A Week In Milwaukee, WI, On A $52,000 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: an administrative coordinator who makes $52,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a wedding ring.
Occupation: Administrative Coordinator
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Salary: $52,000 + an additional $2,000-$4,000 from part-time job.
Paycheck Amount (Full time: 1x/month, Part-time: 2x/month): $2931, Part-time varies $80-$150
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $675 (My half of rent for a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom apartment)
Student Loans: $237
Utilities: $35-75 (split with fiancé)
Internet: $35 (split with fiancé)
Spotify + Hulu: $9.99
Gym: $124
Savings: $425 (once my credit card is paid off, I plan to put more in) Retirement: $372 (taken out of my paycheck. I have a mandatory contribution of 6%, plus I do an additional voluntary 5%. My employer matches at 8%)
Insurance: $140 (health, life, vision, dental — deducted from paycheck)
Car Insurance: $60
Car Payment: $0 (My car is 10 years old and I've paid it off)
Pet Health Insurance: $40
Credit Card Payment: $650 (I had $10,000 worth of credit card debt from being dumb in my early 20s. I was able to transfer my balance to a no-interest card and it will be paid off in three months)
Cell Phone: $42 (on a family plan with my parents and sister)
Charitable Donation: $30 (my company rotates to a different charity each month)
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Day One

8 a.m. — Our puppy wakes us up around 8 a.m. My fiance, C., gets up to take her out and feed her. I stay in bed and scroll on my phone until 8:30 before making my way downstairs. We talk budget and finances over a breakfast of Eggo waffles (romantic, I know). We are saving for our wedding and to hopefully buy a house. C. received a big bonus at work a couple of years ago that we have been saving to use as a down payment. My main focus is to pay off my credit card debt and then tackle more of my student loans, which C. fully supports. We have separate accounts but are completely transparent about our finances. We discuss some finance articles he found on Reddit and I update him on my credit card balance before we head out the door around 9:45 a.m. to take the puppy to Pooch Playtime at our local humane society. I work there part-time, so it's free to take her and is a lifesaver in the winter. She plays for an hour and then we head home.
12 p.m. — I make lunch for C. and I (quesadillas with chicken, black beans, and jalapenos), and start meal prepping for the week while C. works on his schedule for next month. I make egg and sausage muffins for grab-and-go breakfast, and some chocolate chip cookies for C. (his favorite). I clean the kitchen and check out some online jewelry shops for sales. C. has already found his wedding band, but I still need to pick mine and I've been very indecisive. I find one on sale that I like for $300. I mull it over for an hour, and then go ahead and buy it. It's the best deal I've seen for the kind of ring I'm looking for. We originally budgeted $800 total for both of our rings and C. found his for $375 so this would keep us under budget. Every little bit counts because I'm sure as we get closer, there will be unexpected expenses that pop up. $300.11
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2 p.m. — C. heads out to an event at the neighborhood yacht club (it sounds fancy, but it's not), and I curl up with the book I'm reading (An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks). It's a quick read and I enjoy the back and forth perspectives.
6 p.m. — C. is home and we invite our friend, K., over for dinner. C. cooks chicken thighs and Brussels sprouts and we snack on the cookies I made for dessert. After K. leaves, we play with the puppy until she's tired and I crawl into bed to finish my book while C. plays video games. I drift off around 9:30.
Daily Total: $300.11

