A Week In Philadelphia, PA, On A $42,290 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.
Today: an administrative assistant who makes $42,290 per year and spends some of her money this week on Swedish Fish.
Occupation: Administrative Assistant
Industry: Academic
Age: 29
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Salary: $42,290
Paycheck Amount (4x/month): $585.05
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,275 (split evenly with my boyfriend)
Health Insurance: Covered by work
Dental/Vision Insurance: Covered by work
Utilities: ~ $60 (split evenly with my boyfriend)
Internet: $40 (split evenly with my boyfriend)
Credit Card: I pay off my balance each month
Phone: I'm still on my family's plan
Spotify: $3 (shared family plan)
Netflix: $0 (I use my family's Netflix account; they use my HBO account.)
Therapy: $50 every other week
HBO: $15.89
Hulu: $6.35
Audible: $15.85
Gym: $40
Renter's Insurance: $24 (split evenly with my boyfriend)

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm and notice my boyfriend, R., hasn't been in bed for a while. I get up and check on him, and find he has a stomach bug. He tells me he's okay, and I crawl back into bed until 7 a.m. Before getting ready for work, I throw on a sweatshirt and cross the street to our corner market. I grab Saltines, Gatorade, and ginger ale for R. and a banana for my breakfast ($9.50). The market is always overpriced, but it's close by and I like the family that runs it. $9.50
7:15 a.m. — I wash my face with La Roche-Posay foaming cleanser and apply Clinique moisturizer and then Aveeno sunscreen. I use It Cosmetics CC cream as a foundation, dot on some Elf blush and bronzer, then apply Revlon Colorstay eyeliner and d.j.v. MIARAY Fiberwig mascara. (I've been using Fiberwig since high school, and it's truly the best.) I brush my hair, brush my teeth, get dressed, and am out the door by 7:40.
12:30 p.m. — The landlord of our dream apartment has emailed R. and me to let us know that we did not get picked for the apartment. I am crushed and call R., who is still groggy from his stomach bug and doesn't sound as disappointed as I am. This makes me more upset. I try to calm down and decide I should step out for lunch soon to avoid getting too hangry about it.
1:30 p.m. — Normally I pack lunch, but we spent the weekend away, and I haven't had time to grocery shop or meal prep. I step out to grab something but end up calling my parents first to discuss the apartment situation. I spend the majority of my hour-long break on the phone and make a quick stop at Wawa for a soup/sandwich combo, iced tea, and bag of pretzels, which I'll eat back at my desk. $10.62
3 p.m. — Still feeling moody about losing the apartment, I decide to treat myself to a little pick-me-up. I buy a bag of Swedish Fish ($1.50) from the basement vending machine. My anxiety is bad today — I have a real introvert hangover after a busy weekend of socializing, and now I feel like I have no control over our upcoming move. The candy doesn't help, and I spend the rest of the afternoon fighting off a sugar crash. $1.50
5:30 p.m. — Work is quiet today, since I work at a university and summer has started on campus. I wrap up on time and call my dad on my way home to continue discussing my leasing options. I end up sitting on campus for an additional 45 minutes as we discuss lease negotiations for my second-choice apartment. This is helpful but means I won't have time to grocery shop tonight as planned.
6:15 p.m. — I walk the 40 minutes home in a thunderstorm. I debate catching a bus, but I'm enjoying the fresh air despite the rain. I call R. during my walk to see how he's feeling. I pick up a couple servings of chicken noodle soup for him from a local restaurant ($10.80) and then stop in a CVS for more Saltines and Gatorade ($10.04). $20.84
7 p.m. — R. doesn't have much energy, so we put on a movie to relax. I grab some instant noodles for dinner, because I don't want to cook anything that might smell and bother him. After the movie, I make up a bed on the couch for myself so he can have our bedroom to himself (mostly so he can get a good rest, but also because I don't want to catch this stomach bug). My nightly routine consists of using makeup-remover wipes, face wash, moisturizer, and occasionally an eye cream. I flip through social media and get to sleep by 10:30.
Daily Total: $42.46

