A Week In Atlanta, GA, On A Joint $135,000 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.
Want even more Money Diaries, plus $$$ advice from a kick-ass, all-female team of financial advisors, and tips on how to save more than $500? Pick up our new book: Money Diaries: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Your Finances... and Everyone Else's. It's out now — order here!
Today: an assistant professor working in academia who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on apples and honey.
Advertisement
Occupation: Assistant Professor
Industry: Academia
Age: 34
Location: Atlanta, GA
My Salary: $55,000
My Partner's Salary: $80,000
My Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,900
My Partner's Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,900
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,600 (includes property taxes and homeowner's insurance)
Student Loan Payment: $250
Health Insurance: $250
Life Insurance: $38
Joint Credit Cards: $300
Electric: $200
Natural Gas: $75
Water: $50
Combined Vehicle Insurance: $130
Internet: $75
Phones: $112
Pest Control: $35
Subscriptions: $95 (Netflix, Hulu, PBS, monthly dog food order from Amazon, and two monthly charitable donations)
Retirement: ~$1,000 deducted automatically, plus usually an extra $500
Savings: $1,000
Campus Parking: $12
(Ed. note: The OP's partner uses "they"/"them" pronouns.)

Day One

10 a.m. — We wake up a bit late because it's Labor Day, and we both have the day off. I put in my contacts and apply moisturizer and La Mer eye cream while my partner, D., lounges in bed. We don't believe in patronizing nonessential businesses on Labor Day, so we skip the traditional brunch outing we do every time we both have a weekday off. We drink homemade cold brew coffee and eat toast while I put three pounds of chicken in the slow cooker.
11 a.m. — Today D. and I are going to sketch out plans for our chuppah (our wedding is in three weeks!), and I'm going to finally finish drawing our ketubah. But first, I talk to D. about planning a little pre-wedding getaway. In the next few weeks, we have the High Holidays followed immediately by the wedding, with no honeymoon until next summer, so it's going to be extremely hectic. So I'm thinking we can see if our friend's cabin up by the lake is free next weekend for some R&R. She lets friends rent it at half the rate she charges for Airbnb, and it would be nice to spend a few days not even thinking about the wedding. We take a look at our savings and 401(k) and decide a little splurge is definitely in the budget. The cabin is available, so I Venmo my friend $300 for two nights. $300
Advertisement
2 p.m. — Lunchtime. The chuppah design is basically done — all we need to do now is gather the wood and assemble it. We're having a joint mountain pre-wedding party in a couple weeks and one of the group activities will be gathering wood and building the chuppah. I eat a protein bar for lunch.
6 p.m. — I've been working on drawing the ketubah design for hours, and I'm finally making something I'm happy with. We've opted for a simple black and white design, but getting it right is tough! I polish it up and put it in a large envelope. Later this week I'll take it to work and leave it with my colleague who does calligraphy as a side gig. She'll put the lettering in since neither D. nor I can read or write Hebrew. I head to the kitchen and shred the slow cooker chicken. The chicken will become four meals: tacos tonight, curry tomorrow, empanadas the day after, and finally matzo ball soup once Rosh Hashanah is over.
7:30 p.m. — D. cleans up after the tacos while I lift weights. Afterwards, I take the dog for a walk. He's very old, so I let him set the pace. Today he only wants to go around the block once, which is fine with me because I'm suddenly not feeling so great. When we get back, I take a hot bath and read in bed before falling asleep around 9:30.
Daily Total: $300

