A Week In Vermont On A $33,000 Salary

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Today, as part of Your Spending In Your State: a school zero waste coordinator who makes $33,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a burrito.
Occupation: School Zero Waste Coordinator
Industry: Waste Management
Age: 26
Location: Vermont
Salary: $33,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $950
Monthly Expenses
(All housing expenses are split with my boyfriend, N., from a joint account, to which we both contribute $700 each month.)
Mortgage: $650, plus $180 for association fees and about $300 for homeowner taxes
Electricity: $30
Heat & Hot Water: $30
Wifi: $50
Planet Fitness: $13
Spotify: $11
401(k): $80
Supplemental Injury Insurance: $26 (My work covers 100% of the premium for my baseline health insurance, life insurance, and dental insurance.)
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime: $0 (We mooch off N.'s family.)
Phone Bill: $0 (This is the last thing my parents still pay for.)
Ally Online Savings: $50
ACLU Donation: $5
Vermont Public Radio: $8

Day One

7 a.m. — N. wakes up before me and leaves to go to the gym early. I love days like this because he always makes a fresh pot of coffee for me while I'm stumbling out of bed and feeds the cats. I have a fried egg on toast, a banana for breakfast, and pack leftover pho I made the other day for lunch. It feels like a crisp September morning outside, even though it's summer. I give my cats a smooch before heading to work around 7:45.
12:15 p.m. — N. and I put in an application for a rescue puppy earlier this week and we still need a lot of dog supplies and toys, so during my lunch break I walk downtown to a small boutique-y pet store. I get overwhelmed by all of the choices, so all I buy is a fancy frosted treat shaped like Vermont (as her adoption treat) and some cat treats. N. and I will pick up everything else together later. I walk back to work to eat my pho at my desk. $12.80
5 p.m. — N. and I head out to the local feed store after work. We pick out a leash, a bunch of toys (we go overboard, but come on — they have toys shaped like donuts and hedgehogs), a few different types of treats, and a bag of organic grain-free dog food. I spend $84.07, and N. gives me $40 in cash. Then we head over to the local bookstore to pick up a dog training book. This will be my first puppy, and I want to do it right. We find a promising one and N. pays, but I give him a $10 bill to split it. $54.07
6:30 p.m. — We're tired from our shopping spree, so we decide not to make dinner and instead go to The Mad Taco for burritos and PBRs. The cashier rings us up wrong, so it's cheaper than usual, but she waves it off as her mistake. We stuff a few dollars into the tip jar. We eat and drink while pouring over the dog training book. $24.43
Daily Total: $91.30

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up and roll out of bed to make coffee and feed the cats. Then I toss a few garlic scapes, parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt, and olive oil in the food processor to make scape pesto. I spread it on my toast and add a fried egg on top for breakfast. For lunch I pack a salad with greens, scallions, carrots, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes, all from our CSA share. We paid $375 for it at the beginning of the summer, which roughly shakes out to $25 a week. It's pricey, but we can afford to support this local, organic business. Plus, it's super high quality and a great community.
11:30 a.m. — I eat my salad while on the road to a program. I'm doing an activity with a summer camp about composting (think tag games, looking for bugs, and exploring the worm composting bin). On my way, I have an idea to make the tag game even better, so I stop at a Dollar General and pick up two pairs of cheap dark sunglasses with my company credit card. I let the campers wear them during the tag game as members of the F.B.I. (Fungi, Bacteria, and Insects). ($14.28 expensed)
2 p.m. — I stop at the gym on my way back from the program for my lunch break. I love that it's empty at this time of day. I make a mental note to try and get here around this time in the future, instead of going after work.
4 p.m. — I walk a Seeing Eye dog a few times a week, so I head up to his house after work for our semi-daily walk. The weather is gorgeous — not too hot for July. I am thinking the whole time about how we will train our own puppy when we get her.
5:30 p.m. — When I get home, N. is working on the windows. We just bought our condo back in June, and we have to deal with some rotting window sills and chipped paint. I put two potatoes in the oven to bake, change into grungy clothes, and join N. to scrape some windows. We eat the potatoes with butter and Greek yogurt and snack on cheese and crackers. We also share an Upper Pass First Drop, one of my favorite Vermont beers.
9 p.m. — There's a joke in Vermont warning people not to leave their car doors unlocked overnight in July, or they'll wake up to find that neighbors have filled it to the top with unwanted zucchinis. Well, thanks to our CSA and our garden, we do have a million zucchinis in the fridge. I try to chip away at them by making zucchini banana bread. Halfway through, I realize we have no flour, so I run out to Shaw's and pick up flour, bread, bananas, lime seltzer, milk, soap, and carrots. I rush back to get the zucchini bread in the oven by 9:30. By the way, raw zucchini banana bread dough is delicious. $28.04
Daily Total: $28.04

