A Week In Anchorage, AK, On A $40,000 Salary

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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 grants administrator working in state government who makes $40,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on chocolate cake.
Occupation: Grants Administrator
Industry: State Government
Age: 31
Location: Anchorage, AK
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,396.01
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $703
HOA: $397 (This covers everything except electric and Wi-Fi.)
Student Loans: $275
Car Payment: $200 (It's actually $153, but I like to overpay.)
Credit Cards: $400 (I charged a lot onto my cards over the past year with buying a house and a lot of travel, so I'm working on aggressively paying them off.)
Union Dues: $51.52
Health Insurance: $140
Hulu: $11.99
Netflix: $12.99
Unlimited Wi-Fi: $170
Electric: $35
Car Insurance: $396 every six months
Security System: $24.99
Pet Insurance: $38.99

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm and spend a few minutes on social media. I get up, get dressed, wash my face, brush my teeth, feed the three dogs and cat I'm currently watching while I'm house-sitting, and am out the door by 7 a.m. I stop by Starbucks on my way to work and get a black tea with lemonade and a chocolate croissant. I refill my card with $10 cash I have in my purse and use that to pay for my order. $10
9:15 a.m. — I finally heat up my croissant and eat it while still sipping on my tea. I spend a few minutes texting my friend in California about my birthday this weekend and how I'm feeling more unsettled about 31 than I did about 30.
11:30 a.m. — Lunchtime. I heat up some taco soup I made and top it with cheese. I also fill up my 40 oz. Hydro Flask with ice water and try to finish the whole thing during lunch. I try to drink two of these a day, but I haven't had any yet today, so I'm feeling behind. Then I look at shoes I've been wanting from Costco that are on sale and decide I'll buy them on Thursday when I get paid.
12:10 p.m. — I give in and buy the shoes. I realize that because of the money I've been saving diligently by bringing lunch to work for the past month, I can totally justify shoes. $27.14
3 p.m. — Grab a bag of Starburst jelly beans and munch while I'm working on a big data-entry project that will be the majority of my work for the next month.
4:30 p.m. — Leave work and stop by Target to return some items. I also pick up a new train case, some Rice Krispies Treats for drunk snacks for this weekend, travel-size wipes, and dental floss ($9.73). I realize I don't have any food ready at home and I left my leftover soup at work that I had planned to have for dinner, so I swing through Panda Express and get wok shrimp, wok steak, and white rice with some cream cheese rangoons. I'll stretch this into two meals ($14.80). $24.53
6 p.m. — The daughter of the people I house-sit for (they're retired and their daughter lives close by, but it's easier for me to house-sit when they travel) texts me to see when her parents are getting home. I thought it was Thursday, but it's actually tomorrow, so my schedule is off a bit. I text the housekeeper while I'm eating my dinner (the shrimp is awful and I don't want any more of it, so I'm not getting the two meals I wanted out of it) and let her know they're home tomorrow. She wants to clean before they get home, so she moves some clients around and is able to come tomorrow. I shower, start the dishes, do some laundry, pack up my stuff (I have a lot for being here over a week), clean out the fridge, refill the dogs' water bowl outside, and get ready for them to be home.
8:30 p.m. — I hot air brush my hair so it's not totally damp when I sleep and toss my air brush into my suitcase. I'll run my flat iron over my hair in the morning so it's manageable. By the time I'm done with my hair and the house, it's after 10 and I'm exhausted. I brush my teeth, put my braces back on (I have the clear removable braces), and crawl into bed. My brain doesn't want to shut off, so it's nearly 11:30 before I finally drift off.
Daily Total: $61.67

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I'm exhausted. I didn't get good sleep last night. Every noise woke me up, including the big dogs snoring and barking in their sleep. I hit snooze and don't wake back up until 7:15! I'm supposed to be at work at 7:30, so I text my bosses and let them know I'm going to be late. I wash my face, brush my teeth and braces, run a flat iron over my hair, let the dogs out, feed them, refill their water bowl, and toss my suitcase in my car so I can drop it off at my house after work. I'm out the door by 7:45. I plan on swinging by Starbucks because I need a tea this morning, but the line is ridiculous. I go through McDonald's instead and get a breakfast burrito, a sweet tea, and two hash browns. $8.74
9:40 a.m. — My supervisor is in the office, and we go over some information on my large data-entry project while I munch on a Fiber One Oats & Chocolate bar.
11:35 a.m. — My supervisor picks up Arby's for our team to celebrate my birthday. I get a King's Hawaiian fish sandwich, some curly fries, and a diet lemonade. Sooooo delicious! Eating out three meals in a row is not a normal for me, and I'm feeling very sluggish. Thank goodness I'm going to be home tonight — it'll be easier to get back into my workout routine without three dogs running around, and with the weather getting more springlike, I can take my pup on walks, which is good for both of us, even if he has to have a bath after!
1:30 p.m. — Surprise birthday cake for a coworker's birthday. It's chocolate with chocolate, and I can't resist. Then I browse movies on Redbox and reserve two with a rent-one-get-one-free code I have. Aquaman and Second Act, both movies I've wanted to see. $1.75
4:30 p.m. — I leave work, pick up the movies I reserved, drive to my house to drop off my stuff, and head back to the house where I'm house-sitting to spend a few last hours with the pups. It's chilly, but the dogs are happily running around the backyard, so I spend some time with them out there. I love watching my little pup running around with the big dogs. They all come inside and promptly fall asleep while I do my 30-minute HIIT workout in the TV room. I take a quick shower to get the sweat off and spray my hair with dry shampoo. I refill their water bowl, feed them dinner, clean the cat box, water the plants, pack up my refrigerated and frozen foods, and pick up any last-minute items of mine around the house. I leave around 7:30.
8 p.m. — I watch Aquaman when I get home and then promptly climb into bed after doing my nighttime routine. I can't sleep, so I take some melatonin. It doesn't work. I get consistently more nauseous as I lie in bed, so I get some cold water and sip it, hoping it'll ease the nausea. I finally fall asleep with my pup in my bed around 12:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $10.49

