A Week In Tallahassee, FL, On A $42,000 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 policy analyst working in government who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on peanut butter pretzels.
Occupation: Policy Analyst
Industry: Government
Age: 25
Location: Tallahassee, Fl
Salary: $42,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $2,694
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $954, split evenly with my boyfriend. (We live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.)
Student Loan Payment: $486
Car Loan Payment: $255
Pension Plan: 3% of my income
Deferred Compensation Retirement Plan: $75. These amounts are taken out before I get my paycheck.
Health Care, Dental & Vision: $67, taken out of my paycheck.
Utilities: ~$100 in the winter, ~$140 in the summer (my half of our shared bill with my boyfriend)
Renters Insurance: $20
Cable & Internet: $73 (This is my half of our shared bill.)
Phone Bill: $75 (I'm on a family plan with my brother.)
Car Insurance: $175
Donations: $50
Netflix: $15.30 (I pay for a bunch of my freeloading friends and family, haha!)
Emergency Fund: $50
Vacation/Gift Fund: $415. (I am saving for three different trips.)

Day One

6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off so I get up, feed my dog and my cat, stretch for a few minutes, and get ready for work. Getting ready involves splashing my face with warm water, applying rosehip oil, and putting on a full face of makeup every workday. I love doing my makeup – it gives me some "me" time in the morning where I can listen to podcasts. I clean the cat's litter box before making coffee, packing up my breakfast and lunch, and heading out the door.
7:45 a.m. — I eat instant oatmeal at my desk and catch up on work. Since it's payday, I pay my student loan bill and transfer money to my various savings accounts. I took out very minimal loans in undergrad because I had a full Bright Futures scholarship, and then minimal loans in graduate school due to a research assistantship that nearly paid my full tuition. As soon as I got my full-time job, I made it a priority to pay off my loans as quickly as possible and get on with my life! I have been making about three times the minimum payment on my student loan bill for the past year, and at this rate it will be paid off in another year! So happy.
9:45 a.m. — I have been wanting MoviePass for a while, and it's having a great special right now for the entire year. My brother and my boyfriend are getting it too, so I anticipate a lot of "free" movies in our future! My brother and I are obsessed with horror movies and want to see all the ones that come out in theaters this year. $105.35
11 a.m. — I pop a bag of popcorn and snack on it. It's a little burnt, but I'm weirdly into it. I'm a big snacker.
12 p.m. — Time for lunch! I have leftover rice and beans that definitely need more salt. I almost always use my lunch breaks to read. I preordered Michelle McNamara's book I'll Be Gone in the Dark about a month ago, and it arrived yesterday! I settle in to read and eat.
2 p.m. — My car has been yelling at me that "oil maintenance is required soon," so I hop over to the mechanic shop, which is close to work. The guys who work there are super nice. (And VERY hot! Like all of them. Is it a prerequisite for working there?) While I wait for them to finish, I read more of I'll Be Gone. I take a break to scroll Facebook and see in one of my local dog groups that someone is looking to trade a medium-sized dog crate for a large dog crate. When I adopted my dog last year, I didn't know what I was doing, and got her an extra-large crate. (She's 50 pounds.) I message the guy and he gets right back to me. We arrange to meet and trade the next day. $57.99
3 p.m. — Finally back in the office, but it's a slow day. I eat two Halo mandarins and read Money Diaries. Before I leave work, I check my personal email and see I got an email from my volunteer coordinator at the local animal shelter, where I volunteer about once a week. She emailed to let me know one of my favorite pups, who had been with us for over six months, was adopted by a nice family with kids (and he loves kids!). Happy tears!!!
4:30 p.m. — I leave work and head to Costco. My boyfriend just got us a membership and it's the tits. I like to go once a month to get some staples and one or two snacks; my boyfriend and I eat pretty differently so we mostly buy food separately. This time I pick up sweet potatoes, organic bananas, six boxes of a sweet potato-tomato soup we both like, pasta, a huge jug of peanut butter pretzels (my kryptonite), organic peanut butter, frozen mango, and frozen broccoli. My boyfriend doesn't like peanut butter, but my dog and I do! $81.66
4:30 p.m. — I also pick up a jug of laundry detergent and a 36-pack of Fancy Feast for my fancy little panther. $29.28
5:15 p.m. — On my way out of Costco, I stop to fill up my car with gas. Since I drive a Prius and only work about three miles from home, I generally only have to fill up my tank once a month, which is awesome. On the way home, I cry a little more thinking about the adopted dog. I am so happy for him, but wish I had gotten a chance to say goodbye. $20.28
6:15 p.m. — I'm finally home! I kiss all my babies hello and unpack the groceries. I rearrange and clean the refrigerator and pantry, which is a weird thing I love to do every few weeks. It's so freakin' satisfying to have an organized fridge and pantry. I clean up a bit and do dishes.
