A Week In Worcester, MA, On A $51,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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 program manager working at a nonprofit who makes $51,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week at a brewery.
Occupation: Program Manager
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 27
Location: Worcester, MA
Salary: $51,000
Paycheck (4x/month): $603 post-taxes
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $850
Student Loan Payment: $200
Car Payment: $250 for my leased car
Credit Card Debt: ~$300. (I have $9,000 in total outstanding credit card debt.)
Health & Dental Insurance: $130.24, taken out of my paycheck pre-tax.
Electric & Internet: ~$80. (I split internet with my friend/housemate. We each have our own apartment but live on the same floor of a renovated house. It's a real-life Friends situation.)
Car Insurance: $146
YMCA Gym Membership: $22
CBS Go: $5.99
Hulu: $10
Netflix: $0. (Thanks, Mom!)
Spotify: $7.50, split with my housemate.
Additional Expenses
Savings: $100 of each of my paychecks automatically goes into savings each week, but sometimes when I'm not cautious with my spending I have to pull from savings to pay rent or other bills.

Day One

9:30 a.m. — I wake up in Albany, NY, after arriving the night prior. My friend and I are visiting a close friend of ours and we sleep in much later than we expected. The friend who is hosting is already awake and so is her partner. She makes us delicious cold brew coffee, eggs, and toast. The four of us decide to head to the gym since we know we have a day of gluttony ahead of us. We hit the road (which is a bit icy from snow the night before) and work out for about an hour.
1:30 p.m. — The four of us head into downtown Albany to meet another friend for lunch. We order two orders of pretzel bites, three orders of wings, beers all around, and a salad (for balance). We are all stuffed but happy and split the bill. $28
3:30 p.m. — My friend's partner bought a Groupon for us to do a beer tasting at a local brewery. We get to the brewery and are each given five tokens. We drink as many samples as possible before the brewery closes and play Uno. (My friend who is driving disperses her beers throughout the day.) I leave rather tipsy and play DJ in the car.
5 p.m. — Somehow we end up at another brewery with more beer. We spend a while longer here and play Trivial Pursuit. I love the atmosphere and the beer is good. I would spend every weekend in a brewery if it were both physically and financially healthy. $20
7 p.m. — Today just keeps going! We end up at a new casino in Schenectady. At this point I am drunk so I need to be cautious on how much I gamble. (I hear my mom's voice in my head!) I take out $20 from the ATM, play a few penny slots and electronic roulette ($20). I also somehow lose (and find!) my wallet within 10 minutes of entering the casino. I buy a beer and cocktail for my friend and then proceed to not win anything. $30
8:30 p.m. — I need pizza so I get two slices. $8
9:30 p.m. — Head back to my friend's place and play two rounds of Phase Ten. Then I have another beer and watch the Patriots beat the Titans. We all decide to hit the hay around 11 as we are exhausted and already hungover from the day.
Daily Total: $86

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I am up early for a Sunday and am surprisingly not hungover…must have been the pizza. My friend makes us breakfast and coffee and we finish watch a few episodes of Chopped.
11 a.m. — I hit the road back to Worcester, only after spending 15 minutes scraping ice from my car. When I left Worcester on Friday it was 60 degrees and raining. As soon as I got to Albany, it started snowing and sleeting. I love the winter, but not when it's two degrees outside.
12 p.m. — My travel companion and I decide we are hungry so we stop for ramen to warm our bellies (and it's freezing outside). I get miso ramen with pork and a Diet Pepsi. We split the bill and continue on our way. $20
2 p.m. — I drop off my travel companion because she is meeting other friends for the afternoon. After I am almost back on the highway, I remember that I will need gas to make it back to Worcester. $20
4 p.m. — Back in good ole Worcester and happy to be reunited with my kitties. I recently adopted a kitten and he and my older cat are still working on getting along. (I call them kitties collectively but my older cat is definitely middle-aged.) I play with both of them individually for a while, clean up their mess from the weekend, and settle in for a night at home.
6 p.m. — Call my parents for our nightly chat. This is something that started in college and we have continued to talk to each other every night since. It is a nice way to connect even if we don't have much to say. I cherish the conversation.
7 p.m. — After spending a significant amount of money over the weekend I opt to cook at home instead of ordering in. I make eggs and French toast. I could honestly eat breakfast for every meal.
10 p.m. — I watch an embarrassing amount of Chopped and decide that in my alternate reality, I'll either own my own restaurant or become Alex Guarnaschelli. I go to bed dreaming of the dessert I didn't have.
Daily Total: $40

