A Week In Scottsdale, AZ, On A $41,500 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: a program coordinator working in government who makes $41,500 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on dog food.
Occupation: Program Coordinator
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Salary: $41,500
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,074.68
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $513. (I live with two roommates in a three-bedroom house with a pool.)
Student Loan Payment: $220. (I am 13 months into my PSLF program.)
Car Loan Payment: $185. (I have $7,500 in total left.)
Health Insurance: $36
State Retirement Plan: $355
Short Term Disability: $7.12
Cell Phone Bill: $72, paid to my mom
Internet: $28
Water, Trash & Electricity: ~$90
Pool Service: $29.67
Budgeting Software: $5
Public Transportation: $0. (I get a free transit pass through my work.)
Spotify: $10.78
Car Wash Membership: $11.99
Hulu: $12.71
Charity: $50, to various organizations.
ClassPass: $45 for five or six classes. (I also have a free gym access through work.)
Pet Expenses: ~$150, between food, treats, grooming, toys, and medication.
Savings: I allocate $220 into a separate account for things like taxes, credit card user fees, vet appointments, medical bills, and other irregular expenses. $220/month was the average I spent in 2017 on all of these combined, which is how I came up with that number. I also put $125 into this account every month to pay for birthdays, gifts, holiday expenses, etc.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I lay in bed looking at my phone for a bit. My 14-year-old Basset Hound is still snoring in his bed on the floor, so I'm safe to chill for a minute.
6:45 a.m. — Get up, get ready, do my makeup, and throw a good amount of dry shampoo in my hair. Happy Friday!
7:15 a.m. — I feed my animals (aforementioned Basset Hound and a grey cat). Plus I give the dog his medication ($76/month eye drops for his newly diagnosed diabetes insipidus). The medication really helps and he's as healthy as can be!
7:45 a.m. — I am running late this morning, so I can't give the old guy a walk. He makes a point to howl at me about how unacceptable this is. I give him a carrot for his troubles. I eat avocado toast, pack my to-go coffee, and head out to the light rail.
8:01 a.m. — Hop on the light rail, which is five minutes late. We get free public transit passes through my work. I take the light rail about three times per week. It's always entertaining. I listen to a true crime podcast on my ride.
8:49 a.m. — Get into my office and fill up my coffee mug for round two. Settle into work.
10:10 a.m. — My back is hurting, so I get up for a quick 10-minute walk. I have mildly terrible sciatica and I've spent a small fortune trying to “fix” it. Walking is really the only thing that helps.
12 p.m. — I am meeting a friend for lunch at a restaurant about a mile away, so I walk over. We chat, gossip, and eat our weight in Mexican food. She drives me back to my office. $10.50
2:33 p.m. — Jump on the light rail home. I'm going to finish the rest of the work day from the couch.
5:50 p.m. — I'm starting to get hungry even though my lunch was so big. Some friends are going to a brewery for dinner, but I don't feel like spending money or taking off my yoga pants. I'll meet them at their house later for board games and wine. I peruse my fridge for dinner. One of my New Year's goals was to not waste as much food, so I really try to be conscious of that. I give up and go walk the dog.
6:30 p.m. — Rejuvenated, I make a quesadilla, heat up leftover refried beans, and cut up half a cucumber and the rest of the raw broccoli I find in my fridge. Voila, dinner!
8 p.m. — Pack up the dog and head to my friend's house for wine and games. We play What Do You Meme?, I drink a couple of glasses of wine, and the dogs play.
10:45 p.m. — Somehow, my friend with benefits shows up. I'm the token single girl in my friend group of married and long-term couples. They want the FWB and I to be together; I know this is a bad idea because of 100 different reasons. But we all know he'll come home with me tonight.
11:30 p.m. — Pack up the dog and leave. FWB follows.
Daily Total: $10.50

