A Week In Detroit, MI, On A $52,275 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 college counselor who makes $52,275 per year and spends some of her money this week on protein bars.
Occupation: College Counselor
Industry: Education
Age: 25
Location: Detroit, MI
Salary: $52,275
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,708.49
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $350 for my share of a two-bedroom apartment on the lower level of a house. I split the cost with my boyfriend.
Student Loans: $0 (My parents graciously paid for my college education and gave me an older car because I need to drive every day.)
Electric & Gas: Around $65 (I've only lived in this house during the winter months, so I don't know what this will be throughout the rest of the year.)
Water: Between $20 and $30 for my share
Gym Membership: $22.06
Netflix: $7.99
Spotify Premium: $9.99
iCloud Storage: $2.99
Internet: $25 for my share (The cost is split between me, my boyfriend, and our two friends who live in the upstairs unit of the house.)
Savings: $1,600 (This used to just go into my savings account at the bank, but moving forward I'll put $600 there and $1,000 will go into my retirement fund.)
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Day One

6:15 a.m. — I get out of bed shortly after my alarm goes off. Good for a Monday! I wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into workout clothes. I only ran four miles last week, so I need to get back on track. I scrape off my car because it snowed AGAIN last night and head to the gym, where I run for over an hour on the treadmill. First, I finish an episode of the I Have Cool Friends podcast with Maggie Nichols. I absolutely love college gymnastics, and she's one of the best. Then I switch over to music to finish off the miles. I shower quickly and head to work.
9 a.m. — I regroup from Saturday's program session. We gave students a practice PSAT/SAT to prepare them from the official test they'll take in school in April, so I have to send their answer sheets to the testing company. I call about an issue with some of the answer sheets, and they'll fix it on their end.
11:30 a.m. — I head to the school cafeteria with a group of coworkers. We get to have lunch for free every day, and it's a huge perk. When I first started, I resisted eating lunch in the cafeteria because I wanted to bring leftovers, but it saves me so much time and money. Even if the hot food options aren't great, they always have a sandwich and salad bar. I load up on veggies and have some pork loin, too.
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12 p.m. — I work through my to-do list and catch up with students for the rest of the work day. Since the students go to high school in Detroit but our program is based out of a school in the suburbs, I don't get to see them every day. We coordinate a lot via email and text.
4 p.m. — I call the accountant about my taxes. I've had the same woman do them for the past few years, but I forgot to give her the statements from a stock my grandfather bought me for Christmas a few years ago. It gained a small amount of interest, and she needs to report it as income. Once that's over to her, she finishes everything. I'm getting a $1,000 federal refund and $200 from the state! I'll save some, but I also want to buy a new backpack and a pair of nice shoes. Her fee is $125, so I write her a check and plan to drop it in the mailbox on my way home. I leave work just before 5. Because I work six to seven hours every Saturday and often contact students after work hours, I have more flexibility throughout the week. I'm typically in the office from 9 to 4 Monday-Friday, spend a few hours each week contacting students in the early evening, and then help run the program and work directly with the students on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. $125
5:30 p.m. — I get home and start a really yummy five-ingredient green curry dinner. My boyfriend and I usually cook in five nights a week. We eat while watching 30 Rock, an all-time favorite.
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8 p.m. — I throw in a frozen pizza because the curry was so yummy but didn't fill us up. I think I need to use more tofu next time.
10 p.m. — I brush my teeth, wash my face with a powder-to-liquid exfoliant, and put on night cream. My skin doesn't break out too much, but it does get really dry. We watch another episode in bed and fall asleep by 10:30. Most nights I fall asleep within two minutes of saying I'm done watching and putting my computer away. My boyfriend has a much harder time sleeping, though, and likes his back rubbed to help him relax, but I can't keep my eyes open.
Daily Total: $125

