A Week In Boston, MA, On A $37,000 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 graduate student who makes $37,000 per year and spends some of their money this week on dumplings.
Occupation: Graduate Student
Industry: Education
Age: 27
Location: Boston, MA
Income: $37,000 ($22,500 eight-month grad school stipend, $6,000 three-month summer research position, $8,500 across side gigs)
Gender Identity: Nonbinary
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900 for half of a two-bedroom apartment I share with my partner
Heat: Varies, $15-$100/person
Electricity: Varies, about $35/person
Internet: $27.99/person
Hulu: $11.99 (I pay for Hulu, a friend pays for Netflix, and we share.)
Student Loans: $0 (My parents paid for undergrad, and I've had stipends and teaching/research positions throughout both my M.A. and Ph.D.)
Phone: $0 (On my parents' plan.)
Car: $0 (It was a gift from my family for my college graduation a few years ago.)
Car Insurance: $90, split with my parents
Health Insurance: Free through my university
Gym: Free through my partner's job
Savings: Car maintenance — $50; You Need a Budget — $7; emergency fund — $100 (I try to keep it around $1,000); Roth IRA — $100-$150; wedding — $150-$200

Day One

8 a.m. — No alarm set today (happy Sunday!), but I wake up reasonably early anyway. I roll over to see my partner, P., still sound asleep and our pup very much awake and ready to play. I let the dog out (a fenced-in yard is like 40% of why we picked this apartment), and when she zooms back in I let her wake up P. with morning kisses. We snuggle and play in bed a little longer before getting up.
9 a.m. — I make us breakfast (banana chocolate chip pancakes, because weekend life) while P. makes coffee and feeds the dog. We eat pancakes while watching an old episode of Parks and Rec and then do our morning routines. I shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, do my hair, and put on moisturizer. I don't wear makeup, but I try to remember to put on moisturizer with SPF every morning, especially now that it's summer.
11 a.m. — Both of us dressed and ready, we sit at the dining room table to plan for the day. We agree that I'll do grocery shopping while P. drops off some returns. I am super invested in meal planning and couponing — we both love food, but money is tight, so I try to make the most of what we have while also buying local as much as possible. I make a list, divided between three local grocery stores, and head out.
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3 p.m. — Finally back home, hungry and victorious. At the first store, I picked up cereal, ice cream, sliced turkey, mozzarella, coffee, cucumbers, onions, hummus, guacamole, and yogurt ($38.45). Store #2 was tortillas, Parmesan, corn, tomatoes, broccoli, frozen fruit, pasta sauce, toilet paper, potatoes, and a giant package of chicken breasts ($44.33). At the last store I grabbed beans, canned tomatoes, pasta, some heavily discounted Easter chocolate, ground beef, milk, sliced cheese, carrots, two frozen burritos, bread, and some protein bars ($51.36). P. is back home and we unload groceries. After a quick turkey-and-guac sandwich, I enter the shopping totals into Splitwise, and we discuss our upcoming schedules so that I can finalize the dinner plan for the week ($67.07 for my half). $67.07
5 p.m. — P. leaves to see a movie with a friend, and I start some meal prep. I open up the package of chicken breasts (we only eat chicken once or twice a week, so these six huge breasts will last us almost a month) to clean them and portion into individual Ziplocs to go into the freezer. The dog watches over this entire process, and her patience is rewarded with some bits of gristle and fat. She loves meal-prep day. After washing some dishes, I also cut up carrots and portion them out with hummus for the week, make cold brew, chop up some onions to use throughout the week, reorganize the fridge and freezer, and make and eat caprese pasta salad. I get to use the first basil of the season from our garden, which means it's officially summer!
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9 p.m. — P. comes back home, and after some ice cream and a few episodes of Parks and Rec, we start our nighttime routines and are in bed by 11.