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — I get to sleep in today since my agency is closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I decide that I want to have a productive but relaxing day and vow to only put a few things on my to-do list.
11 a.m. — After a quick breakfast of yogurt, apples, and honey, I head to the gym for a quick cardio session. Last summer, I ran a 10-mile race and did a sprint triathlon. I think that was maybe the last time I exercised? I vow to get back into shape and remind myself that I actually feel good when I move my body.
1 p.m. — After a shower and a quick tour-de-Pinterest, I decide to make turkey chili and creamy lemon-chicken pasta for lunch and dinner this week. I write out my list and head to the store.
1:30 p.m. — They recently built a Chick-fil-A in Worcester and despite my dislike of the company's politics, I cannot resist their chicken. I order grilled nuggets and a side salad with a Diet Coke. I get back to my car and realize they gave me regular nuggets. Oh well, guess I have to eat these. $11
3 p.m. — Back home and feeling proud of myself for not straying from my shopping list. I unload groceries and prep for my night of cooking. $40
5 p.m. — The chili is in the crock pot and my water is almost boiling for pasta. I munch on some Pirate's Booty and play with the kittens. Then it's pasta for dinner.
8 p.m. — I notice that my dishwasher is leaking water onto the kitchen floor whenever I use the sink. This is something that has plagued me since I moved into my apartment three years ago and periodically returns for unknown reasons. I make a mental note to call my landlord in the morning.
10 p.m. — After a couple hours of watching Friends (I was one of those people that never watched growing up but now I am kind of obsessed), I crawl into bed, exhausted.
Daily Total: $51