Day Two

6:10 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I feel surprisingly awake but have no motivation to go to the gym. I never fall back asleep, but I lie in bed until 7:40. I realize that if I leave for work by 8, I can stop at a favorite restaurant/coffee shop and pick up a few paczki for Fat Tuesday. The flavors are super creative and I know they'll be amazing. The traditional Polish bakeries in my neighborhood have paczki, too, but people started lining up at 3 a.m. for them and it's FREEZING this morning. No thank you! I wash my face, brush my teeth, and get dressed.
8:30 a.m. — I get to the coffee shop only to find that they are sold out of doughnuts. Bummer.
9 a.m. — I meet with a representative about retirement. I let myself wait until I was 25 to start putting money away, because I had a few low-paying jobs right after college and needed over a year in my current job to build up general savings. Now I'm in a solid place financially and want to plan for the future. The rep applauds me for starting early and assures me that I will have a lot saved with the amount I plan to contribute each year. I find out that the money from my employer won't be fully vested until 2021, and I've been thinking a lot about grad school for counseling or social work, but this may make me put that off for a few more years.
10 a.m. — I get into the office and see that the coffee shop got more doughnuts. I call and pre-pay for two, which I'll pick up after work ($8.99). Then I get started on my to-do list. This time of year is less busy for me. The seniors have already been accepted to college and are now narrowing down their decisions, mostly based on financial aid. They need to apply for scholarships, and I've sent out what feels like a million reminders to do so. It's at the point where they need to take matters into their own hands, which gives me less to do. We head to lunch around 11:45 to avoid the line. I have some chicken and beef shawarma over rice and a salad. After lunch, I switch my focus to the juniors and begin a list of items they can work on now to prepare for the summer and next year, including studying for the SAT. It's really important to get this information out to parents as well, so I draft a letter home. $8.99
4:15 p.m. — I head back to the coffee shop and pick up my two paczki. My boyfriend persuades me to order takeout from the restaurant (this place has the best hot chicken), and I have a frozen passionfruit margarita while I wait ($28.30). I was initially planning on going to the gym, but this sounded much better. $28.30
6 p.m. — The traffic was bad on the way home, but at least I have food. My boyfriend made ziti, too, so we eat our takeout, split the paczkis, and then have a bowl of pasta a few hours later. We lounge and watch lots of 30 Rock. I really like quiet nights in! We're both exhausted, so we fall asleep before 10.
Daily Total: $37.29

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for the gym, but I feel super discombobulated this morning so I don't leave until close to 7.
7:25 a.m. — I start my run after some stomach issues. I make it through three easy miles, made easier with the help of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I really love this show! My stomach feels terrible this morning and I know it's because of the hot chicken, but it's just sooooo good. Worth it (kind of). At this rate, I won't complete all of my miles, but I'll get close. I do a mini speed workout that feels surprisingly good. I'm trying to get faster, and it's good to know that a 7:40 pace can feel comfortable on certain days. The incredibly humbling thing about running is that sometimes you can go fast or far and it feels great, and one day later it feels as though you've never run before in your whole life.
9 a.m. — Back home for a quick shower. I actually have to partially blowdry my hair today because I have a meeting at a middle school, and I feel like sopping wet hair is not the best look. I blowdry my hair maybe 10 times a year, so this sucks, but it actually looks pretty good. Thank you winter and your lack of humidity.
9:45 a.m. — I meet my coworker at the school, and we give a long presentation about the program to 35 eighth graders. Each year, we recruit eighth graders to start our program over the summer, who will then work with us until they graduate from high school. This group is very quiet and refuses to engage with us, which makes the presentation dry, but they do seem interested.
12 p.m. — I stop by the local running store since it's right off the freeway I'm taking back to work. I pick up my bib for a local race on Sunday, which I paid for last week. I'm running the mile and 5K and haven't raced either of these distances before, so I'm nervous but also excited! I also grab five more packages of Bloks for my training. They're gummy chews that taste really great, unlike gels, which always hurt my stomach. My favorite flavor is the salted watermelon! During long runs, they provide some energy to keep you going, and I don't feel as depleted once I finish. It might be partially psychological, too, because I take them every few miles and it helps break up the distance of the run. $11.45
1 p.m. — I check my email and then head to the cafeteria to grab lunch. Today I take it back to the office since I was gone all morning. I get a fried chicken leg, some corn, and a salad with spinach, shredded carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, and chickpeas. Then I spend the rest of the afternoon making sure I have all of the paperwork in for the college tour. Each year, I plan a weeklong trip to different colleges in Ohio and Michigan. This year over 40 students are going (mostly tenth graders and a few 11th) over their spring break. I make calls to the students who have missing items and make a note to follow up with them in person on Saturday.
4:20 p.m. — I leave work to meet my boyfriend for a drink. There's a top-ranked meadery (which produces honey wine) in the Detroit suburbs. I get a flight of three berry meads. The cranberry raspberry is a new favorite! I also pick up two bottles of a new release for a friend, but he pays me back. $14.46
5:30 p.m. — We get home and heat up the rest of the ziti. Leftovers are the best! Then we watch some 30 Rock before heading to our weekly trivia games.
7 p.m. — We do trivia at a family-owned brewery with a couple who live in the second unit of the house we rent. The brewery makes good beers, and we really like the environment. We did not like our host, but he was fired last week after almost getting into a fight with a team that was apparently cheating. My boyfriend buys me a beer since I bought food on Tuesday. It's usually one of my favorites but tastes too sweet tonight, so I sip it slowly and it lasts me both games. We end up getting second in the second game and get vouchers for two free pints of beer!
9:30 p.m. — Back home for an episode of 30 Rock before bed.
Daily Total: $25.91

