A Week In Allentown, PA, On A $21,000 Income

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Today: a server/full-time student who makes $21,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on ice cream.
Occupation: Server/Full-time Student
Industry: Food Service
Age: 23
Location: Allentown, PA
Salary: $21,000
Paycheck Amount: $150/shift
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $50 (I live with my parents and minimally contribute to the household.)
Student Loans: $0 (I was making loan payments, but since I recently went back to school, I am not required to pay.)
Phone Bill: $29 (My phone is paid off, and I pay my portion of our family plan.)
Netflix/Spotify: $18 (I was supposed to share this with my brother, but he interpreted sharing as using it, not paying for it.)
Amazon Prime Student: $6.48 (I was hesitant at first, but this makes renting and returning books cheap and easy. I also like the extra movie/TV show options that come along with it!)
Car Insurance: $52
Savings: $150 (I try to be an aggressive saver. The goal is to set aside $5 per day. Every three months, I will take a percentage of my savings and put it into my Roth IRA and some other mutual funds. I wish I could do more, but I currently pay for all my schooling expenses and need funds to be available.)

Day One

9 a.m. — Running super late to church service. As I am settling in, I fill out my tithe check. I do this sporadically, based on how much I make each week. Serving is great, but I don't feel like it's worth writing a check for $2o every week, so I typically wait until I can write a check of consequence. The past week was a really good one, so I'm very grateful. $100
11:30 a.m. — After church, I head to pick up my best friend for brunch! I stop at home first. She knows me well enough by now to know I am never on time. We try a new spot for brunch that has bottomless mimosas — my favorite! Parking is crazy and the restaurant is packed, but we finally get a table after about 20 minutes. We order our mimosas and immediately start chatting — we both have crazy schedules, so by the time we find a day that works for us both, we always have so much catching up to do. Our server keeps up with the mimosas, and the waffle I order is delicious! We split the bill, and I pay $28 plus an $8 tip. As a server myself, I can't tip less than 20%. $36
2:30 p.m. — We decide to walk off some of our mimosas at the Marshalls nearby, which is just about the best store ever. My friend and I slowly mosey around the store, chatting and perusing the clothing racks. I find a bunch of great Calvin Klein bras and cotton thongs (my favorite) at a great price, so I load up. I also pick up some clearance shifts and two Kate Spade coffee-table books I've always wanted but could never justify splurging on. I get them both for the price of one, which is why I love this store! I'm a little shocked by the total price, but I have store credit for $53 and pay the remaining $99.36 in cash. We head home and spend the rest of the day watching Friends on Netflix in sweatpants. $99.36
Daily Total: $235.36

Day Two

12 p.m. — I arrive at work with just a few minutes to spare. Servers are supposed to arrive early to prep our sections, but Mondays usually start slow, and arriving on time is fine. This is my favorite shift because I get to spend it working with two of my close friends. We do work, but we mostly talk and make fun of one another. My shift is supposed to end at 4, but I have a table that keeps ordering, so I don't finish until around 5:30. I'm grumpy, so I order a margarita from our bar and sip while I count my money. The tequila and my profitable shift, $115 on a Monday, make me feel much better! $12
6 p.m. — My mom calls me as I'm leaving work, asking if I can pick up a few groceries. We are expecting snow tomorrow, so she wants a few snacks and things to make for dinner. The grocery store is packed because of the impending weather. I pick up frozen cauliflower, a loaf of bread, and some ground turkey. I notice that Breyers ice cream is on sale, too, so I get a quart of that for me — I know everyone else will eat it, too! $22
8:30 p.m. — After arriving home and finally getting something to eat, I head to my room to get in some studying. I typically have more time for homework on Mondays, but this one got away from me with working late and the grocery trip. I feel especially sleepy, so I decide to review notes for a biology exam tomorrow and set my alarm an hour earlier to finish proofing an English essay in the morning. I end up falling asleep around 10:45.
Daily Total: $34

Day Three

7 a.m. — I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, and head to the coffee pot. I love the smell of coffee in the morning, and I am so glad we set our pot to start brewing early so it's always ready. I head back to my room and take out my laptop to begin editing my essay, but I get distracted by Instagram and end up wasting half an hour scrolling. My brother knocks and wants to ask a few questions about biology. Since I took a break from school, my brother and I ended up being juniors at about the same time, and now we go to school together. We try to take classes together when we can, and this semester it's biology. We study for a while before I kick him out so that I can finish tidying my English essay. My brother leaves the house first, and I follow shortly after at 11:45.
2:30 p.m. — Last semester I applied for a leadership position on campus, and it turned out to be a long application and interview process that ran into this semester. Today I find out that I am being offered the position. I head down to the department to discuss my hour commitment, start date, and pay rate. I am relieved to know the weekly hour commitment is small, five to seven hours, which is great because I am taking 19 credits this semester and working two serving jobs. A third job will definitely require some later nights and earlier mornings for studying, but I am relieved to finally have a job on my résumé that is not in the food-service industry.
5 p.m. — My last class of the day gets canceled due to the snow that has been steadily falling since noon. I am starving because I forgot to pack food for my day on campus, so I head to Starbucks on my way home. I used to frequent Starbucks often, but being a full-time student has left me with little money for extras. But I think my new job and the canceling of class warrants a treat! I order a grande white chocolate mocha with coconut milk and everything Bantam Bagels (they're amazing!) to have for my long drive home in snowy rush hour. $6.37
Daily Total: $6.37

