A Week In Denver, CO, On A $135,000 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 project manager who makes $135,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a puzzle.
Occupation: Project Manager
Industry: Management Consulting
Age: 35
Location: Denver, CO
Salary: $135,000 plus variable bonus (maybe 10%?)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,543.60
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,900 (for a one-bedroom in a luxury building downtown. This amount includes my parking, water and garbage.)
Loans: $0
Internet: $54.99
Energy Bill: $25.56
Netflix: $12.99 (and my whole family uses it)
Spotify Premium: $9.99
Classpass: $40
Car Payment: $307
Car Insurance: $154
Annual Expenses:
Renters Insurance: $150
Credit Card: $450 (but I get $300 back in travel credit (so, effectively $150)
Second Credit Card: $100
Car Registration: $676.70 (this is a crazy thing in CO. The newer, and bigger, your car is, the more you pay.)
Ski Passes: $1,320 for two base passes
Ski Share House: $1,700 for six-month use of ski house
Savings: $2,200 automatically saved every month (I have $120,000 in investment account/mutual funds
401(k): $140,000 (currently putting ~$700/pay check, but need to sort out optimizing this)
Checking Account: I keep this very tight but keep ~$5,000-$8,000 in my regular savings account for expensive credit card months, vacations, etc.
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Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up in my ski share house which is $250/month for six months (noted above, I paid the full $1,700 up front rather than paying each month). There are 14 of us in the house, and there are 11 bed “spots,” including a pull-out couch. There's a rotating order for bed selection each week; if it's full and you're last, you may be on the couch or an air mattress. But it usually works out fine. Last night only four of us slept in the house.
9 a.m. — I walk into town to get coffee and pick up my skis from an overnight wax ($20, paid for yesterday). My friend ordered my coffee while I get my skis, and I forget to pay her, so thanks!
9:45 a.m. — I take the free bus to the ski mountain with some friends, it's easier than parking and it leaves from right by our condo. This is my third ski day of the year and I'm hoping to get at least 30 days in this season.
10 a.m. — Ski ski ski in some light falling snow, but then the sun comes out around noon, which is nice.
1 p.m. — We finish skiing and hang out at an outdoor bar for 30 minutes (now snowing again) to wait for the next shuttle. I have a Blue Moon ($4 plus $1 tip). $5
2:30 p.m. — Once home, I finish doing the laundry in the ski house, lock up, and stop in town for sandwiches. I get a turkey, cheese, and avocado on a hoagie roll ($12.95). My friend drives us back to Denver. I'll probably drive us up to the mountains next weekend, or plenty of other times, so it all evens out gas-wise. $12.95
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4 p.m. — I get home and go straight to the grocery store for some essentials, mostly breakfast and lunch food for the week. I'm trying to plan ahead and make salads, because you know, #health. I get spinach, cherry tomatoes, choabni less sugar yogurts, two mangos, and a four-pack of sugar-free chocolate pudding thrown in at the end ($21). The grocery store is literally underneath my apartment, so I don't need to buy all my dinner stuff at once— I can stop down and pick things up as needed, depending if I'll be home that night or not. $21
7 p.m. — Home, on the couch, doing all the laundry. I defrost and heat some pasta fagioli that I made last week, and toast a baguette with some butter that I have in the freezer as well. I have water to drink and a chocolate pudding for dessert. I can't find anything I want to watch on tv, so I watch a bit of a drug show (Dope, or something) and then start the first episode of You.
10 p.m. — I read in bed, and fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $38.95

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I get up, shower, make coffee in a to-go mug, and have the first few sips while I get dressed. Then I pack my lunch for the day (spinach salad with sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, turnips, bell pepper, goat cheese, Newman's own balsamic dressing, and frozen breaded chicken strips on top). I also grab a yogurt and then walk to the train.
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7:30 a.m. — I could drive to work, but there is always traffic and the train is two blocks from my apartment and drops off right in front of my office building. The train takes about 40 minutes (equal to or often faster than driving) and is consistent and not stressful. Train tickets are $3, but they almost never collect them, so I have a few in the app's ticket wallet on my phone, ready to be activated if anyone comes around. But no one does, per usual.
