A Week In Somerville, MA, On A $40,000 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 SNAP (food stamps) advocate who makes $40,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on Thin Mints.
Occupation: SNAP (Food Stamps) Advocate
Industry: Non-Profit
Age: 24
Location: Somerville, MA
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,045 after taxes, retirement, and a car loan deduction
Babysitting: $250-$350/month
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $875. (I have two roommates and our total rent is $3000, but I chose the tiny room, so I pay the least.)
Student Loan Payment: $0. (My parents paid for my education, which I am incredibly grateful for.)
Car Loan Payment: $280, deducted directly from my paycheck. (I got an interest-free loan from work for $5,000 over 25 months. I am also paying my parents $80/month for 20 months for a loan I took out from them.)
Car Insurance: $0. (I still have my car registered in Minnesota, where I'm from, and it's under our family plan.)
403(b): $210. (7% of my paycheck. It's still my first year at my job, so my agency isn't matching my contribution yet.)
Health Insurance: $0. (I'm still on my dad's plan.)
Utilities: ~$50 for my share.
Internet: $10 for my share.
Netflix: $0. (I use my parents' account.)
Amazon Prime: $0. My whole family uses my mom's account.
Cell Phone: $0. (Also still paid for by my parents.)
Gym Membership: $40
The New York Times Subscription: $21 for Sunday delivery and online access
Savings: $250, directly transferred from my checking account

Day One

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I go downstairs to eat breakfast in my PJs, a new weekday habit I plan to keep up for a while. I eat oatmeal every day and today it's overnight oats with chia and flaxseeds, kefir, banana, and maca powder. I studied abroad in Peru and began eating maca there. It's growing trendiness — and price — in the U.S. annoy me, but I love the taste and energy-boosting properties. I also drink half a mug of black coffee.
8:30 a.m. — Arrive at work after an easy, 25-minute commute. For some reason, the roads are abandoned on Fridays. It makes me sad to think everyone else is working from home but at least my drive is more enjoyable. Make myself a cup of coffee from our Keurig knock-off machine (which is actually pretty good and settle in to check my email.
10 a.m. — Weekly supervision with my boss. We discuss the latest updates with my caseload and she helps me troubleshoot issues. My work mainly consists of helping people apply for SNAP (food stamps), maximizing their SNAP benefit, and working with the government when they mess up people's cases (which is often). It's an ideal first job in the anti-hunger field. I snack on peanuts and a Cara Cara orange.
1:30 p.m. — Take a lunch break with a colleague (and only work friend) after helping her translate a client call into Spanish. Most of my colleagues are middle-aged women, which is lovely, but it's nice to have someone my own age around. I reheat miso soup that I made last night. It is fantastic and filled with yummy things: sweet potato, zucchini, seaweed, rice noodles, salmon, and a soft-boiled egg. I tell my friend about the college sophomore I made out with last weekend at a concert.
5 p.m. — Arrive home after leaving work at 4:30 p.m. and leave for the gym. Majorly wipe out on the ice with my first step out the door. Once I get to the gym, I try running on the treadmill and give up after half a mile. My ankle is off and my knee hurts from my fall. I look down and already have a big bruise. Get on the bike instead and jam out to reggaeton.
7:15 p.m. — Walk home from the gym and throw together leftover tofu and eggplant with sliced baby cucumber and arugula for dinner before jumping in the shower.
8 p.m. — Make popcorn on the stove and eat it while texting my family on our group chat. My parents are in London and I am jealous. Try calling my sibling; they rarely pick up but I leave a message saying that I miss them and love them. They're in college in Chicago so we don't get to see each other much anymore. I pour myself a glass of leftover white wine, but it seems to have gone bad, so I pour it down the drain (something I wouldn't have done a year ago). I drink homemade kombucha instead and watch Cable Girls, which a friend recommended.
10:30 p.m. — Two episodes later, I'm loving this show! I wash my face and brush my teeth and crash. Crazy Friday night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up without my alarm! I make oatmeal and grind coffee beans in my ancient Magic Bullet and pray my roommates don't wake up. I'm babysitting very energetic kids today and need the caffeine.
12 p.m. — I love babysitting these kids because their mom is home the whole time, so my main job is entertainment while she can step in if things get out of hand. She heads out with the three-year-old to buy pretzels from a local bakery for lunch. Both kids want to share their delicious-smelling pretzels with me but unfortunately, I am intolerant to wheat. (I have IBS and mainly follow a low-FODMAP diet.) I eat Swedish Fish, though, while we play a candy-related game.
1:30 p.m. — Walk home with a check for $64 in my pocket. I wanted to stop by the gym but all of a sudden I feel awful. I was slightly feverish in the middle of the night last night and now am freezing even though it's 53 degrees outside. I dress entirely in fleece and heat up more leftover miso soup.
3 p.m. — My roommate comes downstairs looking awful; she thinks she has the flu — we're a house full of sickies. I walk to Rite Aid before I feel even worse and buy a thermometer, chicken soup for her, and a small body wash. Take my temperature and it's 96.9 degrees — normal. Weird... $11.21
4 p.m. — Make almond flour chocolate chip cookies and settle in for more Cable Girls before feeling exhausted. I can't sleep, but I lie in bed for two hours.
7 p.m. — I'm feeling good enough to meet a friend for dinner, but not good enough to walk the half mile there, so I shamelessly Uber. My Pool ride is $2.65, but I have credit on the app, so I don't pay anything. Have a great time catching up with my friend and congratulating her on a new job. I order pad see ew with chicken and it's pretty good. $12.65
8:30 p.m. — Feeling a lot better, so I walk home and stop at the grocery store on the way. I pick up cinnamon (I used the last of our communal one), gluten-free oats, Greek yogurt, and coconut milk. $15.52
11:30 p.m. — After watching more Cable Girls and drinking more kombucha, I pass out to the sweet sounds of my humidifier and my roommate coughing.
Daily Total: $39.38

