A Week In Rural Wisconsin On A $43,500 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 marketing coordinator who makes $43,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on sugar-free Red Bull.
Content Warning: This Money Diary mentions an eating disorder and eating disorder recovery.
Occupation: Marketing Coordinator
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 24
Location: Rural Wisconsin
Salary: $43,500
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,118.22 after tax and deductions
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $650 (split with boyfriend)
Loans: $0 (I paid off my college loan in December 2018. I went to a state school where I earned several scholarships, worked three jobs and only took out a $5,000 loan that I paid off last year.)
401(k): $181 (deducted from my paycheck with 2% employer match)
Medical, Dental & Vision: $170 (deducted from my paycheck)
Parking Ramp: $23 (deducted from my paycheck)
Health Savings Account: $113 (deducted from my paycheck)
Holiday Savings: $30 (with 9% interest)
Utilities: $100
WiFi: $40
Energy: $50
Car Payment: $0 (my dad gifted me his old car and everything is in my name)
Car Insurance: $567 every six months
Cell Phone: $0 (on my dad's plan)
Netflix: $0 (sister's account)
Hulu: $6 (my mom and sister use my account)
Spotify: $11
Roth IRA: $100
Gym Membership: $40 (discounted from work)
Emergency Savings Account: $0 (I have $3,000 and not currently adding money to it)
Account for Pet Expenses: $30 (my boyfriend matches and we use this to pay for food, treats, toys, appointments)
Savings Account: $700 (using this for future spending on wedding and house)

Day One

5:30 a.m. — I wake up to a thunderstorm and tuck my dogs into the bed hoping they don't hear the thunder. I kiss my boyfriend goodbye as I grab my gym bag, packed breakfast and lunch, and head out. On my way, I stop at a gas station to buy a sugar-free Red Bull. I usually have these in bulk at the house but haven't restocked them yet. At the gym, I run three miles and take my mat into the yoga room for a few passes and stretches. I get ready quickly in the locker room and wish I had time to sit in the sauna before work. I should come earlier next time. $2.53
9:30 a.m. — For breakfast, I eat a breakfast burrito I prepped over the weekend. Today's burrito is a small tortilla filled with scrambled eggs with cheese and peppers, a slice of bacon, and fresh avocado. I cut up an apple to pair with it and fill up my water bottle. I made over 30 breakfast burritos for my boyfriend and me this weekend and hopefully, this will stop us from ordering breakfast and coffee in the mornings.
1 p.m. — I eat leftover fajita soup at my desk. My boyfriend, L., made this for us yesterday and it so good with shredded chicken, red and green peppers, corn, black beans, chilis, and a whole jar of homemade salsa. For dessert, I have a slice of homemade banana bread and cream cheese topping. I step out for a short walk outside and spot a gorgeous chair at the thrift store across the street. I NEED THIS CHAIR!
5 p.m. — Done for the day and I'm so ready to be home. I spend my commute listening to the newest episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno. This show is disgusting but makes me laugh out loud. I leash up the dogs for a walk when I get home. My boyfriend is working late today so I'm on my own for dinner and walks. I start cooking chicken that L. has been marinating for 24 hours while brown rice cooks. I start chopping carrots, water chestnuts, green beans, and peppers, and add it all to the cooked chicken. I put away two containers for later and eat the rest. As I eat this vehicle for soy sauce, I envision where the thrifted chair could go.
8 p.m. — L. is home and we take the dogs out for their final walk as we talk about our workday and schedules. He has been working late hours a lot lately and I leave early in the morning so we haven't been seeing a lot of each other. We eat more banana bread for dessert.
Daily Total: $2.53

