A Week In St. Louis, MO, On A $55,000 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 strategist working in IT who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on cocoa powder.
Occupation: Strategist
Industry: IT
Age: 26
Location: St. Louis, MO
Salary: $55,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,615
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,195 for a two-bedroom flat that I live in with my fiancé, G. We have combined finances, but right now, he doesn't have a regular income. After he was laid off at work, we made the decision for him to take some courses for the summer instead of getting a new job right away. He occasionally does make $200-400 from freelance work, though.
Car Loan Payment: $635
Student Loan Payment: $200 (I have $167,874 in all. 75% of these loans are SallieMae, and the rest are federal aid loans. I'm on an income-based repayment plan with a special lowered interest rate plan, but when that program comes to an end, my payments can go up as high as $1,200/month.)
Electric & Gas: $200
Car Insurance: $130 (My fiancé's parents pay his.)
Cable/Internet: $115
MoviePass: $20 for both of us
Health Insurance & Flex Spending Card: $138 (My fiancé still has one year on his parent's plan.)
Fiancé's Work Laptop: $100 (We bought it from work when he left)
My Engagement Ring: $70 (We chose to put it on a 0% interest credit card.)
Credit Cards: $125 (We're paying them down from when I was in law school.)
Netflix, Amazon Prime & Spotify: $0 (Thanks, G.'s fam!)
Hulu: $6
New York Times Subscription: $6

Day One

6:05 a.m. — Alarms go off. Not happening.
7:45 a.m. — Finally time to stop snoozing alarms. I scroll through Instagram and the news apps on my phone while convincing my fiancé, G., that he should wake up.
8 a.m. — We get up and G. starts making breakfast. He's the best, and does this every morning. A slice of whole wheat toast with butter or jam for me, and two eggs and a slice of toast for him. While I brush my teeth, wash my face, and do my makeup, G. nicely makes my coffee just how I like it — with a splash of nonfat and a dollop of whipped cream.
8:10 a.m. — I turn my straightener on and open up my laptop to start checking in with my team at work and answer emails. Usually I would be heading in to the office right about now, but my boss is awesome and lets me work from home as I please. I partially function as the executive assistant for the company president, so I can't always work from home, but I am doing research on an employee development program, and this morning I will enjoy a few hours uninterrupted while I get that going. I do my hair in between answering emails, voice messages from our CEO, and IMs from the past 12 hours. G. makes me a sandwich and puts it in a bag with grapes and yogurt.
8:30 a.m. — G. is working from home right now while learning front end software development, so he can take the next step in his career. We used to work for the same company, so this has been a big change for us on a few levels, but it's nice to start our day in our home office together. I have a second cup of coffee in between white papers.
10:30 a.m. — I feel like I've gotten enough of what I wanted to accomplish down, so I make an iced tea and pack up my stuff. I kiss G. goodbye and head into the office. It's SO nice to not fight traffic.
11 a.m. — I get to work and can't get on the internet. On Tuesdays, our largest developer team is required to be in office, and we are a few IP addresses short. Ironic for a technology company. I check in with my boss and teammates. After a meeting and discussing what meetings my boss needs me to rearrange on his schedule, I check in with the CEO's executive assistant and head to a coffee shop with my main teammate to work where I can get on the wifi. She orders an iced tea and I get an iced matcha, which I put on the company card. I also eat the lunch G. packed while we sit outside. ($9 expensed)
3 p.m. — Another coworker shows up and after a brief discussion, I purchase us both tickets to a cocktail party where our company is receiving an award later in the week. We both spent a lot of time making sure we had a stellar application for the selection process, so my boss invited us both to attend. I put the tickets on the company card. ($213 expensed)
3:15 p.m. — After a super productive afternoon, I decide to finish out the afternoon at home, as I want to get ahead of the traffic that starts at 4 p.m.
4 p.m. — I get home and G. asks what I want to do tonight. He has gotten a lot accomplished in the past two days, and really wants to get out of the apartment. We decide to go to a movie after dinner. He goes for a run, and I start dinner — Italian chicken sausages that we got at Costco two days ago (when his awesome parents were with us and insisted on paying for the items we picked up) and broccoli.
6 p.m. — We head to the movies, a little out of the way to a theater that has leather recliners, a parking garage, and is always clean. We plan to use our MoviePasses, but when we get there, the movie is sold out and we don't want to wait for the next movie time. We decide to head to the mall and wander around. We get a few different bulk candies at Lolli & Pops and get a pound of gummy bears for free from when I sign up for their rewards ($4). We also stop at Bath & Body Works for two scents that are half off ($6). $10
9 p.m. — We are home and exhausted, but I check my email to see if there's anything I need to deal with before tomorrow. I see that our favorite K-Cup brand, Community Coffee, is running a sale — 20% off and free shipping! It comes out to a savings of $50 of what we would pay buying the little boxes at the grocery store. We put it on our shared credit card, but I will pay it off immediately so we get the cash back. I LOVE a good deal. Satisfied, I watch an episode of Suits while G. watches YouTube videos before we head to bed. $61
Daily Total: $71

