A Week In Saint Paul, MN, On $16.45 Per Hour

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 customer service representative working at a nonprofit who makes $16.45 per hour and spends some of her money this week on frozen açai packets.
Occupation: Customer Service Representative
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 24
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Salary: $16.45 per hour
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,018.17
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $532.50 (My roommate and I split a two-bedroom apartment.)
Student Loans: $0 (I paid off my student loans in 2017. My dad contributed about $4,000.)
Internet: $60.99 (My roommate pays for electricity, and it's usually about the same.)
Health, Dental, & Vision Insurance: $84.98 (My employer puts about $83 per month into my HSA account as well.)
Cell Phone: $60
Netflix: $0 (I use my sister's account.)
Hulu: $1.99 (Black Friday deal for 12 months, which I share with my sister.)
403(b): About $152.10 (My employer matches up to 3%, so they contribute about $76.06 per month.)
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Additional Expenses
Car Insurance: $350 twice a year
Gym Membership: $420/year (I like it because there's no contract.)

Day One

6 a.m. — Wake up at my mom's house. I took off work today and stayed the night last night because of some appointments this morning in my hometown. I usually feel a little bit of shame staying at either of my parents' houses when I have my own apartment, but sometimes I really miss them and just want to spend more time with them, particularly as they get older. I eat breakfast and say goodbye to my mom who is working remotely from her home office today.
7:40 a.m. — Arrive at my dentist appointment. This is a new dentist — I recently got on my own insurance plan, and my previous dentist isn't a part of my new in-network options.
8:30 a.m. — No cavities! But they said I am in the “at-risk” category for them. They told me to lay off the coffee and to not drink any more pop…easier said than done. My insurance covers this visit in full because it's a routine check-up.
9 a.m. — Need to stop by my dad's house to pick up my passport. He keeps it in his safety-deposit box that he mysteriously will not allow me access to. So whenever I need it, I need to ask him to go to pick it up. I've started looking into getting my own safety-deposit box, but for now this arrangement works. After picking up the passport, I drive to the DMV to get a new driver's license. I turn 25 in a month, and my current one is due to expire.
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9:30 a.m. — DMV is surprisingly quick and efficient. I feel vain when I ask the assistant to retake my photo, but I will have to live with it for a while. $24.63
10 a.m. — Debate going to get a coffee at Caribou, but I hold back. I think I'll want to treat myself this weekend, and it's probably best to start limiting my coffee intake like my dentist advised. For my teeth and for my wallet. I head to the library instead! Return four books that I finished (three very quickly and one half-heartedly) and pick up another three. I've been on this Y.A. murder-mystery kick lately, and luckily enough there are a lot to choose from in this genre.
12 p.m. — Head to Walgreens to pick up my birth-control prescription. I was pretty worried there would be a co-pay, as my new insurance does not consider birth control to be a preventative drug (but my old insurance did). I'm relieved and confused when the pharmacist says my insurance covered the cost. I'll never understand insurance.
12:30 p.m. — I've been on the hunt for some new work pants, so I check a few secondhand clothing stores. I find nothing at either of them and leave empty-handed. I received my state tax return in the mail today (hooray!) for $241, so I take it to my credit union to deposit into my checking account. I head back to my mom's to cook myself some lunch.
1:45 p.m. — My mom already made BLTs! We have lunch together in the living room while her super cute little cat takes a nap in the sunlight. I'm tempted to join her. My mom mentions that she and my sister are going to a furniture sale in Minneapolis this weekend and asks if I would like to come. She knows I've been looking for a new coffee table for the apartment, but I'm not really feeling like fighting any crowds, and I tell her I'll pass. I spend the rest of the afternoon working on my homework. I'm currently enrolled in a paralegal certificate program at a local community college. Lately, I've been feeling like my job isn't going to offer much advancement in the direction I want to go, so this program is my way of setting a career goal.
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6 p.m. — I stop by my dad's on the way back to my apartment. He made salmon, rice, and broccoli for dinner, so I join him. We discuss how my classes are going and how his job is going. He works in a very stressful field and has for my whole life, but I like to think talking it out helps him in some way. He offers to fill my car at the Costco gas station (he has a membership) and tops off my car. I really have the best parents in the world, and I hope someday I'll be successful enough to show my appreciation in a big way.
8 p.m. — I get back to my apartment after finding a parking spot. The city recently implemented a one-sided parking ban and parking has gotten a bit tight near my unit. It doesn't help that everything has been melting and refreezing overnight, which makes the walk dangerous!
9 p.m. — I do a core yoga video, wash the dishes that I left in the sink, do my skin-care routine, and hit the hay.
Daily Total: $24.63

