A Week In Mississippi On A $34,615 Salary

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Today, as part of Your Spending In Your State: a teacher who makes $34,615 per year and spends some of her money this week on Haribo gummy bears.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 23
Location: Mississippi
Salary: $34,615
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $2,112
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $660 (My roommate owns our house, so I pay her $660 per month in rent, which includes utilities.)
Student Loan Payment: $300
Dental & Vision Insurance: $25
Health Insurance: $38
Spotify: $10
Car Insurance: $60 (Paid to my parents because it's cheaper if my insurance is linked to theirs!)
Climbing Gym: $55 (I'm doing a trial month at a nearby climbing gym with a community-outreach focus — however the cost and the distance from my house have made this a one-time expense.)
Sponsorship: $38 (I sponsor a little girl in Togo, Africa.)
Retirement: $260
Investments: $50

Day One

7:30 a.m. — It's report card pick-up day at school, which means teacher report time isn't until 9:30 (bless!). I press start on the coffee maker I prepped last night and use the extra morning time to fold laundry and play fetch with my roommate's dog in the backyard. My roommate's out of town, so I'm taking care of the dog for the next couple of days. I eat a Greek yogurt and get ready to leave for work.
8:45 a.m. — I drive the eight miles to the small town where my school is located, stopping by the post office first to pick up keys for a post office box I applied for online. My sister and I are starting a "Postcards from Strangers" Instagram account and I don't want to put my real address on the postcards, so P.O. box it is. I already paid for six months online, so I just have to verify my information and check to make sure both keys work. (They do.)
9:13 a.m. — I still have a little bit of time before I need to be at work, so I run by the local Dollar General for tampons because it's that time of the month, and I'm almost out. I grab a couple of those canned Starbucks Doubleshot drinks, too — it's going to be a long day at school. $12.40
12:45 p.m. — The school administrative team is cooking lunch for us today (yay!), but it's delayed, so I drive home to let the dog out. We run around a little in the backyard then I head back to work.
6:15 p.m. — I finally leave work, and stop by my house to let the pup out and feed him dinner. I'm pretty much out of groceries and my car is on empty, so I drive to the closest grocery store —Walmart, about 10 miles from my school — and pick up almond milk, cereal, kale, eggs, feta, and a bottle of wine. I already have the rest of the ingredients to make (Americanized) Greek salad. $20.37
8 p.m. — Gas, like most things, is cheap in rural Mississippi, so I fill up my tank for under $40. I drive a lot, so even though my car gets pretty good miles to the gallon, I'll have to fill up again in about a week. $34.82
8:30 p.m. — I drive home, unload my groceries, make a quick salad for dinner, and sit down with a glass of wine to finish tomorrow's Google Slides while half-watching an old episode of Parks and Recreation. I almost forget to prep tomorrow's lunch and coffee, but I remember before I shower and am in bed by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $67.59

Day Two

5:45 a.m. — I reluctantly get up to my third alarm. It's just starting to get chilly here, which makes waking up that much harder. I don't usually take much time to get ready, but I want to make sure I have plenty of time to take care of the dog. I let him out, and he chills in the bathroom with me as I brush my teeth and put on a tiny bit of makeup. I eat a quick bowl of cereal with almond milk, grab my mug of coffee and a plastic container of salad, and leave the house at 6:45 a.m.
7:02 a.m. — I get to school a little early to tidy up my classroom, add a couple things to my slideshow, and make some copies.
11:35 a.m. — Teachers are required to eat lunch with our students in the cafeteria, so I grab my water bottle and salad before walking with my class to the lunchroom. One of the students wants to try some salad but I only brought one fork and don't want to share germs. I refill my water bottle at the fountain on the way back to the classroom. The school building was probably built in 1950 and not a lot, including the water fountains, has changed since then.
3:45 p.m. — Student dismissal is at 3 p.m., but teachers are required to stay until 3:45. I leave as soon as possible since I didn't leave at lunch to let the dog out. I get home at about 4 p.m. and take him on a short walk around the neighborhood even though it's kind of drizzling.
4:45 p.m. — Tonight is our middle school football team's last game of the season, so my teacher friend meets me at my house to carpool to the game, which is about a 25-minute drive away. I check to make sure I have cash for the ticket, and then we stop at Zaxby's for a quick dinner before the game, which starts at 5:30 p.m. $8.65
5:35 p.m. — We make it there by 5:35 p.m., but the first quarter is almost already over ($5). It's so cold and rainy that they're just running the clock to make the game go by quickly. My friend and I stand near the cheerleaders, who are all students we've have taught, and chat with the coach while trying to stay warm. About halfway through the game, a couple of our teacher friends show up, too. During halftime, I buy two hot chocolates ($2), one for me and one for a student who didn't bring any cash. Despite the cold and the drizzle, we stay through the whole middle school game and all of the JV high school game. It's still only 7:45 p.m. when we drive back to my house, but it's already dark. $7
9 p.m. — My friend leaves, and I take a warm shower before packing tomorrow's lunch and prepping tomorrow's coffee. I read for a little bit and then finish my slideshow for tomorrow's lesson. I'm in bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $15.65

