A Week In Boston, MA, On $25 Per Hour

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: an administrative assistant working in higher education who makes $25/hour and spends some of her money this week on Cape Cod kettle chips.
Occupation: Administrative Assistant
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 24
Location: Boston, MA
Salary: $25/hour ($45,645 per year)
Paycheck Amount (Weekly): $552.11
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $910 (including heat and hot water). I have three roommates.
Student Loans: $0 (My parents and grandparents put me through college, and graduate school is paid for through tuition remission.)
Utilities: $20 for my share
Amazon Prime: $0 (This is paid by my parents with my student email.)
Netflix: $0 (I use my parents' account.)
Hulu: $0 (I use my roommate's account.)
Cell Phone: $72.74 (This includes unlimited data, plus monthly payments to pay off my new phone.)
Irish Dance: $58 (I dance on a Ceili team with my mom every week. I danced as a kid for a few years and only recently picked it back up again.)
Gym Membership: $34.20 (I get the part-time student rate at my school.)
Composting Service: $24 every other week
Roth IRA: $100 per week
Donations: $16 to my alma mater, $15 to Emily's List, $15 to Planned Parenthood, $15 to National Abortion Fund
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Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to the glowing orb next to my bed that is my alarm/light therapy clock. It is one of my favorite purchases ever and is especially necessary in the winter. I putz around on my phone for a bit and then shower, get dressed, and eat an apple and peanut butter for breakfast before heading to work.
8:55 a.m. — I arrive at the office with five minutes to spare. Typically I like to get here a bit earlier, but ever since I moved closer to work, I've been getting here later! I think I just imagine I can be there in five minutes when it actually takes 10.
12:25 p.m. — Usually I take my lunch from 12 to 1, but I have class today, so I have to leave early, which means a 30-minute lunch today. I packed tons to eat (for lunch and snacks for class), but I'm not hungry, so I take a walk instead. It is BEAUTIFUL outside — unseasonably warm and sunny, and I'm thankful for the time out from behind my desk. As I walk, I listen to a guided meditation on Headspace, which I get for free through work.
3:30 p.m. — The sun is shining through my window onto me, and I am dying to go outside. I have plenty to do at work, but it's all moving pieces that require other people's input before I can actually do anything, so I'm mostly waiting around to hear back from people. I'm still not really hungry (what gives, body??), but I make a note to heat up some food before class so I don't get hangry in the middle of it.
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4:30 p.m. — Time for class! I am finally hungry, so I heat up some broccoli and sausage I made this weekend. I bring the rest of my food with me to class just in case. As I walk, I listen to Savage Lovecast. I listen to so many podcasts, but the first few days of the week are reserved for Nancy, Queery, and Dan Savage. I decide to eat outside because it's so beautiful and manage to wolf it all down in five minutes. Inside, I realize I'm still hungry, so I eat a yogurt for good measure.
7:25 p.m. — We get out of class early! I have class two days a week after work, which makes for very long days. I walk home and eat a chocolate bar I bought on a whim last week. Then I go to the kitchen to see if there's anything else I want to eat. I have some kale that I need to eat soon, so I sauté it up with some balsamic to pair with the sweet potatoes I baked this weekend. I debate eating some now, but I'm not very hungry, so I divide it up for some lunches instead. I don't know what the deal is, but I have no appetite today.
8:15 p.m. — I settle down to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I watched seasons one and two when they first came out, but when it moved to Hulu, I stopped because I didn't have an account. Now I use my roommate's account, and I'm making my way through everything I've missed.
