A Week In North Carolina On A $33,000 Stipend

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Editor's Note: This OP mentions losing a friend to suicide. If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
Today: a PhD student who receives a $33,000 annual stipend and spends some of her money this week on cherry tomatoes. We checked in with the OP regarding Hurricane Florence, and she said, "Besides a power outage and water-logged streets, we're fine." If you'd like to help those affected by Hurricane Florence, here's a list of resources.
Occupation: PhD Student
Age: 25
Location: North Carolina
Stipend: $33,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $2,300
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,250
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I got a full-ride scholarship to college.)
Car Payment: $245 (I pay more than the minimum.)
Car Insurance: $0 (My parents pay — we checked, and it's cheaper under my dad's name. Plus, they insisted.)
Phone: $0 (My parents pay for the family plan.)
Internet/Cable: $90
Electric: $50
Netflix: $0 (I use my boyfriend's account.)
Health Insurance: $0 (covered by the university)
Gym: $0 (I take free classes at school.)
Savings: I save around $300, but I expect to just put it all in my IRA before filing for a tax refund. I have $50,000 in a high-yield savings account, $10,000 set aside as an emergency fund, $15,000 in an IRA, and $5,000 in volatile stocks that I don't really think about.
Donations: $25

Day One

9:45 a.m. — It's thundering. I don't feel like waking up, but this is already later than I'd like to get up on a Sunday. The weather affects my mood/habits, so I love it when bright rays wake me up. Alas, not today.
12 p.m. — After two hours of reading academic papers, I boil some eggs and eat them on two slices of sourdough with Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel seasoning. I eat it with mint tea while watching Atypical on Netflix. I also ring my parents, who are both home for the day, so they talk over each other a lot on speaker phone. It's just the three of us, and we're very close. It sucks that I live six hours away, but at least I see them every few months.
1 p.m. — I finally get a hello from my boyfriend, S.! S. and I are in a long distance relationship right now. (We've been together for six years, and we've done both live-in and long distance, because work opportunities have us apart temporarily.) His mom is visiting him for the weekend, so just for the heck of it, I send him some money as a lunch treat. $40
6 p.m. — After more reading/studying, I contemplate ordering some takeout, but I resist. I make a lentil stir-fry with onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, kale, and like 10 different spices, and eat it with tart yogurt and some sourdough. I quickly shower and enjoy my meal with half a glass of a red blend. A bottle lasts me about a week or two. I chat some more with my parents about their evening walk and get updates from my boyfriend, who is going to various museums with his mom. Going to museums was never a thing in my family (and I still don't like them much), but it's cute to see S.'s Snapchats. I keep watching Atypical, but pause it frequently to get back to reading.
9 p.m. — The Packers game is off to a rough start, so I'm working while watching passively. Multiple “did you see that?!” calls with my parents. I keep taking notes for class tomorrow, but I'm peeved that I didn't meal prep. I normally make my breakfast/lunch foods on Sunday nights — things like salads, overnight oats, roasted meat and veggies, etc. Dinners are decided by my daily mood.
12 a.m. — PACKERS! Amazing comeback! This game kept me watching TV for too many hours before a school day (I lucked out and have classes on only two days), but boy, was it worth it. I fall asleep around 12:30.
Daily Total: $40

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — Up and out in 15 minutes. I set an alarm on days I have to get up, but I have never had to rely on it. I take the school shuttle and get there an hour or so early to get in the zone. I run into a close friend, G., and we exchange niceties before focusing on work. We decide to have drinks or dinner this Thursday night.
12 p.m. — Class is done, and it went well! Now I need to get some quick paperwork for my stipend processed. The pay is decent for a job where I read/think/write, but then again, it's so much lost income, since I left a high-paying product strategy job.
1 p.m. — Ugh, the paperwork takes way too long. I'm hungry and craving avocado toast, so I decide to hit up the local organic market on my way back home. The avocados aren't ripe, but I still get two and extra groceries. Hurricane Florence is headed our way, so stocking up isn't a bad idea. I add a basket of multicolored cherry tomatoes, apples, bananas, lemon herbal tea, 18 eggs, and two frozen Thai meals. $21.40
1:30 p.m. — I snack on a banana with peanut butter and drink lemon tea with a glass of almond milk on the side. I had hunger pains earlier, so I don't want to push it tummy-wise.
3 p.m. — I'm in the middle of “working,” which has been largely interrupted by Google News, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episodes, and some random articles on world economy. I have a major paper due tomorrow night, and since S. offered to help me after he's done with his meetings, I want to get the most out of it. His mom left this afternoon, so we'll also get to video chat tonight!
4:30 p.m. — I snack on cherry tomatoes and seeded bread topped with scrambled eggs. Then I put sweet potatoes in the oven to roast and heat more water to keep my lemon tea bag going. I quit my caffeine habit a while back, so it's just herbal tea for me.
6 p.m. — I take a quick shower and then snack on sweet potato with pumpkin seeds and fresh chilis. S. offers some design help and works through the logic of my assignment with me, and I help him make rapid decisions, since he's feeling indecisive about some of his tasks. At 7, we decide to just keep the video chat on while we both work. It's nice to peek in and wave hi randomly.
7:30 p.m. — Dinner of corn tortillas stuffed with the lentil stew from yesterday (the liquids cooked through). Then it's mint dark chocolate squares for dessert, per my mom's suggestion. I get back to work. S. offers to fly me out while the hurricane is going on, but I think I'll be fine. We both get feedback on our work from each other, make jokes, and share random Reddit posts.
Daily Total: $21.40

