A Week In Phoenix, AZ, On A $37,800 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, as part of Your Spending In Your State: an assistant working in IT who makes $37,800 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week at Chipotle.
Occupation: Assistant
Industry: IT
Age: 23
Location: Phoenix
Salary: $37,800
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,119
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $725 for my half of rent and hot water. (I live with a roommate and my two dogs.)
Student Loan Payments: $194.75. (Just made it to under $10,000!)
Health, Dental & Vision Insurance: $159.78. (It comes straight out of my paycheck.)
Wifi: $26
Electricity: ~$50. (~$100 in the summer when we use the air conditioning a lot.)
Transportation: $64 for an unlimited pass
Cell Phone Bill: $83, paid to my mom
Savings: $120 minimum
Netflix/Hulu/HBO: All paid for by family members generous enough to give me their passwords.
Additional Expenses
Spotify: $36, paid once a year

Day One

7 a.m. — Wake up in a panic! I should be leaving for work in about five minutes and yet I just woke up. I run around doing an abbreviated version of my normal morning routine, which includes brushing my teeth, quickly pulling my hair up into a semi-nice bun, applying mascara and brow pencil, and throwing on a comfy shift dress because I know I'm in for a long day.
7:30 a.m. — I walk the dogs, grab the breakfast and lunch that I packed last night, and take out ground sausage from the freezer to defrost for dinner. While doing so, my roommate and best friend, L.*, talks me down from my panic. I have flexible hours, so it doesn't really matter if I'm late, as long as I work eight hours a day. I just hate being late. I run out the door to catch the 7:47 a.m. train.
8:30 a.m. — After a nerve-racking bus ride (I had to stand and I hate standing on the bus because I'm clumsy), I arrive at my desk 30 minutes later than usual. Not bad for waking up 45 minutes late. I settle in with my breakfast of yogurt and granola while I finish a project from yesterday.
10:45 a.m. — I'm not going to make it until lunch, so I grab two Cuties tangerines from my bag and take a Twitter break in between projects.
12 p.m. — Heat up my taco rice bowl, which consists of chicken, salsa, taco seasoning, black beans, corn, cheese, and rice. I make this for lunch quite a bit because it's quick and heats up nicely. It all cooks in one pan in about 30 minutes and I eat it with tortilla chips. Sometimes I add avocado in the morning if we have any, which is rare. Today I sit at my desk and work through lunch so I can still leave at a decent hour.
2 p.m. — Struggling to keep my eyes open. I'm normally a morning person (this morning was weird for me since I normally wake before my alarm), so I start to struggle with my energy levels in the afternoon. I head to the kitchen with a tea bag from my desk and brew myself a cup of black chai, which I drink while snacking on chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels from Trader Joe's.
4:29 p.m. — As I'm hovering over the punch-out button, a manager comes to my desk to show me how to do a new project that needs to be finished tomorrow. I dutifully follow her to her office. I know I'll be grateful for the work tomorrow, but now I'm a little annoyed to be missing my bus.
5:30 p.m. — Finally home, so I walk and feed the dogs. L. washes the dishes from last night so I take out the trash and get the mail while talking to my grandma, mom, and sister on the phone. Then I start cooking dinner: baked ziti, one of my favorite meals, which L. loves too.
6:15 p.m. — While dinner is in the oven, I have a beer and go through the mail. There's an invitation to my sorority anniversary gala next month. I knew this was coming and have been setting aside money for a couple months to help cover the costs. I fill out the RSVP right away and write a check to hold my spot. $60
6:45 p.m. — L. and I read during dinner like the true grandmas we are, which then leads to us both reading in her bed, commenting out loud about funny things we come across in our books. I finish The Assistants by Camille Perri, which I really enjoyed even though it hit a little close to home (since I'm an assistant).
9:30 p.m. — Take very cranky dogs for a walk in the rain. I shower, staring longingly at my shampoo. I'm trying to stretch out the days in between washes because my hair is getting too greasy, too fast. After getting in my PJs and into bed, I text with D.*, a guy I've been seeing recently, for a couple minutes before falling asleep around 11:15.
Daily Total: $60