Day Two

6:05 a.m. — Alarms go off. I consider making good choices, but the cozy bed wins.
7:15 a.m. — I start scrolling through my phone and keep reminding G. it's time to wake up.
7:25 a.m. — G. rolls out of bed to make breakfast and I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, start making coffee, and then pull what I am going to wear for the day. I eat my piece of toast, drink my coffee, and do my makeup sitting in the living room with G. while watching the Today Show.
8:15 a.m. — I make a to-go coffee and head to work a little early. Thankfully, there isn't any traffic even though its raining. I settle into emails and follow ups from yesterday after quickly checking in with my boss and team.
1:30 p.m. — At the beginning of a meeting with my boss and closest teammate, my boss decides we need to go work at a local coffee shop, so we head there. I get a fresh mint non-fat latte and my boss pays.
4 p.m. — We head back to the office and continue the conversation with another member of our team. In the course of the conversation, my boss asks what my interest would be in getting certifications in HR to be the HR Director or even CHRO, so that it would become a more strategic part of the company. I discuss it with him a bit and tell him I need to explore the idea more, but I might be interested.
6 p.m. — Finally head home. G. calls and asks if I need anything from the store. I tell him to grab frozen green beans for dinner. He also grabs whipped cream and eggs. He makes jerk chicken Skewers (from Trader Joe's, highly recommend) and frozen green beans with some onion and bacon. Have I mentioned he's the best?! $7
7:30 p.m. — After we eat and I've had some time to unwind, we head to Target for hair product for him ($8). We then head to Chik-fil-A for ice cream cones ($3). We discuss my potential new work position while eating our cones in the car. $11
8:30 p.m. — I watch the new Handmaid's Tale while G. watches YouTube videos on his laptop. At some point, I fall asleep on the couch and he wakes me up and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $18

Day Three

6:05 a.m. — Alarms go off. I almost get up, but I roll over and cuddle with G. for awhile instead.
7 a.m. — G. gets up and makes breakfast while I scroll. Then I get coffee going and do my normal morning routine. G. is working from his parents' house for the day, which is out by my office, so we ride together. I consider saying we should stop for coffee since today is payday, but then decide I'll go later in the day.
9 a.m. — When I get to work, I jump into a meeting and then check in with my team.
12 p.m. — My closest teammate and I head to OfficeMax for a specific office supply needed for a client meeting tomorrow. We then head to Target, where I grab coconut waters for my boss ($16 on company card) and Lean Pockets and pickled snap peas for me ($3). We also stop at the Starbucks inside and I grab one of the new refreshers ($4). $7
1 p.m. — Back at the office, I grab my laptop and head to the breakroom with my two favorite coworkers to eat my Lean Pocket and pickled snap peas. I head into more meetings and get a little annoyed that I have had no time to work on projects today. G. texts me that he ate St. Louis Bread Co. (a.k.a. Panera to everyone else) for lunch, but his mom had him pick her up something too, and she paid.
3:30 p.m. — We have the event tonight that I bought tickets for a few days ago. It's downtown, so with traffic, it's going to be an hour drive. A coworker and I change and freshen up in the restroom and head over.
4:50 p.m. — We arrive downtown early, so we pop into a coffee shop on Lafayette Square and enjoy iced teas before heading to the venue. $3
7:45 p.m. — After a great evening with our company and some free food and drinks, I consider going with my coworker to meet up with some people for Shakespeare in the Park, but decide to head home and see G. My coworker drops me off.
8:30 p.m. — G. and I are both exhausted and we debate going to the grocery store, but it's just going to have to wait. We watch a few episodes of Chopped, and as usual I fall asleep on the couch, he wakes me up, and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $10