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Woohoo for sleeping in! I grab my dogs for more cuddles. After L. gets up for a shower I make the bed and start getting ready. I wash my face, apply toner, moisturizer, primer, foundation, eyebrows, and mascara. I've been breaking out for the first time in years and I don't know what to do. It makes me feel like a self-conscious child. After L. and I take the dogs out, I grab my packed food, and we shout reminders to each other as I leave.
8 a.m. — I sit down at my desk and answer emails and blog comments. Today is all focused on planning next month's content, which is my favorite part of my job so the morning flies by. I eat a breakfast burrito and fill up my water bottle.
12 p.m. — Leftover stir fry and rice for lunch. I finally order a runner from Ruggable that I've been looking at for weeks. It was originally $139, but after using a Honey code, I got it for $111 with free shipping! These rugs are supposed to be a must for houses with dogs and I hope it lives up to the reviews. $111
4:30 p.m. — I leave work a little early and head to Plato's Closet. I have a bunch of clothes to sell and usually make about $50 every time I bring stuff in. Other times they tell me my clothes are "too mature." Sorry, I don't exclusively wear crop tops! This is a practice I still have from my college days when I had very little discretionary income but had a ton of clothes. It gives me cash to keep on hand and forces me to clean out my closet and keep a small wardrobe. I try to buy as sustainably as possible and second hand whenever I can.
5 p.m. — I meet my sister next door for a Hatha yoga class. It's my first time at this studio and a drop-in class is $15 or $30 for two weeks unlimited as a trial. I'll test this studio out. $30
6 p.m. — Sooo, I didn't realize it was a hot yoga class and we have plans after. I take a body shower and spray dry shampoo in my hair. Thankfully I had my gym bag in my car so I have a few things to make me not smell like a foot. I pick up my leftover clothes from Plato's Closet and get $24. I plan on donating everything else. We head to a quick dinner and I order a small tomato basil pizza and Greek salad on the side. After we attend a basketball game with some friends. $12
9 p.m. — I stop at a gas station and get four sugar-free Red Bulls on sale for $7. $7.53
9:30 p.m. — When I get home, I talk with L. about how my life has changed in such a short time. When I graduated from college a year ago, I was a mess. I overworked myself to the point of making myself sick. I had terrible skin and nails from stress, no money, and a very unhealthy relationship with my body. I kept it a secret for a long time but I felt like I had no control over my life. I started to make myself throw up everything I ate as a way to feel like I could take control of what I looked like. The really awful part was everyone kept telling me that I looked great but I knew that what I was doing was detrimental to my health. I finally told my boyfriend and sister. They helped me get healthy and take control of my life. Now I'm in a job I love, making friends, living a healthy, active life, and just in a better place mentally.
Daily Total: $160.53

Day Three

5 a.m. — I planned on going to the gym but my bed is warm and dogs are snuggling so I skip today.
8 a.m. — Scheduling emails, checking email send data, and updating PowerPoints all morning. I heat a breakfast burrito and slice an apple with peanut butter.
12 p.m. — For lunch, I eat an Amy's enchilada frozen meal with a La Croix.
6 p.m. — My boyfriend is working late tonight, so I leash up the dogs for a long, cold walk. L. and I adopted our first dog together two years ago and our second dog a year and a half later. Our older dog is a pit that was adopted and abandoned twice by the time he was four months old and our second is a total mutt that used to pee anytime someone touched her. We adopted them both through a local humane society. Each dog was $250 and the humane society paid for neutering, all vet bills up to adoption, and microchipping. These dogs bring so much joy into our lives but are a lot of work. We've trained and supported them and now they're both are so loving, healthy, and loyal. Back home, I start browning ground turkey and add taco seasonings. I shred cheddar cheese and warm tortillas in the oven, mash beans, and slice an avocado. Everything is ready by the time L. gets home and we sit down to watch the newest episode of Prodigal Son on Hulu.
9 p.m. — We both want something for dessert and I suggest ice cream. We settle for Frosted Flakes that are already in our pantry. I'm going to dream of salted caramel ice cream tonight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

