A Week In Massachusetts On A $40,000 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.
Today: a copywriter working in advertising who makes $40,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on an açaí bowl at a vegan café.
Occupation: Copywriter
Industry: Advertising
Age: 24
Location: Massachusetts
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck (Weekly): $604.53
Freelance Income: ~$12,000
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0. (I recently moved back home.)
Student Loan Payment: $500. (A family member graciously gave me a personal loan for school so that I wouldn't have to pay interest.)
Netflix: $0. (I'm a mooch.)
Hulu: $6
Mutual Funds Savings: $400
High-Yield Savings Account: $100
Savings: I usually transfer ~$1,000/month from my checking account and spread it among my two savings accounts and loan debt. (My employer doesn't offer a retirement program until you've been at the company for a full year, so the savings money will be going towards my Roth and traditional IRAs for the next few months.)
Additional Expenses
Roth IRA: ~$3,000/year
Amazon Prime: $49/year

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Think about stopping for coffee on my drive to work, but after this past weekend, my wallet is feeling a little barren. I booked plane tickets for one trip and an Airbnb stay for another, so I'm a little strapped for cash. Instead, I brew a mug of pour-over coffee and take another cup of cold brew to go for when I get to work. I silently curse myself for forgetting to grab a cheese stick for breakfast (weird, I know). Instead, I eat a spoonful of peanut butter when I get to the office an hour later.
1 p.m. — Resist joining in on the office lunch order and eat my sad (but free!) PB&J at my desk. I also have Greek yogurt, an apple, and more peanut butter. I keep a variety of snacks at my desk since I like to graze. Chocolate covered almonds are a current favorite.
3 p.m. — Hit a slump at work and grab a Diet Coke from the office fridge. Then I spend waaaaay too much money on a shirt I see online and feel I MUST own, immediately. I don't feel too guilty since it was just my birthday and I returned a $400 pair of shoes yesterday. I also just sent a client an invoice for freelance work I did last month, so I'll get a check for $600 in three weeks or so. $292
5:30 p.m. — Leave work and head to the supermarket. I live with my parents, so grocery shopping is kind of a gray area. I always pay for items if I'm the only person eating them, but there are always basics that my parents buy like OJ, eggs, milk, dry goods in our kitchen that I use, too. I'm planning to make Buddha bowls for lunch for the rest of the week, so I buy sweet potatoes, kale, chickpeas, tahini, onions, avocado, and cucumber, as well as ingredients for chia pudding – a breakfast meal prep first for me. I'm planning to make it with almond milk, almond butter, and fresh berries on top. I have everything at home already except the chia seeds, so I buy those and bananas to share with the fam. I also pick up buffalo sauce, rosemary, and Italian sausage per my mom's request, and a bag of pretzels because I think I'm out. $46.77
9 p.m. — Finish meal prepping somewhat successfully, and then go for a quick bike ride. It's been unusually warm for the past week, but it's still a little frigid riding around! I haven't joined a gym since moving back home about six months ago, so I try to go for jogs or bike rides when the temperature allows. I think I'll research yoga and spin studios that I can start going to on my way home from work.
Daily Total: $338.77

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — I snooze my alarm three too many times and eventually get up. I started using a silk pillowcase recently, which seems to have eliminated my frizzy hair. (I usually shower at night so I can straighten my air-dried hair in the morning.) This is great because I'm running late today. Instead of turning the flat iron on, I run a brush through my hair, do half my skincare routine (currently loving Sunday Riley Good Genes and StriVectin neck cream), and get dressed. There's leftover coffee in the pot that my mom made earlier this morning. I take a mugful to reheat at work.
8:15 a.m. — I can't wait until I get to work to start caffeinating, so I go to Dunkin' to get a medium iced coffee. I recently learned that both of my parents are pre-diabetic and have been hyper-vigilant about added sugar lately. Instead of my preferred caramel swirl flavor, I order a French vanilla iced coffee (which is sugar-free!) with almond milk. $2.73
12 p.m. — I eat my Buddha bowl but am still hungry, probably because I forgot to bring the chia pudding. I tack on a small order to a coworker's lunch run: three Thai pork and veggie dumplings. I give him $5 in cash and enjoy my second course. $5
5:15 p.m. — This is a really bad day, money-wise. I have a hair appointment right after work, and since I know it's going to last at least two hours, I need a snack so I don't get hangry. I go to Wendy's for my favorite fast food snack from my vegetarian years: a sour cream and chive baked potato and a Diet Coke. $3.21
8 p.m. — Hair is done and it looks pretty good! I've been searching for a new stylist and colorist and found this salon on Groupon. I got a cut, partial foil, and blow dry for $60! I bought it a few weeks ago, so I just tip $25 ... and then I'm talked into buying a pre-blow dry hair product. With my first-time customer 15% discount, it comes to around $14. I book an appointment for 10 weeks from now. Being blonde is expensive! $39
8:30 p.m. — My gas tank is just under half full, so I stop and fill up before I go home. My dad schooled me on the importance of keeping a full tank whenever it's below freezing. Plus, it hurts my credit card a little less to buy half a tank at a time. I use a new Discover card for this purchase that gives me 5% cash back on gas for the first three months. $21.77
Daily Total: $71.71

