A Week In Shanghai, China, On A $36,000 Salary

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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: a copywriter working in beauty who makes $36,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on watermelon. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Copywriter
Industry: Beauty
Age: 25
Location: Shanghai, China
Salary: $36,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $2,497.95
Monthly Expenses
Rent: My fiance's job covers $1,300 of our rent per month, and then I pay the remaining $448.
Student Loan Payment: $0 (Thank you, Mum and Dad!)
Netflix: $0 (Thanks, Mum and Dad.)
House Cleaner: $47 (my monthly share for six hours of cleaning per week)
Savings: I am trying to save $500/month in hopes of buying a home next year
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Additional Expenses
Phone: $14, paid every three months
Gym: $897 for a year (paid in full)

Day One

6:30 a.m. — Wake up extremely tired, but force myself to go to the gym before work. My wedding is in exactly 38 days, so I am finally at the finish line of a very long year of getting my ass into shape for the big day.
8 a.m. — Make my post-gym workout tonic of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and water, and then hop in the shower and start getting ready for work. I make myself a slice of whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana on top (my favourite), and pour a Nespresso-brewed coffee into my thermos before hopping on my scooter to work.
9:30 a.m. — After a short five-minute commute, I arrive at my office armed with caffeine and feeling ready. We're launching a bunch of new products in Q3 and Q4 this year, so I have lots of research and brainstorming to do today.
12:30 p.m. — I ride home for lunch and eat leftover salad in the fridge. I find myself riding to my apartment to eat lunch more and more lately, since it's a nice way to get out of the office for an hour, relax, and save money. I make a can of pumpkin soup to eat, too. (Is it weird that I am eating pumpkin soup in the summer? It sounds pretty weird to me. ) Then I head back to work.
6:30 p.m. — Ride my scooter home and order a chicken salad from one of my favourite Western delivery shops. I'm meeting friends for drinks at a newly renovated bar tonight, so I don't have time to cook dinner. $11
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7:30 p.m. — Meet my friend outside my apartment and we grab Mobikes (ride-sharing bikes) for $0.14 and attempt to ride over to the bars. Unfortunately, with my poor sense of direction we get completely lost and end up just paying for a taxi ($2.99). Once there, we order a bread and dip platter to share and a cocktail while we wait for our other two friends. $3.13
8:30 p.m. — Once our friends arrive, we head over to another bar in the area for aperol spritzes (my favourite summer drink). $11
10:30 p.m. — We chat for a while and then decide to ride our bikes home, since it's only a 15-minute ride (assuming we don't get lost). My friend leads the way this time. I really love Shanghai in the summer — it's so easy to get around by bike, and with bike-sharing companies such as Ofo and Mobike, it's very affordable. Plus, I get to discover restaurants when I ride down new streets. $0.14
11:30 p.m. — Do my nightly skincare routine which consists of cleansing my skin, using my glow tonic toner, and then hydrating with eye cream and moisturiaer. I turn on an episode of Queer Eye and then pass out.
Daily Total: $25.27

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — It's FRI-YAY. I have a busy day ahead at work, which always makes me happy because it means the day will go by faster. I skip my morning workout today because I've already gone four days in a row and I'm trying to listen to my body more and give it some rest when it needs it. I make myself scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on top for breakfast.
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9:20 a.m. — Head outside to grab my scooter, only to realise someone cut all the alarms wires and tried to steal it last night while I was sleeping. The bike lock, ignition, and bike seat are all broken — but luckily they weren't able to steal the bike, and the battery inside is still intact. I run to ask my security guard for help in my broken Mandarin, but he says the security cameras outside our building are broken...so that's not very helpful. I grab a Mobike and head to work in a panic. I just got my scooter a few months ago and it cost $400, so this definitely puts a damper on my mood. $0.14
10 a.m. — Get to work and immediately start looking for a company who will come to my apartment to fix my scooter. Since the thief broke the keyhole on the bike lock, I can't move the bike. My coworker orders us Americanos from the coffee shop downstairs so we don't have to drink shitty work coffee today, and I pay her back. $3.59
10:30 a.m. — Call my fiance, S., and ask him for advice. He suggests calling the guy who sold me the scooter (it's second hand) and asking him if he knows a repairman. I have nothing to lose at this point, so I shoot him a text, and five minutes later I have the cell phone number of a repairman who is willing to come to my apartment and fix everything on the spot.
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12:30 p.m. — Ride a Mobike home ($0.14) to meet the guy, and in one hour flat he fixes my bike seat, saws off the bike lock with a chainsaw and gives me a brand new one, replaces all the wires in the bike, and fixes the ignition. I pull up my translator app to search for the word "hero," and then tell this seemingly 17-year-old Shanghainese boy that he's my hero! He charges me $74 and I ride back to work on my scooter, loving life. Only in China can you get this kind of service... $74.14
2 p.m. — Was so frazzled this morning that I forgot to eat lunch, so I order myself a chicken and avocado salad from my usual delivery place. $11.97
5 p.m. — Today the HR department throws our office a magnificent midsummer party filled with flower crowns, fruity drinks, and lots of delicious treats. I enjoy two grapefruit vodka cocktails and then head home to hang out with S. It's one of our last nights alone before he heads home for a few weeks to visit his family before the wedding. (He's from London, and I'm from New York). We order in protein bowls for dinner (his treat) and watch a few episodes of Queer Eye. (I swear he enjoys watching it more than I do. He's already sporting a French tuck on the reg.)
Daily Total: $89.84

