A Week In New Orleans, LA, On A $37,000 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: an associate clinical research coordinator working in health care who makes $37,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Ouai Wave Spray.
Occupation: Associate Clinical Research Coordinator
Industry: Health Care
Age: 26
Location: New Orleans, LA
Salary: $37,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $917.72
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $800 for my half (I live with my boyfriend and we split the rent evenly.)
Student Loan Payment: $197.58, from undergrad and grad school. (I have an income-based repayment plan.)
Apple Music: $4.99
Netflix: $0 (I use my parents' account.)
Phone Bill: $0 (I'm on my parents' family plan, which they still pay for.)
Le Tote: $64
Book of the Month Club: $14.99
Gas & Electric: ~$140 split evenly with my boyfriend. (We're signed up for level billing but it fluctuates a little.)
Cable & Internet: $117.34, split evenly with my boyfriend
401(k): $56.96, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
403b: $56.96, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
Dental Insurance: $7.10
Flex Spending Account: $29.81, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
Health Insurance: $89.10, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
Vision insurance: $3, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
Long-term Disability Insurance: $10.28, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
Term life insurance: $1.09, deducted from each paycheck pre-tax
Other Savings: I use Digit, which withdraws random small amounts from my personal checking account.
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Day One

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed to face another Monday. We had a mutual friend crash at our place for the weekend, and it's been great fun, but also exhausting! I'm ready to have my couch back. I take too long showering and can tell I'm going to be late for work. Luckily, my hours are somewhat flexible. Before leaving the house, I spritz my face with rosewater and then apply a Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serum I recently picked up at TJ Maxx, followed by Dr. Jart+ Water Drop moisturizer. My go-to work makeup look is black-brown mascara, Glossier Cloud Paint in the "Beam" shade, and Burt's Bees lip balm or Lipstick Queen Frog Prince.
8:20 a.m. — Arrive at work and prep for our Monday morning team meeting. It's unusually cold for this time of year, and the fact that the air conditioning is on full blast in the office is really bumming me out. I'm still freezing when the meeting is over, so I make a quick trip to the hospital café for a cup of turmeric tea. $2.05
12:15 p.m. — It's been a long and stressful morning, and I am so ready for my lunch break! I'm very lucky to have my parents live close to my work, so I often take advantage of the opportunity for a free meal at their place during my lunch break. I eat a fresh cinnamon roll and a bowl of raspberries before heading back to work.
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1:45 p.m. — I have to head to a meeting downtown, so I grab an Uber. I could technically expense it, but for some reason that makes me feel guilty, so I probably won't. $10.50
4:15 p.m. — Finally out of the meeting! It ran long, but it was very productive, and it was nice to spend time with colleagues who I usually only speak to over email. If I went back to the office now, it would already be the end of the day by the time I got back, so I decide to run an errand since I'm already downtown. On my way to the shopping center, I stop at Starbucks for a tall matcha soy latte and dark chocolate peanut butter cups, which I pay for using my parents' gold card via the Starbucks app. They don't mind, since they get to use the rewards points!
4:45 p.m. — Pop into Anthropologie to get a diffuser for the office. Unfortunately for my wallet, there's an extra 25% off sale promotion going on, so I grab a second diffuser from the sale section for my living room, and also pick up a bottle of black tea perfume that I intend to use as a linen spray. (What can I say? Anthropologie is my weakness!) While I'm in the store, I drop my favorite sunglasses and one of the lenses pops out. My boyfriend says he'll try to fix them for me, so I hold off on buying a replacement pair. $81.22
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5:25 p.m. — I take an Uber home from downtown. It's rush hour, so we get stuck in traffic. Ugh. When I get home, I relax on the couch while finishing up work emails. My cat comes and snuggles up beside me, which makes the fact that I had to bring work home with me way less awful. $17.75
7 p.m. — I "make" dinner for my boyfriend and me: leftover fried chicken from this weekend with prepared mashed potatoes we bought at the grocery store last week. I had planned to make worms and dirt for dessert as a special treat, but by the time I'm done heating the chocolate pudding, I don't have the energy to add the extra decorations. After dinner, I read a novel while my boyfriend catches up on his favorite TV show.
11:45 p.m. — Bedtime! I do a minimal nightly skin care routine: cleanse my face with Yes to Cotton face wipes, moisturize, and apply lip balm. Normally, I would read in bed for a while, but tonight it's lights off by midnight because I'm exhausted.
Daily Total: $111.52

