A Week In Austin, TX On A $35,000 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.
This week: an editor working in environmental consulting who makes $35,000 per year and spends it on macrame.
Photo: Getty Images.
Occupation: Editor
Industry: Environmental Consulting
Age: 30
Location: Austin, TX
Salary: $35,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,192 after taxes and deductions
Babysitting: Dog-sitting income: $50-$100/month, combined. I generally charge: $30/day for doggy daycare at my house, $50/day for overnight boarding at someone else's house, and $100/day for babysitting — less for evening gigs.
Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $600. I live in a two-bedroom house with my fiancé and a friend; our total rent is $1,800.
Monthly Loan Payments: $0. I paid off my student loans a couple of years ago. (I went to a state school, so they weren't that bad.)
All Other Monthly Expenses
Car Payment: $110
Utilities and Internet: ~$100
Cell Phone: $140. I'm still paying off a phone that I bought a year ago on top of my monthly payments.
Therapy: $80. I go to a low-cost, sliding-scale counseling center, where my sessions are $20 a week.
Gas: $20. I drive a hybrid car and typically only have to fill up once a month.
Savings: It varies. I had a pretty healthy savings account before I moved halfway across the country (and left behind a job that paid me twice the amount I'm making now). I'm working on replenishing it.
Health Insurance: $64, taken out of my paycheck.
New York Times subscription: $40. My fiancé lives for the NYT Sunday crossword puzzle, so I got him a subscription to the Sunday home delivery edition as a Christmas gift.

Day One

6:20 a.m. — I'm up a little earlier than usual today because I need to drive my fiancé to work by 7 a.m. He's a freelance audio engineer, and sometimes I have to drive him to work if the gig is too far to ride his bike to. (He has a motorcycle but it's currently out for repairs.) This gig is a three-day job out of town and I'll have the car to myself for the next few days. He makes us some coffee and I take mine in a travel mug.
7:30 a.m. — I'm back home and hungry; I avoid the strong temptation to pick myself up some breakfast tacos after dropping off my fiancé and I eat a bowl of cereal instead. I'm planning on doing some grocery shopping after work, so I try to make a mental note of what I need as I walk around the kitchen with my cereal. My fiancé and I adopted a kitten a few months ago, and the kitten got a taste of milk one time and now tries to shove his face into our cereal bowls every day, so this morning I am dealing with it by just keeping the bowl out of his tongue range.
10:30 a.m. — I've been working on a really boring word-processing project at work and I can't stop yawning. I'm trying to cut back on office coffee, so I guzzle a bunch of water and take a break to stretch instead.
12:30 p.m. — I have to pick up a couple of packages that were dropped off at a UPS holding station on the UT campus. I feed the street meter 50 cents. The pickup goes a lot smoother than I expected it would, and I have time to grab something to eat. There's a Chipotle right next door, and though I know it is a mortal sin to choose Chipotle over the surfeit of cheap, delicious Mexican food options available in Austin, I'm starving and I need to move quickly. I order a sofritas bowl, pay with the last bit of cash I have left over from a babysitting job a few days ago, and hustle back to my car. I pull into work with several minutes of break time to spare and chow down at my desk. $7.50
2 p.m. — The taste of Chipotle salsa lingers in my mouth. I find a piece of Dubble Bubble gum in my purse — I honestly do not know how it got there — and chew it for the five or so minutes the flavor lasts.
5:40 p.m. — I get home and eagerly rip open the two packages I picked up earlier. I had an intense babysitting gig last week, and used the money I made to treat myself to a couple pairs of new shoes. I'd been alternating between one pair of boots and one pair of clogs for the past six months, so I bought some comfy-looking flats and a pair of casual sneakers in anticipation of spring/summer. I'm disappointed to find that neither pair of shoes fits perfectly. I hate returning things, so I decide to sleep on it, try the shoes on again tomorrow, and then decide what to do.
6 p.m. — It's a cool evening and the sun's still up, so I decide to go for a run. I had started off the new year exercising pretty regularly, but fell off hard once I started my new job. A few minutes in, I start to feel some pain in my knees, so I take it easy and drop to a brisk walk every so often. Once it gets warmer, I think I'm going to get a membership to the Barton Springs Pool so I can switch to swimming instead of running and save my fragile knees.
7 p.m. — I walk to the grocery store a few blocks away. I buy pasta, chicken, asparagus, grape tomatoes, a bag of pre-cut cauliflower bits, broth, granola, yogurt, pineapple, eggs, and, because I'm ravenously hungry, a bag of popcorn that I can start eating on the walk back home. $33
8:30 p.m. — I finish cooking a huge batch of pasta with chicken, asparagus, tomatoes, and some garlic and parmesan cheese I already had at home. I have enough left over to last me at least three more meals, and as soon as I finish my dinner portion, I pack the rest up into smaller Tupperware containers so I can grab and go. “Meal prep” is a relatively new concept for me, having previously lived in a city where I had a much bigger food budget and the ability to have anything delivered at any time.
9 p.m. — I turn down my roommate's offer of a gin and tonic and crack open a mineral water instead. My plan for the night is to take a shower, apply a face mask, and catch up on the shitty CW teen dramas that I only watch when I'm alone.
Daily Total: $40.50