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I'm miserable, exhausted, and still a bit nauseated, but I get out of bed. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and get dressed. Then I turn on music on my Google Home, pick up my pup off the bed, and take him out for his morning potty break. Afterward, I set the house alarm and am out the door by 7:05. On my way, I stop by Starbucks and get a large tea and a plain bagel using my preloaded app.
9:45 a.m. — I log into my security-system camera and check on my pup. He's fully asleep on the couch, which makes me giggle. I grab a Fiber One bar and eat it while I work.
11:15 a.m. — I get lunch early, since I'm getting off at 3 today. My coworker takes me to Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, which just opened here. I get a three-piece combo, and when I realize they have crushed ice, I get an extra cup of only ice. #Crushediceforlife. $12.83
1:30 p.m. — My coworkers “surprise” me with Rice Krispies Treats for my birthday and an awesome dog bookend set that I'm so excited about!!
3 p.m. — I leave work and head to my nail appointment. I decide on some really bright colors and spend more than I planned to. $80
5 p.m. — I swing by Target on the way home and pick up a few extra things for the weekend: two frozen pizzas, a gallon of diet sweet tea, and some Lindt chocolate Easter eggs. I get home, walk the pup, feed him, and do a 30-minute yoga workout while I make one of the pizzas. After yoga, I take a quick body shower and then sit on the couch with my pizza and a margarita while watching Second Act. $12.08
7 p.m. — I realize that I've had too much margarita and now am too tipsy to drive to return my movies, so I text a friend. I eat Rice Krispies while I wait for him to come pick me up. While we're out, I decide I want ice cream, too (#tipsycravings), so we go to Marble Slab and I get a large cone with cake batter, cookie dough, fudge, and sprinkles. The app says they'll take my birthday coupon, but the cashier says no, so I pay full price. I get home, finish my ice cream, walk the pup again, do my nighttime routine, and am in bed by midnight. $7.99
Daily Total: $112.90

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and my pup is still snoring. After dozing and then scrolling through social media, I get up at about 8, do my morning routine, walk the pup, and feed him before I'm out the door at 9:15 to head to Planet Beach for a little me time. (I bought a Groupon deal last month.) I get a facial ($12 for the product), a moisturizing body pod that feels like a sauna for your body, and then a hydro-massage. I'm so relaxed when I'm finished. $12
11:30 a.m. — I head to the mall after my appointment and do a little browsing. I find a pair of lilac pants I like on clearance at Old Navy, so I buy them and decide I'll try them on at home ($6.99). Then I head to Red Robin for lunch and get a grilled chicken burger with teriyaki sauce and ice water. (I'm so thirsty after the body pod.) I have a free burger as part of their birthday rewards, so it only costs me the $5 tip. $11.99
1:30 p.m. — I run through McDonald's and get a pack of chocolate chip cookies and a water, plus I decide on an ice cream cone last minute because it's a beautiful spring day, perfect for ice cream. $1.80
2:15 p.m. — I meet my friend at the vet to help him with an acupuncture appointment for their old pup. It's easier with two people, so the vet can get the needles in the right spot. It's over by 2:45, and then I head home to get ready for dinner with a friend tonight.
3:30 p.m. — I get home, walk the pup, and then hop in the shower so my hair has time to dry afterward. I try on the pants I just bought and I hate them. They're like leggings, not jeans, so I put them aside to return tomorrow. Then I take a 45-minute nap and am up by 5:30 to finish getting ready. I douse my hair in protectant, use the hot air brush to finish drying it and my blowdryer to get my roots, run a flat iron over my hair, and then finish with a wave iron. I put my makeup on (brows, eyes, lips only) and slip into my dress and boots. Then I walk the pup one more time, feed him, and am ready when my friend picks me up at 6:30.
7 p.m. — We head to a restaurant downtown, and my friend pays for parking. I order two double vodka and cranberries, a pretzel appetizer, halibut, and chocolate pie for dessert. Then I order a margarita, but realize I can no longer switch alcohol and can't even finish it. I have a $25 birthday gift certificate, which I use, and my friend covers the rest.
8:30 p.m. — We head to a bar about 15 minutes north of town where we know the live musician playing. I get another double vodka cranberry and hang out for a while. My friend treats.
10 p.m. — We head back to town and stop by another bar that plays country, and I order another double vodka cranberry. My friend treats again. I have the best friends. After another drink (her treat), my friend drives me home.
12 a.m. — I walk my pup, get out of my clothes and into pajamas, wash my face, and FaceTime my mom, as per tradition on my birthday. Then I drink some water, take some pain meds, and fall asleep on the couch while watching Friends.
Daily Total: $25.79