Day Two

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but I feel terrible. I cuddle with my kitty for a few minutes before getting up to put the kettle on. Hopefully some tea will turn this day around. I do my usual pre-work skincare and makeup routine and get dressed for work.
8 a.m. — Once I arrive at work, I head to the mailroom to drop off my Le Tote return. (I had attempted to leave it out for our mailman yesterday, but it never got picked up. That's New Orleans for you!) I'm still feeling a little nauseated, so I run to the cafeteria for toast before heading back to the office. I get a 20% employee cafeteria discount. $1.04
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12 p.m. — Another long morning! I I have a patient visit and after that, the team has an initial phone interview with a potential new employee. The meeting goes well enough, but by the time we finish debriefing afterwards, I am STARVING. I head over to my parents' house (did I mention I'm a shameless freeloader?) where I make myself a cheese plate with crackers and grapes.
5 p.m. — After spending the afternoon doing a patient visit and good old-fashioned data entry, I get out of work 30 minutes behind schedule. I walk to a nearby neighborhood to meet with potential new roommates for when my boyfriend moves home after graduation, and make it home in time for Jeopardy! (my #1 guilty pleasure). I spend the rest of the evening reading and snacking on Thin Mints while I wait for my boyfriend to get home so we can eat dinner together.
8 p.m. — My boyfriend gets out of class for the day and we decide on pasta for dinner. I put the water on the stove while he hops in the shower. While I wait, I customize my next Le Tote shipment. After dinner, I clean up and we watch reruns of Friends. I fall asleep on the couch, so he sends me to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $1.04

Day Three

7 a.m. — I turn off my alarm and hop in the shower. This time, I'm running on schedule, and am on my way to work by 7:45. It's a bright morning, but luckily my boyfriend was able to fix my sunglasses! I keep my fingers crossed that they don't fall apart again as soon as I put them in my purse. Once I get to work, I get settled in for the morning while fighting the temptation to go to the café for a snack.
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12 p.m. — I'm super hungry, but all of my coworkers are busy with patients. I can't leave the phones unattended, so I have to wait for at least one of them to get back before I can go to lunch. I catch up on emails for the next 20 minutes or so and then head over to my parents' house. It's a beautiful spring day today and my office has no windows, so I relish the opportunity to be outside. The sunshine has me dreaming of brunch, so I have French toast drizzled with maple syrup and topped with raspberries for good measure. I wash it all down with OJ before heading back to work.
12:45 p.m. — I've got a serious case of the post-lunch yawns and can't focus on work, so I take a brain break and walk over to the water cooler to refill my S'well bottle. Then I read New York Times articles on my phone using my boyfriend's login. (His grad school offers free online subscriptions to students.)
4:30 p.m. — Finish up a couple of emails and I'm outta here! I head to the local Starbucks for a venti pineapple black tea and a peanut butter cup cookie with my parents' card. Just as I'm about to leave, my parents arrive with their pup in tow! We hang out together on the patio for a while, and since my boyfriend has another late class today, I decide to go over to their house for dinner. I chill on the couch and read a novel that I left there for emergency entertainment purposes. My parents don't feel like cooking, so my mom goes out to get chicken fingers. (We class it up by eating in the dining room as a family.) After dinner, I head back to my apartment. The fast food isn't sitting too well, so I end up going to bed early and am asleep by 10 p.m.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — It's time to get ready for work, but I can't even open my eyes. I had a crazy restless night with multiple nightmares, and now I feel like I've been hit by a bus. Is a fast food hangover a thing?? I hit snooze on my alarm and pray that a little extra rest will put out this dumpster fire of a headache. My cat hops up onto the bed and curls up with me, and I nap for about half an hour.
9:30 a.m. — I get out of a meeting and decide there's no way I can make it through the rest of this morning without breakfast. Normally I'm not really hungry in the morning, so I just drink water and wait until lunch to eat, but I'm sluggish and useless this morning, so I head to the cafeteria for a cup of fruit salad ($2.19 after 20% discount) and then to the café for green tea ($3.71). The barista this morning is new, and she overcharges me by mistake, but I'm too tired to complain. When I get back to my desk and open the fruit salad, all the strawberries burst out into my lap. What a day! I read today's theSkimm newsletter and scroll through my Facebook newsfeed while I eat. $5.90
12:15 p.m. — Every Thursday I have a lunch date with my boyfriend, and today we decide on sushi. We order tuna tataki, smoked salmon, and whitefish sushi, plus spicy tuna rolls. Even though it's not busy, the service is really slow and it takes us almost my entire lunch break just to get our food. I scarf down my portion and then dash back to work. My boyfriend covers the check ($53.71).
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4:30 p.m. — I leave work for the day feeling particularly worn out. Lucky for me, I'm going with my boyfriend to a fancy end-of-year banquet tomorrow night, so I have an appointment at my favorite local day spa for a gel manicure. I don't get gel polish anywhere else — this place offers an environmentally friendly gel system that's made from seaweed. I go for a soft pink shade in honor of the season. The service itself is $55 and I leave a 20% tip for my manicurist. $66
5:45 p.m. — I head home from the spa to grab a snack and am pleased to see that my dress from Rent the Runway has arrived! I eat a few Swedish ginger thins and then head to a nearby nail salon for a pedicure. They honestly do a better job at this salon than at the fancy spa I was at earlier, and it's basically half the price ($28, plus 20% tip). Once my toes are dry, I head back home for dinner. We make grilled cheese sandwiches with real cheddar and dunk them into tomato bisque. After dinner, my boyfriend plays a video game and I watch for a while before going to the bedroom to read. I fall asleep with my book on my chest at around 11 p.m. $33.60
Daily Total: $105.50

