A Week In Denver, CO, On A $41,000 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 women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a program coordinator who makes $41,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a gourmet ice cream sandwich.
Occupation: Program Coordinator and Part-time Food Delivery Driver
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 24
Location: Denver, CO
Salary: $41,000
Net Worth: $144,300 (~$2,300 in high yield savings, ~$3,500 in a 403(b), ~$13,500 in an IRA, ~$125,000 in an investment portfolio)
Debt: $0 (Very lucky that a combo of scholarships and the portfolio paid for my Bachelor's degree in full)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month for my job, 1x/week for deliveries): $1,100 from my main job, $50-$400 from deliveries
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $848 (I live with my sister (we split rent equally) in a ~900 sq ft unit in a three-unit home. It was listed as a two-bed unit with a small third room but is more like a three-bed one-bath. The third room has become our plant nursery/doggie daycare/home office/guest room extravaganza.)
Loans: $0 (My parents graciously purchased my used 2005 car for me in 2016 for about $11,000)
403(b):$120 (pre-tax, split between my two paychecks. I contribute 4% and my employer matches 8%.)
Health Insurance: $95 (pre-tax)
Parking At Work: $44 (pre-tax)
Dental Discount Plan: $11 (pre-tax)
HYSA: $100-$150 (more depending on if I drive during the week)
IRA: $150
Car Insurance: $88.75
Cell Phone: $60
ClassPass: $59 (paused by COVID-19)
Electricity/Gas: $20-$30
WiFi: $25
Gym: $23.06 (paused by COVID-19)
Spotify/Hulu: $10.82 (mooch off my parents for Netflix, cable, Roku)
MyFitnessPal Premium: $10.30
Apple Storage: $2.99

Day One

7:05 a.m. — The 7:05 alarm is a bit ambitious as my M.O. during work-from-home has been to roll out of bed at 7:55 to get ready for a Zoom check-in at 8:15. I trudge into the bathroom for a quick face wash with Neutrogena Grapefruit Cleanser followed by Thayer's witch hazel, Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum, and Tatcha Water Cream moisturizer. The Tatcha and Drunk Elephant were splurges, but I try to think of them as a cost-per-use and then it doesn't hurt so much! Quick coat of Loreal Lash Paradise Mascara, Benefit Goof Proof eyebrow filler, and Glossier Balm Dotcom lip balm in Birthday. I throw on the same Aerie joggers I've worn for three days, a sweater, my Patagonia vest I bought for myself when I started my first job at a ~cool tech start up~ (read: customer support role of nightmares), and some ski socks because my apartment is approximately five degrees. I feed and water my dog and open the door to the backyard to let him roam as I settle into Zoom meetings for the morning.
10:50 a.m. — Breakfast (brunch?) time! I fry up some bacon, a scrambled egg, shredded cheese, and the very sad looking remainder of a bag of halved Brussels sprouts to make a little breakfast bowl. I top it off with some Crystal Hot Sauce that I became addicted to while going to college in Louisiana. I record the meal in MyFitnessPal. I've been tracking my food and activity again since the new year to help me make more mindful decisions/make sure that I'm eating enough fruits and veggies!
2:25 p.m. — I take my lunch hour and use the chance to clear my headspace a bit. I'm pretty frustrated by work right now and have a guilty conscience about being frustrated while still having a job that pays and exists in this market. I go through my phone and turn off badge notifications from a handful of apps whose little red numbers have been stressing me out (hello non-existent dating world @hinge and my attempt to relearn French during a pandemic @duolingo). After hand-washing two masks I wore out yesterday, I pat on some SuperGoop sunscreen and take my dog for a walk with my sister, T. Once home, I crack open a kombucha I ordered by the case from my favorite local brewery (kombrewery? Who knows.), make a quick tuna melt to eat with a clementine and some greens, and settle back into work to prepare for my 4 p.m. check-in. My supervisor has our team checking in TWICE. A. DAY. I think I see her more via Zoom than I ever did in the office.
4:30 p.m. — I log out of my remote desktop for the day and browse DSW's web sale. My employer operates 37.5 hour weeks instead of 40, and while the schedule is nice I think I'd rather have the extra two and a half hours of work and pay each paycheck. I do some chores, snack on two homemade oatmeal scotchies, and read my NYT Morning Briefing and WSJ newsletters I didn't have time for earlier. After playing with the dog for a bit, I heat up some leftover spaghetti and grab an apple to have dinner with T., then hit the road to work for a couple of hours. I grab my homemade mask (made by my mom and mailed to me and sister), some disinfectant wipes, a mini hand sanitizer, and my water bottle and head to a gas station where I fill up for $18.36. I drove a lot last year to make extra money but picked it back up again this week. Delivering food right now makes me feel like I'm actually contributing to the local economy and tangibly helping in a way that my day job doesn't. $18.36
10:35 p.m. — I get home after a good four hours on the road and wipe down my phone and most of the driver's side of my car. After chit-chatting with T., I take a quick shower and go through my nightly routine: braiding my wet hair so it will *hopefully* look beachy in the morning instead of bedheady, The Ordinary retinoid, Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, Burt's Bees eye cream, Fresh rose moisturizer, and my never-ending mini size of Drunk Elephant Marula oil. I flop into bed and take my SSRI medicine, swipe on some Laneige lip sleeping mask, and rub some Lush Sleepy cream on my hands. I read a lovely letter from a dear friend that arrived today and spend too much time scrolling through Insta before falling asleep after midnight.
Daily Total: $18.36

