A Week In Anchorage, Alaska, On A $53,000 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.

Today, as part of Your Spending In Your State: a behavioral health counselor who makes $53,000 per year and spends it on makeup and a surprise vet bill.

Occupation: Behavioral Health Counselor
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Salary: $53,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,516

Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $600
Student Loan Payments: $186. I still owe $12,709 but I'm paying off other debts more aggressively right now.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Medical & Dental: $95 (taken out of my paycheck)
Gym Membership: $21
Car Insurance: $78
Car Payment: $400. I only owe $280/month, but I overpay over each month.
Streaming Services: $43 for YouTube Red, Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu. I stream a lot and let my friends mooch because I'm a saint.
Cell Phone: $135. Phone service in Alaska is ridiculous.
Credit Card Debt: $80. This fluctuates. I try to keep my CC at zero, but sometimes I use it when I lose my debit card (so, so frequently) and it accumulates about $100-$200.
Miscellaneous Debts (Creditors, etc.): ~$300. I've been aggressively paying off medical and utility debts I racked up when I was worse off financially. I've paid off a number of creditors and I'm down to just the one, THANK GOD. Less than $2,000 left!
Savings: $300

Day One

​8:25 a.m. — ​It's Christmas morning! All of my family lives in the Lower 48, but I have breakfast plans with one of the guys I'm dating, Q.

​9:05 a.m. — ​I run to Starbucks get two coffees and a chocolate croissant. I use my rewards for one of the coffees and the other two cost $6.80 on my gold card. I munch on the sickly sweet croissant and regret getting it. I've been doing keto but I decide to take Christmas and Christmas Eve off. I love keto for how I feel, and I'm always reminded of that when I go off it and feel sluggish and tired. Oh well — back on the wagon tomorrow!

​10 a.m. — ​Q. comes over, I make bacon, cheddar, and egg burritos, and we watch a few movies.

​1:45 p.m. — ​Q. leaves and I watch Workaholics and take a nap.

​3:30 p.m. — ​Wake up, shower, and get ready for dinner. After I feed the dog and leave her a variety of Christmas treats, I head to Walgreens to pick up a few things for my friend's parents, who are hosting. I get a gift card for my friend ($25 for Amazon because she's a big online shopper), two bottles of sparkling cider, two boxes of chocolate for her family, deodorant (I just ran out), a bag of hot Cheetos, and a tub of Almond Roca. $54.73

​4:45 p.m. — ​Arrive at my friend's family's house. Her niece introduces me to her hamsters and shows me her Christmas gifts while dinner is being prepared. Her family is absolutely charming and I have a phenomenal time. We eat prime rib, crab, potatoes, and best of all, fry bread and aqutak (Eskimo ice cream made out of berries, fish and seal oil)! My friend's family is Alaska Native (Yupik) and I live for the chance to eat traditional, native Alaskan food. I hang out for a while after dinner and then head home with fry bread to-go, thanking them for the feast.

7:45 p.m. — At home eating fry bread, watching trash reality TV, and looking up recipes for homemade Lush products. I'm feeling domestic but am also 99% sure I won't make any of the things I'm pinning on Pinterest. I fall asleep sometime after midnight.

Daily Total: $54.73

Day Two

​7 a.m. — ​I wake up incredibly groggy and hit snooze which I almost never do. Having the last four days off is really messing with me.

7:20 a.m. — ​Wake up for real, shower, feed and take the dog out, and pack my lunch, silently telling myself to make better lunches.

​7:45 a.m. — ​I stop by Starbucks to pick up my mobile order and grab my sous vide bites and venti iced americano. I reload my Starbucks card ($25) and am charged $9. I keep telling myself to stop buying sous vide bites because they're outrageously expensive, but they taste so good and I'm weak. $25

​8:14 a.m. — ​Get to the office later than usual (thanks to my snooze) but I'm still not "late." I catch up on a few progress notes from the week before, answer emails, and prepare for the day ahead. I have more scheduled than I realized.

​10:07 a.m. — ​My 10 o'clock appointment doesn't show up so I Google how to report missing packages. A big Christmas present this year from my mom was stolen in the mail, which happens a lot in my neighborhood. I'm pretty bummed, not only for the gift itself (an Apple Watch, which would be really helpful at work) but also because my mom and I have had a strained relationship in the past and her sending me a gift was a big gesture. This city is getting more and more dangerous every year; crime is up and theft is out of control. It breaks my heart that people are so selfish and desperate.

