A Week In Charlottesville, VA, On A $54,704 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.
This week a Social Worker working in Child Welfare who makes $54,704 per year and spends some of her money on dress pant-yoga pants.
Occupation: Social Worker
Industry: Child Welfare
Age: 27
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Salary: $54,704
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,452 (after tax, insurance, and retirement deductions)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $995 (two bedroom, water and trash included, shared with my husband, but I pay full rent)
Car Loan: $100
Student Loans: $0 (paid off $14,000)
Car Insurance (every six months): $335
Health/Dental/Vision: $39 per paycheck
Phone Bill: $23
Netflix: $8.99
Pension: $210.40 per paycheck (pre-tax)
Roth IRA: $453
Savings: $385 biweekly
Gym: $49
Donations: $50 (ACLU) + $40 (Planned Parenthood)
Internet/Electricity/Hulu: $0 (My husband (let's call him H.) pays — we have very different spending habits, and have found that splitting finances has kept us from fighting about money. He's a full-time student and works part time, so right now I pay the more expensive rent/water combo as well as most of our fun activities, and he takes care of some of these smaller bills. He also covers all of our groceries. His portion of our shared expenses is ~$150 plus the cost of groceries.)
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Day One

5:30 a.m. — I'm dragging this morning and toss back some pre-workout to help wake me up while I pack my lunch and make my breakfast smoothie (yogurt, milk, spinach, frozen mango, protein powder).
6 a.m. — Bike the four miles round trip to and from the gym (my warm-up, cardio, transportation all in one!) and focus on the overhead press today. I started getting more serious about exercise when I started working in foster care as a way to cope with my anxiety around the job, but it has morphed into my favorite hobby. Then, it's home for a quick shower, after which the humidity in the bathroom is enough (that no A/C life) that wiggling into my skinny-leg work pants feels like a second workout. Slap on some moisturizer and SPF and am out the door for my walk to work by 7:40 a.m.
8 a.m. — I'm always proud of myself when I can make it to work on time on a Monday. I drink my breakfast smoothie as I catch up on e-mails. Today is the two-year anniversary of the white supremacist rally and we were all on standby to staff a shelter in case things got out of hand. However, the weekend seems to have gone by peacefully, there's no mention of any incidences in my inbox.
12 p.m. — It's a beautiful day for lunch outside, so some coworkers and I head out to take advantage of the weather. Today's lunch is leftover dumplings, zucchini, and yogurt.
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4:30 p.m. — Leaving work early today! I typically work four ten hour days and flex out on Wednesdays, but I had too many appointments this Wednesday for that to be viable and decide to just work a normal five day week. I pop into the library on my way home to stock up on books.
5 p.m. — My husband, H., is already home, which is such a treat. He had an internship this summer two hours away in Fairfax and I didn't get to see him much. When I go into our room, I see he's bought a floor length mirror for me after he witnessed me crawling onto the bathtub ledge to check out my work outfit in the bathroom mirror. What a sweetie pie! He also got a job offer from that internship for when he graduates next year. DC/Northern VA would also have a lot of great job opportunities for me, but, holy crap, I cannot get over the sticker shock of housing up there. He has until October to decide and we discuss the pros and cons.
6:30 p.m. — H. And I alternate cooking and cleaning on a biweekly basis, and it's a cooking week for me. I got a $20 discount for my first four Blue Apron boxes, which I've really been enjoying, but will definitely have to stop once the discount ends. I prepped a couple of meals yesterday and cook a Blue Apron meal tonight. It's a delicious Sambal Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry. We eat, hang out, and watch a few episodes of Malcolm in the Middle. This is a pretty standard evening for me. As an introvert, a day full of social working is all the social interaction I need/want. Thankfully, I married another introvert and we're on the same page about how much activity we like after work
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Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — I go through my morning routine — drink some pre-workout, prepare my breakfast smoothie, head to the gym. I drive today as I need to pick up some things from the grocery store.
7 a.m. — Finish up a quick workout of squats and some core work and pop into the grocery store next to the gym. We have a wedding shower this week for a coworker (in an office full of 20 something's with high turnover, this feels like the five billionth wedding/birthday/going away party we've had), so I grab some kettle corn for a snack to contribute, a frozen fruit blend that's on sale for my smoothies, and get $5 cash to put toward the coworker's gift card. Head home and complete the rest of morning routine — shower, moisturizer, walk to work. $17.28
1:20 p.m. — Had a meeting over lunch that ran late, so I eat by myself in my office while scrolling through Reddit. Lunch is a lettuce bowl that I meal-prepped in the crockpot (minus the lettuce) on Sunday — ground chicken, pepper, carrots, onion, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and iceberg lettuce. It's pretty good, but much to my chagrin I forgot to pack snacks/sides. A coworker comes in clutch and gives me a granola bar and some crackers to add to my lunch.
4:30 p.m. — The two hour meeting I had scheduled for 4 gets canceled and it's another day I get to start my walk home at 4:30pm! H. isn't interning in Fairfax anymore, but he still works out of town. He has already decided he doesn't feel like making the commute back home, so he'll stay with my parents, leaving me to watch Bachelor in Paradise without judgement.
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6:30 p.m. — Dinner is sriracha turkey meatball bowls (that I prepped on Sunday) with turkey meatballs, a homemade sriracha teriyaki sauce, and green beans (normally I use riced cauliflower, but I didn't realize we were out until I started cooking). I also throw in some crackers and guac as a side and an ice cream sandwich for desert. While I'm eating, my best friend calls to talk over an idea she has for her inheritance. Her mom recently passed out of nowhere and she wants to honor her mom by paying it forward. I feel so proud to be friends with someone who is thinking of other people even when she's in pain and I do my best to be supportive. I just moved away less than two months ago, so I'd miss her anyway, but this really exacerbates it. We make plans for me to come into town next week to catch up.
Daily Total: $17.28