Day Two

6:15 a.m. — I crawl out of bed and start my morning routine. (Contacts in, brush teeth, Bliss face wash, Drunk Elephant moisturizer, NYX foundation, powder, and eyeliner, Too Faced Mascara, brush hair). My office is business casual, and we can only wear jeans on Fridays. Most days in the fall/winter, I opt for black pants, a sweater, and booties. Today is no different. C. doesn't work a traditional schedule, so he is off work until Thursday. He gets up and takes care of the puppy while I get ready. I grab a sausage and egg muffin to go, pack my lunch and gym clothes and head out the door around 7:10. C. is a saint and brushed the snow off my car while I was packing my lunch. Traffic is horrible because of the snow, so I get to work about 15 minutes later than usual.
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12 p.m. — I usually eat at my desk while browsing the internet — checking the house listings and reading Money Diaries. I packed cheese, turkey, grapes, and pistachios today.
4:30 p.m. — I eat a protein bar on my way out of work and head to my boxing class (included in monthly cost). On my way home, I return my book to the library and pick up a new one (A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena — I love crime/mystery books). C. has already made dinner (stir fry) when I get home and we watch a couple of episodes of The Office before heading upstairs to shower. C. plays video games and I scroll on my phone until we fall asleep around 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:15 a.m. — Typical morning routine and breakfast, except this time I manage to sneak out without waking C. or the puppy, so they can sleep in.
12:30 p.m. — I spend most of the morning in and out of meetings, so it goes by quickly. One of my meetings has a Panera-catered lunch, so I get a sandwich, chips, cookie, and Diet Coke.
4:45 p.m. — My afternoon meeting goes late, so I decide to bail on my boxing class and head home. C. went to see a house today that I saw last week while he was out of town. It's in our ideal location, completely move-in ready, and unlike a lot of the houses we have seen, it doesn't appear to have any foundational issues. It's a little bit over what we want to spend, but it has a rental apartment in the basement with a long term tenant that would help offset our mortgage. C. loved the house too and is considering putting in an offer, which surprises me since we recently said we would step back and wait until after the wedding. We discuss the pros and cons over dinner (steak, broccoli, and french fries), and make a plan. We head to bed around 10 p.m.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — I text my boss that I am going to work from home today and then go back to sleep until 7:45. C. and I crawl out of bed, feed the puppy, and eat breakfast (leftover sausage/egg muffins). C. heads into our home office to start talking with our mortgage lender and run the numbers. I get some work done from the couch, while our realtor bombards us with texts asking if we are ready to put an offer in. We spend the morning debating 15-year vs. 30-year mortgages and calling our parents for advice. We can definitely afford it, but it's still very daunting and similar to wedding planning, we are afraid of unexpected costs.
12 p.m. — We break for lunch. I make wraps with leftover chicken and snack on popcorn. We text our realtor to let her know we want to put an offer in today but want to walk through the house one more time before we do. She sets up a showing for the evening and I clean the kitchen and get back to work. C. calls our landlord to make sure we can still get out of our lease. If we time the closing right, we won't have to pay our mortgage until March, which is when the "no winter move out" rule is lifted.
3:45 p.m. — C. and I decide we've done a lot of money talk today and need a beverage. We head to a neighborhood bar for a glass of whiskey. C. pays.
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5 p.m. — We walk through the house again and agree it's everything we are looking for. The price is still a little high for our comfort level, but our realtor is confident we can get it for under asking price. We decide to put an offer in for $10,000 less than asking and head home to sign paperwork. I make dinner for C. and I (ravioli with alfredo and roasted broccoli) while he reviews everything. Our realtor has been in touch with the seller's realtor all day, and she expects them to accept the offer tonight. C. has to work super early, so he heads to bed, while I wait up and play on my phone to pass the time.
9 p.m. — They accepted our offer! But they want to add an amendment so we need to talk to our realtor tomorrow to see if we agree.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — C. left for work around 4 a.m., so he is gone when I wake up. On days that we both have to work, we send our pup to doggy daycare (C. pays for that and vet expenses, I pay for food, toys, grooming, and training). I get us both ready and drop her off on my way into work. The staff there are so great and we can tell she truly loves it — it is definitely worth the cost, though once she gets a little older, we will probably cut back. C. texts me saying he wants to do a 15-year mortgage instead of the 30-year we originally wrote on our offer. Our realtor and I text back and forth on the amendment details. We set up a time for a phone call later and I decide to put my phone on Do Not Disturb so I can focus on work.
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10 a.m. — I'm very distracted at work with all this house stuff and feel a headache coming on. I snack on pistachios at my desk and drink water to try to get ahead of it. I look at the Wayfair sale and make a wishlist of things we would eventually like to buy for the new house — a rug for the dining room, patio furniture for the backyard, and a new couch. We can't afford it right now, but it's fun to look and price things out.
12 p.m. — I take a break and walk to the cafeteria. I get a grilled cheese, a cup of soup, and Diet Coke. We decide it's in our best interest not to sign the amendment. Their realtor is mad, but we are moving forward and schedule our inspection for next week. $5.68
4:30 p.m. — I leave work and eat a protein bar on my way to my part-time job at the animal shelter. I just have to pick up two shifts every month, but some months I opt for more depending on C.'s schedule and my bank balance. While I'm there, I buy a few toys and treats for a charity event we are having at work, as well as hay and litter for our pet bunny. $30.16
8 p.m. — Home and exhausted. C. is home and finalizing paperwork for the house inspection and financing. He cooked dinner and left some on the stove for me (Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken and Brussels sprouts). We make a list of what we need to do in the next couple of days before he heads to bed. He has to get up at 4 a.m. again for work. I stay up to take a shower and create a Google Doc with all the things we discussed so we can easily track everything. I go to bed around 10 p.m.
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Daily Total: $35.84

