A Week In Minneapolis, MN, On A $55,500 Salary

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Today: a high school counselor working in education who makes $55,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on SunChips.
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Edit note: We have made some edits to this diary to protect the identity of the diarist.
Occupation: High School Counselor
Industry: Education
Age: 26
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Salary: $55,500
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,517
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $712 (I share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate.)
Student Loan Payment: $250
Utilities: $30-$60, depending on how much we use our A/C units
YWCA Membership: $68
Donations: $30
Apple Music: $11
HSA: $65, with a $25 contribution from my employer
403(b): $277, which is 6% of my salary. My employer matches half up to 3%.
Roth IRA: $200
Savings: $400

Day One

9:15 a.m. — I wake up disoriented under deer antlers until I remember that I'm in the basement of a cabin that my friends and I rented. I had a crappy summer filled with health and work issues, so when my friend said she'd arrange a weekend trip up north with six of our friends, I jumped at the chance. Today is our last day, and the trip has been perfect. I hear my friends talking upstairs, so I get out of bed. I'm greeted with an egg scramble, and I'm reminded why I love them. We sit, chat, and watch the waves from Lake Superior crash against the shore.
11:30 a.m. — We have to leave the cabin by 2 p.m., so we clean up and divvy up what's left of the food. My friend in charge of groceries bought way too much food for the weekend, but hey, I'm happy to take home an onion, some hamburger buns, apples, tomatoes, oatmeal, chili, salad mix, and two leftover sandwiches. I figure I can make do with this for the week instead of grocery shopping.
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2:30 p.m. — On our way back, we stop to hike a small section of the Superior Hiking Trail. My friend wants to show us where she winter camped this year. Didn't know you could do that and survive. While you couldn't pay me to winter camp in Minnesota, the spot she stayed at is STUNNING. We hike up to an overlook where we can see Lake Superior from above, and I feel really lucky to be here with people I love.
7:10 p.m. — On the way back, we stop at McDonald's and Subway since my friends can't agree on which to get. I eat the leftover turkey, mayo, and cheese sandwich I took from the cabin. It's a little questionable after five hours sitting in a hot car, but I figure if worst comes to worst, at least I won't have to go into work tomorrow. I Venmo my friend for my share of the groceries while I wait for everyone to get food. $35
10:15 p.m. — We're home, and I Venmo my friend $25 for gas. As soon as he drives off, I'm feeling the Sunday blues HARD. This weekend was so relaxing, and work has been the exact opposite. This year is my fifth year in education, and a lot of my more experienced colleagues have been giving me advice to get out before I become too entrenched. That seemed a little dramatic in the past, but maybe they're right. I've been feeling burnt out, and it's only the third week of school. $25
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11 p.m. — Before sleeping, I check out my Mint app in bed. I must have been ambitious the other week when I set up my budgets up for the month, because I'm very doubtful I'll stay within these goals with all I have planned for the month already. I up my budget for categories I'll probably spend more in because I hate when it turns red and yells at me. I read Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward as I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $60

Day Two

6:50 a.m. — I roll out of bed and try to look presentable by spraying dry shampoo in my roots. I call it good enough, grab a granola bar, and head out. My drive takes 20 minutes on a good day, and I'm already worried I'm going to be late.
12 p.m. — My coworker and I eat lunch every day at noon. (Working at a school keeps basically every part of your life on a schedule, including using the bathroom.) We take our lunches outside, and I eat leftover chili and an apple. We talk about how groups of ninth graders drive us crazy. We have to go into their classrooms this afternoon, and I wish I was meeting with my 12th graders instead. They're more my speed.
1:10 p.m. — I forget the code to my department's laptop cart since I haven't used it since June, and a student tells me blueberries are good for the aging brain. I tell him I'm 26, and he says it's never too early to worry about my brain. He may be right.
3:45 p.m. — Freedom! I pack up my stuff a little early and drive to the gym. I'm so hungry that I buy a bag of SunChips from the vending machine and inhale them before getting changed. So much for my workout already. $1
6:30 p.m. — I invite a friend over to make dinner, and we make black bean burgers from the food I took from the cabin and my pantry. We already have the burgers in the pan when I pull my cheese out of the fridge and realize that it's embarrassingly moldy. I make the quickest grocery store run I've ever made while I leave my friend to keep an eye on the burgers. $2.99
10:15 p.m. — I'm falling asleep doing the crossword in bed when my boyfriend, C., texts me and asks if I've bought a flight to visit him in October yet. C. goes to grad school in New York, and we've been doing long distance for three years. We're able to see each other pretty frequently thanks to both of us being on the academic calendar, but I will be very, very happy when he graduates in the spring and moves back here. I pull up flights and the price is still the same as it's been for the past few weeks, which is about $125 more than I usually have to spend. I cringe. I could visit Iceland instead of him for the same amount of money. (In fact, I did once. Spring break, baby.) I bite the bullet and buy it, since it doesn't look like the price will go down. He offers to split it with me, but I make almost four times what he makes as a grad student, so I decline, and I'm pretty sure he's relieved. $440
Daily Total: $443.99