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and cuddle into my blankets a bit more. I sleep with the window open because the old radiator in my room is very active. Pull myself together to get ready for the gym and am dressed and out the door in 15 minutes.
9 a.m. — Arrive at the gym and start on the treadmill because my favorite elliptical machine is occupied. I usually only do cardio at the gym because I figure I can do strength training at my apartment.
10:45 a.m. — Leave the gym and head back to eat breakfast. I have a bowl of Cheerios and indulge in a piece of sourdough bread with some scrambled eggs. Start looking at the homework pile again.
12:30 p.m. — I finish an assignment and then turn on a new episode of Chef's Table while I start making lunch. I pop a chicken-tomato sausage on a sheet pan with some thinly sliced sweet potatoes and make seasoned sour cream with paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
2:30 p.m. — My roommate gets home from work, and we chat a bit about how her shift went. She is in graduate school right now but manages to pick up a few shifts where she used to work full-time. She invites me out with some of our mutual friends to a brewery, but I think I'm going to pass. I spend the rest of the afternoon alternating between doing homework, watching Chef's Table, and checking social media.
6 p.m. — My roommate heads out to the brewery, and I start my yoga core workout video in the living room. Really feeling the burn today — the sit-ups where you push your lower back parallel to the floor are killer.
7 p.m. — Decide to do a face mask and lotion my entire body. I also eat some cookies. While waiting for the mask to dry, I listen to J. Cole. He was popular when I was younger, but I hadn't heard of him until "Middle Child" came out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8 a.m. — Wake up a bit earlier this morning to get to the gym at my regular time. It doesn't feel as cold this morning, but I still wear my winter boots to the gym. I'm thinking of stopping for a coffee afterward, so I do my eyebrows rather than going to the gym au naturel. I rarely leave the house without makeup because I'm very self-conscious about my skin, but for the gym I do my best to get over it because I would just sweat it off anyway, and it's usually dark when I go on the weekdays.
10 a.m. — Leave the gym (which was much less crowded today), and I get a small cold brew at a coffee shop. They let me know I have a free drink perk, but I decide to save it for a larger or more fancy coffee purchase. I'm glad I did my eyebrows, because the barista looks super hip. $4.01
10:15 a.m. — Get home and see that my federal tax return was deposited in my bank account ($707), hooray! I don't feel so guilty about the coffee now. I eat a bowl of cereal and put on some lounge clothes.
11:30 a.m. — I finish my second homework assignment and submit it online. I text my group members and let them know I'll be back online to help put together a final draft this week. Then I decide I need to get out of the house, so I gear up.
11:45 a.m. — It's not as cold today, and the sun is out! The sidewalks aren't as slippery, so I forgo my treads and just wear some tennis shoes. On the way, I listen to some old Dolly Parton.
12.15 p.m. — I first go to one of my favorite secondhand stores. Today they're playing an old Queen CD on their boombox. I find some pants I like (and I can get them zipped), but even though they're rad, I decide I won't actually wear them. I do buy a red high-neck, short-sleeve sweater that I can wear both to work and outside of work, though. $15
12:45 p.m. — I head to the Whole Foods next door to pick up a few things. I don't need a huge haul of groceries yet, so I just buy some Sambazon frozen açai puree packets and some non-plain Chobani yogurt. I debate buying some chia seeds, but I can't fork over the $9.99. $11.48
1:15 p.m. — Get back to the apartment and put some chicken nuggets in the oven. I mix some mayo and Sriracha together to make a spicy dipping sauce like the one at one of my favorite burger places. Now I really want to go to that burger place for dinner...
2 p.m. — Finish lunch and start to pack my lunch for work tomorrow. I'm getting low on food, so I chop up some lettuce, halve some grape tomatoes, and cut up some cheese for a salad, which I'll have with pretzel chips, two clementines, and a waffle cookie for the rest of the packed lunch.
2:45 p.m. — My mom texts me to ask how my homework is going. She says the furniture sale was very busy and she and my sister ended up leaving early to look at some other antiques stores. She didn't buy anything (she already has a lot of antiques), and she didn't see any cute coffee tables. Her text motivates me to creak open the books.
3:30 p.m. — Really thinking about the burger place now, so I decide to head back out. This time I remember to grab the bathroom trash to throw in the dumpster. The wind has picked up, and this walk isn't very enjoyable.
4 p.m. — I order a veggie burger with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pepper jack cheese, and dill pickles. Cheese is an extra $0.50, but it's worth it. I also substitute the fries that come with it for onion rings for an extra $1.50. The couple in front of me has a coupon, and now I feel silly for not checking my mailbox before coming over. $10.52
5:15 p.m. — Finish my dinner and feel more full than I have in a few days. I look for something to watch on Hulu and settle on Gravity Falls. It's a kids' show, but I think it's cute and I always wished I could have cool supernatural adventures when I was young.
6:30 p.m. — I do a yoga core video in my bedroom and light my candles to try to focus less on the workout and be more mindful of my practice. Afterward, I lie on the floor and meditate.
8:45 p.m. — I feel pretty good after the meditation. Lately, I've been feeling a bit down. Sometimes meditation makes me fixate on what's bothering me, and sometimes it makes me feel better. Tonight is one of the better nights. I have a cry session for a minute, though, while listening to Arcade Fire's cover of “Baby Mine.” Then I do my double cleansing routine, apply my wrinkle cream and moisturizer, and get in bed.
Daily Total: $41.01