8:20 a.m. — Yogurt and coffee from home at my desk. I catch up on the NYTimes, NYMag sex diary, and check my bank and credit card accounts.
10 a.m. — I buy two tickets to see Queen and Slim tonight; my friend Venmo's me for hers. $14
10:20 a.m. — I sign up for a boxing class this evening on ClassPass, before the movie. I haven't worked out in a few weeks because I just did an egg freezing process and you need to take it easy before AND after. The waiting period afterward, plus how uncomfortable I was in general, was unexpected. But now I can go back to activity, so I'm going to make an effort to work out this week.
11:45 a.m. — I finish some meetings and make my lunch salad, which involves taking the frozen (now defrosted) breaded chicken strips out, microwaving them, shaking up the salad, and then adding the chicken back on top. I get a glass of water from the work kitchen and eat at my desk.
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4:22 p.m. — I send an email to try to make a lunch reservation at this fancy, champagne-drenched on-mountain lunch party in Aspen for next month when some friends come to visit. If we can get a reservation it will be a pricey afternoon (~$150-$200/person) but it's supposed to be a super fun and unique experience.
4:35 p.m. — I leave work and train home. Yes, I know it's early, but my current client works really early hours. Most of them get in at or before 7, and by 4, I'm the only one left here.
4:45 p.m. — I hear back from the restaurant in Aspen that they are fully booked, but will add my name to the waitlist. The email also says that advanced reservations require a per person food and beverage minimum of $275 to $400, a signed agreement, and a 75% non-refundable payment upfront. EXCUSE ME?! I think we're going to find somewhere else to eat.
5:15 p.m. — No train ticket collection on my way home.
5:30 p.m. — I scavenge around the kitchen to find something to eat before going to boxing because then I'll go straight to the movies. I thought I had Trader Joe's frozen Indian meals (butter chicken and lamb vindaloo are my go-tos), but I don't. I end up making frozen waffles slathered in almond butter and syrup. It works. After that, I have a few crackers and some triple crème blue cheese that's in the fridge. Then, I change and drive over to the gym.
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7:30 p.m. — After class, I drive over to the Alamo Drafthouse (where they serve food and drinks in the theater) for the movie. I have two glasses of Malbec ($7 each). The second glass takes literally half the movie to show up, so I finally write another little note for the server saying “why is my wine taking so long??” He then brings it and says there was an issue with the ticket machine in the kitchen. Hmm. How about you remember that one of your tables ordered something and you never brought it out? There were only six people in the theater so it's not like he was swamped. I was hoping he'd take that glass off the bill, but no luck. So I did something I never do, but feel justified in this case. I leave basically no tip ($1). $15
10:30 p.m. — I get home and quickly make my salad for tomorrow's lunch since I am working out in the morning and won't have time then. I also pack tomorrow's work clothes and makeup since I'm planning to shower at the spin studio and go straight from there to work. In bed by 11. Oh, and Queen and Slim is excellent. I highly recommend.
Daily Total: $29

Day Three

5:25 a.m. — My bed is so warm and cozy, I decide to pass on the morning spin class. Oops. I had signed up through Classpass and may get a $20 no-show fee, but I hope not.
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6:30 a.m. — I get up for real, shower, make coffee, grab my salad, a yogurt, and a mango and bring it as well as some granola in a little bag. I head to the train.
8:30 a.m. — No one collects tickets on the train, per usual. I eat my yogurt and granola at my desk, easing into the morning.
8:40 a.m. — A bit about my job: I am a consultant and have been staffed at a client for the past three months. This is a different set-up than I'm used to — normally I am brought on to guide a particular initiative where the scope and deliverables are clearly defined. In this case, my client is basically using me as staff to help with whatever comes their way. I have to be at their office every day, but most of the time, I do very little. I help them make Powerpoint presentations for executive consumption and I set up new templates for them to use and they are thrilled. It's not super busy, but it's pretty boring and a definite underutilization of my skillset. But, I'm getting paid and I do a good job on what they ask for so I feel okay about basically just hanging out. This contract will end soon and I hope to get staffed on a more interesting engagement in the new year.
