A Week In Atlanta, GA, On A $55,000 Income

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 paralegal working in law who makes $46,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on a bagel breakfast sandwich.
Occupation: Paralegal
Industry: Law
Age: 25
Location: Atlanta, GA
Salary: $46,000
Paycheck Amount (Weekly): $688
Freelance Income (Monthly): $1,000
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $400. (I live in a house with two other roommates.)
Health Insurance: $0. (I'm on my parents' insurance.)
Gas, Electric & Internet: $180
Car Insurance: $186
IRS Tax Payment For 2016: $250
Credit Card: $300. (I have about $9,000 in credit card debt.)
Roth IRA: I try to contribute between $20-$50.
Advertisement

Day One

8 a.m. — It's my first day of work at my new job!! I am currently finishing up my BA (depression and anxiety got the best of me in my early 20s, which prevented me from finishing school at the time), so I'm taking advantage of my spring break to get some hours in at my new law firm. I shower, take my son out to pee in the yard (he's a rescue dog I brought home about five years ago), and then hit the road. No coffee at home today because my work has a great coffee and snack selection.
10 a.m. — Clock into work and get down to learning the ins and outs of probate law. I'm replacing an attorney, so I have a lot to learn and very big shoes to fill.
4 p.m. — Head out for the day feeling overwhelmed but super happy. My boss is great and the environment is so wonderful. I head to the gym at my university, which is about 10 minutes from my office. Gotta take advantage of this tuition money!
7 p.m. — I stop at the Publix by my place and grab rotisserie chicken, salad mix, and hummus. I throw together a salad as my dog whines for food. Exhausted from the day, I read from my current book, All the Light We Cannot See. I'm taking a creative writing class this semester, which requires us to read at least 50 pages a week from a fiction book. I am very happy with this homework, as I love reading. I'm passed out by 10 p.m. with my dog as the little spoon. $20
Advertisement
Daily Total: $20

Day Two

8 a.m. — Another day at the office! Same routine: shower, take the dog out, and then hit the road. I usually lay my clothes out the night before and put on minimal makeup during the weekdays, so I get ready pretty quickly. I'm almost never hungry in the mornings, so I don't bring breakfast, but I grab a nutrition bar from the office whenever I get hungry.
12 p.m. — I leave the office to grab lunch. I wander around the area, checking out shops and cute boutiques while munching on a sandwich and chips I bought from a random café. I like to walk around during my off time and try to get in at least two miles of steps before I hit the gym in the evenings. $15
4 p.m. — Leave the office and stop to get gas. My car is great on gas, and I travel so little with work and school so close to me. I fill it up maybe once every two weeks. Then, I head to the university gym to get weight training and cardio in. I sit down so much at work and when I do homework that I like to get in exercise in at least four to five times a week. $25
10 p.m. — I have a light dinner, so I'm hungry again by 10 and grab an apple with peanut butter. I let my dog lick peanut butter off my finger and he goes wild. Some friends text me to make plans for the weekend. I started school in August to finish my BA and have been super committed to my schoolwork, so they understand that I don't really go out during the weekdays, even if it's spring break. I feel like I'm very behind everyone because I have a three-year gap in my education, but I know it's all in my head and it's just me beating myself up for something I really had no control over (depression is the worst). I am now on Prozac and have done a lot of self-reflection in the years since my mental health crisis. I'm still working through the anger I feel at myself. I called my university health center to make an appointment last week, but they're taking forever to get back to me. I make a note in my planner to shoot them an email to ask for an update.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $40

Day Three

8 a.m. — Same old, same old. My parents are in my hometown of L.A., so they're three hours behind me. I wake up to "good night" texts from them both like I usually do, so I take time to respond to them. They've been so supportive of my going back to school and moving back across the country to Georgia to complete my BA at the same school where I started and putting my life back together. I am truly lucky to have them.
12 p.m. — My boss in L.A. emails to let me know they need me to complete a case in 24 hours. Naturally, I freak out a bit. Sometimes they'll throw super tight deadlines at me and while I always make them, it's a mad rush of adrenaline until I get it all done. I'm paid on a case-by-case basis, so the amount of time I put into a case isn't taken into account. They know I'm also just starting my job in Atlanta, but clearly must be really scrambling for this case to be done. I spend my lunch hour eating a very expensive slice of Oreo cheesecake ($8) and outlining my case notes. $8
5 p.m. — I'm home and choose to skip the gym so I can work on the case. The L.A. firm will send me scanned files with all the information I need, along with the contact info of the client so I can call if I have any questions.
Advertisement
10 p.m. — My dog is watching me from the comfort of bed as I continue to work on the case. I have it mostly finished and will do the finishing touches in the morning. The three-hour time difference helps me a lot.
Daily Total: $8

Day Four

7 a.m. — I'm up earlier than usual to get this case done. I send it in and let them know that I'm available to make edits if they need me to. Now it's time to get ready for work. On the way to the office, I stop and grab a bagel breakfast sandwich from one of my favorite spots called Kavarna. The people there are so nice, and they always have cool new art on the walls. $5
5 p.m. — I go straight from the office to bed. I'm too exhausted for the gym. With two days in a row of no gym, I know I'm going to have to go tomorrow. I get up for a second to get my gym bag ready, put my clothes out, and wash my face. I end my nighttime routine with witch hazel toner and slather my face in Aquaphor. The weather in Atlanta has been so windy and cold these past few days. My skin has taken a beating, but Aquaphor helps me feel like I have a brand new face. I force my dog to cuddle with me and we both fall asleep immediately.
Daily Total: $5

