A Week In Columbus, OH, On A $48,659 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, as part of Your Spending In Your State: an academic program manager who makes $48,659 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on brain food and snacks.
Occupation: Academic Program Manager
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 30
Location: Columbus, OH
Salary: $48,659
Paycheck (Once Per Month): $2,861 after taxes, retirement, and benefits
Monthly Expenses
Housing: My S.O. and I rent a two-bedroom apartment for $1,095/month. I currently pay the living expenses for myself and my S.O. for a variety of reasons. Don't worry for my financial security; it's a risk you take when you live with someone and I'm happy I'm in a position to keep us stable.
Student Loans: $237.59 for my grad school loans. My parents covered my undergraduate education.
Car Lease: $177.17
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All Other Monthly Expenses
Benefits: $111.90 (out of my paycheck) for health, dental, vision, and FSA
Water: ~$34
Gas: level payments of $43/month
Electric: level payments of $35/month
Hulu: $7.99
Internet: $39.99
Sling TV: $19.99
Netflix: $0. I use my mom's account
Cell Phone: $0 — covered by work
Car & Rental Insurance: $173
Savings: $120, just to have liquid cash
Credit Card Debt: Whatever cash is left in my checking at the end of the month goes toward paying off my credit card balance. That's usually about $200/month.
Retirement Contribution: $405.50 out of my paycheck. (I'm required to put in 10%; the school puts in an additional 12%.)

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up a few minutes later than normal, step out of bed and realize something is wrong. My calf feels like it's about to seize up into a Charlie horse and I brace for it, but the pain continues with every step I take. I put it to the back of my mind and make myself an egg, turkey sausage, and flatbread sandwich. Said flatbread gets stuck in the toaster and I try to free it for minutes without electrocuting myself. There are crumbs EVERYWHERE. I drink leftover coffee from the fridge, pretending it's cold brew.
9 a.m. — I walk to and from campus every day. It saves me almost $1,000/year in parking fees and allows me to get steps in. I've lived in two cities on the East Coast and I missed walking. When I moved back to Ohio, I made sure to live close enough to work to walk. Like many Midwestern cities and towns, you can drive and park almost anywhere so you need to make it a priority to walk.
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1:07 p.m. — I'm late! Because I'm working alone today, I got engrossed in my work and forget to leave on time to meet my best friend for lunch. I walk to the restaurant but it's permanently closed! She picks me up and we go to another location nearby. I get a CYO poke-style bowl with brown rice, kale, tuna, avocado, carrots, cucumber, pineapple, sesame seed, green onion, spicy mayo, and sweet soy sauce. It's huge but we both inhale our bowls. It's nice seeing her midday and she drops me back at my office. $12
3:30 p.m. — My friends are having a white elephant gift exchange next weekend and I'm slowly compiling my gift: a DIY Moscow mule set. I already have the ginger beer and mixers, but my copper mugs arrive too. Another delivery man stops by, and he has the Ancestry DNA kit I ordered for my S.O.'s birthday. It's not until March, but the sale at Christmas was too good to pass up, so I'll stash it away until it's time. He knows little about the ethnic makeup of half of his family and has mentioned wanting to find out. I think it'll be a great 30th birthday present.
6 p.m. — After I walk home from work, I drop my stuff off, grab my grocery bags, and walk to Kroger. My S.O. has finals this week and requested good old fashioned brain food. I pick up avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, brussels sprouts, a stir fry veggie kit, wheat bread, ground beef, breakfast sausage, whole wheat egg noodles, beef broth, sour cream, two Amy's bowls for my lunches, a box of brownie mix, and Reese's Pieces. $45.33
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7:50 p.m. — I immediately launch into cooking mode. I make one-pot beef stroganoff with spinach, mix the brownies and bake them, and prep a sausage, egg, and cheese tater tot casserole for my S.O. to eat in the mornings before finals. Growing up, my mom always made hot breakfast during standardized testing weeks, and I feel morally obligated to treat him to the same (even if I'm not home). We eat stroganoff together and watch an episode of Parks and Rec.