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — I get out of bed and get ready for the gym. It snowed again last night. Winter can be over now! I run for over an hour while watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as she continues to refine her act and spill secrets about a fellow comedian. Such a good episode! Quick shower and then I head to work.
8:40 a.m. — I head to the gas station. The full tank of gas will last me about 10 days. I wish I lived in a city with better public transportation, but am thankful for my car because I would be very limited on where I could live and work without it. I get to work and work on a project with a coworker. $39.18
10 a.m. — We celebrate another coworker's birthday. I'm glad nobody knows when my birthday is, because while I like celebrating other people, I do not like the attention!
11:30 a.m. — We head to lunch and I have chicken and beef fajita meat over rice, corn, and guacamole. I text my boyfriend about meals for this week and place our Kroger order online. I get caught up in reviewing testing data for the program and planning which reports I'll put together once this batch of testing data comes back. The afternoon goes by so quickly and I end up leaving work at 4:40.
5 p.m. — I call my friend to catch up while driving to Target. I pick up sponges, dryer sheets, hand soap, cotton rounds, shampoo, conditioner, a new water bottle, and garlic bread. The new water bottle is really exciting, because I now have enough to keep one at home, one in my car, and one at work. It's the little things! My boyfriend texts a description of a pizza two bartenders are eating at our favorite beer bar in Detroit after their shift, and it sounds amazing. It's only $15 for a large, so I tell him he HAS to pick one up. $52.94
5:30 p.m. — I go pick up the Kroger order. ClickList makes everything so easy! I'm using my third of three free trials today, but I do think it's worth the $5 service fee and will likely continue doing it. I take forever to grocery shop, so it saves me an hour of my time each week! Today I pick up ingredients for oven-fried chicken, tacos, carbonara, breakfast for dinner, and Greek salads. Traffic at 5:30 is the worst, and it takes me a long time to get home. Luckily, the pizza is there waiting. Yum! We polish off the pizza, watch 30 Rock, and move into the bedroom at 8:30 because we're both exhausted. $58.09
8:30 p.m. — I wash my face, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed. I think I make it through 10 more minutes of TV before crashing.
Daily Total: $150.21