Day Two

7 a.m. — I let myself sleep 15 minutes late since I showered last night. I make coffee and eat yogurt with granola for breakfast, and pack leftover pasta, popcorn, pineapple, and chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds for lunch and snacking at work. This day is brought to you by the letter P, I guess. I have therapy right after work tonight and I like to make sure I eat a little something beforehand so I'm not hangry.
8 a.m. — I try on my new shoes again and decide to suck it up and exchange the sneakers for a smaller size. Back into the box they go. I'll wear the flats today. Breaking them in is the worst part, and I might as well get started on it.
10 a.m. — So tired. The switch to an 8:30 - 5:30 desk job hasn't been as easy for me as I'd hoped. I start snacking on chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds just to stay awake.
11:30 a.m. — I print out a return label and bring the shoes to a UPS shipping center for a free return. On the drive back to work, I see so many places that I want to buy lunch from, but I return to the office and heat up my leftovers like a good girl.
6 p.m. — After what feels like a very long day, I head to therapy. My therapist lets me know as our hour is wrapping up that she'll be leaving the counseling center in a few months, so I can start thinking about what I want my next move to be with therapy. I've been holding onto a psychiatrist's number that my friend gave me months ago, and now that I have health insurance, I think I might make an appointment with her. Seeing a psychiatrist and discussing possible medication options would be a huge step for me, but I've made so much progress in taking care of my mental health in the past year that I think it's a step I'm ready to take. My therapist nearly forgets to charge me as I'm on my way out, but I remind her, because I'm a nerd. $20
7:15 p.m. — I'm home and hungry. I still have so much pasta left, and a strong sense of duty not to waste it, so I heat some up for dinner. I'm feeling a little achy and I want to get a good night's sleep, so for dessert, I pull out a bag of gummy candies that some friends from California gave us for Christmas. (The special kind of gummies you can only get in a few states, if you catch my drift.) I eat one and settle in with some old episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race, and within an hour, I am feeling very chill.
Daily Total: $20

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I need to shower this morning, so I get up right away. I was too lazy for makeup yesterday, but I guess I'm inspired by RuPaul or something, because today, after drinking my coffee, I spend extra time crafting a bright blue eyeshadow lewk. I don't leave time for breakfast, though, so I throw a yogurt into my bag to eat once I get to work.
8:30 a.m. — Eating yogurt at my desk and looking at pictures of plants on Instagram. I really want to buy some new houseplants, but I'm going to wait until I complete a dog-sitting gig in a few weeks. I try to use dog and babysitting gigs to pay for "nonessential" purchases as often as possible.
11:45 a.m. — I signed up for a membership at a new gym across the street from my old job a couple months ago, then canceled my membership once I realized I definitely couldn't afford it after the special introductory offer period ended. I log in to my online banking account and see that I've been charged the full price, even though I canceled my membership last month. I call the studio and it takes them a minute to find the cancelation paperwork I filled out, but the person I speak to assures me that I should be able to get a refund. I'll just have to wait until the manager gets in. $99
12 p.m. — My boss asks me to pick up lunch for her, so I take her credit card to a nearby sandwich shop. I really want to buy something for myself, too. I'm so tired of eating this pasta.
12:30 p.m. — Someone from the gym calls me back. Unfortunately, because I canceled my membership mid-billing cycle, they charged me for this month and can't refund me. The person I speak to tells me that I'm welcome to use their facilities until the end of this billing cycle. Part of me is like, sure, might as well, but another part of me is like, it's a trap. Don't give in! I didn't like the vibe of the gym at all, either, so I've pretty much just thrown away $99. Financial lesson learned: Always read the fine print on any contract you sign, don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions about that fine print, and don't sign any contract just because person pitching it to you seems like a nice lady and you just want to make her happy.
2:30 p.m. — After a mostly slow week at work, I get slammed with four projects right after lunch. I cave on my pledge to cut back on office coffee and make myself a K-cup of hot, sugary chemicals to enjoy while I dive into a long report.
6 p.m. — I come home to my fiancé (he got a ride back to our house from a coworker) and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I have two cookies and a bit of bourbon, and we listen to a new record he got in the mail today.
8 p.m. — We're hungry but aren't really in the mood to go out. We get a couple of personal pizzas to go from a place nearby. It's a little hectic in the pizza place and I want to GTFO ASAP, so I pay for both pizzas and my fiancé thanks me. $18
9 p.m. — Our roommate invites us to go to a bar with him and a friend, but we're both pooped. I wash my face, the official signal that I'm in for the night, and my fiancé and I are in bed and asleep around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $117