10:30 p.m. — I clean up the kitchen, ice the brownies and cover them with Reese's, shower, and climb into bed to read a book from the library. (It's kind of depressing and I look forward to finishing it tomorrow.) I say goodnight to my S.O. and leave him to his studies.
Daily Total: $57.33

Day Two

7 a.m. — I'm tossing and turning from 7 a.m. onward. My nose has been permanently plugged for months on just one side as I sleep. I wish I knew how to make it stop because I obsess over the feeling and lose precious ZZZs over it. I finally get up and my calf is still screaming at me, so I reluctantly cancel my barre class. I got an unlimited month as a Black Friday special and hate to waste it. I make avocado toast with TJ's Everything but the Bagel seasoning and drink more leftover cold coffee.
9 a.m. — Everyone is back to work today. I get to work and catch up on a few things. I also see that visa procedures for Brazil are changing starting January 25. This is amazing! One visa can cost up to $300 with fees, and this would cost a mere $40 — a huge savings for students, faculty and staff traveling there. I inform my colleagues and they are similarly thrilled. (Nothing like new immigration rules to rile us up.)
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1 p.m. — We go out to one of my favorite breakfast/brunch spots for a coworker's birthday. I order a pumpkin pancake, a side of bacon, and a fountain Diet Dr. Pepper. They accidentally give me a whole order of pancakes so my colleagues happily help finish everything. My indulgent lunch means I only eat a sliver of Reese's Pieces brownies upon my return to the office, but my colleagues dig in to the birthday treat. $11.38
4 p.m. — Aww. One of my closest friends from grad school sent me an email with a life update. She lives in Germany, and although English is her second language, her emails are always pure poetry. I'm so happy to see her doing well and I make a mental note to write her back later.
4:30 p.m. — On the work side of things, my boss pulls me into his office and tells me that I probably need to go to China for an academic program in a few months. It'll be my third time there, and each time I go with a different set of students. I wish I could give other colleagues a chance to go, but alas, this falls under my purview. I'm already starting to get excited; it's a great professional development opportunity and I get to work with students.
5:30 p.m. — After walking home, I roast brussels sprouts and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. I find my heating pad, warm it up, and then put my calf on it while I eat a bowl of veggies and finish my book from last night. It's a rather realistic portrayal of divorce, which is probably why I don't love it — too depressing.
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6:30 p.m. — A friend from my D.C. days sends me a text out of the blue and it's amazing to hear from her. I tell her that I'm about to run an errand and that if she'd like, I can call her while I do so. She actually agrees (I didn't want to ruin her free time if she just wanted to relax with wine), and so I quickly grab my coat and get in my freezing cold car. We chat as I drive to Old Navy, and while I intended to go into the store still talking to her, I stay in the warm car with my seat warmers. We make tentative arrangements for me to visit or for her to come to Ohio in the spring.
7:15 p.m. — It's the last day to use Old Navy cash rewards, so I decide to get my work wife a set of cactus thermal pajamas. Hopefully, she'll love her set as much as I love mine. $17.72
7:30 p.m. — I head to the pharmacy next to pick up my ring. There's no charge and I'm in an out within five minutes. I head out to pick up my S.O. from school; they finished class a bit early and it is freezing outside.
8:15 p.m. — We grab leftover beef stroganoff and spinach from the fridge and eat on the couch while watching more Parks and Rec.
9:30 p.m. — I've relaxed too long and need to shower. When I get in, I remember that I have a podiatry appointment tomorrow and I feel incredibly vain even saying this, but these toes of mine need help. I quickly shave my legs, making sure not to miss the spots on my ankles (and feet and toes). I tell myself they'll appreciate the effort, even if my polish is all sorts of chipped.