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Up early for a Saturday! FWB tries to stay in bed but I have gotta go, homie. I feed the animals, get ready, and eat avocado toast and a protein bar. I hate protein bars, but they get the job done. I pack up my coffee and I'm out the door.
8:25 a.m. — I drop my car off at the mechanic. She needs an oil change and something is weird with the brakes.
8:40 a.m. — Scottsdale has a couple of bike share programs, so I download the app of the bike I see. The first day is free. I get on the bike and ride a mile to a local park.
9 a.m. — I am in a local charity game for the Young Professionals Board I'm on for a large nonprofit here in Phoenix. It's $10 for the entry fee and $10 for raffle tickets. $20
12:30 p.m. — Mechanic calls me and tells me I need my brake lines flushed. I also need a transmission flush apparently. I tell them to do the brakes and hold off of the transmission until I can talk to my dad.
1:30 p.m. — We got second place out of 10 teams! In the end, we lost to the teens. A local high school had a team and they really beat us good. I get another bike and ride back to the mechanic.
2 p.m. — The mechanic tells me all is well and I pay, get my keys, and go home to relax. $112.81
5 p.m. — I peel myself off the couch, shower, and get ready for dinner with my favorite married couple. They are my collective BFF.
6:30 p.m. — I head to Downtown Phoenix for dinner. There are apparently 100 events going on, so parking is terrible. I finally find a meter. It's "freezing" in Phoenix right now (50 degrees, lol) and I have to walk four blocks. $4
8 p.m. — For dinner we have amazing burgers and fries, I get a glass of wine, and the three of the us share a spiked milkshake for dessert. They ask me about FWB, and I explain again that he and I are in on the same page and both know that a relationship is not in the cards. $30
9:30 p.m. — Home and in bed. The cat is cuddly. I binge-watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and fall asleep.
Daily Total: $166.81

Day Three

9 a.m. — I love sleeping in. Yes, the Basset Hound is whining, even though he went outside at 5:30 already. He's dramatic. I make coffee, settle in on the couch, and continue watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I am so interested in the way they depict mental health, as I work in that field pretty regularly.
10:30 a.m. — It's my weekend for some specific chores, per our roommate agreement. I clean the shared bathroom, pick up dog poop, and throw in a load of laundry. Then, I eat half an avocado leftover from yesterday.
11:45 a.m. — Leave to meet my stepmom at the mall for shopping. She retired three years ago but is looking into a new part-time career and needs professional clothes. She hates shopping and I love it. It will be, put lightly, like pulling teeth. I'm determined not to buy anything for myself.
12 p.m. — Shop, shop, shop. Stepmom buys me some Marc Fisher polka dot mules and wooooo they are cute!
3 p.m. — We have lunch at The Yard; I have a roast beef sandwich, kale caesar salad, fries, and an extra-large glass of chardonnay. We talk politics and gun control, and I head home after lunch. I'm too sleepy to go to the grocery store.
6:30 p.m. — I clean up my room, fold laundry, and feed the animals.
8:30 p.m. — One of my favorite food bloggers does something called Fridge Foraging. So I pretend I'm her and look through my fridge for something I can make for dinner. I make pasta with frozen peas and sad spinach. I make a little pan sauce with butter, garlic, dried herbs, lemon juice and chicken broth. Top it off with parm.
9:15 p.m. — I get in the shower, do a face mask, and get in bed to watch more Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — Up and awake, I feed the animals and get ready for the day. My roommate graciously makes coffee for the household. I realize I am dangerously low on dog food and buy some on Amazon. $35.61
8 a.m. — The pup and I go for an extra-long walk. I will be driving a lot today and want to give my back as much reprieve as possible. Plus I want the dog to be tired out while I'm gone for the day.
8:30 a.m. — I make breakfast (two scrambled eggs and half of an avocado) and go over my day. I am spending the day in the field doing investigations, and I have to drive to the suburbs about 35 miles from my house. I get reimbursed $0.54/mile and usually get a $150-$250 mileage check each month, depending on my assignments.
9:15 a.m. — I pack up water and snacks and head out. I stop and get gas at some point. ($18.53 expensed)
12:10 p.m. — I stop at Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Terrible practices, delicious chicken nuggets. $7.33
3:30 p.m. — Finally done with my investigations, so I begin the 45-minute trek home.
4:25 p.m. — I stop at the grocery store and get baby spinach, a cucumber, celery, broccoli, a shallot, lemons, Dave's Killer Bread, Kaiser rolls, Frank's Buffalo Sauce, Farmer's cheese, Siggi's yogurt, chicken broth, ground turkey, and a bottle of wine. I then head home to relax a little bit. $37.04
5:15 p.m. — After lying in bed for 25 minutes, I get up and go for a 30-minute run and a 20-minute walk with the dog.
6:30 p.m. — I throw defrosted chicken in the oven with garlic salt and pepper. I clean the kitchen a bit and listen to a podcast while I wait. When the chicken is done, I shred it and add Frank's Buffalo Sauce before putting it back in the oven. In another dish, I cut up the head of broccoli and add lemon juice, olive oil, red pepper, and salt, and roast that off. I take a Kaiser roll and toast it. I open the bottle of wine because you can't watch The Bachelor with your roommate and not drink wine.
7:15 p.m. — I feed the dog, add non-sauced chicken to his food, and then assemble my dinner. The sandwich is to die for and I want another one, though I don't need it. I pack the other half of the chicken and broccoli for my lunch tomorrow.
9 p.m. — Two and a half glasses of wine and a whole episode of The Bachelor later, I text the FWB to come over. When he says he's on his way, I pull out two frozen cookie dough squares and put them in the oven. Sustenance.
Daily Total: $79.98