Daily Total: $67.07

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — The alarm goes off and, zombie-like, we begin to rise. Morning routines, coffee (thank you yesterday me for making cold brew), and breakfast. I got some discounted French bread yesterday (it was the sell-by date, so only $.99!), so we have some cream cheese and jam on it for breakfast. P. leaves for work around 9:30, and I clean up after breakfast and sit down for work.
9:30 a.m. — I'm a full-time grad student, so summers are a weird time where I am expected to work toward my degree but don't get paid to do so. This means it's always rocky financially, though I've been trying to save up money during the year to have more of a cushion over the summer. I'm stringing together a part-time research gig for my adviser, some temp office work, dog-sitting, and tutoring to make ends meet. Today I work on the research for a few hours from my couch, snuggling the cute dog.
1 p.m. — I have some leftover pasta salad and wash up from breakfast. The pup lets me know that it's playtime — I like the coziness of working from home, but she can definitely be an adorable distraction. Luckily, today she settles down after 20 minutes of fetch in the yard.
3 p.m. — I'm tutoring a student at 4, so I get my bag ready, let the dog out one more time, and grab a protein bar on my way out. It's about a 30-minute drive in the after-school traffic, so I listen to some music on the way. The radio features more talking than music, so I switch to the CD in my car — Fleetwood Mac's Rumors. Take me away, Stevie.
6 p.m. — Back home from tutoring (the kid was super sweet and nervous about her upcoming chemistry final). P. gets home and gets changed to take the dog to the park so she can run some of her energy off. I make dinner: roasted salmon, potatoes, and broccoli, with a yogurt dill sauce. The salmon is definitely out of our price range, but luckily my parents bought me groceries last time they were in town. We eat dinner on the couch, talk about our days, and watch some Superstore (please watch this show, it's amazing). I work on a cross-stitch project for a bit while P. folds laundry. We finally drag ourselves off the couch and to bed around 10:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8 a.m. — We wake up and do our morning routines — oatmeal and cold brew for breakfast today. P. heads out and, much to the pup's displeasure, I start getting my stuff ready to go as well. I got a lot of work done from home yesterday, but I try not to make the couch my primary workspace. I pack a turkey sandwich, coffee, and some snacks, along with my computer, and head to a local library, where I work on my own dissertation research for a few hours.
3 p.m. — I have another student later today, so I stop home to play with the dog and repack my bag for tutoring. P. is working late tonight, and I'm working during dinnertime, so tonight's meal is going to be a hodgepodge of snacks. I grab a string cheese and some almonds on my way to tutor. In the car, I notice I'm running low on gas and make a mental note to get some tomorrow when I pass by the cheap station.
7:30 p.m. — Get home, make some more cold brew for tomorrow, and play with the pup. She didn't go for a walk or to the park today, so she's a little restless, but she eventually calms down and snuggles in my lap. I browse through social media and eat a PB&J until P. gets home, watch some TV, and head to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — The alarm goes off. Nope.
8 a.m. — We finally begin to emerge from our sleep cocoon. A shower and coffee down, I begin to feel more like a person. I make us both breakfast and lunch while P. finishes getting ready, and after she leaves for work I get back on the couch. I clean out my email inboxes and realize I have a conference presentation in a couple of weeks — when I registered to present, the end of June seemed eons away, but now it's coming up quick. I look through my schedule for the next few days and see that tomorrow I don't have too much going on, so I schedule a few hours in my calendar to work on my presentation then.
10 a.m. — I leave for my weekly therapy appointment. I've been seeing the same person for a couple of years now, and it's really nice to have a space to rant about work, relationships, money, what I'm doing with my life, etc. I started seeing her when I was having a really hard time, but even now that I'm doing much better, I still find value in therapy. I pay my $10 copay. $10
12 p.m. — I make myself a turkey-and-hummus sandwich and more coffee. I have an upcoming deadline for some freelance work, so I spend a couple of hours working on that. It's not thrilling work, but I can do it from my couch while listening to Spotify (today's jams brought to you by Kacey Musgraves), so I don't mind.