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10:30 p.m. — My S.O. and I read in bed together until I turn out the light. He's hungry again, so he leaves me in peace while I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $29.10

Day Three

8:15 a.m. — I get to sleep in even more today. I have more avocado toast and cold coffee for breakfast, and I unload the dishwasher and wash up the knives and pans in the sink. While doing my makeup, I watch a few YouTube videos and finally get dressed in something warm.
9:35 a.m. — My car is finally warmed through after my 20-minute drive to the doctor, but at least I got to listen to indie holiday radio the whole way there. I don't have to wait long to go back, and one of the residents comes in quickly. Why are all the podiatrists here so good looking? I broke my toe back in July and as of October, it was still broken. I've been avoiding any strenuous workouts and waiting for it to heal, but it's still painful sometimes. We do another X-ray and see that while it has healed (yay!), there's scar tissue that may just be forcing my joint off track. My only fear was making it worse, so now that I know it's healed, I'm free to go back to my cardio classes and work through the pain, which should lessen over time. I'll have a co-pay and a fee for the X-ray, but probably won't see it until next year and I'll use my FSA to cover it.
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11:15 a.m. — I clipped Arby's coupons last week knowing that my doctor's office was nearby. I get a sandwich via the drive-through and head home. $2.82
12:30 p.m. — I get home, eat my sandwich, warm up my S.O.'s brussels sprouts for him and green beans for myself. It's nice to see him midday but I walk back to work and grab my work wife broccoli cheddar soup in the student cafeteria on the way. We don't keep track of who buys what because we spend way too much time together and that would be obnoxious. $4
1:15 p.m. — Another Christmas package arrived! I wanted to get my S.O. something small but useful for Christmas. His Chucks are destroyed; there are holes everywhere and I know he'd like to replace them but can't justify the funds. After I checked his size, I bought a new pair on-sale during Cyber Monday. I'll put them in a box with the NASA socks I always get him. (He's the best kind of nerd.)
4 p.m. — I've been working on a guidance document and in doing my research, I came across the word "updation." Working with other countries and cultures, you realize that the English language can be adapted in unique ways. I'm pretty sure this is a combination of the words "update" and "validation," but Google tells me it may simply mean "updating," though it's not a recognized word in the Oxford dictionary. I need to keep a running list of words like this.
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5:30 p.m. — A few coworkers and I meet up for wine and whine after work. I use the brisk, 30-minute walk to call my mom and enjoy a blonde coffee ale with my friends. It's a small group, and it's interesting to hear about their jobs; even though we're in the same department, we all have vastly different roles. We munch on free popcorn and my happy hour beer is $3 before I tip. $4
7:45 p.m. — I take a warm shower as soon as I get home before warming up even more beef stroganoff and eating an apple with peanut butter. My boyfriend joins me in the living room and we get sucked into four episodes of Parks and Rec. I'm watching it for the first time and I need to get ready for bed and dry my hair, but my S.O. is loving the time together and convinces me to stay on the couch with him. He says he loves how much the show makes me laugh, which makes me mushy.
10 p.m. — I roughly dry my hair and I look like a lion. I usually style it at night too, but I don't tonight and my S.O. delights in the fluffy nature of my hair. I work on a samurai Sudoku in bed before turning out my light for the night.
Daily Total: $10.82

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — I switch it up this morning and have HOT coffee with my avocado toast. I text with my best friend about a weird dream I had last night (about her ex) and then watch a few YouTube videos (7-Eleven came out with a make-up line?) while doing my makeup and flat ironing my hair.
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9 a.m. — I knew it was going to be cold today, so I went for my fluffiest down coat, a scarf, and a hat. As soon as I step outside, I see that it's the first snow of the season; my eyes water the whole way to work from the cold. I should probably switch to waterproof mascara from here on out.
11:10 a.m. — I can't wait any longer and heat up my lunch of cheddar, noodles, and broccoli — basic but tasty on a cold day. My coworker tries to give me $5 for lunch yesterday, but I waive it off knowing she's providing my dinner tomorrow night.
