by a stranger who tells us a detailed account of his recent dreams about his ex-boyfriend. Yikes. But then things pick up, our friends arrive, and we have a great time. We stay late enough for the drag show. L. is tipsy-cute and beaming. I'm glad she's getting the fun birthday she deserves. I pay for our drinks (two PBRs for me and two G&Ts for L.), which are way cheaper than I expect. We fall into bed by 1:30 a.m., exhausted and happy. $18

Daily Total: $61.07

Day Two

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9 a.m. — Another slow morning. I take V. on a walk and let L. sleep in. We have bagels and coffee for breakfast and watch another episode of Cheer. This show is so good. V. is snuggled in between us. I never want the weekend to end.

12 p.m. — I'm starting to get antsy about getting the day started. I'm still in my sweatpants. I love weekends and the luxury of laziness, but I'm also built for productivity. If I don't have a task, I start to get existential about my day. I eat enchilada leftovers for lunch and then get started on meal prep for the week. I make rice, curried red lentils, and biscuits. That should last us a few lunches. Still wearing those sweatpants…

4:30 p.m. — I have band practice today. We usually don't practice ocer the weekend, but we have a gig coming up next week. I play rhythm guitar, but I'm also learning bass for about half of our songs. Practice is a little stilted today; everyone seems tired. The lead guitarist brings Yuengling to share, I drink one.

7 p.m. — I make a quick dinner of pesto pasta, green beans, and some "take & bake" french bread (Aldi for the win). I drink a Rhinegeist Pale Ale with dinner. With L. running more and more miles for her training, we're eating more pasta and bread. I'm not training for anything, but loving the carb-land menu.

9 p.m. — L. and I snuggle into bed and watch the newest episode of The L Word: Generation Q. It's soap-opera-bad but holds such a nostalgic place for us since we both watched the original back when we were closeted and baby gays. I will show up for any queer representation, even if it's a little forced. We fall asleep around 11. RIP weekend.

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Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — Back to the workday routine. V. and I face the chilly morning long enough for her to pee, and then back to bed for a few more minutes.

7 a.m. — I force myself awake after a few failed attempts. I eat a bagel and some blueberries for breakfast and start a New Yorker article about the increasing need for indigenous translators in immigration court. V. and I bundle up and walk to an abandoned baseball diamond. I can let her off-leash here, which she loves. A doggo friend from next door is there (yay!), so they romp around for a good 20 minutes.

8 a.m. — L. is up when we get back. We commiserate about the start of the week together. We regularly joke about quitting work/school and moving back to the Pacific Northwest. One can dream. Quick kiss goodbye and I'm out the door. Traffic is terrible on Monday mornings. I practice deep breathing and listen to a Reply All podcast episode about robocalls.

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12 p.m. — My morning goes by quickly. I close out a few manuscripts, send out author queries, chat with my editor about corrections, and go down a few Google rabbit trails on L Word recaps, NYTimes existential despair, and Reddit. Lentils and rice for lunch!

5 p.m. — Back home. I wrestle with the dog while L. finishes up some writing. She and I go on a walk together and catch up about our days. Neither of us feels like making a big dinner, so we eat fried eggs and kale. Breakfast for dinner is the best. L. does the dishes, and I start the first chapter of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino.

8 p.m. — L. and I go over to a friend's house to watch The Bachelor (I contain multitudes, okay?). My gas light went on as I was coming home from work, so we stop at a gas station on the way. I fill up the tank and L. runs in to buy a bottle of wine. Gas comes to $37.15. At our friend's house, I chow down on some Pirate's Booty and drink two glasses of wine. The Bachelor does not disappoint. #Champagnegate. L. and I head back home around 10 and are snoozing by 11. $37.15

Daily Total: $37.15

Day Four

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5:30 a.m. — You know the drill. Sleepy V. needs to pee. We're both relieved to get back in bed.

7:30 a.m. — I wake up way late, feeling really sluggish and groggy. I take a three-minute shower, hustle V. through a walk around the neighborhood, and throw some blueberries, Greek yogurt, and granola in a container for breakfast. Thankfully, my morning routine can be streamlined — deodorant and hair product are really my only two cosmetics. But I still hate feeling rushed.

9 a.m. — At the office, I finally get a blessed cup of coffee and eat my breakfast. I start in on a new manuscript. L. knows that I left the house kind of grumpy and flustered. She sends me a sweet email.

