A Week In Copenhagen On A $16,440 Income

Photo: Getty Images.
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 grad student who makes $16,440 per year and spends some of her money this week on frozen berries for smoothies. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Grad Student
Industry: Nutrition/Food Science
Age: 26
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Income: $16,440 after taxes for my hourly part-time job, which includes $930 per month from the Danish government for working part-time during grad school
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $1,370 after tax
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $916 (I share a two-bedroom flat with my roommate who is also a student.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I had summer jobs, scholarships, and some support from my parents, and I worked my butt off to finish undergrad in three years.)
Gym Membership: $40
Yoga Membership: $0 (I used a promotion to get free yoga until March, at which point it will be $30/month.)
Spotify Premium: $0 (I mooch off of my brother and his lovely fiancé.)
Netflix: $0 (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
Savings: My contributions tend to be sporadic. Currently, my savings, investments, retirements accounts, etc. are in the neighborhood of $55,000 total.

Day One

9 a.m. — It's NYE and I decide to sleep in a bit in anticipation of my late night ahead. When I eventually get out of bed, I make a cup of mint watermelon tea and eat oatmeal with flax seeds, chia seeds, dried fruit, hazelnuts, and soy milk (cold and uncooked, as the Danes do!). I putz around for a bit before starting on the dish I am contributing to a potluck dinner hosted by one of my Danish classmates tonight. I decide to make a vegan Shepherd's pie because a) I love veggies, and b) I already have everything on hand. When I finish cooking, I read Eating Animals on my Kindle for bit. I have been quasi-vegetarian/vegan at various times over the past couple of years, but I am getting more serious about committing more fully...perhaps with a bit of occasional flexitarianism thrown in.
12:30 p.m. — A guy I matched with on Bumble messages me on WhatsApp to see if I want to grab coffee with him this afternoon. I swore off all dating apps for over a year, but I re-downloaded Bumble a few nights ago because a couple friends recently shared stories of successfully acquiring man friends. I swiped for only one night, but this guy was particularly cute, so I gave him my phone number. After some back and forth, we agree to meet at Juno the Bakery at 2 p.m. I quickly hop in the shower.
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1:55 p.m. — I have on more makeup than usual because I'll be heading straight to a NYE party afterwards and my hair is still wet. I'm running late so I bike my little heart out and show up a bit sweaty after the 25-minute ride. When I arrive, I wipe off any smeared mascara, throw caution to the wind, and head in. My instant reaction is DANG, he is attractive. Oh, and he has a British accent because he's from London. (DAAAANG.) We get two coffees and a saffron bun (a seasonal Swedish favorite), and he pays. We discuss his impressions of the city (he is only visiting for a few days), a little bit about our backgrounds, and our plans for the evening. The time flies and I am definitely feeling this guy, but he's only in town for one more day, so we leave it on a casual note and agree to stay in touch about possibly meeting up downtown later. Before he leaves, he takes me up on my offer to give him some change (40 DKK) because the buses here only accept cash. $6.10
5:30 p.m. — After a pit stop at a friend's house for tea and some last minute baking before the party, we head over to our classmate's apartment, where we're greeted with Aperol spritzes, my favorite! With the help of his mom, he went all out decorating the apartment and it is absolutely adorable. At 6, we gather around the TV to watch the Queen of Denmark's speech, a New Year's Eve tradition. Her words are the perfect blend of realism and optimism. Afterwards, we let the feasting commence. Because we're studying food, my classmates really know how to potluck. We have canapés, a three course meal, and a full on dessert extravaganza. There are so many sweets that we have to take breaks in between, so we pass the time by playing dice games (again, very Danish).
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11:55 p.m. — One apricot mini croissant, two helpings of lavender panna cotta, and a slice of peanut butter pie later, it is almost midnight! In Denmark, it is tradition to literally jump into the New Year, so we all climb up on the chairs/couches in preparation. When the clock strikes midnight, we all leap into 2019 and clink our champagne glasses. Shortly after, we head to the windows to watch the fireworks. It is unlike anything I have ever seen. It's legal to buy fireworks here, so rather than the city putting on a show, everyone just shoots them off from their backyards. What ensues is a panoramic view of countless fireworks shooting from every direction for over half an hour. I am in awe.
1:30 a.m. — Our classmate invites us to join him at another friend's house party. Although I am sober and already tired, I decide to join because FOMO. We arrive at the what appears to be the Danish equivalent of a frat party. I'm not in the mood and decide to stick to my resolution of not being hungover on New Year's Day, so at around 3 a.m., I start my 35-minute bike ride home. Bumble guy and I have kept in touch throughout the night, but in the end, we don't meet up. I arrive home feeling exhausted, but so happy. This New Year's was hygge-rific!
Daily Total: $6.10