Day Two

Advertisement
7 a.m. — I wake up and immediately feel like I'm going to die. I take my temperature and see that it's 100.5 degrees. I send my department chair and the admin an email letting them know I won't be in today, and I send my students an email telling them we'll combine today's lecture with Thursday's class, since there's a ton of overlap anyways. I go back to sleep.
1 p.m. — I wake up feeling extremely groggy. I'm desperate to get something constructive done today, so I buy a plane ticket I need for an upcoming conference. It's annoyingly expensive, but my department will eventually reimburse me. I try to work on a lesson plan, but I'm way too loopy, so I opt instead to restructure my schedule for the next few weeks. I keep every appointment and task in my planner, and between the wedding, the High Holidays, and now me being sick, there's a huge amount of work that's getting pushed around. Teaching and grading have to happen at set times no matter what, but grants, articles, and revisions have a lot more flexibility. D. is working from home today in case I need anything, and at this point they come in, take the planner away, and make me eat a granola bar. I read for awhile because I don't want to sleep all day and then be up all night. ($309 expensed)
7 p.m. — Despite my best efforts, I wind up sleeping all afternoon. I wake up feeling better and decide to make dinner. D. tries to persuade me to let them do it or order in, but I can't stand lying down much longer. I whip up quick chicken curry, and we eat it while catching up on Bojack Horseman.
9 p.m. — I realize that my brother still has my shofar, and I won't be able to get it back in time for Rosh Hashanah, so I order a bare-bones model on Amazon while in the tub. I also spend this time texting about the unwelcome return of Colton to The Bachelor, and about Bob Woodward's new book. I fall asleep almost as soon as I get in bed. $15
Daily Total: $15

Day Three

9 a.m. — I wake up and realize that yesterday's recovery may have been a mirage. I really, really don't want to call out sick two days in a row, but I also really don't want to spread contagion or put myself or others at risk driving while feeling ill. I spend half an hour reading advice columns and taking a Korean lesson on my language app while deciding what to do. D. wants to work from home again, but I insist that it isn't necessary, so they head out.
9:30 a.m. — Time to face the music. I call out for the second day in a row, which is pretty distressing for me. It's not like there's someone else in my pretty narrow specialty who can just come in and handle my classes. I totter out onto the porch with the dog. We both eat our breakfast there — cold brew and a banana for me, boiled chicken and rice for the pupper. I go back to sleep afterwards.
12 p.m. — I wake up feeling better, but still sick. I set up an online Dropbox for the assignment my students were supposed to do in class today. They are probably happy that it's now open-note by default. I also get a very nice email from my department chair wishing me a speedy recovery and giving me the welcome news that our individual conference and research funding this year is way higher than normal. I was accepted to a conference in Europe this year but wasn't sure if I could do it, and now I can! I celebrate by pulling out a silk sari I got for a friend's wedding in India last year. She and I have been meaning to turn all of the bridal party saris into sundresses, but I keep putting it off. I text my friend some patterns that might be good and then I take a little catnap.
3 p.m. — I wake up and realize that I'm feeling 100% better. I lie there for a bit just to be sure, then I get up, eat another banana, put on baby blue cigarette pants and a gray midriff shirt and a little light makeup. I head out to drop off a box of consignment trade-ins at the UPS store. I only shop secondhand — aside from socks, swimsuits, and undergarments, I haven't bought new clothes or shoes in over a decade. On the way there, I stop and fill up my car. $26
4:30 p.m. — I get home and work on a lesson plan. I realize that I have way more info than I thought I did, so it gets done pretty quickly.
6:30 p.m. — D. gets home. We chat for a bit, and I take the dog for a short walk while they straighten up the house. When I get back, I make a half dozen chicken empanadas, which I pair with a big mixed greens salad. We eat and talk about a media request I got last week for an interview about some ongoing events in the region I study. Coincidentally, they are a client at D.'s company, so D. gives me some insight into their practices and reputation.
8 p.m. — We plan out the weekend at the cabin. We're hoping to get some hiking and kayaking in, but it might rain, so we decide to bring along board games. Afterwards, I take a bath and read a book about Sonic Youth in the tub. Still not over Kim and Thurston splitting up.
10 p.m. — Usually D. goes to bed way later than I do, but today they join me when I'm ready for bed. We cuddle and play with the dog before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $26

