A Week In Houston, TX, On A $30,000 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 clinical researcher and part-time graduate student who makes $30,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Fenty concealer.
Occupation: Clinical Researcher and Part-Time Graduate Student
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 24
Location: Houston, TX
Salary: $30,000
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $980.64
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $705
Utilities: Between $40-$60 a month
Internet: $30
Spotify (Student): $4.99
Hulu: $12.99
Netflix: $0 (I piggyback off of my parent’s membership)
Weight Watchers: $8.48 (subsidized by my employer)
Metro Bus Pass: $16.16 (subsidized by my employer and automatically deducted from my biweekly paycheck)
Health Insurance: $0 (I am on my parents’ plan)
Sadqa (Religious Charity Offering): ~$30 (usually a dollar or two a day)
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Day One

4:50 a.m. — My alarm rings and I hit snooze. I repeat this process multiple times. Normally, I would be going to the gym at this time, but last night I felt weak and feverish and decide to give myself some extra rest this morning. It’s almost the weekend!
6 a.m. — I finally get out of bed, brush my teeth, and wash up for prayers. I pray five times daily as part of my Islamic faith. It not only helps me feel peaceful, but also helps me maintain a structure and sense of routine in my schedule. After prayers, I take a hot shower, put on my casual Friday outfit of jeans and a nice top, braid my hair, put on makeup, and turn on the radio to my favorite station. I live alone, so keeping the radio on makes my lonely apartment feel lively.
6:45 a.m. — I’m a little slow today, perhaps still tired from my graduate school accounting class last night. I brew a cup of coffee in my Keurig (generous gift from my uncle), make a bowl of rolled oats with skim milk, cinnamon, honey, bananas, raspberries, and blackberries, and dig in to my delicious breakfast. I love adding less than the recommended amount of water to my oats, it makes them taste creamy and so indulgent. I add brown sugar and skim milk to my coffee, open my fridge, and realize I barely have any food left for lunch. I make a mental note to pick up groceries over the weekend when I visit my parents. Since I can’t drive, I usually have my parents and friends help me get to the grocery store, or, in a pinch, I order from an app called Instacart. I grab some leftover veggies and fruits and decide this will have to do for lunch today.
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7:45 a.m. — I drop a quarter into my sadqa jar and say a quick prayer as I’m grabbing my bag and heading out the door. Stepping outside in Houston’s blazing sunlight, I open an umbrella to protect myself from sunburn as I wait for the bus. Being a person with albinism in Houston means I lead a somewhat unique lifestyle. In a city known for traffic jams, suburban sprawl, and gas-guzzling trucks, I walk to and from a bus stop to get to my job every day. Having low vision (I'm legally blind) means that I am not able to get a driver’s license at this time, as such, I rely on the bus and more expensive forms of transportation like Uber and Lyft. I catch the bus and head to work.
8:10 a.m. — I make it to my office after hustling in 100 degree weather (thank you Houston) and place my lunchbox in the fridge. I say hello to my coworkers and get to work, fighting the urge to buy a cup of coffee from the cafeteria downstairs. Lately, I’ve been spending $2 on coffee each day — it adds up quickly! I try to drink from the office coffee machine, but the bitter taste makes me gag. I dream of having a big office where I can keep my own Keurig.
12 p.m. — Lunch. My coworker surprises me with a salmon poke bowl she got me for lunch! How sweet! It’s a delicious treat and I’m so grateful. She treats me to lunch and I get a soda from the vending machine. $1.50
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4:30 p.m. — Not much left to do in the office, so I call it a day. I catch the bus and head home.
4:50 p.m. — Back in the apartment, I change, say my afternoon prayers, then clean up the apartment. I make myself a quick snack of yogurt and granola, then get ready to head home for the weekend.
7 p.m. — My dad arrives and helps me load my stuff into his car. I have a giant basket of laundry, my backpack full of studying, and my trash bag. We are hungry, so I order a pizza from Papa John’s on my phone app; it’ll be ready to pick up by the time we make our way through Houston traffic.
7:45 p.m. — We make our way through Friday evening rush hour and get to Papa John’s to pick up the pizza. My dad generously pays for the pizza (I’m still a baby to him) and we head home. My mom is out of town this weekend, visiting family, so it’ll be a quiet weekend with just us two.
8:15 p.m. — We reach my parents’ house and I drop off my laundry near the washing machine. My dad and I set the table and gobble up the pizza while it’s still hot. It’s delicious and I could eat this every night if calories didn’t count. We drink sodas from the fridge and talk about our week. It’s been a long week, but very productive, so I’m feeling a mix of tired and happy.
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9 p.m. — I spend the evening watching reruns of Friends and relaxing. As a true introvert, this is my idea of a fabulous Friday night.
12 a.m. — After dozing on the couch, I finally make my way upstairs to my bedroom and go to bed.
Daily Total: $1.50

