A Week At A University In Austin, TX That Costs $11,000 A Year

Welcome to Money Diaries — College Edition, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. In partnership with Target, we're asking college students how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a student majoring in Biology who spends some of her money this week on printer ink cartridges.
Major: Biology
Age: 20
Location: Austin, TX
University Size: 40,000
Yearly Cost Of Tuition: $11,000
Scholarships/Financial Aid: My first year, my tuition was free because I was the valedictorian of my high school. For my second year, my mom borrowed $20,000 from my aunt, which covered my tuition, housing, and books. For my third year, my mom had more money in her college savings account than she thought, plus got a $5,000 from a work bonus. Somehow between it all, it was enough to pay for my tuition and housing. I’m graduating after this year so we’re done paying for my undergrad. 
Current Student Loan Total: $2,600 that I took out my first year. Between scholarships, the tuition waiver, and working at a yogurt shop during my first semester, I was able to pay for on-campus housing my first year.
Salary/Allowance $10/hour for my research assistant job as well roughly $200/month from pet-sitting. I also had a fellowship over the summer that paid $3,000. I pay for my gas and living expenses with this money.
Gender Identity: Woman
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Monthly Expenses
Rent: $578 (for my half of a room in an off-campus two-bed/two-bath. I pay for six months at a time, but this is the monthly amount. This also includes trash and an exterminator.)
Monthly Loan Payment: $0 (Not paying until after college)
Spotify: $14.99 (sister/boyfriend/mom use this)
Renter's Insurance: $7.41
Water: $20
Electricity: $20-$50
Credit Card: $0 (I have a credit card I pay off in full every month to help my credit)
Netflix/Hulu/HBOGo: $0 (Parents'/Boyfriend's brother's account/Parents' again)
Cell Phone: On my parents' plan
Car Insurance: On my parents' plan (the car was paid off in full before I brought it to college)
Health Insurance: Parents' plan
Savings: $150 (auto-deducted from my account into a HYSA. I have a $1,000 emergency fund, plus about $3,000 I'm saving for a car when my current car finally dies.)
Ellevest: $25 (Every once in a while I transfer money from my checking when it gets over $500.)
Donations: 10% of my petsitting goes to a charity that helps people in need of a service animal to get matched with one/afford one.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — First alarm. Snooze. I like to set an alarm for 30 minutes before I actually need to get up because it lets me wake up slower.
7 a.m. — Second alarm goes off and I am up for real. My roommate, J., heads off to the gym so I actually have the room to myself while I get ready this morning. While technically this is the first day of classes for my university, I don't have classes on Wednesdays so it's just a normal workday for me. I mash up a banana and cook it with oats and cinnamon for my take on banana bread oatmeal. My other roommates N. and C. leave, and I wish N. a happy birthday on her way out. At 8:30, I walk to campus because I have to turn in a thank you letter for a scholarship I received before I head to work (I also work on campus).
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9 a.m. — I make it to my desk at my job. I think it's funny that I have a desk in the first place because I legitimately only use it to eat lunch.
12 p.m. — I break for lunch after a super boring lab meeting, and after I started incubating some western blots. I quickly eat the chicken salad on a bed of mixed greens that I meal prepped for the week. I will usually cook one thing on Sunday and eat that for my lunches and dinners for the rest of the week. While eating, J. texts me asking if we have any more printer ink because my printer is out. I let her know we don't, and she asks the other roomies if they'd like to split the cost of some more. I order two cartridges off Amazon, ($86.36) and we split it four ways. I Venmo request them for their portions. $21.59
3 p.m. — I head home from work as I've finished what I needed to get done today. Though I'm technically paid hourly, my boss lets me claim my max allowed hours (19/week), as long as I'm getting what I need to get done.
5 p.m. — Everyone is back from class and we head out to a new pizza place that opened nearby for N.'s birthday. I get two slices of pizza, a cinnamon apple Italian roll, a diet Coke, and tip a dollar since it's an order at the counter kind of place. I eat about half of each piece and take the rest home to eat for tomorrow (heads up, apple cinnamon Italian rolls = thumbs down. It tasted like neither apple or cinnamon and between the four of us at the table, we all hated it.) $15.84
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7 p.m. — N. opens her birthday presents from us and we cut the strawberry cake that I baked last night. I had been dreaming of making this cake since her birthday last year and it is just a wonderful as before. The trick is to reduce fresh strawberry puree until it's super thick then add it to the batter! After presents, I start doing work. I'm studying to take the MCAT in January so I've been bouncing between reading for that, clearing out old pictures on my phone, and trying to get prepped for my actual first day of classes tomorrow. My boyfriend, E., calls and we chat for a bit while I study flashcards. We met in high school and have been together for four years. We've been doing long-distance during college as we go to different universities, but usually try to see each other at least once a month.
12 a.m. — Head to bed as I have to be up for my 8 a.m. class tomorrow. I also randomly delete Facebook and Instagram because I feel like I've been wasting too much time on them. We'll see how long that lasts.
Daily Total: $37.43