1:30 p.m. — I'm in the post-lunch slump. I can't seem to wake up today. I eat an apple and start in on a second (third?) cup of coffee.

5 p.m. — Oof. The rest of the workday was a slog, but I made it! L. and V. are on a walk when I get home. I tidy up and start dinner — a big salad, roasted cauliflower, and the rest of that take & bake loaf. I'm craving a beer, but we don't have any in the fridge. It's probably for the best. I'm trying not to drink as much on weekdays. For me, it's less of a volume issue and more just a matter of habit. Working on it!

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5:30 p.m. — We're running low on dog food, so I put in a big Chewy order. V. is a picky eater (one of her many neuroses), so we've started mixing in fancy Rachael Ray wet food with her dry food. I also order a bunch of different dog treats and chewies for our elderly cat's joint pain (oh yeah, we have a cat!). The Chewy order comes to $46.68, but L. sends me $20 to split it. $26.68

7 p.m. — After dinner, L. and I go to the gym for a quick workout. My brain needs it after a kind of stagnant workday.

8 p.m. — I FaceTime with my sisters. None of us live in the same state, so we check in every week or so. I miss them.

9 p.m. — L. and I watch the last episode of Cheer (*sob*) and eat popcorn in bed. Both of us are feeling kind of anxious/tired, and we have a ping-pongy conversation about schedule logistics before bed. L.'s graduate program is demanding. So far, we've worked it out so that V. can get two walks a day and not be home alone for too long, but it requires some flexibility and negotiation on our part. We figure it out and hit the hay around 10:30.

Daily Total: $26.68

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Day Five

7 a.m. — I guess V. decided to sleep in this morning! I'm grateful for the extra hour of uninterrupted sleep. Blueberries, yogurt, and granola for breakfast. I start another New Yorker article (destined to be unfinished...there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with the New Yorker!) and drink some coffee before taking V. on a walk.

8:30 a.m. — The office is quiet when I arrive. I'm fairly new to this job (I started in December), so I'm still getting to know coworkers and figuring out the office vibe. I pour myself a cup of coffee, turn on some nondescript electronic tunes (unfortunately, my brain won't let me listen to music with words while I'm editing), and get to work!

12 p.m. — Our office manager emails everyone that a pizza food truck is parked outside. Best news all week! I brought a packed lunch of lentils and rice, but happily opt for a woodfired pizza instead. My 10” Margherita pizza is a thing of beauty. I eat the whole thing. $11

2:30 p.m. — Work is going a lot better today. I have a good chat with my managing editor about our upcoming deadline, cross off some things on my list, and (sadly) cut myself off of the coffee-train. I take a break to watch the Ali Krieger/Ashlyn Harris wedding video. Oh shoot, I'm crying. Also, is Megan Rapinoe possibly drunk during her toast? I love it all. Back to work.

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4:30 p.m. — I take V. on a walk when I get home. She's kind of all over the place and howl-barks at a kid on a bike (sorry, kid), and I get frustrated. Highs and lows with this pup. I have to disassociate by listening to the podcast, My Year in Mensa. It helps.

6 p.m. — L. and I go for a four-mile run to shake out the day. I only agree to this on the premise that we end the run at a (*drumroll, please*) pizza food truck down the street. After eating pizza for lunch, why not just keep the party going? It's dark and starting to rain when we finish our run. We order a cheese pizza with green peppers and onions, and some garlic knots. It comes to $17, but L. insists on paying.

7:30 p.m. — The rest of the night is lowkey. L. does some lesson planning and FaceTimes with my brother-in-law, who is also teaching undergraduates this semester. They commiserate together. I scroll on Instagram until my eyes get bleary.

9 p.m. — We get ready for bed. L. and I chat and laugh in bed, which leads to other good things. :) We eventually fall asleep at 11:30.

Daily Total: $11

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Day Six

6 a.m. — I'm up with V. She's so sweet and dopey in the morning. I get coffee started and then crawl back into bed for a few more minutes. The incentive of coffee rouses me again around 7, and I start the day. Bagel and blueberries for breakfast, 20 minutes to read Trick Mirror (good stuff!), and a full cup of coffee. I wake up V. to go for a walk. This time, no howl-barks, thank god.