​11 a.m. — ​Run home super quick and let my dog out for before meeting an out-of-town friend for lunch. Check to see if my mom's package showed up on the off chance that it wasn't stolen, but no luck. Meet my friend at a cute Mexican place by my work. I haven't seen my friend in forever since she lives in Fairbanks, so I buy both lunches. $32.97

​12:40 p.m. — ​Back at work and getting ready for the group meeting. I prepared the materials beforehand and feel ready for the meeting.

​4:30 p.m. — ​I finish a few emails and eat my leftovers from lunch before leaving for the day. When I get home, I call my bank regarding an ongoing issue with a card I paid off seven (!) years ago that is still causing problems. After, I play with the dog and eat a few chocolates. I text a friend to see if she wants to go to the gym but she's busy. Feeling lonely, I also text my ex. I'm not smart.

​6:40 p.m. — ​Just spent 75 minutes on the phone with one of the guys I'm seeing, M. I'm not dating seriously because I recently got out of a long-term relationship, but we had a nice chat. I sit on the couch and strongly consider buying a makeup palette I've had my eye on, but the cozy blanket and not wanting to spend money make me hold off.

​7:30 p.m. — ​Despite the fact that it's seven degrees out, I drag my ass out of the house and go to the mall, agonizing over wasting money on what is essentially sparkly powder. I get there and, holy shit, it's Lush's once-a-year sale! Of course, I have to get some soap. The scents to die for and I support the company's ethics (especially at half-off). I know this stuff will last me months and having beautifully scented soaps in the morning makes getting out of bed more bearable. $31.85

​8:05 p.m. — ​Arrive at Sephora. I use my grandma's Christmas gift to me ($50) to get a Naked palette and another palette that's on sale. I almost spent $100 but then I put something back and "only" spent less than $70. $68.40

​8:55 p.m. — ​On the drive home, I strongly resist the urge to be lazy and buy fast food. I'm a junk food addict — not even exaggerating. I meet the DSM criteria for junk food addiction and it is literally a struggle to not eat out. I pull into the parking lot of a fast food place and then make a quick U-turn before I can think twice about wasting more money today. I drive home and make myself sesame garlic beef and cabbage tacos. I put the leftovers in a glass container for tomorrow and go to bed.

​11 p.m. — ​I round out my day of irresponsible spending by ordering Stila eyeshadow I didn't get at Sephora. I have a $5 off coupon on Amazon, so I get a discount on that and a Rebel Alliance Star Wars vinyl decal ($1.50) for my car. $21.50

Daily Total: $179.72

Day Three

​7 a.m. — ​Wake up, shower, let the dog out, grab my leftovers from yesterday, and defrost my car. It's ridiculously cold this time of year, but at least we're past the winter solstice and I can tell myself that we're gaining daylight! I don't fully realize how cold it was until I get to my job and my coworker says it's minus two degrees.

​7:45 a.m. — ​Get to Starbucks and order my usual Americano and egg bites. (I know, I know.) I also impulsively buy a package of madeleines and gum, and everything goes on my Starbucks card. When I'm eating well, I'm a fucking champion; when I'm off the wagon, so to speak, my spending and eating both suffer. I vow to get back on track ASAP.

​8 a.m. — ​Get to work and groggily start my day.

​11:15 a.m. — I make a cup of coffee from our staff kitchenette; it's free and warm, two of my favorite things. In my downtime, I look into credit cards with rewards. I have one credit card that I've been managing well and I've improved my credit score over the past few years; it's up almost 300 points! But I recently applied for a credit card with Wells Fargo and was rejected. I used to be a financial idiot, but I've learned a lot (thank you, r/personalfinance!). Still, I'm being penalized for an account with them I paid off seven years ago. Lo and behold, Discover approves for a different card with a $9,500 limit and better rewards.

​12:30 p.m. — ​Head home for lunch and obsessively check my mail again. I know my gift is stolen but I'm still hopeful. I let the dog out, eat my leftovers, and do some dishes before I go back to work.

​1:15 p.m. — ​I feel a headache coming on and chug a Nalgene bottle of water and take some of my coworker's Tylenol. I host a pub quiz as one of my three side hustles and ask if anyone can cover for me tonight. Everyone is busy so I suck it up and follow through with my responsibilities. My friends are seeing the Doctor Who Christmas special at a theater pub and I wanted to go. Before getting back to work, I order 30-month credit score monitoring pass for $4.99. I like checking my score every day even though it almost never changes. $4.99

​4:40 p.m. — Go to Kinkos and print out the quiz materials ($2.60), then chill at home with my roommates and the dogs, discussing Star Wars and how shitty men are. $2.60

​6:40 p.m. — ​Get to the quiz early to set up but the sound guy isn't here, so I order fondu and awkwardly wait around until he shows up.