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up 15 minutes before my alarm, but lay very still because I know I don't have the energy to match my puppy's excitement for the morning yet. Somehow, he knows I'm awake and comes to investigate by sticking his nose in my mouth. I play with him for 15 minutes while my older dog shoots us dirty looks from bed for waking her up.
6:15 a.m. — Both dogs are sleeping again, so I get ready. Once again, I pull my hair up into a semi-nice bun because it's too greasy to do anything else with. I wash my face, swipe on witch hazel toner, and apply mascara, brow pencil, and brow gel. I take the dogs for a quick walk, brew tea in a to-go mug, set two chicken breasts out to defrost for dinner, and say a quick good morning to L. (who is not a morning person and I think hates me for about the first 30 minutes of the day) before I run out to catch the train at 7:23.
8 a.m. — Get to work and start on the project I was given yesterday. I eat yogurt with granola and two Cuties, because I'm a creature of habit when it comes to food for the week.
10:30 a.m. — Get a text from my mom that she needs the money for my phone bill by Friday. I decide to just send it to her now since I have the money and tomorrow is Pay Day.
12:30 p.m. — I take my lunch hour late today because I want to finish up what I'm working on before I eat. I have another taco rice bowl with chips and chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels. When I get back to my desk, I order some things from Amazon: a pack of six picture frames for some travel posters I got while I was living in Australia, a pack of three iPhone chargers, and a small hammer. All of these things have been sitting in my cart for a while and I have extra money from budgeting my last paycheck so I decide to get them now. $47.59
1:30 p.m. — I tackle a confusing billing problem and then the afternoon breezes by. Take a small break for my afternoon tea, of course.
4:20 p.m. — Sign out 10 minutes early, which means I can catch the earlier bus and train, getting me home in about half the time. I love when I can do that.
5 p.m. — I take a long walk with the dogs while talking to my grandma on the phone about her book club meeting today. I recommended the book they read for today, so she tells me about how the other grandmas in the club gushed about me. Makes me feel like an A+ granddaughter! L. normally does the dishes when she gets home in the evening since I cook for us, but she has to work late, so I do all the dishes, wipe down the counters, and get dinner started.
6 p.m. — D. calls me on his way home from work and I have a beer while talking to him and cooking dinner. He got off much earlier than he thought and wants to take me to dinner, but since I already started cooking and have plans with L. later, I turn him down. I promise to call him before I go to bed, though.
7:30 p.m. — After dinner, L. and I take the train to the library, but once we get off we realize it's about to close. We go to Target instead, since it's conveniently at the same stop. I buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and nails to hang my new picture frames. I use my REDcard to get 5% off. $15.56
9 p.m. — When I get home, I shower and actually wash my hair this time. I feel like a whole new woman. Then I put on a clay face mask, and while it dries I quickly tidy my room and bathroom. How does everything get so messy so fast?
10:30 p.m. — I walk the dogs and then get in bed to call D. He tells me he wants us to get more serious and wants to know if I will delete my Tinder (which is where we met). This sounds like a great idea to me. I tell him I deleted my Tinder shortly after our first date, which makes him really happy because he did the same thing. I fall asleep shortly after, feeling pretty content with my life.
Daily Total: $63.15