Day Five

5 a.m. — FWB leaves to go to work (or to do whatever he needs to do). I let the dog out and the cat is screaming for breakfast. I end up going back to sleep.
7:15 a.m. — Up and at ‘em! I get ready, walk the dog, and eat two slices of toast with avocado. I find a half-wrinkly bell pepper in the fridge. The dog gets the wrinkly part as a treat, and I cut up the other half for a snack today. I also pack up my lunch, throw another Kaiser roll in a baggy, and pack my coffee to go.
8:22 a.m. — Hop on the light rail and turn on a podcast.
9:15 a.m. — Finally get to the office and settle in for work. I refill my coffee mug.
12:30 p.m. — I eat my lunch while talking to one of my volunteers. I then take a 30-minute lunchtime walk and stop at CVS to get peanut butter M&Ms as a treat. $0.88
2:45 p.m. — I jump on the light rail to finish my day at home.
5 p.m. — The work day is over and I fight through traffic to get to a friend's house. On Tuesdays, we host a podcast. There are four of us and it's always a fun time. I stop to get Cheetos on the way. $1.69
6:50 p.m. — The podcast goes well and it is now raining and freezing, sub 45 degrees, which is terrible weather for Arizona. I stop at the store to get egg noodles for dinner. $2.99
7:30 p.m. — I loosely follow The Pioneer Woman's Chicken and Noodles recipe and make cheesy garlic bread with the last Kaiser roll. Perfect for a cold night.
8:40 p.m. — I walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes and watch old reruns of 7th Heaven while drinking water.
10:30 p.m. — Bedtime. I wash my face, use Sunday Riley Good Genes because my forehead is breaking out, and head to bed. I want to get up early and into the office at 8.
Daily Total: $5.56

