A Week In Nashville, TN, On A $37,000 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.
Want even more Money Diaries, plus $$$ advice from a kick-ass, all-female team of financial advisors, and tips on how to save more than $500? Pick up our new book: Money Diaries! Order here!
Today: a research project coordinator working in health research who makes $37,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on sushi.
Occupation: Research Project Coordinator
Industry: Health Research
Age: 28
Location: Nashville, TN
Salary: $37,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,000
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $640 (The total is $1,280, split with my boyfriend.)
Electricity: $60 for my half
Internet: $25 for my half
Netflix: $11
Hulu: I share an account with my cousin, who pays
MoviePass: $10
Gym: $10
Renters' Insurance: $18
Cell Phone: $0 (I'm on my parents' plan.)
Retirement: 14% of my paycheck

Day One

8:30 a.m. — It would be a beautiful day to relax and sleep in if the kitten wasn't being an absolute jerk! My boyfriend, B., and I awake to the sounds of her climbing the curtains and terrorizing our older cat. The squirt bottle is not deterring her at all.
9 a.m. — We give up on getting any more sleep and make coffee. I grab a leftover piece of pizza from the fridge for breakfast, and we sit down to watch Cheers on Netflix. B.'s favorite show of all time is Frasier, so we decided to catch up on its predecessor as well. Now that we're up, the kitten is of course calming down and even napping in her cat bed.
11 a.m. — Tennessee has a sales tax–free weekend once per year, and I want a new dress to wear to my cousin's wedding in a couple weeks, so I figure now is the time to get one. The mall just opened, so parking is easy, crowds are minimal, and I'm optimistic! I grab five dresses at Macy's and head to the fitting room. They're all awful. I clearly need the next size up in some of them, but I don't think that's the only problem. They're just not a good shape on me.
12 p.m. — I dump those and grab four more. Same issues all over again. Feeling discouraged, I sit in the fitting room and start looking up dresses on Old Navy's website. There's a style there I know will work for me, and they have a gray floral that looks like it would be fine for a wedding. I order it from my phone. $27
12:30 p.m. — I keep looking, since the Old Navy dress is a little more casual than I want for this occasion, and it's really not special or different. Three more dresses at Nordstrom, three more fails. One of them at least looked good on me, but it's not $160 worth of good!
1 p.m. — Three more Nordstrom dresses from the Anniversary Sale racks, and yet again, three more fails. On to Gap. I try on one, and still no good. Back at Macy's, I find a whole other section of dresses I missed before. Three strikes again. Do basic A-line dresses not exist anymore?? Everything I try on is so fitted and sheath-like. I even break down and try on Spanx to see if that will help the issue. Nope. I just feel something pop in my shoulder as I try to wrench them up past my hips. I can't be the only woman who doesn't want a dress that's fitted across the stomach!
1:30 p.m. — I head home empty-handed. That's two hours of my life and self-esteem I'm never getting back.
2:45 p.m. — B. is playing video games, so I have a captivated audience as I complain about the state of today's fashion. An hour of online shopping at Modcloth later, and I've got two more potential dresses on the way. $107
5:30 p.m. — We clean out the fridge and freezer and meal plan for the week ahead. Corn chowder, venison burgers, pot roast, and maybe tacos are on the menu this week, plus sandwiches and leftovers from the freezer for lunches. We go to Kroger for sandwich bread, hamburger buns, beef roast, coffee creamer, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, salad greens, zucchini, avocados, cherries, clementines, deli meat, frozen pizza, frozen chicken parmesan, and tofu. I bought groceries last week, so B. pays this time.
6:45 p.m. — I make a big batch of corn chowder to have throughout the week, plus some to put in the freezer for later. I like cooking, but it seems like a waste of time to cook in small batches, so I tend to make a lot (especially of things like casseroles and soups) and freeze individual portions of the leftovers to keep for quick lunches later on. B. heats up the chicken parmesan for tonight's dinner.
7:30 p.m. — We eat and watch The Spectacular Now. I read the book years ago, but completely forgot almost everything about it. I have a feeling I'll be forgetting the movie as well.
9:45 p.m. — B. goes back to a video game for a bit while I get in a quick workout and shower. I'm too lazy to blow dry my hair, so I decide to sleep on it wet. Sometimes this results in cute, beachy waves, and other times in a big hot mess. Fingers crossed it's the former.
11:15 p.m. — We watch a couple funny videos on boyfriend's phone, spray the cat some more for climbing the curtains again, and then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $134