​8:45 p.m. — Quiz ends. For hosting, I get $50 and a $25 bar tab which isn't bad for three hours of (usually) fun work. I spent $3 on garage parking because I couldn't find street parking near the venue and wasn't about to walk several blocks in negative-degree temperatures! $3

9 p.m. — ​I get home and talk to my roommate for a while before he goes to bed. A fellow stand-up comedian in town asks me to debate him during a holiday special, but I tell him no because I'd need more time to prepare. He says he understands — he's asking a day before the show.

Daily Total: $10.59

Day Four

​6:55 a.m. — ​Wake up, shower, take care of the dog, get ready. I didn't manage my time well and have to dry the clothes I'm wearing this morning. It works out and my clothes are only slightly damp. Yay, adulting!

​7:40 a.m. — ​Stop by Starbucks and get my usual Americano and egg bites, paying with the gold card.

​8:05 a.m. — ​At work and in for another busy day.

​10:45 a.m. — ​Take my lunch and head home to play with the dog and reheat my food. I'm low on food and need to go to the grocery store soon. I pay some bills and text my roommates for their portions since they're both still asleep. After, I check the mail; still no Christmas gift. I really wish I wasn't still holding out hope; it sucks.

11:30 a.m. — ​Get back to work for back-to-back group and individual sessions with my clients. The holidays have made things a little hectic. During a quick break in my schedule, I place a mobile order for groceries at Fred Meyer. I'm excited to make low-carb burrito bowls! I order heavy cream, jalapeños, low-carb tortillas, cheese, garlic, guacamole, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes and green chiles, frozen chicken, salsa, sour cream, bell peppers, green onions, cabbage, beef steak tips, sesame oil, pickles, zucchini, and coconut butter. Food in Alaska is so expensive and the quality is tenuous, but it's still cheaper than eating out all the time. $83.88

​4:30 p.m. — ​I head home after a busy afternoon. I'm going to a planning meeting for the upcoming DSA Women's March, then hang out with one of the guys I'm seeing, C. But as I'm preparing dinner, my roommate collapses into a grand mal seizure. My roommate is epileptic and manages his seizures through medication; this is his first seizure in a long time and it is extremely scary.

​5:15 p.m. — ​I call the paramedics as soon as his seizure starts, and for some reason, they send over 11 EMTs. He eventually comes to, slowly, but refuses to go to the emergency room because he can't afford it. It is so fucking frustrating that people are turning down necessary, potentially life-saving medical care because they can't afford to rack up $1,500 on top of already extensive medical debt. I understand his decision, but I strongly urge him to let me take him to the ER like the paramedic advises. He says no, and I respect it.

​6:15 p.m. — ​My roommate's sibling shows up, and I leave for a few minutes to pick up my Fred Meyer order. Back home, I start cooking again. In the Instant Pot, I make a combination of chicken breast, ranch dip, cream cheese, and cheddar. While that's cooking, I bake bacon to crumble in it later. I also make chicken fajita bowls for work with seasoning, peppers, garlic, onion, and tomato and put that into individual glass containers. I periodically check on my roommate who is wiped out from his seizure.

10:30 p.m. — My roommate wakes up and I serve him some dinner. Seeing what a seizure looks like gives me a lot of empathy for what he's gone through his whole life, and I see him in a new light. Seizures are fucking scary and he's incredibly brave. We process what happened and then go to bed.

Daily Total: $83.88

Day Five

​7:00 a.m. — ​Wake up, shower, take care of the dog, add salsa and sour cream to a burrito bowl.

7:45 a.m. — ​Go to Starbucks and get my Americano — but no egg bites! I realize my Starbucks card is getting low so I refill it. $25

​8:05 a.m. — ​Work as usual. Lots of paperwork, and I'm more than ready to start my last three-day weekend for a while.

11:30 a.m. — ​Take lunch to go check on my roommate and let out the dogs. I check the mail (nothing) and go back to work, fighting the urge to get more coffee. I didn't sleep well and I feel sluggish and unmotivated, despite all the work I definitely need to do.