9:55 a.m. — I order a jigsaw puzzle of the Steamboat ski mountain trail map online ($25). My mom, her boyfriend, his daughter/son-in-law, grandkids, and my sister and her boyfriend are all coming out to Steamboat in February, and I'll drive up and meet them for a few days. Whenever we spend time together down the shore in the summer, they all love to do jigsaw puzzles. I hate them personally, but figure this will be a nice thing to bring to the house. $25
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11:45 a.m. — My boss messages me to see if I was free to have lunch, so I go and meet him. We go to a restaurant across the street and I have a “superfood salad” with a piece of overcooked salmon on top. I figure it's good to get face time with him, and I can eat the lunch I brought today later this week. After lunch, I came back to my desk and eat a holiday cookie (boss paid for lunch).
3:45 p.m. — Someone comes around with more holiday cookies ('tis the season, I suppose) and I don't say no.
3:58 p.m. — I eat the mango I brought today and contemplate how to respond to a guy I used to date who has resurfaced. I kind of want to tell him that some of the traits he displayed (selfishness, not being emotionally open, etc.) are what made me realize he wasn't my guy, even though he was the one that ended it. Like, yeah, he ended it and it hurt, but he also acted in a way that made me not want to be with him. I'm not sure what his intentions are. I can't tell if he's reconsidering and trying to revisit, or just enjoying the thought of a flirtation/some attention.
4:45 p.m. — No one collects tickets on the train, but I thought they were going to so I activated one ($3, previously paid for).
6:15 p.m. — I uber over to a wine and tapas bar where I'm meeting a date (it's our second date). $8.50
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6:30 p.m. — My date is into wine and a bit of a know-it-all. Despite being at a Spanish place, he sats he prefers Bordeaux, so he orders a French pinot noir. They are out of it so we get a Spanish rioja, which is actually really good. It's a crianza, which, if I recall from my wine tasting in Spain, means that it's a slight step up from the basic, but not as good (or expensive) as a gran reserva. I like wine a lot, but am not snobby about it. As someone once told me, if it's wet, I'll drink it. For dinner, we share small plates — roasted beets, sautéed mushrooms with some kind of goat or sheep cheese, steamed mussels, and patatas bravas. Also bread. I personally could make a meal out of good bread, and this place has really good bread. So I eat a lot of that with olive oil.
8 p.m. — We decide no dessert and my date hands the waitress his credit card before the bill is brought out. I thank him for dinner, and he says it's his pleasure but then asks if I'm comfortable if he pays. I was like um, yes? My feeling is I don't expect to be treated all the time — I can certainly pay my own way — but it's nice being treated (and I think on a first date, if someone asks you out, they should pay. If they don't want to spend money, go for a walk or get a coffee) and if we go out multiple times I will pay for other things, like the next round of drinks, or dinner the next time.
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8:15 p.m. — I'm not sure I'm obsessed with this guy; the know-it-all thing bothers me, but I also don't want to cut the date super short, so I say I'm down to grab another drink somewhere else. My date invites me back to his apartment for wine and to meet his dog. He pays for an Uber to his place.
8:30 p.m. — He lives in a cute little house and his dog is the sweetest ever, though she sheds literally a pound of fur on me. He opens up some wine and we chat on his couch, petting his dog, for a bit. We mostly talk about skiing.
10 p.m. — I'm ready to go so I call an Uber. We kiss and discuss doing something this weekend, or maybe next week. I'm still on the fence about him but I am open to hanging out again. $7.83
10:30 p.m. — I get in bed, respond to a bunch of texts — including from the guy I used to date, who basically admits he was a jerk to me — and go to bed.
