A Week In Boulder, Colorado, On $20 An Hour

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. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.) This week a non-profit attorney who makes $20 an hour and spends it on Girl Scout Cookies.
Industry: Non-profit
Age: 26
Location: Colorado
Salary: $20/hour
Number Of Roommates: 1 (my boyfriend) Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0, I share a home with boyfriend and his job provides him with housing!
Monthly Loan Payments: $0 right now. Law school loans are deferred, since my income is low right now. Sometimes I pay $100-200 when I am able.
Cell Phone Bill: $0, my my mom agreed to pay my bill during law school and she has let me stay on it until I get a higher paying job.
Hulu: $8 (boyfriend pays Netflix)
Car insurance: $195/every 6 months
Gym: $25 (Boyfriend pays for my membership pre-tax on his paycheck, and I buy him something each month to even out)

Day One

8:45 a.m. — I'm moving slowly this morning because of a stomachache (likely from eating hot wings last night) and dry throat (from Colorado's arid climate). I'm able to take it easy this a.m., as most of my company's permanent employees are on a retreat. (I am working on a short-term contract.) So instead of rushing out the door, I drink some coffee with my boyfriend, throw cereal and milk into a Mason jar, and grab some random snacks for lunch. 11:45 a.m. — Snack on a banana that I brought to work, but half of it is too mushy to eat. Now I know I NEED to stop for groceries on the way home. 1 p.m. — I consider going out for a bowl of soup, but decide to get by on the snacks I brought. I have snap pea crisps (amazing), some cheese, and a Fiber One brownie. As I'm eating lunch, I peruse job boards and send off some networking emails. My job contract is ending soon, so I need to figure out what to do next. 5 p.m. — I'm crashing hard today, so I make the decision to hit up Costco first on my grocery trip. (Free samples!) I quickly visit the sample stands, and get to shopping. Much easier to navigate this store on a weeknight than on the weekend. I try to only purchase $50 worth of food, but I end up with a few extras. $68.45 5:45 p.m. — I head next door to Target to fill in the gaps. I use a Redcard and Cartwheel to make grocery shopping at Target as reasonable (if not slightly more reasonable) than the traditional grocery stores. My boyfriend and I usually split groceries pretty evenly, but lately it has made most sense for me to stop on my way home from Denver. Either he will cover the next round, or more likely, he will spring for some meals and drinks when we go out. $54.39 6:30 p.m. — Finally arrive home! I had told my boyfriend how exhausted/hungry I was before I did the grocery shopping, so he brought home some meals from his work cafeteria. He gets them subsidized and deducted from his paycheck each month, and he is behind on using them because of the holidays, so, its a win-win to use them up tonight. I have a small salad and half of a mini pizza, and there are leftovers for the next couple lunches I need to pack. 8 p.m. — As I unwind on the couch watching Top Chef reruns and chat with my mom, she tells me that I should book a hotel for my Grandma's birthday trip to Vegas this summer. They have a block reserved and she wants to make sure I'm in the block. I book for the whole weekend, but they charge a one night deposit immediately. At least I put it on my Chase Sapphire card, so I'll get travel points. $147.55 Daily Total: $270.39

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I get moving pretty late this morning. It is Friday, my coworkers are at the retreat, and I'm working from home since I have an appointment this afternoon. It is Inauguration Day, so I will surely get more done from home with the TV on mute than I would have at work, constantly checking social media and news sites for updates. Boyfriend brewed coffee hours ago when he got up, so I microwave it and eat cereal with milk again for breakfast. 12:50 p.m. — I have a 1 p.m. appointment at Planned Parenthood. I'm on Medicaid (I qualified as a student, and my income hasn't gotten high enough to require reclassification), and PP is one of the few providers I can see for an IUD. I scheduled my appointment for today on purpose. Once I am taken back, we decide on Paragard and I also get my third Gardisil shot, which I'd been neglecting to do for years. The procedures are slightly painful, but I feel great that I checked these items off my to-do list. 2:30 p.m. — As I get back from the appointment, the pain sets in a bit. Watching the Inauguration and getting back to work doesn't really help! I quickly remember to make my donation to Planned Parenthood. I donate $35 for today, and set a recurring $5 donation for following months. I had considered doing this at the office, but the girl at the front desk was on a phone call and I didn't have cash. $35.00 4 p.m. — Still haven't had lunch. Boyfriend is home a bit early, and he is willing to make me what I'm craving — avocado toast with poached eggs. I supplement this "lunch" with some of the snacks from yesterday's cafeteria haul. 8:20 p.m. — Still on the couch. I'm feeling the cramps, and we've both had a long work week, so we decide to stay in tonight, crack open some wine, and make some grilled cheese as a late dinner (while watching more Top Chef reruns). Daily Total: $35.00