Day Two

8 a.m. — OOF. I definitely hit snooze one too many times and am now rushing to get myself together before my 8:15 check-in. The one time I didn't turn my camera on, my supervisor asked me if it wasn't working, so unfortunately just calling in isn't an option. I do my quick morning skincare and makeup, feed and water my dog, throw on an oversized green sweater with my joggers and sit down at our kitchen table just in time.
9:20 a.m. — First meeting and email cleanup is all done so I make my bed and throw in some laundry from the past couple of days to get started washing. I've made deliveries the past three days, so I have lots to wash since I am not wearing clothes out more than once. Not super hungry yet but I know I need to eat before more Zoom meetings so I make a smoothie with Noosa vanilla yogurt, almond milk, frozen banana, frozen blueberries, frozen mango, and chia seeds. I top it off with some goji berries and mini chocolate chips for morale. Mentally feeling blah, so hopefully, the chocolate will help. T. shows me that one of our favorite local ice cream stores is doing a pop-up pickup on Sunday, so I order their ice cream sandwich pack ($26 total) and she pays me back for half. $13
12:38 p.m. — I'm feeling antsy so I log off for my lunch break early with more leftover spaghetti and my last two cookies. I am doing a "learn to run 5k" plan on MyFitnessPal and am supposed to run today, but there's about half a foot of fresh snow outside that's still falling so I bundle up with the dog to head out in the neighborhood while listening to My Favorite Murder. After our walk, I shovel around our house. Technically, this is the other unit's responsibility, but they just moved here, and I want to clear the path for the mailpeople. My stimulus check came through the other day and I'm eager to buy from my favorite local spots, so I order curbside pickup for no hide dog chews and a cute raccoon stuffie from a local pet store that we'll walk by this afternoon. Will he destroy the raccoon before the end of the day? Yes. Do I care? No. No rules in pandemic retail therapy, baby. $35.72
3:06 p.m. — On the verge of angry tears with my job. I report to multiple different people and range between acting like a personal secretary and running complex data that the whole university uses. I felt undervalued and wanted to move more into the data world (and hopefully a higher pay) before the pandemic and am now feeling extra stuck. I eat some Ben & Jerry's while I wallow.
4:30 p.m. — Log off and try to leave my feelings about work in my laptop. The dog and I venture out into the never-ending snow to pick up our order. He promptly decimates the raccoon while I fold and put away my clean laundry.
8:11 p.m. — After FaceTiming with my mom and dad for an hour, T. and I eat cheeseburgers she made in her cast iron for dinner. I decide to transfer $300 to my savings after chatting with them about only having two months of expenses in my emergency fund, make some popcorn, and settle in for the escapism gold that is the first episode of Listen to Your Heart.
9:45 p.m. — Quick nighttime routine before I snuggle into bed, light a candle, take my medicine, scroll through Instagram, and finally put my phone down to read some chapters in Sally Rooney's Conversation with Friends. Asleep by 11:20.
Daily Total: $48.72

