A Week In Boston, MA, On A $56,000 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: a teacher who makes $56,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: Boston
Salary: $56,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month, one is lower for union dues): $1,600/$1,500
Gender Identity: Cis Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,300 (I have one roommate and my own bathroom — it's so worth it.)
Student Loans: $967.99 — $267.99 goes to the federal government (public service loan forgiveness!), $700 to private
Gym: $34
Monthly MBTA Pass: $90 (Work doesn't do pre-tax deductions.)
Electricity: $40
Gas: $20
Water: $20
Netflix: $0 (Mom pays)
YouTube TV: $25 (The family that watches football together stays together.)
New York Times subscription: $12.50 (I love me 50% off my favorite paper, crossword, AND recipes.)
Health Insurance: $0 (Thanks, Obama!)
Amazon Prime: $119/year (I let my mom use it, but I don't charge her.)

Day One

6:10 a.m. — Even in the summer (and on the weekends), I can't turn my morning person persona off. School wake-up is 5:10, so I can settle for 6:10. I stay in bed and indulge in my morning routine, which is reading The New York Times cover to cover and giving the crossword a stab. Luckily, the Monday crossword is easy enough, and I finish it in about 20 minutes. I've worked up an appetite, so I savor an everything bagel with cream cheese on it.
10 a.m. — Summer curriculum work is due on Friday — oops! I 100% knew it, but just chose to forget about it. I'm curled up on my deck thinking through the last of one of my history units for U.S. History. For some reason, I enjoy teaching World War II more than everyone else does. Japanese internment is such a complex topic, and 100% of my students are English Language Learners, so they often make very sobering connections between internment and their journeys to the United States. Eventually, I get hungry, so I grab a Chobani from the fridge. I'm pretty sure this birthday cake yogurt is marketed to six-year-olds, but I'm not so secretly a six-year-old on the inside.
6 p.m. — I graze through the day and eventually crave dinner. I ordered groceries last week but find myself craving boxed mac 'n' cheese. Of course, I have no boxed mac 'n' cheese, so I have to settle for a box of pasta with some shredded cheese melted in and some sautéed spinach. Pretty close and healthy, right?
7:30 p.m. — One reason why I love my apartment (besides my own bathroom, deck, and an easy commute to work) is I live walking distance to a park with gorgeous views. I walk out on the promenade and watch a particularly fabulous sunset. Everybody around me is doing the same thing, and I feel particularly at peace as summer begins to fade away.
9:10 p.m. — I'm finally in bed with my Kindle, and On the Come Up by Angie Thomas just came in through my library's online catalog. I start reading it but quickly fall asleep after 15 minutes (the book is excellent).
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:10 a.m. — Repeat the classic morning routine, but this time I fail to complete the crossword puzzle AND I'm out of cream cheese. Damn. At least I'm going out later today and can get some more, so I settle for butter.
12:35 p.m. — I inhale leftovers for lunch while frowning over my rosters for next year. One of my classes is already at 20 students and counting, while another section of the same class is at 10. I pray that the scheduling gods will shift students around and balance things out; I don't even think I have enough room for 20 students in my classroom.
4:30 p.m. — Tuesday nights mean West African dance class at my favorite community studio, but I have an overdue library book that I need to return beforehand. I go out of my way to visit the Central Branch of the Boston Public Library (which, if you haven't been, is gorgeous) and treat myself to dinner at the new café in the library, which doubles as the city's NPR broadcast booth. Jim and Margery aren't on air, but a flatbread pizza and a slice of cheesecake are on my radar. I take my food to the courtyard along with another book I picked up, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. I started it on the T ride to the library, and I finish it before class. 10/10, would read again. $9.10
7:30 p.m. — I meet up with my favorite professor from college, who is my dance class ride or die. I started dancing in college and discovered West African dance after a year of ballet. It's incredibly fun, freeing, challenging, community oriented, and unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I tie my lapa (a long cloth around the waist for women) and am dripping with sweat by the end of 90 nonstop minutes, even though it's unseasonably cool for August in Boston. $16
9:30 p.m. — I was going to take the T home (unlimited monthly pass, holla), but my friend offers to drive me to a different stop closer to my house and right by her place. Somehow I manage to take a shower before passing out to the sound of drums ringing in my head.
Daily Total: $25.10

