A Week In Boston, MA, On $18/Hour

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 patient care technician who makes $18 per hour. This week, she spends some of her paycheck on a set of wooden baby blocks.
Occupation: Patient Care Technician
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 24
Location: Boston, MA
Income: $18/hour
Paycheck (2x/month): ~$1,300. (Depends on differentials and overtime. Also, my insurance and transportation pass are taken out of my paycheck.)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,175. (I share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. It's tiny but in an amazing location!)
Student Loan Payment: $178
Electric, Heat & A/C: ~$30
Cable & Internet: $44.55
Netflix: $10. (My sister uses my account.)
Hulu: $0. (I use my sister's account.)
Gym: $55, after work discount

Day One

5:40 a.m. — Wake up and make breakfast: coffee, oatmeal, and a handful of mixed berries. Get ready for work. I usually walk 25 minutes to the hospital where I work, although today I take advantage of the 50% public transportation discount my employer offers.
2:15 p.m. — I finally sit down for my 3o-minute lunch break. I eat the salad I brought from home (spinach, kale, salmon, avocado, tomato, and cucumbers — my cheaper version of Sweetgreen's OMG Omega salad). I also remember to contribute $20 toward a coworker's baby shower gift – the whole floor is going in on a stroller for her. $20
7:45 p.m. — Heading home from work! I have no motivation to cook dinner when I get home, so I order a sabich sandwich to pick up on my walk. I get home, shower, and eat dinner. It's Friday night and some of my friends are trying to convince me to go out. I decline and invite my boyfriend over instead. (He only lives a few streets over.) He brings beers, I make popcorn, and we watch TV for a few hours. We call it a night around midnight. $8.91
Daily Total: $28.91

Day Two

9 a.m. — My boyfriend was up and out early to get to a CrossFit workout. That's not my jam, but I do make myself a smoothie (kale, banana, frozen mango, and water) and leave for the gym 10 minutes away for a workout (30 minutes on the bike and a 30-minute full body circuit). On my way back I stop by the weekly produce market in my neighborhood. It's all “old” stuff from various grocery stores, but it's super cheap. I buy three bell peppers, two avocados, a handful of green beans, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. I would easily pay triple that at the grocery store, especially for the berries. They sometimes go bad quickly, but I typically freeze the excess to use in smoothies. I also pick up a coffee on my way home. $14.62
12:45 p.m. — My friends pick me up and we go for a lunch of fish tacos and tequila. Afterward, we go shopping. I've been looking for a gift for my mom's birthday to go along with a scrapbook I made for her with photos of the traveling we've done together. I can't find anything, so I settle on treating her to lunch when she visits tomorrow. $31.06
6 p.m. — I'm babysitting tonight — my fun version of a Saturday night! Living in Boston is expensive, I don't make a lot of money at my job, and I'm starting full-time grad school soon, so every penny counts! Plus this baby is an absolute cutie and the parents are great. I put the baby to bed and start a book – A Widow for One Year by John Irving. It was on sale for $7 at my local bookstore. The parents offer to give me $20 to order in food, but that feels a little too generous to me, so I snack on an RXBar I brought from home and peruse their fridge. I settle on veggies dipped in hummus. They get home around midnight and insist on calling me an Uber home. They Venmo me $100 for the night. I usually keep most of my babysitting money in Venmo and use it to pay my roommate for my half of the utility bills each month.
Daily Total: $45.68

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and consider going to the gym, but then decide to do a quick yoga video and core workout with my roommate in our living room, which takes serious furniture rearranging. Afterward, I take a shower and make a hearty breakfast: coffee, a sandwich with a fried egg, mashed avocado, cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, and a handful of berries.
12 p.m. — My mom and sister arrive! Yesterday was my mom's birthday, so we plan on taking her out to lunch. Before we leave, I put two trash bags' worth of old clothes in my mom's car for her to drop off at a donation bin. I couldn't find any place within walking distance of my apartment, so my mom is kindly doing it for me. My sister and I treat our mom to brunch at one of our favorite spots. Then we go shopping and take a nice long walk back to my mom's car, stopping for gelato at Eataly on the way! $56.12
6 p.m. — I get home and relax for a bit. I try to stay caught up with the news and this year for Christmas, my dad gifted me a yearlong subscription to The New York Times. I read the news for a bit until it's time to get ready to go out. It's Sunday but tomorrow is a holiday, so although I still have to work, I don't have to be there until 3. Most of my friends have the holiday off and we've planned a fun night tonight!
8:15 p.m. — I meet up with my boyfriend and he calls an Uber. We are meeting two of our friends at a big bowling alley and bar. I pay for my bowling shoes and two games ($21), and the boys cover apps and beers. After two competitive rounds of bowling, my friend and I split the cost of a pitcher of Moscow Mules that we share with everyone ($18.50). My boyfriend pays for an Uber back to his place, where I spend the night. $39.50
Daily Total: $95.62