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I sleep in today, which feels amazing because I definitely needed it after going to the gym three days in a row. I wash my face, get dressed, pack a banana and protein bar, and head to work.
8:45 a.m. — I follow up with more students and their parents about missing documents for the college tour. An email is sent out to all staff that a cat was found inside the school, and then a second email says that it appears to be a stray. My boyfriend jokes that I better not bring it home. We can't have cats in the house, but I want one so badly! Someone posts a code on Instagram for Bulletproof protein bars, and the lemon cookie flavor sounds amazing. The code gets me a free box of 12, and I pay for shipping. SCORE! $6.95
11:30 a.m. — Lunchtime. I get a tiny piece of salmon, some veggies, and some mac 'n' cheese and make a big salad. Minimal protein, so I'm glad I packed a protein bar this morning. I'll need some energy before my run later.
1 p.m. — The afternoon is dragging on, so I take a break to shout out some friends in honor of International Women's Day. I truly have the best group of friends. Maren Morris's new album was released today, and I'm already obsessed. I text my boyfriend's cousin, who is the only person around Detroit I know who also likes country music, to see if she wants to go to Maren's concert in May. I love going to concerts! I get tickets for the two of us and her best friend ($36 each). I'll get reimbursed closer to the date. $108
4 p.m. — It's sunny and in the 30s, so I get dressed for a run outside. I've been running a lot on the treadmill lately, because it's been so cold and there isn't a great running route near my house. I run from work around the neighborhood, and it's a really nice change of pace. After an hour, I pack up and drive home.
5:30 p.m. — My boyfriend and I decide on a takeout place right by our house, and I call in the order. We get two lamb gyro bowls (meat, rice, lettuce, sauce) and three cheese sticks for $13.75. Such a good deal. We used to eat out at pricier restaurants, and we still do occasionally, but good, cheap takeout has been a game changer! $13.75
6:30 p.m. — We eat our takeout while watching 30 Rock. A few friends are going to a music festival two blocks from my house tonight, and I initially say I'll go with them, but a while later realize I'm too exhausted. I have to be well rested for work tomorrow. Saturdays are always the most tiring because I run around checking in on the different grades, and then spend a lot of time with the seniors. I know I'll need my energy! We fly through a few episodes before I finally get up to shower and get ready for bed. Somehow, we don't end up falling asleep until after 11.
Daily Total: $128.70

Day Six

7 a.m. — I feel like I got no sleep, but have to get up and get ready for work. I wash my face, get dressed, spend too much time scrolling on Instagram, and rush out the door.
8 a.m. — We have our weekly staff meeting, and I get put on the spot to recap how testing went last weekend. I don't have much to say, so I feel awkward and anxiously wait for the meeting to be over.
9 a.m. — I talk with a coworker about the college tour. She went last year but is traveling over her spring break this year. I'm so excited for her but will definitely miss having her on the tour! We start talking about housing in Detroit. She's been looking to buy for a while, and I've looked for fun. While the houses are still cheap compared to a lot of cities, the prices are going up, even in neighborhoods that still don't have many necessary amenities. They probably will in the next five to ten years, though. Detroiters are getting priced out of a lot of things, and are not included in a lot of the development plans. It's really sad to see. I grapple with the fact that I am one of the outsiders who moved here and am contributing to gentrification. I really love this city, though, and make it a goal to become more involved with the community on a daily basis. I've also been meaning to volunteer consistently with an organization. I'll start research next week!
9:30 a.m. — I finish compiling my list of students who can attend a medical club meeting today and go around to the study halls to let them know. I also go talk to the sophomores about turning in the rest of their paperwork so they can go on the college tour. Then I sit down with a group of seniors and answer questions about college. A lot of the students don't realize that they need to consistently follow up with the college about admissions decisions and financial aid information if they haven't heard back. I also prepare them to fill out forms from colleges/universities with further financial details. Most of my students will be selected for financial aid verification, so they'll have to submit additional information.
12:30 p.m. — I meet with my advisory, a smaller group of senior girls, over boxed sandwich lunches. They are chatty today, which I love. And they're nervous about college, which is to be expected. Some aren't sure what they want to study, so we talk about that for a while. This job is a delicate balance between encouraging students to pursue their dreams and also helping them find a field of study that has good employment potential. It's also hard when students love a school that isn't affordable for them.
2 p.m. — On my way home, I realize that my other headlight burned out. One went a few weeks ago, and I've been putting off buying a new bulb. My boyfriend suggested that I go to Auto Zone and just buy the bulbs because it will be cheaper to do it myself. Before going in, I look at my owner's manual for the type of bulb, and it strongly suggests that I go somewhere to have it done. I drive to the car shop where I get my oil changes, because I know them and they have the bulbs in stock. There's no wait, and it takes less than 30 minutes. $105.98
3:30 p.m. — I heat up leftovers from last night and then take a nap. We debate whether we're going out for dinner or cooking in. The places in our neighborhood will be packed, because it's the last night of the music festival. We consider going to the festival but check the schedule, and a band we like isn't going on until 1:30. Too late! It's also supposed to rain at any minute, and we can already hear the wind whipping through the houses. Greek salad with chicken it is. My boyfriend cooks, because he loves this meal and likes it done a particular way. I look over details for my race tomorrow and figure out where to park.
7 p.m. — A recent trip to Disney made me want to rewatch all of the movies, so tonight is Mary Poppins. I don't think I've ever seen the whole thing before, and it's wonderful.
9:30 p.m. — I do the dishes, lay out my clothes for tomorrow, and get ready for bed. It takes me a while to finish all of that, and then we cuddle for a while. "Spoonful of Sugar" is stuck in my head. I don't fall asleep until a little after 11.
Daily Total: $105.98

