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A Week In New Hampshire On A $57,960 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a post-doc who makes $57,960 per year and spends some of her money this week on a cookie.
Occupation: Post-doc/Lecturer
Industry: Academia
Age: 26
Location: New Hampshire
Salary: $57,960
Net Worth: ~$52,800 (US checking account: $12,000, UK checking account: £14,300, UK savings account: £16,500, car: $10,000. I grew up in the UK and plan to move back so my savings are all there. Although I have been with my partner, T., for six years, we have never lived together and don't share finances).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (monthly): $3,974
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent $952 (I live with one roommate).
Internet: $32
Cell Phone: $15
Electricity: ~$30
Car Insurance: $112
Medical Evacuation Insurance: $5.50
Gym: paid for by my employer.
Amazon Prime: $5.75
Spotify: $2.70
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, absolutely. My parents met at a top university and my mother has a graduate degree. I don't think there was any question I would at least do an undergrad degree, and my parents paid for my bachelor's and my integrated master's completely. I graduated with no student debt, for which I am extremely grateful. I was awarded a studentship for my PhD, which fully covered the cost and my stipend, so I also have no debt from that.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I don't think my parents explicitly tried to educate me but they were certainly very open about what they did regarding money and why, from shopping around on insurance and getting sign-on discounts to checking over credit card statements (and paying them in full). I think they also modeled pretty healthy spending habits, encouraging us to think over purchases and save by default.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started math tutoring at age 16, mostly because I enjoyed teaching but the extra spending money was nice, too.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I was aware my father had a high-paying job and so money was not a source of stress in our household. That said, other people in my extended family suffered more financial hardship while I was growing up (my parents tried to help) so I knew how fortunate I was. My parents made it clear to my sister and me that as long as we were working towards a career we would enjoy, we shouldn't have to worry about the financial aspect.
Do you worry about money now?
To an extent. Academia is not known for its secure, well-paying jobs so I wonder whether I've made the right choice and whether I'll ever be able to afford to have children, for example. But I live well within my means at the moment and the financial safety net of my parents is still large.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
On a day-to-day basis, I became financially responsible for myself at the start of my PhD, at age 22. But I'm aware that my parents plan to help me significantly with buying a house when I return to the UK. They are definitely my financial safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, my great aunt left me some money when she passed away and it's somewhere in a savings account set up by my parents. I didn't include it in my net worth because I have no idea how much it is or where it is. I should probably follow up on that.

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up, make a cup of tea and bowl of porridge (raisins and brown sugar), brush my teeth, get dressed and assemble the day's snacks and a packed lunch.
9:20 a.m. — The bus isn't due for 10 minutes but I'm ready to leave for work. For some reason this motivates me to bike in instead. I guess it's good for me. I have this mental debate approximately every morning because the commute is uphill both ways (across a small valley) but the bus is infrequent and overheated.
9:30 a.m. — In the office, make another cup of tea. A collaborator emailed last night asking for some figures for a talk and it should only take me a few minutes to throw together. But the mismatch of the model with the data is obvious, and there's a mechanism I haven't thought about including before that suddenly seems within reach. I decide that's worth putting some effort into today.
11:30 a.m. — I need to switch focus to be ready for a midday call so take a quick break to reset. I make yet another cup of tea and have a Hobnob biscuit.
12:30 p.m. — The call goes well, we plan out a workshop for a high school girls in math day. I have some very reusable content I persuaded the others was worth including, which makes my job of preparing very easy. Have my lunch (leftover fish-fragrant aubergine from last night) and text T. We've been together for six years but doing long-distance across five hours of time difference is no joke.
1:15 p.m. — An email goes out that there's free food available on the other side of the building. This is a great way to stretch my legs and obtain a slice of apple pie. Feel a bit guilty that I get recognized by one of the workshop participants as having only turned up for the food.
1:45 p.m. — Some PhD students from our group are presenting in a symposium this afternoon so I go to watch.
4:15 p.m. — The doctor's office finally calls me back to set up my initial patient visit, eight months after first registering with them. We set a time for Tuesday afternoon. This is my first engagement with the US healthcare system and the amount of paperwork to send back is large.
6 p.m. — I've been caught up with work, and sending a final progress email to my collaborator takes longer to compose than anticipated. It's a gorgeous Friday evening and I'm feeling great but I've worked too late to get to the swing dance lesson I'd been planning and I want to treat myself. Decide to order from the Indian hole-in-the-wall my officemate keeps recommending. I get dal and garlic naan ($18.18 with a large tip). $18.18
7 p.m. — My food smells and tastes great but it turns out medium spice at this place is borderline lethal. I make it through with a lot of yogurt. Settle in for a cozy evening with mid-2000s TV (Bones and Grey's Anatomy have been doing a lot of heavy lifting in my life recently).