Day Three

10 a.m. — Wake up feeling fine! I head downstairs and make breakfast for the coming week. More is more in my book, so I cook the oats with cinnamon, cardamom, and frozen blueberries, and then portion it into jars and add chia, flax, hemp, and sunflower seeds, banana, peanut butter, maca, and Greek yogurt. Run downstairs and grab the Sunday New York Times. I almost cancelled my subscription when it increased to nearly $11 a week, but ended up negotiating a 50% off rate. Reading the paper is one of my favorite parts of the week and totally worth it to me.
1 p.m. — Get into yoga pants and then settle in for a "Yoga with Adriene" video. I love her and find her YouTube videos to be almost as good as real classes.
2:15 p.m. — Make a quick lunch of eggs and homemade corn tortillas that I make out of masa. Also throw together a huge arugula salad with cucumber and carrots.
3:30 p.m. — My roommate comes in toting a package that arrived for me. It's a belated birthday present from my aunt: a mandoline slicer! I call to thank her and we chat about an upcoming ski race we are both participating in. Then I make sweet potato chips to test out the mandoline. They're delicious.
4 p.m. — Do a free online practice LSAT test. I'm not even sure if I'm going to take the LSAT, let alone apply for law school, but I'm considering it and I love word problems! I also put a pot of brown rice, lentils, red pepper, and kale to cook on the stove.
5:50 p.m. — Get dressed for real this time and walk 10 minutes to meet my mentor at a Japanese restaurant I've been excited to visit. We connected on the phone when I started looking for jobs in the nutrition/anti-hunger field and started meeting up after I moved to the Boston area. She's the president of a micronutrient supplementation organization, so we always have interesting conversations about international versus national nutrition issues. We also chat about life. I love having her support. I order a tuna donburi bowl with miso soup and seaweed salad. It's pretty much my favorite dish ever. We split the bill and I pay $24.22, including tip. $24.22
7:30 p.m. — Arrive home, where my roommate is cooking with friends I haven't met yet. I make coconut milk hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps for everyone and we talk about all sorts of things. My dad also stops by to give me my new license plate tabs, which were sent to my parents' home in a different state. He works in Boston during the week and returns home on the weekends, which means I get to see him a lot.
10 p.m. — Watch more Cable Girls and drink ginger tea. I'm so awake after a sleep-heavy weekend. Finally fall asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $24.22