Day Four

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I snooze for eight more minutes. After, I hesitantly get out of bed and instantly throw on my slippers and robe. I get some water boiling for my morning coffee, grounding my beans and getting my Chemex ready to go. (It's my newest toy.) I make myself eggs and an English muffin with a side of cucumber for breakfast, shower, get dressed, feed the kittens, and eat my breakfast while watching CBS This Morning. I love Gayle!
8:30 a.m. — Get to my desk and am pleasantly surprised by my lack of emails. I sip my coffee and respond to what is there. I have a big day ahead of me as my colleagues and I are meeting with one of our funders for a new project. I have heard that this funder is intimidating and intense so I try to prep myself as much as possible.
12 p.m. — My coworkers and I typically eat lunch together and today is no different. I reheat my pasta leftovers and have an apple with peanut butter and a seltzer. Over the weekend, I discovered the Google Arts & Culture app that compares your selfie to a famous piece of artwork. Mine is ridiculous but kinda looks like me and I am not ashamed. My coworkers all take turns with my phone taking their own selfies and we spend our lunch hour cracking up. It's great to work with people who take their work seriously but also find time for pleasure in the workplace.
4:30 p.m. — My afternoon funder meeting went extremely well and I am excited to continue work on this project. It is a financial justice project helping area residents who have no access to banking. Also exciting is the fact that our agency will be closed tomorrow since it is supposed to snow! I am really happy to work at a place that values employee safety and will cancel work (yet still pay us!) if the weather looks bad.
5:30 p.m. — Home from the gym and eating my chili. It's good but unexciting. I'd prefer tacos.
9 p.m. — A friend comes over to spend the night at my place since it's closer to her office, and she can walk to work in the morning instead of driving in the snow. I catch up with her and my housemate over a bottle of prosecco and other libations. We watch a few episodes of Carpool Karaoke and go to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I am awake early since my friend is heading to work and my landlord is supposed to come by with a plumber to look at my dishwasher. I have a little bit of a headache from the prosecco so I immediately drink two full glasses of water as soon as I wake up. I make coffee and egg sandwiches for my friend and me and then curl up on the couch with the kittens while I wait for the plumber. (Spoiler alert: He never comes.) I take two Advil and hope that my headache goes away soon. I decide to be productive with my early morning so I reorganize my closet and do laundry. My headache goes away after the Advil, eggs, and cheese do their job.
12 p.m. — I find some mozzarella sticks in my freezer and decide to have those, a salad, and seltzer for lunch. I also watch more Friends. I try to take a quick nap on the couch but for some reason cannot fall asleep. Instead I decide to do a Cup O' Coffee face mask from Lush. I love skincare products, especially ones from Lush.
2 p.m. — I must get outside! I don't do well cooped up in the house and I decide to shovel out my car and put some salt on the sidewalk. It's technically our landlord's responsibility, but I'm particular about certain things and sidewalk clearing is one of them. I also like to have some ownership over where I live despite being a renter, so this is a way for me to do that and have a safe home at the same time!
3 p.m. — I chat with my best friend who recently moved to San Francisco. I can't wait to visit her once she's settled – I miss her so much!
5 p.m. — The guy I am dating (P.) picks me up and we go to dinner and a movie. The roads are relatively clear but people are still driving horrendously. We go to a pizza place and then see The Post (yas, Meryl Streep). He pays for the food and beer and also the movie. Swoon.
9:30 p.m. — P. has an early morning and I am beat from the day so we part ways and I get into bed. I recently got a bamboo foam mattress pad and it is literally heaven. I chat with my friends for a bit on iMessage and read Reddit. My kitten curls up next to me.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off and there is a kitten on my face. It's really hard to get out of bed when there is a purring animal anywhere near me. I take a deep breath, move him off me, and get out of bed. I do my typical morning routine (coffee and eggs) and am out the door at 8:15. My commute only takes three minutes and I am at my desk by 8:25.
10 a.m. — My morning meeting was canceled so I have little extra time to write some speaking points for the city manager for an event later this month. I bang that out and drink my coffee and water at my desk. I snack on some dark chocolate too.
12 p.m. — Have my lunch (pasta still) and review notes for a meeting later this afternoon. I chat with P. on iMessage and look at Instagram, Facebook and Money Diaries while I eat. I also look at flights to San Francisco and download the Hopper app to help me buy tickets at the right time!
4 p.m. — I notice that my direct deposit hits, so I pay my remaining bills for the month: a credit card payment, my internet bill, and the excise tax on my car. (Thanks, Massachusetts!)
5:30 p.m. — I'm home from the gym and starving. I eat some chili with a lot of cheese and sour cream on top, then put away my clean laundry from yesterday, shower, and have my nightly chat with my parents.
8 p.m. — I decide I want a cocktail and make myself a vodka seltzer. I also settle in and do some work for a part-time gig that I have, which is coding wire-taps for a friend's company in Philadelphia. It's an interesting way to make a few extra bucks, but it's only temporary. I have Friends muted on the TV. I plug in my headphones and hunker down.
10 p.m. — Finished with the taps for the night and I crawl into bed. I love food and cooking and am trying to read more instead of looking at screens before bed, so I read a few chapters of Blood, Bones and Butter and fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7 a.m. — It's Friday and for some reason it's always easier to get out of bed on Fridays. I shower, feed the kitties and myself (eggs and coffee – I am a creature of habit), and hit the road to work.
12 p.m. — I had a series of phone conversations this morning about a different food-related project that I manage at work. I am re-energized and excited that people are interested in the work we're doing. I finish the last of my pasta and take a walk to get an Americano. It's sunny and in the mid-30s today, which is practically summer here, so I take advantage. $3
4:30 p.m. — I submit my timesheet and am outta here! After work, I meet up with my friend and we cook a homemade dinner of steak quesadillas with strong whiskey drinks on the side. After dinner, we go to a local hockey game (sponsored by my work, so tickets are free!).
9 p.m. — The game is a blast. It's always fun to hang with coworkers outside of the office. My friend and I head back to my place and have a couple more drinks as we get ready to go to our friends' birthday party at a local spot. After buying drinks for me and the birthday girls ($30), I Uber home around 2 a.m. covered in glitter. $40
Daily Total: $43
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!
We want to hear about that time you asked for a raise: Did you get more money? Or did your boss shoot you down? We're looking for stories about the time you got up the guts to negotiate, even if you weren't successful. Fill out this form, and you could see your answer on the site!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series