5 a.m. — Wake up, Red Bull, gym.
12 p.m. — Usually, I take myself out for lunch on Thursdays, but I've already spent enough money this week so I eat an apple with peanut butter, a Perfect Bar, and a Diet Coke for lunch. I go for a walk after lunch and walk past the thrift store with the chair. It's more orange than tan so I pass on it.
6 p.m. — I walk to the library and look for a few books on my list. I check out 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (for book club), Little Women (new movie coming out in November!), and Everything I Never Said (I love Celeste Ng). I've spent hundreds of dollars on books in the past year and I'm trying to reel in my spending.
7 p.m. — I eat cereal for dinner and watch the second season of Castle Rock on Hulu while I Venmo request L. for his half of the bills. We've been together for four and a half years and have lived together for two of those years. Our finances are separate except for the savings account for our dogs. L. has an $18,000 student loan debt that he's been paying off by working odd jobs and his side hustle. We talk about money very openly because I come from a family that never talked about it and I had this weird sense of shame around it. We talk about our money goals and progress in our budgets and we use Venmo frequently without pettiness.
11 p.m. — Holy eff this show is good. I can barely keep my eyes open and both dogs are snoring on the couch so I figure it's time for bed. I basically have to drag them both upstairs.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5 a.m. — Wake up, Red Bull, gym, TGIF. I make a stop for gas. My car has great gas mileage but I drive 30 minutes to and from work every day, so I usually have to fill up once a week. I've been thinking about getting a credit card and dedicating it to gas. $32.32
12:30 p.m. — I ask a coworker to get lunch with me and feel so lucky to have friends at work. $15
5 p.m. — WOOHOO IT'S THE WEEKEND! I play my favorite Spotify playlist and sing all the way home. I cook a frozen pizza with a thrown together side salad and run out the door to meet my mom and grandpa for a local sporting event.
10 p.m. — I'm home, cold, and exhausted. I crawl into bed.
Daily Total: $47.32

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — My mom and sister pick me up and we head out to do some shopping and get lunch.
12 p.m. — We stop at Hobby Lobby because my mom needs more fall decor. I put a pumpkin on my porch and called it good, but go off mom. I look at a few candles and throw pillows that I don't need and the damn shopping dopamine release is getting to me, but I resist.
1 p.m. — We are all hungry and get lunch together. I buy. $44
2 p.m. — After getting dropped back off, I do laundry, dishes, clean out the fridge, and wash all the sheets. L. already vacuumed, wiped down windows, and swept the kitchen. With the house all clean, I curl up on the couch to start 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle with my 70-pound dog laying on my lap.
6 p.m. — L. wants to take me out for dinner and I suggest Thai food. I split my sweet and spicy noodle dish with L.'s curry. We are both exceptionally full. L. pays.
8 p.m. — The rest of the night is spent cleaning my oven. Who knew your 20s were filled with such crazy nights.
Daily Total: $44

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I drive to the new yoga/spin studio and complete my second class, this time hot spin.
10 a.m. — I call L. for his breakfast order. I order two black coffees and two everything bagels with different spreads. I don't know how I did it, but I resist eating my bagel until I get home. $14
10:30 a.m. — After getting home, I jump in the shower and throw on my favorite worn-in sweatshirt and jeans. We drive to Aldi while eating bagels and drinking coffee. We do a big grocery shop every two weeks with a small run in between. Today all we need is milk, cereal, Perfect bars, broth, avocados, and apples. L. pays because I bought the last small grocery run. Next onto Menards so L. can pick up a few things for his side hustle. By the end of next year, it will bring in about $18,000, which will go towards buying a house and a wedding.
3 p.m. — Nothing is more important to me than getting my life organized on a Sunday afternoon — it's my church. I clean the kitchen, finish off the oven, and fold a mountain of laundry (everyone talks about the health benefits of working out but no one talks about how many sports bras and leggings you need to wash and fold every week). I repot a plant, pack my food and gym bag for tomorrow, and light all my candles.
8 p.m. — I'm so excited to zonk out tonight. I plug in my humidifier, lather myself in CBD lotion (my hip has been bothering me since I ran a half marathon a few weeks ago), and I dive into bed. I find one of the dogs chewed their bones in the bed, something they are not allowed to do. Disgusting. I swap out the dirty sheets with the scratchy extra ones, put the guilty dog in a time out and finally fall asleep.
Daily Total: $14
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