Daily Total: $41.33

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — Alarm, get up, shower, make coffee. In terms of products and skincare, I have melasma and have worked hard to find products that minimize it. I've done a bunch of laser treatments that worked pretty well and right now I think my melasma is relatively under control. I still use bleaching gel on dark spots at night sometimes, and in the morning I use SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense, which is very expensive but effective. Sometimes I use a vitamin C serum too, but not consistently. I just can't have that big of a process in the morning. For face makeup, I use Lune+Aster CC cream (literally the best product ever. It has a soft, nice feel, great coverage and is SPF 50), then whatever bronzer I have, and Trish McAvoy mascara. Her mascaras are the tubular formula so they don't smudge on your face at all (a problem I used to have). When you wash with warm water the mascara comes off in pieces, rather than smudges. It's pretty cool.
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7 a.m. — Grab my coffee, a yogurt, and put some granola in a little bag (it was a nice addition to my yogurt yesterday), and head for the train. No ticket collection.
8 a.m. — Eat my yogurt and granola at my desk and ease into the day. On my plate for today is reviewing and revising a big deck for a meeting on Friday. It'll mostly be formatting clean up, so kind of mindless.
10:08 a.m. — Ugh. My slight fuzzy hangover hasn't cleared yet. Is it time for lunch yet? Also, tonight I'm meeting a friend of mine who's fiancé just left him, and we are going to a new winery/wine bar in town. I'm kind of dreading another night of probably too much wine. And then I have a date tomorrow night. So much for working out this week!
11:06 a.m. — I browse real estate online. Ever since moving to Denver a year ago (from NYC), I've had the itch to buy something. At first, I was focused on Denver itself but lately I've switched my thinking in favor of a place in the mountains. It doesn't entirely make financial sense, especially since I can pay $250/month for a ski share house, and if I bought my own place I'd have an expensive mortgage and I'd also want to rent a nice place to live in Denver. Buttttt I'd love to own a place in the mountains. I feel like it's an investment property that I can rent when I'm not using it (or a few holiday weeks per year), and it will never lose its value. So, I've been browsing online when I'm bored. Maybe in the spring, I'll start to actually look and start working with a real estate agent. I fantasize about being able to host family and friends at my place, so I'd put at least a set or two of bunk beds in the second room, and have a pull-out couch in the living room. Ski house life! Yay!
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11:45 a.m. — On Wednesdays, my consulting team goes out for a group lunch. Today's is at a sushi place and I grab a ride there with a colleague.
12 p.m. — Is it sad that these group lunches are the highlight of my workday? We share gyoza, egg rolls, and edamame to start and then I have a seaweed salad, a miso soup, and the “employee special,” which is a spicy tuna roll, three pieces of sushi, and three pieces of sashimi. It is way too much and now I need a nap. Work pays.
1:45 p.m. — Fire drill! Does this mean we can go home? Apparently not. But I stand outside for 10 minutes until we get the all-clear and then I walk back up the five floors to my desk and feel more winded than I should. Altitude.
3:15 p.m. — I'm doing nothing and decide to sneak out for a manicure. I have to walk to a place since I don't have a car with me but think I can manage it quickly.
3:55 p.m. — Manicure done and back at my desk! I get a dark red — feels holiday-ish ($15 plus $3 tip). $18
5:10 p.m. — I head for the train. I'm going to go home, quickly change, then meet my friend at this winery for drinks and a bite to eat.
6 p.m. — My friend calls and says that it's going to take a while to get to the place we were supposed to meet at, so we brainstorm some other, closer places and pick another wine bar that neither of us has been to.
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6:30 p.m. — I meet my friend and it's kind of awkward small talk for the first bit because obviously the elephant in the room is that his fiancé just left him, but we aren't talking about it. Finally, I bring it up and let him know how sorry I am, and he tells me the whole story. He's an amazing guy and will be fine, I have no doubt. And if it wasn't going to be right, better to find out now and be able to move on and find what works. While discussing his relationship and stuff going on with me, etc., we have three glasses of wine each and share a cheese and meat board and a plate of pickled vegetables. He then says he's still hungry so we get the bill and go find sushi ($49.20 plus $10 tip for my half). $59.20
9 p.m. — We walk a few blocks to this sushi place and then sit at the bar in the back. We get two rolls, two pieces of tuna, and two pieces of scallop sushi to share, and each have two glasses of sake. We split the bill ($42.35 plus $8 tip for my half). It's an expensive evening but catching up with my friend and being there for him is well worth it. $50.35
10:45 p.m. — I drive my friend home. Yes, I know, I should not have driven. But, I feel okay enough and we make it unscathed. I drop him off, hug him goodbye, and go home. I'm in bed by 11.