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and make breakfast. I need energy for the races, so I eat two pieces of toast with avocado, half a protein bar, and drink a glass of Nuun (lots of electrolytes). I put a new episode of Ali on the Run Show on my iPod for my warm-up and cool-down miles and double-check my playlist for the race. I pack a banana, a water bottle, a change of shoes and socks since it rained last night, and a few backup clothing options and get ready to go.
9:45 a.m. — I park by a restaurant that is one street off the race route, so I know I'll be able to leave once I'm done. Holy crap is it windy! I run to a porta-potty along the route and can hardly close the door because the wind gusts are so powerful. I run for about 10 minutes in my jacket before going back to my car and changing into my long-sleeve shirt that I'll wear for the race. I pin my bib, change into my other shoes, and run to the start. I line up for the mile race right at the front and then get nervous that I'm too far forward. I go with it and figure people will pass if they need to. The way out is great and I'm cruising — the wind is in my favor. The last half mile is really tough with the wind, but I exert as much effort as possible without puking (short distances are NOT my thing) and cross in 6:55! My goal was below 7, and I crushed it! I'm also pretty sure I was the third woman to finish!
11 a.m. — I grab a water bottle and line up for the 5K. I run into a woman I met at a half marathon this past September. We were both struggling with the heat and decided to run the last few miles together. She really helped me finish that race! We have the same goal for this race, but I want to be in the zone. I'm also hopefully going to run fast and won't be able to talk. I pace really well for the first two miles, and then the wind hits hard again. I end up finishing 30 seconds over my goal, but I'm still so happy with my time! I run back to my car to get my phone, and good thing, too. The parade is setting up on the street, but I'm able to move my car with no issues. I think they're doing awards for the race, so I head back to the finish line only to find out that they aren't doing them for the mile. All of the back-and-forth to my car made my cool-down miles super easy to accomplish, and I head home with two finisher medals and 10 miles accomplished for the day.
12:45 p.m. — On my way, I stop by a macaron shop because I want a treat and the March flavors are intriguing. I get Lucky Charms, Bailey's, lemon, crème brûlée, and rose cardamom. $12
1 p.m. — While I take a shower and warm up, my boyfriend picks up a few shawarma sandwiches and cheese sticks from our favorite spot. He buys! We eat and watch more 30 Rock. We talk about starting up a serious show (maybe Ozark season 2 or Man in the High Castle season 3) but decide against it for now.
3 p.m. — I lie down before our friends come over and don't fall asleep for long, but it's so nice to relax.
4 p.m. — Our upstairs neighbor and his girlfriend come downstairs, and two other friends come over for a blind tasting of beer. I'm the designated pourer and the only one who knows the order of the beers they're drinking. The boys' process is so funny. They rank the beers and then guess which beer they think it is. Everyone has pretty different opinions, and nobody guesses more than two correctly. Our neighbor's girlfriend is really good with statistics and pulls together an awesome spreadsheet. It looks super official.
7 p.m. — The two friends head home, but we have another drink. My boyfriend got a really good sour beer, and those are my favorite! I really want to watch The Hate U Give since I haven't seen it yet, and I just got it from the library! I always cry during movies, and this time is no different. There are no surprises because I read the book, but it's incredibly well written and emotional. We make carbonara for dinner and switch over to 30 Rock so I don't cry into my pasta.
10 p.m. — I finish the dishes and get ready for bed. I'm even more tired than usual and fall asleep almost instantly.
Daily Total: $12
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