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — Up and out of bed around 6:45. My sweet cat tries to murder me by staying directly in between my feet as I walk around and get ready. I trip over her at least three times every morning. I grab some cute shorts and a random t-shirt and throw a little bit of makeup on (BB cream, mascara, concealer, powder to set and hopefully spare my face from the 100-degree weather today). I pack my bag/lunch and eat two pieces of toast with peanut butter, cinnamon, and frozen blueberries for breakfast as I walk to class.
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8 a.m. — I totally walk to the wrong building this because I am too confident and didn't recheck my schedule or a map. Thankfully, I am just next door to where I am supposed to be, so I'm not late for class or anything. I have class from 8–11, then 5-7:30 today, so I'm prepared for a LONNNNNG day on campus.
11 a.m. — I camp out at a table and work on MCAT stuff. Fun times. I also eat some celery and peanut butter that I brought from home.
1 p.m. — Lunch! It's the same chicken salad from yesterday. Plus Money Diary reading and writing.
2 p.m. — E. calls and it's a much-needed mental break as we chat about our days for a bit. At this point, I've been sitting and studying for a solid three hours and my brain feels like it's going to explode! While this six-hour break in the middle of my day seemed fun when I was planning my schedule, it's dragging by super slow.
5 p.m. — Class again! I eat a protein bar that I find at the bottom of my backpack. I might have to start packing lunch and dinner on these days.
8 p.m. — Back at my apartment, I heat up pizza from last night. I eat really fast while cuddling my cat because I am EXHAUSTED, but I still need to go and check up on two cats that I'm catsitting for. I really love pet-sitting because I get my daily animal dose in.
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9 p.m. — I get back from checking on the cats. I try to finish two sets of AAMC practice problems that I planned on doing today, but the AAMC website is randomly down so I can't. Instead, I sit in the living room with my roommates and read Darwin's Evolution of Species for my Evolution course this semester. We all complain a bit about how classes are going so far.
11 p.m. — I call E. and we again chat about our days. Today was a super long day and I feel pretty drained, but he perks me up a bit. He's a musical theatre major and an RA at his dorm, which is primarily performing arts students, so I always love hearing about the drama that's going on in the department and in the dorm. He's also a songwriter, so I get to hear some of his newer stuff tonight before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up and hide under the covers for a while because it's too cold to get up. Temperature is a point of contention with my roommates. They keep it set at 68 degrees 24/7. Consequently, I freeze to death almost every day. I've talked about increasing it to 70 or even higher to reduce our electric bill/make my life slightly more comfortable/be better for the environment, but between the three of them, they outvoted me, so I'm stuck with it. I usually have an electric blanket, but I forgot to move it into my bed from the living room where I was using it last night. And yes, I do use a heated blanket in August in Texas. I feel stupid about it too.
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8 a.m. — I drive to check up on the dog that I'm sitting. He's big and old and I love him. I head back to the apartment and cook a couple of eggs for breakfast. Next week, I'll have a class from 9-10 on Fridays, so I'm relishing my slow morning today. I load and start the dishwasher, grab my lunch and water bottle, and walk to work.
11 a.m. — I have an hour break while some western blots incubate, so I chill at my desk and finish some biochem problems. Toward the end of my hour, I quickly eat the last of my chicken salad and greens, then it's back to work for me.
2 p.m. — I finish up for the day! Long weekend time!! I feel weirdly busy this weekend with balancing dog/cat sitting, N.'s birthday party, and my parents coming into town to see my younger sister play soccer at her university in a neighboring town. I walk back home and pick up some packages from the front desk — the printer ink from Wednesday, a combination lock that I needed for my OChem lab, and a textbook rental that I will be returning shortly because I found a PDF.
2:30 p.m. — I'm pretty hungry because I only had half of serving of chicken salad for lunch, so I eat a piece of cheese and a couple of spoons of homemade ice cream as a very odd snack. For any Texas people, I genuinely believe that HEB makes the best sharp cheddar cheese in the whole world and I would bet my life on it. I remember that I still need a lab journal for my OChem lab, so I check on Amazon how much a carbon-copy notebook would be. It's $22, which feels like a lot, so I decide to walk to the bookstore to see if they sell a cheaper one. I find one that will work and I get a 5% discount with my student ID. $15.37
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4 p.m. — I make it back and my roommate J. says she's heading to HEB so I tag along. I pick up two bags of stir-fry mix, two pounds of brown rice, 12 medium eggs, Greek yogurt, latte foam that comes out of a whipped-cream can, and a sugar-free Red Bull. $16.06
5:30 p.m. — I go to check up on the old man dog I'm sitting to feed him his dinner/hang out with him a bit, then drive about 35 minutes to watch my sister play soccer. It's super nice that she going to school only a shortish drive away because I can visit her/see my family when they come up to watch her play. I get to the game just in time to see my sister assist on a goal! I sit and chat with my parents for the remainder of the game while simultaneous reading through MCAT books.
8:30 p.m. — We head to dinner. We walk around until we find a farm-to-table Tex-Mex-ish type restaurant and eat there. We split chips and guac, the waitress brings out a free order of cornbread for the table, and I get blackened trout as an entrée. My parents cover the bill. My sister requests ice cream, so we find a frozen custard place and we go to town. I'm still pretty full from dinner, so my mom and I split a small banana peanut butter something but they actually gave us a large. I only eat about a quarter and then pass it off to whoever else wants it. Again, mom and dad pay.
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11 p.m. — I make it back to the apartment and everyone is already up in their rooms, so I hang out in the living room and talk to E. Around midnight, I brush my teeth, take makeup off, and head to bed.
Daily Total: $31.43

