A Week In Western Massachusetts On A $40,000 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 product development merchandiser working in home decor who makes $40,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on grapefruit White Claw.

Occupation: Product Development Merchandiser
Industry: Home Decor
Age: 28
Location: Western Massachusetts
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck Amount (weekly): $508.09
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $650
Student Loans: $100
Car Loan: $232
Car Insurance: $114
401(k): ~$140 (I contribute 6% and my employer matches 4%.)
Health/Dental/Vision Insurance: $372.36 (I cover myself and my partner.)
Internet/Phone: $0 (covered by my partner)
Netflix: $0 (We use my partner's brother's account in exchange for our DirecTV.)
Hulu: $0 (We use a friend's account.)
Amazon Prime: $0 (We use a friend's account.)
HBOGo/DirecTV Now: $10 (included in our phone plan)
Savings: $100 (I just recently started actually contributing to my savings again — ugh, I know.)
NYT Subscription: $8 ($2 weekly)
Stash: $20 ($5 weekly)
Misfits Market: $23.50 every other week

Day One

10 a.m. — I get out of bed. Had a bit of a rowdy night last night, but it was worth it and I shockingly feel okay. I make myself some tea and putz around the house a bit.

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10:30 a.m. — My partner, N., gets up and is hurtinggg — he tends to go a little harder than me on the weekends. He heads out to get a coffee and bagel from Dunkin, but ends up coming back with coffee, French fries, and chicken nuggets from McDonald's. I do not condone this purchase, but I do eat a bunch of fries. This is not the breakfast of champions.

11:15 a.m. — We are ripping off the deck in our backyard because it wasn't built properly, and the lack of airflow makes it susceptible to mold where it joins to the house. This SUCKS. August in Massachusetts is basically a swamp, and while I love this most of the time, manual labor is a hot, sweaty mess.

2:30 p.m. — I take a break to eat some leftover quinoa salad and sesame noodles, and to drink a copious amount of water. So. Dehydrated.

4:30 p.m. — We finally call it quits — we are both aching and exhausted. I hop in the shower to wash off approximately five gallons of sweat.

5:15 p.m. — Our neighbor sees N. out in the yard after he has also showered and brings him a beer (this is a frequent occurrence). N. brings him around back to look at the (demolished) deck. They both work in the construction industry, so there is typically a lot of shop talk that I don't really understand.

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6 p.m. — N. heads off to his weekly kickball game, and I put on Jane the Virgin. I am late to start the series, but am now shamelessly addicted and mentally kicking myself for not starting it sooner.

8 p.m. — I decide to steam some Trader Joe's cheese and green chile tamales, but by the time they're done I don't actually want them, so I stick them in the fridge. I had a drink when our neighbor was over…and a couple more since. Whoops. I am slightly drunk and impulse buy a pretty evil-eye ring on Etsy. To be fair, I have been looking at this ring for a while, so I did put a lot of thought into this purchase. I just didn't necessarily plan on making it today. $27.50

Daily Total: $27.50

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — Somehow slept through my alarm, even though I fell asleep at like 10 last night. Whatever. N. is still in bed; he has a meeting and doesn't have to be up until 8. I drag myself to my closet and decide what to wear in under a minute (this is unprecedented), brush my teeth and hair, realize it looks insane because I slept with it up, and pull out the curling iron. I do my makeup — mascara, eyebrow pencil, and gel.

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7:40 a.m. — I put on the kettle for tea, grab a blender cup, and toss in frozen berries, a frozen banana, coconut milk, and ginger kombucha. Not gonna lie, I am slightly hungover and need literally anything in my stomach. I pack up my tea and the smoothie once they're ready and trudge out the door.

10:45 a.m. — My stomach still feels subpar. I eat a few pieces of Trader Joe's dried mango and refill my water. I contemplate how much time I need to finish the project I have due at 1 tomorrow. I think I can put it off until after lunch.

12:40 p.m. — I head home for lunch. One of the perks of working two miles from home is I can leave the office every day so I remember what the sun looks like, plus I'm never tempted to eat out. My Sunday Scaries order has arrived, which reminds me to take a few deep breaths for my always-there anxiety. I reheat the Trader Joe's tamales that I made last night, then pound a bunch of water and lie on the couch for five minutes, checking Instagram, before dragging myself back out into the real world.

4 p.m. — FREEDOM. I contemplate driving to Aldi's, but don't feel like spending money, so I go home instead and proceed to watch as much Jane the Virgin as I can sneak in before N. comes home and wants to watch something together.