Day Two

9 a.m. — I mosey out of bed to make a pour-over coffee and some avocado toast on rye bread. I am in a cheery mood, so I am perfectly happy with a slow morning. I finish reading Eating Animals, shoot off some emails, and knock a couple small items off my to-do list in anticipation of going back to school in a few days. That being said, I continue to procrastinate on studying for exams in mid-January. Oops. New year, same me?
3 p.m. — The sky is blue, which is a rarity this time of year. I opt to bike to a nearby park instead of going to the gym. I walk for about an hour, decide to run some stairs because I am feeling energetic (and a little bit cold), and do lunges on my way back to my bike. Feeling accomplished, I return home and make a strawberry, banana, and pineapple smoothie with pea protein and maca powder. I talk to my mom on the phone for a bit, work on a group project for school for about an hour, and then settle in to watch an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I snack on an apple with peanut butter.
8 p.m. — I remember I have to work the next couple days, so I decide to do some meal prep. I make a giant batch of one of my favorites — honey lime sweet potato hash with blacks beans, corn, and cilantro. I'll eat it over mixed greens because I have a bunch in the fridge that will go bad soon. Once everything is finished, I message Bumble boy for a bit (he's back in London by now), make a mug of chamomile tea, meditate for a few minutes, and hop into bed. I start reading a new book called Factfulness before dozing off.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9 a.m. — I had ambitions of waking up earlier and studying, but alas, it's not happening. I eat scrambled eggs with mushrooms on rye toast and a kiwi for breakfast. I read a bit more of my book, send a couple emails, and then get ready to head to a meeting at school with our advisor for a group project.
11:30 a.m. — The meeting goes well and our group is on track with writing our paper despite some serious Christmas vacation procrastination. We are examining whether the health claim that activated charcoal reduces flatulence is scientifically substantiated. At one point we discuss the accuracy of measuring farts per hour. I love my degree program.
12:30 p.m. — After eating lunch with my classmate, I bike over to work. I have a part-time job as a production assistant at a small Danish start-up that makes all-natural plastic-free chewing gum. It is admittedly a monumental step down from my last job as an independent private chef, but as an EU citizen, the Danish government will pay me an additional $930 per month on top of my hourly wages while I am in grad school if I work part-time. This, plus the fact that I adore the owners and nearly all of my coworkers are friends from school, makes it worth it.
6:30 p.m. — On my way home from work, I stop at a grocery store to get dairy-free milk because it's on sale this week. Naturally, I leave with a bazillion other things, including a handful of fresh pears, frozen broccoli, frozen edamame, and five bags of frozen berries, all on sale. I am a shameless bargain shopper. Ironically, the store was out of the dairy-free milk I came in for. When I get home, I eat a handful of almonds and some leftover vegetable chili that's been in the fridge for a few days. I'm too ravenous and tired to bother heating it up. Eventually I muster the energy to make a banana, pineapple, and blackberry smoothie with pea protein and flax seeds because I'm still a bit hungry. I watch another episode of Tidying Up on Netflix, meditate for a few minutes, and read in bed before falling asleep. $12.20
Daily Total: $12.20

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm for the first time in several days. I signed up for a yoga class at a studio just around the corner from my house. Although it's early (at least compared to my recent wake-up times), I am super excited to start using my new yoga membership because I haven't really been practicing since the spring and I miss it. I quickly eat a vegan oat yogurt with spirulina, frozen blueberries, and hazelnuts before biking to the studio.
9:45 a.m. — The class was awesome! I liked the instructor and he was kind enough to do the class in English because only one other person was there. It was challenging, but rejuvenating. After a difficult few months in the fall, I haven't felt this happy in ages and I feel like I'm karate kicking 2019 right in the face. Huzzah! I bike home and opt to read my book instead of studying for the umpteenth time. For lunch, I make savory oatmeal with miso and mushrooms from the Cherry Bombe cookbook my mom sent me for Christmas. It is ridiculously good. Between the tasty noms and a strong cup of pour-over coffee, I embrace a rare moment of study motivation and do some writing for another group project.
12:30 p.m. — It's time to head to work, so I hop on my bike. The 25-minute ride is actually enjoyable because the sky is blue once again and the sun is almost peaking through. I spend nearly my entire 5.5-hour shift listening to Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein on audiobook. I didn't quite finish my resolution to read 18 books in 2018 (I was three books shy — I blame grad school, ha!), so I am trying to at least finish it by the end of January before working on reading 19 in 2019.
6:30 p.m. — I stop at another grocery store on the way home from work in a second attempt to get dairy-free milk. This time is successful, but in addition to two cartons of soy milk and a carton of oat milk, I also walk out with vegan ravioli, vegan butter, a bar of dark chocolate, and chocolate hummus. YES, chocolate hummus. I can't decide if I am horrified or fascinated, but it's on sale, so in my basket it goes. I'm telling y'all, I cannot be trusted in a grocery store. $14.69
7:30 p.m. — When I get home, I put away my eclectic grocery haul and poke around the fridge deciding what to make for dinner. I have a giant bag of spinach that's about to go bad, so I sauté it with cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon. Not the most well-rounded dinner, so I bust out the chocolate hummus and munch on it with a whole wheat pita. It tastes kind of like chocolate pudding and...I'm not mad about it. It is weirdly delicious. I do some more writing for one of my school projects, call my mom to wish her a happy birthday (it's still early back in the U.S.!), mediate for a few minutes, and head to bed.
Daily Total: $14.69