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — First alarm goes off. I turn it off and go back to sleep.
7 a.m. — B. gets up and showers. I go back to sleep.
7:30 a.m. — B. tells me I really need to get up now. Neither of us like mornings, but I've been particularly bad about getting up on time lately. He leaves for work as I get up and start getting ready. I'm still feeling a little discouraged after yesterday's shopping experience, so I wear a skirt I made for myself. It's cute and made exactly to my measurements so it's comfy, plus I know I'll get a few compliments on it at work. As I'm getting dressed, the older cat runs in and vomits up her entire breakfast. I go to clean it up and realize we're completely out of paper towels. Toilet paper it is!
7:50 a.m. — I throw leftovers from the freezer into my lunch box, along with clementines and blueberries. I don't have time to make anything else for breakfast, so I just put protein powder and milk in my coffee. I'll be hungry before lunchtime, but if I'm not out the door by 7:59, I might miss the bus.
8:08 a.m. — The bus is right on time, and so am I! I can ride city buses to and from work for free using my employee ID, so this has been a great way to save money on gas and parking. I start checking email on the way in to work.
8:30 a.m. — Settled in at my desk and drinking my protein-filled coffee and snacking on blueberries. The powder didn't dissolve very well, so it's kind of lumpy and unpleasant, but I'm powering through.
11:20 a.m. — Yep, I'm hungry. Not letting myself take lunch before noon though, or I'll be starving by the time I get home! I refill my water bottle and chug some of the cold water, hoping it'll stave off my hunger a bit. I've got to be more prepared tomorrow morning.
12:15 p.m. — Lunchtime with my coworkers! I really am fortunate that I work with so many other women in their 20s and 30s that I've come to be good friends with. It's such a change from my previous jobs. I couldn't quite tell what was in the container I grabbed out of the freezer this morning, so the contents of my lunch are a surprise. Turns out it's enchilada casserole, with layers of tortillas, zucchini, black beans, cheese, and homemade enchilada sauce. Not the prettiest thing after being frozen and reheated, but still tasty. I also eat one of my clementines and save the other for an afternoon snack.
2:50 p.m. — Time for afternoon coffee. The coffee my office provides is truly horrible, so a few coworkers and I pitch in to buy other coffee and bring it in. It saves us tons of money that we might otherwise spend at Starbucks.
4:45 p.m. — Catch my usual bus home. B. gets home a few minutes after me and we chat and play with the cats for a bit. I scarf down leftover jerk chicken, coconut rice, and pineapple black bean salsa I made a few days ago.
6 p.m. — I head out to my volunteer shift at a local cat rescue. The sound system in my car doesn't work anymore, but at 17-years-old, its past the point of putting any more money into, so I play a podcast on my phone for my 30-minute drive.
7:30 p.m. — After I finish my volunteer shift cleaning cages and socializing the cats, I run to Publix and pick up toilet paper and tissue. $9
8 p.m. — I'm pulling into my apartment complex when I realize I needed to get paper towels, not toilet paper. I curse, turn around, and go to Target, mumbling about my own stupidity. At least the toilet paper won't go bad, and we'll get around to using it eventually! $8
8:30 p.m. — B. still hasn't eaten, so we watch Cheers while he eats more of the jerk chicken, rice, and salsa. I eat one of the chocolate peanut butter brownies I made last week while B. does the dishes. We joke that he's the Monica of our relationship — he likes things waaay tidier than I do, and he's so much better at organizing than I am. I feel a little bad about my lack of housekeeping skills sometimes, but he reminds me that I'm better at the big picture things, like keeping track of bills, meal planning, and planning trips. We balance each other out.
10:30 p.m. — Painting my nails a bright, sparkly teal while watching more Cheers. I'm such a nail polish junkie, I have so much more than I'll ever be able to use! But even so, I figure it's cheaper to buy plenty of nail polish and do it myself at home than go get manicures.
11:15 p.m. — Get ready for bed. Boyfriend passes out right away, but I think I drank that afternoon coffee a little too late in the day, because I cannot get sleepy. I play on my phone until around midnight, and then turn off the light and hope I'll be able to sleep. Even my nightly melatonin is no match for today's coffee!
Daily Total: $17