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Daily Total: $127.55

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — Alarm. Ugh. These early mornings. Shower, dry my hair, make coffee.
6:45 a.m. — I get an email from my client that they are having an off-site meeting this morning so no one will be in the office. Well, that would have been nice to know before I got up at 6:15. I slow my roll on the getting dressed, scroll through Instagram, read the upcoming snow report (it's going to dump this weekend!), and then grab a yogurt and walk to the train.
7:20 a.m. — They collected tickets on the train! And I had no unused ones in my app, so I had to buy one. $3
8:20 a.m. — At my desk, writing this diary and easing into the morning (i.e. reading NYTimes and checking my various accounts online). I eat my yogurt.
10:40 a.m. — I get an email requesting a Venmo payment for a work wine tasting event I went to last week. We started a group at work of people who are interested in wine, and we have been meeting every six weeks or so to learn about a different varietal and do some tasting and discussion. The evening was at someone's house and was potluck style, with one person buying and setting up all the wine (which the attendees then split). $16
11:06 a.m. — I eat the salad that I brought to work but didn't eat earlier in the week.
4:30 p.m. — I text with my date for tonight. It sounds like we may be rescheduling, which I'd be okay with. I met him a few weeks ago and thought he was really awesome and things felt great, but since Thanksgiving, it's been a lot less consistent and I'm not really sure where we stand. I'm also exhausted so would be fine picking another night, but we'll see.
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5 p.m. — We decide to reschedule, and he offers specific other days, so I feel good about it and not like it's just a blow-off. Train home, no ticket collection.
6 p.m. — I get home and am very excited to hang on the couch and go to sleep early. I make some penne with tomato sauce and frozen Trader Joe's meatballs (a staple!), and open a bottle of red. I am planning to watch Marriage Story on Netflix, but then see that the Thursday night football game is being shown live through Amazon Prime (I use my dad's account), and since the Ravens are pretty much the only reason to watch the NFL right now, I do that.
8:45 p.m. — In bed to read for a few, lights out by 9.
2 a.m. — Awake probably because I went to bed so early. I drink some water, pee, and then when I'm still awake at 3, I eat some store-brand honey nut cheerios.
Daily Total: $19

Day Six

6 a.m. — Awake and energized and excited it's Friday! I have an early morning meeting to lead at work and then another lunch meeting but I plan to head out early. I'm really excited for this weekend. First, it is DUMPING snow in the mountains, and second, it's my friend's birthday and she organized a group to go to Vail on Saturday. She got an Airbnb for the night so that we can all stay there and go out. This is why I love Colorado. I used to spend all my vacation time flying across the country to do stuff that now I can do on a Saturday. It's pretty awesome.
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6:45 a.m. — I make my coffee, grab a yogurt, train to work. I didn't pack lunch today because food will be provided in my lunch meeting.
7 a.m. — Get an email that Classpass is charging me for my missed spin class earlier this week. Argh. $20
9 a.m. — I finish my meeting, which was my big item for today, and now I am just reading the Internet and making plans for tonight. My friend is going to pick me up around 5 to drive up to our ski share house. We'll stay there and then drive from there to Vail in the morning.
10 a.m. — I finish the action items from my meeting and find out we're getting Qdoba for lunch. Woohoo! I read the Internet and count down til tortilla chips!
1:11 p.m. — Finish lunch (Qdoba) and lunch meeting and wrap up a few ends before I head to the train.
