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A Week In Omaha, NE, On A $42,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a journalist who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Miralax.
Occupation: Journalist
Industry: Media
Age: 25
Location: Omaha, NE
Salary: $42,000
Net Worth: -$16,000 ($3,000 in checking/savings accounts; $9,000 in Roth IRA, minus $28,000 in student loan debt, which will hopefully go down $20,000 with the new debt relief.)
Debt: $28,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,190 (I also earn anywhere from $60-$125 every two weeks walking dogs)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $1,020 for a two-bedroom apartment (I selected a two bedroom thinking my boyfriend was going to move in earlier)
Loan Payment: $75
Gym: $39
Cell Phone: $110
Car/Renters' Insurance: $80
Medical Payment Plan: $156
Internet: $60
Utilities: $70
Online Publication Subscriptions: $7
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, from a young age my parents always preached that I was expected to go to college. I went to a four-year college that was way too expensive, but 17-year-old me didn't have the insight on just how much it would be. My grandparents paid for my freshman year but I paid for the other three years through student loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents started talking to me about the importance of saving at a very young age. When I graduated from high school, my dad encouraged me to put all of my graduation money into a Roth IRA and has continued to talk about the importance of investing in retirement. I don't think I would be investing in a retirement fund without him.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at an orchard and vegetable farm at 14 years old. It was an interesting job that included harvesting produce, preparing crops for seeding/harvesting, making apple cider, etc. I got it to have money for gas as I learned to drive.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't have to worry much about money growing up, which makes me grateful. My middle-class parents did go through some hard times, but I wasn't made aware of it.
Do you worry about money now?
It's one of the main things I worry about. I moved into an apartment that is way over budget because I expected my boyfriend to move in six months later, but it turned into a year. I haven't been able to save anything the past year and my savings account has actually decreased.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible the moment I moved for college. I do have a couple of family members I could reach out to in an emergency if I needed a financial safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I've received about $5,000 from my grandfather to put in my Roth IRA over the years.

Day One

8 a.m. — After snoozing my alarm twice, I get out of bed and head downstairs to get ready in my dad's bathroom. I had to drive to my dad's house yesterday to take him to a medical procedure, and now I am heading back to Omaha. I let his dog out, slather on some makeup, and make a bagel with cream cheese and jam while my dad stumbles down the stairs still half asleep. I have to give him a quick hug goodbye and rush out the door because I need to make it to the office.
8:42 a.m. — I stop by a drive-through coffee place because I think I have a free drink coupon to get my favorite coconut cold brew. Alas, the wallet in my app is empty (I must have used it last week?). I get the coffee anyway because I'm addicted. $6.68
12:10 p.m. — I've been at work for a few hours now and go to the break room to grab my pre-packed lunch: salad with chicken and fruit. I work as a journalist at a daily newspaper in downtown Omaha. This morning I've been trying to concentrate on finishing an in-depth story that I've been working on all week, but my ADHD has other ideas.
2:07 p.m. — I've finished two stories, interviewed a school board candidate, and stalked some sources on social media. My period started yesterday and my cramps are getting out of hand (thanks, endometriosis). I pop some ibuprofen.
5:05 p.m. — My day started out with a plan to go to the gym before my boyfriend, B., arrives for the weekend, but by the time I leave work I REALLY don't want to. Then I go through the mental battle of wanting to go straight home vs. wanting to work out because my body image has been in the toilet recently. B., who lives two hours away (we have been doing the long-distance thing for a year), is coming soon, so I decide with a lot of guilt to just go home.
6 p.m. — B. is here!!! We walk to a local food hall and get some Burmese food. We each order a box of momo dumplings and pay separately before eating outside. $12.36
10:30 p.m. — B. and I relax on my couch with our two cats and watch Bachelor in Paradise before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $19.04