Day Three

8:40 a.m. — I read the paper quickly, but I'm running late (by my standards, which means I'm five minutes early) to Pilates. I grab a granola bar and rush out the door.
9 a.m. — It's my last Wednesday Pilates class at the Y before school starts again, and I am reveling in the fact that I've been free enough to take a 9 a.m. fitness class for the past two months. I am also painfully sore from last night. Still, I stretch a little further because I know I'll miss it.
10:15 a.m. — It's another beautiful and unseasonably cool day, so I walk to the library and settle in to finish up the last of the curriculum work. One of my colleagues appears with her three-year-old daughter for toddler story time, and I am crowned a unicorn with sparkly stickers on my face. As I get toddler kisses, I confirm that I am not the only person who left their summer curriculum work to the last minute. Misery loves company, and I love this kid.
12:30 p.m. — It starts to rain, which is a sign from the universe that I should stop working for a while and go home (I did finish that unit plan, thanks for asking). I walk home and I'm hungry, so I make a chicken sandwich and add some grapes and carrots to it. I veg out in front of my Nintendo Switch and prepare myself for the emotional end of my Fire Emblem: Three Houses playthrough.
2:30 p.m. — Damnit, I have something in my eye (sniff). It's the first time I've finished a video game in a while, and it was beautiful.
5:45 p.m. — I meet my friend M. at the T and walk to my favorite pupuseria. Unfortunately, it's not a $1 pupusa day, but pupusas are always cheap and M. hasn't experienced the joy of El Salvador's unofficial official food (or horchata). I know I have a curriculum paycheck coming in the mail on Friday (I don't officially get paid during the summer; I got four paychecks in June and spent them...perhaps a bit quicker than I would have otherwise) and I love my friends, so I treat her. We eat them in the park and watch another beautiful sunset. $24
9 p.m. — We watch an episode of Property Brothers (the more wholesome of reality TV shows) before M. and I decide dessert is a good life choice. Fortunately, the Italian place near me is still open, but they're cash only. I paw through my old change wallet and scrounge for some quarters to supplement the $10 bill I have. She goes for the cheesecake and I go for the cannoli, both excellent life choices. After she leaves, I crawl into bed and read another good chunk of On the Come Up before my eyes suddenly shut. $13
Daily Total: $37

Day Four

7 a.m. — Summer is weird: I find myself doing things that I really, really don't need to do, but do anyway because I can structure my time however I want. Case in point: I throw a granola bar in my backpack and skip my bagel because I'm doing a medical study and I have to fast for the blood draw. It's a home allergen and asthma study that my mom signed me up for when I was still in the womb. They randomly send me surveys and finally asked me to come in. I was promised $130 and a free breakfast, and I don't exactly have anything better to do, so I mosey across the city and find a café that makes a build-your-own-smoothie. I find smoothies mystifying, so I get a bagel with honey nut butter and build a smoothie with every kind of fruit possible and add some spinach. Honestly, it looks disgusting, but I have to find out how it tastes. They give me a receipt, but I turn it over to the researchers and will get reimbursed in a month ($7.91 expensed).
9 a.m. — The smoothie looks nasty but tastes delightful. Well worth the wait.
11 a.m. — Apparently, I am incapable of doing a saline rinse, so the researchers take pity on me and let me finish up the study a little bit early. I am somehow covered in saline. I'm pretty sure my mother would be horrified if she saw this.
5 p.m. — The study ended up being more draining than I anticipated, so I cancel some lunch plans I'd made with a friend and go home. I finish On the Come Up and eat my leftover pupusas for an early dinner. I always plan ahead when eating out and think of leftovers. It's not that I hate cooking; it's just that my roommate is Paleo and we don't share groceries, so I'm cooking basically for myself. It's a lot of effort, and sometimes there's just too much food left over, and I hate wasting it. I also usually don't have a lot of energy during the school year to cook at night. I deposit $775 into my Roth IRA, which is more than I usually contribute, but I have a little extra money in my savings account. I am already covered by my state's pension plan (where 11% of my paycheck goes), but I've been contributing to my Roth IRA since I was 18. I hope I can meet the $6,000 yearly contribution this year, but I think I'll get about 75% there. $775
Daily Total: $775

Day Five

6:10 a.m. — Finally, I can go back to my morning routine...except I forgot to get that cream cheese, oops. My mom calls and asks if I can come home this weekend, but I'm going hiking and I suggest next weekend instead. She is mopey about it, but I send her some funny animal videos and all is right with the world.
10 a.m. — I walk to the park and call my grandma for our weekly chat. She's my only grandparent left, but I live too far away to see her often, so we talk at least once a week. She complains that she can't hear me because the park is too windy and gripes about her friend being vicious at the bingo table. I tell her I'm hiking my first mountain tomorrow, and she asks if I have any gentleman callers in my life. Not yet, Grandma, but you'll be the first to know!
11:15 a.m. — I stay at the park and do work until it rains (seriously, what is it with the rain this week?). I finish up the last of my curriculum work and triumphantly send off my unit plans and my timesheets. I know we won't have curriculum funds next year, so I try to be more grateful about having this money now; mostly I'm relieved.
3 p.m. — I've earned some rest, so I get on Final Fantasy XIV and play with my free company (guild) with my friends. We all know each other either in real life (most of us are couples) or for many years, so they're kind of like a second family. They tell me I've earned the right to order pizza after working my ass off, so I take their advice and order in a pizza. We shout through the newest dungeon for a few hours, until I have to get off and prepare for my hike. The rest of them plot a trip to see each other, but I can't go because of work — and honestly, I can't afford it right now. $15
8 p.m. — I'm hiking tomorrow, so I prep my gear and go straight to bed.
Daily Total: $15