Day Three

2:30 a.m. — My puppy has been waking me about every 30 minutes. I have no idea what his problem is, but he is clearly very upset about something and won't let me sleep. He finally settles at about 5:30 a.m.
6:15 a.m. — I decide that I need extra sleep so I set my alarm for 30 minutes from when it first goes off. It is still a struggle to get up when it rings again at 6:45. My pup doesn't seem to notice my lack of sleep and runs around my feet while I sleepily go through my morning routine.
7:15 a.m. — Take both dogs for a walk, set out chicken to defrost, grab my lunch, and head to the train. When I walk outside, the train is already at the station, five whole minutes early. I watch it leave as I wait to cross the busy street. The next train is of course running late so it takes me nearly double the normal time to get to work. On the bus, I send my friend my portion of the money for Spotify for the year.
8:30 a.m. — Eat breakfast (yogurt and Cuties) at my desk again while reading through emails.
9:30 a.m. — My boss is back in the office today. I'm the assistant to the VP, but he has never had an assistant before (and I've never been an assistant before) so we are still trying to figure out a good balance. Others in the department don't like to bring me extra work when he is in, meaning I have much less to do today. But I brought this up to him last month, so he's been trying to convince people to assign me things.
10:30 a.m. — Since I have some free time, I call a doctor's office I'm hoping will become my new primary care doctor. I set up a wellness checkup for later in the month, which will save me about 25% on my health insurance through work.
11 a.m. — Finally someone brings me a fascinating market trends project that I thoroughly enjoy chipping away at. Who knew I would like market trends. I sure didn't.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch is same as yesterday, but with Cheez-Its instead of pretzels. I eat at my desk again to make up for my lateness this morning. I miss sunlight. While I'm eating, L. texts me about a comedian coming to our area in March and wants to know if I want to go. I do, and offer to buy our tickets right now, only to realize that I don't have my wallet with me. I panic for a second before realizing it must be in my backpack from our Target trip yesterday. I'll have to buy the tickets later.
3 p.m. — Still have nothing to do. I make tea and settle in for some money management, since I got paid today. I have a system that sounds much more complex on paper then it does in real life. I have three accounts: my basic debit account, a debt account without a debit card attached, and a savings account. My direct deposit comes into my main debit account twice a month and when it does, I move all the money I've calculated that I need for bills into my second account. Then I move either $75 or $45 into my savings account (so I save a total of $120 a month). I pay all of my bills with my second debit account but I pay my daily expenses with the first account, so I know how much “fun” money I have to spend ("fun" meaning groceries, mainly). I like to keep them separate in my head. Today I move $495 into my second account and $75 into my savings account, since I already paid rent this month.
4:30 p.m. — As I'm leaving work, L. texts me with some family news and tells me she'll be flying home tomorrow night. When I get home, she has walked and fed my dogs and is rightfully extra sad, so I get to work making one of her favorite comfort foods, chicken noodle soup — with the chicken I set out earlier while she gives me the full story.
9:30 p.m. — I head to bed early after walking the dogs one last time.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

5:45 a.m. — I wake up early but have no desire to move from my warm bed, so I read a bit while my pups shockingly stay asleep. I started Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed yesterday on the bus and it's amazingly scary in a "this could totally happen" kind of way. Around 6:15, I start getting ready, doing what I do most other mornings, but I also help L. pack a bit and say goodbye since I won't her see for a few days.
7:45 a.m. — Friday Starbucks stop. I get a grande soy black and white hot chocolate ($4.72) with a gift card I have that's already loaded in my Starbucks app.
10:45 p.m. — My boss messages me from a meeting that he wants lunch for 25 people at noon, and he requests something healthier than pizza. After frantically searching for a place that can deliver for that many people that fast, I order 25 catering lunch boxes from CPK and one for myself as well. I give the taco bowl that I brought for lunch to my coworker who is always commenting on how good my lunches look, and she gives it a stamp of approval. ($427.86 expensed)
12:05 p.m. — I set up the lunches when they arrive and then take mine down to my desk.
3:30 p.m. — Get an email from my credit card company that my credit limit won't be raised, which is weird, because I didn't request a higher limit.
4 p.m. — I head home early because I worked through lunch and catch an early bus that gets me home in half the time again! I walk and feed the dogs their dinner before cleaning up the apartment a little bit. My friend from college, C.*, is coming up from Tucson for the night. I haven't seen her in a few months because she's in grad school out of state, so I'm excited to spend time with her.
6:30 p.m. — C. finally arrives! We have leftover chicken noodle soup and beer while we discuss our plans for the evening. We decide we want to get dressed up and go out to a nearby bar with a fun crowd and live music.
8:45 p.m. — The band is amazing. We each have two cocktails and a beer along with an order of fries. I cover the whole bill because I know grad school is expensive and I can cover the cost. We chill there for a few hours before my grandma self starts to get tired, and we head home around midnight. I walk the dogs one more time and head to bed. $70.52
Daily Total: $70.52