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I get up, throw some easy clothes on, and start making animal rounds. I check up on my old man dog, feed him, and give him his medicine. I check up on the two cats, give one his medicine, and check on his leg. He over grooms his leg, so I'm supposed to send his mom pictures of it when I check on him.
9 a.m. — I make it back to my apartment and text the next people I'm house/dogsitting for. I ask them to text me when they're leaving and that I'll head over after that. She says they already left so I hop in the shower, wash my hair, and put on a cute romper and heels because I have a birthday party later.
12:30 p.m. — I let the dogs out and they seem to be doing great! After hanging out with the dogs for a while, my parents ask if we want to grab lunch in Austin. We go to a local brunch spot and I get eggs Florentine. They pay before heading out.
3:30 p.m. — I leave to head to a movie for N.'s birthday party. We are seeing Ready or Not at an Alamo Drafthouse. Yesterday, when they told me what time the movie was, J. said that she would cover my ticket so I offered to buy her food. I probably should have just paid her back for the ticket anyway because I think I probably spent more covering her food than I would have with just the ticket alone. I didn't order anything but water, and all of her stuff ended up being $21.11 plus a $4 tip. $25.11
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6 p.m.— After the movie, I check up on the old man dog, and the dogs I'm housesitting for. I see on Snapchat that my roommates were doing a whole photoshoot outside the apartment and didn't tell me about it. That bums me out a bit so I try and head over there ASAP so I stop feeling weird. This summer, my boyfriend was in Austin so we lived together. My roommates were super weird about it and said they felt betrayed that I was leaving (I didn't really understand their argument). The whole time, I was only a three-minute drive away and still came over to their apartment to do laundry, but none of them talked to me, and I only did anything with J. if I asked. Even now that I've been back, the dynamic has been super weird and they'll go and do a lot of stuff without inviting me. I said something to them about it and they've been better about at least inviting me places, but things have still felt odd.
7:30 p.m. — I get back to the apartment and they're looking at the pictures they just took on the TV. The pictures are cute and seemed fun and I wish I would have been there. They were planning on hanging out tonight and ask if I'm going to join. I say definitely, so we drive to the Chevron down the road to pick up some snacks. I get pizza rolls and a muffin even though I really didn't want to spend money. $4.38
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9 p.m. — We snack and play Rock Band (lol), and I fall asleep on the couch.
12 a.m. — After sleeping on the couch for a while, they all tell me to go to bed for real. I chug a big cup of water, take one for my nightstand, brush my teeth, take off my makeup, and call E. We chat for a little bit and I fall asleep giggling on the phone.
Daily Total: $29.49