6:30 p.m. — N. is home, but our neighbor immediately greets him in the driveway with a can of beer, so he stays out there chatting. We got lucky and get along really well with all of our neighbors, which is awesome since we didn't know anyone in our old neighborhood. In the meantime…more Jane the Virgin for me! Three beers later, N. is finally done chatting and comes into the house. Bye-bye, Jane. We're hungry and settle on Trader Joe's mandarin chicken for dinner, so I toss the chicken in to bake and stir-fry some broccoli and green beans to go with it. N. cleans the kitchen while I do this. We have gotten into a LOT of fights about chores, so this feels like a major win.

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7:30 p.m. — Dishes cleaned, we plop on the couch and continue watching the new season of Mindhunter. N. loves this show — I think it's good, but it creeps me out a lot. I pull out a coloring book and work on that for a while to distract myself, and then mess around on my phone looking at the Mint budget app (I'm obsessed with tracking my finances, but somehow still spend too much).

1 a.m. — Okay, so it turns out I can't sleep. I get up and write out my thoughts while debating the pros of insomnia (being sort of productive?) versus the cons (literally tired all of the time; also I hate coffee and am very sensitive to caffeine).

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — I didn't fall asleep until somewhere around 3, so I'm not feeling like the best version of myself. Fortunately, I have a doctor's appointment this morning, so I'm “working from home” until 8:40. Maybe it'll look more convincing if I fire off a couple emails. My hair still looks okay from curling it yesterday, so I touch it up in an attempt to feel like my life is more put together than it is.

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9:30 a.m. — I started taking an SSRI at the beginning of the year for anxiety and depression, and my doctor decided to up the dose a few months ago, which has resulted in some unfortunate side effects (weird amount of sweating, insomnia, restless legs, which led to more anxiety), so I scheduled this appointment to talk to her about my options. We decide I should try a different SSRI that is supposed to affect sleep less. Fingers crossed. My copay is $25. $25

12:45 p.m. — I get out of a long meeting and head home for lunch. I have no idea what I'm going to eat, but I haven't eaten anything today and I'm HUNGRY. I end up settling on a Trader Joe's turkey burger with green goddess dressing and goat cheese, wrapped in lettuce. It's very messy, and the burger is still a bit disappointing, so I put some mayo on the second half. No burger is complete without mayo. Then I eat a plum to feel slightly healthier.

4:45 p.m. — Finally home. I feel like a dead body, but at least my hair looks amazing. N. is here already ripping apart the house with his coworker, B.

5:45 p.m. — Apparently N. told B. about our margarita machine, so I get sent out for supplies. I run down the street and pick up two bottles of margarita mix, a bottle of tequila, and a bottle of wine (my reward, since I have been informed B. is staying for dinner and I will probably have to go pick that up as well). This comes out to around $45. N. pays.

6:45 p.m. — The guys are getting hungry, so I order a pizza — we get a large with roasted garlic, whipped ricotta, and arugula, which (as predicted) I am sent to pick up 20 minutes later. N. pays for this as well. I make a salad to go with the pizza and eat with the guys (our neighbor winds up coming over, too, though he just has a margarita), and then go back into the bedroom to watch Jane the Virgin while the guys talk shop.

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9 p.m. — Everyone has left, and we settle in to watch some Mindhunter before heading to bed. Here's hoping that I can sleep tonight.

Daily Total: $25

Day Four

4:30 a.m. — Well, I woke up an hour ago, and despite my best efforts, my brain will not shut off. I head out to the couch so I don't wake N. up, take some CBD, and type this up. Yes, I know, you're not supposed to look at screens when you're trying to sleep, but in my personal experience, it doesn't matter what kind of light I'm looking at, they all keep me up. Also, I use an app called Flux that adjusts the light from my screen, so I use Darkroom mode. On the plus side, I got paid today, so I'll update my budget spreadsheet.

4:45 a.m. — I do my bills, Venmo N. $150 for rent (I do this once a week; the total for the month is included in my monthly expenses), and pay $70 toward one of my credit cards (I have about $2,000 in credit card debt that I'm slowly chipping away at). Normally I pay more than this, but my car-loan payment just went through (also included in my monthly expenses). Sigh. One day I will be able to pay off my credit cards and not live paycheck to paycheck. $70

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7:15 a.m. — I drag myself off the couch to get dressed and ready for work. I feel like a zombie, but someone else already said they're in late with an ailment, and I always feel like it looks suspicious if two people call out. I know, I'm overthinking things, but if I'm really struggling I'll work from home this afternoon. I make tea, grab a kombucha, trudge, trudge, trudge.

