A Week In Tampa, FL, On A $29,000 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 medical assistant who makes $29,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on a DQ Blizzard and hair dye.
Occupation: Medical Assistant
Industry: Medicine
Age: 23
Location: Tampa
Salary: $29,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,100
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $675 for my share of the rent on a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.
Student Loan Payments: $150. I'm a graduate student so I'm still in school, but I pay to keep the principal down.
All Other Monthly Expenses
Car Insurance: $70
Phone: $65
Netflix & Hulu: $21
Spotify: $12.99
Barre Studio: $50
Roth IRA: 4% of every paycheck

Day One

7:15 a.m. — Usually I wake up before my alarm, but today it jolts me out of a weird dream. Ugh, Monday. I roll out of bed and throw some scrubs on.
7:30 a.m. — I make oatmeal with peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon. I also pour myself a big cup of cold, black coffee. I brew a pot of coffee on Sunday nights and stick it in the fridge for a whole week. It's not an ideal system, but I prefer it 100 times more than fresh hot coffee.
7:50 a.m. — I'm out the door. Luckily, I both live and work downtown, so it's a 10-minute walk into the hospital. I like to jam out on the way there; today, it's Arcade Fire's newest album.
8:05 a.m. — I get to work early and talk to the security guard about my weekend; it's our Monday tradition. She teases me for staying in St. Pete this weekend. I traveled a lot this summer and there's a running joke between us now that I'm "always going somewhere."
8:30 a.m. — I'm a coffee fiend and usually cave to the coffee shop in our hospital on Monday mornings. I'm going to Nashville with friends in a couple of weeks, so I'm trying not to waste my money on coffee. One of my coworkers brings me a coffee without me asking because she is an angel.
12 p.m. — I meal prep for the whole week during the weekend, so I usually have all of my lunches and dinners made in advance. This saves me money and ensures that I eat clean for most of the week. For lunch today, I have a sriracha, garlic, and honey pork chop with diced sweet potatoes and asparagus.
5:15 p.m. — Done with work. I walk back and talk to my mom on the phone. Back at home, I immediately scarf down homemade peanut butter granola. I eat enough to make it a not-healthy snack anymore.
6:15 p.m. — I hit up a barre class. My studio gives me a student discount and I go enough to make it a great deal.
7:45 p.m. — Back from barre, I eat dinner: zucchini noodles with carrots, onions, and peppers in red sauce. I watch two lectures for school, text my boyfriend for a little bit, and later snack on homemade chocolate chip cookies that my Dad sent me. He got a mixer for his birthday and is so excited to make things with it.
9:15 p.m. — I make peppermint tea and slide into bed. Tomorrow is an early day.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5 a.m. — I wake up for work. Three days a week, I work overtime in surgery. The early mornings are brutal, but the pay is worth it. I don't have to be at the hospital until 5:30, and luckily I live close enough to basically wake up at the last possible second. I drive to work on these mornings because it's still dark outside.
5:25 a.m. — I clock into work and roll through my routine. I packed a breakfast of peanut butter granola, almonds, and blueberries and snack before patients start coming. I also chug my cold coffee from home.
8:30 a.m. — My time in the OR is complete, and I run to the other side of the hospital to get to my clinic.
8:35 a.m. — We don't have patients until 9 and I'm still hungry, so I go to the cafeteria and grab two hard-boiled eggs and a cup of ice for my coworker. With my discount it's $2.38, but I can use my hospital badge to have it payroll deducted. $2.38
11 a.m. — I've been lucky with grad school so far and haven't had to buy any mandatory textbooks ... until now. I'm in my last semester and have to buy two. I order them on Amazon Prime in between patients; my parents pay. When I started college, they told me that as long as I was in school, they'd cover my books. Yes, they're the greatest. ($170, covered by my mom)
12 p.m. — I eat my leftover zucchini noodles from last night and have lots of yummy red sauce left over, so I buy a piece of grilled chicken from the cafeteria to finish it off. It's $3.18, but payroll deducted. I also eat some blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries that I packed. $3.18
12:40 p.m. — I'm trying SO hard not to spend money on coffee, but I literally just fell asleep at my desk. Halfway to walking to the hospital coffee shop, I remember we have a lone K-cup in the office cabinet. I turn around and go back; it's good for me to get the steps anyway.
3 p.m. — The surgeon I work for hits the proverbial wall and is in desperate need of caffeine. He asks if anyone wants anything from the coffee shop and takes me with him because I'm the only one who can remember everyone's order. I get a double espresso.
5:15 p.m. — Done with patients and drive to a hot yoga class. I started doing yoga at my barre studio when I sent out my applications to medical school. I was so anxious that I stopped sleeping, and it's helped a lot so far.
7:30 p.m. — Back from yoga, showered, and I FaceTime my mom while I eat: roasted pork chop, broccoli stalks, sweet potatoes, and strawberries as a snack.
8:15 p.m. — I talk to my boyfriend while I eat a peanut butter granola bar from Trader Joe's. I get really snacky in the evenings and I'm trying to break the habit. I rationalize it by telling myself I worked it off in yoga.
9 p.m. — I need to study, but instead I watch Ali Wong: Baby Cobra while drinking peppermint tea. I'll make up for studying tomorrow. The special has some really funny and really cringeworthy parts. I pass out in bed by 10.
Daily Total: $5.56

