A Week In North Dakota On A $36,000 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 assistant director working at a nonprofit who makes $36,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bag of Gardetto's.
Occupation: Assistant Director
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 25
Location: North Dakota
Salary: $36,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,250
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (My house and most utilities are provided by my job.)
Student Loans: $0 (My college tuition was covered by my grandparents, my parents, and scholarships.)
Car Insurance, Internet & Phone Bill: $220
Health Insurance: Covered by work
Car Payment: $0 (My car has been paid off. My parents bought it for me in high school.)
Streaming Subscriptions: $40
Retirement: $300
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Day One

5:35 a.m. — My dad wakes me up — we have to leave at 5:45 to get to the airport, and I forgot to set an alarm! I slap some water on my face and finish packing my bags. My sweet mom made me a to-go cup of coffee, which I down on the way. My dad, a frequent traveler, somehow ends up in the parking area of the wrong terminal of the airport. He drops me off at the elevator, and I wait in the security line and power walk to the right terminal, and then to my gate about five minutes before boarding. I want to grab something to eat on the way to my gate, but I'm more worried about actually getting on this plane. I was supposed to go home yesterday, but my flight got canceled because of weather. TBH, I wasn't mad about spending an extra day in the warm South before heading home to frigid ND.
9 a.m. — I am starving, despite the gummy bears I had in my carry-on that I ate on the plane. During my short layover, I stop at a newsstand for a water, energy bar, and bag of Gardetto's. Then I sit down at my next gate for about 10 minutes before I board. My plane is so tiny that after they scan my boarding pass, I have to walk for about five more minutes and down some stairs before I go OUTSIDE and onto the ramp to my plane. The lady sitting beside me is clearly North Dakotan — super sweet, tells me about the terrible weather, eats a piece of white bread during the flight that was packed in her bag, and orders a tomato juice with ice (and not the spicy kind) from the flight attendant. $11.45
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1 p.m. — Once we land in North Dakota, I pay for parking at the airport ($36). It's snowing. Thankfully not enough to impact the roads, but I'm still annoyed. I fill up my tank for the long drive ($27.42). $63.42
6 p.m. — Once I get home, I unpack and start the laundry. Then I write a grocery/Target list for tomorrow — I had stashed a lot of stuff in the freezer before I left, but I am running out of cat litter. I eat some popcorn, M&Ms, and gummy bears for dinner and then pledge to eat some actual food tomorrow. I catch up on the TV I missed while I was gone — Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Below Deck. It's fascinating to me to watch people who have such completely different experiences and mindsets from me. I make myself a mug of tea and turn off the lights around 10:15.
Daily Total: $74.87

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I wake up early to work out in my living room and eat the last Luna bar in the box I have at home, then pack my purse in my work bag since I have to go into the city today. I suit up for the North Dakota cold (three degrees this morning, ugh) and walk the five minutes to my office.
2:30 p.m. — I live in a tiny town about two hours from any major city. Today, I'm driving to the closest city to interview someone for a job. When we're done with the interview, I take advantage of being in the city and go to Target. I buy cat litter ($32.98), shampoo, conditioner, allergy meds, and Chapstick ($22.16), and the few groceries I need for this week: some potatoes, apples, snap peas, limes, ham, Luna bars, and La Croix ($32.28). The cat litter is the biggest expense — I buy a lot at a time since it's heavy and I'm not in the city a lot. $87.42
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4 p.m. — I also take advantage of being in the city to get my nails done. The dip manicure costs $40, and I tip $10. On my way out of town, I treat myself to Chick-fil-A. I loaded money onto the app a few weeks ago, so I use that to buy my dinner. At home, I watch some TV with my cats, who are not happy that I was gone ALL DAY after being gone ALL WEEK. They both pile on my lap for a few hours, and I go to bed around 10:30. $50
Daily Total: $137.42

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I snooze my alarm a lot this morning. When I finally do wake up, it's snowing — yuck. I eat a Luna bar and pack myself some leftover frozen pizza for lunch.
9 a.m. — Once I get into the office, I have two emails from the job candidate about the snow. We postpone the interview. One of my other coworkers is on vacation for a few weeks, so I do some of the things on her list that need to get done this week. Then I microwave my leftover pizza in our office kitchen and chat with the only other person in the office today, who's leaving early. I make some calls and do some other administrative work, then finish the rest of my coworker's list.
2:15 p.m. — Since my one coworker has already left, I get bored by myself and look around on Amazon to see what looks fun. One of my hobbies is decorative planning (kind of like scrapbooking, but for planning!), and I've been thinking about getting a laminator to go along with it. I find a laminator and laminating sheets on Amazon for about $30, but my shopping budget is blown from Black Friday sales. I use the points from my Amazon Prime card instead and order both.
5 p.m. — I usually leave the office around 4 p.m. during the winter because it's our slow season, but since I was the only one left in the office today, I had to cover the phones until 5. By the time I walk home and shovel my sidewalks, there is no sunlight left. Between that and the fact that the roads are probably still slick from earlier, I decide to put off going to to the grocery store. (I realized I'm out of lettuce and need it for the salads I'm going to make this week.) I cook a Blue Apron meal that I got delivered last week for dinner and hang out with my cats on the couch.
7:45 p.m. — I've been texting with a friend about going to see The Nutcracker in a few weeks. I was in it for years as a kid, and I like to try to see it every year. I haven't been since I moved here, and I'm excited to see a new version! It's a dance studio, not a professional company, and that's my favorite kind of Nutcracker :). I buy the tickets so we can sit together — she's going to pay me back later. $70
Daily Total: $70