11:30 a.m. — Occasionally, I check the Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds to see if there's any money for me. I find nothing, but a quick search of my S.O.'s name reveals an amount greater than $100. When I confirm that it is indeed him, he laughs because it's linked to a job he had at 19 years old. Hopefully, it'll be an easy process because that amount will be helpful for him (and really, it would be for anyone at the holidays). I go through some of my other friends and family, but no else comes up in my searches.
3:30 p.m. — Another package arrives and it's for me! Ulta had crazy Cyber Monday sales and I picked up a NYX brow pencil and setting spray, Eucerin face cream (my face is so dry in this weather), The Body Shop's Ethiopian honey mask (did I mention I'm feeling dry?), Wet n Wild setting powder, and Essence brow gel, mascara, and eyelid primer for under $45.
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5 p.m. — I've been uncharacteristically tired all day and I bum a ride home early. I check my temperature when I get back: It's 95.7, but it quickly goes up to normal. I stir fry kale, carrots, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and sugar snap peas with chicken and brown rice, hoping the nutritious food will make me feel better before I'm supposed to take a barre class. There's a fee to cancel, so I'm going no matter what.
7:20 p.m. — I survived barre! In fact, I felt better there than I did all day. That being said, it was a tad too easy at times, which means I was probably doing it all wrong.
8 p.m. — I can feel a migraine coming on and it's making me nauseated. I eat a few bites of food in case it's just my blood sugar, take a quick shower, and take my migraine prescription. My boyfriend kindly made up the guest bed (which is my old bed, and I miss how squishy it is sometimes) because he knows I'm feeling pretty yuck. He sets it up so we can watch Parks and Rec on his computer from the bed (it's also his office), and I wrap an ice pack around my temple. After two episodes, I'm still feeling awful and decide to close my eyes and hope I'm better in the morning.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I'm feeling so much better and I managed to sleep a full nine hours! We're out of bread, so I eat a bowl of Kashi, make coffee, put dishes in the washer, and do my makeup while watching YouTube. I love my new eyebrow pencil and powder, and I decide to get truly crazy and put on a garnet eyeshadow today. I stop at the grocery store on my way into work because I have half an avocado I need to eat, and I can toast it at the office. I also pick up a lemon seltzer because I usually forget to drink water at all unless it's fizzy. I charge both to a Visa gift card we got for signing our apartment lease.
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10 a.m. — Guess who forgot her computer at home? It's been two years since I've done this, and thankfully, I have a lovely S.O. who is still at home today because it's finals week. He kindly brings it in while I eat avocado toast and check email on my phone.
10:30 a.m. — We have a department-wide meeting concerning hiring and it's a bit illuminating. It also makes me a bit frustrated: I've studied to become an administrator and I worry that people like me will never get jobs that are filled by older academics — they'll be in an administrative role but I will have had all the experience. I have an Ed.M., and I lament the fact I'll probably have to get a doctorate of some sort, though I refuse to get a Ph.D.
12:40 p.m. — Hunger strikes again. This time, I brought a new yellow curry with jackfruit, red pepper, and eggplant from Trader Joe's. I've never had jackfruit, and although the texture is cool, this whole dish tastes like pure curry sauce. I love curry but I'll stick to the vegetable panang curry next time.
4:15 p.m. — I get out a bit early today after doing a task I've been avoiding for weeks. I feel so much lighter!
6 p.m. — I drive to my coworker's house where we're throwing a craft night, which we do about twice per year. This time, I thought we should make cookie jars that we can give to friends and family for Christmas presents. I brought 24 wide-mouth mason jars and everyone else brought various ingredients for the M&M cookies. We create a little assembly line, eat pizza and buffalo dip, and drink mulled wine.