Day Three

7:42 a.m. — I'm out of bed before 8, which is a win in my book! I do the skincare and makeup song and dance, make my bed, take care of the dog, and settle in for work.
9:19 a.m. — I receive an email that one of my favorite artists in Denver is now offering smaller prints. I immediately hop on to her website and order an 8x10 print for $60. I dream to be in a place in life where I can buy originals, but you have to start somewhere! I see that she is sending a postcard print to a friend of your choosing with each purchase, so I pick a card to send to a dear friend in Boston. With tax and shipping, the total is $74.99. I take a few minutes to fry a couple of pieces of bacon and an egg for avocado toast with my kombucha. I realize we forgot to put out our compost bucket for pickup, so T. takes it out and we hope that they haven't come by yet. $74.99
2:20 p.m. — I finally find a good stopping point and change my status to busy for lunch. I decide to do the training run I was supposed to do yesterday so I change into workout clothes, stretch, put on a homemade mask and grab the dog. I drop him off at the house before the 10-minute mark because I love him but he's an awful running buddy. I start out on the running portion and feel an onslaught of frustration: frustration at the mask shifting up to my eyelids, not being able to open my phone with face ID because of said mask, running by everyone else not wearing masks, not being able to run like I used to, and just overall grief from the loss of normalcy. I stop twice because I feel panicky with my breath and just overall defeated. I do an eight-minute Yoga with Adrienne post running stretch to try to calm down, read today's Money Diary, wash the dishes from this morning, and hop back online before my lunch hour is up.
3:49 p.m. — My stomach is GROWLING. I make a quick PB&J to munch along with a clementine before the 4 p.m. check-in. I found out that a data visualization software that I work with is offering 50% off its specialist certification exam and I mention to my supervisor that I want to take the test. She thinks it's a great idea and is going to ask if we can get it expensed. It's $50, but academia is not rolling in cash despite insane tuitions.
5:22 p.m. — I could cry happy tears that it's Friday (did I mention I'm a crier??). I take the dog out for a longer walk since the first was so short. We pass by our local food bank which reminds me I should donate some of my stimulus check. I do some resistance band workouts when I get home, log on to donate $50 to the food bank, and cover the processing fee, then hop in the shower. $51.02
6:03 p.m. — I pour a glass of wine (NZ sauv blanc!) and join my sister on the couch to watch RuPaul's Drag Race and Untucked. Friday is a really good night for deliveries, but I don't want to miss out on the little Friday ritual T. and I have started of watching Drag Race together. She's engaged and will be moving to Europe with her fiancé at the end of the year so I try to soak up the sister time while I can. We heat up some pulled pork leftovers to eat with salad while we watch.
8:47 p.m. — After the shows, I put on an I DEW Care Pure to the Pore clay mask and watch an hour of a data training video while enjoying some coffee ice cream. I am horrible about impulse buying mini and travel-size versions of beauty products and am trying to be more mindful about working through the ones I have on hand.
10:16 p.m. — Nighttime routine and more Conversations with Friends and YouTube black holes.
Daily Total: $126.01