Day Four

7 a.m. — I get up. I am not at all a morning person, so I try to maximize my sleep time. I put on my La Mer and moisturizer, get dressed, and put on light makeup. I coax my hair into lying flat for once, let the dog out, and feed him. Then I drink an iced coffee and eat a banana.
7:30 a.m. — Off to work. My commute is very long, but it's not especially arduous. I listen to Biggie the whole way because I'm on a huge '90s kick. I make it to campus early enough to actually snag a parking spot near my office!
9 a.m. — I drop in the office to water my plant, check my email, and go over my lecture notes. Then I chat with a few colleagues and drop off the ketubah with my calligrapher friend.
9:30 a.m. — First class! They ask if I'm doing better, and I recap how we're going to handle the missed lecture. Today's class goes well enough. Morning classes are such a mixed bag. Sometimes it's a self-selected group of go-getters who are really fired up, other times it's a room full of tired people who aren't sufficiently caffeinated yet. This class tends towards the latter, but they're pretty on point today.
11 a.m. — I make it back to my office. This is supposed to be an open office time, but it's very early in the semester so no one comes in. I get about half the papers from yesterday graded and eat chicken salad from home for lunch.
2 p.m. — Second class. This one is my favorite — they're really on top of the readings and they ask all kinds of great questions. I feel a little more confident about the missed lecture not hurting their understanding of the material.
3:30 p.m. — I head home and hit traffic. Since I'm trapped in the car for nearly two hours, I listen to three episodes of one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class.
5 p.m. — I get home, let the dog out, and eat a fiber bar. I start some laundry while catching up on my emails and making a packing list for the cabin. It's also time to start thinking about what I want to serve for Rosh Hashanah next week! I'm having eight people over, so I have to plan ahead.
6:30 p.m. — D. gets home and we divvy up the evening/pre-trip chores. D. is going to make dinner, walk the dog, and straighten up the house while I finalize the packing list and head to the grocery store. I leave the house and fill up the car on the way ($23). My car gets average mileage but the tank is ludicrously small, so I'm constantly filling it. I got it when I had a 15-minute commute, and it's no longer a great fit for me, but it's paid off so I'm reluctant to buy a new car. $23
7 p.m. — I arrive at the grocery store. I usually have a weekly grocery budget of $150 (kosher is expensive!) but cabin supplies, Rosh Hashanah dinner stuff, and wine for a Rosh eve party at my friend's are going to hurt me. I get a capon, pomegranates, apples, honey, carrots, sweet potatoes, three bottles of wine, salmon, bagels, frozen pizza, dog food, dog treats, French bread, stuff for a cheese board, sausage, eggs, a cake, beer, chips, dip, firewood, cookies, croissants, chicken breasts, avocado, brussels sprouts, whitefish, dill, romaine, granola bars, coffee, and refills on a few toiletries. The total comes out to $238. I cringe. $238
8 p.m. — I get home, and we unload the groceries and eat barbecued tofu and steamed veggies while watching the final cut of a documentary I was in last year. They sent me the footage as a preview last week, and I'm just now getting around to watching it. I look like a tool, but my info is on point.
9:30 p.m. — My friend texts to invite us to a bar down the street. I'm kind of fading so I tell her to come by the house for a free drink instead. The three of us have two rounds of scotch and water and talk about our upcoming wedding and her new job. She's a hairstylist and brings me a sample of a hair cream for frizzy hair. Score!
11 p.m. — Friend heads home, and we start packing. The dog sees the bags and gets upset, so we stop and play with him.
12 a.m. — I take a shower and go to bed. D. stays up to finish packing.
Daily Total: $261

Day Five

10 a.m. — I get up, put in my contacts, do my skincare, and drink an iced coffee. D. plays with the dog while I get dressed and make a list of last-minute tasks. The dog has his checkup today, so I volunteer to take him while D. finishes the packing and cleans the house. This might not seem like a fair division of labor, but the dog is a huge drama queen.
11:15 a.m. — The dog and I arrive at the vet. He is very unhappy, and I feel bad for him, but not bad enough to let him avoid the entire thing! He's due for blood work, shots, and new heartworm meds, so the total comes out to $195. He's in his teens and is starting to exhibit coordination and eye focus issues, so the vet recommends starting him on anti-seizure medication. $195
12:30 p.m. — I get back, and we spend time soothing the dog. D. loads up the car while I do a last-minute scan of the house to make sure we put everything away and aren't forgetting anything that needs to come with us. We pile into the car and the dog gets strapped into his weird little dog seat belt. I grab a box of granola bars and a bottle of water for the road.
3 p.m. — We arrive at the cabin. I love this place so much — it's gorgeous, with to-die-for lake and mountain views, and it comes with a big fireplace, kayaks, and a hot tub. We unpack and hop into the hot tub while the dog suns himself.
5 p.m. — We're getting hungry, so D. throws salmon on the grill. We drink beer while watching the lake and have a long, meandering conversation about our cultural identities, upbringings, and plans for the future. We feel very close to each other right now.
9 p.m. — We curl up in front of the fireplace with the dog and enjoy whiskey. We decide to go to bed early tonight.
Daily Total: $195