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — It's Friday!!! I sleep in a bit later than usual to get my body back to full health. I spent my early 20s partying hard (which did not help my depression) and now I feel like my body is very susceptible to any changes in my schedule. It takes me a while to get back on track, but I feel a lot better after getting sleep.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — The new boss takes us all out for lunch at this hip spot across the street called Leon's. It's really great food and we spend lunch talking about politics, gun control, dating, and my other coworker's wedding plans. The conversation is great, and I fall even more in love with my job. It took a couple months of applying and interviewing to find it and I'm so grateful every day that I did.
3:30 p.m. — I get out of work early with my first paycheck in hand. We get paid weekly and with a company check that we deposit ourselves. Thankfully, taxes are taken out of it already. I had a job a couple years ago that did not take taxes out and I am still paying it off. I have less than $1,000 to go! It's been really hard to be in school and keep up with my payments. Before this Atlanta job, my L.A. job barely covered all my expenses. I depended on my family a lot and have plans to pay them back in the future. I stop by Publix to grab a big bottle of wine to have a glass as I get ready for dinner with friends. $12
6 p.m. — We go to a new Italian spot for dinner and laugh the night away. Because I spend so much time alone, I like to meet up with people at least once a week. I'm still trying to find a balance between being self-reliant and isolating myself. I hug everyone goodbye around 9 p.m. and head home to care for my dog-son who is up waiting for me. I sit on the front porch as he zigzags around the yard, loving his freedom. I chat with my roommates (I live with two guys my age) and then put on Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the background to fall asleep to. $25
Advertisement
Daily Total: $37

Day Six

10 a.m. — I roll out of bed and get my workout clothes on. It's time to make up for lost time!! First things first, I head to the park near my place with my dog. I know it's not the best idea, but I never put him on a leash. I like to let him wander and he follows behind me at all times. We walk for a couple hours. I wave hi and say good morning to all the other walkers out there. I love how friendly Atlanta is.
1 p.m. — I drop off my dog at home and grab food to hold me over for a while before I go to the gym. I swipe into my university gym with my student ID and get to work. I stay longer than usual to make up for lost time and because I can feel my body is a little slower than it normally is. I listen to podcasts as I go through my workout. I have so many episodes to catch up on!
5 p.m. — I start to get ready for my friend's party tonight. I make dinner plans with another friend to hang out with before the party. We decide to meet at 7, which means I need to hop in the shower right away. I have so much hair that it takes me forever to wash and style it.
7 p.m. — My friend is late, so I order a beer and peruse the menu as I wait. Waiters take turns sitting with me because my friend is taking so long. I swear to them that I am not being stood up and that I do in fact have someone else arriving. Thirty minutes later, she shows up and I tell her about the whole debacle. We have a good laugh and catch up on old times. I haven't seen her in about a month because I just had midterms and hid myself for a while. She orders ceviche; I get tostones and a salad. It's all delicious. By the time we finish, my friends are blowing up my phone because it's almost 11 p.m. and they want me to hurry up and get to the party already. We pay separately. $31
Advertisement
1 a.m. — We get to the party and immediately take jello shots. I talk to friends I haven't seen in a while and snuggle with the French bulldog my friend is dogsitting for the weekend. We decide to head out to nearby bars and grab a Lyft there. I buy a beer and talk to people. My ex and I broke up six months ago, so I'm trying to get back out there. I walk around looking for a cute guy to chat up. I like to just go up to guys and start talking – they're almost always happy I made the first move. On my way to talk to a guy, I'm sidelined by another guy who starts talking to me. We have a nice chat, but he's so obviously drunk that I start to feel uncomfortable. I excuse myself and head to the next bar with my friends. $6
2 a.m. — My friends decide to head out, but I still want to see if I meet anyone. I stay behind with friends of a friend I don't know too well, but who are super nice. As I'm walking outside with them to the back porch, I meet a guy. He's super cute, so we chat for a while and really hit it off. He offers to buy me a drink, so I head into the bar with him. He buys me a beer and he buys himself a beer and a shot. He takes the shot of whiskey like it's nothing. (Am I just old?? I can't take shots like that anymore.) He invites me home and I say yes.
Advertisement
3 a.m. — He pays for our Lyft to his place and we talk to the driver the whole way there. She's hilarious and can tell what we're up to for the night. We get to his place (and it's a beautiful apartment that he lives in alone – did I mention he's a corporate lawyer? I think I chose the wrong kind of law to practice) and get down to business, but either because he's drunk or just dumb, he doesn't want to use a condom. I immediately put an end to it and rip into him about this. He accepts my lecture and tells me I'm completely right about being annoyed with him. Placated, we cuddle and go to bed.
Daily Total: $37

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I wake up in Bar Guy's bed. I'm still annoyed about the whole condom thing – who does that?? But he's so sweet and apologetic in the morning that I can't help but ease up. I tell him I need to get home to take care of my dog, and he offers to drive me home even though I'm a good 30 minutes away from him. Worried he might still be buzzed or drunk, I tell him he's sweet but that I'll grab a Lyft ($13). We make plans to hang out later in the week. $13
9 a.m. — Finally home! I take my dog out and then immediately get into bed. I put water by my bed for when I wake up and don't open my eyes again until 2 p.m.
Advertisement
5 p.m. — After lounging about in bed for a few hours, I finally get up and make pasta with chicken and veggies. After eating, I feel much more alive and start to plan out my week. School starts back up tomorrow!
Daily Total: $13
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.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
Have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following theme:
Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs
Wedding season is upon us, and we want to know: Are you saving up for it? Going to weddings can cost a lot. From the flights, to clothes that fit the dress code, to the hotel or AirBnb stays. So how do you afford it? Do you cut costs elsewhere to keep up? Would you go into credit card debt to be there for your friend on their special day? Fill out this form, and we might feature you on our site!
Advertisement
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Fashion
A look at the subcultures around the world that colour what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Travel
Explore the world's most vibrant cultural and culinary centres—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
Beauty
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.