Day Three

6 a.m. — I. COULD. NOT. SLEEP. FitBit says I got five and half hours and that feels generous. Random insomnia is one of my least favorite PMS symptoms. I run a short two miles and have time to drink my smoothie at home and read my news updates from CNN and Fox News (I try to maintain an understanding of political perspectives from all sides), before I head out to work.
7:45 a.m. — A coworker sees me walking and drives me the rest of the way to work. He brought donuts for the office and I get first pick! I nab a Reese's donut and am not disappointed.
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12 p.m. — Lunch with some coworkers — same lettuce bowl, but I've remembered to pack more this time and also have some sautéed zucchini and a yogurt cup.
2 p.m. — Today is court day (aka the primary reason I couldn't flex out). The docket is PACKED today and I don't get out of there until the end of the workday. We can't bring food or water in, so I'm hungry and ready for a snack. The court room lobby needs some major upgrades. The air circulation is poor and there's not enough seating, so everyone's always cranky, tired, and hot by the time it's over. My heart goes out to our clients who are already having to deal with major crises and then have to sit in a loud, crowded, hot area with no privacy. We've got a long way to go with being trauma-informed here.
5 p.m. — I get home and snack on some crackers and hummus while finishing the second part of Bachelor in Paradise. Once H. gets home I whip up a Blue Apron meal of salmon with miso glaze, veggies, and rice. Dessert is Greek yogurt mixed with my cookies and cream protein powder. We talk some more about potentially moving to Northern Virginia in a year and a half and are both still equally torn.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Up and at 'em. I prep my smoothie, pack my lunch, and then bike to the gym today, and holy cow is it humid. Today's bench press day, aka my favorite day. I'm sooo close to being able to put up 135 I can taste it. I am overambitious and try it, and fail, so I have to settle for my prescribed workout weights today. Still got a PR of 126, though, so I'm pumped!
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7:40 a.m. — My walk to work is nasty today. Humidity is HIGH. I keep baby wipes in my office for just such an occasion and I freshen up before heading into the day's meetings.
12 p.m. — I eat the lettuce bowl again with zucchini, but didn't pack anything else as we're having that wedding shower today and I want to save room for snacks.
2:30 p.m. — I destroy an embarrassing amount of queso and a couple of pieces of cake at the wedding shower.
4:30 p.m. — I start my walk back home and am amazed at a fourth day in a row getting out right on time. I'm savoring every minute of it because school starts next week and in the child welfare world, that's when things get real. School personnel are one of the top reporters of child abuse and neglect, which means we'll have more calls coming in, later hours (as home visits and meetings have to be conducted when kids are out of school), and more crises to manage (not all schools are equipped to handle kids' trauma responses).
6:30 p.m. — While I'm eating, I order my textbooks for the semester. My employer reimburses up to $2,000 a year for graduate classes. Since I'm only taking one class this semester my reimbursement covers tuition and books are my only cost. I've been going part time for the past two years, and this will be my third (and last!) year of graduate school. Due to a combination of work reimbursement, tax credits, and going to a public university, my degree will only have cost me $9,000, which has been very manageable spread out over three years. $49
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9 p.m. — Before bed, I finish the book I've been reading, The Wife Between Us, and it's so good! It has so many twists and kept me on my toes throughout.
Daily Total: $49