Day Six

6 a.m. — Finally Friday! C. is already gone when I get up, so I get myself ready and take the dog on a quick walk before dropping her off at daycare. I get to work right on time and eat a protein bar at my desk.
11:15 a.m. — I run out on my lunch break to mail some documents for the house. Then I swing by my favorite Thai restaurant and pick up lunch — a delicious curry and rice dish. $13.52
4:30 p.m. — I leave work and head to boxing. I normally try to go four times a week, but definitely slacked this week and feel guilty for it. It's an expensive membership, so I like to feel like I am getting my money's worth.
6 p.m. — I pick up pizzas for C. and I to eat for dinner on my way home ($26.50). After dinner, we head over to our friend's house for game night. We bring a bottle of wine from home (we buy Two Buck Chuck by the case, please don't judge us) and spend a few hours playing cards and watching our dogs chase each other around the house. We head home around 11:30. $26.50
Daily Total: $40.02

Day Seven

9:15 a.m. — We wake up shocked that we slept in so late. Normally 8 a.m. is the latest we sleep in on the weekend because our dog wakes us up, but she must be tired from her playdate last night. She currently has obedience class on Saturday mornings, so we rush to get ready, and each grab a waffle on our way out the door.
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11 a.m. — After class, we take her to the groomers. It takes three hours since they are busy, so we head to a burger place to grab lunch while we wait. C. has a burger and fries, I get boneless wings and chips. C. pays. After lunch, we head to the grocery store and get bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, string cheese, kale, chicken, steak, Crystal Light, rice cakes, ice cream, sausage, almond flour, eggs, olive oil, marinade, cheese, and La Croix. We split the cost. $53.17
12:30 p.m. — We still have some time to kill, so we go to the trampoline park next door to the groomers. We feel a little creepy since we are the only people there without kids, but we have a blast jumping around like idiots. C. pays. We pick up our dog, and I pay for her bath, sanitary trim, and nail trim. $27
6 p.m. — We spend the afternoon catching up on chores and meal prepping for the week. Neither one of us is that hungry, so we put together a cheese board and call it dinner. My sister calls and asks to borrow my car. She has tickets to a show in Chicago and her check engine light came on. She offers to fill it up with gas, which is perfect since my gas light came on last night.
9 p.m. — C.'s friend is in town for the evening, so we uber to a cocktail lounge to meet him for drinks ($7.56). We stay for three hours catching up and drinking fancy cocktails. We each get a round ($33). C. gets the Uber home. Once home, we both get immediately in bed. I take two Advil and chug some water to fight off the hangover I know I will have in the morning. $40.56
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Daily Total: $120.73
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