Day Three

7 a.m. — I have coffee and a big chunk of zucchini bread for breakfast, feed the cats, and head to work. I don't pack a lunch because I'm coming home in the middle of the day to make food for our annual work party later.
10:30 a.m. — I'm getting halo vision at work, and I know I'm about to get a migraine. I (somewhat unsafely, since I can't really see except out of my peripheral vision due to the migraine) drive home quickly, draw the blinds, and get straight into bed.
2 p.m. — I wake up groggy, but luckily without the splitting headache! I decide it's not worth it to go back to work. I make myself toast and then work on putting together a Yankee Swap gift for the work party this evening. It has to be something found and unwanted (not bought!). I grab a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider that has been sitting on my shelf for forever and a book that I got at a garage sale and already read, and wrap them in newspaper. I have to bring a side dish to the party, too, so I make my potluck go-to: spicy ginger coconut carrots. I even have enough time to squeeze in a 30-minute workout with free weights using the Nike Training app. (I highly recommend it — it's free!)
4 p.m. — N. comes home and we decide to go to Agway to look for a dog bed. All of the beds are weirdly expensive but obviously cheaply made with cheap materials, so we walk out empty-handed. I stop for gas. $16.97
5:30 p.m. — N. and I go to a park in town for the work party. We don't buy meat to cook at home (for environmental reasons), but we're both open to eating it every so often, so we have burgers, chips, coconut carrots, and beers, and enjoy an impromptu skit put on by some of my coworkers' kids.
9 p.m. — When we get home, I check my email and find a message from the foster mom of the puppy we applied for. We had been planning to take the day off tomorrow to go meet her in Manchester, NH, but the foster mom postpones the meeting. The puppy is getting sick, and she wants to figure out what's wrong. We're super bummed.
Daily Total: $16.97

Day Four

7 a.m. — Wake up, have coffee, feed the cats, and make my usual fried egg with toast and pesto. I pack a salad and zucchini bread for lunch.
12:15 p.m. — I go to my usual Friday lunchtime yoga class with a friend, using my last punch on my 10-class card. I'm spending a lot of money on the puppy lately, so I decide I'll renew my card next week, if at all, for now. Afterwards, I get back to the office and have some mint ice cream I keep in the freezer.
5:30 p.m. — In the mania surrounding the puppy, I totally forgot that I'm going to a barbecue for our rugby club this evening, and I'm supposed to bring a side dish. I grab stray single beers in the fridge and throw them in a cooler. I have really ripe avocados sitting in the pantry and a softening tomato, so I make some quick guacamole and pick up Red Hot Blues (my favorite chips) at the co-op on my way to pick up my teammate. While waiting in the car for her, I check my email and see that the foster mom asked if we want to see the puppy tomorrow morning. Of course I say yes! I am stoked for the rest of the evening. $5.49
Daily Total: $5.49

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — We get to the foster mom's house in New Hampshire and immediately fall in love. The puppy is sweet and affectionate and about four months old. They think she's a corgi/husky mix. We pay the adoption fee and take her back home to Vermont. $475
12:45 p.m. — We get home and I immediately have to leave. I'm volunteering at the BioBlitz, a 24-hour survey of all the species within the city boundaries. I serve on my town's Conservation Commission, and we're helping to organize the event. I hate to leave the puppy so soon, but N. is taking good care of her. I ride my bike to the event and eat the free food for the biologists/volunteers. I'm stationed at the live specimen tent, where I show kids salamanders, butterflies, turtles, and frogs. There's a guy walking around with two huge caterpillars (like, six inches long) and biologists running around with specimens in water. It's really great, and it makes me want to apply for grad school programs (but I just bought a house and got a puppy, so that will have to wait).
6 p.m. — I ride my bike home. N. and I are both super hungry and don't want to think about cooking, so we order pizza and split it. I stir fry broccoli and garlic and some kale from the garden to add some greens to the meal while N. goes to pick up the pizza. Afterwards, we take the puppy out to play in the green across the street. $13.36
Daily Total: $488.36