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up surprisingly refreshed from my night on the couch. I hop in the shower, do my makeup, and grab one of R.'s bananas on my way out the door (making a mental note to replace it when I get groceries). It's already humid out, and my 40-minute walk feels like swimming to work. I wonder how long into summer I'll last doing these walks.
10 a.m. — I eat the banana for breakfast and make myself a cup of coffee. I use the quiet morning to email the landlord of our second-choice apartment and let her know that we agree to the lease. I don't feel very excited about it now, but I know it's a great apartment. More than anything, I'm just happy to have the exhausting apartment search behind us. I have lived in the city for four years, and this will be my fourth move. I'm hoping this is a good one and that we stay for a while.
12 p.m. — Work is slow, and I am trying to get excited about this new apartment. Although we won't move for another month, my favorite pastime is planning how to furnish places. I flip between Craigslist, Ikea, and Facebook Marketplace to scheme what furniture I would add. (We'll definitely need stools for the kitchen island…do we want simple ones that can tuck in or comfortable ones with a back?) I regret not taking photos of the apartment when we visited but make do with the images still posted on the apartment listing.
1:15 p.m. — I order Honeygrow online for lunch, since I didn't grocery shop yesterday. I get the spicy garlic stir-fry with chicken ($10.82) and convince myself it's somewhat healthy. I wait 20 minutes to go pick it up and decide to eat it outside since the rain is holding off for now. I'm bad at taking my full lunch break and am making an effort to not eat at my desk, especially when the weather is nice. I grab a bench in my favorite sunken garden next to the library and manage to take 45 minutes of my break before feeling anxious about being away from my desk and heading back inside. $10.82
5:30 p.m. — I leave work and head to Trader Joe's. It's surprisingly quiet on weeknights, but I still get intimidated when the line wraps around the store. I pick up a watermelon, lettuce, carrots, bananas, dates, zhoug sauce, plantain chips, dried coconut strips, cauliflower gnocchi, whole-wheat wraps, grilled chicken strips, shredded mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, Everything but the Bagel seasoning, sesame bagels, cream cheese, pancake bread, and a bag of Scandinavian Swimmers ($61.31). I run into a friend who works with my sister. She tells me my sister hasn't been at work for the past two days, and I get worried. I finish up my shopping and plan to call her when I'm home. $61.31
6:30 p.m. — My groceries are manageable enough that I intend to walk home or at least take the bus, but the impending dark clouds make me think otherwise. I call an Uber ($8.77), and the sky opens up just as I get inside the car. Worth it. $8.77
7 p.m. — Back home, I try calling my sister to see if she's okay. She doesn't pick up, and my anxiety immediately takes over. I touch base with my mom and other sister to see if they know anything. I try not to panic but have already jumped to three different worst-case scenarios. R. assures me everything is okay and tells me to hold off on calling her again right away. I begin to heat up some cauliflower gnocchi with sun-dried tomatoes for my dinner, and then she calls. Only a stomach bug, she's okay. I should get better about touching base more often. And not jumping to conclusions.
7:30 p.m. — My other sister sends a Venmo request to cover the groceries she bought for our weekend trip ($17.50). I have a Venmo balance already stored up, so I immediately pay her request. This doesn't feel like real spending because it won't directly charge my bank account, which is a dangerous mentality. $17.50
8:30 p.m. — R. and I eat dinner and settle in to watch the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones. The series ended a few weeks ago, but we haven't caught up yet and it's been increasingly hard to avoid spoilers. We're tempted to watch the finale, too, but it's getting late. We take out the recycling together and wind down for the night. I'm too tired to even catch up on social media, and I fall asleep by 11:15.
Daily Total: $98.40