Day Three

5 a.m. — Kitten is stepping all over my face. I don't even bother looking at my phone, but I'm sure it's somewhere between 5 and 6 a.m., since that's been her pattern lately. She doesn't even do it because she's hungry, she just loves attention! Makes it hard to get too frustrated with her, despite the disruption to my sleep.
6:45 a.m. — First alarm.
7:20 a.m. — I finally get out of bed. B. is already up and showered.
7:30 a.m. — I make a smoothie for breakfast: peaches, avocado, silken tofu, protein powder, milk, and a little vanilla and almond extract. The extracts make it taste like a milkshake! There's enough for two servings, so I put one in the fridge for tomorrow. I also make coffee and finish packing my lunch. More enchilada casserole and clementines.
8:10 a.m. — The bus is a little late, and I'm already sweating. Southern summers are so gross.
8:30 a.m. — Arrive at work and barely have time to get settled and check my email before I have to hop on a conference call. Glad I have an easy-to-eat breakfast, since I'm taking extensive meeting notes.
12:15 p.m. — Super busy morning — so glad to have a quiet lunch with a few coworkers. Not looking forward to jumping back into things this afternoon!
1 p.m. — Can't get my brain to focus on work, so I quickly check my personal email. ThinkGeek is having a Harry Potter sale! Do I need more HP paraphernalia? Nope. Do I check out what's on sale anyway? Of course. There are two canvas prints I'm especially tempted by, but unfortunately they don't really complement each other. I have other HP stuff I still haven't put out since we moved to our new apartment six months ago, so I'd really like to set up a display of all my HP things, which would necessitate hanging these pretty close together.
2 p.m. — I get my afternoon coffee and circle back around to ThinkGeek. B. said he thought the prints looked fine together, and I'm coming around to the idea of a very eclectic little display, so I order them. $34
4:45 p.m. — Bus home. My afternoon bus driver knows my name and my stop, which is nice. It's cool to be one of the regulars.
5:15 p.m. — I eat another clementine and a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter to get a little food in me before going to the gym. But then boyfriend gets home, and we sit and talk and I watch him play Super Mario Odyssey for a bit. I'm not a video game person myself, but I may get him to teach me how to play this one. It's just so fun to watch! I also snack on a Kind bar he brought home for me.
7 p.m. — Finally make it to the gym and spend 35 minutes on the elliptical. I feel like I should go longer, since I didn't make it to the gym when I planned to last weekend, but I'm getting hungry.
8 p.m. — Get home and hop in the shower while boyfriend cooks venison burgers. It's a late dinner for us, but delicious. The burgers turn out huge! I eat a salad with mine, and he has fries. I sneak a few of them off his plate.
9 p.m. — More Cheers, a few funny YouTube videos, and cuddling on the couch.
11 p.m. — Bedtime. Thankfully I fall asleep much easier than last night.
Daily Total: $34