Day Four

8:30 — Wake up. My boyfriend and I both want to work out but we belong to different gyms. We drop by my apartment so I can change and then we hit up a casual breakfast place for coffee and egg sandwiches. My BF offers to pay, but I insist on at least splitting the bill, so I pay $8.50. (He makes more money than I do, but I like to pay some of the time.) We then head off to our separate gyms. $8.50
11:30 a.m. — I get my workout in and take a quick shower at the gym before going to the Whole Foods around the corner. I tend to alternate between Whole Foods, Roche Bros. (near my work), and Trader Joe's (more out of the way, but they have a lot of stuff you can't get anywhere else, so I go every couple of weeks). Today I'm picking up stuff mainly for work lunches and easy dinners. I still have most of the produce from the market on Saturday so that helps keep the cost of this trip down. I get a spinach-kale mix, chicken breast, frozen blackened salmon, baba ganoush, cherry tomatoes, soy coffee creamer, frozen mango, bananas, fresh mozzarella, rolled oats, and chocolate covered pretzels ($54.76). I stop at CVS on the walk back to my apartment for toilet paper (I have a $2 off coupon) and also grab a half-off bag of M&Ms ($7.98). $62.74
3 p.m. — Get to work; I'll be working from 3 p.m. until 11 this evening. I work a rotating schedule, which means days, evenings, overnights, weekends, and holidays. I do two 12-hour shifts and two eight-hour shifts per week and regularly pick up overtime. Although it makes for a wacky schedule between the off-shift differentials and occasional overtime, I'm able to make more money than my base. Tonight is fairly busy but uneventful. I eat pesto chicken that I made earlier today with a tomato-mozzarella salad for dinner.
Daily Total: $71.24

Day Five

9 a.m. — I'm having a lazy morning in bed but I finally get up, make a smoothie (spinach, kale, banana, frozen mango, and water). I watch the news while I have my breakfast and then take a quick shower and get ready for work.
10:15 a.m. — Grab the lunch I made yesterday plus some snacks (bell pepper, baba ganoush, and chocolate covered pretzels) and begin my walk to work. One of my coworkers texts me and asks if I can grab her a cup of coffee on my way in. I gladly do so and get a latte for myself – triple shot, as I suspect today will be a long day. I tell my friend I'll treat her to the coffee but she ends up Venmo-ing me, plus a little extra. Completely unnecessary, but I appreciate the gesture. $3.82
5:30 p.m. — Finally sit down to eat lunch. It's another busy day at work – lots of sick little babies with respiratory infections and the flu this time of year, in addition to all the other patients. Working with pediatric patients can be hard sometimes, but it's also so rewarding. I work as a nurse's aide, and although this wasn't the job I had in mind when I graduated college with a BS in molecular biology, it has been a great learning experience. I'm excited to take the next step in my career when I begin my master's program to become a physician assistant this summer.
Daily Total: $3.82

Day Six

10:15 a.m. — I have another lazy morning in bed before getting up. I make coffee and an egg-avocado sandwich, which I eat with berries while watching TV. I also put a frozen fillet of salmon into the fridge so I can cook it tonight. I have a boot camp class at my gym at noon. (Classes are included in my membership fee.) On my way, I stop at TJ Maxx and pick up candles and a cute pair of PJs for my nephew – it's his birthday in a few weeks. I have a gift card, so I don't pay anything.
1:30 p.m. — Got my butt kicked at boot camp! I take a quick shower in the locker room and then head to a nearby café. Although I've already been accepted into grad school, I have one prerequisite class I must finish before I begin. I paid for the class out of pocket ($1,325), but my employer will reimburse 75% of that once I'm finished with it. It's been hard to find the time and motivation to finish the course, but it has to get done. I buy a coffee and a cup of soup, leave the change, and settle in to do homework. $9
6 p.m. — Get home and cook the blackened salmon that I had put in the fridge to thaw earlier. I make quinoa and chop up tomatoes and cucumber to go along with it. After I eat I put the extra away for tomorrow.
8:30 p.m. — Meet up with my boyfriend at a local restaurant. I get a glass of wine and we share a charcuterie board. He also orders a burger, since he hasn't had dinner yet. BF picks up the bill. We then head back to my place for another glass of wine, TV, and bed.
Daily Total: $9

Day Seven

8:15 a.m. — Wake up. Today is another day off! I'll be working this weekend to make up for it though. I make myself a smoothie and a cup of coffee before heading off to the gym.
11 a.m. — Workout and shower are done, so now off to babysit my little baby friend. It's unseasonably warm out, so after he wakes up from his nap, we go to my one of my favorite lunch spots. I alternate between eating my eggplant sandwich and feeding the baby his lunch from home. Afterward, we walk around the park before meeting his mom at the house. She Venmos me $80. $9.13
3 p.m. — After babysitting, I stop at a different café to do homework. I buy a cup of herbal tea in exchange for free Wi-Fi and an environment conducive to studying. $2.60
6:45 p.m. — Get home, eat the salmon and quinoa leftovers and am happy to see that I have enough left over for lunch at work tomorrow! I get out of work tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., so I'll have time to do more meal prep then. While I eat, I look online for a birthday gift for my nephew and I order a really beautiful set of wooden blocks. I love my nephew so much and being an aunt is so much fun! The blocks are pretty expensive, but they are a classic. He has lots of toys, so I try to focus on quality over quantity when giving him gifts. I use my dad's Amazon Prime to save on shipping. $43
Daily Total: $54.73
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