Day Six

6 a.m. — We get up really early to take the puppy out. N. makes coffee and feeds the cats while I play with her. I have to leave again to volunteer at the BioBlitz, so I take my bike and head out, knowing there will be breakfast served there.
1:30 p.m. — Finally finished with the BioBlitz! When it ends, they count over 700 species, with more observations rolling in. I eat lunch at the festival with the other volunteers. N. picks me up with the puppy to head to another, bigger pet store in another town.
3:30 p.m. — At the pet store, we have her dog tag made, and buy a nice quality bed and extra toys (can't resist). We split the total on our cards. $37.18
5 p.m. — My aunt lives near this pet store, and my mom happens to be visiting her this weekend, so we stop over there for them to meet the puppy. My aunt serves us beer and small snacks, and the puppy is really well-behaved. They have a fenced-in yard, so the puppy happily runs around without a leash. My mom gives me a dress as a belated birthday gift, even though she already gotten me a new vacuum (what I had asked for — exciting, I know!). My mom is retired and is section-hiking the Long Trail. I'll see her soon when I pick her up from the trail in a few days. When that happens, she'll be about three-quarters of the way finished with the 270 mile trail! N. and I watch some rugby with my uncle and then head home.
8 p.m. — N. is still hungry, so we stop at The Mad Taco on the way home. He picks up the tab, and we take it home to eat. We're both exhausted and fall asleep by 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $37.18

Day Seven

6 a.m. — N. wake up at 5 a.m. to walk the dog and feed the cats. I wake up to brewing coffee and a wet tongue licking my face. I'm taking the puppy to work today, and I have to drop off a crate and set it up in my office. I welcome Monday by getting a coffee at the bakery across the street. The coffee they have is great, and it's only $2 when you bring your own mug. I put $1 in the tip jar. Then I drive back home, pack a salad and the last bit of zucchini bread for lunch, and quickly make pesto toast for breakfast. I load up my backpack with treats and toys, and we walk the short distance to my office. $3
12 p.m. — The puppy does really well at the office! I decide to walk her home for lunch so she can have alone time. I pack leftover coconut carrots to take back with me as an afternoon snack. Then I leave the puppy licking peanut butter out of a Kong in her crate and go back to work.
4:30 p.m. — N. and I take the puppy to the vet. She's healthy and a little older than we thought. She gets a vaccine and a checkup. We pay using our joint account. $121.80
6 p.m. — On our way back from the vet, we picked up our CSA share from a nearby farm. In the share, we get three big cucumbers, 1.5 lbs of zucchini, a huge bunch of kale, a bunch of baby fennel, a bulb of garlic, a pint of cherry tomatoes, and as many squash bulbs as we want. I also go to the co-op quickly to grab supplies to make lemon poppyseed muffins for my coworker's birthday (we rotate who brings treats). A lot of my coworkers are doing a form of keto/Whole30 diet or have food allergies, so I pick up a pineapple to chop up so they aren't left out. In total I spend $43.66 on a pineapple, poppy seeds, three lemons, bananas, butter, coffee, yogurt, milk, and eggs. $43.66
6:30 p.m. — When we get home, I make an egg, pack my bag, and head to kickball. A crew of friends meets up every Monday to play good old-fashioned pickup kickball. It's been raining all day, so the field is going to be muddy. I wear my already-super-stained shorts and t-shirt, and bring a hoppy pilsner that my coworker brewed and gave me. N. and the puppy come to visit during the game and hang out, even though N. has a broken collarbone and can't play. Then I go home to make the muffins. Lemon poppyseed dough tastes pretty good too!
Daily Total: $168.46
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