Day Six

9 a.m. — We wake up and drink coffee on the deck while the dog plays out front. I brought some croissants, and we eat them with lingonberry preserves. We have a lazy few hours around the cabin, just enjoying the scenery and the relaxing vibe.
12:30 p.m. — We grab the kayaks from the garage and paddle around the lake for about an hour until it starts raining. I hate being out in the rain, so we retreat back to the cabin, get back in the hot tub to warm up, and spend time playing board games. I make us a frozen cheese pizza and we eat it with beer.
4 p.m. — The weather clears up beautifully, so we decide to go on a hike. We drive about 30 minutes to a state park with a two-mile trail loop that passes by a waterfall. We take it very easy, since we have the dog with us. He loves hiking but he's not quite as hearty as he used to be, so we take water breaks often and I carry him over the steeper inclines. When we get to the waterfall, D. takes out our extra-large hammock and slings it between two trees next to the base of the falls. The three of us relax for awhile, and the dog falls asleep.
7 p.m. — It's starting to get dark, so we pack up the hammock and hike back to the car. We get back to the cabin around 8, and I set up a cheese board with fruit and wine. We eat on the deck and then get back into the hot tub. Obviously, I really love hot tubbing.
11 p.m. — We go to sleep. I think my favorite thing about this cabin is the lack of wifi or cell service. It's a purely unplugged experience that lets you really, really relax. There's a landline with numbers for emergency maintenance, ambulances, and an e-vet, and that's all we really need.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — We wake up and spend an hour or so in bed reading, chatting, and just generally lounging. Originally we were going to stay until around 4 and then get home and immediately go to our friend's Rosh Hashanah eve dinner, but we talk about it and decide we'd rather have some more cushion time than that. D. generously tells me to spend farewell time with the hot tub while they get started on packing.
12 p.m. — We lock up the cabin and head for home. On the way out, we stop for gas. $20
3 p.m. — We realize that we forgot to eat breakfast, so we pick up some Arby's on the way and eat it in the car ($16). We get home and unpack. As soon as we get inside, I take the capon out of the freezer and set it out to thaw. We're going to have it tomorrow night with our guests, and I want to brine it overnight. $16
5:30 p.m. — We get ready to head to our friend's place. This is a fairly formal event, so we make sure we're squeaky clean and dressed to the nines. I put on my very rare full face of makeup. On the way out the door, I grab two bottles of wine and the cake I bought before we went to the cabin.
7 p.m. — We arrive at our friend's just in time to blow the shofars. We have a brief 20-minute service of sorts and then it's time to dig in. They have a beautiful rack of lamb and very non-traditional Rosh Hashanah sides, which is great news as far as I'm concerned. A lot of Rosh dishes are very sweet, and I don't especially care for them. They serve us vodka martinis, and we admire the challah. It's the first one their daughter has ever made all by herself, and it's beautiful. We chat over wine about my upcoming book and the even-more-upcoming wedding. I would usually feel stressed about both of these, but nothing bothers me post-cabin.
11 p.m. — We get home and I start making a brine for the capon. It's a secret recipe that involves vermouth, and it is the best brine in the world. I put the submerged capon in the fridge and write up a cooking schedule for tomorrow. We have a very small kitchen, so I need to be pretty organized if I'm making more than a couple dishes in a single day.
11:45 p.m. — I get in the tub and soak for half an hour or so. I've got a busy day ahead of me, so I towel-dry my hair and get into bed as soon as I'm done.
Daily Total: $36
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
Have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following theme:
Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!
We want to know: If you didn't have student loans, what would you spend that money on? Would you invest it, throw it in a vacation fund, buy that bag you've been eyeing, or save it for a rainy day? Let us know here for a chance to be featured on the site.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

More from Work & Money

Watch

R29 Original Series