Day Three

6:50 a.m. — I wake up and scramble, since I forgot to pack my lunch and gym clothes last night. I head out the door only a few minutes late, but I forget my granola bar.
7:30 a.m. — Oops. I forgot that it's picture day. This would have been my biggest fear when I was a high school student, but luckily (or not) for me, my standards have slid. I pick up a donut in the teacher's lounge (perfect day to forget my granola bar), and go get a picture taken of my greasy hair and makeup-less face for posterity's sake. Really crushing it.
9:15 a.m. — We have a department meeting to discuss how we're going to stay afloat this fall. Literally half of our team quit the week before school started. We are scarily short-staffed, and it's taking longer to hire people than anticipated. As much as I'm frustrated by the circumstances, I get why they did it, and a selfish part of me wants to follow their lead. We don't come to any real consensus in our meeting, and we have to table a lot of our agenda items. I'm stressed and go to the vending machine to get a bag of chips. $1
12 p.m. — I eat leftover chili and an apple at my desk with the door closed since I need a few minutes of introvert time after teaching four classes in a row. Our classrooms are filled to the brim with roughly 37 students in each one thanks to budget cuts.
4:15 p.m. — I go to the gym and decide to watch Hannah Gadsby's Netflix special Nanette on my phone while I'm on the elliptical. It is so freaking powerful that I watch the whole thing right there. Wow wow wow. It's a fucking masterpiece.
6:20 p.m. — I reheat a black bean burger, look at the remaining four burgers, and regret having made so many. My stomach is not happy with this in addition to my chili.
7:30 p.m. — I drive over to my favorite spot by the Mississippi River and meet a friend. We walk along the river as the sun sets, one of my favorite things to do. The Stone Arch Bridge is maybe the reason I will never leave Minneapolis. As we stroll, we end up close to Aster Café, one of his favorite places that's kind of bougie and expensive. The patio is calling our names. We order a glass of rosé each, and we throw in a bread basket mostly for the butter. We talk about Nanette, and what it's been like for us to explore our sexualities in conservative households. We have a downright lovely evening. $14.16
11 p.m. — I get home later than I planned, since I have to wake up early to take my car into the dealership tomorrow. It was worth it though, and I go to sleep immediately after brushing my teeth.
Daily Total: $15.16