Day Five

7 a.m. — I wake up early in the name of yoga once again. For breakfast I have a banana, pineapple, and blueberry smoothie with matcha and flax seed. I bike to the studio and settle on my mat.
10 a.m. — Sore but satisfied, I bike to a new work space that opened in the city because I have a free day pass. It is gorgeous and I immediately want to move in. Too bad I can't afford the $400/month membership fee. I happily take full advantage of the free coffee and make myself an Americano. Then I settle in for a day of studying because I seriously also cannot afford to procrastinate any longer.
12:30 p.m. — I break for 20 minutes to eat the lunch I brought from home: a whole wheat pita with falafel, tomato, cucumber, and sprouts, and a pear. A couple hours later, I snack on a berry, date, and chia seed bite that I brought back from the U.S. (Oh, how I miss you, Trader Joe's.)
5 p.m. — I make plans with a friend to hang out at my place tonight. I stop at District Tonkin and grab tofu banh mi sandwiches for dinner ($9.46) and he pays me back for his. On the way over, I pop into Flying Tiger, one of those stores that is full of cute knickknacks that you never knew you needed. Miraculously, I make it out with only one thing: a set of ceramic coasters for our coffee table ($6.10). $15.56
6 p.m. — We eat our sandwiches, play a round of Bananagrams, and decide to watch the new Black Mirror choose your own adventure episode, Bandersnatch. My mind is melted. We proceed to stay up until almost midnight talking about spirituality and free will. My friend heads home and I go straight to bed because I have work in the morning.
Daily Total: $15.56

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I roll out of bed and make myself scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms and kale on rye toast. Then I get ready for a full day at work and bike over. It's so nice outside! Sadly, I can't really enjoy it, as I proceed to work a nine-hour day, breaking only for lunch (my meal prepped sweet potato hash). For anyone who is at all curious what my job in gum production is like, just look up “I Love Lucy Chocolate Factory” on YouTube :).
7 p.m. — I get home from work and once again let my fridge decide what's for dinner. Looks like it's going to be some leftover borscht soup my Polish classmate brought over for Christmas and roasted Brussels sprouts sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Although it's Saturday night, this school break has made me lose my sense of what day it is and I am pooped, so I decide to stay in. I put a face mask on, throw some laundry in, talk to my best friend on the phone, polish off the tub of chocolate hummus, and try to get some studying done. I embrace my inner grandma and fall asleep by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — Despite my early bedtime, I wake up to my “just in case” alarm. I eat a bowl of oats with soy milk and raisins for breakfast. I feel oddly inspired to head to the gym for some cardio, but then I remember that I have a two-hour roundtrip bike ride to my classmate's house outside the city for study group later. Instead of going to the gym, I do a rapid round of studying and head to the yoga studio. This time I'm doing a heated class, which I used to love when I was in culinary school. The class is fantastic, even if I have no idea what the Danish instructor is saying.
12 p.m. — For brunch I make sautéed asparagus and bell peppers topped with a sunny-side up egg. I round out the meal with a ginger scone (dug out of my freezer) with vegan butter and jam and a kiwi.
1 p.m. — I set out on my bike for what turns out to be actually quite a nice journey outside of the city limits. Study group is both productive and cozy. Later in the evening, our lovely host serves a homemade Chinese-fusion feast for dinner, including hoisin duck bao buns, veggie fried rice, kimchi pancakes, lemon chicken, stewed ginger cabbage, and apple carrot salad. For dessert I brought aebleskiver, which are essentially pancake balls with powdered sugar and jam, typically eaten around the holidays in Denmark. (I had some leftover from Christmas in my freezer.) We chat for awhile about what it's like to be expats in Denmark and from other countries around the world. I honestly cannot imagine my life here without my classmates. They are the bee's knees.
8:30 p.m. — With a happy heart and a full belly, I make the hour-long bike ride home. I've somehow managed to avoid the Sunday scaries, so I decide to keep plugging along. I finish off an application for a summer internship on a local farm, meditate, and hit the hay.
Daily Total: $0
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