A Week In Minneapolis, MN, On A $20,000 Income

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 baker who makes $20,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a blackberry muffin.
Occupation: Baker
Industry: Food Service
Age: 27
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Salary: $20,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $630-$670
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $525
Gym: $54
Electricity Bill: $24
Gas Bill: $26
Internet: $20

Day One

8 a.m. — I usually find a breakfast I like and stick to for about a year. Right now it's yogurt, muesli, and a banana. While I don't love the politics of buying bananas (yeah, I'm that kind of annoying foodie), they are cheap, filling, and give me potassium. I vow to switch to adding sweet potatoes instead of bananas next week.
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10:30 a.m. — I walk over to a coffee shop a few blocks from my house to work on a couple if cover letters. I recently moved to Minneapolis, and I'm viewing my job as a baker as temporary. I'm hoping to get full-time work in my field (with benefits), and to that end, I've got three cover letters I'm working on this morning. I get a medium coffee and a blackberry muffin. $5.70
2:30 p.m. — It's Sunday, so I'm doing a big grocery shop today. My partner and I recently moved in together, and in our division of labor, I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking. This arrangement works perfectly for me because I love food, and I'm invested in food politics. So this means I primarily shop at the co-op near our house. Today I buy broccoli, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, yogurt, mandarin oranges (they're in season and so good!), bananas, vanilla extract and poppy seeds (for a cake I'm planning to make this week), muesli, dried beans, eggs, canned pumpkin, and miso. Whenever I shop in the bulk section, I always try to pass off my purchases as something cheaper, and today it's putting the cheapest granola bulk code on the muesli and passing the vanilla off as balsamic vinegar. $67
7 p.m. — My partner and I are having a new friend over for dinner, and we make pumpkin chili, biscuits, and slaw. Where I lived before, I didn't have a good group of queer friends, and it feels so nice to have someone here who we can talk to about who's on our sperm donor list like it's no big deal.
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Daily Total: $72.70

Day Two

6:35 a.m. — I'm taking the bus to work this morning ($2.50 on my transit card). Now that it's snowy and cold, I can no longer bike, and my partner has the car. The bus is fine, but not my favorite option. It's a 15-minute walk to my stop and then a 20-minute bus ride. Luckily, it's a balmy 20 degrees this morning. If I'm still working this job in January, I'll really have to suit up for the below zero mornings.
11:10 a.m. — The cafe that I work at gives all employees free meals for every six-hour shift. I normally go for soup or quiche because they change every few days, while everything from the rest of the menu gets old. Today I get a mushroom, gouda, and onion quiche with a side of fruit, and it's very good! While I don't want to be here forever, it's nice to work at a place in the food service industry with ethics. This place not only gives meal money but also paid family leave and sick time. And it no longer does tipping — instead, it pays a living wage for everyone. I've worked in food service on and off for six years, and it's by far the best place I've worked.
3:15 p.m. — I thought I had more money on my transit card, but I only have $0.50. The bus is pretty full and there are three loud babies, so the bus driver just lets me sit down before I can pull out cash to cover the rest.
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5:30 p.m. — I make a Smitten Kitchen-adapted Goop miso grain bowl recipe with sweet potatoes and broccoli. I roasted the veggies last night while I was making chili, so dinner prep is quick and it turns out well!
7:15 p.m. — Tonight my partner and I are getting a Christmas tree! We go to a women-owned nursery that has sustainably-grown local trees. We look around for a little bit and decide on a smaller natural fir for $56 and a cheap stand. When the cashier sees the height of our tree, she recommends getting a bigger, more expensive stand. This trip is already feeling costly and I'm ready to just jerry-rig the tree with the cheaper stand, when she says: "As a single gal, I like the bigger stand because I can set the tree up myself with it." While I'm not a single gal, I resonate strongly with this pitch and grab the bigger stand. I sold Christmas trees for a season, and I know how hard the work can be, especially in the cold. I pay for the tree in full and my partner Venmos me for half. We tip the woman who helped us attach it to our car $5 on the way out. $43
Daily Total: $43