3:30 p.m. — I have a student in an hour but need to run some errands first, so I pack some snacks and get on my way. I exchange a pair of jeans at Old Navy for a size up (no price difference) and go slightly out of my way to get a full tank of gas at the cheaper station. $32.51
6 p.m. — Back from tutoring, and I run into P. in the driveway. After work, she usually takes the dog to the park while I prepare dinner. I get started on burrito bowls, chopping up a green pepper and cooking it with some diced onion and black beans (cooking and freezing dried beans is so much cheaper and really worth it), making some rice, and assembling a quick pico de gallo. When P. gets home dinner is almost done, and we add some shredded cheese (and, in my case, lime juice and hot sauce) to our bowls of rice, beans, and veg and sit down on the couch. Since we didn't get too much time together last night, we snuggle up, watch Say Yes to the Dress, and delight in judging people's terrible wedding-dress choices. Ice cream cravings hit around 9, so I make us some milkshakes in the blender. It is an exquisite night. Bed around 11.
Daily Total: $42.51

Day Five

6 a.m. — Busy day! We're taking a spin class together (the first for both of us) at P.'s gym, and then I'm meeting some grad-school friends to have a study date at the Boston Public Library. We quickly get ready to work out and split a protein bar on the drive over.
8 a.m. — Ow. My ass feels like it's going to fall off my body. Why did no one warn me that the bikes in spin class are the least comfortable substance known to humankind? I'm sure I'll be happy about this later, but right now I regret everything.
9 a.m. — A quick shower and a smoothie (frozen berries, yogurt, and protein powder) later, I take the dog for a walk since no one will be home today, make myself a turkey sandwich and coffee, and head out. I drive to a few blocks from the nearest T station (I refuse to pay to park at a train station) and walk to the train. I check my card balance and see I still have about $20 on it, so no need to refill today. On the half-hour train ride, I listen to a podcast (Nicole Byer's Why Won't You Date Me?, which is hilarious).
10:15 a.m. — Get to the BPL! It's a beautiful space to work in — I love that there's an older wing that feels much more traditionally library-esque, as well as an indoor/outdoor space and a more contemporary café space, so I can alternate working environments throughout the day. I find my friends, and we chat for a minute before getting to work. I edit my conference paper (turning a 30-page paper into a 15-minute talk means there's a lot of cutting to do), and I think the short length is forcing me to be more direct and concise in my delivery.
1 p.m. — We decide to take a break for lunch and wander across the street to a park with a farmer's market and some food trucks. Plenty of delicious aromas catch my attention, but I remind myself I have my turkey sandwich and am trying not to spend money. I compromise by telling myself that if I am genuinely still hungry after eating my sandwich, I'll take a second loop around the market. My friends have also brought lunch, though one of them gets a fresh juice from the market, and we find a nice bench in the sun. Since we don't teach in the summer and many of us do research or work off-campus then, we have a lot to catch up on, and it's nice to just hang out with some familiar faces after working alone for the bulk of the week.
2 p.m. — We head back inside the library (my hunger was quelled by the sandwich, as I knew it would be), where I answer some emails and take a look at my schedule for next week so that I can start planning out my work. I have that freelance deadline coming up on Tuesday, so after that I should work on my own research for the rest of the week. I get an email from TomboyX, my favorite underwear company (they are queer-owned and really excellent!), that they have a new rainbow collection for Pride month. I skim through their website and am definitely tempted, but I tell myself that I don't need any new bras or underwear. My willpower to not spend, though, is lowered by my having used it during lunch, so I put some cute briefs in my cart. I am generally strict about making myself wait 24 hours to order something online, so no actual cash is spent.
4 p.m. — Get the train back out to the ’burbs, pick up my car, and drive home. The pup is very excited, so we go for a long walk. Weather-wise, we're in that sweet spot before it gets too hot for the summer, so I'm trying to take advantage of the time outside with her.