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — The sun rays wake me up! I'm nervous about getting my assignment done, but I take a breather and put some sounds on from my Calm app (Mountain Lake). It takes me 15 minutes to get ready each morning, maybe because I don't have a skincare or makeup routine. I should do something, but I honestly don't know where I'd start. Moisturizer? Peels? Contouring thingies? I experimented once, but all the scents had me sneezing too much. And when I went to Sephora, the makeup lady was angry I didn't know what I wanted. My skin is soft, smooth, and clear, so I just stick to a quick scrub every three days in the shower.
10 a.m. — I get an email saying I have no school at the end of the week! I text a few school friends about it and make plans to take them grocery shopping tonight and tomorrow, since I have a car.
12 p.m. — S. is getting worried about the hurricane and wants me to go to D.C., but I stubbornly say no. The avocados are ripe! I make two slices of seeded bread with avocado, lime, Everything seasoning, and chili flakes. Then I return to work mode (with Eminem blasting).
6 p.m. — I'm done with the paper! Phew. I snack on cherry tomatoes, a pear, and peanut butter, and then do some grocery shopping. There's a farmer's market/African/Caribbean store 25 minutes away that has really great deals. I buy beans, lentils, rice, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, okra, squash, cookies, black pepper, cashews, bananas, apples, and frozen snacks. My friends and I catch up on the ride there and back, and they invite me to dinner at their place. I pass on their sweet offer, but we make plans for after the hurricane. $41.31
8 p.m. — Since I don't have much time to cook, I pop in a frozen green Thai curry and eat it with some quinoa I whip up in 15 minutes. It's warm and simple. I also prepare an overnight quinoa bowl with quinoa, almond butter, almond milk, banana, chia seeds, honey, and pumpkin seeds for tomorrow while talking to my mom. She sounds like the national weather advisory, listing all the emergency items I need.
10 p.m. — I watch Vox's Explained on Netflix and outline notes for my classes tomorrow. I feel relaxed, and decide to chat with S. I love puns, and he piles them on me for an hour. I'm laughing so hard, my cheeks hurt! I go to bed at 11:30.
Daily Total: $41.31

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I'm awake earlier than expected. I was having dreams about my best friend, whom I lost to suicide. It was many years ago, but that loss just stays with you. I haven't been able to get that close to people since, but it's a work in progress. I focus on my breath, which calms my attention, and I read the news in bed to get an update on the storm. Oh boy, it's definitely going to hit my area.
8:30 a.m. — I finally get out of bed, pack up my lunch, and walk to the bus stop a mile away. There's a closer stop, but I like the lady driver who picks up from there.
12:30 p.m. — This class was a bit boring, so I distracted myself by chatting with S. I have my meal (so yummy!) in the sun and get back to prepping for my next class while listening to Tim Tim, Caro Emerald, and Parov Stelar.
5:30 p.m. — I take the bus and get home pretty quickly. The weather is deceivingly nice. I'm a bit bummed that I didn't speak up in my second class; I still have a fear of public speaking even though I've been in school for basically 20 years and have had a senior job. Ah well, next time. I listen to famous rom-com songs while making my shopping list. I contemplate getting a subscription to The Economist while munching on a Clif Builder's bar.
8:30 p.m. — We went to a popular chain grocery store, but it was stripped clean of bottled water :(. I still managed to get a few things: mini flashlight, chocolate bars, avocados, cereal, bread, chicken, and protein bars ($28.10). Next we hit up Whole Foods, where I buy (expensive) smoked salmon, two bottles of red wine, potatoes, canned veggies, boxed milk, oranges, pickles, and sushi ($37.56). I normally don't buy so many non-perishables, so I'm bummed to be spending this much. As for the veggie haul from today and yesterday, I *plan* on cooking a lot of it tomorrow. $65.66
9 p.m. — I conference call both of my parents, who offer helpful water storage tips. For dinner, I have sushi, half a glass of wine, and some dark chocolate. I try combing my hair, but give up because it's just too tangled (there has to be a solution), and put it in a bun before showering. I end the night with a quick video chat with S.
Daily Total: $65.66