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — No surgery for me today! I wake up extremely well-rested and make myself breakfast — oatmeal with peanut butter, honey, cinnamon, and chopped strawberries. I drink cold coffee from my fridge.
7:40 a.m. — I'm either feeling particularly ambitious or very alert because I unload and reload my dishwasher after breakfast. I'm going away to see my boyfriend this weekend and my roommate is in Nashville, so I want us to both come home to a clean apartment.
7:50 a.m. — I'm out the door and walking to work. Today's playlist is 2000s hip-hop. I get very hype to "Air Force Ones".
8:05 a.m. — I clock into work early again and head over to trauma, where I work every Wednesday morning. It started as a PRN gig, but both parties enjoyed it so much that I've stayed there permanently. There is always a pot of coffee brewed, and I drink some while I catch up with the front desk staff on hospital gossip.
10:15 a.m. — I'm starving and eat some blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries during a gap between patients.
11:30 a.m. — We've finished seeing patients and I see that John Mulaney is coming to the theater RIGHT near my apartment building. My roommate and I love him so I buy the two of us and her friend tickets as she's busy in Nashville. We can't believe our luck. She immediately Venmos me for their share. $33
12 p.m. — I eat lunch (pork chop, broccoli stalk, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes), but I'm still hungry after. I find cinnamon BelVita cookies in my backpack. I have everything in my backpack, I swear.
5:15 p.m. — Done seeing patients and I head straight to CVS. I got my hair done in February for my birthday, and while the stylist did an amazing job, I'm sick of the blonde. I'm a brunette at heart! I buy a box of light brown Revlon dye on sale. $8.52
6:30 p.m. — My hair looks good! It's a little ashy but since the dye is cheap it should fade a bit within a week. I eat dinner while my hair dries.
7:30 p.m. — I study until 10, then make peppermint tea, talk to my boyfriend for a bit, and pass out in bed.
Daily Total: $41.52

Day Four

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I am sad. I go through my usual routine of blind fumbling to get dressed and grab my food. I clock into work just after 5:15 and start setting up for our day of patients. After I'm finished, I watch the morning news while eating hard-boiled eggs and drinking coffee from home. I'm especially tired for some reason today.
8:30 a.m. — I leave the OR and head over to my side of the hospital for clinic. We're slammed with patients — thank the medical gods that my coffee is finally kicking in.
11:58 a.m. — We somehow finish with our patients on time! I think if I eat another pre-packed pork chop meal, I'm going to kill someone, so I grab Tijuana Flats with my coworkers. I get a blackened chicken burrito bowl and it is so good. $8.53
4:45 p.m. — Finish with our afternoon patients early, too! Sometimes, I really underestimate my doctor; he was on a roll today. I change out of my scrubs at the office and drive over to barre for a class.
6:30 p.m. — My barre instructor went rogue today and now I can't feel my legs.
7:15 p.m. — I think the burrito bowl was the cure for my brief pork chop strike, because I happily eat my usual meal this week when I get home while I FaceTime my mom. After I eat, I end up studying for a bit.
8:50 p.m. — The snack attack strikes again. I grab some blueberries and almonds while talking to my boyfriend, make myself a Sleepytime peach tea (not peppermint, wow), and scroll through social media. I fall asleep before 9:30.
Daily Total: $8.53

Day Five

5 a.m. — My last time this week waking up at 5! I have more energy today and roll through my morning routine faster than usual. I eat peanut butter oatmeal with blueberries and a cold coffee for breakfast.
5:15 a.m. — I clock into work and do my usual boring routine. I only drink about half my coffee before the patients start rolling in.
8:30 a.m. — We don't see patients on Fridays in clinic, so our schedule is massively laid back. I tell my front desk secretary I'll be late and pick up everyone a coffee and a donut from Dunkin'. I have coupons with me and get four coffees and four donuts. $5.11
8:42 a.m. — I'm back at my desk and working on getting authorizations for patient procedures. I drink my caramel iced coffee and eat my donut — old fashioned is the best.
12 p.m. — I clock out of work and go back to my apartment to deep clean and pack for my weekend trip to Gainesville. Usually, I leave at 5 but my boyfriend and I have an obligation this evening.
12:45 p.m. — Packed in my car ready to go and realize that I need gas. I get gas maybe once a month because the furthest I drive is to go to barre class. I don't even know if I'm getting a particularly good deal at this station or not. I get nine gallons. $18.19
3 p.m. — Finally with my man! We are staying at his parents' house, and we chill for a bit before his mom comes home. She arrives with strawberry popsicles.
7 p.m. — I have been waiting for this event FOREVER. My boyfriends mom is a barre instructor and they're doing a “Bring-A-Boy” class tonight. She's an insanely hard teacher, but watching my boyfriend and his dad flounder through the class is worth every ounce of pain. After, we eat soft pretzels and beer that the studio provides.
8 p.m. — His parents take us to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. I get fish tacos and we split a margarita pitcher between the table. They graciously pay.
9:30 p.m. — The combo of the margarita and my early wakeup time has me down for the count. I pass out as soon as we get back to the house.
Daily Total: $23.30