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Wake up to go to the gym.
6:45 a.m. — Feeling a little sore today, but am better at the end of the workout than at the beginning. Get back to my apartment to shower and apply my sunscreen, moisturizer, and makeup. I wear my new sweater I got this weekend.
7:30 a.m. — Try to make a smoothie bowl with my açai packets, but the blender craps out on me. I end up blending it by hand with a spoon and making a mess. I grab coconut coffee creamer from the fridge on the way out the door.
10 a.m. — Work is pretty quiet, as a few people are out today. I catch up on things that piled up in my inbox while I was out.
10:30 a.m. — Completely forgot today was class-registration day for the summer and fall semesters. I quickly log on and register from my work computer. I'm glad the classes I need to take aren't full! Summer tuition is due now, so I pay that right away. Glad I just got my tax returns. $533.25
1:30 p.m. — Lunchtime! I scarf down the salad while watching clips from the new season of Broad City.
3 p.m. — My coworker reminded me that last week I asked if I could join her Monday Tabata workout. I'm feeling like I shouldn't push it, but it's a fun class and she's a fun coworker. I commit and prepare for the pain.
5:30 p.m. — We both arrive earlier than expected. She has a guest pass for me, so it's free! We end up walking around the track catching up on office gossip — lately there has been a lot of turnover at the office.
6:50 p.m. — Class kicked my butt into next week. Everything is sore, and I know I'm going to feel it tomorrow.
7 p.m. — Get home. I cook up some dinner (tacos made with chicken, lettuce, sour cream, and Trader Joe's corn salsa) while I catch up with my roommate. We talk about how we both want to find love. She is much more dedicated to the search than I am.
7:30 p.m. — My roommate asks if I want to go on a walk with her and I agree, despite my soreness. It's colder than we thought, and we end up walking back early.
8:45 p.m. — Do my skin-care routine, floss, brush my teeth, and get into bed. Watch an episode of the new Queer Eye and listen to the “Baby Mine” song again.
Daily Total: $533.25

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and my body feels like it died, so I reset it for 6:30 and roll back over.
6:30 a.m. — Wake up and still feel like death. My legs and abs are really sore, so I do some stretching to try to limber up. I decide not to shower and start the day by spraying about a half canister of dry shampoo in my hair.
6:45 a.m. — Do my makeup and get dressed. I notice a pimple by my lip that is particularly prominent. Eat a bowl of Cheerios and grab two pieces of bread from the freezer to pop in the toaster at work. Also grab coconut coffee creamer.
8 a.m. — Arrive at work and begin checking my email and getting ready for the phone lines to open. I get a cup of coffee from the kitchen.
10 a.m. — Today has been a very quiet day on the phones! A huge part of my job is offering phone support, and some days the calls can be overwhelming. We're moving into our slow season, and I am very grateful.
10:30 a.m. — Have a weekly check-in with my supervisor. I really appreciate that she takes the time to do this. Last month I was told a promotion I had interviewed for was given to another candidate. It really did hurt at the time, as I have worked here for years, but at this point, I think I've moved past it. I still worry that my job performance or personality was a reason I wasn't promoted, though.
1:30 p.m. — Have a very sad lunch of microwaved cheese quesadillas and watch more clips of Broad City. I should really just watch a full episode.
4:45 p.m. — Leave work and head home. Traffic isn't bad and I make it in near record time.
5:15 p.m. — I start spiralizing some zucchini to make zoodles for dinner, but then my roommate slyly asks me if I want to go out to eat. I try to resist but…I really love this Mexican restaurant nearby, and we haven't been in forever. We call our friend who lives in the basement apartment of our unit, and she's in as well!
5:30 p.m. — We get to the restaurant and are told it's happy hour AND taco Tuesday! Tacos are $2 and nachos are $2 off. I order my usual loaded nacho platter all for myself, and my roommate and basement friend (haha) order three tacos each. We have a great time and don't spend too much. $12.78
7 p.m. — Get back and I log onto my computer to do some group work for one of my classes. I'm not in the mood to video chat with my groupmates, which I think annoys them. But I end up writing a new comprehensive draft of our individual drafts, and they seem appeased.
9 p.m. — Do my skin-care routine, floss, and brush my teeth with this old fluoride toothpaste I found in my drawer. I turn off my 5:30 a.m. alarm and reset it to 6:15. I know my knees are still going to be sore in the morning. Instead of “Baby Mine” tonight, I go for some Fleetwood Mac.
Daily Total: $12.78