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9:30 p.m. — I told myself I'd only watch two episodes, but it's been three and there's another cliffhanger! Still, I know I'm waking up earlier tomorrow, so I force myself to turn off the TV and get ready for bed. I brush my teeth, set my alarm, pack my bag for tomorrow, and read before falling asleep around 10:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:05 a.m. — My light-therapy alarm has come on, but it's still dark outside, which makes it really hard for me to get out of bed. I don't know how I ever got up before I had this clock. Soon my phone also goes off and I snooze all of it. I finally start moving around 6:30. Getting to the gym feels like a lot this morning, so I decide to go for a run instead. It's not too cold and the sun is starting to rise, so I might as well take advantage.
6:42 a.m. — I grab a glass of water, get dressed, and eat half a Larabar before heading out. My hip has been bothering me for the past few days, and I'm not in great shape, so I don't run too far. I was a rower in college, and even though I loved it, I messed up my back and hips in the process. They're not always bad, but sometimes I do something wonky and old injuries flare up. Luckily, my hip feels a lot better today, so I mark this as a success. I make a mental note to sign up for that 10K I promised myself I'd do. I've run several 5Ks, but this would be a big jump for me. I don't even like running, but I know it's good for me and that road races can actually be fun.
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7:53 a.m. — Change my address for my Massachusetts voter registration. I moved just a neighborhood over about two months ago, but I still haven't updated my address, and I live in a new district now. Massachusetts makes it so simple — everything is online and all you need is your driver's license. It only takes about five minutes, and then I shower and get dressed. I don't typically wear makeup or have a beauty routine. I basically make sure I'm clean and moisturized and sunscreened (I'm very pale), and then off into the world I go. I stop at the ATM on my way to work. I'm getting my hair cut after work today, and I need to have cash for a tip. I leave enough time that I am still 10 minutes early to work. Huzzah!
11:34 a.m. — This day is NOT going my way, and I am getting hangry on top of it. I decide to walk home for lunch at noon so I can put some chicken in the slow cooker and have it ready for dinner tonight. I don't really like to cook and am often too cheap to eat out, so this slow cooker has been a blessing. I walk home and throw chicken, garlic, salt, pepper, and brown sugar into the Crock-Pot. I found this recipe online and hope it's as good as it is simple. I also heat up some sweet potatoes and kale and fry two eggs for some protein. It turns out okay. I do the dishes quickly and head back to work.
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1:05 p.m. — My office provides coffee, but I don't do well with caffeine, so I make some lemon and ginger tea to get my head back in the game.
5 p.m. — Free at last! My haircut is at 5:30, so I start my walk and arrive a few minutes early. I only get my hair cut once or twice a year, so when I do go, I splurge. I've never dyed my hair before, but I need a change and I trust my stylist 100%, so I basically give her free rein. I end up in foil under one of those hot helmet things and emerge at the end with pink streaks hidden all over my head! It sounds odd, but I LOVE it and I knew I could trust her. I head down to pay, dreading the bill, and here it comes, the most I've ever spent on my hair ($167). I pull out my card and hand it over, leaving a $30 tip. $197
8 p.m. — I debate stopping in CVS to get shampoo for dyed hair, but it's raining, so I will do it tomorrow. I get home, and my chicken looks and smells great. I kill the half hour before it's done by rewatching an episode of Derry Girls. There are only six episodes in total, which makes it very binge-able. It makes me laugh out loud. Thanks, Netflix!
8:30 p.m. — Dinnertime! I eat chicken with some leftover rice with soy sauce and peas on the side because…vegetables. Not bad! I package up the rest of it for leftovers and do the dishes.
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9:30 p.m. — I haven't meditated yet today, so I do a 10-minute session, put on a face mask, and roll out my back, which gets tight sitting at a desk all day. I pray it feels better tomorrow. I brush my teeth, set my alarm, and settle in to read for a bit before drifting off to sleep by 11.
Daily Total: $197