9 a.m. — I listen to another episode of My Year in Mensa on the way to work. That shit is crazy. I feel energized this morning and get into a good flow with work. I close out my manuscript, work on some reference pages, and start a new project.

1 p.m. — I eat a late lunch of lentils and rice (and some of that roasted cauliflower from Tuesday). I'm starting to get really bored with this lunch, but it's free and still edible. I also eat sea-salt dark chocolate after muscling through those lentils.

3:30 p.m. — Somewhat impulsively, I buy two books: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado and We Both Laughed in Pleasure: Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan. I've been eyeing both of them for a while, and I was tired of waiting for the massive hold queue at the library for the Machado book. I buy them from big-bad-wolf Amazon, which I feel shitty about afterward. It's really hard to escape the convenience of Amazon. Okay, one more hour left in my workday. I close my office door, turn on some Tycho, and power through! $37.43

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5 p.m. — When I get home, all of the animals and L. are snuggled in bed. My pack. I jump in and we cuddle for a bit. L. takes the dog on a walk. I read a few pages of Trick Mirror, but my eyes quickly get heavy and I snooze for a few minutes.

6 p.m. — L. and I go to the gym for an hour to work out. I use the elliptical and plug in my headphones to sync up with the huge TV screens upfront. I watch Two and a Half Men long enough to remember how truly terrible it is and switch to a podcast.

7 p.m. — On our way home, I pick up a six-pack of IPAs and a tall can of Ruby Grapefruit White Claw ($14.47). We call in an order to the burrito place in our neighborhood. L. gets a rice, bean, and cheese burrito. I get a chicken burrito with rice, beans, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Our total comes to $20.59 with tip. $35.06

8:30 p.m. — L. and I go through the obligatory scroll of all our streaming options to find a movie. We settle on an indie flick called Little Men (no relation to Little Women. But shoutout to Little Women!). After the workout, a White Claw, and an IPA, my legs are feeling amazing, as in nonexistent. When the movie is over, L. and I sleepily talk about the best parts of the day, and I drift off.

Daily Total: $72.49

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Day Seven

7 a.m. — It's Friday! L. covers morning animal duties on Fridays so I can get to work early (and get home early). I eat a fried egg and a biscuit for breakfast. The biscuit is kind of dry, bleh. No shower for me today, just deodorant. I'm a minimalist, what can I say? I kiss L. goodbye. She and the dog are spooning in bed. The sweetest.

7:30 a.m. — I'm one of the first to arrive at the office. I chat with a coworker in the break room. She tells me about the video game she's designing as a side project and shows me mock-ups on her phone. So cool! I'm grateful for her candidness; it's an otherwise pretty quiet office.

8 a.m. — This morning, I'm working through a huge bibliography so I'm able to broaden my Spotify music selection a bit. I listen to the soundtrack to Call Me by Your Name. Those Sufjan Stevens songs slay me. L. and I message each other on Google Chat, and we plan out our evening.

1 p.m. — Lentils for lunch again. God give me strength.

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2:30 p.m. — One more hour! I turn on the new (posthumous) Mac Miller album and get through some more pages. The weekend is close.

4 p.m. — Back at home, I snuggle/wrestle with the dog. L. comes home soon after and gets ready to go out on a run. I briefly contemplate joining her, but nah, I'm in weekend mode. Instead, I take V. on a long walk and listen to the newest Reply All episode. When I get back, I make some pizza dough for dinner...pizza meal #3. Can't stop, won't stop.

6:30 p.m. — We agree that after a busy week, we're looking forward to a quiet, homebound Friday night. L. and I snuggle on the couch. We drink IPAs, chat, and listen to the Mac Miller album again. Eventually, we get hungry enough to start making pizza. I throw together a big salad, too.

7:30 p.m. — Both L. and I have been extra homesick for our old life in Oregon. Maybe it's the gross Pittsburgh weather or the start of the new semester. Even though it doesn't replace actual hiking, L. throws together a lineup of outdoor short films for us to watch — a woman who thru-hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for 18 days, an ultra-runner who completes the King's Trail in four days, a mother-daughter duo who spends six months hiking from British Columbia to Alaska. The films are super inspiring, and the visuals are gorgeous. We'll get back there someday!

10:30 p.m. — We finish the evening with a nightcap of bourbon. A long weekend awaits!

Daily Total: $0

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