Day Four

6 a.m. — I wake up at my alarm and wish I had gone to bed earlier. I steam Trader Joe's pot stickers in the microwave to bring for lunch as I get ready. My body can't handle more beans today. I feel SO bloated.
7 a.m. — I drive out to the dealership in the suburbs. A few lights went on in my car last week and this was the soonest they could squeeze me in. After I describe the lights, the guy I'm working with tells me he thinks something may be wrong with my transmission. Fuck. I don't know a lot about cars, but I know that's not good. I go over to the person who coordinates the shuttle service since I have to leave my car, and he tells me the shuttle will take me within 10 miles of the dealership. I quickly put my work address into Google Maps and realize it's 11 miles away. I don't want to take a Lyft in horrible traffic, so I ask to be taken there anyway and cross my fingers. Lo and behold, no one puts it into a GPS to realize how far it is, and I get in the shuttle.
1:30 p.m. — I eat my pot stickers as I help students register for the ACT. It's been a busy day, and I haven't had a moment to eat until now. They all ask for a bite of my pot stickers but settle for the granola bars I keep in my desk.
5 p.m. — I get a call from the dealership that they are going to have to keep my car for a while to fix the transmission, but they will give me a free loaner car. I ask how expensive the repair is going to be, and they say there's a chance it's covered under extended warranty but they'll know more tomorrow. Please lord let it be covered. My roommate picks me up from work and drives me to the dealership in hardcore crosstown traffic. I am very, very grateful for her.
7:15 p.m. — My friend invites me over to make Moroccan chicken and watch Bachelor in Paradise, which sounds like my ideal night. I walk over to the store to buy carrots to contribute since she has everything else, and as I'm walking over to her place, I run into her roommate. He has the same idea as us, and is heading over to watch BIP with his Fantasy Bachelor League. We chat for a bit, and then go in opposite directions. $0.99
9 p.m. — It's late and we finally finish making dinner. It's worth it though, and the meal is one of the best I've had in a while. We eat in front of the TV and heckle Chris Harrison from the couch. My friend pulls out her phone to shame ABC on Twitter for their mean stunts. We really should stop watching this franchise, but I doubt we ever will.
10:50 p.m. — On my way to bed, I go through the mail and see a letter from my doctor's office. I'm confused because I thought I paid all my bills from this summer. I open it and it's for $290.65. Ouch. I pull up my HSA account on my phone, and there's $0.01 in it. Double ouch. The bill is dated from a few months ago, so I decide that if it took them this long to charge me, I'll pay it next week after $90 gets put into my HSA. It won't be as painful that way.
Daily Total: $0.99

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — I eat oatmeal in my loaner car, trying not to get it on the seats. Probably could have picked a better on-the-go breakfast since the car isn't mine, but oh well.
12 p.m. — I eat another black bean burger and salad at my desk quickly, since I have back-to-back student appointments for the rest of the school day. The fall gets too busy too fast.
3:05 p.m. — I'm in a meeting, and we're told that there will be major changes to our counseling program and curriculum for the second half of the year, and that we'll get more information later. I'm nervous for what that means, so afterwards, I call C. He talks through everything with me and suggests that this may be the kick I need to leave next year and look for something outside of education. I really wish he were here in person.
4:45 p.m. — I go home and make eggs and a salad quickly because I have to go back to school for Open House. Ugh. Exactly what I want to do with my evening.
5:30 p.m. — I put on a face for families and answer their questions. I usually really like meeting with families, but I'm just not in the mood, and I spend a lot of the night sneaking cookies from the table next to mine.
8:30 p.m. — I stay late to copy, since I need to print over 1,000 pages for Monday. (Sorry, trees.) As soon as I think everyone is gone and I start my first round, a teacher looks in and complains about me hogging the work room. If I can't do my printing at 8:30 p.m. then I don't know when I can. I set the copier to go, and I'll just pick it up in the morning.
10 p.m. — Today was long. I put Veep on in the background, and I drink a beer and eat chips and salsa as I check my phone. I see a voicemail from the dealership. My transmission is broken, but the part is covered under extended warranty. HALLELUJAH. I'll only have to pay for the gas I used in the loaner car. Nothing has ever worked out this beautifully car-wise for me before, and this cheers me up a little before bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — I wake up a little early to put on eyeshadow and mascara. I've been phasing makeup out of my life for the past year as a way to feel more comfortable in my skin, but my friend and I are going to an event straight from work, and I want to feel a little fancy.
8 a.m. — Oops. The printer got jammed after I left it last night, and our secretary is really mad at me. My coworker helps deflect the anger, but it's not a great start to the day.
9 a.m. — I eat a donut at a planning meeting for our upcoming family night, and no one wants to be responsible for any of the tasks. Our team is stretched thin so I do an attitude check and agree to take on part of the planning. I may regret this later.
12 p.m. — I microwave a Trader Joe's tamale for lunch, and I eat it with a side salad. I went HAM at Trader Joe's last week, and my freezer is stocked full of tamales and my other favorites.
2 p.m. — I take back my unkind comments about all ninth graders. I helped the sweetest student with his résumé. If I have kids, I want a child like him.
4 p.m. — I leave work to go for drinks. For the past three years, my friend and I have gone to a local liquor store's anniversary party. Do not judge — you can drink as much beer as you want FOR FREE. And no one knows about it, so the lines aren't long and you have plenty of elbow room in their lovely backyard patio. My friend brings one of her grad school friends along this year, and they are planning on drinking here before going to some concert.
5:45 p.m. — I've had four beers and I'm feeling pretty tipsy.
7 p.m. — I'm definitely tipsy, and it's only 7 p.m. My friend is flirting with one of the vendors, and he gives us two four-packs to take as we leave. She also gets his business card – for a part-time job or other reasons, I don't know.
7:15 p.m. — My friend convinces me to come over before they go to their concert, so I hop in her car since I can't drive mine anyway. I figure I'll just hang out and sober up at their place before taking a Lyft back to my car. I pay for her parking with my parking app since she drove. $4.75
9:45 p.m. — I'm at the concert venue. I think I'm seeing Dispatch…? I send C. a snap to have him confirm. This is a very different night than I had planned. My friend convinced me to come with her, and I have had enough beers that anything would be fun. I give the ticket booth my credit card, but I have no idea how much they charge me — I'll look tomorrow. We head to the front and dance. The show is really great, whoever they are.
12:30 a.m. — We walk back to my friend's place, and I'm sobered up enough to drive so she drops me off at my car. The perks of doing all your drinking before 7 p.m.!
1:10 a.m. — I'm craving McDonald's really bad. I go through the drive-through praying that my student who works at this location isn't working. Not here, thank god. I get a cheeseburger and fries, and I pass out as soon as I get home. $3.12
Daily Total: $7.87

