A Week In Knoxville, TN, On A $54,000 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.
We're going on book tour for our new book, Money Diaries: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Your Finances... and Everyone Else's. Next stop: Chicago on Wednesday, October 24. More details here!
Calling all entrepreneurs: We want to hear from you! If you’re a freelancer or self-employed, we’d love to feature your Money Diary. Submit here.
Today: a data analyst working in utility who makes $54,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Occupation: Data Analyst
Industry: Utility
Age: 26
Location: Knoxville, TN
Salary: $54,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,580
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000 ($950 + $50 for a parking space)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents helped with undergrad so I only had $6,500 in loans, which I paid off shortly after graduating.)
401(k): 6%, or about $115 per paycheck. My employer matches 3%.
Utilities: $50 (I use a levelized bill payment plan that takes the estimated cost of utilities for my apartment for a year and averages it, so my utility bill is the same every month.)
Savings: $1,000
Car Payment: $242
Car/Renters Insurance: $108
Spotify: $10
Sling/Netflix: $36
Health Insurance: $100
Internet: $50
Cell Phone: $60 (I pay my mom one-quarter of the cost of our family plan.)
Gym: $29 (I have a fitness plan through my insurance company, which gets me a membership to the YMCA, Planet Fitness, and a couple of private gyms for $29 a month, flat.)

Day One

6:40 a.m. — It's a hair wash day, so I need to get out of bed. It takes me about 40 minutes to shower, get dressed, and feed my cat. I bike to work in five minutes.
7:30 a.m. — I keep granola and milk at my office, and we have free coffee, so I have granola and coffee every morning in the office. I like not having to worry too much about what I'm eating each day.
9:30 a.m. — I bring two pieces of fruit into the office every day and have one at 9:30 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. Today I have a banana for my first snack, plus a second cup of coffee.
12 p.m. — I live within walking distance of my office, and while I usually bike, I like to walk over to my apartment during my lunch break to check on my cat, do laundry and dishes, and water my plants. Today I unload the dishwasher and fold some laundry that's been sitting in the dryer. I drink a SlimFast shake every day for lunch so I can spend my actual break taking care of chores and errands.
2 p.m. — I have an apple for my afternoon snack.
4:10 p.m. — I leave a few minutes later than usual, which is fine by me since the parking lot isn't as crowded. When I get home, I tweeze my eyebrows, wash my face, and brush my teeth. (I have a full night ahead, and don't want to feel guilty if I'm too tired when I get home to brush them.) I've been brushing with baking soda and rinsing with hydrogen peroxide at night to whiten my teeth, and I think it's helping. I also water my plants and give my cat dinner.
5:20 p.m. — I am running a little behind for my spin class at the gym. I've never been before and don't want to be late.
5:35 p.m. — I'm late. And the class is already in full swing. I hop on a bike and try to keep up, but this is...intense.
6:15 p.m. — We do a little end stretch and I haul ass out of there. The class was great and I'll definitely go back, but now I'm biking to a nearby bar and I hope my thighs don't give out on the way.
6:27 p.m. — I make it! Every Monday at 6:30 p.m. I meet with a group of local feminists to discuss ways to act against harmful legislation and to generally empower people in our community. I order a veggie dog and a PBR at the bar and meet the rest of the group outside. $12.29
6:30 p.m. — The meeting is great! A new member is passionate about having a documentary screening on our local campus and brings people from a couple of campus organizations to help facilitate. My high school friend brings a new friend too — she is my biggest advocate and is always recommending people to our group. And two people bring their dogs, which always helps lighten the mood. We make concrete plans for the film screening and take care of some other business, like our bimonthly book club and an upcoming voter turnout event we're hoping to put on at a local bowling alley. The meeting is productive, and we have a good turnout of new folks who seem to enjoy getting to know each other.
8:36 p.m. — The meeting doesn't last as long as I expected, so I'm home early. I create the Facebook event for my feminist group's book club in November, and schedule the post to run tomorrow in the hope that more people will see it then. I'm sore, so I take a bath while texting my friend about her dating life.
11 p.m. — My studio apartment is arranged in such a way where I can watch TV from my bed, so my cat and I fall asleep watching Food Network, which is a typical occurrence.
Daily Total: $12.29