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — You guessed it. Smoothie prep, pack my lunch, and bike to the gym — this time for deadlifts.
7 a.m. — I'm going into work a little later to make up for having a meeting that won't end until five. I take the time to throw together a cucumber salad for dinner with my parents, sister, and her boyfriend. She recently moved as well and is having us over for a dinner party and asked me to bring a vegetable side.
8:20 a.m. — I definitely jinxed myself yesterday mentioning how quiet things have been, as I've walked into a DEFCON 5, all hands on deck situation. We had a crisis occur last night and the on-call staff who addressed the issue are still working on it and need help. I rearrange my morning plans to help out. It looks like the situation will extend into the weekend, and they request help backing up on-call so current on-call can continue to focus on this family. I volunteer for Saturday on-call and cancel my tubing plans with friends. It's 9:30 before I realize I got distracted and forgot to eat. I scarf down my smoothie before my next meeting.
12 p.m. — Lunch today is my sriracha meatball bowl and the last cup of yogurt. I check my and e-mail and I see that my Blue Apron box has shipped. It's my last discounted box, so I skip the next few boxes and make a note to cancel the subscription. $40
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5 p.m. — My meeting gets out on time, and when it does there's an e-mail waiting from the on-call worker indicating they have a plan in place and back-up is no longer needed. Yay! When H. and I both get home, we head over to my sister's, where we spend the evening. Dinner is baked barbecue chicken, roasted potatoes and green beans (plus my cucumber salad), and then ice cream for dessert. Added bonus, my parents send us home with potatoes, green beans, and zucchini from the garden.
Daily Total: $40

Day Six

9 a.m. — I can't believe I just slept 11 hours, but I feel so refreshed! H. and I spend some time relaxing in bed before starting the day. I start on a new book: Downhill From Here, a book on the demise of America's retirement system. It's fascinating, but also gets me pretty angry.
10 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed and try to channel some of that anger to go out for a run. I instantly regret waiting so long. In a humid and hot week, it is perhaps the most humid and hot it's been. By the time I'm done, what should've been a pretty chill two and a half miles has left me nauseated and with a headache. I skip breakfast and drink a Gatorade to recover.
11:45 a.m. — Finally feeling like I want to eat, and chow down on some of the leftover paneer I made on Thursday. H. comes home with our groceries. We had a lot of ingredients for this week's recipes on hand, so he only had to get yogurt, coconut milk, frozen peas, pesto, dill, pizza dough, pizza sauce, string cheese, crackers, and pretzels.
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2 p.m. — Even though I canceled with friends, H. and I still want to go tubing. The Blue Apron box arrives, and we pack that up and head out. I went for the first time ever with some friends on July 4th and am now obsessed. We bought our own tubes immediately after and I'm trying to take advantage of living so close to multiple rivers while I can. However, since we've never been and no one's there to guide us, we forgo our usual alcoholic beverages to ensure we don't end up floating past our pull-out point. The river we go on has multiple public access points, so after the initial cost for tubes, it's free! Sober tubing is a different experience, but it's still so relaxing. We finish in a little under three hours.
7 p.m. — On our third date (and the date in which H. asked me to be his girlfriend), H. made pizza. Since then, it's morphed into a Saturday tradition. He makes two different pizzas and we chow down while catching up on Master Chef.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8 a.m. — There's a two mile trail close to our house, and in an effort to beat the heat and the crowds, we head out at 8. It's beautiful scenery, and we spend a little under two hours meandering the four miles out and back. I skip breakfast since I'm still feeling full from pizza last night.
10:30 a.m. — It's meal prep time! This week to supplement the Blue Apron box I make a chicken primavera with quinoa, green beans, peas, onion, and different seasonings (most of it gets done in the crockpot) and a buffalo chicken in the crockpot with baked potatoes and homemade ranch to go with it. They're both new recipes and were super easy and not very time consuming, so I hope they're good and can be added to our rotation.
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12:30 p.m. — H. and I eat up the last of our leftovers for the week- which are admittedly not as delicious by the end of the week. Using the freezer keeps things as fresh as they can be and I'll take mediocre meal prep food over having to cook every day.
1:30 p.m. — I spend the afternoon doing some more reading, knowing that in about two weeks I'll have to put aside all fun reading for a while in lieu of textbooks. I take a break from the retirement book to go back to No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood. For a myriad of reasons H. and I are leaning toward not having biological children. It's such a huge decision to make, and one that not a lot of people seem willing to talk about openly without an immediate assumption that there's something horribly wrong with you. Reading seems to be the next best way to gather information for what life has been like for women who've chosen not to have biological children.
6 p.m. — We have some leftover pizza and H. and I both eat that for dinner. Sunday evening is spent catching up on Master Chef and making sure we're on the same page about our plans for the week.
8:30 p.m. — I do some online browsing before bed and end up ordering dress pants from BetaBrand (they make yoga pant dress pants). I love what powerlifting has done for my body, but thicker thighs means my dress pants I've had are bordering on unprofessionally tight. I've got one pair already from them, and the forgiving fabric means that I'll be okay with more quad growth AND it'll be easier to bike to work. I order a dress pant and a skirt. I've got a 20% off coupon, and with that my total comes to $115. $115
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Daily Total: $115
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