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — S. and I head off to the gym to get a solid workout in before our busy weekend ahead. It's a tough one, but I feel great afterwards.
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11 a.m. — S. and I get ready and head off to a cute restaurant in the French Concession for a boozy brunch with friends. I order eggs benedict to start and cookies and milk for dessert (random — but I saw it on the menu and felt like I deserved it), plus a cocktail. $53.90
2 p.m. — The brunch ends, but our day has just begun. We head over to another bar for a gym mixer. They had a workout challenge for the last eight weeks that just ended, so we go to support our fellow workout mates. Plus, they have a $3.75 cocktail deal and we are feeling very social. S. buys me drinks.
8 p.m. — After indulging in far too many cocktails, we head off to a goodbye party at a rooftop bar for some of S.'s work colleagues. Since we live abroad, there are always so many people coming and going. I probably shouldn't be allowed to socialise at this point based on the number of cocktails I've consumed.
1 a.m. — I run up to S. in a panic at the bar screaming, “HELP ME I NEED PIZZA.” He decides it's time for us to go home. But not before I order us two large pizzas. $35.90
Daily Total: $89.80

Day Four

7 a.m. — Wake up with the worst hangover of my life, not surprisingly. Meanwhile, S. is getting ready to go to the gym...I will never understand how he is able to drink so much and make it to the gym the next morning. We order groceries to be delivered to our place, which will arrive at 9:30 a.m. — three almond milks, chicken breast, baby spinach, whole wheat bread, tomatoes, ham, turkey breast, smoked salmon, cottage cheese, salad mix, eggs, rolled oats, and bananas. We split the bill. $52.39
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10 a.m. — I booked an acupuncture appointment for this morning, so I grab a protein bar from my kitchen, hop in a taxi, and make my way over to the appointment, secretly praying I don't throw up when I get there (or in the taxi, for that matter.) I've never done acupuncture before, but I've always wanted to try it, and my back has been feeling sore lately from all the resistance training I've been doing the past few months. $4.50
10:30 a.m. — After the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor applies the needles into my back, she asks if I want to do cupping (another TCM remedy where they suction glass on your back to remove toxins from the body), but before I can answer, she already starts doing it. It feels weird — definitely not relaxing. $22.40
12 p.m. — After I take a taxi back home ($4.50), I look in the mirror and see 10 baseball-sized bruises along my back. My wedding is in four weeks, and the back of my wedding dress is completely sheer, so fingers crossed that these spots fade. No, seriously, I am freaking out, but there's really nothing I can do at this point, so I make myself a hangover cure of ham and cheese on whole wheat toast that I find in the fridge for lunch. $4.50
12:30 p.m. — S.'s mom has just flown in from London to visit us for the week, so we excitedly await her arrival at our apartment. We have a two-bedroom apartment, so she'll be staying in our guest room. After she arrives, she and S. head to the Shanghai Eyeglasses market to get her a few pairs of custom glasses, which are extremely cheap in China compared to the West. I stay home and curl up in bed, as my hangover is still going strong.
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3 p.m. — S. texts me to meet him and his mum for food at a Cuban restaurant down the street. I feel bad that I didn't go to the glasses market with them and I'm still hungry, so I walk five minutes down the road to meet them. We catch up and order Cuban sandwiches. S. treats us all!
6 p.m. — After relaxing in the apartment for a few hours, we grab a taxi and head to meet a bunch of friends to watch the World Cup at a bar with a massive screen. England is playing Panama, so naturally S. and his mum are very excited to watch. $4.50
9 p.m. — After seeing England score five goals, it starts pouring raining, and I just don't have the energy to make it to the end of the game after running on such little sleep from Saturday night. I tell S. and his mum that I will meet them at home and grab a taxi. $4.50
Daily Total: $92.79

