A Week In Eastern South Dakota, On A $52,000 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: a development specialist working at a nonprofit who makes $52,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on cookies.

Occupation: Development Specialist
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 29
Location: Eastern South Dakota
Salary: $52,000 ($48,000 day job + ~$4,000 from side hustle)
Paycheck Amount (bi-weekly): $1,347 (post-tax, minus all deductions, including donations) + $200-$500 monthly from side hustle

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $700 (my half of mortgage, insurance, and utilities for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that my fiancé owns)
Student Loans: $450 (I have about $25,000 in total)
Gym: $48
Car Lease: $280
Netflix/Hulu: $24 (I pay for these, my fiancé pays for HBO)
Subscriptions: $19 every two months (Ipsy and Billie)
Health/vision/dental/HSA Contribution: $132
Car Insurance: $600 (paid twice annually)
Phone: $0 (on my family plan still — gotta give the readers something to comment on)
401(k): 4% of my salary, matched by my employer
Savings: $100 + whatever I may from my side hustle

Day One

7:25 a.m. — I wake up to the dog's tail slapping me in the face while she tries to wake up my fiance, J. He eventually gets up to let her outside and feed her and the cat, then he comes back to bed. We both scroll through our phones for a few minutes and then fall back asleep.

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9:30 a.m. — Whoops. I definitely did not mean to sleep in this late. Sundays are the only days where I don't work at all, so I purposefully aim to be a little lazy every Sunday, but this is a bit excessive. I get up, eat some cinnamon toast with jam and black coffee for breakfast, and then J. and I head to Menards to get stain for our fence and fertilizer to prepare our lawn for winter. I pay for the supplies out of our joint account, which we both contribute to equally and covers the mortgage, utilities, groceries, and house projects like this. It comes to $27.23 for my half. $27.23

10:45 a.m. — We stain our fence while the dog sunbathes in the yard. When we're finished, we realize we don't have any mineral spirits to clean the brushes or sprayer we used to stain. Back in the car, this time to Fleet Farm. We manage to get out of there with only mineral spirits, which J. pays for ($10). At home, I head inside to make lunch — turkey, bacon, avocado wraps, and grapes. We eat, and then I deep clean the kitchen and both bathrooms while J. mows and fertilizes the lawn.

3:30 p.m. — J. and I take the dog to an off-leash park with trails for a run. I have always been active, but in recent years my endurance has not been what it used to be as the result of me not doing as much cardio. We'll be going on our honeymoon next summer and I want to be in better condition for that so I can keep up on any high-altitude hikes we go on, which means I've recently started running more. My goal for today was to run 1.25 miles without stopping or walking, and I run 1.8! If I keep adding a quarter of a mile a week, I'll be up to 10 miles by the time we're on our honeymoon.

5 p.m. — After showering, we go to Walmart. With the absolute best of intentions, J. washed our pillows this weekend, but apparently our pillows were NOT meant for the washer and dryer. They are now totally lumpy and misshapen and smell like burnt rubber. We desperately need new ones. We pick out two cheap king size pillows and two nicer cooling memory foam pillows that are $49 each. This is more than I ever thought I would spend on a pillow, but as J. reminds me, this is something we have to sleep on every night. Along with some miscellaneous groceries, our total comes to $174.76. I pay and J. Venmos me for half. $87.38

6 p.m. — At home, I pay a doctor's bill ($151.13, paid with my HSA — included in expenses above) and heat up dinner of chicken in a sundried tomato cream sauce with roast potatoes and green beans, and then we sit down to watch Isn't It Romantic together. It's….not a great movie.

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8 np.m. — We get into bed with our new pillows (totally worth it) and watch the newest episode of The Good Place. J. falls asleep as soon as it is over, but I watch a few episodes of 30 Rock before going to sleep around 9:30.

Daily Total: $114.61

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I finally get out of bed after cuddling with the dog for a solid 10 minutes. I do my morning skincare (Pixi Rose Cream Cleanser, Pixi Rose Tonic toner, and SPF moisturizer mixed with Clarisea Radical Rosehip Oil). My makeup routine is simple: blush, highlighter, eyeliner, and mascara. For breakfast, I drink black coffee and scramble two eggs with cheese, broccoli, peppers, and onions. I make two turkey wraps — one for me to take to work and one for J. (he comes home to eat lunch most days). I also grab a bag of grapes, and then I'm out the door and at work by 8:15 a.m.

1 p.m. — I finally get around to eating my lunch. I don't even have that much work to do today, but one of my coworkers needed a sounding board/some advice/a vent session regarding some ongoing people problems in our office. I eat at my desk and then run to Office Depot to buy labels and flash drives we need for work ($85.12 on my company card).