Day Five

5:10 a.m. — I wake up this early because I felt bad about leaving the dogs alone for so long (I checked with the owners first to make sure it was okay). I let them out and then take a nap on the couch (they nap with me and I love it). Around 8, I go and check up on old man dog.
11 a.m. — I head back to let the dogs out. Around noon, the owners say that they'll be back today at 2 and that I can leave. I let the dogs out one more time, say bye to them, and head back to my apartment.
6 p.m. — After spending five hours reading, I take a break to check up on old man dog. When I get back, C. and J. come into the living room and we talk about what we want to do for C.'s upcoming 21st birthday. Somehow, this leads us to see that Six Flags season passes are the same price as regular tickets. C. really wants to go for her birthday, and I really want to do the Haunted Houses they have during September and October, so we bite the bullet and buy season tickets plus wristbands for the haunted houses. After I checkout, I feel super guilty about spending this much money. I know I'll have fun and my sister will probably come with me because I have a free extra ticket with the season pass, but still, this feels like a lot of money I could have saved instead of spending. $100.99
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10:30 p.m. — I actually have a pretty productive day and get the majority of my reading for the week done! I need to prep a presentation for the next few months so I get a rough draft of that started. After I flesh out the background a bit, I'm not exactly sure what my boss wants me to include in terms of data. I email him my rough draft and hopefully by tomorrow, he'll give me some further directions. After that, I brush my teeth, wash my face, and head to bed. E. and I talk before bed.
Daily Total: $100.99

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and go check on old man dog for the last time as well as the two kitties.
9 a.m. — Back at the apartment, I grab a quick breakfast of two eggs on a piece of toast. I text my sister and asks if she wants to get together and do something today. She's a freshman on the soccer team and not the most social person, so she's been having a hard time making friends. We decide on meeting in the middle and just doing homework at a coffee shop. It's funny, but she and I have gotten a lot closer after I graduated high school, and I really am grateful that she's close enough that we can see each other regularly.
11 a.m. — We meet up and I treat her to a mocha and a chocolate scone, and I get a green tea. We hang out there for three hours until we get hungry. We stop by a local chain that does breakfast food all day, because she hasn't been before. We both order a platter with two eggs, a side (fruit for me and sausage for her), and two pancakes. I ask her how money is doing. Because of her sport, she doesn't have time for a job and I know she feels bad about using mom and dad's money all of the time. She's been really good about not using it for things besides food and necessities. She pays for lunch (with my parent's card). $11.97
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3 p.m. — I make it back to the apartment and work on my presentation. My boss sent me some slides to incorporate, so I add those, and send it back to him. I then start on an MCAT lesson. I have to do a lesson every day from now until mid-December, then I have a winter intensive planned for myself. I'm using MCAT Self Prep, which only cost $99 when I purchased it at the beginning of the summer. It's been the most economical way to study for me. You also get this really awesome study planning Excel file that tracks your scores/practice tests/etc. I thought this plan was better than spending $1,500-$3,000 on a traditional review course.
6 p.m. — I head to the gym. Last week, I did cardio three times, but I'm trying to get back into my regular weight training plan. My sister sent me her summer soccer workout, so I've been generally following that. I do about half of the hour-long workout and call it quits. I'm always exceedingly sore the first time I lift after taking a break for a bit (even when I super back off on weight) so I'd rather play it safe than sorry.
8 p.m. — I shower and heat up my brown rice, chicken, and stir fry vegetables. For my veggies, I love just taking them raw from the pack and microwaving them with my cooked rice and chicken. They stay a lot fresher and don't end up too mushy. I eat and work on more of my readings. Tomorrow is my first super long class day (8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with a 30 minutes break in the middle), so I want to go to sleep earlyish. I call E. and we chat. I'm tired and a little grumpy so we don't stay on too long. I fall asleep around 11.
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Daily Total: $11.97

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Long day, but I can do it!! Up, feed my cat, take birth control (E. actually texts me and reminds me most mornings because I'm super forgetful), cook oatmeal, pack lunch and I'm out the door around 7:45. Class flies by from 8-12.
12 p.m. — I heat up my lunch and eat it outside my next class. I see one of my friends so I wave and we chat while I eat. It's nice to catch up as we haven't seen each other in a couple of weeks. She just took her MCAT on Friday so we talk about how awful it was. I know she probably did great and I try and reassure her of that.
12:30 p.m. — More class from 12:30-3:30. My 2-6 is a lab and this was the first meeting day, so the class was shortened. I camp outside my next class and work on MCAT prep. I also fell asleep for a bit while watching videos, lol.
8 p.m. — Done with class and back home. I eat my rice/chicken/veggies and do more reading. I'm boring, but gotta keep those grades up!
11 p.m. — I get in bed and call E. We talk about our days and contemplate watching an episode of Mindhunter on Skype, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to fall asleep. We chat for a while and I'm asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $0
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