Day Five

7 a.m. — I wake up with a headache and stumble to the fridge, where I grab a bottle of water and drink the entire thing with some more pain meds. Then I crawl back on the couch and my pup crawls up on my lap with me. I text my friend, who is picking me up to hang out today, and ask her to get me a red Powerade on her way. I walk the pup, take a body shower, do my morning routine, feed the pup, and get dressed in yoga pants and a sweatshirt.
9 a.m. — My friend picks me up and we go to Costco. I pick up a chocolate cake for my dinner tonight, dog food, and two ceiling-fixture lights ($90.18). Next, we stop at Starbucks, where I get my free birthday drink and a sausage-and-cheddar sandwich ($3.45), and Ulta, where I get color-matched for a foundation, since I haven't worn foundation in years and the one in my old stash doesn't work anymore for me. My friend buys me a foundation starter kit to make sure I really like it, and I use $11 of my store credit toward it so she doesn't have to pay full price. I also return my jeans to Old Navy and stop at Kohl's to get an estimate for what it would cost to replace an earring I lost. It's too expensive for me to get now, but I make a mental note to start saving to replace it, since my parents bought these earrings for me as a graduation present. $93.63
12:30 p.m. — We head to a travel fair and spend the next hour or so looking around, getting coupons and brochures, and trying to see if we can plan something for this summer. My friend drops me back home at 2, and after walking my pup, I decide I need a nap. I drink another bottle of water, have a few chips to tide me over, and crawl into bed, since I never made it there last night.
5 p.m. — After a magical nap, I get up, pour myself a margarita, wash my face, spend some time lotioning up my whole body, put on face makeup, touch up my hair, and slide into a dress and some heels while drinking another margarita.
6:30 p.m. — I walk my pup and feed him dinner when a third friend picks me up for dinner with a group of our friends, drives us downtown, and pays for parking. I order a margarita and let the waitress know I'll be having margaritas all night. I get some calamari to start and a jambalaya pasta for dinner, and we have the chocolate cake for dessert. My friends chip in, and I end up spending $44.69 with tip. I give the server an extra $5 for making sure I had a margarita in my hand at all times. $49.69
9:30 p.m. — We head home after dinner, and I pour myself the last of the margarita pitcher in the fridge. I grab some chips from the cupboard and snack on them while I watch Friends on Netflix. I walk the pup at about midnight, do my nighttime routine, and crawl into bed.
Daily Total: $143.32

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling amazingly not hungover. After showering and then walking and feeding the pup, I clean the whole kitchen and make myself eggs and toast for breakfast. Then I reorganize my dining room, take out the trash, move all the furniture in the living room, and completely sweep. I find my missing diamond earring under the couch while sweeping. I've swept at least four or five times since I lost it, but magically here it is. I'm so excited, I text everyone that I told it was lost and do a happy dance.
12 p.m. — I spend the afternoon doing all my laundry and getting it hung up.
2 p.m. — After walking the dog and more housework, I take down my old carbon monoxide detector and separate smoke alarm and install a combined Nest one that I got from my internet company as a “smart home” promotion.
6 p.m. — I toss some buffalo chicken bites in my air fryer and eat them with some ranch for dinner. Then I turn on Young & Hungry and catch up on the goofiness. I walk the pup one more time at 9 p.m., do my nighttime routine, and am in bed by 9:30.
11 p.m. — My brain won't shut off, so I take half of a sleeping pill and try again. I end up moving to the couch and still can't sleep. I doze off at 1:30 but wake up in a start and covered in sweat at 3. I hop in the shower because I feel gross and try to crawl back in bed for sleep. It doesn't happen.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6 a.m. — I text my boss and let her know what's up. I'm finally drowsy, so I set my alarm for 8:30 and let myself drift.
8:30 a.m. — I check in with my boss, get up, walk the pup, and do my morning routine. I get to work by 9:25, grab a breakfast burrito out of the freezer, and get to work.
1 p.m. — Lunchtime! I grab a Lean Cuisine and heat it up to eat at my desk. I read an article about the #NoBuyChallenge and think about trying it for a month. I need to really boost up my savings.
4:30 p.m. — I leave work and head straight home. Then I walk my pup, heat up leftovers from this weekend, and get into pajamas. I wash my sheets and blankets and spend the entire night watching Netflix, reading, and cuddling my pup before falling asleep at 9.
Daily Total: $0
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