Day Three

6 a.m. — My roommate's back (yay!) so I don't have to add in time to take care of the dog, which means I sleep in a little later. Wednesdays are when the students start to chill out, so I get ready a little more leisurely. I grab my coffee and a granola bar, slip my salad container into my bag, and head out the door.
7:10 a.m. — I get to school right on time, and quickly put up my slides.
11:33 a.m. — Lunch is the same as yesterday — a modified Greek salad with quinoa — but I like it because it's something I can eat quickly. Fewer questions from students about it today.
3:40 p.m. — I sneak out of school a few minutes early, texting my friend about dinner plans as I walk to my car. She lives in Memphis about 45 minutes away. I stop by my house to quickly change out of my teacher clothes, opting for leggings, sneakers, and a denim jacket instead. I leave my hoop earrings on.
5:30 p.m. — My friend teaches English as a second language classes, and since most of her students are adults, her classes are in the evenings, hence the early dinner. I get to the restaurant first and order a water and a locally-brewed lager that has a slightly honey-ish taste. It's different, but pleasant. She arrives about three minutes later and shows me the art and feminist theory books she just purchased at a bookstore around the corner. She orders a beer, and we get some Korean pancakes with kimchi to share before she orders a soup and I order bibimbap for the first time. It's delicious. As usual, our conversation immediately drifts into weighty topics, like being progressives in a largely conservative area and helping to reconcile racial dynamics in our towns. She tips in cash, and I tip on my card before parting at the door. I walk around the corner to the bookstore she mentioned, but it's unfortunately closed by now. $25.50
6:45 p.m. — I drive the 45 minutes home, detouring at a grocery store to pick up gummy bears, plastic cups, and paper towels for tomorrow's polymer and osmosis lab. I already created the student handout at work, so I just need to grab the supplies. I use my preloaded school expense card for the items. ($28.70 expensed)
8:15 p.m. — I finally get home, still very full from my dinner of bibimbap. I leave the lab supplies in my car so I don't have to load them back up again in the morning, prep my lunch and coffee, and chat with my roommate for a while before showering and heading to bed. My wavy/curly hair does best if I shower at night, which makes getting ready in the morning super easy.
Daily Total: $25.50

Day Four

5:50 a.m. — I want to get to work early to bring in all of the supplies, so I get up before my alarm. After eating a quick bowl of cereal, I grab my coffee and salad (yep, salad every day this week!), and head to my car. It's a little bit colder this morning, so I have to wait a minute for the defrost to clear the windshield, but I still make it to work by 7:05 a.m.
10:30 a.m. — Lab days are always fun but exhausting. My students in fourth period are really getting into the science of it, which is the goal! I am very ready for 3 p.m., though.
3:45 p.m. — The school day finally ends! I drive from school to the local health department, about 20 minutes south of my school, to see if they have any health campaigns my students and I can help promote. The nurses working at the department are incredibly friendly, but because of funding cuts, they only service WIC (women, infants, and children up to five years old). They have no literature or services for my middle school students. I thank them for their time and drive back home.
6 p.m. — My roommate made dinner, and so I eat some shrimp and pasta while discussing what we can do about nutrition at our school. My roommate also teaches there. Although it's a big project to tackle, I feel more confident about improving things now that we've talked. I go out to check the mail and find a letter from an ex who still has feelings for me.
8 p.m. — The letter was unexpected, and it drudged up a lot of feelings I hadn't thought about since I broke up with him about a month ago. Wanting an escape, I rent Far from the Madding Crowd on Amazon and watch the first part while I finish tomorrow's slideshow, and then fall asleep by 10:15 p.m. $3.02
Daily Total: $3.02