Day Three

5:55 a.m. — I get up earlier than usual today so I can go for a longer run, but it's once again pitch black outside and kind of drizzly. I had mapped out a new route yesterday but only just realized that I should probably run it first when it's light outside. I lie in bed for a bit, debating my options, and decide to do a bodyweight circuit in my room instead. I select one from my 8fit app that doesn't involve any jumping that could wake the downstairs neighbors. When it's done, I have the time and energy for another, so I do the next one as well. I like not having to come up with circuits for myself.
7:40 a.m. — My appetite is back! I heat up some almond milk and rolled oats, cut up some banana, and make some oatmeal. I also add blueberries, peanut butter, and cinnamon for some flavor. Yum! Dishes, shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, and I'm at work by 8:50!
11:45 a.m. — I'm taking a slightly early lunch today and head across the street to CVS, where I buy “color-lasting” shampoo that will hopefully keep my color in longer ($17.99). And because it's almost Valentine's Day and chocolate is on sale, I buy two-for-$5 Lindt chocolate bars: dark chocolate and pinch of salt ($5). With tax, the total is $24.11. I head back to work and eat my lunch (sweet potatoes with kale and some blueberries) while watching YouTube videos. I brought my book to read, but I guess that's not happening. $24.11
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5 p.m. — Every Thursday, I have Irish dance (Ceili) practice. Today, though, I have an unofficial work gathering for LGBTQ employees at my university. I'm not competing in our next dance competition in July because of a wedding, so I'm skipping practice this week to socialize with my fellow queers. My friend and I head out to grab a bite to eat first at B.Good, and I treat. $20.87
6 p.m. — We arrive at the bar and get to socializing. My friend buys us drinks, since I bought dinner. I have two vodka sodas over the course of about two hours.
8:15 p.m. — Everyone is ready to head home. I always leave these gatherings feeling more connected to my community. Most of the people who show up are gay white men, but I've learned a lot from the men and women who first started the group over 20 years ago. My friend and I start walking back to the T and pass a bar/restaurant we've been meaning to try. We're feeling spontaneous, so we ask if there's a table available, and there is! We talk for two hours, and all is right with the world. I get a frozen mojito that tastes incredible after our divey gay-bar drinks, and he gets a margarita. We share bougie chips and guac and split the bill. $26.93
10:45 p.m. — I am home, pleasantly tipsy, and ready for bed. I take off my mascara, chug some water, brush my teeth, and thank my friend for a wonderful night. I pass out by 11:15.
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Daily Total: $71.91

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — My light alarm brightens my room after a not great night's sleep. I had weird, bad dreams, and I woke up briefly a few times before my alarm. I'm relieved that I don't feel hungover (I'm a real lightweight), but I keep drinking water anyway to rehydrate. I shower, make my oatmeal, and start packing — I'm going to my mom's house in the suburbs this weekend. The two of us are really close, and I go out occasionally just to spend time with her, my stepdad, and my cat. I also have a couple friends nearby whom I don't see unless I leave the city. I pack a bunch of laundry because a load in the washing machine in my apartment costs $2.75, and I am not into it. I'm out the door by 8:40.
12:15 p.m. — About six months ago, my friends and I decided to start a social media platform for LGBTQ people living abroad, and it has really taken off! We recently applied for nonprofit status, and we have biweekly meetings to keep tabs on everything. We have a long agenda today, so I rush to join the call and munch on carrots and hummus, chocolate, and an orange during my lunch break. An odd lunch, but a good one.
5 p.m. — Happy weekend to me! My friend recently started a job in Boston, so we are meeting for dinner and drinks after work today to celebrate. We catch each other up on our lives over drinks and small plates until 7:30. I insist on treating as a congratulatory gift. $79.54
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7:45 p.m. — She still lives in the ’burbs, so we take the commuter rail home. I see that fares have increased again. $8.25
9:30 p.m. — Mom and I chat a bit and then watch the most recent episode of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. I show my mom some YouTube videos of past seasons, and then we go to bed around 12:15.
Daily Total: $87.79

Day Five

8:50 a.m. — Happy Saturday! I try not to sleep too late on the weekends, but using an alarm on a Saturday sucks. Unfortunately, I have another Skype call with one of my cofounders and someone in Moldova, and I want to eat before then. I am not in a good mood this morning, and I lie in bed for a long time before getting up. I'm at home, so I don't have my usual foods and stuff around, which feels odd. I make some avocado toast for my mom and me and hop on the Skype call at 10:30.
12:30 p.m. — Mom and I have lazed around all day and decide to go to our local brunch spot for some food. I order eggs Benedict and she gets a waffle. She pays, because she's the best.
4 p.m. — Somehow we've done almost nothing today, but now we have to get ready to head into the city to see Angela Davis! I scored us VIP tickets for a talk she's giving. I didn't bring any nice enough clothes home with me, so we have to stop at my apartment first.
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8:15 p.m. — That was amazing!! The theme of Davis's lecture was violence against women, and every word she spoke was so well thought out and brilliant. Afterward, we went to the reception, where we ate yummy vegan food and bought books for her to sign. (It was cash only, so I contributed $5.) We hopped in line and got autographs and pictures. What a night! $5
10 p.m. — My mom rented Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and really wants to watch it, even though it's late. I'm tired, but we go for it anyway. It's just as cheesy and charming as I expected. I head to bed at midnight, tired but happy.
Daily Total: $5