10 p.m. — I head to bed and watch YouTube until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $18.18

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and browse through the local daily newsletter. I have absolutely no plans and an absent housemate so don't want to just spend the day inside. Decide to check out a bagel pop-up store in a maple sugarhouse. I grab granola and yogurt, then put laundry and the dishwasher on.
9:15 a.m. — Call my family and T. to do the Guardian Saturday quiz. We score 10/15, which seems to be our current average. Several lucky guesses/dubious allocations of points to things we said out loud without committing to, but that's how we play. T. heads off to his sister's, I stay on the call to catch up with my parents.
10 a.m. — My friend Z. texts to ask if I want to go to the farmers' market for overpriced vegetables and jerk chicken. Company trumps bagels so I agree to meet her there around 11. I make a meal plan, put clothes in the drier and decide to start turning a very short skirt I picked up at a clothes swap into a tube top.
10:50 a.m. — Z. texts to say she's running late (surprise surprise) and has remembered she needs to go to the tailor. I suggest midday might be more doable, have a Hobnob biscuit, put away the laundry, take some pork out the freezer and start pinning the top.
11:55 a.m. — I'm getting very hungry so I decide to head out on the grounds I'll either meet Z. or I won't, but I need food soon.
12:05 p.m. — The farmers' market is closed. I realize I'm in the summer location not the winter one. Head to the winter location.
12:10 p.m. — The winter location is also closed. I realize the market runs alternate weeks and not on this one. Very hungry and slightly pissed off, I tell Z. I'm going to get bagels.
12:25 p.m. — The maple house smells incredible but the bagels are being sold untoasted and unfilled, not quite how I pictured my lunch. Still, there's an exciting array of flavors so I pick out five, including carrot cake and pizza ($19.50 — how?). Z. arrives and we tour the maple processing machinery, sampling the different grades of syrup on their homemade doughnut holes. I really enjoy visiting industrial plants (especially when they smell this good) and the sugar rush helps lift my mood. I decide to go full tourist and buy a pint of syrup ($10). Z. suggests lunch at the local taqueria might be more appetizing than cold bagels and since I've been meaning to go back for months now, I let her bend my rubber arm. $29.50
1:15 p.m. — We get to the taco place. I get two pork tacos and a plate of grilled peppers to share ($17.36 including tip) in exchange for some of Z.'s quesadilla. Now happily fed, we catch up on life while the snow starts to fall outside. $17.36
3 p.m. — Time to get on with the afternoon. We brave the snow and I head to the craft store to get thread and elastic for the top ($8, rounded up for charity), then the Target next door for the hell of it (just browsing). $8
3:25 p.m. — Then onwards to the grocery store for my weekly shop (tomatoes, greens, bok choy, apples, oranges, garlic, pita, lamb mince, raisins, coconut water, laundry detergent). Most of what I have planned to cook in the early part of this week I already have the ingredients for, so this is more of a top-up, especially of veggies. $58.78
4:15 p.m. — Back home, I get to work taking in the seams. By hand. This is my first time sewing in probably a decade. On the one hand, my work is visibly improving. On the other hand, the first seam is really rough. At least I've made the sensible decision to start on the inner lining.
7 p.m. — I haven't moved in hours and it's probably time for dinner. Grab some leftover curry (still too spicy) and toast a spinach bagel (excellent). I start the painful job of attaching elastic to the top. I still don't understand how thimbles are supposed to work.
10 p.m. — I've gone completely boggle-eyed and take myself to bed.
Daily Total: $113.64

Day Three

5:50 a.m. — I wake up incredibly disoriented and in a decent amount of pain. Too many peppers? I scroll around Instagram and fall back to sleep around 7.
10 a.m. — Finally wake up again, still quite woozy, but decide I've slept enough. Look at the time and realize I'd promised to call T. so we could watch the Oxford-Cambridge boat race together. Then realize the broadcast has started but the race isn't for another hour. Let T. know I'm alive and making breakfast (carrot cake bagel).
10:30 a.m. — Call T. We provide our own alternative boat race commentary (Cambridge wins! Woo!) and then I babble to him over Facebook messenger while resuming my sewing. T. heads off around 12:30 to make dinner. I should have lunch except I'm so very nearly done with attaching the elastic.
1:15 p.m. — I'm finally done with the elastic and need food so I microwave the remainder of the curry. I'm standing in the middle of the kitchen, eating out of the takeaway container, when my roommate, L., reappears. I had thought she'd be gone all weekend and the sewing table looks like a bomb's hit it. Oops. Tidy a little then start hemming.