Day Three

4:30 a.m. — I open the cafe today and need to be in by 5 a.m., so I shovel some muesli and yogurt down.
4:50 a.m. — I eat a day-old grapefruit and white chocolate scone as an addition to my breakfast. I'm alone in the cafe until 6:30, so I need a little sugar to keep me going.
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10:45 a.m. — The nice thing about the 5 a.m. shift is that by 11 a.m., my day is almost done. I take my lunch break and then I only have two hours left to work. Today I get a tofu scramble with kale, peppers, and onions, and a side of potatoes. We carry bougie ketchup and hot sauce that I smother the scramble with.
5 p.m. — Leftover pumpkin chili for dinner.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

9 a.m. — I don't work on Wednesdays, so I sleep in and have yogurt, muesli, and a banana for breakfast.
12:15 p.m. — I work on cover letters and eat a few pieces of toast with peanut butter for lunch. Another perk of my job is I get to take home the butts from cinnamon raisin bread, so I've pretty much stopped buying bread.
3:30 p.m. — I've sent in two job applications today, and I'm feeling productive and proud. I take a break and peruse my favorite online shops. Everlane has a pair of jeans on sale and I really do need a new pair — my only black jeans are starting to get thin in the crotch and won't last much longer. I get the jeans ($48), and a dress on sale I've been watching since July ($25). $73
5:30 p.m. — Leftover grain bowl for dinner.
Daily Total: $73

Day Five

4:35 a.m. — Another opening shift, and once again I shovel down my yogurt, muesli, and banana breakfast.
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10:50 a.m. — There's a new soup today: tofu curry. It's so good, and also nice to have something I haven't eaten at work before. I get it with a kale side salad and focaccia bread.
1:30 p.m. — Small grocery run for the week. We are pretty much out of dinner food, so I get stuff for a quick pasta meal. I buy arugula, mandarin oranges, a half gallon of milk, one Italian sausage, fancy tempeh (the packaging gets me), Greek olive mix (one of my biggest weaknesses), parmesan cheese, and bananas. I get the expensive maple syrup, put the number for the cheaper one on it, and round up at the register for the charity. $40
6:45 p.m. — I make pasta with arugula, sausage, and garlic olive oil. It's fast, simple, and so tasty!
Daily Total: $40

Day Six

6 a.m. — Yogurt, muesli, banana. Miss the bus by seconds. I do the classic movie sprint to try and catch it at the next stop, and once again miss it by seconds, so I end up walking to work.
11:30 a.m. — I get lentil brown rice soup and a mixed green salad today for lunch. I get this soup pretty much anytime it's on the menu because it's so filling!
2:30 p.m. — Bus home ($2). The ride this afternoon goes smoothly, and the bus is quiet.
7:15 p.m. — I just dropped my partner off at the airport, and I'm feeling too lazy and hungry to cook, so I stop by the taco truck near our house. I get a burrito ($8.75) and tip $1.25. It's good, and the salsa is great. I eat it while on the phone talking a friend through some weird friend dynamics. $10
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Daily Total: $10

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — Today I make myself brioche French toast. (The cafe had an old frozen loaf of brioche no one wanted except for me, and I've been slowly using it for my special Saturday french toasts for the past couple of weeks. It has served me well.)
11:10 a.m. — I meet an old friend from camp who I haven't seen in years at a coffee shop. I get a drip and a scone ($3.25), and tip $0.75. We catch up and gossip, and it's nice, but she seems a bit distracted. I suggest making dinner together and she seems enthusiastic. $4
2:30 p.m. — I've been looking for a nice set of Christmas cards to send out this year, and as an ethical consumer, I go to the nearby anarchist bookstore. I find a set that is the perfect balance between seasonal and political, but almost decide not to get them because it's $30 for a pack of 12. I change my mind and buy them, though, because between the bookstore and local artist, the money is all going to good places. $30
4 p.m. — I have more than 12 people I want to send cards to (humble brag), so I decide to make cards for my other friends. I've got a ton of colored pencils at home, so I go to Target and get a sketchbook. $10.60
4:15 p.m. — Since Target is near a grocery store, I pop in and put $25 on my transit card and buy a pack of 20 stamps for $10. The stamps are all white Santas, but it's either that or American flags, so I'm going with festive hetero-patriarchy. I get home feeling ready to make cards and stretch my artistic skills to the limit. $35
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6 p.m. — Beans and rice for dinner. It's been an expensive week, so it will be modest eating for the next few days. The cards are turning out well — I've made eight so far!
Daily Total: $79.60
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