Day Two

8 a.m. — When I wake up, B. is already out on a run. I make myself some iced coffee and eat a mediocre homemade protein bar.
9 a.m. — B. returns and I take way too long trying to choose an outfit for today. I convinced him to go to the farmer's market before we spend the day with my dad, twin sister, and some family friends. We are celebrating me and my sister's birthday. B. grins at me from across the room as I try on five outfits before deciding on the first one.
12 p.m. — I don't get anything at the farmer's market except an iced coffee and a bag of popcorn for my sister. B. and I drive to my sister's house, where we meet her and her husband before picking my dad up to head to a winery a little outside of the city. $14.98
5 p.m. — The group heads back to my dad's house for dinner after a blissful afternoon of tasting wine (I only end up paying for one glass). And in typical Midwest fashion, my dad makes us chili with all the fixings. Everyone sings happy birthday and I feel all warm inside. $7
9 p.m. — B. and I drive back with my sister and brother-in-law to stay at her house for the night. We watch The Rental on Netflix and make fun of the characters the entire movie.
10:30 p.m. — After a face wash, B. and I are off to bed on a partially deflated air mattress. Did we pop it last time? We've never done anything mischievous on it, but I swear it deflates little by little throughout the night.
Daily Total: $21.98

Day Three

10 a.m. — I wake up with my sister's dog squished next to me. He must have snuck in sometime earlier this morning. B. is out running again (I could never) and my sister is already at work. I eat some leftover birthday cake for breakfast.
12:35 p.m. — B. and I head back to Omaha after buying gas (I pay since it was my family outing). He can only spend a few hours with me before he has to head back home before the work week starts. The thought of him leaving makes me so sad. $34
5:30 p.m. — After B. leaves, I realize I need groceries for this week. Unfortunately, my gastroenterologist told me last week I need to start a low FODMAP diet to get my IBS under control. It's basically cutting out everything that is hard to digest. The guide he gave me is really hard to follow. I order grocery pickup for tomorrow and get gluten-free waffles, lactose-free milk and coffee creamer, coffee, blueberries, chicken, bell peppers, tomato, rice, salad, feta cheese, Miralax, toilet paper, and cat food. $86
8 p.m. — I have nothing in my apartment to eat because I cleared everything out for my low FODMAP diet. I choose to use my last night of food freedom to order Panera. I get their French onion soup and two baguettes and eat while watching my comfort show, Vampire Diaries. $11.17
11 p.m. — I text B. goodnight and read a few chapters of Verity by Colleen Hoover before going to sleep.
Daily Total: $131.17

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up, make a protein shake, and get to work from my couch without getting out of my pajamas. My office is hybrid and I usually take Mondays as a work-from-home day. The morning consists of phone calls to school board candidates and writing about curriculum.
1 p.m. — My alarm goes off reminding me to go get my groceries. I change into gym shorts and a t-shirt and slather on some sunscreen before heading out.
1:30 p.m. — I haul my groceries up to my apartment. I really need to go to the gym today but I don't think I'll have time before I have to cover a school board meeting tonight for work. I try not to feel guilty as I make a lunch of salad, feta, diced ham, and vinaigrette.
3:45 p.m. — Nap time. I make the short journey from my couch-desk to my bed to take a nap, which I routinely do before evening meetings.
5:54 p.m. — I forgot to take my Miralax! I run to the fridge to stir some in a sugar-free energy drink (is this low FODMAP?? Not sure). I throw on a pink blouse, plaid pants, and some black sandals and sip my drink while trying to do something with my hair. Then off to the meeting.
8:33 p.m. — The board meeting isn't too bad, especially because I don't need to write an article this time. I'm too tired to prep any dinner so I have a bowl of cornflakes and two hard-boiled eggs before binging more Vampire Diaries.
10:30 p.m. — B. calls me before I go to bed. He makes me laugh the whole time and it makes me really wish for our move-in date to be sooner. I hang up right as I'm falling asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:05 a.m. — I grumble as I get out of bed to go to the gym. I throw on some gym clothes and sunscreen and make a protein shake before heading out for a weightlifting class at the YMCA.
9:32 a.m. — I grab a large pumpkin latte with oat milk from a local coffee shop on the way back. Supposedly these ingredients fit in my diet, says Google. The latte is 50% off today, score! $3.56
2 p.m. — I've been working for a few hours from home when I realize I forgot to eat lunch. I eat a hard-boiled egg, half a cucumber, and a few breakfast sausages.
4:30 p.m. — In addition to my day job, I also walk dogs through the Rover pet walking/sitting app. I usually take on clients during my lunch breaks and before or after work. Today I have my weekly puppy client who I walk three times a week. She is excited the whole walk and keeps trying to eat everyone's grass.
7:35 p.m. — My first low FODMAP meal prep is an absolute disaster. I have the wrong spices and try to be creative, but it smells bad, tastes bad, and the bottom is burned. I don't know how I managed to mess up chicken and rice. I call B. and we laugh as he and I try to figure out my next dinner option.
8:40 p.m. — Back to my cornflakes. And then some popcorn. Definitely not nutritious, but it fills me up. I start a new Netflix movie, Do Revenge, while scrolling through email.
11:16 p.m. — I take a bath while reading more chapters of Verity. The book gets so crazy (and creepy) I can't put it down. I end up spending two hours in the bathtub reading, refilling it every so often to keep it warm. One of my cats keeps me company on the floor.
11:35 p.m. — I take my book into bed and read until I'm done because I can't go to sleep without reading the end. And WOW. I'm a bit disturbed going to sleep.
Daily Total: $3.56