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Eat my oats and drink coffee, then get dressed for work. I have a meeting with some of our partner organizations this morning, so I get to leave a bit later than usual.
9:30 a.m. — There was supposed to be coffee and breakfast, but it's not here. People are panicking a little and eating the hamentashen someone brought from home. Finally, at 10, Panera coffee and bagels arrive. I pour myself coffee and drink it black. We discuss issues we've been seeing and the upcoming Purim donation.
11:30 a.m. — Drive to my office where there's just enough time to heat up my lentils and rice before our weekly staff meeting.
2 p.m. — Go straight from one meeting to the next. I volunteered to be part of the Purim party planning committee. I'm not Jewish but I thought it would be fun to learn more. I snack on Greek yogurt with kiwi and peanuts during the meeting.
4 p.m. — Take a break from faxing documents and calling clients to make peppermint tea. I've been putting off ending things with a boy I met on Hinge and finally send him a text. We've only been on three dates so I feel like it's nicer to blame things on my breakup of nearly a year ago rather than tell him I'm just not feeling it.
5:15 p.m. — Arrive home after a stressful commute and go for a slow three-mile run, followed by a quick yoga routine. Heat up miso soup for dinner.
7 p.m. — Take a shower and put on my zebra print onesie. My roommate has a friend over and I have a great time hanging out with them and vetting Hinge dudes. I am supposed to have a date on Thursday with one of them, but my roommate's friend (who is a gay man) warns me that he's not going to be cute in person. My roommate said he's always right. I feel mean ghosting but am not sure what to do.
9 p.m. — Roommate's friend keeps pouring me glasses of Two-Buck Chuck cabernet sauvignon. It's actually really good. I decide to give the Hinge guy a chance. After the friend leaves, I head to bed, a bit too buzzed for a Monday night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Wake up before my alarm. I got to sleep in a bit today because I'm heading to the State House. A partner organization is releasing a study linking food insecurity to health costs in Massachusetts. For my job, I also help contribute to SNAP policy at the state level, so it's important that I show our support.
8 a.m. — Eat my usual breakfast while I read the news and get upset about the world, so I research a possible trip to Spain to visit a friend instead. Look up flights online. I might be able to swing it! I've saved up almost 100,000 miles on Delta, which helps. Then I do yoga and get dressed in a get-shit-done outfit, including pearl earrings.
9:25 a.m. — Walk five minutes to the train and use my CharlieCard, which is already loaded. I don't get a monthly pass because I drive to work and don't use the train enough to justify it.
11 a.m. — The State House event is wonderful! There are many inspiring speeches by people on every side of this issue: the government, nonprofits, research organizations, and even a woman who receives food assistance. There are also lots of people I know here, which is great. I chat with a guy who's part of my SNAP Coalition and he ends up inviting me to get a drink at one of my favorite breweries, so I give him my number. It feels good to meet someone in real life after so many online disasters.
11:55 a.m. — Reload my CharlieCard and jump back on the train. Stop by my apartment to grab lunch, then drive to work. It's such a fast drive at this time of day! $9
12:20 p.m. — Get to work and eat my miso soup yet again, plus Greek yogurt with peanuts and half a banana.
1:50 p.m. — Make peppermint tea. Stalk the State House guy on Facebook – it looks like he has a girlfriend?! Text the Thursday date guy, message another Hinge guy and receive an email from someone my mom's friend connected me with. Feeling overwhelmed and very single the day before Valentine's Day.
3:45 p.m. — Snack on a Cara Cara orange, more peanuts, and make more peppermint tea.
5:30 p.m. — Get home from work and leave right away to my dad's apartment. Because his job is here, my parents have a place in the city. I have a key so I can use the apartment as well as the gym and pool. Sometimes I have people over on the weekends, which is a fun change of pace. There are Girl Scouts selling cookies at the train station, so of course, I have to stop. I was a Girl Scout and chat with them about camping for a while. I buy a box of Thin Mints for my dad. $5
6:30 p.m. — Give my dad the Thin Mints and head to his fancier-than-mine gym to do 15 minutes on the machines followed by a one-mile run. Then we head out to meet one of his friends for dinner at a place around the corner.
7:30 p.m. — Order a butternut squash and goat cheese salad with grilled chicken. It's great! My dad and his friend split the bill.
8:45 p.m. — We move on to the dive bar next door for trivia. My dad and his friend do it most weeks and are typically the oldest ones there by far, so they recruited me tonight for a millennial's wisdom. It pays off, as the first question is about Justin Timberlake and I know the answer immediately. My dad buys a round of Long Trail Ales on tap for all of us, and then his friend buys me another that I split with my dad.
11:15 p.m. — We get so close to winning! I stop by my dad's to grab my bag and then call an Uber home. I don't really like taking the train this late in this part of town. The Uber Pool is $16, which is crazy. I have $2 in credit and accidentally charge the rest to my parents' card, which is still on my Uber account from when I was younger. I will try and remember to pay them back...
Daily Total: $14