Day Two

7 a.m. — My alarm rings and I turn it off immediately. It’s Saturday, so I’ll sleep in.
12 p.m. — I wake up again and am shocked at how much I slept. This was an unplanned sleep-binge that I will probably regret. I wake up feeling dehydrated and hungry.
12:30 p.m. — I rummage through our fridge and pantry and make myself breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and some whole-wheat toast. I am in a lazy mood today, and as much as I want to be productive, I can’t bring myself to even plug in my laptop charger or open my backpack. My homework can wait.
2 p.m. — I get a call from my best friend, T., who recently started grad school up in the northeast. It feels so good to talk to her after so many weeks. We chat about school and work for about an hour. She tells me she woke up around noon as well, so I feel a little better knowing I’m not the only one.
3 p.m. — I decide to be productive by doing my laundry, so I load my clothes in the washer, make some tea, and turn on my laptop — progress! I realize I am running out of some sanitary pads and will need them soon, so I order a big box of them off of Amazon. $27.50
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5 p.m. — After a bit of studying — okay, after a lot of Netflix — I head downstairs to cook dinner. There’s some frozen chicken in the deep freezer, along with some frozen cauliflower rice, so I decide to make enough to last me the whole week.
7:30 p.m. — I finish cooking and head up to my room to study some more. I have a big accounting analysis paper due on Wednesday, so I start working on that project.
10:30 p.m. — I finish my laundry, shower, and go to sleep. I am surprisingly sleepy even though I woke up so late today.
Daily Total: $27.50

Day Three

8 a.m. — My alarm rings and this time, I don’t snooze. I get out of bed, pray, and head downstairs to eat breakfast.
8:15 a.m. — Breakfast is tea and some porridge. My dad heads out to go to work, so the house gets pretty quiet. I goof around on my laptop, watching Binging with Babish episodes and perusing Amazon for my next splurge, then doze off a bit.
12 p.m. — My dad calls to ask me what I need from the grocery store for the week. We will stop at Trader Joe’s this evening to pick up my weekly grocery supplies.
6 p.m. — I pack up my backpack and laundry, along with the food I cooked yesterday, and head out with my dad to Trader Joe’s. I buy bananas, Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, low-fat string cheese, frozen cauliflower rice, skim milk, raspberries, blackberries, and salad. This food needs to last until Friday, because I have no means of accessing a grocery store nearby. $27.30
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7 p.m. — My dad drops me off at my apartment and I ready myself for another week. I feel anxious and try to calm myself down. I make a plan to be productive this week at work in my Passion Planner and organize my kitchen. Looking over my accounting project for grad school, I feel overwhelmed and regretful for underestimating just how difficult and time-consuming it would be. It’s going to be a busy, tiring week. I sit down with my laptop to work on my project.
12 a.m. — I’m tired and these stupid accounting figures make no sense. I can’t figure out Microsoft Excel and I’m frustrated now. I dump my laundry on my bedroom floor (where it will remain all week, most likely) and head to sleep.
Daily Total: $27.30

Day Four

4:50 a.m. — My alarm rings, I wake up, pray, and change into workout clothes.
5:30 a.m. — At the gym, I feel groggy. I do some light cardio and some stretches. I listen to Billie Eilish and The Lion King soundtrack to pump me up. The room heats up quickly, and I run on the treadmill while watching the gorgeous sunrise.
6:15 a.m. — Back in my apartment, I chug a bottle of water and jump in the shower. While dancing to a Lizzo song, I apply my daily regimen of skincare and makeup. I am a proud Sephora shopper, and I note that I am running out of some essential supplies, like my Fenty concealer and Becca highlighter. I order these items on my Sephora app. $68
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7 a.m. — Breakfast is coffee made by my Keurig, instant oatmeal, berries, and a piece of mozzarella cheese. I put together my packed lunch of cauliflower rice and chicken breast, pack my bag, then head out the door to the bus.
7:30 a.m. — I wait at the bus stop, feeling the Houston sun beaming on me. I put so much effort into my makeup and clothes only to show up to work looking like a sweaty mess, which can be frustrating at times.
8 a.m. — At work, I look over my emails that I missed from over the weekend and prepare my schedule for the week. Tomorrow will be a busy day, I have to make sure I have my supplies and information prepared because I won’t have much time tomorrow.
12 p.m. — Lunch. I heat up my packed lunch and eat in the break room, enjoying the view while I eat, listening to the funny jokes told by my coworkers. This is one of the rare moments during the day when I can just check out and feel peaceful. I’m craving a soda, so I buy a Coke Zero from the vending machine. $1.50
5 p.m. — Time to head home! I catch my bus and make it to my apartment quickly. I change out of my work clothes into my comfy sweats, wash up, pray, and start prepping dinner.
6 p.m. — Dinner consists of a fruit smoothie made with berries, Greek yogurt, bananas, and honey, along with some chicken tikka (spicy chicken breast) and cauliflower rice. I crave cold smoothies after a long hot day in Houston.
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6:30 p.m. — This accounting project will be the death of me. So many columns of nonsensical numbers, paired with dollar signs and tiny boxes is a recipe for disaster. I feel fed up, but I keep working for hours, stopping occasionally to make some coffee.
12 a.m. — I decide to go to sleep, because my brain feels fried and I have a long day tomorrow.
Daily Total: $69.50