Day Two

6:50 a.m. — I dry shampoo this morning and save myself a little time getting ready. Then it's a quick and cool bike to work!
7:30 a.m. — I am a woman of routine — I have granola and coffee, and then a banana for a snack.
11:30 a.m. — I don't have any pressing chores today, so I spend my lunch break writing an email to campus organizations who may want to partner with my feminist group on the documentary screening. I don't want to send the email until I have confirmation that we have reserved a space to show the film, so I save it in my drafts.
4:05 p.m. — I head home and work on the trivia event my feminist group is hosting one week from tomorrow. Several members of the group wrote questions, so now I need to consolidate, edit, and write the script for our host. I get laundry started and boil pasta as I write.
4:45 p.m. — Rotini with tuna and olive oil for dinner! A random concoction that turns out better than expected. I somewhat spontaneously bought a flavored tuna pack for something cheap to eat on the go, and this one is “Thai Chili Style” flavored. I'll be getting more of these.
5:15 p.m. — I head to my local Planned Parenthood for Tuesday Volunteer Night. It doesn't start until 5:30 and I am only five minutes away, but I need to return a table I borrowed for a health conference last weekend and don't want to interrupt people by hauling it in.
5:25 p.m. — The Planned Parenthood organizer puts me on postcard duty. They provide Oreos, cupcakes, chips, and salsa, and I indulge in all of them. I also bring three PBRs I had left from a six-pack, and they're gone by the end of the night.
7:15 p.m. — I write about 25 postcards to Knoxville voters encouraging them to vote for two state candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. The handwritten postcards are more attention-grabbing than generic flyers and will hopefully encourage more people to vote. Another volunteer helps me out and we're done earlier than I expected, which means I have time to run to Target and the grocery store.
7:35 p.m. — At Target I pick up toothpaste, deodorant, dry shampoo, shower cleaner, and toilet cleaner, and treat myself to a charcoal sheet mask. My skin has been oily and could use it. $30.04
8 p.m. — At the grocery store I get more tuna packs, a box of rice and beans, canned diced tomatoes, an avocado, a tomato, granola, and a 12-pack of SlimFast. Men try to start conversations with me in, both the Target and grocery store parking lot, I don't engage and text a male friend about it, who is mortified but not surprised. $28.23
8:16 p.m. — Home for the night! I put away groceries, wash my face, brush my teeth, and then do my sheet mask. I hang up my laundry to dry and scroll through social media until going to sleep at about 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $58.27

Day Three

6:50 a.m. — I'm ambitious about waking up, and set alarms as early as 5:55 a.m., but sleep until 6:50. I shower, dry my hair, get dressed, pack up my banana and apple, and leave the apartment at 7:25, which gets me into work about five minutes late. Could be worse.
7:35 a.m. — I check emails, message my coworker, and get a query started before I get my granola and coffee.
12 p.m. — I walk home, check my mail, and fold laundry from last night. My cat is upset because she thinks I'm home to feed her. Just a few more hours!
4:15 p.m. — I break free! I have just enough time to feed the cat and answer text messages.
5:12 p.m. — I recently tweeted about needing new pants since gaining some weight, so my friend offers to take me to the thrift store. I try on seven pairs of pants with no luck. I do find a big comfy sweater that will be good for cooler weather, though. $8.99
6:30 p.m. — When we finish shopping, we get a couple of tacos at my friend's favorite Mexican place by her house and catch up. $4.35
7:56 p.m. — A different friend is trying to break up with her boyfriend. She's so anxious she leaves work early and we meet at a Mexican restaurant near her house. We talk over margaritas and quesadillas for a little over an hour. $14.90
9:22 p.m. — I get home, wash my face, brush my teeth, and pass out in bed. The margarita made me sleepy.
Daily Total: $28.24

Day Four

6 a.m. — I shouldn't wash my hair today, but I feel greasy after yesterday and we smoked outside of the restaurant last night. I have a bagel with tomato at home for breakfast.
7:05 a.m. — I have therapy at 4 this afternoon, so I get in early to leave a little early. It's raining, so I drive and save a couple of minutes on my commute time. As soon as I get in the office, I drink some water I left chilling in the fridge overnight.
8:14 a.m. — After I get out of a 7:30 meeting, I type up notes to pass onto my coworkers and follow up with other coworkers on items we need resolved. Then I have my first coffee of the day as I wait for a report to run.
11:30 a.m. — I head to my apartment to make dinner for tonight and clean up a bit. I also order some pants from Target that I already own and like in a larger size, since I didn't have any luck shopping yesterday. I pick up Persepolis, the graphic novel I'm reading, on my way out in case I end up waiting for my therapy session to start. $21.95
2:30 p.m. — I think knowing I'm leaving early is causing the day to drag on, because I cannot wait for 3:30 p.m. I have another banana because I'm out of apples.
3:30 p.m. — This is my first therapy session in about a year and a half, and I'm nervous and excited. My old therapist was not very body-positive, and she didn't validate my bisexuality. Finding a therapist this time was harder: everyone kept suggesting the same therapist who “specialized” in LGBTQ+ issues. I called and emailed her to try and schedule an appointment and never heard back, so my friend told me to just schedule a session on her client site, and here we are!
3:45 p.m. — I'm mad at myself for driving when I know I'll have to pay to park, but then I find a metered spot with enough time paid on it to last my whole session!
5 p.m. — It's just an intake session, so it's basically a highlight reel of everything wrong in my life, and I leave crying. When I leave, there's no one in the reception area, so I'm not sure if they'll invoice me later or if this first session is free. I like the therapist a lot and want to see her weekly, but her schedule is really tight, so we schedule an appointment for the week after next and she gives me a small assignment.
6 p.m. — Back at home, I eat the pasta I prepped during lunch, answer text messages, and watch YouTube videos on my phone to try and distract myself from the session I just had. Thursday is my cleaning night, so I put on music and get busy.
8 p.m. — I cleaned the cat's dishes and litter, wiped down all surfaces, dusted, cleaned glass surfaces, scrubbed the bathroom sink and toilet, shook out all the rugs, swept, Swiffered, and mopped the floors. The only thing left is the bathtub, which I'll do Saturday or Sunday morning. I start putting together the scorecards and answer sheets for trivia next week while watching Adam Ruins Everything. It feels so nice out that I can turn off the A/C and open my window.
9:53 p.m. — I tweeze and do a face mask. I used to get my eyebrows threaded once every six weeks, but I find that if I tweeze two to three times a week I can maintain the shape I like. I'm in bed super early.
Daily Total: $21.95