Day Six

7 a.m. — I did not get up early. I feed the animals, throw too much dry shampoo in my hair, and walk the dog. The rain has stopped, but it's still way too cold.
7:45 a.m. — I throw leftover soup, crackers, and a yogurt for breakfast in my bag. I still have the bell peppers in the fridge at work from yesterday and a protein bar in my bag.
8:10 a.m. — I hop on the light rail.
8:50 a.m. — In the office, I check my bank account. I see that my state tax return has FINALLY been deposited in my account. I pay off the outstanding balance of my credit card that has a plane ticket to Argentina on it. I was going to use my tax return ($1,600) to pay down my car loan, but alas, a plane ticket to Argentina sounded better.
10:05 a.m. — I eat my yogurt. I also realize I got 2% yogurt instead of the full fat and I am sad about it. I also take a handful of jelly beans from reception.
10:30 a.m. — I go for a 10-minute walk and when I get back, my boss in the office. He brought me a bottle of wine from his and his wife's pretty extensive wine collection. Perks, people.
11:52 a.m. — My back is angry today, so I do sacroilliac joint stretches while I'm at my desk eating those bell pepper slices.
12:30 p.m. — I eat my soup and crackers and then go on a 30-minute walk. I also sign myself up for a 4:30 class with ClassPass, since my credits just re-set today.
2:45 p.m. — I get on the light rail to finish my day at home. A volunteer calls while I am on the train with an urgent issue and I walk her through next steps.
3:30 p.m. — I answer emails and write a report until it's time to get ready. I get dressed and make a pre-workout drink for my drive over. My brother recommended that I do this when I take this specific circuit class and lift weights (which is rare!), and it really makes a difference in my workouts.
4:30 p.m. — Circuit class time! It's honestly the hardest class I have done here. 12 workouts equal one circuit, and we have 12 minutes to do as many circuits as possible. Then we rest for one minute and repeat the whole routine two more times! I finish feeling great!
5:45 p.m. — I get home, walk the dog, and chat with my neighbors for a bit. They are watching the dog for three days while I'm in Argentina, since my roommate can't.
7 p.m. — For dinner, I make ground turkey tacos with refried beans, shredded cheese, green onions, and tomatoes. This is one of my favorite meals, and I make it usually once a week. I season the turkey with a ton of spices and assemble my tacos.
8:10 p.m. — I clean the kitchen and pack my lunch for tomorrow. I'm out of tortillas, so I put the turkey over a bunch of spinach with shredded cheddar and green onions. I also cut up half a cucumber for a snack.
8:30 p.m. — My roommate gets home and we open the bottle of wine my boss gave me. It's a tart white and not quite right for a 45 degree night, but we survive and drink it. It's usually a high of 80 degrees this time of year, but the last two weeks it's been a high of 60, which, in Arizona, is unfortunate.
9:30 p.m. — Shower and face mask. FWB texts me the equivalent of “u up?” and I tell him I am, but not up for company.
10:30 p.m. — Bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:05 a.m. — Up! I get ready, curl my hair, and notice I am almost out of my new favorite serum, Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum. I got a decent sample size of it and used it every morning for a month and wow — it makes a difference. I look it up on Sephora, but can't justify spending $79 for it at the moment. Sad.
7:35 a.m. — Walk the dog, pack my lunch and a yogurt for breakfast, and leave for the light rail.
8:15 a.m. — Public transit here is subpar at best, and the closest light rail parking garage is four miles from my house, which is about a 10-minute drive for me. I get on the 8:25 train.
9 a.m. — I get into work and make a to-do list. I have a training class from 1-4 p.m., and I have more on my to-do list than I expected. I settle in to work after filling up my coffee mug again. I eat my yogurt. I also gossip with my officemates about some policy changes in the court that we're happy about, as well as many others we're angry about.
10:18 a.m. — I realize it's the first of the month and my roommates have sent me the money for our bills. I am a self-realized controlling person, so I take care of the bills for the household. I pay our rent, pool service, and Internet bill.
11:50 a.m. — I have an early lunch before my class. I hope this training has snacks, because while salad is great, ya girl needs some chocolate to get through these three hours.
4:50 p.m. — Finally, I get on the train to go home. It was a long day of talking to people.
5:45 p.m. — I get home and change and take the pup to the dog park. There's a little library by the park and I have a book to return and two to donate.
7 p.m. — On the way home, I order a medium pizza with sausage and jalapeño! I'm over cooking for this week, and I've eaten all my leftovers. $12.98
7:30 p.m. — I stuff my face with pizza and watch Hulu. My back is hurting from sitting a ton today, so I schedule a chiropractor appointment for tomorrow and do about 30 minutes of stretching.
8:30 p.m. — I browse the Lululemon sale section online and find nothing (which is lucky for my budget). I start getting ready for bed and winding down for the night.
10:45 p.m. — Bedtime.
Daily Total: $12.98
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 themes:
1. International Week: We want to run one Money Diary from a different country each day for a week. Want to show what it's like to live outside of the U.S.? Submit here!
2. Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Rep your state and submit here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series