Day Five

4:50 a.m. — My alarm rings and I quickly switch the time to 6. I will sleep in a little today and eat a hearty breakfast since I probably won't have time for lunch on this busy day.
6 a.m. — I wake up, pray, and shower quickly. I put on minimal makeup (just some eyeliner and mascara), tie my hair in a topknot, and put on my comfy Charter Club pants and a cotton top. I wear my most cushiony leather shoes for extra comfort since I’ll be on my feet in the hospital all day today.
6:30 a.m. — Breakfast is coffee, a scrambled egg white with spinach and mozzarella, and a bowl of oatmeal with berries, bananas, and honey. I am stuffed to the gills when I finish this scrumptious feast, but I feel energetic and ready to face the day!
7 a.m. — I catch an early bus to work so I can be prepared for my first patient.
7:15 a.m. — I check my work emails at the office and prep my supplies for my patients in clinic. I’m excited to see some patients!
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8 a.m. — I consult with my coworkers regarding my planned patient schedule. We make notes and I head to clinic to approach patients for my research studies.
12 p.m. — Some of my patients agreed to be in my study! Woohoo! What a victory. I have just enough time to drop off a blood sample before heading to clinic for my next set of patients.
1:30 p.m. — One of my patients cancelled their appointment, which means I actually have time to eat lunch today! Thankfully, I had the foresight to pack some of my dinner leftovers, so I quickly eat in the break room.
4:30 p.m. — Clinic. Is. Finished. Whew. I log today’s work, process my blood specimen, and get ready to wind down for the day.
5:30 p.m. — I finally leave the office, exhausted but happy about my progress. I head home to work on my accounting project.
7 p.m. — A knock on the door, my Sephora package is here! I stash it in my bedroom so I won’t get distracted by it just yet. Back to work on accounting.
9:30 p.m. — I say my evening prayers and lay out on my couch for a break. I think I’ll finish this project tomorrow; I am thoroughly exhausted. I head to bed and am asleep by 11.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

4:50 a.m. — I wake up and decide to skip my workout so I can work on my project, which is due tonight! When did this happen? Why does time move so quickly? I pray, then sit down to continue analyzing endless columns of numbers.
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6:30 a.m. — Breakfast is oatmeal and berries, along with a jumbo-sized cup of coffee. I silently thank my Keurig for being my faithful companion in this accounting ordeal. I am still hungry after eating, but don’t have time to cook anything, so I’ll splurge on some breakfast at the office.
7:30 a.m. — I catch the bus to work and stop at the café for a breakfast taco and another jumbo coffee. $3.75
8 a.m. — In the office, I prepare for my weekly meeting with our boss.
12 p.m. — Lunch is more leftover chicken and cauliflower rice, along with some juicy clementines and a stick of mozzarella.
4:15 p.m. — A wave of exhaustion hits me, so I decide to leave a little early today. I leave the office and catch the bus home, knowing that rest eludes me as I still have work to do in accounting.
4:45 p.m. — I arrive home, wash up, pray, and settle in with my laptop to finish my project. It’s due at 11:59 tonight, so I don’t have much time to make any drastic changes at this point. Whatever I have completed will have to do.
7 p.m. — I eat dinner and make a smoothie while I log into a monthly call meeting for one of my research studies. The call lasts about an hour, after which I get back to my project.
8:30 p.m. — Finally, mercifully, my project is complete. I press SUBMIT and flop onto my couch for a victory Netflix binge.
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12 a.m. — I wake up on the couch and am bundled up in my fleece throw. I drag myself to bed and can barely keep my eyes open long enough to change into my pajamas and brush my teeth.
Daily Total: $3.75

Day Seven

4:50 a.m. — My alarm rings and I hit snooze.
4:59 a.m. — My alarm rings and I sluggishly roll out of bed. I have a full day of work followed by a three-hour lecture — in accounting, no less. I pray and change into workout clothes for a light workout.
5:30 a.m. — At the gym, I do the elliptical for 15 minutes and some mat stretches.
6:15 a.m. — Back in the apartment, I shower, put on makeup, and get dressed. Breakfast is oatmeal and coffee, yet again. I’ve run out of food to pack for lunch today, so I’ll pick up something in the cafeteria. I pack my umbrella as I’ll be waiting at the sunny bus stop to get to class today.
7:30 a.m. — I catch the bus to work.
7:45 a.m. — Back in the office, I prepare for my weekly team meeting with the boss. I have my notes and study logs ready to go.
1 p.m. — I meet with my boss and it goes really well! I head to the cafeteria and pick up a sandwich, some chips, and a soda. $6.70
4:20 p.m. — I run from the office to the bus stop and wait in the boiling sun to catch the bus to class. I brought a water bottle with me to help me stay cool.
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4:45 p.m. — I arrive to my class, and as usual, the air conditioning is not functioning. It’s going to be a long evening.
7:30 p.m. — Class is finished and I head home, excited to eat dinner and sleep.
8 p.m. — I wash up, pray, and make a large smoothie. I cook some chicken and cauliflower rice and eat in front of Netflix.
10 p.m. — Going to bed before midnight is such a luxury, and today I will truly enjoy it. I brush my teeth and head to bed.
Daily Total: $6.70
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