12:30 p.m. — So. Tired. I decide to head home for lunch so I don't have to look at a screen anymore. I'm not super hungry for lunch, since I've been really bloated all day from the pizza, but I heat up some of the spaghetti squash and tomato sauce and eat that with a plum and more tea.

4 p.m. — I take a quick shower when I finish working, then head out to run errands. I go to Aldi's and get olive oil, three bags of frozen fruit, sunflower seeds, three bottles of kombucha, avocado ranch dressing, garlic, Parmesan, mozzarella, hummus, cheddar, chia seeds, tortilla chips, and dark chocolate ($46.36). Then I head over to Market 32 to pick up my prescription, which I pay for in cash ($2.31). Finally, I pop into BJ's and get gas ($25.04). I head home, unpack the groceries, and catch up with N., who walks in right as I'm finishing up. $73.71

6:15 p.m. — I drive to my friend L.'s house to pick her up, and we go to our other friend K.'s house for D&D. Yes, Dungeons & Dragons. K. approached us a while ago asking if we would be interested in playing and recording the game for a podcast he wants to make, so we're currently meeting every few weeks with two other people to practice, since, except for K., no one in our group has played before.

7:30 p.m. — We are all ravenous, so we get two orders of cheesy bread from Domino's. I don't think I've had Domino's since freshman year of college, and I'm going to regret it in the morning, but hunger and exhaustion make for bad decisions. L. pays. I'll pay her back at some point later — we hang out a lot and don't worry about paying each other back, since it always evens out in the end.

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9:30 p.m. — We are all exhausted and wrap up the game. I drop off L., then head home, brush my teeth, and pass out by 10. N. is not home yet — he went out and had a guys' night since I was out for the evening.

Daily Total: $143.71

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — I slept through the night!! Technically, I woke up half an hour ago, but that's still a solid eight hours. SLEEP IS AMAZING. I roll around until my alarm goes off at 7 and then get up and start getting ready for work. Make tea, grab kombucha, and I'm out the door at the usual time.

12:30 p.m. — I head home for lunch and make a smoothie with frozen mango, peach, strawberry, pineapple, and banana, plus a tiny bit of leftover kombucha and coconut milk. It's our friend C.'s birthday today, so I pull a couple sticks of butter out of the fridge — I want to make cookies for him before we all meet up for dinner tonight. I also snack on some chips and hummus, since N. will probably finish the hummus tonight (yes, the one I bought yesterday; he already ate over half of it).

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4:45 p.m. — I leave work and drive home. I have to make these cookies for C., and I'm going to have a glass of wine while I do it and go full homemaker, because it's Thursday and I like wine. Boom. They are amazing. I text with my friends while the cookies bake, and we decide we want to try press-on nails (can you say impulse shopping?). I find a good deal online, so I buy them ($29.70) and they Venmo $10 each for theirs. $9.70

7 p.m. — N. and I head out a little early so we can stop at the ATM before dinner. We're the first ones at the restaurant, so we get a round of drinks, including one for the birthday boy — N. pays ($28, including tip). We have a large group, 14, so all the ladies sit at one end and the guys at the other. The ladies split two orders of bruschetta (the “bread” component is actually a slice of fried cheese — I'm in heaven), and L. gets some boneless buffalo chicken wings that we all pick at. I get an order of fish tacos for my entrée and two drinks (vodka soda with a splash of blood orange) over the course of the meal. We all split the check evenly to cover the birthday boy. $40

9:30 p.m. — B. gives me a ride home, since all the guys are going to play glow ball (golf with LED balls in the dark), and apparently we aren't invited? I'm annoyed at N., who seems to be the one who created/enforced the rule, since I feel like I haven't seen him much this week, and I know he's going to come home very late and very drunk. Once home, I brush my teeth and knock out.

Daily Total: $49.70

Day Six

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6:15 a.m. — I wake up, and sure enough, N. is not in bed. He must have gotten home really late and slept downstairs in the guest room. I roll around for a bit, enjoying having the king-sized bed to myself while I mess around on my phone, then get up and do some low-key tidying before starting to get ready for work. N. is still not up at 7:30, and I head to work early so I don't have to deal with him moaning on about his hangover whenever he finally surfaces.