Day Five

8 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of the garbage truck, so I put on some water sounds on my Calm app. I'm up after 10 minutes of listening. Time to wash dishes and do laundry! I normally do Zumba and pilates every Thursday and Friday, but all school activities are cancelled right now.
12:30 p.m. — I get caught up on emails and vacuum the house while listening to Florence + the Machine. For lunch, I put together a sweet potato and mixed veggie omelette with toast.
3:30 p.m. — It's a lazy Thursday. I start on my work for next week, but I don't feel like doing it, so I just stop. I take a long shower and lounge in my towel while reading world news. I also paint my nails purple and browse for a hair stylist in the area, since I haven't had a haircut in a year. I budgeted $70 for this, but I can't find any salons that seem promising.
5 p.m. — G. reminds me that we talked about maybe getting dinner tonight. He suggests a new fusion tapas place, and even though the weather is getting bad (and I'd love to make a Jamaican chicken curry with the ingredients I bought), I say yes. I start watching Two Weeks Notice on Netflix and then get ready. Three other friends are also joining, and I offer to give them a ride.
12:30 a.m. — Finally home! It was a really fun evening, despite the gusts picking up. All four of my friends are guys, and I love my friendships with them. We talk about their dating lives, disasters we've lived through, and general happenings. Many other 20 somethings are stumbling through downtown, but it's eerie how quiet everyone is. At the restaurant, the five of us try lots of (cheesy) small plates and flatbreads, and I get a delicious Belgian. I plan on being the designated driver, so this is the only drink for me. I cover the check, and they Venmo me right away ($22.33). We also go to a cupcake store before it closes ($3). We end the night at another bar where they drink and we play Settlers of Catan. (I win, per usual.) I miss S., but we check in periodically since he wants my opinion on new computer gear he's buying. I don't laugh as much without S., but these friends are quite the mates :). $25.33
1 a.m. — I take a quick shower, brush my teeth, and roll into bed.
Daily Total: $25.33

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to wind howls and rain, but then the hurricane slumber hits me.
10 a.m. — I finally get out of bed. Now the weather is just dark and gloomy. The storm hit the coast this morning, so I get caught up reading about the rescues and outages. Many people I know flew out of town this week, and while other parts of the South have experienced much worse, I understand the panic. I plan the rest of my reading schedule for the day while finishing Two Weeks Notice. Oh jeez, the current president has a cameo in this film...
12:30 p.m. — Nooo, I see the new season of BoJack Horseman is out. I will resist. I make two toasts with eggs, avocado, and smoked salmon as well as some lemon tea. I'm oddly still hungry, so I nibble on a protein bar as I get back to class work.
2 p.m. — A close friend from high school just told me she's pregnant! After congratulations, we freak out, look things up online, and figure out a plan to tell her in-laws. Her husband is so excited, but I know my friend is more nervous than anything. I think about pickles, and have one.
5 p.m. — I start cooking Jamaican curry chicken while catching up with my mom, since the storm is picking up. We talk the entire hour it takes to make the curry and quinoa. I have some red wine while eating dinner, and I watch an episode of BoJack.
8 p.m. — The lights are still on, but the windows are getting hammered. I eat chocolate and try to just have a mellow evening. I keep reading articles for class, chat with S., and go to bed by 11.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Wake up to my dad calling, since he's worried. It stormed all night, and I'm sad to hear about the deaths. I look up weather forecasts and read some journal articles. Then I check in with S., who went out with his friends last night. He definitely has a hangover, so I send him memes to cheer him up. I outline a hydrating menu for him.
1 p.m. — My guy friends invite me to brunch, but I just want an alone day. There's also a hurricane outside! I eat a banana with almond butter and honey, plus avocado toast. Then I peruse Etsy for unique and/or vintage rings and bookmark them for S.'s collection. He bought an expensive diamond ring early in our relationship that I had him return (five years ago). I don't support that industry, nor was I ready for anything serious at the time (though I knew he was "the one").
4 p.m. — I take a break from articles and eat bell peppers and an orange. Not being able to exercise is definitely making me groggy. I try some ab routines, but I don't enjoy those as much as gym classes.
6:30 p.m. — I'm still out of it, so I decide to make an elaborate meal of my dad's famous veggie gumbo (with loads of eggplant) and a spicy biryani. Cooking definitely brightens me up, and the food tastes amazing! I decorate a big bowl of it all, look up the weather/areas affected, and rewatch The Departed. I head to bed at 10:30 after some light reading.
Daily Total: $0
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
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