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — I wake up early again and do some yoga in my living room. I feel like my body's made of lead this morning, even after my usual cup of coffee. I'm hoping my coworker will be bringing in pizza today (she was going to yesterday, but didn't come in because of the roads), so I don't pack anything for lunch.
9:30 a.m. — I make a pot of coffee at work because I still feel exhausted and get started on some projects.
12 p.m. — My coworker didn't come in because the roads are still yucky where she lives, so I run home at noon to make a sandwich. I bring it back to the office along with some Cheez-Its and a La Croix. I have a ton of different projects I'm thinking about right now, and I can't seem to concentrate on any, so I break up my afternoon into 30-minute chunks to work on a bunch of them.
4:30 p.m. — I head out of the office for the day. I'm determined to finally get some lettuce! I made the mistake of not wiping the snow off my windshield yesterday, so when I start my car there's enough ice to make it look like a Coke bottle. It takes me nearly 10 minutes and the help of the defroster to scrape it off so I can see. I Snapchat my mom to tell her I hope she's proud, because I've never worked this hard for lettuce in my life. Once I get into town, I stop at the gas station across from the store to fill up. It's 5:06 by the time I get to the gas station and every light is off, but thankfully there is one credit card machine for all four pumps, so you can get gas without going inside. Small town living. Since I drove into the city yesterday for work, I make a note to remember to report my mileage so I can get reimbursed. ($25.32 expensed)
5:15 p.m. — I drive 50 yards to the grocery/hardware store and leave most everything in my car, unlocked. I find a bag of baby spinach that looks okay, which is a big win for this store. I usually like a spring mix, but beggars can't be choosers here, especially with the romaine ban. I also pick the greenest, least offensive looking head of iceberg lettuce. I don't have any cash on me, and I know there's a $5 minimum for cards, so I grab a bag of chips, too. This store is so small it doesn't even have name-brand Ruffles, so I settle for the local generic brand. When I get home, I snack on the chips while I cook some chicken breasts I took out of the freezer this morning. I am so excited to eat this salad. Along with the lettuce, spinach, and chicken, I also add carrots, snap peas, olives, goat cheese, and Caesar dressing. It's delicious even without the spring mix. I put a second helping of everything but the greens into a Tupperware for another salad later this week. $5.46
Daily Total: $5.46

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I get up early again, but don't feel like working out, so I skip it. I have a Luna bar and coffee and then finish putting together the salad from last night to take with me to work.
12 p.m. — My coworker brought in that pizza today! We eat it together in the office, and I have a few bites of the salad as well. She also brought me some lefse, which I am excited to take home and try this weekend. Lefse is a Norwegian food, kind of like a potato tortilla, that is everywhere in North Dakota during the holiday season.
5 p.m. — After I walk home, I'm not that hungry, so I eat some more chips that I bought on Tuesday and settle in on the couch with my cats. I make myself a Moscow Mule after a few hours and at around 10 p.m., I settle into bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9 a.m. —I get up and start the kettle for my French press, then make myself bacon and eggs with goat cheese. It's a perfect Saturday breakfast. A few hours after I eat, I set up in my living room and do the workout I skipped yesterday.
5 p.m. — It's been a super lazy day — I've been watching Netflix for hours. I chat with my friend who I'm going to visit next weekend for a concert, and we make some more solid plans. I've been checking the weather because I'm nervous about the eight-hour drive, but it looks like it's going to be super clear (though cold). I sent her some planner inserts I designed for her earlier today. She loves them and tells me I should sell them. It's an interesting idea — seems like it should be pretty easy to maintain a small Etsy shop. I spend the rest of the evening researching, but I'm not too committed to the idea.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

12 p.m. — I sleep allll morning and then get up around noon for a quick breakfast of an Rxbar and coffee. Then I watch a little TV until I feel really awake. I pop in a load of laundry, do a longer workout, and write down my to-do list for the rest of the day.
4 p.m. — After I clean the house, I spend some time getting my planner ready for next week. I think some more about that Etsy shop, and decide to continue doing some more research. I think it would be worth it as long as I at least break even, but it's a pretty saturated market as far as I know. While I'm doing this, I get tired of standing — I have a standing desk in my office that I meant to buy a stool for when I bought it this summer. I've been looking on and off but can never find anything I like. I finally decide to just get something, and Wayfair is having a big sale. I find a stool that mostly matches my other furniture, and order it. $68.24
7 p.m. — I make myself a sandwich for dinner and sit down with my cats. Then I turn on a few movies and stay up a little later — I know it'll be hard for me to sleep tonight since I slept in so late. I've been thinking about those gummy bears I had Monday on the plane all week, so I just order them ($16.86) along with whiteout tape ($5.03) for my planner. I'm hoping I can appropriately portion out the five-pound bag... I guess I'll find out next week. $21.89
Daily Total: $90.13
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.
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