Day Six

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I jump out of bed to start my normal routine. I quickly get dressed and make somewhat of an effort for Valentine's Day, wearing a rose-print shirt with pink earrings. Head out to work.
9:30 a.m. — We have a brief training on PTSD and trauma-related mental health issues. It's incredibly helpful because many of my clients have been through chronic trauma, and now I have a better understanding of why and how I should react. They have mandarins, so I eat one and sip on coffee.
11 a.m. — Snack on peanuts and drink peppermint tea. I plan a meeting with a colleague who has a client she has wanted to apply for SNAP for months, but it often takes our Holocaust survivor clients a long time to feel ready to deal with such a rigid government program.
1:35 p.m. — Heat up rice and lentils for lunch, and eat yogurt with fruit at my desk today because I am swamped with SNAP applications.
2:30 p.m. — I comment aloud that I was really hoping there would be chocolate around on Valentine's Day. My colleague tosses me a Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree square. Woo-hoo!
5:10 p.m. — Get home and chat with my roommate, who has finally emerged from her room after almost a week of the flu. I do a "Yoga with Adriene" video and then make eggs scrambled in dulse butter with kale for dinner.
7 p.m. — Head out for Galentine's Day with my roommate, decked out in eyeshadow and carrying a bottle of wine that's been sitting in my fridge. We split an UberPool because she's not feeling well enough to take the train. $2.61
7:45 p.m. — Finally arrive after one of the worst Uber rides of my life. I pass out Valentines that I made with the five-year-old I babysit to my friends. We drink wine, eat flourless chocolate cake, chocolate-covered strawberries, raspberries, crackers, and cheese, and catch up on everyone's life. So much friend love!
10:15 p.m. — Call another UberPool and split it. Spend the ride home chatting with my roommate and nixing the nine Hinge guys who are obviously feeling lonely on Valentine's Day and liked me. Once we get home, I take a quick shower and go straight to bed. $4.73
Daily Total: $7.34

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — Wake up to the news of another school shooting. How awful. Sometimes I can't believe the craziness that we live in right now. I eat breakfast and also see there's an Aerie sale. I add underwear and a kiwi-print bikini to my cart but don't check out yet.
8:22 a.m. — After nearly an hour of crazy Boston traffic and angry drivers, I arrive at our partner agency, where I assist with SNAP work on a biweekly basis. I pour myself coffee from their pot and add coconut milk creamer from their fridge. I'm not sure what their policy is here and whether the creamer is for sharing, so I pour quickly and sneakily.
11 a.m. — Head out to my office and snack on peanuts once I get there.
12:30 p.m. — Some of us do a "Yoga with Adriene" video at lunch on a big projector screen. It's such a good midday reset.
1:30 p.m. — Heat up more lentils and rice, and eat chia pudding with tons of cinnamon that I made this morning. The Hinge guy cancels our date and asks to reschedule. I take this as a sign and don't respond.
3:15 p.m. — My coworker brings over gluten-free cookies that were up for grabs in our kitchen. I look at the ingredients and I can actually eat them! Sometimes it's hard following the low FODMAP diet because I have to turn down most things, so I'm very happy. I save them for later.
4:35 p.m. — Leave work and stop by Trader Joe's on my way home. I buy Joe's O's, toilet paper, eggs, organic chicken breast, ground turkey, cocoa powder, Greek yogurt, a spaghetti squash, canned crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, feta, frozen blueberries, blood oranges, zucchini, carrots, kale, spinach, lemons, limes, a potato, bananas, and ginger tea. I also buy Greek yogurt, granola, tortellini, baby carrots, and bananas for my roommate (which she Venmos me for). $56.68
5:30 p.m. — Get home and go for a three-mile run. Then I steam the spaghetti squash in my roommate's Instant Pot while making a sauce on the stove with the ground turkey, canned tomatoes, zucchini, and spinach. I also have fennel going bad in my fridge, so I slice and roast it.
7:45 p.m. — Eat while watching Cable Girls and have some of the cookies for dessert. My iPhone has been bugging me for over a year to buy more iCloud storage because it's been unable to back up. I freak out about the possibility of losing everything and finally get a larger plan. $0.99
10 p.m. — Head to bed early, excited for a weekend where I am no longer sick!
Daily Total: $57.67
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 theme:
Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:
Who buys dinner on the first date? It's a topic we've written about before, but we want to revisit. Let us know your thoughts here. You could be featured on the site or in the Money Diaries book!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series