Day Four

9 a.m. — I only have one night class on Wednesdays, so I typically sleep in a little later. This morning I promised I would help my mom with her Etsy expense sheets on Excel. She has been selling antiques for a few years now, but recently decided to put together spreadsheets documenting her monthly expenses and income. We spend about two hours doing the first year and a half before deciding to finish the rest later.
12 p.m. — My mom and I surprise my brother and pop into the restaurant he works at for lunch. We both order broccoli-cheddar soup and get two iced teas. My mom treats as a thank-you for the spreadsheet help. Since the restaurant is busy, my brother only has a few minutes to talk (and steal the top of my bread bowl). We head home so that I can prep for a presentation in my night class.
6 p.m. — My professor ends up running nearly half an hour late for class tonight, and she decides to skip the presentations and have us do them next week. I hate when this happens! Balancing work and school is difficult already, but it's made excessively more so when I can't plan my weeks ahead. She lectures for about an hour or so and dismisses us early.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8 a.m. — I brush my teeth and head for coffee as soon as I wake up. This morning I have nothing pressing to do before I leave for school, so I sit at our kitchen table scrolling through Instagram and admiring the snow-covered field behind our house. I get an email saying that I have redeemable cash back on my credit card, so I log into my account. January was a heavy spending month, with the return to school requiring me to spend more money than usual on textbooks and gas. I commute about a little over an hour to school — and it's mostly city driving, which is not kind to my gas tank. I decide to put my $20 cash reward toward my monthly credit card payment and pay the remaining, $219.79.
11:45 p.m. — Speaking of gas, I notice that my gas gauge has dropped to under a quarter of a tank, so I decide to fill up before class. I am meeting a friend for dinner after class, so I won't have time to stop before that. I also don't want to risk driving in stop-and-go rush hour with a low tank. I have run out of gas multiple times before, thinking I could make it, and I can't take the chance today. $32.40
6:30 p.m. — Traffic is awful, but I finally make it to the restaurant to meet my friend. It's our favorite Mexican restaurant, and they make the best chimichangas! Upon my arrival, my friend already has my margarita waiting for me. She just got a new job, so she has lots to tell me. We decide to stay and keep talking over a fried-ice-cream dessert. We split the check, and I decide to pay for dessert. My total comes out to about $34, and I leave $9 for tip. $43
Daily Total: $75.40

Day Six

11 a.m. — After an early morning consisting of coffee and homework, I head out to run some errands before work later. Fridays are typically my catch-up days for the week. I head to the bank to deposit my cash from the past three weeks. I hate going to the bank, so I try to only go once a month to deposit my tips. I am sure they hate me for this, since I always go in with a big stack of cash consisting of mostly small bills. Afterward, I head to the UPS store to drop off a book I need to return to Amazon with a prepaid return label (yay Amazon Prime!). I then head to Target to return $12.63 of school supplies — I dropped an art class and have no need for so many composition books and colored pencils. However, one cannot simply go to Target and not shop. I try to browse mostly clearance, and I end up leaving with three shirts, a pair of jeans, and Chapstick, which I think is quite a nice haul for $33.12. $33.12
4 p.m. — I arrive at work for my closing shift. I typically work until closing on Fridays, since I can only work three days a week. I have been working here for years, and the servers we have now struggle to keep up during our busy nights. This tends to mean extra back-of-house work for me, while attending to a full section of guests. The dinner rush finally dies down, and one of the guys in the back makes me some boneless wings, which I gladly eat as my first meal of the day.
1:15 a.m. — I finally get to leave work, and I head to the pub down the street to meet some coworkers. Typically, a group of longtime servers and cooks ends up congregating here after shifts, and tonight there's an especially large group. I order a Miller Lite. We tend to be a tough group to join because so many of us are so close and so experienced that orders from a "newbie," like our new manager, aren't usually taken well. We continue our whining, and I order one more Miller for last call. I tip $6 on $6 to my favorite bartender, and I make it home around 2:30. $12
Daily Total: $45.12

Day Seven

11:30 a.m. — I have the house to myself this morning, and I decide to doze in and out of sleep on the couch while watching Netflix. I am typically beat after Friday nights, so I am not usually very productive on Saturday mornings. I do a little laundry. I'm working at a different restaurant tonight, and I need to wash that uniform. I do one more additional load before getting ready to head to work.
4 p.m. — I arrive at work and find it is already chaos. Two servers have called out, so that means I have to bartend and serve. When we are short-staffed, I split the second bar with the typical bartender so that we can both wait tables, too. I used to bartend when I worked at the restaurant full-time, but when I cut my hours back, I gave the shift up to another full-time server. In addition to the lack of staff, we have live music tonight, which means we will be super busy the whole night. When we finally lock the doors and start to decompress from the night, I order a margarita for my shift drink and do my closing side work.
12 a.m. — Since the restaurant was so busy, I didn't get the chance to order anything to eat before closing. I was smelling tacos in the restaurant all night long, so I'm craving tacos. Taco Bell is on my way home, so I pick up a few soft-shell tacos and their Nacho Fries Supreme. (I am so happy they're back!) I get home, plop on my couch to eat my tacos, and watch some Friends on Netflix. $10.11
Daily Total: $10.11
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