Day Six

6:15 a.m. — Wake up and rush to shower before my roommate wakes up. I'm always very conscious of messing up her morning routine, because I'm usually still at the gym when she leaves for a shift or for class.
6:50 a.m. — Get dressed, brush my teeth, do my makeup, and eat a bowl of Cheerios. I turn on an episode of Hell's Kitchen while I eat and also make a smoothie bowl with the açai frozen puree packets I bought this weekend. I layer the Greek yogurt, thawed açai, and coconut flakes into a parfait, which I put in a coffee travel container so it's easier for me to carry out the door.
7:55 a.m. — Team meeting. We discuss what people are calling about on the phones and common trends we are seeing in the inbox.
1:30 p.m. — Lunch! I have some leftover loaded nachos I tossed with some chopped Romaine. Watch a few movie trailers and some clips from Girls Trip.
5 p.m. — My sister meets me after work at my apartment. We sit in my room and I roll out my muscles with a foam roller while we hang out for an hour or so.
6:30 p.m. — Eat the last of the nachos with some lettuce and turn on The Great British Baking Show. My roommate and I have a blast dragging a guy who forgot to put the tomato jam in his upside-down cake.
8:30 p.m. — Start to pack my lunch for tomorrow. I cook the zucchini noodles I spiralized yesterday with some chicken sausage and slice the last of the grape tomatoes. I add a little butter and pepper to taste. I also pack some regular pretzel chips and two clementines.
9 p.m. — Do my skin-care routine, floss, brush my teeth with the fluoride toothpaste, and say goodbye to my roommate. She's going out of town for a week, so I won't see her until next weekend. Make a last-minute decision that I'm not going to the gym or showering tomorrow and reset my alarm for 6:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6:30 p.m. — Wake up and feel a bit guilty for not going to the gym. Get dressed, do my makeup, and brush my hair.
7:15 a.m. — Eat a bowl of Cheerios with oat milk and take a look at the discussion page for my class group project. One member of my group is kind of annoying me, but I know I'll have classes with her in the future, so I try to look beyond my annoyance.
7.30 a.m. — Leave the apartment and stop to get coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I use my free drink promo to buy a drink I usually wouldn't splurge on. $2.64
8 a.m. — Get to work and our inbox is looking good! Have a feeling it's going to be another quiet day.
1:30 p.m. — Eat my zucchini noodle/chicken sausage combo. End up just eating the sausage around the zucchini. I eat my two clementines, too.
4:45 p.m. — I have class tonight, so instead of heading home, I drive to my community college campus. I plan to stop at McDonald's for small fries, but it's closed for remodeling. Instead, I stop at the grocery store and get macaroni salad, dill pickle chips, and Sour Patch Kids. $7.45
7:50 p.m. — Class ends. It was surprisingly fun! We got our midterm grades back, and I aced it.
8:15 p.m. — On the way home, I stop at Trader Joe's for some groceries for this weekend. I pick up a frozen pizza, shredded cheese, pita chips, frozen mac 'n' cheese with hatch chiles, flour tortillas, a loaf of sourdough bread, spinach and kale Greek yogurt dip, chicken-apple sausage, and some salsa. $27.21
9 p.m. — Get home, do my skin-care routine, floss, and brush my teeth. I really try to psych myself up to go to the gym tomorrow, but I think it's a losing battle.
Daily Total: $37.30
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