7 p.m. — Finally time to start dinner! Every Wednesday my friend comes over for dinner and we watch a true crime-ish show while debating with my boyfriend. (He's a lawyer. We're not, but we like to pretend we know things). We've watched maybe seven shows together so far, and this week we are starting a new one: Manhunt: Unabomber. It's my week to make dinner, so I make pasta and broccoli with spicy peanut butter sauce, which is my specialty and my friend's favorite meal of mine. My BF, the peanut butter-hater, makes a separate meal. We sit down to pasta, wine, and the Unabomber.
10 p.m. — My friend leaves, and I indulge in Girl Scout cookies that my BF got us. (Apparently I'm "basic" for liking Thin Mints. Uh ok, Mr. Shortbread Cookie.) Then I wash my face, apply rosehip oil, brush my teeth, and hit the hay.
Daily Total: $294.56

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I'm awake! I get ready while catching up on the minisodes from My Favorite Murder. Before I leave, I clean the cat's litter box and remind him to be a good boy. He never is but I love him anyway. I make a mango, banana, orange, chia, and coconut milk smoothie and coffee with coconut milk and pack it all up for work.
7:45 a.m. — I get to work and see my BF has Venmoed me his portion of the rent. After I transfer the amount to my bank account, I pay our rent. Then I start brainstorming for a new project I was assigned.
10 a.m. — I have the entire Book of Mormon soundtrack stuck in my head and pause work to snack on peanut butter pretzels. My BF texts about a possible trip to Salt Lake City around my birthday. He's going for work, so we have a free place to stay, and all I would have to buy is the plane ticket. Yes, please.
12 p.m. — I get out of a meeting and am ready for lunch. I have leftover peanut butter pasta and work through lunch because I want to use my lunch break to run errands.
1 p.m. — I quickly head over to Petco for pet supplies. I have a membership card there and the rewards and perks are great. Today my dog's wet food is buy one can, get the other half off. I grab about a million of those and two bags of cat litter, which is also on sale. $41.36
1:45 p.m. — Settle in for an afternoon of research to the dulcet tunes of Britney Spears.
3:30 p.m. — Pause for a chilled apple and another handful of pretzels. They're just so goooood.
4:30 p.m. — I head home. When I get there, I find my BF has already walked the dog. I pout a little because I usually get to walk her after work every day and I enjoy it! I strap her leash back on for a short run so we can get out together. My dog was heartworm positive when I adopted her about a year ago and still hasn't been cleared by our vet. I put her on slow kill treatment right when I got her, and now I get her re-tested every six months. Our vet told me slow kill can take up to two years to be effective. Gulp. Until she's cleared, only mild-to-moderate exercise is allowed, so we don't run often and never run for long. When we get home from our half mile jog I do YouTube exercise videos and the cat joins in (a.k.a. he trips me). I also write in my journal.
5:45 p.m. — Internet kennel man gets here! We are mutually satisfied with our swap and I clean the kennel he gave me. He seemed like a nice responsible young man, but I'm paranoid about fleas. My cat and dog inspect and sniff the new kennel VERY closely. They're a regular bomb squad over here. (Unabomber got to me I guess.) I take a shower, wash my face, and apply rosehip oil. This oil is the BOMB (there I go again). My face was very acne-scarred and a little splotchy, and now I feel like an airbrushed IG model.
6:30 p.m. — I make dinner: pasta and spinach with a spicy sweet potato sauce. It's delicious! I watch The Office while I eat.
7:30 p.m. — Curl up in bed with Harry Potter until a scheduled call with my friend. I reread the HP series every year and am on Prisoner of Azkaban. I'm obsessed (and a Ravenclaw).
9 p.m. — I'm off the phone with my friend. She had work drama to discuss, and then we talked about my trip to visit her and her boyfriend (my other best friend from undergrad) in Philadelphia next week! I'm also going to see her this weekend, since we will randomly both be back in our hometown. I read HP until I start dozing off, then go to sleep.
Daily Total: $41.36

Day Three

5:40 a.m. — I have the Sleep Cycle app, which wakes you up in the lightest stage of your sleep cycle within a 30-minute window. Sometimes the app and I disagree, however, so I snooze a little more when it goes off at 5:40.