Day Three

10 a.m. — French press coffee at home to start off a lazy Saturday. We had friends in town last weekend, so this weekend is about recharging (and mitigating the cramps I still have). I turn on coverage of the Women's March. I feel a bit of guilt for not going to the Denver March, but it has been a long week and I plan to contribute in other ways. As I check out social media, I'm proud to see so many friends participating. 12:30 p.m. — Friends stop by to borrow our skis and discuss plans for tonight. We catch up a bit while they're here, and decide on a late dinner. Knowing that we'll be eating late, I whip up a larger brunch — english muffins with avocado, fried eggs, and turkey bacon. The rest of the afternoon is spent working on the job search while binging on more Top Chef on Hulu. I'd planned on getting things cleaned up around the house, but I still feel very accomplished for a Saturday. 5 p.m. — Can't make it to dinner time without a snack! Top Chef has inspired boyfriend to add garlic powder and parmesan cheese to a bag of Smartfood popcorn... it is surprisingly good! 7:15 p.m. — Head downtown for dinner to meet the friends. We decided on a place that I have a Groupon for, and the other couple bought one too. Once we get there, we remember that most places only allow one Groupon per table. We ask the server to treat us as two separate tables, and she agrees! Our bill is almost entirely covered by the Groupon. We only owe $6.47 pre-tip. Since the other couple bought the wine, I pay their tip to even it out. $26.91 9:30 p.m. — We head to one more spot downtown for another glass of wine. We have a "passport" for buy one, get one drinks around town, so we pick a spot where we can utilize it. My boyfriend treats as a way to further even out the spending between the us and our friends, and to celebrate our friends' engagement. The walk home is uphill, and it has gotten colder, but we decide to count this as our exercise and forego taking a Lyft. Once home, we finish the night with a little more wine and this week's This is Us. Daily Total: $26.91

Day Four

10 a.m. — I am so not a morning person. I'd scheduled a cycling class for 10, but I justify missing it. The gym is closing at the end of the month, and I have more classes than I know what to do with. Another morning of french press coffee, job applications, and TV. 12 p.m. — Breakfast/lunch at home is an english muffin with peanut butter and jelly, and a banana. 3 p.m. — Haircut at Ulta. I like to go here since I haven't found a standby hairdresser yet in Boulder, and I can earn points at Ulta. My hair is so dry and damaged (thanks, Colorado weather), so I decide to chop it! My mom had nothing nice to say about my hair when I was home for Christmas, so she offered to pay for the cut. It costs $57, and I charge it to a credit card that we share for occasions like this, and send her a selfie to say thanks. 4 p.m. — Meet up with boyfriend at the Target at the other end of the shopping center. Our cat needs food, and we've been wanting to make some other larger purchases with gift cards from Christmas. We stock up on a lot of cooking supplies. I am able to use a Cartwheel reward to get one piece of bakeware for free! Boyfriend pays the amount not covered by the gift cards, since I've covered the last few trips to Target. 5 p.m. — Back at Costco, again. We just got the membership for Christmas, so boyfriend needs to get his membership card, and we are in the neighborhood. We decide to open Costco Citi cards while at the membership desk to earn cash back on our Costco purchases. Another real reason we came here is to get a snack before cooking dinner. No sample carts are out, so I get us a hot dog and pop to share. Boyfriend buys himself a few things while I'm at the food counter. $1.62 6:30 — Real dinner time. A basic meal of chicken breasts and Brussels sprouts. I also throw together some cookies from a mix while the oven is hot. Boyfriend will bring some to his office tomorrow for a coworker's birthday, and it gives me a chance to use some of my new baking tools. Daily Total: $1.62