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — First alarm.
7:20 a.m. — Up and getting ready while kitten meows at me for attention. She either didn't climb on my head this morning or I was sleeping so hard I didn't notice.
7:40 a.m. — I'm almost ready and still have time to kill. Mornings go so much faster when I have breakfast and lunch already made.
8:30 a.m. — Arrive at work and hit the ground running again. So many meetings today!
12 p.m. — Coming up for air and lunch! I brought chicken curry with spinach and cauliflower that I made in the Crock-Pot and froze a while ago. Put it over leftover coconut rice and added a clementine for a full meal.
3:15 p.m. — Take a break from work to check my personal email. Electric bill for last month was charged today ($105). It's the first day of the month, so rent was auto-drafted as well ($640). I keep a spreadsheet of our major expenses, so I update it now for the end of last month and the beginning of this one. I need to Venmo request my boyfriend for half of electric and internet, but I know he's running a bit low on cash, so I'll wait until later. Actually, I'm seriously considering “forgetting” to request money from him and just paying all the utilities myself this month to give him a chance to catch up on his savings a little. I make more than he does, and I don't have student loans, so I don't mind helping out. He left a slightly higher paying job earlier this year, and I know he's feeling money stress, but his quality of life is soooo much better in his new job.
4:45 p.m. — Usual bus home. Play Pokémon GO on my phone to pass the time.
5:15 p.m. — So hungry by the time I get home! I finally get to eat some of the corn chowder I made the other night. I eat chips with queso and guacamole as a side, instead of the salad I'd originally planned on having.
6 p.m. — B. and I get absolutely absorbed in Super Mario Odyssey. It has a two-player option that works pretty well for us. He's the main player and I just help out, so my lack of skill doesn't hurt him too much!
9 p.m. — Finally break away from the game for a bit. The dresses from ModCloth arrive today and I try them on. Both are perfect fits! It boggles my mind that these two look great on me, but the 19 I tried on in person were all duds. We spend the rest of the night watching Cheers and funny YouTube videos, cuddling on the couch, and playing with the cats.
11 p.m. — Bed!
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5 a.m. — Kitten literally tries to smother me, and I nearly throw her off the bed.
6:45 a.m. — Sleep through the alarm.
7:10 a.m. — Boyfriend gets up later than planned and yet still manages to make it out the door on time. Guys have it so easy!
7:30 a.m. — Checking work email in bed. I have a LASIK consultation this morning, so I'm starting work from home.
8 a.m. — I could get used to this. Leisurely make my coffee and toast for breakfast, respond to emails, and get ready at my own pace. I'm wearing one of my new dresses, which I decided may be a little too casual for the wedding but will be great as a work dress.
9:30 a.m. — I'm a little late for my appointment. The eye doctor's website didn't have a lot of information about where to park or where in the giant medical facility they're located. I meant to get there 10 minutes early, but all that time is eaten up by my wandering. Even more time is wasted filling out a million new patient forms. Wish they'd sent them to me ahead of time!
1o a.m. — Find out I shouldn't have been wearing my contacts for two weeks prior to this exam. Wish someone had told me when I made the appointment! They still proceed with the the scans today, but they'll have to be redone before the actual surgery — which I'm not planning on having for another six months, so that's fine. A nurse dilates my eyes. Again, some communication beforehand would've been nice! She assures me I'll still be able to drive.
11:15 a.m. — What I expected to be a 30-minute preliminary consultation ends up lasting almost two hours! I drive to work, but it's probably not the safest thing I've ever done. Light hurts my eyes, so I'm wearing sunglasses indoors. My close-up vision is also pretty damn blurry. Perfect for someone who literally has to look at a bright computer screen all day at work!
12 p.m. — Corn chowder and clementines for lunch. Then it's back to meeting hell. They're mostly remote, so I can keep wearing my sunglasses for them.
3:45 p.m. — A coworker wants to run to Starbucks, and I gladly join her. I can see better, but I have a headache, and I'm overwhelmed with work and just feeling kind of down. I really want coffee, but it's too late in the day, so I get a cheese danish instead. It warms my soul and helps me focus. $3
6 p.m. — Home later than usual, since I stayed at work late to make up for this morning's longer-than-expected appointment. Same dinner as last night: corn chowder, chips, guac, queso. And a hard cider, since today was just kind of weird and difficult. I've been trying to limit my alcohol to the weekends, but today it was needed.
7 p.m. — Typical night at home, chilling on the couch with the cats and boyfriend and watching Cheers and YouTube. I need to go to the gym, but I'm exhausted. I decide to try an at-home workout instead. Disappointed to say I give up after about five minutes. My body just will not cooperate with me today.
9 p.m. — I fold clothes so I can feel like I at least did something productive with the evening and watch boyfriend nearly beat Super Mario Odyssey.
11 p.m. — Bedtime. Glad this day is over.
Daily Total: $3