6 a.m. — I'm up! I feed the animals and do a Yoga with Adriene video. I absolutely love her energy, and I always have a good day when I start it with one of her videos!
6:30 a.m. — Adriene was not playing today, so I take another shower before I get ready for work. I am finally caught up on My Favorite Murder, so I listen to an episode of Zealot. I pack coffee, lunch, and breakfast.
7:30 a.m. — At work, I drink my coffee and cranberry juice and eat my breakfast of instant oatmeal with coconut oil and coconut flakes. I'm a real coco-head.
10 a.m. — I have a meeting, so I scarf down leftover stale popcorn so I don't get hungry during it. Yes, I'm that coworker who complains about being hungry during every meeting: you're welcome.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime! I have leftover pasta with sweet potato sauce and read more I'll Be Gone. My favorite podcast (Casefile) recently did a five-part series on the East Area Rapist/Original Nightstalker, so I already know a lot about the case. However, I appreciate McNamara's thorough research and am enjoying the book overall. I'm looking forward to any possible speculations she may have about the identity of this creep.
2 p.m. — It's an afternoon of Internet research and catching up on the news. I eat peanut butter pretzels and a banana. My friend texts me about going to a The Office-themed trivia in a few weeks. We love trivia and The Office, so I am obviously down and make a note in my calendar. We decide our team will be "The Bushiest Beavers."
4 p.m. — I leave work and head to the library, which is right down the street from work. I FINALLY got a library card because my New Years Resolution was to read 50 books this year. I love our library and have put several books on hold. I pick up two: Whoever Fights Monsters (fine, you caught me...I love true crime) and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. My library card has encouraged me to try a lot of books I probably would not have otherwise bought, and I've read quite a few good ones so far this year!
4:20 p.m. — Home and time to take the dog on a walk! We do our usual circle but take a few detours so she can sniff new things. We also practice the command "drop it," which she is struggling with, to put it mildly.
4:45 p.m. — I do dishes and pack for my weekend trip. I read a little bit of I'll Be Gone (I want to finish soon so I can get started on my growing stack of library books!) before making dinner. I heat up some of the sweet potato soup I bought and add some of the sweet potato sauce I made to it. It's a sweet potato bonanza. I eat it with bread and olive oil and watch The Office. I gotta study up if I want to cream some nerds in a few weeks.
6:15 p.m. — My BF is home with a mattress topper for our bed. We recently bought a king-sized memory foam bed that sleeps pretty warm, so we got a mattress topper that has some kind of cooling gel in it. We tested it out and it worked fantastically, so we bit the bullet and bought one ourselves. I pay him back for half. $102
6:50 p.m. — I leave to head to my friend's house to share a drink before heading to a show (The Glass Menagerie) at our local community theater. Going to live theater shows is my absolute favorite thing to do. Since my friend and I go to every show at our local theater, I am considering buying myself a season ticket pass to save money in the long run. We'll see. My friend bought us tickets a few days ago, so I pay him back now. $13
8 p.m. — I get a glass of red wine at the theater to enjoy during the show. $6
10:45 — Wow, what a stunning production. The entire show was fantastic. I say goodbye to my friend at his house and head home. I have a packet of ramen before brushing my teeth and going to bed.
Daily Total: $121

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up, feed the pets, and make myself eggs and toast before getting ready.
8:30 a.m. — My brother is here to pick me up for our trip home. We chat with my boyfriend and I say goodbye to him and my precious pets and remind my BF a million times to clean the litter box. We chat and listen to horror movie podcasts in the car, and I read a little of my book.
11:30 a.m. — We arrive at my parents' house but no one is there, so my brother and I decide to get lunch at a sushi burrito place in the meantime. I stuff mine with tofu, cucumbers, seaweed, and spicy mayo. $10.70
2:30 p.m. — We head to our grandmother's condo to visit. It really is a nice surprise that both she and my other grandmother are visiting from out of town on the same weekend. My aunt is also over, so we spend time together catching up on family drama and arguing about who would be most valuable on Family Feud. (It would obviously be me.) I drink a Bud Lite that I found in the fridge.
4:45 p.m. — When we get back to my parent's house, we spend time catching up with the other grandma. For dinner, my brother wants to try a new Korean place, and we all agree that sounds good.
5:45 p.m. — We get to the restaurant and are seated immediately. My brother spends way too much time talking about his recent vacation to Japan, and I order a soft tofu vegetable soup called sundubu-jjigae and a Kirin. The soup is absolutely delicious, and I make a mental note to look up a recipe to see if I can recreate it at home. My grandmother grabs the bill from my brother, so the meal is free.