Day Seven

8:05 a.m. — I wake up and look at my phone. How am I up this early. I try to go back to sleep since my head hurts a little.
8:30 a.m. — It's not happening, I'm not falling back asleep. I chug water and pull out my phone to see what I spent on a ticket last night. $45. Not great, especially considering I'm not exactly sure it was Dispatch. But oh well, I had fun and hadn't seen live music in a few months. I get up and make myself a bagel with cream cheese. $45
12 p.m. — I get hungry at noon on the dot, even on the weekends. I make myself eggs with an apple, but it's not super satisfying.
2:15 p.m. — I walk over to the gym to see if that will help my body detox. I struggle on the elliptical for 20 minutes before my roommate texts me to see if I want to go to the Blue Door Pub, one of my favorite restaurants. Hell yes. I do five more minutes on the elliptical, and then peace out.
3:15 p.m. — While this place is known for their burgers, I am really craving wings. I order half BBQ and half buffalo, and it is exactly what my semi-hungover body wants. $14.60
5:45 p.m. — I pick up groceries for a potluck-style dinner at my friend's house. The wings kind of ruined my appetite, but I get fancy olives, carrots, and celery to go with hummus I already have, plus chicken thighs to put in my freezer for later and Oreos. $13.15
6:30 p.m. — People brought very random things, a sign that we are not truly adults yet. I fill my plate with a turkey and dried cherry pasta salad, olives, Milano cookies, and ants on a log. I pass on the rosé.
8:30 p.m. — I cave and agree to go to a bar. My friend is raving about this new place called Tap Society that lets you pour your own beer. I'm intrigued as to why this would be a better experience than a normal bar, so I want to check it out for myself. We walk over to the bar, and I give the person working my card. She sets up an account for me, and explains that I pay per ounce. Guys. This is exactly like a self-serve froyo bar, BUT WITH BEER. I get it now. I turn the corner, and sure enough I see taps set up exactly like a Cherry Berry. I pour myself small servings of three different types of beers. I love being able to try different things, while also not having to drink a full beer after my adventures last night. We grab a booth and break out a game of Clue to go along with our beers. $6.02
11:20 p.m. — I get in bed, and I'm super tired. I open up Salvage the Bones, but before I know it, my eyes are heavy, and I barely manage to turn out the light before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $78.77
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