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — I wake up to people texting me about my latest story. I don't often get positive feedback on my articles so it makes me smile. I let my cats in to cuddle for a few minutes before getting up to make iced coffee, some gluten-free waffles, and sausage.
9:30 a.m. — Today is slower for some reason, but time goes pretty fast as I start on another article and pitch a story idea to an outlet. I'm trying to get into freelancing, which is something I eventually want to transition into. I'm getting tired of the daily news grind, unfortunately.
11:35 a.m. — I walk two dogs as my first Rover client of the day and they are so well-trained, it's crazy. I have to practically run out of the apartment complex to make it to my second client on time. Then I head out to get my oil changed.
3:42 p.m. — The mechanic persuades me to buy two air filters to replace my dirty ones in addition to my oil change and I hope that it is actually needed. $106.59

6:38 p.m. — The only thing I have in my fridge for dinner are the salvaged (but very dry) chicken breasts from my disgusting dinner last night. I'm determined to find a way to use them. I chop them up and add them to gluten-free spaghetti. It turns out pretty okay!

8:40 p.m. — I'm watching the Vampire Diaries and someone dies in the show. This makes me instantly think about B., and all of a sudden I'm having an actual anxiety attack about B. dying two hours away from me and us never getting to move in together. I have severe anxiety and am still trying to work through it in therapy. I know it's ridiculous, but I can't stop it. I call B. hyperventilating and he's able to calm me down. He is so sweet about it and it helps a little.

10:56 p.m. — I'm still not feeling well as I'm getting ready for bed. My body feels like it's literally on the edge of a cliff. I pop one of the Klonopin my psychiatrist prescribed me before going to sleep.

Daily Total: $106.59

Day Seven

8:15 a.m. — When I wake up, my brain and body feel so drained and exhausted. I hate labeling a day before it even starts, but I feel like today is going to be hard.
10 a.m. — I make myself an egg white omelet with ham, spinach, and cheese and an iced coffee with Miralax in it before going to work on my laptop. I start getting cramps and can't figure out what is causing it — the coffee? The laxative? Both? Probably.
12:14 p.m. — I stop by my Rover client's house to let her dog out. I get a text from my friend, K., asking if I want to hang out tonight. I feel worn out so I want to say no, but I also have no time to hang out with her in the foreseeable future. I end up asking if we can take a walk together for an hour or so to help clear my mind. She's so kind and understanding and says yes.
4:09 p.m. — I get an email from my landlord asking where my rent is. What?? I set up auto-pay months ago. I investigate only to find that I had accidentally set auto-pay up with an end date of last month? WTH? I can really only blame myself for having to pay a late fee. $44
6:14 p.m. — K. and I walk around the city and get boba tea before deciding to come back to my place. Our long talks make me feel better, so I don't even realize when our time together stretches well past an hour. $7.14
9:05 p.m. — I'm feeling a lot better after K. leaves. I call B. and after our chat, my mood has improved a little more. It feels so relieving when my anxiety can be kept at bay. I take a long bath, eat some of last night's chicken concoction for dinner, and go to bed early.
Daily Total: $51.14
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