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4 p.m. — I'm out of work to do, so I head home. My job has definite busy and slow seasons and right now is painfully slow. I'm fortunate that (within reason) I am able to leave early on days when the workload is light. I planned to take the dog for a walk when I get home, but it looks like J. took her to work with him for the afternoon. I go to the gym instead and do a core and lower body workout followed by some time on the Stairmaster.

5:45 p.m. — Home from the gym. I eat the same dinner as last night and then shower. I get a text from my future sister-in-law inviting me to a girls' night next week with all the cousins from one side of the family. I like my future SIL, but I've never spent much time with the cousins. I have pretty bad social anxiety and the thought of going makes me super nervous, but these people are going to be my family and I'd like to be closer to them, so I tell her I'd love to go.

7 p.m. — I have the urge to bake, so I make giant chocolate chip cookies, then watch an episode of Succession. We're in bed by 8:30 and lights out by 9:30.

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

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4:55 a.m. — I have to work my side hustle for a bit before work today, so I'm up extra early. I make coffee, do my skincare and makeup, eat some cinnamon toast, and head out.

7:15 a.m. — I finish up at my side hustle and head back home for a second breakfast of a scrambled egg with veggies. I quickly make lunch for myself and J., run a straightener through my hair, change into work clothes, and take off.

12 p.m. — I would have thought my TWO breakfasts would keep me full a bit longer, but here I am, tummy rumbling, eating lunch already. While I'm eating, one of coworkers, who I really love, updates me that they didn't get the job they had recently interviewed for. I'm super bummed for them. I let them know that I'm expecting a similar call this week. A couple of weeks ago I had a second-round interview at a company, but I haven't heard anything yet, so I'm assuming it's a no. I love the work I do, but I've been really disillusioned with the leadership lately, which has made me seriously question my future here. At the same time, I have four months of paid sick leave built up, and it's hard to walk away from that and start over knowing that a baby is in the two-year plan.

3:15 p.m. — A recruiter from a job I interviewed for last spring calls; they have another opening and want to know if I would be interested in interviewing. I take this phone call as a sign and tell her yes, I'm absolutely interested. I have to mail some things for work at the post office (this is my least favorite part of my job), so I leave for the day a little before 4. Postage is $28.50, paid on my company card. On the way I home, I stop at the grocery store to pick up green beans, potatoes, chicken, and turkey. I pay with our joint account ($7.40 for my half). At home, I cook up the green beans and potatoes. J. gets home right when they're done, so I heat up some chicken and we eat dinner together. After dinner, we take the dog for a walk and go to Walmart (I swear we don't usually go to Walmart this much) for pepper and nasal strips (joint account, $11.13 for my half). I also order trash bags on Amazon ($12.70). $31.23

7:45 p.m. — It's going to be an early night. I get ready for bed and watch The Great British Baking Show before lights out at 9.

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Daily Total: $31.23

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — Same old breakfast, same old routine, same old job.

12 p.m. — I eat lunch at my desk and then run home to throw some chicken in the crockpot for dinner tonight.

4:30 p.m. — Even for a slow week, today is remarkably boring. I have a gift card to World Market and they're having a sale on wine, so I leave work and stop on the way home to pick up a bottle of merlot and a bottle of rosé ($27.79 covered by the gift card). J. had to go out of town for work today and won't be home until late, which means it's just me and the animals tonight. I play fetch with the dog and pick up poop in the backyard for a bit, then crack open the merlot and eat dinner.

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6:30 p.m. — I wash my face with Murad clarifying cleanser, tone with The Ordinary glycolic acid, put on a sheet mask with tea tree oil and aloe vera, and follow up with The Ordinary Niacinamide and zinc serum and a salicylic acid moisturizer. I watch more of The Great British Baking Show and log in to check the status of my application for the job I interviewed for a couple weeks ago. It says my application is still being considered, but I don't have high hopes.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

4:30 a.m. — Another early wake up, this time to go to the gym before work for an upper body workout and some squat-run treadmill intervals. After the gym I get ready for work, eat my breakfast, make lunch for J. and myself and then leave for work.

9:45 a.m. — My brother texts asking what he should wear to my wedding (my father died when I was young, so my brother will be walking me down the aisle). We are planning a super small, super informal ceremony and dinner, so I tell him that I don't really care as long as it's clean and doesn't have any holes in it. I keep referring to our wedding as “one step up from a courthouse wedding” and telling people the theme is practical. Money was definitely a factor in our decision to have a low-key affair, but even more so we were motivated by the fact that we're both introverts who dislike being the center of attention. We're fortunate to have family who lives on acreage, saving us a ton of money on a venue. By keeping the wedding simple and the guest list small (~45), we should be able to keep the total price under $1,000-$1,500. My mother generously gave us $500 to help, and we'll cover the rest ourselves.