Day Five

8 a.m. — Both dogs shockingly let me sleep in a bit. I get up and check on C., who is just waking up too. I take the dogs for a walk, and then C. and I take the train downtown to a breakfast place on L.'s recommendation. We both order breakfast sandwiches and strawberry lemonades. C. offers to cover breakfast since I got our drinks last night, but it's not very expensive, so I pay again. I'm sure she'll get me back in the future. $30.48
10:30 a.m. — On our way home, we walk through the farmer's market but I don't see anything I want, mostly because I'm too full to really think about food. On the train back home, we make plans with another friend to meet at the mall for shopping and lunch.
11:30 a.m. — C. and I amuse ourselves by trying on the ugliest things Forever 21 has to offer while we wait for our friend. Then I actually find and buy a shirt I like, which is rare for me at Forever 21 ($11.90). We stop by Sephora, where I buy two clay face masks ($17.47), before we head to the food court for lunch. I get Chipotle ($8.65) while the others get Panda Express. After lunch, I buy new underwear from American Eagle ($31.67) and chocolate from See's Candy with a gift card ($12.50). We say goodbye to our friend, and then C. and I head to the movies. The only seats left are right in front of the screen, though, so we decide to go to the theater closer to my apartment. $69.69
3:30 p.m. — On the drive back, I get hit with a massive headache, so as soon as we get home I abandon C. to sit in my dark room for a while. I end up falling asleep but wake up just before we need to leave for the movie, feeling much better. I walk the dogs and quickly feed them dinner before we hope on the train.
6:30 p.m. — C. buys my ticket, drink, and candy since I covered our drinks and breakfast. We see Jumanji, which is much funnier than I thought it would be.
9 p.m. — On the way home, I run into Target to buy a hammer because the one I ordered from Amazon still isn't here and I want to get things hung up this weekend. I'll just return the Amazon one when it finally gets here. While at Target, L. calls me and updates me on her trip home. She sounds sad and I just want to give her a hug. But she'll be home a day earlier then I thought, which is nice for me. $6.40
10 p.m. — C. spends the night again because it's too late to drive home, so we put on Holes (our favorite movie) and talk more about our lives.
12 a.m. — Just as I'm getting into bed after walking the dogs, D. calls me and we talk for about 30 minutes before I start falling asleep on the phone.
Daily Total: $106.57

Day Six

8:30 p.m. — I get up and walk the dogs. When I get home, C. is up and hungry. I make eggs, toast and add a Cutie to each plate because they're about to go bad. She leaves shortly after breakfast, and I get back in bed for a couple hours to go on my computer and read for a bit.
12 p.m. — Finally get out of bed and hang up all of my wall décor. I moved into this apartment almost six months ago but I have barely unpacked anything. I sold most of my furniture a few years ago just before I moved to Australia, where I lived for over a year. When I came back, I was extremely broke and was lucky that L. let me move in with her without having to put down a deposit. I was working as an office temp and my paychecks barely covered rent and bills, so I couldn't buy any new furniture for my room. I have a stable, well-paying job now, but I am moving to Belgium in about six months and I don't see the point of buying furniture at this point. The bare walls are starting to kill me, though, so I want to put up travel posters and family photos.
4:30 p.m. — Take the train to Target. I buy Q-tips, ice cream, soda, and mozzarella sticks. When I get home, I walk and feed the dogs. $14.97
6 p.m. — For dinner, I have mozzarella sticks and a vodka Sprite (the vodka was a Christmas present from my boss), and then ice cream for dessert. Not the healthiest meal I've had this week, but as an adult you sometimes need to do stupid things like this, I think, just to prove you can.
10 p.m. — I walk the dogs one last time, then call D. for the night. His work schedule has been crazy this last week and I'm starting to miss him.
Daily Total: $14.97

Day Seven

6 a.m. — I'm wide awake, but it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I have the day off. I lay in bed for a while trying to fall back to sleep but eventually give up and take the dogs for a walk.
10 a.m. — FaceTime with my best friend, who just got engaged! While on the phone with her, I look online for an engagement present. I find a few things I like but nothing I love, so I don't buy anything yet.
2 p.m. — There is a reason I don't live by myself – I'm going crazy from loneliness. I need L. to come back. In order to combat the crazy, I make a menu for the week and a shopping list before I jump on the train and head to the grocery store. I buy veggies, chicken breast, rice, applesauce, and a few other items I need to make all my dinners. L. and I normally shop together and split on the spot, but I didn't want to wait for her to get back so I went myself and plan to just Venmo her for it later. $40.78
4:30 p.m. — I start cooking my lunch for the week. I'm making a chicken stir-fry with rice on the side. I got a rice cooker for Christmas and it has really improved my rice game. I walk and feed the dogs while I wait for all the food to cool down so I can pack it up.
7:45 p.m. — L. has landed! I cook frozen raviolis for us for dinner while she takes the train home. When she finally gets here, my dogs go nuts and I'm very excited as well. We spend the rest of the night talking about her trip and my weekend before I walk the dogs, shower, and finally go to sleep around 11.
Daily Total: $40.78
*Name has been changed for anonymity.
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