Day Five

6:05 a.m. — It's Friday! I forgot to prep my coffee yesterday, so I rush around this morning making coffee, getting dressed, grabbing a granola bar, and trying to focus on finishing today's lab. My rushing around works, and I leave on time.
7:30 a.m. — My first period class is excited about the results of their lab, which begins Friday on a good note. The day's schedule gets changed last minute, which is a frustrating but fairly normal occurrence at my school, so we roll with it.
3:20 p.m. — Students have all left, which means it's finally the weekend! I stand in the hallway and chat with some of the other teachers before making plans to meet up for dinner at a new restaurant with my football friend.
7 p.m. — We meet up at his house and walk to the restaurant, a newly opened bar and grill specializing in catfish. It's not very crowded for a Friday, but the atmosphere is fun and the food is really good. We both order Budweisers, and he gets the catfish dinner while I get the BBQ sandwich with fries and slaw. The waitress assumes we're on a date and brings one check, so I pay the bill and my friend Venmos me for his half. I have to be up early tomorrow morning for an out-of-town meeting, so we part ways early. $14.50
Daily Total: $14.50

Day Six

7 a.m. — I have a meeting for a volunteer committee today, so I get up earlier than I normally would on a Saturday. The house has been smelling kind of sour, so I put some baking soda in the garbage disposal and vacuum the living room really quickly, which takes care of the smell. Then I dress in a business casual outfit (can Stan Smiths be considered business attire?), and grab a mug of coffee for the road.
9:15 a.m. — I left a little earlier than I needed to, so I stop by the local donut shop for a blueberry cake donut and a bottle of orange juice. They provide the perfect accompaniment to the gardening show I listen to on NPR while driving through the Mississippi Delta and across the river into Arkansas. $4.50
10 a.m. — I arrive at the meeting a few minutes early, so I check in and then walk a block over to look at the community garden. It's really nicely set up, and gives me some ideas for the garden that I want to start with my students.
1:30 p.m. — The meeting is more fun than I had expected, and they provide us with lunch, too, which is an added perk. The chicken pitas and hummus are a perfect meal for a Saturday afternoon.
4 p.m. — The meeting ends at 4 p.m., and I respond to a text from a friend before driving the hour back home. He wants to check out the local fall festival, so I change at my house and then drive down to his.
5:30 p.m. — We can hear the blues music from his house as we walk to the park where the festival is happening. As soon as we near it, I'm greeted with big hugs and smiles by about seven of my seventh graders; always a welcome sight! My friend and I mill around the small festival, talking with students and their parents as we walk. We each get a BBQ sandwich, and I get a Coke. A few other friends meet us there, and we listen to music until heading back to their house. $4
7 p.m. — At their house, I drink a Modelo, and they each drink two before they head out to dinner. I drive home to check in on my roommate and fill up my car. But a text from my friend about live music at the bar at 9:30 p.m. pulls me back. $30.07
9:30 p.m. — Back at the bar, we hang out and sing along to the musician playing amazingly good covers of classic country and classic rock songs. I drink a couple of Budweisers, take one Jell-o shot, smoke one cigarette, and turn down two offers to dance. The guys buy most of the beers, so I Venmo my friend $7.50 to pay for the ones I drink. $7.50
12 a.m. — I drive home and write a few new book recommendations written on my Notes app. I'm very sleepy and probably a little tipsy, so I chat with my roommate briefly, shower away the smoke, and then crash into bed.
Daily Total: $46.07

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I was exhausted after yesterday, so I sleep in super late. I'd thought about meeting up with a friend to go hiking, but neither of us end up wanting to, so sleep prevails. I finally get up, make some coffee, and straighten up my room.
1 p.m. — I drive 25 minutes up the interstate to Starbucks, the closest one around, where I order a grande iced coffee with cream. I run into my friend, and we chat for a while before I fill in my planner for the upcoming week. I then plan out my lessons for the week and decide to get my eyebrows threaded for the first time ever. I look on Google Maps, and there's a salon in the nearby shopping center, so I drive over there. $3.03
4:30 p.m. — The eyebrow threading place isn't very busy, so I'm in and out in about 15 minutes. It definitely stings a little and my brows end up a little thinner than I'd like. But I like trying new things, and it only costs $12. $12
7 p.m. — When I get home, I start reading my book when my mom calls. She's driving home and we haven't talked in about a week, so it's nice to catch up. When she gets home, my dad is there, so I get to chat with them both. I explain eyebrow threading, and they look up a YouTube video about it. I have to finish planning for tomorrow, so I hang up after about an hour.
9:15 p.m. — I realize I haven't eaten dinner so I scramble a couple of eggs and sauté some kale for a quick meal. I prep my coffee for the morning before ordering three stickers online — one for each of my two younger sisters and one for me. $10.50
Daily Total: $25.53
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