Day Three

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but I sleep through it for a minute and only wake up from R. stirring. This is unusual for me, and I make a mental note to get to bed earlier tonight so I'm not this exhausted again. I get dressed, do my makeup, grab a banana, and am out the door 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I allow myself to walk at a slower pace today, since I'm tired and have the extra time.
10 a.m. — Two cups of office coffee deep, and I'm still dragging. Maybe it's the residual effects of the weekend trip, apartment hunt, and taking care of R.? I haven't even had a second to unpack my suitcase, and our apartment is a mess. This scatteredness always adds to my stress. My therapist told me to start noting the correlation between my mood and the weather. These rainy days and increased anxiety seem to fit the bill, but I still feel blaming my anxiety on the weather is unfounded. I'll bring this up at my appointment tonight.
2 p.m. — I finally had the chance to pack lunch today and enjoy a wrap with lettuce, shredded cheese, and grilled chicken in addition to some sliced watermelon. I eat lunch at my desk because I need to run errands during my break today. I head to the library to return a book and then to the post office to mail our signed lease and security deposit ($0.70). The post office takes way too long, and I decide not to use any more of my break once I finish up. $0.70
6 p.m. — It's always a race to get to my therapy appointment on time, and the rain tonight doesn't help. I've been seeing this therapist every other week for the past six months. At $50 per session (not covered by insurance), it is slightly out of my budget. But I made the choice to give up my monthly bus pass ($96 per month) as a way to balance out the cost. Now I am taking care of my mental and physical health by walking more. I make it on time and the session goes well, but I'm always drained and angsty afterward. I plop down on the couch and browse Netflix to tune everything out.
7:30 p.m. — R. gets home from work, and we catch up on our days. His stomach is still iffy, but he's certain the only thing he has an appetite for is noodles from our favorite takeout place. I can't argue — we definitely have to get noodles if it will help his stomachache. I place the order for dan dan noodles and vegetable lo mein and walk to pick it up. It comes to $20.20, and R. Venmos me for half ($10.10). We eat dinner while watching the finale of Game of Thrones. We're both left a little unsatisfied by the ending and stay up discussing it while cleaning up the kitchen. I tend to get cranky when I'm overtired (and still antsy from therapy) and look for reasons to pick a fight. I'm getting better at catching myself doing this, but it's still hard to snap out of. I put myself to bed to avoid any unnecessary arguments and fall asleep around 11:30. $10.10
Daily Total: $10.80

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — I am awake before my alarm and toss and turn until 7 a.m. Why am I still so cranky this morning? It's Friday, the sun is out, we finished Game of Thrones — things are good. I don't know what's going on but allow myself to take my morning routine at a slow pace.
11 a.m. — I check my bank account and remember it's payday. I'm not used to a weekly paycheck after only two months at this job. Getting a smaller amount every week rather than a bigger check twice a month is an interesting change. While it spaces the income out nicely, I also find myself transferring less into savings when it's not a big deposit to begin with. This time I leave it in my checking account, knowing that our deposits for the new apartment will hit soon.
2 p.m. — I take my lunch break outside (wrap with lettuce, shredded cheese, and grilled chicken, plus a peach) and decide to wander since it's so nice out. I've been eyeing a perfume at Bluemercury (Orange Blossom by Jo Malone) and head in to spritz myself with it while I pretend to debate buying it. In actuality, I can't justify spending $68 on a one-ounce bottle when the smell disappears after an hour. I leave the store happily sniffing my wrists.
4 p.m. — Still sniffing the fading scent on my arm, I decide to research cheaper alternatives. I dive deep into Reddit threads on similar perfumes and end up on a U.K. website known for making scent dupes. They have my scent, and even with international shipping, it only comes to $16.66! I was trying to not spend any money today, but this is too good to pass up. $16.66
6:30 p.m. — I flop on the couch after a long week and listen to an episode of Bon Appétit Foodcast while snacking on some plantain chips. My snack is hardly as satisfying as the food they are discussing. When R. gets home, we heat up the leftover noodles and catch up about our days. We have a low-key night, finish watching season two of Barry, and get to bed by 11.
Daily Total: $16.66

Day Five

8 a.m. — This is as close to sleeping in as I can get these days. While R. stays asleep, I draw a bath and soak for a while. I dress slowly and browse social media on the couch. R. gets up around 9:30, and we get ready for the day. We are helping my brother's girlfriend at an art fair for a few hours this morning, and it's near our favorite breakfast spot, so we head out early.
10 a.m. — We catch the subway about a block from our apartment and take it a few stops to my old neighborhood. We both have preloaded transit passes, so the usual $2 ticket is already covered. I order a breakfast sandwich and La Colombe triple-shot coffee ($11.88). This place has become more popular since I lived here, and the bros are so loud that we don't linger long after finishing our food. $11.88
11 a.m. — It turns out that my brother's girlfriend definitely does not need our help, so we try to stay out of the way more than anything. We wander the fair and check in on her occasionally, but she is totally self-sufficient. After feeling that we have successfully supported the arts, we call a Lyft to the farmer's market near home. (R. pays.)
1 p.m. — R. picks up a bouquet of flowers to give his mom tonight after her play that we're seeing. The theater allows you to bring food and drinks, so I pick up two bottles of wine for our group ($33.46) while we're out. We get home and relax before heading out for the play. $33.46
6:30 p.m. — R. and I catch a train out to the theater. We don't buy tickets on the platform and the conductor doesn't scan our passes, so it's a free ride! His mom has comped our tickets to the play, so we offer to provide the food. We order lots of Indian takeout for the group and pick it up as we walk from the train station to the theater. R. pays, but I Venmo him $40 since it's a big order. $40
10 p.m. — The play was great, and everyone is full of delicious food and wine. We linger at the theater for a while to catch up with R.'s family, then his mom kindly drives us home. We consider going out again but find ourselves exhausted and head to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $85.34