Day Six

7:20 a.m. — Getting ready goes quicker this morning since I don't have to pack a lunch. I make coffee and put oats, cinnamon, and almond butter in a container to make oatmeal at work.
8:30 a.m. — I finally have a day where I don't have to dive straight into meetings as soon as I get to work! I fix my oatmeal and realize I forgot to put blueberries in it. Oh well. I feel a lot better about work today since I have some time to just sit, eat, and brainstorm about my new project.
12 p.m. — Walk to a nearby sushi place for lunch to celebrate a coworker's birthday. The birthday girl loves this place and assures me one of the rolls is big enough to be a meal in itself, so I just order one that has spicy crab and tuna, cucumber, and avocado. Everyone else gets more than one or a salad or side to go with it. Still hungry when I finish, but oh well. $14
1 p.m. — Another coworker picked up a couple of cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes as a surprise for the birthday girl. I Venmo her to help cover the cost. The cake makes up for a not quite big enough lunch. $5
4:45 p.m. — Quitting time on Friday is the best! Take the usual bus home.
6:15 p.m. — B. and I go out for dinner and stop at Walgreens on the way to pick up a prescription for me. $4
7 p.m. — At a German restaurant. I bought a food passport that was being offered as a special promotion a couple months ago that gives us a free appetizer at 18 different ethnic restaurants across the city. We get the free app and a flight of beer samples (discounted because apparently it's National Beer Day!) to start with, then wursts and sauerkraut for dinner. There's a mixup with the checks and it takes forever to pay and head out. It happens! The waitress seems super stressed about it though, so we leave a good tip. $45
8:30 p.m. — We'd planned to look around the mall for a gift for a housewarming/birthday party we're attending tomorrow, but now there's only 30 more minutes left before it closes. We make it to Bath & Body Works where I get sucked in by their new rose scent and the buy-two-get-one deal. We leave with stuff for me and no gift. $30
9:30 p.m. — We stop by the liquor store on the way home since I'm really wanting red wine and I know we don't have any. I also find a bottle of wine to take to the party tomorrow, but know we'll need to go out again to find something else to go with it. $30
10 p.m. — Relaxing night on the couch with wine and YouTube.
2 a.m. — I fall asleep on the couch, and boyfriend wakes me up after about an hour so we can get in bed.
Daily Total: $128

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Wake up to cat vomiting. Boyfriend gets up to clean it and can't go back to sleep. I have no such issues!
11 a.m. — Finally up and out of bed. B. is craving hot chicken for lunch, so even though we went out last night and have plenty of leftovers in the fridge, I give in. He pays.
1 p.m. — My mom is in town for work, so she stops by our apartment for a bit. We talk and play with the cats.
3 p.m. — Mom leaves and B. takes a nap since he barely slept last night. I run to Target to find a gift to take along with the wine tonight ($40). I also pick up beer for us to have for ourselves at the party, and a few other household items ($30). $70
5 p.m. — We eat our leftovers from the German restaurant last night. The invite said there'd be snacks and drinks, but we figure it's better to have a full meal in our stomachs, since we're not exactly sure what the food situation will be like.
6 p.m. — Drive to our friend's new apartment, which is about 15 minutes away. We plan to be there for a while, so even though we'll both drink, I'll keep an eye out to make sure we're in good enough shape to get back home.
1 a.m. — We're tired, but both completely sober. Come home and immediately crash into bed.
Daily Total: $70
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 addition to our regular Money Diaries, we're looking for Money Diaries from teachers! If you are a teacher (especially in Arizona, Colorado, West Virginia, Oklahoma, or Kentucky), we want to hear from you! Submit here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series