Day Four

7 a.m. — My fiancé usually wakes up early on Saturdays to prepare for his slot co-hosting a show on the local radio station. I get up with him, feeling well-rested after turning in so early. We drink coffee, listen to music, and play with the cat until he leaves.
8:45 a.m. — My fiancé sends me a picture of a huge bucket of doughnuts that were dropped off at the radio station. I don't ask him to bring one home for me, but I'm gonna keep holding off on breakfast in the hope that he does.
9:30 a.m. — The radio station is doing their annual pledge drive and haven't had anyone call in with a donation yet today, so I call in and give $20 to get the ball rolling. $20
12 p.m. — Once my fiancé gets back home, we spend nearly an hour looking for a car key that the cat swatted off a table. After searching and cleaning almost every surface in the house, my fiancé moves the refrigerator and finds the key. Of course. I eat a handful of chocolate chips to celebrate (and make up for the doughnuts he didn't bring home).
2 p.m. — My fiancé and our roommate have been working on a project for the past hour or so while I read the news and scream softly into my hands, and we're all getting hungry. My fiancé asks me if I'd be down to pick up lunch if he pays for it. It's raining pretty hard, but a free lunch seems worth it, so I make a trip for soup and sandwiches. The bartender there asks me if I'd like to take a shot of whiskey with him, but I'm like, Dude, my car keys are in my hand right now!
3 p.m. — I hear from two friends offering potential plans for today, though at this point, with this weather, I feel inclined to stay wrapped in a blanket for as long as possible. One of my girlfriends wants to go to the mall to pick out an outfit for an upcoming event, and another acquaintance from New York tells me he's in town and going out with some of his rock climbing buddies tonight if I'd like to tag along. I don't know if I'd quite fit in with a gaggle of gay rock climbers, but it sounds like a good time.
4:30 p.m. — My friend tells me she's ready to go shopping, so I pick her up and head to the mall. Nothing at H&M really piques her interest, so I suggest we drive down a street with a lot of thrift and vintage stores and pop into a few to see if she can find anything. (This is also because I kind of want to go thrifting.) Unfortunately, she's just getting over an illness and starts to feel nauseous again, so I pull into a gas station. Their bathroom is closed, and she gets sick in the parking lot. I buy her a bottle of water before driving her home. $1
7 p.m. — My fiancé is making steak tacos for dinner and already bought the ingredients while I was out. I make myself a little cocktail with soda, gin, and St. Germain (the liquor store down the block had a great sale last weekend, so we stocked up) and help him prep.
8 p.m. — My fiancé has been complaining about his neck, which he hurt at work. I fashion him a makeshift heating pad by filling a thin sock with rice and a little bit of lavender oil.
8:45 p.m. — His neck is already feeling better and it's dinner time! Our roommate makes us mezcal cocktails as thanks for preparing dinner.
10 p.m. — The rain is torrential at this point, and I decide I'm really not in the mood to go out. My fiancé and I catch up on some TV and are in bed by midnight. (Sorry, rock climbers!)
Daily Total: $21