2:30 p.m. — Get started on dinner: caramelized pork belly slow-cooked in coconut water. I spend the next hour alternating between finishing the hem and stirring the pork. The top may smell of fish sauce now.
4:15 p.m. — I go upstairs to hibernate with a cup of tea, more Hobnobs, an orange and a puzzle.
5:20 p.m. — Start on the rice, reduce the sauce and chop vegetables. I'm very excited for food. After dinner, I portion up leftovers into lunches for Monday and Tuesday, and a bonus extra serving of meat to freeze. I'm left with quite a lot of lard, which I filter through some paper towel to use for cooking.
6:50 p.m. — Head out to play frisbee. 7 p.m. on a Sunday isn't my favorite timing and indoors isn't my favorite format but it's better than nothing while the snow is still melting and the fields are just mud. It was a somewhat nominal $20 for the entire winter, so I'm counting it as free at this point.
9:10 p.m. — That was great. I feel deeply unfit but this is how I improve, right? We ended with an all-women point, which is really fun. Home, shower, then into bed. Do some journaling then watch YouTube videos until I fall asleep around 11:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:20 a.m. — Wake up and unpeel my eyelids. Porridge (with maple syrup), get ready for work, then start replying to emails.
9:30 a.m. — My legs are sore and the bus is here. It must be a sign. The buses in this area are free, which is definitely a bonus, but the timetabling leaves something to be desired.
9:40 a.m. — Get to my office, make a cup of tea and mess around. I take a test to discover I don't have face blindness, which is a relief, I guess. My PhD advisor hasn't sent comments on our paper but has sent his apologies (typical). Another collaborator emails to remind me I need to send through some edits on a paper we're resubmitting tomorrow.
11:30 a.m. — My officemate gets in and I pause work for a chat. I've done my edits and I'm nervous about my midday meeting so I procrastinate by eating a cereal bar and flicking through some work I need to mark this evening. Also sign myself up for a free lunch tomorrow.
12:20 p.m. — The meeting (feedback from a job I didn't get) goes about as well as could be expected. At least over Zoom it's easier to disguise tears. I make myself pretend to be productive by sending off my edits. Time for lunch: leftovers from last night and an apple.
1:30 p.m. — The afternoon is doing the exact opposite of flying by and I'm not really in the best state of mind to focus on research. Receive some exam questions to test out; that seems much more achievable if far less productive. Eventually start back up on actual work.
4:15 p.m. — The head of our lab swings by to check in on us. I have a bit of a rant and we agree to catch up properly tomorrow morning. I decide to give up for the day, get to marking and aim for the next bus home.
5 p.m. — I run out the door as the bus leaves. The driver stops just long enough to tell me they're full anyway. This must be karma for deciding not to bike in. Go back upstairs to keep making my way through the marking and wait for the next bus.
5:40 p.m. — Finally home, I check the mail, take a couple of ibuprofen to quell stomach cramps and make a quick blue cheese and broccoli pasta for dinner. It's some very old cheese that was dehydrating in the back of the fridge so melting it down into the sauce takes some effort. I am running out of containers for leftovers at this stage.
7 p.m. — My friend D. is hosting a board games night. I feel slightly guilty to be missing a concert band rehearsal but those are weekly and board games aren't. In exchange for bringing a packet of chocolate Digestives, I eat my weight in other people's snacks and lose dramatically at Seven Wonders.
10:30 p.m. — Home and in bed. Stick on a calming audiobook to get my heart rate down after an intense final game of Werewords, a game I'd never heard of before tonight but got instantly overinvested in. What kind of villager picks Sylvester Stallone anyway?
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:20 a.m. — I wake up to discover my period has started (that does explain the cramps and sleepiness). Make porridge (cinnamon apple butter) and then spend too long browsing Reddit.
9:35 a.m. — I need to bike to work today because I'm staying late for a dinner and that means missing the last bus.
10 a.m. — My advisor has finally sent back his comments, which are pretty minor as expected, so I can get that paper submitted today. L. sends over the paperwork to renew our lease, which I'm not enthused about but have agreed to for convenience. The rent is going up by $40 a month, which feels like it could have been worse but still isn't great news. The head of the lab swings by and we have a long catch-up about my job interview, suggested paper reviewers, research progress, upcoming conferences and my teaching for the next year. It's good to get a plan hammered out.
11:40 a.m. — Head over to lunch. On Tuesdays the faculty can eat in the undergrad dining hall, which is always an experience. It would be $5 but my program pays to encourage us to socialize semi-outside of work. I get a lentil soup, avocado salad, slightly dehydrated pierogi, roasted brussels sprouts and a cookie. Plus a cappuccino muffin to go. Got to get my money's worth from a free lunch!