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10:45 p.m. — I get home to an empty apartment, as my S.O. went to see The Disaster Artist with a friend. I'm really tired and quickly pass out, fully expecting to be woken in an hour when the movie is over. However, I'm well and truly out (according to my Fitbit the next morning), and I sleep soundly.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — I wake up and eat a bowl of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest and drink a big glass of water before going to barre. I run into a colleague and we catch up quickly before I head into a very busy class. Today's feels much harder but I like the instructor. My calf isn't hurting me at all, which is great.
11:20 a.m. — I go to CVS, hoping to find Yes To Coconuts micellar water, but they don't have that particular variation. I give up and see that a new Big Lots opened across the street. Big Lots is a weird guilty pleasure for me; they always have such a bizarre mix of things, but it's infinitely more organized than T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. I go in and come out with an Auntie Anne's pretzel making kit, Hostess hot cocoa and marshmallow mini-donuts, and two ICE sparkling waters for the S.O. $8.45
1 p.m. — It's officially snowing outside! I get home, eat avocado toast, and decide to do a bit of cleaning. My S.O. usually does most of it but as I mentioned before, he's in finals right now and I'd feel kind of lazy not doing my share. We realize that our dishwasher has officially broken, and after I put in a request to have it fixed, we do the dishes together. I then sweep and mop the floors, clean the oven and stove top, vacuum the living room rug, and use the extensions to clean AC vents and corners that collect dust and cobwebs, as well as do two loads of laundry. Perhaps most disgusting of all, I cut out all my hair from the vacuum bristles. Blech!
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6 p.m. — After showering, I make dinner: Thai shrimp fried rice combined with cauliflower fried rice to get extra veggies in. It's one of our favorite meals and thankfully takes one pan to make. My S.O. continues studying while I start a new book from the library. Eventually, I convince him to watch a movie with me. I generally dislike movies but he loves them and hasn't seen one of my guilty pleasures, Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightly version). We get too tired at the end and have to pause it before going to bed.
Daily Total: $8.45

Day Seven

9 a.m. — My S.O. is up before I am, and I ask if he wants to join me and two friends from high school for breakfast. He agrees to come along and we bundle up for the short walk to the restaurant. I'm not thrilled will our breakfast joint choice but the others like it. I get eggs, sausage, and a cinnamon-chip pancake that is so painfully sweet I can only eat a third of it. Everyone but me is in school so we spend a lot of time talking about various projects (in three very different fields); the conversation is interesting as always. We all pay separately and walk home on the icy sidewalks. $12.38
11:30 a.m. — We both feel like garbage. My teeth ache from the sweetness of breakfast and I'm desperate for salt, so I eat more avocado toast. I settle onto the couch and read my book while my S.O. takes a nap.
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3 p.m. — Usually, I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, but I'd like to get us something for dinner tonight and I won't have much time tomorrow after work. I enlist my S.O. to come with me, as I won't be able to carry all the groceries home myself. I get groceries for the week and also pick up ingredients for the three dinner parties we have next weekend — garlic, apples, mushrooms, avocados, jalapeños, green chilies, burgers, chicken thighs, chorizo, eggs, cream, whole milk, chocolate milk, a shed load of white American cheese for dip, buns, tortilla chips, broccoli cheddar soup, two frozen meals for work, orzo, chicken broth, flour Oreo pudding mix, cool whip, chocolate cake mix, Oreos, EVOO, green beans, club soda, potato salad, and AA batteries. $88.81
5 p.m. — We're hungry early and make Monterey Jack and bacon cheeseburgers on whole wheat buns with steamed broccoli. (S.O. also has potato salad, but I don't do mayo like that.) We finish watching Pride and Prejudice and I paint my toes a deep purple-gray; S.O. thinks they look black.
9:30 p.m. — My S.O. has a bad headache and lies down early. I take a shower, get out my clothes for work tomorrow, and read more of my book. I eventually join him in bed and together we look at the "aww" sub-Reddit. It's the best medicine for sleep and makes us smile.
Daily Total: $101.19
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.
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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.
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