Day Six

8 a.m. — Another early weekend morning means another relaxing bath. I wait until I hear R.'s alarm around 9:30 and then head back into our room. It's our seven-year anniversary! I snuggle with him for a while, and we talk about making breakfast, but then we both doze back off to sleep.
11 a.m. — I guess I really needed the sleep! I wake up to the sound of R. putting coffee on. I stretch and enjoy the slow morning before joining him in the kitchen. I make pancakes while he sets the table. Even though we have a lot of “life admin” stuff to do today, I'm glad we take the time to make a nice breakfast together. After breakfast, we sit down to discuss the logistics of moving and some summer travel plans. This takes longer than expected, and we eventually stop for lunch. I make a wrap and slice some watermelon while R. heats up a leftover burrito.
3 p.m. — My anxiety is back in action after the planning session, and I am feeling completely overwhelmed (like a-stuck-drawer-makes-me-cry-level overwhelmed). I decide to shut down for a bit and watch a few episodes of Dead to Me on Netflix in bed, while R. is out running errands. It helps take my mind off of things, but I know I should use that time to get on top of my to-do list in order to really feel better.
5 p.m. — R. and I have a dinner reservation to celebrate our anniversary. We walk 30 minutes to a new pasta restaurant. It's slightly more expensive than we would usually opt for, but it's a special occasion. We order beer and wine, two appetizers, two entrees, and a dessert to share. It's delicious! R. wants to pick up the bill, but I insist on splitting it since I know it's going to be a bit pricey. We each pay $47.03 (including tip) and walk home just before a storm hits. $47.03
9:30 p.m. — R. is going to New York City for work tomorrow, which means he'll be up by 5:30. I'm happy for an excuse to go to bed early, so we both start winding down. I set two alarms — 6 a.m. if I decide to go to the gym, and 7 a.m. if I decide to skip it. We are both asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $47.03

Day Seven

7 a.m. — At some point in the night, I talked myself out of going to the gym and turned off my early alarm. It feels good to get nine hours of sleep, but I know a gym session would have eased some of my anxiety. I rarely have the apartment to myself in the mornings, and I love it. I shower, dress, pack my bag, and head out the door at 7:45 (a few minutes behind schedule). I downloaded a new audiobook (Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens) with my monthly Audible credit and happily listen as I walk to work.
1:30 p.m. — Work is busy today, and before I know it, it's time for lunch. I eat my chicken wrap in the garden next to the library and spend the rest of my break enjoying the sunshine while browsing social media. I take a few minutes to call my current landlord to see if R. and I can hold on to our keys for a day or two after our lease ends (the 30th), because we can't move into our new place until the 1st. They say the new tenant is moving in on the 1st, so we can't keep our keys. Ugh. We'll be able to spend the night with our parents (we both grew up in the suburbs, so home is less than 30 minutes away). But where do we put all of our furniture for 24 hours? And the 1st is a Monday, so who can help us move? How do other people manage this in-limbo period? These are some of the logistics that sent me over the edge yesterday. Deep breath…
3 p.m. — I spend the afternoon creating a Google Doc to map out all the logistics of the move. This kind of detailed planning always makes me feel better. I write down all of the unknowns and find possible solutions to them so I can't be blindsided. I do a cost analysis of different moving-truck rentals and different rental-date scenarios (Sat-Mon vs. Sun-Mon). I also make a list of people we can ask to help with the move-out that weekend, and a list of movers we can hire for move-in on Monday. I feel a lot more in control but realize this will be an expensive move.
5:30 p.m. — The weather is perfect, and I walk home from work listening to my audiobook. I cut through Rittenhouse Square park right as the church bells chime at 6. Back home, I keep my audiobook playing as I cook dinner (cauliflower gnocchi with sun-dried tomatoes and watermelon for dessert), and I sip wine straight from the bottle. I clean up after eating, set up for the morning, and then watch Dead to Me until R. gets home around 8:45. We catch up on our days and call it another early night, since he is going back to NYC in the morning. I'm asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $0
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