Day Five

6 a.m. — I wake up early and have time to eat a bagel with tomato again.
7:22 a.m. — I make it in early to work! It's Friday, so I'd love to leave a little early. I have an avocado to split between morning and afternoon. I am probably a little under dressed for the temperature drop, but I'd rather be cold than hot.
9 a.m. — I get confirmation that the space to screen the documentary is reserved for us. I send out the email for partner organizations that has been sitting in my drafts. This isn't as much time as I had hoped to give them, but at least we have the space!
11:20 a.m. — I'm meeting my friend at my apartment to give them back t-shirts I had for sale at the conference last weekend. I haven't heard from them, so I unload the dishwasher, say hi to the cat, and take out the trash. We were supposed to meet at 11:30, but I still haven't heard from them, so by 11:45 I head back to the office. It is a beautiful day for a walk.
2 p.m. — I see that tickets for a local chorus' winter concert are for sale on Facebook. Two of my friends just joined the chorus, so I go ahead and buy two tickets before they sell out. $60.65
4:15 p.m. — I don't make it out of work early. I go home, feed the cat, change into comfy clothes and take the box of t-shirts to my friend's house. Every Friday night my parents and I make pizza and watch a movie. This Friday, my parents are too tired to make pizzas, so I pick a couple up on my way. $31.78
9:30 p.m. — We watch Chappaquiddick and we are all furious at how little Ted Kennedy was reprimanded for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. When I get home I text a friend for a bit about her night and then get to bed.
Daily Total: $92.43

Day Six

7 a.m. — I wake up, cuddle the cat before feeding her, make pancakes (it's the weekend!), and run over to meet my friend. We're going to a state park for a 10 a.m. yoga lesson and plan on hiking after.
9:30 a.m. — I look at the Facebook event and see yoga is actually at 9 a.m. We decide to go on the hike anyway since the weather is so beautiful. We stop at Starbucks on the way — she has $3.65 left on a Starbucks card and I pay the $7.21 remainder plus $1 tip to finish our order. $8.21
11 a.m. — The hike is beautiful! We realize how close we are to the outlet mall and decide to head there since I still need pants. I get one sweater and two pairs of pants that I really like. I'm relieved to have pants for work this week. $98.74
1:35 p.m. — We're hungry from the hiking and shopping, so we stop at Subway before going back to Knoxville. My friend spies some coupons for a $3.49 six-inch. I get a six-inch veggie sub plus chips and a drink. $7.21
4:05 p.m. — I'm home but need groceries for the week and decide to go to the store now so I don't have to worry about it tomorrow. I get apples, bananas, wine, cheese, bagels, BBQ tofu, a tomato, and cream cheese. I also get $60 cash back for a changing table I am buying from Facebook Marketplace to use as storage. $33.16
5:30 p.m. — My dad is nice enough to meet me to pick up the changing table in his truck at a gas station about 30 minutes away. My tank is about one-third full, so I go ahead and get gas while we wait on the people to show up. $17.34
6 p.m. — The changing table works great! My dad helps me carry it up three flights of stairs to my apartment. I was previously storing my things in milk crates, so this looks much better. $60
9:30 p.m. — I move my items from the milk crates to the changing table, read over a statement my friend sent me that they are presenting next week, hang up some Halloween decorations, and settle in to watch Nathan for You before bed. I also Venmo my friend $20 since she drove to the state park and the outlets. $20
Daily Total: $244.66

Day Seven

8:32 a.m. — The cat wakes me up — I slept in pretty late! We cuddle and then I get up to make her food and myself coffee.
11:30 a.m. — I spend the morning watching Food Network while eating pancakes (I made too much batter yesterday morning and saved the rest) and drinking coffee. I finally clean the bathtub, take a quick shower, light a bunch of candles, wash my makeup brushes, do dishes, and put some clothes that I outgrew on Poshmark in hopes of making some money on them. It's an overcast day, and I'm happy to spend it inside with the cat.
1:45 p.m. — I look for a movie to watch as I paint my nails. I decide on the Lady Gaga documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two. It's different than I expected, but a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
4:13 p.m. — My friend comes over to bake a cake for another friend who recently hit a milestone. I need eggs and frosting, so we go to Kroger. $2.53
6:25 p.m. — As we wait for the cake to cool, we watch House Hunters and eat leftover pizza that I have.
8:45 p.m. — Our friend loves the cake, but it's Sunday night and we're all tired, so I head home. I wash my face and settle in to watch The Walking Dead before bed. The show is so boring now, but I can't quit it!
Daily Total: $2.53
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! In particular, we're looking for diaries from Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Mississippi.
Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series