Day Five

6 a.m. — I going to work early today because I want to leave work early to get ready for tonight's banquet. I hit the shower and am at work by 7:15 a.m. I'm starving, so I head to the cafeteria for scrambled eggs and toast. They're out of normal orange juice this morning, so I get an Odwalla juice (at a ridiculous markup!) instead. While I'm eating, I check my online banking and notice that our utility bill for this month has finally gone through. I send a Venmo request to my boyfriend for his half of the bill. $7.93
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12 p.m. — My department is holding a lunchtime networking reception today at another hospital. Fortunately, I'm able to catch a ride with a coworker instead of spending money on an Uber. We have to do a bunch of embarrassing icebreakers, but the free food nearly makes up for it.
4 p.m. — I head home to get ready for the banquet. When I arrive, I find my new Le Tote package by the mailbox. I'm glad it came so quickly, because I had picked out a pair of earrings that will look great with my dress! We leave around 5:30 but get stuck in traffic on our way to the venue, which is a fancy restaurant downtown. Fortunately, we arrive before they start serving dinner. The event starts winding down at around 8, so we walk back to the car. My feet are feeling pretty raw from my shows. When we get home, I fall asleep while my boyfriend looks for a movie on Netflix. Truly a glamorous evening!
Daily Total: $7.93

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up feeling refreshed, but when I get out of bed I realize just how serious my blister situation is. I'm first aid certified, so I treat the blisters and apply blister bandages before packing up my Rent the Runway return. My boyfriend is still asleep, so I take my time getting ready for the day. Once my boyfriend is up, we head over to the nearest UPS store to drop off the package. There's a Smoothie King in the same strip mall, so we grab smoothies for breakfast. I get a small Dark Chocolate Banana and he gets a medium Caribbean Way. He pays, but I Venmo him for mine. $5.29
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11 a.m. — We stop by my parents' house to return my sister's shoes, which I had borrowed to wear last night. My boyfriend immediately conks out on the couch, so I spend quality time with the dog and my sister. When my boyfriend wakes up, it's already 1 p.m. and he wants lunch. We decide to go for tacos and invite my sister to come with. Since it was my boyfriend's idea to go out for lunch, he pays ($63).
3 p.m. — We drop my sister off at home and head to the mall to run errands. My boyfriend needs a new pair of jeans, since he recently wore through a belt loop on his favorite pair, and I want to pick up essentials at Sephora since it's their Beauty Insider sale this weekend. I'm a VIB, so I get 15% off. I pick up a bottle of Ouai Wave Spray and decide to try their dry shampoo as well, since the store is out of my usual brand. I also get a travel size tube of Pinwheel's Wild Child perfume because I really liked the free sample I received one time. It comes to $63.27, but I have $35 in store credit from a past return. I put the rest on my debit card. $28.27
5 p.m. — Head to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner. We buy a pound of boneless skinless chicken thigh filets and broccoli, as well as two kinds of La Croix and pineapple juice. My boyfriend insists on getting a half dozen donuts, too, and I don't protest too much. When we get home, we make Cajun chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli for dinner, which we eat at around 7. We haven't done a great job of cooking at home this week, so hopefully tonight is a sign that we're back on the wagon. After dinner, we watch a comedy special on Netflix while waiting for our friends to get back from the movies so that we can go out together. $25.42
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10 p.m. — Our friends call to let us know that they've arrived at the rooftop bar we were planning to go to, but they're at capacity and our friends don't want to wait to be let in, so they decide to go to a house party instead. My boyfriend and I decide to stay in, and we spend the rest of the night watching Netflix before turning in at around 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $58.98

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I get up and get in the shower. On Sundays, I use a weekly clarifying shampoo followed by a deep conditioning hair mask instead of my usual shampoo and conditioner. When I'm done in the shower, I spray it all over with foaming bleach spray. While I wait for the shower to disinfect, I throw on a ceramide sheet mask. (I got a huge variety pack of sheet masks from a secret Santa exchange this past Christmas and I'm still working my way through them.)
11 a.m. — It's Fleet Week, so my boyfriend and I are meeting up with a mutual friend to tour the ships that are docked at the Port of New Orleans. On the way to meet our friend, we stop at Smoothie King, and I get another dark chocolate banana smoothie. $5.77
3 p.m. — After touring a French Navy ship, a Canadian Navy ship, and a U.S. Navy ship, we are starving (and sunburnt)! We stop at a local Mexican chain restaurant, where I get a chicken burrito, a strawberry churro, and an iced tea. After we eat, we head back to the river to see all the tall ships that are docked there. The lines are way too long to go on any of the tours, but we get cool pictures. After we pass by the last of the ships, we walk back to our friend's apartment building to pick up the car. $15.50
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6:30 p.m. — I suggest that we eat last night's leftovers for dinner so that we don't end up forgetting them in the fridge. After dinner, we do more chores around the house until my boyfriend leaves for his weekly game night. While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I notice that a classmate from undergrad is hosting a birthday fundraiser. It's a good cause, so I make a donation. I realize all the sun I got earlier today combined with the blue light from my phone screen are starting to give me a migraine, so I pop Excedrin and head to bed at around 9:45. $5
Daily Total: $26.27
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.
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