Day Four

6:05 a.m. — Alarms go off and I hate everything. Today I need to head in early, so we have to move a little faster than normal. Again, I ignore the siren's song of coffee shop coffee and make a to-go cup to go along with the random leftover string cheese and slices of salami I eat for breakfast.
7:50 a.m. — We stop at St. Louis Bread Company and pick up catering orders my teammate places for three big coffee boxes. G. helps me carry them in and chats with some of my coworkers who haven't seen him in a few weeks before he heads to work at his parents. Two of the coffees head into a client meeting and one comes with me and my coworkers out to my bosses lake house. I oversee our intern program and we head out to the lake house today for some fun and some work on their summer group project. On the way, we stop for donuts we promised them. ($12 expensed)
11:30 a.m. — After working with them all morning, we order pizza for the group. My closest coworker and I run to grab it, as no one delivers to where the lake house is. We get sodas at the convenience store next door while we wait for the pizzas. ($75 expensed)
4:30 p.m. — G. picks me up and we head to dinner with his dad. His mom is a nurse practitioner who works crazy hours in the ER, so we try to go to dinner with him on Friday nights when she works. We always go to his favorite neighborhood place (every waitress knows his name) and I get Korean chicken tacos and house chips. He is super nice and always treats.
7 p.m. — I love these nights too because my puppy (read: five-year-old maltipoo) lives with G.'s family right now. We are gone a lot and don't have a backyard at our new flat (we live in a historic four-family flat), and so after losing their sweet black lab this past year, it has been great for everyone to have him stay there until we buy a house next year. It's sad to not have him around every night, but I know it's what's best for him. After spending a little time with my puppy and washing G.'s car, we leave his car in the garage and borrow his parents SUV for the evening as it's raining again. We head home and crash for the night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — Our alarms start going off, but as usual, we snooze them.
7:45 a.m. — We get up and get ready. Every Saturday we head to a local restaurant down the street, Winslow's Home, for breakfast. It can get so busy that we try to always go at opening time.
8:15 a.m. — We split a breakfast of scrambled eggs, thick-cut local bacon, housemade whole wheat toast, and the best roasted potatoes, along with two glazed donut holes and a cold brew. $20
9 a.m. — We head out to G.'s parents to exchange their SUV for his car. His car is a pretty rare car, so every once in awhile we go to a car meet up. This one is at the local exotic car dealership, so we head there. We stop for gas on the way (premium for the fancy race car). $38
10:30 a.m. — We head back to G.'s parents, and I throw a load of laundry in their washer. We don't have laundry at our apartment (well, we have a dryer, but our washer broke and we don't want to spend the money on a new washer), so we do laundry at their place every week. I cuddle with my sweet puppy and binge-watch Criminal Minds while G. and his dad discuss the coursework he is working on right now.
12 p.m. — G.'s dad offers to grab us lunch at Chick-fil-A while he runs there to get G.'s mom something there before she heads in for her shift. We both get grilled nuggets and fruit cups and G.'s dad covers as usual.
3 p.m. — Head to G.'s aunt and uncle's house for a grad party for his cousin. We hang out on their patio and eat food while answering questions about our wedding plans. Another one of G.'s aunts is a florist and is going to do all the flowers.
7 p.m. — We head back to G.'s parents to finish off laundry. We take the puppy outside to chat with the neighbors. One of them has a big projector and is playing a baseball game on the side of his house. After laundry is done, we pack up and head out.
9 p.m. — I eat scrambled eggs because I'm starving (just the way Anthony Bourdain taught me, *cue tears*) and then get ready for bed. I cannot wait to sleep in tomorrow!
Daily Total: $58