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12 p.m. — Lunch at my desk, the same turkey wrap and grapes I've been eating all week. I also finally return the call from my dentist and set up an appointment for next week.

4:15 p.m. — Done for the day. Yesterday, it was 70 degrees and sunny. Today, it is 37 and raining. :( I have to work my side hustle until late tonight, so I stop on the way home and pick up a snack (Clif Bar and a hot chocolate) ($3.08). I snuggle with the cat and dog for a bit before changing and then going to my second job. $3.08

8:45 p.m. — Home from work and debating the merits of a cheese quesadilla vs. a chocolate chip cookie for dinner. In the end, I choose both. After my super nutritious dinner, I do my nighttime skincare routine and watch a few episodes of 30 Rock in bed before going to sleep.

Daily Total: $3.08

Day Six

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6:45 a.m. — Wake up and do my normal routine. We're out of eggs, cinnamon toast, and ingredients for wraps (thankfully tomorrow is grocery day). Looks like I'll be buying breakfast and lunch today. On the way to work, I stop at my absolute favorite bagel spot and get a cinnamon sugar bagel with pumpkin cream cheese. $2.50

11 a.m. — J. texts to see if I want to go to the new taco buffet for lunch at 11:30. I'm still pretty full from my bagel, and think 11:30 is entirely too early for lunch (especially at a buffet!), but I tell him yes anyway. We take turns paying for dates, and this time J. pays. I make more than J. does, but not a lot more, so ever since we moved in together two years ago, we've found splitting bills and groceries 50/50 and taking turns paying for dates is the best arrangement. We have some time to kill before J. has to go back to work, so we wander around Scheels. Amazingly, neither of us buy anything. The recruiter from the job I had applied for a few months back calls me again to schedule an interview for next week. This position is with a great company with a lot of room for growth and new opportunities.

4:30 p.m. — I leave work and drive home in the snow. It's way too early for this.

6 p.m. — It may be 30 degrees and snowing, but it's never too cold for Dairy Queen. We haven't had dinner yet, so in addition to mini blizzards, I get a cheeseburger and J. gets cheese curds. I pay ($16.30). Back at home we snuggle on the couch and watch Between Two Ferns: The Movie. $16.30

8:30 p.m. — We watch the latest episode of The Good Place in bed and then read until lights out around 10.

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Daily Total: $18.80

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — I wake up and lay in bed reading the news for a while before I actually get up. I get ready for work at my side hustle. On the way to work, I grab a Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookie since we're still out of breakfast food at home. $2.44

11:15 a.m. — Home! It feels really good to be done with work for the weekend. I eat chicken and veggies for lunch and then go grocery shopping with J. We get ingredients for omelettes, bbq chicken salad, and Greek meatball pitas, plus granola, strawberries, veggies and dip, soda and energy drink for J., crockpot liners, and almond milk. The total is $114.94, paid for out of our joint account. $57.47

1 p.m. — J. helps put the groceries away and then I cut up veggies and cook breakfast sausage for J. to use in omelettes this week. I also put some chicken in the crockpot with bbq sauce and beer to shred for salads, and then do my weekly deep clean of the kitchen and living room while listening to The Good Place: The Podcast (I'm obsessed with this show). There are a lot of things about our relationship that are non-traditional, but the way we split household duties isn't one of them. I do all the cooking, meal planning, and deep cleaning, and J. takes care of the yard, takes out the trash, and shovels snow. We both do dishes and laundry.

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4:45 p.m. — J. interrupts my time on the couch with popcorn and Netflix to suggest we go get a beer. We pack up the pup and head to a dog-friendly bar downtown. We've only taken our dog to a restaurant one other time, so I'm a little nervous about how she will behave, but she is actually an angel. We each start off with a beer, and even though we didn't plan to eat, the flatbreads look irresistible at only $9. We order one to share and J. gets another beer. The total comes to $32.50 with tip, and I pay. $32.50

6:30 p.m. — At home, I take the chicken out of the crockpot, shred it, and mix it with bbq sauce for our salads this week. I make a bbq ranch dressing as well. (You didn't really think you were going to make it through a Midwest diary without a single ranch dressing mention, did you?) J. and I spend the rest of the night on the couch watching Late Night (I adore Mindy Kaling).

8:30 p.m. — It's before 9 on a Saturday night and we're in bed watching a documentary about Idaho (which might be the most introverted sentence I've ever written). Lights out at 9:30.

Daily Total: $92.41

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