1:30 p.m. — Train home, stop on the way to pick up a bottle of champagne (sparkling wine) for my friend's birthday. $17.27
2:30 p.m. — Get home, pack up my stuff — which is mostly just toiletries and base layers since most of my ski stuff is up at the house. Then, I run down to the grocery store and buy a little cake (for my friend's birthday), some bread and turkey to make sandwiches for skiing tomorrow and Sunday (buying food on the mountain is highway robbery) and some aluminum foil. Also, some stuff arrives from the J. Crew Factory store, so I try it on. I got two sweaters and three pairs of socks. The sweaters were $26 and $30 respectively, on a cyber Monday deal. I love one sweater and keep it on to wear it tonight and probably all weekend. The other sweater I'm on the fence about, and the socks are all fine — they have little critters in winter hats on them. While I wait for my friend to pick me up, I have a chicken and jalapeño Lean Pocket. $13.10
5:02 p.m. — My friend texts that she's on the way, so I gather my stuff and go downstairs to meet her.
7:30 p.m. — We aren't sure if the roads are going to be bad or if there will be traffic in the tunnel (the tunnel is the Eisenhower tunnel, and it goes through a mountain which is on the Continental Divide — all rain, snow, etc. on the east side of the tunnel eventually flows out to the Atlantic ocean, and everything west flows out to the Pacific. Cool, huh?). But the tunnel is a source of major traffic delays in getting to the mountains. We get through with no issues though and stop on the other side at a brewery for dinner. I pay for a beer for each of us while we wait ($11 plus $2 tip) and then pay for dinner also since my friend drove ($50.63 plus $10 tip). My friend and I each have a burger and a beer. $73.63
9 p.m. — We show up at our share house, toast with the birthday girl and other friends who are there, and go to bed. Going to be an early start tomorrow.
Daily Total: $124

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — Alarm, up, put on ski clothes.
7:30 a.m. — Out the door to drive to Vail, which is about a 30-minute ride. We are going to ski there for the day and then stay in an Airbnb that my friend rented for her birthday.
8 a.m. — Aaaaaand we're at a full stop, parked on the highway. Apparently a tractor-trailer jack-knifed in front of us and they say it'll be two or three hours to clear it and get everyone moving. This is CO life.
9 a.m. — We're moving again, only sat for an hour, which, all things considered, isn't that bad.
9:15 a.m. — Arrive at Vail, park in the main paid parking lot in Vail Village (there is no free parking in Vail), and walk into the village to get breakfast. I got a breakfast burrito and a coffee, but my friend paid since she's trying to get me back from dinner.
1:30 p.m. — We ski in ridiculous powder and intense snow and finally take a break when it's a complete white-out and we can't see up from down. I go into the lodge, drink some water and eat the turkey sandwich I packed earlier.
3 p.m. — Done skiing, we go to a classic apres-ski spot and I have a Blue Moon. I also eat some nachos someone ordered. I Venmo my friend $15 for the meal — it's definitely more than I owe, but you never know if everyone is going to pay appropriately and I don't want to leave my friend in a lurch. We then move into another room with live music at the apres place, and I have another Blue Moon (my friend pays). $15
5 p.m. — We take our ski boots off, but not our ski pants, and three of us check out another place in Vail Village for a glass of wine. I have a Malbec ($13) and my friend pays. This is definitely a good spot to meet older, wealthy men, if that's your thing.
6 p.m. — Drive to the Airbnb my friend rented. Parking for the day at Vail was $30 so I Venmo my friend for half ($15). Our plan is to cook a big dinner at the condo tonight, and some friends are already working on the food. They call and need more limes (margaritas!) so we stop at a grocery store and I run in and buy 15 ($7.78). $22.78
8 p.m. — Hanging at the condo, we have a huge feast of steak, chicken, and shrimp tacos, guac, margaritas, and wine with dinner. One of the guys did the big grocery shop and says he'll let everyone know what we owe, though we haven't gotten a total yet. I'm guessing it'll be $30-$40 per person.
10 p.m. — We walk from the condo to a bar and end up buying some bottles of wine to bring back home with us. I pay for one of them but don't have anything to drink while in the bar. $22
12 a.m. — Back at the condo, I pass out, sleepy and happy.
Daily Total: $59.78
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