Day Six

9 a.m. — I hate using an alarm on the weekends, but I also don't like sleeping the day away, so I wake up to one anyway. I lie in bed for a bit, and then I get up and Mom and I watch Say Yes to the Dress while eating pancakes, our favorite Sunday ritual.
11:15 a.m. — I really need to do some homework, so I settle in to do some reading. I'm taking two classes this semester, and each one has required weekly reading journals.
12:30 p.m. — When I decide I need a break, Mom and I go for a run. We both hate running, but doing it together is always better. We run at similar paces and like to chat and complain to each other as we trudge along. It's a beautiful day today, and even though I get winded quicker than I'd like, it feels great to move.
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1:15 p.m. — We get back and watch the last bit of the Say Yes to the Dress Sunday morning marathon. Mom heats up some leftover pulled pork for us to eat, and then we both go shower.
2:30 p.m. — It turns out that I left my textbook in Boston and Mom has a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning anyway, so I go back into the city this afternoon instead of tomorrow morning. I gather all I can (along with some leftovers and homemade brown bread my mom made) and hop on the 3:30 commuter rail back into the city. $8.25
4:30 p.m. — I drop my bags at home and text my friend to see if he can go on a walk. We go on long (three- to five-hour) walks every weekend to catch up, gossip, and generally just hang out. I thought we were going to have to skip this week, but there's still some sunlight, so we go for it. We end up walking for about two hours and end with a quick run into Trader Joe's for some supplementary groceries I need for the week. I don't want to buy too much, since I'm going away next weekend, too, but I have a hodgepodge at home and I need to make something out of it. I buy broccoli, sweet potato gnocchi, butternut squash soup, an orange, and chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels. $12.55
7 p.m. — Get home and FaceTime my grandmother briefly. She has Parkinson's and it isn't easy for her to talk, but she's been more with it recently, and it's good to see her. When we hang up, I call my dad for some homework advice. (Yes, I'm in grad school, but he's a smart guy and he gives me some excellent ideas for a project.)
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7:30 p.m. — I make the sweet potato gnocchi and some peas to go with it, which I eat in front of the TV as I watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After the dishes are done, I hit the books again.
10 p.m. — I'm exhausted. My eyes are bothering me, and I remember I'd been considering getting some of those blue light-blocking glasses to wear on my long computer days. I do some research and find a pair on Amazon that I like that has good reviews. I don't know how much they'll help, but they can't hurt ($23.90). I do my usual bedtime routine and am asleep by 11. $23.90
Daily Total: $44.70

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — My alarms have been buzzing, and I force myself out of bed. I do the usual routine — shower, get dressed, pack lunch, and eat two slices of the homemade brown bread with butter. Yum. Out the door by 9.
12:15 p.m. — I don't take a full lunch today because I have to leave early for class, but I duck out to grab a bite anyway. I gobble down some leftover pulled pork from my mom and get back to my desk.
4 p.m. — I head to class. On my walk, I call my grandparents. I've been trying to make it a habit to call my three surviving grandparents once a week just to say hi. They seem to really appreciate it, and I'm happy to hear that these two are healthy and happy. Before class starts, I go to the vending machine and get a snack bag of Cape Cod chips because I'm suddenly hungry and won't get through class without something to munch on. I have to use one of my precious laundry quarters, but clearly this is an emergency. $1.25
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7:30 p.m. — Hooray! Class is done. On my walk home, I listen to Nancy and Queery, my usual Monday podcasts. When I get home, I heat up some soup and eat it with crackers.
9 p.m. — I should get a head start on my journal for next week, but I'm tired, so I eat peanut butter pretzels and watch Derry Girls instead. I am in bed and asleep by 11.
Daily Total: $1.25
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