Day Three

7 a.m. — Same routine as yesterday, but less rushed. I grab the chia pudding and bring an extra-large cup of cold brew with almond milk for my commute, along with my Buddha bowl, a yogurt, and a few clementines. I try to bring my lunch every day because I want to save as much money as possible while I'm living at home.
1 p.m. — Add my order to a coworker's coffee run. It's been a stressful morning, and since I already have money in my Venmo balance, it doesn't feel like I'm spending anything. Now that's a dangerous game. $2.75
6 p.m. — I have a dinner date with a guy I recently started dating. The restaurant has a weeknight special, so our meals come with a bottle of wine. We get a lamb appetizer and order different steaks for our entrées. It's super delicious and I let my date pay. He makes about three times as much money as I do, so I usually pay for our outings one-third of the time.
8 p.m. — I'm not one for weeknight drinking, but we wander to a bar across the street and get a round of beers. It's $12 and I leave a $3 tip. I have to drive home, so I take a few sips of mine, make a mental note to order it again next time since it's delicious, and slide it over to my date. We hang at the bar for another hour, and then I go home. $15
Daily Total: $17.75

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — More snoozing. Going out during the week messes up my whole sleep schedule, even though I was home by midnight last night. There's leftover coffee in the pot downstairs (thank you, Mom!), so I pour a mugful to reheat at work. I grab my food for the day and a canned La Colombe latte I find in the back of the fridge.
2 p.m. — Ah, the daily afternoon slump. I take a mental break from work and scroll through Pinterest and Zara's website. I start to panic because I can't find the jeans I love (mine are starting to look worn out), so I order three pairs that look similar. I hope I can find a substitute. $119.97
6 p.m. — Get home from work and go for a bike ride before dinner. (Is it just me, or does anyone else have to immediately change into athleisure clothing the second they walk in the door at the end of the day?) My mom makes soup with chicken, lentils, and vegetables, so I eat a big bowl with a piece of pita bread. She's the best.
8 p.m. — Set up in front of the TV and crank out some freelance work. I owe an editor a handful of articles and can't send an invoice until I turn them in. Luckily, they're pretty fun to write, and I can't complain about getting work done while watching Seinfeld reruns. I originally started freelancing when I was in between full-time jobs two years ago, and love that it still gives me a creative outlet. In between sentences, I browse Amazon and restock on vitamins. I'm all about prevention, so I take fish oil, collagen, vitamin D, lutein, carotenoid antioxidants, and a multivitamin every day. I have a Prime membership, so I get free two-day shipping. $42.98
Daily Total: $162.95