2 p.m. — Paper submitted! I have a very micro moment of celebration but now I have to get on with actual new research.
4 p.m. — Doctor's appointment time. I'm not sure why I got so wound up about interacting with healthcare in this country. The clinician tells me I'm perfectly fine but might want to try a bit harder to get my medical records across from the UK. I don't seem to be asked to pay, which I don't understand, but then I don't understand anything about what just happened. I think it's a deal between the college and the healthcare provider. Or maybe annual visits are just free.
4:30 p.m. — Now I have a random half-hour to spare wandering around campus and I'm regretting leaving the muffin in my office. Stop at a cafe for a cookie ($2.65). $2.65
5 p.m. — My friend is hosting a visiting academic this week so in exchange for dinner, I'm going to the public lecture (free). I feel completely out of my depth in a field totally unlike my own but I appreciate the storytelling and some of the images she shows are absolutely haunting.
7 p.m. — Dinner at the fancy restaurant on campus. I'm glad to not be paying and get a green salad, scallops and crème brûlée. Work pays.
11 p.m. — Bike back up the hill then finally collapse into bed.
Daily Total: $2.65

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — I wake up covered in blood. I hate this. Sort it out and get back into bed and refuse to emerge for another half an hour.
8:30 a.m. — I text T. and procrastinate over my cup of tea and porridge (peanut butter and maple syrup).
9:40 a.m. — I bike to work without needing to motivate myself with mental gymnastics. Today feels like the kind of day I'm not going to get anything done. I have a lot of little things scheduled from 11 to 3.
11 a.m. — Our group meeting, featuring muffins and research updates (both from the head of the lab). We sketch the schedule for these meetings for the term ahead. Afterward, I realize we left off the important question of who's bringing next week's snacks.
12:15 p.m. — Free lunch with the post-doc society, a start-of-term perk. I have hummus and eggplant flatbread. Then I head back to my office to grab an apple and a moment to think.
1:45 p.m. — Time for our program's weekly cross-disciplinary workshop. My funding is conditional on me turning up. I would say I'm more in it for the social aspect than to really benefit from deep interdisciplinary collaboration but it's usually an interesting conversation over fancy teas.
3:15 p.m. — Someone has left chocolate biscotti in our office kitchen. That will definitely improve my focus this afternoon. I also have an orange.
5 p.m. — I make decent progress then bike home while talking to T.
6:30 p.m. — I say goodnight to T. and consider my options for the evening. It doesn't make sense to cook with so many leftovers to eat so I have some leftover pasta and dark chocolate and embrace the art of doing nothing.
8 p.m. — Have a long hot shower then get into bed with a sudoku puzzle. After two hours, I've solved it more through guesswork than logic so go to sleep slightly frustrated with myself.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I didn't sleep particularly well as the wind was howling all night. Have my tea and porridge (back to raisins and brown sugar) in bed while reading the local newsletter.
9 a.m. — I'd like it to be stated for the record that it was very cold outside and I am very brave to have biked in. Plus a random old man rolls his window down while overtaking to yell at me for existing, which puts me in a really foul mood. I let off some steam by sending an angry email about this to a member of the local bike-walk advocacy group.
11 a.m. — I may not be a particularly efficient machine for turning coffee into theorems but the cappuccino muffin (and an orange) gets turned into new code for my simulations.
12 p.m. — I attend a delayed International Women's Day lunch, featuring a great panel of women in STEM. I'm doing even better than usual on the free lunches this week and today's is a chicken and tzatziki wrap with a peanut cookie. The discussion afterward is uplifting and honest, and I go back to work feeling pretty inspired.
5:15 p.m. — Get home from work and watch the first episode of the new season of Taskmaster with T. L. arrives back to what appears to be me, alone on the sofa, snorting at a man humping a barge, but it really does make sense with context. T. goes to bed and I finish off the leftover pork with some extra bok choy.
7 p.m. — I have no time to cook because now it's time for salsa night (suggested donation, $5). The intro class is packed and chaotic and I've never danced salsa before so I'm happily adding to the chaos. There's a real cross-section of life here, from college kids to an elderly couple who pick up their canes between dances. Eventually, the better dancers take over the floor and we agents of mayhem filter off to the sides to watch, but not before quite a lot of energetic treading on toes and apologetic bumping. A huge party of business school students in matching party hats rocks up around 10, which we take as our cue to leave. $5
10:30 p.m. — I realize all the dancing has made me quite hungry so I have a bowl of yogurt when I get home. Then I get in bed.
Daily Total: $5
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