7:15 p.m. — My mom and I take her stinky Boston Terrier mix on a walk and gossip. I love catching up with her, and after going to undergrad almost five hours away, it's nice that I live a little closer now. When we get home, we watch Big Daddy with my grandma until my sister gets home.
9:30 p.m. — My sister shows up LITERALLY dressed like the women from the "Women and Women First" skit on Portlandia, and is very mad at me for teasing her about it. She tells me all about the event she was volunteering at. I'm getting tired, so I ask her to drive me back to our other grandmother's condo, where my brother and I are staying the night. He's off hanging out with a friend from high school and won't be back until late. I sweeten the deal by offering to buy her a McFlurry, and she accepts. $3.20
11:15 p.m. — My grandma and I watch Family Feud before I turn in for the night. I wash my face, apply rosehip oil, brush my teeth, and am conked out within two minutes of getting into bed.
Daily Total: $13.90

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — With no pets singing the songs of their people in the morning, I am able to sleep in a little bit. Still, I miss their morning kisses and sweet little faces. I rifle through my grandma's fridge looking for breakfast, and settle on a bagel with cream cheese before getting ready for the day.
9:30 a.m. — My brother and I leave to head to my parent's house. My mom is making mozzarella sticks, and I have a few.
10 a.m. — My friend (the one I caught up with on the phone) comes over, bearing gifts! Whenever she orders makeup and doesn't like it, she saves it to bring over for us. When we saw her at Christmas, my mom mentioned wanting a certain ColourPop eyeshadow pallet, and it turns out my friend got it as a free gift with a recent order, so she gives it to my mom. My mom screams with excitement and immediately starts rubbing the shadow all over her hand. My friend also hands over a book she recently finished and wants me to read. It is called The Door by Magda Szabo. This TBR pile is real, y'all.
12:30 p.m. — My friend leaves, and we have lunch. My mom has made an excellent spread and I chow down on vegetarian chili, a green salad, cheesy bread, and corn chowder. I wish I lived in this house still, where the corn chowder flows freely.
1:45 p.m. — Time to head back to Tallahassee! My mom sends us off with a cantaloupe each, for which I am grateful. I will take all of the free food, please. We say bye and get on the highway. I read more of my book and nap.
3 p.m. — We stop to get gas and both decide we want a soda as well. While I am near the soda fountain, an employee accidentally drops all the soda lids, and I help her pick them up. I guess her manager saw me, because when I try to check out with my soda, they give it to me for free! How nice of them! I give my brother a little money for gas. $5.50
4:30 p.m. — We're home! When we roll into my apartment parking lot we see my boyfriend out walking our dog, who is so excited to see me she practically drags my BF over to the car. My brother comes upstairs with us to say hi to my cat and then heads back to his house. My BF and I assess our food situation and decide to pick up a few things at Publix. I get BOGO coffee, salsa, and deli slices, as well as Tostitos, chickpeas, and split peas. I also get dry cat food ($6.39). When we get home, we unpack and make dinner. I make pasta with marinara sauce and split peas. It's filling but not very satisfying, so I also have a Girl Scout cookie. $27.48
7 p.m. — I go over to my friend's house to hang out, and bring chips and salsa. I leave at around 11:45 and crash into bed at close to 1 a.m., which is unusually late for me. I'll be feeling this tomorrow.
Daily Total: $32.98

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I got a terrible night's sleep and woke up almost every hour. My BF and I snuggle a bit before I drag myself out of bed. I feed the animals, clean the litter box, and get ready for work while listening to Horror Movie Podcast and chugging coffee. I make an egg sandwich and head to work.
8 a.m. — I am at work and extremely sleepy. I eat my sandwich and drink more coffee. Once the coffee kicks in I get down to work business while listening to more Horror Movie Podcast. My brother texts me about our cell phone bill. My portion is cheaper than expected this month because I just switched to a cheaper plan, but I didn't expect the savings to kick in so soon. I Venmo him my share of the bill and put the excess of what I had set aside in savings.
11 a.m. — I pause for a cup of coffee and peanut butter pretzels. I'm super hungry today.
12 p.m. — I stop for lunch, which is the last of the peanut butter pasta from last week. It is not so good and makes me feel nauseous. I remember an apple I left in the fridge at work and eat that to tide me over. I am still reading I'll Be Gone, but see a light at the end of the tunnel!