5:30 p.m. — P. gets home, and we're both exhausted. It might be nap time.
6:30 p.m. — Whoops, that was definitely nap time. We don't have plans tonight, though, so I don't feel too guilty. I take a look at the dinner I had planned for tonight — roasted veg and sweet potatoes — and it looks like a lot of effort. Luckily, we always keep emergency meals in the freezer and pantry. We have some boxed mac 'n' cheese with cut-up hotdogs, because we are adults, and settle in on the couch for a luxurious night of Superstore, working on our individual craft projects, and eating carbs. We get too comfy on the couch, so moving to the bed presents a very real struggle, but we finally manage it around 11:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9 a.m. — It's almost the weekend! I do a lot of tutoring Friday through Sunday, so it's never really relaxing, but it's nice to be able to sleep in and spend some time with P. We do our morning routines, and I make a mocha smoothie (cold brew, chocolate protein powder, and milk) and review my notes from my last session with my morning student, since it's been a few weeks since I saw him. I pack my bag and leave around 10:30.
12 p.m. — P. texts me as I'm getting into my car after work, letting me know that the friends we invited over for an impromptu game night tonight are down! I decide to pick up some snacks and drinks — chips, salsa, hard cider, and iced tea — on my way home. $14.49
1 p.m. — I clean the apartment to make it presentable for other humans. I blast the Hamilton soundtrack to make it more tolerable, and the time totally flies by!
4 p.m. — P. comes home a little early and takes the pup for a walk while I plan to finish the laundry. It is possible that I fall asleep on the couch instead.
6 p.m. — Friends are here! We have snacks and drinks and decide on our first game of the night — What Do You Meme?, a beautiful millennial Cards Against Humanity–type game with memes. We decide to order some Thai food. I get tofu pad Thai, P. gets a chicken curry, and we split some veggie dumplings. I pay for everyone's food, but our friends Venmo me their half ($33.52 total for our half). We play some more board games and catch up on gossip, and they leave around 10. We clean up a little and head to bed. $33.52
Daily Total: $48.01

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I planned to go to the gym before work today. However, it is raining and I am tired, so no.
8:15 a.m. — I finally get myself up, shower, and make some oatmeal and tea to complement the weather. It's Saturday, so my tutoring schedule is packed. I make a sandwich and grab some fruit snacks to get me through the day. I pack my bag and let the pup out before heading out.
4 p.m. — I am finally done and totally wiped, and not looking forward to the same routine tomorrow. I try to alternate heavy tutoring weekends, and I know I'll have Monday off, but it also sucks that I have to work so much on weekends right now, and since P. works weekdays, it means we don't really have a lot of full days to spend together right now. I make a mental note to schedule a real date night for us soon.
4:30 p.m. — I stop by the grocery store to pick up some things for the week. Since I did a big shop last weekend, we don't need much. It's P.'s turn to cook tonight, so I ask if she needs anything while I'm at the store. She requests more ice cream, which is obviously a necessity. I get milk, bread, deli meat, tomatoes, ice cream, and peanut butter, along with some dog food (a total of $32.71, halved in Splitwise). $16.36
5:30 p.m. — Finally home, and P. has made lasagna! Bless her. We dig in and still have plenty of leftovers for dinner tomorrow. Excellent.
6:30 p.m. — I am not really a functioning human after a full day of tutoring (why is teaching so exhausting?), so we just sit on our computers taking BuzzFeed quizzes and online shopping. I remember the underwear I was considering a couple of days ago — I check my cart, and they're already sold out of the rainbow print. Ah well. The fact that I haven't thought about it in the past two days tells me that I wasn't super excited about the purchase anyway, so I'm glad I didn't end up buying anything.
10 p.m. — I'm impressed I've made it this long and finally get my butt to bed. We snuggle for a while and check in about the schedule for tomorrow, and then it's lights out.
Daily Total: $16.36
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