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Can't face the gym this morning, so I let myself sleep in. Get up and make myself a spinach banana smoothie with chia seeds, vanilla whey protein powder, and almond milk.
9:10 a.m. — Hop on my scooter and ride to work. I get there a bit early, so I run across the street to grab an iced coffee from Starbucks. S. is a teacher and he recently got $300 worth of Starbucks vouchers from one of the parents of his students. Being the generous man that he is, he gave me half, so I have been treating myself to Starbucks regularly now.
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12:30 p.m. — Ride home to meet S.'s mum for lunch. She isn't hungry, so I make myself a quick salad with chicken and peppers. We decide to head across the street to grab a coffee together at a cute new coffee shop near my apartment during the remainder of my lunch break. She orders a latte and I opt for a sparkling water. My treat! $12.57
4 p.m. — Feel my stomach growling, so I munch on an apple that I bought last week from a fruit vendor on the street.
6:30 p.m. — Have a relatively quiet day at work today. Head off on time and stop by a nail salon on my way home. The gel on a few of my nails has peeled off, and it's driving me crazy. I ask the woman in the salon how much it would cost to remove the gel, and she says $4.50. I get annoyed because I feel like that's way too expensive for putting acetone on my nails, so I bargain down to $2.99. We end up chatting a bit in Mandarin and she files and cuts my nails for free. $2.99
7:30 p.m. — Head to a burger joint to meet S. and his mum for dinner. They split a BOGO burger deal and milkshakes, and I order a salmon salad. S. treats.
9 p.m. — Ride my scooter home from the restaurant, since I rode it there to meet them, while S. and his mom take the metro.
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Daily Total: $15.56

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Up and ready for the gym. Today is a resistance-based workout, which I prefer over cardio-based, so I am in a good mood.
8 a.m. — Ride my scooter back from the gym and start my morning routine, which consists of taking a shot of apple cider vinegar with lemon, showering, blow-drying my hair, drinking a protein shake with spinach and banana and almond milk, and then getting dressed. After I get dressed I put on moisturiser infused with SPF, concealer under my eyes, brow gel, cream blush, and nude lipstick, and I am on my way with coffee from my Nespresso.
9:30 a.m. — Arrive at work.
12:30 p.m. — Make myself another boring chicken salad with organic pesto dressing for lunch and eat it at my desk. I go for a walk down the street to see if I can find a new coffee mug at Miniso, which is basically a very classy Japanese version of the dollar store in Asia. However, no such luck. I stop by a fruit stand on my way back to the office and grab watermelon and blueberries to have as a snack later. $2.99
7 p.m. — Go home, freshen up, and head off to dinner with S., his mom, and two of our friends we met in Shanghai. We head to a Sichuanese restaurant that serves up delicious spicy food and order a bunch of different meats, vegetables, and rice to share. S. pays for me and his mom.
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9 p.m. — Head to another rooftop bar down the road for beers. Everyone orders something to try, while I opt for water...I'm trying to limit my midweek drinking.
Daily Total: $2.99

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — Alarms goes off and 10 minutes later I am out the door on the way to the gym. Today's cardio session is killer.
8 a.m. — Proceed with my morning routine. Make myself rolled oats with raspberries for breakfast.
9:30 a.m. — Off to work with a coffee from home in hand while I ride on my scooter. Today is going to be a busy day, I can feel it.
12:30 p.m. — Ride my scooter home for lunch again to meet S.'s mum. I eat a boring salad with tomato, avocado, chicken, and spinach for lunch. Then we head to the same coffee shop again (since she liked it so much), where she gets a latte and I get a sparkling water. I treat again. $12.56
3 p.m. — Starting to feel a bit sick, but I power through the day. S. and his mum are going out for dinner and then to the largest Starbucks in the world (it just opened here recently), but I can't meet them in time, so I just tell them I will meet them at home later.
4 p.m. — Get bored at work so I start online shopping, which is never a good idea, especially with how easily accessible and cheap everything is in China. I end up buying a black slip dress to go under a few of my sheer summer dresses ($4.72), two sheer white blouses ($10.34), a jade roller because I hear they're all the rage and I want to see what the fuss is about ($2.95), and a popsicle mould tray ($2.81) because I saw a recipe for healthy popsicles online today and I want to test it out. $20.82
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6:30 p.m. — Head home on my scooter with a horrible stomachache. I'm too lazy to cook dinner, so I order a Mexican power bowl with chicken, tomato, avocado, corn, and brown rice. $11.97
8 p.m. — Decide to make protein cookies while I wait for S. and his mum to get home. I take rolled oats, two egg whites, vanilla whey protein powder, blueberries, dried coconut, almond milk, and almond butter, mix it together, and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes. They don't really look like typical cookies, but they taste great for what they are!
10 p.m. — Try to fall asleep, but end up spending most of the night awake.
Daily Total: $45.53
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 behaviour.
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