Day Five

8 a.m. — We wake up, grab the newspaper from outside, and spend some time reading and drinking coffee. I have a couple of chocolate chip cookies with my coffee.
9:30 a.m. — Our roommate needs to use up some of his veggies, so he makes breakfast tacos with eggs, broccolini, and mushrooms, and gives me one. I eat 3/4 of mine and give the rest to my fiancé. (The coffee and cookies are already doing some unholy alchemy in my stomach.)
11 a.m. — The rain stops! I have some indoor activities planned for the day, but I decide to make myself go running first.
11:20 a.m. — So much for that. My allergies are acting up, so I bring things back inside, where I can sneeze all over myself in the privacy of my own home.
1:30 p.m. — I remember that I have cauliflower bits in the refrigerator and tomatoes to finish, so I throw together some spicy fried cauliflower rice for lunch.
3 p.m. — I split a spliff with my fiancé and our roommate and work on some macrame. I run out of the hemp cord I started a wall hanging with, so I try to re-order some on Amazon, but it's an Add-On item, and I'm too high to deal with Amazon's shit right now. I just keep it in my cart and tell myself I'll come back to it tomorrow.
4:30 p.m. — Aaaaand it's nap time.
5:30 p.m. — My fiancé and I wake up and he immediately asks what's for dinner. He says he's craving Cuban food, so we drive to a little Cuban cafe tucked away in a shopping center and order sandwiches, congri, and guava pastries to bring home. He pays. He just got a raise at work and worked overtime last week, so he's being a little more treat-y than usual.
6:30 p.m. — After stuffing ourselves, we settle in to watch a movie. My fiancé has been trying to work his way through a list of the 1,000 Greatest Films of All Time, and tonight's selection is #266, Kurosawa's Throne of Blood.
9 p.m. — Despite our nap earlier, we are pooped. This is the first weekend in months that we both have off, so we might have chilled a little too hard. I try not to feel guilty about getting some rest. We have some trips coming up in the next few months that we need to save up for, so the hustle will resume soon. We give each other butt massages (#romance) and I play Text Twist on my laptop until 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7 a.m. — We're out of the milk that I usually put in my coffee, so I decide to wait until I get to the office to get caffeinated. I eat yogurt and granola and watch the cat chase down a bug that ran out of our closet. (Ah, springtime in Austin!)
8:30 a.m. — I have to pull double duty as the main receptionist this week at work, but the temp receptionist who was here last week left a bunch of Hershey's kisses on the front desk, which sweetens the deal.
1 p.m. — I head home for my lunch break. My fiancé went grocery shopping, so I make a sandwich. It's been an intense day at work so far and it's nice to come home for some kitten kisses.
4 p.m. — I remember that I have macrame supplies in my Amazon cart. I need to add a bunch of stuff to make the minimum, but then I end up going way over it. The Add-On Item racket strikes again! At least I won't have to buy any more supplies for a while, and this might encourage me to actually put more time into this hobby so that I can make stuff that's good enough to sell. $44
4:3o p.m. — After dropping that chunk of change, I'm feeling bad about not standing my ground against the gym that wouldn't refund me. I know I should have been firmer about needing a refund the last time I spoke to them, but I can be a total pushover about that sort of thing — after all, it was my mistake. It just would have been nice to spend that refund on an activity I actually want to do. I've been really anxious about my savings lately because I wrecked it with this move and it's going to take a long time to get it back to a comfortable place. Then I remember that I haven't done my taxes yet, and since I made $60,000 less in 2016 than I did in 2015 (ouch, I know), there's a chance I'll get a decent refund. Well, here's to making a bunch of huge, life-changing choices right before you turn 30!
6 p.m. — My fiancé made spicy pan-fried noodles with shrimp for dinner, and there's enough left over to take to work tomorrow! My re-sized sneakers came in the mail and they feel pretty good.
6:30 p.m. — I think I'm finally ready to start my taxes. I'm still missing a W-2 from a part-time serving job, which was the only document sent to my old address, even though I signed up for mail forwarding. I contact the company manager to make sure she has my new address in case the W-2 got sent back to her. I fill in the rest for now.
7:30 p.m. — Blergh, that's enough taxes for tonight. I still have more than a month before they're due, so this is technically not procrastination.
8:30 p.m. — My fiancé comes back from a meeting at the radio station with a bag of peanut butter and chocolate popcorn. I eat a little bit and we watch Old Joy, a movie that's been sitting around on his hard drive for months. I shower, do some reading, and go to sleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $44

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I make eggs and cheese on toast for breakfast — and coffee.
11:45 a.m. — Two coworkers who have never really spoken to me before invite me to go to lunch with them. I can't take my break until my supervisor gets out of a meeting she's in, plus I brought in those leftover noodles, so I decline their offer but thank them for thinking of me.
1:30 p.m. — I venture to HomeGoods on my break. I have $20 left on a gift card that my aunt gave me months ago, and although I don't love HomeGoods the store, I love home goods in general. I buy an ice cube tray, sea salt, and two sets of coasters, because I can't decide which ones I like better and we're having a dinner party later this week anyway. I pay the $2.25 difference with the last dollar and change I have in my wallet. $22.25
6 p.m. — It's my turn to choose what's for dinner ... and I choose not cooking! It's Taco Tuesday at the local fish market and my fiancé's motorcycle is up and running again, so we ride over there. I buy us four enormous fish tacos, two draught beers, and tip $4. $20
7 p.m. — My fiancé wants to get frozen yogurt for dessert, so we ride over to the fro-yo spot near our house. I'm a little chilly from being on the bike, so I splurge on some hot fudge, but he pays anyway.
8 p.m. — My fiancé plays the guitar for a bit while I do some writing. We're going to try to get another movie in tonight, but I have a feeling I won't be able to stay awake for the whole thing.
Daily Total: $42.25
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