3:45 p.m. — I've done all I can do, and leave work early with thoughts of taking a nap. I snuggle in bed with my pets, but my cat wouldn't stop kneading my hair and my dog insists on lying right on my bladder, so I kick them out. After that, they whine and meow outside the door, so I never end up falling asleep. I'm very frustrated and on the verge of an anxiety meltdown by the time my BF gets home.
5 p.m. — I take the dog on a walk to try to clear my head, but she must be sensing my anxiety, because she's acting up. I cut the walk short and ask my BF to take our dog back out so she can get her exercise. I lay back down, do some deep breathing exercises, and remind myself I will get a good night's sleep tonight, so there's no need to feel this anxious. It helps a little bit. It helps even more when my BF gets back and offers to order us Chinese food.
6:15 p.m. — The food gets here. I ordered Szechuan tofu, a vegetable medley, and fried rice. We load up our plates and sit down in front of this week's John Oliver. The segment tonight is on the NRA, which is a group all too familiar to us Floridians. After Johnny O., we snuggle on the couch and watch an episode of The Office, some funny YouTube videos, and the beginning of a Katt Williams stand-up special on Netflix.
8 p.m. — I climb into bed and read I'll Be Gone for a few chapters before switching to Harry Potter. I finish Prisoner of Azkaban and consider moving on to Goblet of Fire, but remember I need an extra good night's sleep tonight. I make a cup of Pukka Night Time tea (THE BEST tea for falling asleep!) and am out by 9.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I feel approximately one million times better. I snuggle with my honey for a few minutes and then get up to feed the pets. I put on my exercise clothes and stretch for a few minutes before doing about twenty minutes of butt and leg exercises. Afterwards, I shower and do my makeup while listening to This Is Actually Happening.
7:30 a.m. — I want today to be extra nice after yesterday's exhaustion fest, so I pull out my French press for my morning coffee. I also make a mango, banana, chia seed, and coconut milk smoothie for breakfast and a sandwich with Field Roast deli slices, spicy pickles, spinach, spicy mustard, and mayo for lunch. I pack everything up and leave for work.
8 a.m. — At work I catch up on the news while drinking my smoothie and coffee. I also check my bank account to make sure all of my Venmos have gone through. I work more on a survey I began yesterday while listening to showtunes, taking breaks to eat peanut butter pretzels when necessary.
11:50 a.m. — The pretzels aren't cutting it anymore, so I break for lunch. I have my sandwich with chips and salsa and a big glass of water while reading my book. When I'm done eating I take a little extra time to write in my journal and process some thoughts I had over the weekend. MyBF also texts me to make him a haircut appointment. His barber shop only takes appointments through an app, and that app only works on my phone! He is very particular about his hair and his barber, though, so I double-check all of the details he gives me before making the appointment for him.
1 p.m. — I make a cup of green tea to ward off the after-lunch sleepies and get back to work on my survey.
4:30 p.m. — After a pretty uneventful but productive afternoon, I head home. I feed my pets and when they're done eating, I pick my cat up like a baby and tickle his tummy. He's been acting extra naughty lately and I make a mental note to play with him more, because I think he just wants attention. I clip on my dog's leash and load up the new season of Somebody Knows Something. We take an extra long walk while I figure out what, exactly, somebody knows.
5:30 p.m. — When we get home, I take a shower so my hair can dry before bed. I find it looks best when I do this. I consider doing a face mask, but my face feels a little irritated so I just rub on my rosehip oil. I am fairly low maintenance with my skincare routine and only use all-natural products. I wash with honey and moisturize with the oil, and will usually exfoliate a few times a week with a blend of coffee grounds and coconut oil. However, my mom got me a SheaMoisture exfoliating scrub that I've been using recently, and I think that's what's making my skin irritated, so I'll probably stop using it. After my shower, I fold and put away laundry that I managed to wash yesterday, empty the dishwasher, and wipe down my kitchen counters.
6:30 p.m. — My brother is over for a scary movie! I heat up leftover Chinese food, grab us beers, and we settle into to watch Veronica. It was very hyped online and while it was scary, and I love supernatural/possession horror, it wasn't "the scariest movie of all time."
8:15 p.m. — My brother leaves and I watch and episode of The Office to unwind while cuddling with my cat. He drools when he purrs, which is simultaneously gross and very adorable.
8:45 p.m. — After my episode is over, I pull my boyfriend away from his video game to spend time with me in the bedroom. We take a quick shower afterwards and cuddle a bit before lights out.
Daily Total: $0
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