Day Five

8:15 a.m. — Keurig coffee and a quick breakfast (granola bar and banana) before heading out to work. It is a Monday. 12 p.m. — I eat the collection of random snacks I brought as a lunch (cup of soup from last week's cafeteria haul, veggie straws, carrots/hummus, Fiber One brownie) while working through lunch. I need to make up some hours that I missed last week. 5:15 p.m. — I head straight from work to a networking event south of the city. My gas light had gone on on my way to work, so I stop at a gas station on the way down. I pay for gas as needed instead of working it into my budget, since it can really vary depending on how many days I actually work in the office. Since Discover is currently giving 5% Cash Back for gas purchases, I make sure to use my Discover Card. $27.34 6 p.m. — I paid $25 to attend this networking event a few weeks back, so appetizers and a glass of wine are "free!" I quickly find my friends that are attending, we load up on apps, and order our wine. We all want to meet new people, but it is nice to chat amongst ourselves first. Throughout the night, we divide and conquer a bit, but I don't find anyone with my specific career interests. Still a good experience in meeting new people. 8:15 p.m. — As I'm driving back home, I see a cop shooting his radar gun at my car. I'm sure I am only going a few miles per hour over the limit, but I know my car stands out and that there is a speed trap on the highway. Rats! He signals for me to pull over, and I tell him that I was sure I was only going 5 m.p.h. over. After checking my ID and insurance, he lets me go with a warning. I did not want to have to pay a ticket. Luck works in my favor today. 9 p.m. — I'm a little startled when I get home, so I decompress and eventually realize I'm still hungry. I just snack on a few more appetizer-y foods (carrots and hummus again, snap pea crisps) and call it dinner. Daily Total: $27.34

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Coffee and cereal at home before I get on the road, with an extra dose of coffee to-go. 11:30 a.m. — Snacks for lunch again today. I'm really trying to resist the urge to dine out, since I did so much of that over the holidays and in early January. Boyfriend brought my favorite soup home from his work cafeteria yesterday — carrot ginger. The microwave is super far from my office, so I keep putting off heating it up and get by on snacks. 4 p.m. — So hungry, but it feels too late to make my soup. Luckily, a meeting in the conference room left some chips behind, so I grab some to hold me over. 6:20 p.m. — I get home a bit late, still without having eaten a proper lunch. Boyfriend is working late tonight screening a movie. These events always have extra pizza,. I have a few snacks while I wait for him to get home, and pizza is served shortly after. 8:50 p.m. — As I'm cleaning out my inbox, I remember that my cousin emailed out an order form for her daughter's Girl Scout cookie sales. I was a Girl Scout through high school, and love this time of year. They will visit in a few months and bring the cookies with them. I order five boxes. For the rest of the night, I continue to get organized and watch some late night TV. $20.00 Daily Total: $20.00

Day Seven

8:20 a.m. — Coffee and cereal at home again. I can't believe I've made it the whole week without stopping at Starbucks, but today might have to be the day. We're out of half and half, so my coffee is black and "bleh." 11:45 a.m. — Already hungry for lunch — I finally heat up yesterday's soup, and it is delicious but not as filling as I'd like. I have a couple snacks to help hold me over. 4:15 p.m. — I left work a bit early, since my boss had left the office and I have yet another professional event tonight. I stop in the suburbs for a treat that cannot be found in Boulder: Chick-fil-a. I don't like to frequent this place, but I really have a taste for those little chicken nuggets. $8.49 4:40 p.m. — Next to Chick-fil-a is another place that does not exist in Boulder: Walmart! I really do not like to frequent Walmart either, but I have a $10 gift card that I got for signing up for E-bates a couple months back. I grab a couple things I need/want: half and half, Nivea in-shower lotion, and Elf liquid liner. This comes out to $11.70, but I have the gift card! $1.70 5:30 p.m. — This professional event is free for me, since I am still considered a "recent grad." It is a Q&A format with some appetizers and networking afterwards. 8 p.m. — I meet boyfriend for a quick dinner after the event. We are able to make it in to his work cafeteria for a last minute dinner, since I am in the neighborhood. We've taken advantage of this a lot lately since he didn't use many of his meals during the earlier part of the month. It is a great perk when we don't feel like cooking. Daily Total: $10.19
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