Day Six

8:55 a.m. — Sleeping in is glorious. I scroll through/read NYT on my phone in bed for 30 minutess until G. starts waking up. Morning routine and coffee time, but I cook a few slices of bacon, scrambled eggs, and French bread toast for both of us. I also cut up a super ripe peach and we eat it on the couch while watching an episode of Chopped.
10 a.m. — I desperately need to go to the grocery store, so I try to read all the sales ads and make a meal plan based off of what's in season and on sale. When we were both working full time, I wasn't nearly so detailed and planned, but when we made the choice to live on only one income for the summer, I knew I would have to do this, and some weeks it really pays off! A few weeks ago, we only paid $50 for $75 worth of groceries. I make my list and review it against the budget. I try to only spend $50ish dollars per week on groceries.
12 p.m. — G. wants to get out of the house (he's been working all morning), so we go to Schnucks and get what I need for the veggie soup I'm making for lunch and the dessert he wants to bake, plus a few snacks. We get carrots, cabbage, apples, onions, canned whole tomatoes, chicken broth, smoked cheddar cheese, eggs, Cool Whip, caramel sauce, Heath bars, whipped cream, multigrain bread, frozen veggie mix, peaches, and strawberries. $40
1 p.m. — We get home only to realize that G. needs a few baking things we're out of, so this time we head to Aldi. We get cocoa powder, salsa, blueberries, zucchini, vegetable oil, and a gallon of nonfat milk. $18
1:45 p.m. — I put the groceries away, wash the strawberries and grab old grapes, a sad plum, and one of the peaches, and cut them all up for a fruit salad. Then I cut up an onion, wilting celery from the fridge, and cabbage and let them soften in a little bit of bacon fat. I add the frozen veggies, hand crush the tomatoes, and add them with chicken broth. I also throw in some random seasonings and fresh basil and let it all simmer for a while. I get out of the kitchen so G. can start baking (it's a v small kitchen). It's his newest relaxing activity and everything he has made has been delicious.
4 p.m. — A friend comes over to chill at my place. We all have a bowl of the soup I made with French bread from the freezer and smoked cheddar cheese.
6 p.m. — The “Better Than Sex” cake is done and it is super good. We enjoy it while watching an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen that a local chef competed in.
9 p.m. — Friend heads out and I cuddle with G. on the couch for a bit before headed to bed.
Daily Total: $58

Day Seven

6:05 a.m. — Alarms go off. Y'all know how it is.
6:45 a.m. — I start trying to wake G. up in earnest. He gets up and I do the mini NYT crossword on my phone before I get up. G. makes me a slice of toast with peanut butter while he makes his eggs and toast. I do my makeup and get dressed before making coffee and sitting on the couch with G.
8:15 a.m. — I head to work, but I need to stop for gas. I pull into the only gas station within close proximity only to realize I don't have my wallet. I call G. and he meets me outside our building with his debit card (wallet is in his car in the garage we realize, which is kinda an ordeal to retrieve in a historic building). I head back to the gas station and put in half a tank because the pump is going so slowww and I am already heading in later than I wanted to today. Oh well. I call my mom on the way in, because I've talked to her a lot less than usual in the past week. My parents live 1,000 miles away and I usually catch up with them when I'm driving to and from work. $15
1:45 p.m. — I purchase a book on Amazon Prime that my boss keeps referencing when talking about a project I'm working on. If he keeps mentioning it, I should probably read it. ($13 expensed)
2 p.m. — G. texts me letting me know he deposited $50 into our account. He picks up random design jobs from time to time for a little extra cash. I also have a $40 rebate check from paint we bought, so we are proud of ourselves for adding $90 to our super tight budget. I log in to our cable/internet provider to see when our billing cycle ends because we have decided to cut cable until G. returns to working full time. I let him know it will end in four days.
4 p.m. — G. texts me and asks if I want to go see Incredibles 2 tonight with our MoviePasses. He reads my mind.
4:40 p.m. — I head out of the office and try and get home without hitting too much traffic. I call my mom and catch up, as our convo wasn't long this morning. When I'm close to home, I call G. and see what he wants to do for dinner. I plan on eating a ton of popcorn (my favorite food) at the movie, so we decide to make a few of those Italian chicken sausages with zucchini for a quick dinner. G. gets it started so we can eat when I get home to make the movie on time.
6:10 pm — Head to the theater. Thankfully it's a slower day and we get seats. I am an AMC Premiere Stubs member, so I have a ton of reward points. I also have a coupon for a "cameo" sized popcorn and drink for $5. With my reward, that means I pay $0. Woo! Using my Stubs membership with my MoviePass makes going to the movies unbelievably affordable. In the winter, we go almost every week.
9:30 p.m. — We head home and I mentally prepare for a busy day tomorrow. My boss flies out in the afternoon, which means we will have a ton going on in the morning. Thankfully, though, this means I get to work from home or a coffee shop the rest of the week if I want. I get ready for bed and chat with G. for a bit before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $15
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