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — Friday! Unfortunately, the day isn't off to a great start – I can't get my laptop to turn on. I've had this MacBook for over six years and I do all my freelance work on it. It also holds thousands and thousands of photos, so I start to panic. My dad (who is retired) offers to take it to a local tech guy to get a diagnosis. It's always something: Last time this happened, it cost me $300 and a promise to regularly back up my hard drive. Luckily, I can deduct these kinds of expenses when I do my taxes in a few months.
9:15 a.m. — I was too distracted making phone calls on the drive to work this morning (yay, doctor's appointments!) to eat my breakfast in the car, so I eat my chia pudding at my desk with extra peanut butter on top. While I'm eating, I distract myself from my laptop situation by shopping online for a birthday gift for one of my best friends. I pick out a pair of earrings from Nordstrom, add gift wrap, and have them sent directly to her. I'll mail her a birthday card closer to the actual day since Nordstrom shipping is so unpredictable. $29.54
1 p.m. — I cast my last Buddha bowl aside and join the office sushi order. I'm getting bored of buffalo chickpeas and need something new! $12
6 p.m. — Second date night this week! Off to dinner and a movie – Phantom Thread, which was my pick. I think he's just being a good sport. We go to a fast-casual burger place, where I get a black-bean veggie burger and we get truffle fries to share, plus two beers. (My date pays.) While we're eating, I buy the movie tickets on my phone in case there's a line. When did movies get so expensive?! At the theater, he buys popcorn for us to share. $29.50
10 p.m. — I have a ridiculous sweet tooth, plus I want to stay out late so I don't feel like a grandma (like I do every weekend). We go to the ice cream place next to the theater and share a hot fudge sundae. He pays and I leave a few dollars in the tip jar. $2
Daily Total: $73.04

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — Nothing better than waking up without an alarm. I wander downstairs, pour myself a cup of my mom's coffee, and chat with my parents. I'm picking up one of my high-school friends for brunch later this morning, so I hop in the shower and get ready. One of the best parts of living in my hometown again is getting to spend time with old friends.
11 a.m. — We go to a vegan café for brunch, where I get a delicious açaí bowl and a turmeric latte. Yum! The total is around $16, and I tip 15%. $19.88
2 p.m. — After I drop off my friend, I pop over to T.J. Maxx. There is absolutely nothing I need here, but I love browsing the home stuff and clearance clothing racks. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls also have weirdly good beauty and skincare products. I buy charcoal toothpaste, two brightening face masks, and a bottle of nail polish. The total comes to $13.96, but I have $8 in store credit and pay the rest in cash. $5.96
3 p.m. — A friend who lives nearby has a birthday coming up, so I pop into a nearby liquor store to see if anything catches my eye. I buy a bottle of sparkling wine that I've heard good things about and is on sale. While I'm driving home, my dad calls me to say that the tech guy thinks he'll be able to recover everything on my hard drive and can double the memory space for less than $200. Not a fun expense, but definitely cheaper than a new computer! $15.99
4 p.m. — Get home and find a check has arrived for another freelance project I did. Yay! I mobile deposit the $250 into my checking account.
4:30 p.m. — I do an arm workout in the basement and then go for a walk with my mom to get fresh air and exercise. Then I meet friends for margaritas; mine is pomegranate and delicious. I always get hungry when I drink, so I convince everyone to get guacamole and nachos. We split the bill four ways, and I leave $25 including tip. $25
Daily Total: $66.83

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Wake up very happy that I only had one margarita last night. I go for a short jog and do an arm workout when I get home. After I shower, my mom asks if I want to go to the grocery store with her.
11 a.m. — I decide to do salads again for lunch this week but to mix it up a little, I buy a good-sized piece of steak, blue cheese crumbles, a bunch of rainbow carrots, chopped pecans, and a carton of baby kale. I'll broil the steak and stretch it across five salads for lunch this week. I also buy a pint of Ben & Jerry's frozen yogurt, a bag of granola, Greek yogurt, pears, an avocado, hummus, and pita bread. I pay with my Amex so that I can get 2% cash back. I love how cheap groceries are in the suburbs. $41.55
12:30 p.m. — Stop at my favorite local coffee shop for an iced mocha. I buy one for my mom, too. $7
1:30 p.m. — After I put my groceries away and get the steak marinating (in balsamic vinegar, garlic, and ginger), I eat my last Buddha bowl with a piece of pita bread. My dad offers to grill it since it's nice out and he's grilling burgers for dinner, anyway. How can I say no?
4 p.m. — The Sunday Scaries are setting in, so after knocking out more freelance work, I treat myself to a face mask I heard about from another Money Diarist. I'm $5 away from free shipping at Sephora, so I add a pack of makeup sponges. I cash in on free samples, too! $51
Daily Total: $99.55
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