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I wake up very well-rested. My boyfriend has breakfast plans for us, so I roll out of bed and into his car.
9:15 a.m. — Points for my boy, he takes us to a bomb Southern breakfast place. I get a biscuit with fried chicken, cheddar cheese, bacon, and sausage gravy on top. I can feel my arteries clogging as I eat it but its too good! I also get a red eye to wake myself up. $13.31
10:30 a.m. — We should be taking a carb nap but I have a molecular genetics exam in two weeks and I want to get ahead before I leave for Nashville. We go to a local coffee shop where I love to study. I order a honey and cinnamon coffee. $3.67
1:30 p.m. — We finish studying and one of my friends is in the area. We stay at the coffee shop a little longer so she can meet us there and we can catch up. She starts medical school on Monday!
2:30 p.m. — I want to go thrifting to see if there are any cute, cheap outfits I can get before my trip. After about 30 minutes of searching, I'm overwhelmed and give up. (I'm a very impatient shopper.) My boyfriend gets a pair of pants and I leave empty-handed.
5:30 p.m. — My boyfriend's father's birthday is this week, and we go out to dinner to celebrate with their friends. We tear into a seafood boil; it's more than I've eaten in a while. Again, his lovely parents treat us.
8:30 p.m. — We're absolutely stuffed from dinner but are still craving DQ blizzards. I get a small Reese's Blizzard and go back to the house to watch The Breakfast Club with my boyfriend's mom. $3.72
10 p.m. — I snuggle with my boyfriend for a bit and fall asleep before 11.
Daily Total: $20.70

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — My boyfriend wakes me up early so I can watch him play soccer. He's pretty good (and cute), so I forgive the early morning wakeup. I eat peanut butter and honey oatmeal before we leave.
9 a.m. — It's five million degrees in Florida and there's about six inches of shade on the soccer field. I sweat my butt off spectating while my boyfriend does actual exercise. They get their asses kicked.
10 a.m. — We decide to get post-game açai bowls for breakfast. As we pull in the parking lot, I realize I don't have my wallet with me, so my boyfriend and I split a bowl that he covers.
10:30 a.m. — The açai bowl place is next to the coffee shop from yesterday, and I'm craving another honey and cinnamon coffee. I think my boyfriend notices my longing glances and offers to get me one. I accept.
11:45 a.m. — We go to a local hip grocery store to get poke bowls. While we wait for them to be made, I wander around and grab produce I'll need for the week. I end up getting broccoli, four packs of blueberries, asparagus, green beans, and peanut butter. I also cover both of our poke bowls and coffee from earlier. $34.25
1 p.m. — We finish eating lunch and sadly, I have to leave. My boyfriend will also be in Tennessee next week on a completely different trip, and we know we will see each other in Nashville at least one night.
4 p.m. — After a dramatic and awful drive home, I'm back in St. Pete. I FaceTime my mom and lay in bed to rest up before my game. I joined a co-ed softball league that plays in a park in the city. I played for 14 years, and it's great to have the game back in my life.
6 p.m. — I'm extremely lazy and drive instead of walk to the park for my softball game. I get nailed in the leg with a line drive, which quickly turns into a gnarly bruise. We lose, but I have a great time.
7:30 p.m. — I run over to Publix to get meat and fruit for the week. I didn't want to make the drive from Gainesville with poultry. I buy chicken thighs, eggs, strawberries, and arugula and get yelled at for walking around in cleats. $14.76
8 p.m. — I shower and start to cook for the week. I make a quick dinner of honey-lime-cilantro chicken with arugula and green beans and watch the sun set on the rooftop patio with my roommate while we catch up.
9 p.m. — I eat cinnamon BelVita crisps while I study with my roommate. Later, I text my boyfriend for a bit and then go to bed.
Daily Total: $49.01
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. 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!
2. New Year, New Job: Many people start reassessing their professional goals in January — and that can include looking for a new profession. Submit your job search Money Diary here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series