11 a.m. — I cave and text N. to make sure he's alive. He is at work, so at least he didn't call out — he didn't get home until after 1 a.m. Also I'm HUNGRY, so I eat some dried apple rings. Is it 4 yet? Uuughhhhh.

12:10 p.m. — We have a company picnic at 12 today, but I generally don't feel good after eating at them, so I sneak out a little early for lunch while everyone else is outside. I spread some hummus on a GF Norwegian flatbread from TJ's and top it with a few slices of cheddar, and then have a cookie from last night. I feel unhealthy and make myself a smoothie.

3:30 p.m. — After browsing cake recipes for a while, I head out since I got in early. I head over to BJ's for the second time this week to get flour and tuna. I forgot I told our friends that I would make dessert for the birthday celebration we're having for C. on Sunday ($18.28). I head to Market 32 after and get butter, sour cream, a bottle of wine, two jumbo grapefruit White Claw seltzers ($5 for 2!), and three very unripe avocados. I accidentally forget to ring out the sour cream at self checkout...oops. It was only $1, though ($23.08). $41.36

7 p.m. — Cakes are done! After getting them in the oven, I relax on the sofa with a glass of wine and, you guessed it, Jane the Virgin. We're going to meet up with our friends B. and L. for dinner around 7:15, and then go to a show with a few other friends at a local bar. C. ends up coming to dinner with us, too. We all split a plate of Reuben fries (exactly what it sounds like — a Reuben minus the bread, on top of fries — it's amazing), and I get the Trash Browns for my main — hash-brown cakes topped with queso and a fried egg. Amazing. I also get a vodka soda. I pay cash, and N. pays for himself. $20

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9 p.m. — We head over to the bar. I get a glass of wine, and N. gets a High Life. I pick up the tab, since he bought me a drink last night ($14 including tip). We realize halfway through our drinks that we're absolutely exhausted, so we finish them, head home, and immediately pass out. $14

Daily Total: $75.36

Day Seven

9:45 a.m. — Sleeping for 12 hours is the best decision I have made all week — I feel like a new person. N. heads out to get a coffee. He used to get K cups, then ran out and decided he wanted something that takes up less counter space, but has yet to buy a new coffee maker or take the Keurig off the counter. Don't get me started. I make my usual tea — Morning Thunder by Celestial Seasonings. It has maté and kind of tastes like dirt. I'm obsessed.

11:30 a.m. — After doing the dishes, I decide it's time to get our basil plants under control. For some reason I let N. convince me that we needed six basil plants. Spoiler alert: We do not. I also have some carrot tops that I want to use up, so I rip those up in the salad spinner and go out to pick enough basil to fill it up, and then rinse it all off to make pesto. Pine nuts are too expensive, so I use pepitas and sunflower seeds, Parmesan, garlic, and olive oil that I bought the other day. It takes some tweaking, but after picking more basil and adding extra salt, we decide it's perfect. I scoop it in a jar and put it in the freezer. This is the second time I've made pesto this summer, and I'm going to have to probably at least two more times. I'm not complaining because I LOVE pesto, but the ingredients are kind of expensive.

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12 p.m. — N. goes over to talk to our neighbor, and then they both walk over for some Bloody Caesars (it's like a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato juice — it's popular in Canada). Since our neighbor brought his vodka over, I make myself a drink, too, with some fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice. We finished the vodka with the first round, so we pull out some Hendrick's that was gifted to us and use that for the second round.

4 p.m. — We head over to N.'s friend/coworker's birthday party. It started at noon, but it's an all-day affair, so we don't worry about getting there at a particular time. We intended to leave a couple hours ago, but N. had some unexpected technological issues, so I waited and puttered around the house while he worked on that.

6 p.m. — Free dinner! We don't know too many people at the party, but we know the people cooking, so we decide to help them out with cooking steamers on the grill while they tackle a truly shocking amount of chicken. I nibble on some baked beans, two types of pasta salad, and veggies. I'm trying to cut back on how much meat I eat, since I haven't been working out and don't need much protein these days. Easier said than done when living with a meat lover, but I do my best.

8:30 p.m. — We're pooped and head home. We had debated going out and getting a drink somewhere, but no one we know is out, and we aren't really dressed for any of the bars. We end up staying in and going to bed pretty early (for a Saturday), around 10:30.

Daily Total: $0

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If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

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