​4:21 p.m. — My day at work was hectic. It wasn't horrible because I absolutely love my job and the clients I serve, but it ended on a sour note. I have a strong urge to eat my feelings. In the past, I would drive to my favorite chicken wing place and spend, no joke, $25 on wings. I'd do that several times a week; it was out of control. I couldn't afford it either, but somehow I spent the money anyway. I'm super tempted to start the habit again but I stay strong. I see that the Naked Smokey Eye palette is on NordstromRack.com for $25 before shipping, and I definitely buy it. I tell myself it's my reward for dealing with my day and not binge-eating shitty food. I started wearing makeup very recently, and I really like the confidence boost it gives me. $31

​5:30 p.m. — ​I go home and play with the dog. My roommate asks for a ride to the bank and I agree. Because of his seizure, he can't legally drive for six months and I offered to help him out as much as I can. While I wait for him, I get a drip coffee, paying on my Starbucks card.

7:30 p.m. — ​I meet friends at a comedy show. I'm taking a break from performing for a while but I still like to go and support friends, plus it's always fun. I get a turkey bacon and avocado sandwich, pickle chips, and a drink. $30

12:30 a.m. — ​After the show, we all hang out for a while, talking and taking cheesy polaroid pictures. I don't drink much so I offer to take two of my friends home. They ask me to stop at Taco Bell (obviously) so I do (obviously). I get a burrito and a Diet Pepsi, but my friend offers to pay.

1:30 a.m. — I get home and chat with my roommate for a bit before heading to bed.

Daily Total: $86

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — ​I wake up with no alarm. I love these kinds of days. My roommates and I have a cleaning date scheduled; our house has gotten messy so we agree to do a purge together. I want to get coffee and my roommate needs a ride to get his dog's medicine. I order coffee and two yogurts ($3.86 on my Starbucks card). We return home and deep clean, getting a bunch of stuff loaded up for donations.

​4:30 p.m. — ​I decide to take a nap before my date tonight. Z. and I planned a winter hike on Flattop. Even though I'm doubtful it's accessible at this time of year, I'm down to try it out. I wake up to get ready and go downstairs, only to see that my dog rifled through some of the stuff we planned to take — including two pieces of dark chocolate I bought in Scotland a few months ago. Fuck. I call the vet and they say to bring her in.

​8 p.m. — ​Cancel my date with Z. and rush the dog to the vet. I'm so angry at myself for leaving it in her reach but grateful I saw the packaging before it was too late. I get to the vet and they check her in, get her vitals, and induce vomiting. Z. comes over and sits with me for a little bit. The dog is fine in the end; they check her stomach and don't find any of the chocolate so it's possible I may have overreacted, but honestly, I'd rather be safe than sorry — and this is the entire reason I have a savings account. The visit costs more than $200. I pay gladly because my dog is worth it. $225

9:30 p.m. — ​Stop by Walgreens to get popcorn and chips. So much for eating healthy; what a fucking week. $6.56

​10 p.m. — ​Get home and watch Black Mirror, snuggling and monitoring the dog until way too late. Someone texts me and I realize that it's 1:40 in the morning, so I go to bed.

Daily Total: $231.56

Day Seven

8 a.m. — ​Wake up and fall back asleep. It's too early.

11 a.m. — ​Get out of bed and shower. I agreed to show my Roomba to a woman from Facebook marketplace. The Roomba is cool and I wanted one for a long time, but I almost never use it (and it scares my dog) so I've decided to sell it.

12 p.m. — ​The potential buyer comes over, checks out the Roomba, and decides she wants it. She gives me $100 in cash and I tell her that if it gives her any problems, she should return it and I'll give her a refund. She says it should be fine though.

12:30 p.m. — ​I run and grab coffee, paying with my Starbucks card.

2:20 p.m. — ​My roommate and I go see The Princess Diaries at a local theater pub. I order a steak burrito, breadsticks, and a drink. My roommate forgot her card so she uses mine and pays me back on Venmo. $29 (including tip)

4:30 p.m. — ​After the movie, I go home and take a nap. I love naps. I have plans with friends for New Years, but I'm not doing anything until I sleep for an hour.

6 p.m. — ​Wake up, shower, get dressed. I stop by the store and buy Champagne, gum, and an iced coffee. $26.93

7:30 p.m. — ​Pick up my friend and head to our other friend's party. It ends up being an extremely fun and goofy time, and I spend most of the night there, feeling grateful for good friends and excited about the new year.

Daily Total: $55.93

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.

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