Day Six

4:30 a.m. — I can't remember the last time I voluntarily woke up this early, but I need to meet my carpool for our hike at 6. I toast a bagel, but I'm not hungry yet, so I wrap it in foil. I triple-check my public transportation plan to remind myself that yes, I can get there right at 6 if I'm on the first train out at 5:20.
5:10 a.m. — The universe plays a cruel joke on me: The first train out isn't scheduled to get to me until 5:40, which means I definitely won't make my pickup. I curse loudly, probably scaring the gentle old man next to me who's on his way to work. I reluctantly order an Uber Pool. My driver finds it fascinating that I'm awake this early and not on my way to work. Me too! $16.12
5:30 a.m. — We pick up a guy who is extremely well put together, considering how slurred his speech is. He says he just moved here from Philadelphia and hasn't slept in 36 hours. We drop him off, and I tell him in my mom-teacher voice to get some sleep.
5:45 a.m. — We pick up another person who is hiking (but not on my hike). My Uber driver and I continue our conversation. He's from Ethiopia, so we laugh about how most Americans can't find Ethiopia on a map. I impress him with my knowledge of Ethiopian history, and he shows off his knowledge for his citizenship exam.
5:59 a.m. — I bid farewell to my driver (with a $3 tip) and see nobody is around, so I wait in the station.
6:15 a.m. — It's 6:15 and my ride hasn't showed yet. Another person arrives, and I recognize her from my last hike, so we catch up (she's super cool). Our hike leader arrives as well, but our carpool isn't here yet. Our leader calls the driver and finds out he just woke up, so he'll be another 20 minutes. So glad I spent $15 on an Uber when I could've arrived late, too!
6:40 a.m. — We're on the road to New Hampshire and I'm already tired, but the mountain hasn't started yet.
12:30 p.m. — We're 4,000 feet in the air and I'm beyond tired, but I'm proud of myself for finishing my first four-thousand-footer (and even pleased about doing it in zero visibility due to the fog).
2:45 p.m. — It's so extremely foggy that people are beginning to disappear in front of me. Unfortunately, nature also calls after I drink my body weight in water. I find myself a nice private spot and answer the call. I'm glad I brought the bougie toilet paper, and eventually the girl I hiked with last time breaks down and asks for some. We take turns as lookout while using nature's toilet, and I'm pretty sure we're now best friends for life.
4 p.m. — Naturally, we've worked up a bit of an appetite (mountains do that to you, ya know?), so we stop at the local resort for an awkwardly timed lunch/dinner. I order Parmesan garlic wings that are meant to be an appetizer, but I have no intention of sharing and they are sublime. $20
4:15 p.m. — Ice cream might as well be my middle name, and I am weak-willed after being awake for 12 hours. I get a mint chocolate chip ice cream and feel great about it. $4.50
8 p.m. — Three hours in the car and a sweaty T ride later, I'm home. I discover an unpleasant blister as I take the world's greatest shower and pass out after five minutes of starting a new book.
Daily Total: $40.62

Day Seven

8:20 a.m. — When I was growing up, my family never had extra money, and we never went out to restaurants — maybe for our birthday if we were lucky, and maybe ordering a pizza a few times a year. Whether my family's fortunes have turned (or my parents have finally become empty nesters) or not, we've discovered we have a taste for eating out. My dad and I are the only people in our family who love breakfast, so he comes to visit and we go to my favorite neighborhood hole-in-the-wall/Cheers-vibey place for food. He gets a gigantic breakfast plate, I get the Saturday morning French toast special, which is French toast coated in whatever cereal the chef decides to buy that morning. I figure that I also earned a mimosa for hiking a mountain, but I have to wait until 10 for that (thanks, Puritans, for banning us from enjoying alcohol on the Day of the Lord). The chef has chosen Cinnamon Toast Crunch today, and I salute him for his service (and fine cereal choice) with a generous tip. $39.32
11 a.m. — My dad and I drive to the beach and sit on a bench, dipping our toes in the sand. My dad's afraid of water and can't swim, so we're really here to watch the airplanes take off (and people-watch the characters of the beach). A little ankle-biter off a leash appears and wants to snuggle with us, but I'm apprehensive. Sure enough, the dog tries to attack another dog a few minutes later, and the man passing by politely suggests the owner of the ankle-biter puts the dog on a leash. The ankle-biter's owner does not respond politely. I snort until water comes out my nose, so I guess my sinuses are just fine.
1 p.m. — I bid farewell to my dad and settle in for a few hours of thinking time. The school year starts in a week and a half, and while I'm pretty pleased with how I did my first year, my work-life balance was horrific. I decide to carve out some time now to think carefully about what my limits are and how I can work more efficiently. I decide to stick to a strict schedule and only stay late at work one day a week, and commit to making sure I do something fun (barre) immediately after. I'm going to have to work harder at being social, so I make plans with M. for the next debate and reach out to a sister of a friend who recently moved to my neighborhood.
6 p.m. — I feel fancy, so I cook butternut squash ravioli with some asparagus. See, I can cook!
7 p.m. — I take one more walk to the park to catch the sunset, and I'm worried that I'll miss it, but it's absolutely stunning. After a few days of meh weather, the sky glows a beautiful salmon orange. I feel oddly at peace and stay on the bench until it gets dark, knowing that the end of summer — and work — is fast approaching, but somehow I feel ready for it.
Daily Total: $39.32
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