Day Four

8 a.m. — My body wakes up to my new routine and I say NOPE and fall back asleep.
8:53 a.m. — The dog starts crying to go out, so I get up and take care of him. I throw on yesterday's leggings, my alma mater sweatshirt, make my bed, and do my morning routine plus SuperGoop sunscreen and minus the makeup. I call to order six sausage, egg, cheese, potato, and green chile breakfast burritos from a local walkup window ($4.25 per burrito plus tax and $7 tip), put on a mask, and head out the door with the dog to pick them up. $35.40
10:37 a.m. — I get home, wash my hands, scarf a burrito with my kombucha (sorry to my stomach), and throw the rest in the freezer for this week. It feels good to have a couple of miles under my belt before 12! I grew up in Colorado, and it's absolutely perfect hiking weather outside and I'm bummed that I can't take my dog into the mountains today. I know it's for the best to protect our mountain towns and their resources, so for right now walking around the neighborhood will do! I get an email that three out of four legs of a trip I had booked through rewards points to Madrid in May have been canceled. I log on to see I can only qualify for a voucher of full value with the European airline who has yet to cancel. I take a breather and decide to wait to follow through until their cancelation comes. It's not a total loss since I booked the flights with sign up bonus points, but it would still be nice to receive their value back (about $700).
11:10 a.m. — T. wakes up and I offer her a burrito. She takes one and offers to pay me back the cost. We unload the dishwasher together then she makes us tea while I quickly vacuum and dust the apartment and clean up our bathroom sink and toilet. I've actually really enjoyed my drive to clean during stay-at-home and hope that this new habit will stick when real life resumes. After cleaning, I text some friends to check in on them and then settle in with my tea and this week's copy of The Economist. My parents gift me and my sister a subscription every Christmas and we're so thankful for it. We both studied history and international relations at school and try our best to keep informed.
2:07 p.m. — T. and I step outside to watch the Thunderbird jets fly over Denver. Our dad was a pilot in the Air Force so we love the sound and sentiment! I put some water on to boil spaghetti noodles, start on a quick white wine/butter/lemon scampi sauce, and throw some frozen broccoli in the microwave for lunch. We haven't gotten groceries in two weeks and are running low on fresh produce so I'm working my way through the back corners of our freezer! I'm planning on driving tonight, so after cleaning up lunch I take a nap and read some more of my book.
4:40 p.m. — After my nap, T. gets back from a run, and we take the dog for a quick walk around the block. I'm not super hungry because of my late lunch but know I need to eat something before I drive so I eat a protein bar. I grab my mask, wallet, water, wipes, and hand sanitizer and get into the car to be on the road by 5.
7:10 p.m. — My energy is lagging so during a gap in requests I go to a Starbucks drive-thru for a quick pick-me-up. I order a hot tall vanilla chai latte and pay the $4.48 from money I still have in the app. I forget to add a tip before the hour is up and feel pretty guilty about it. Afterward, I get a request with a name and neighborhood that I'm afraid might be a guy I've seen in the past. Every guy I've tried to date in Denver has ghosted me, so delivering food to them is a weird fear of mine. Thank god it ends up being just another regular dude with the same name!
9:40 p.m. — While waiting for two pizza pickups, a homeless man comes into the restaurant and tries to order a slice. This spot doesn't sell by the slice and he pulls out some cash and asks what he can get for $4. I feel bad and I can tell that the staff feels uncomfortable, so I offer to spot the difference. I realize then that I don't have any cash, so just pay for the pepperoni pizza in full on my card. I feel warm and fuzzy and he gets a pizza so it's a win-win! $7.83
12:05 a.m. — After the most eventful night I've had in weeks I get home, wipe down my phone and driver's side, and hop in the shower. I am SO HUNGRY but I don't want to wake T. by heating something up, so I grab a clementine and a bag of white cheddar popcorn. Quick nighttime routine, too much time on my phone, and finally asleep by 1:30.
Daily Total: $43.23

Day Five

6:53 a.m. — I wake up to the sounds of my downstairs neighbor and her boyfriend. Not ideal. I try to ignore them and fall back asleep.
9:56 a.m. — WOW it felt good to sleep in! I'm surprised my dog hasn't gotten antsy yet. Once he sees me pick up my phone his energy goes from zero to sixty. I take care of him and decide to take an easy morning. I still feel pretty tired but know that if I crawl back into bed I could very easily fall asleep until 1 or 2. To avoid this, I strip the bed and throw my sheets in the wash. I put on some water for tea and handwash my mask from last night while it steeps. I grab my tea, book, and a candle and settle into the couch to read.
11:50 a.m. — I finish my book and make a breakfast sandwich with an English muffin, sriracha mayo, cheddar, egg, bacon, green onion, and greens. I grab a Rifle Paper Co greeting card from my stash and write a note to my friend thanking her for lending me the book. She lives near the ice cream pick-up, so I plan on dropping off the book, card, and some treats from the store on her porch. She lost her grandmother to COVID back home and has been (understandably) very sad.
12:55 p.m. — I head out to a local grocery store, my friend's house, and the ice cream pickup. For groceries, I get pork tenderloin, ground beef, prosciutto, brie, feta, green chiles, white rice, gochujang, a chocolate bar, and lots of fruits and veggies. I grab a bottle of cab sav and chocolate for my friend. I usually try to spend $80 a week on groceries so for a two-week shop this is great! With the gifts, the total cost is $103.97. $103.97
2:38 p.m. — I get caught in traffic for the protest against the stay-at-home order at the capitol. It's uncomfortable to see so many people gathered without protection, and I feel weirdly complicit by proximity. Once home, I make my bed with the clean sheets, take the dog out for a walk in the amazing spring weather, and give him a good brushing. I realize afterward that I was supposed to do run/walk intervals for my training plan and decide to do them tomorrow instead.
4:56 p.m. — I make some toast with the brie and prosciutto to eat along with some salad greens and a mustard vinaigrette for an early dinner. After putting on some mascara, changing clothes, and grabbing my delivery prep goodies, I'm out the door to start driving for the night.
10:02 p.m. — I get home just after 10, catch up with T., and take a quick shower. I shave my legs because I have clean sheets (if you know, you know), and go through my nighttime skincare. I feel pretty hungry from my weird eating schedule today, so I eat some baby carrots with Greek yogurt ranch and 1/3 of my chocolate toffee bar because I lack the innate willpower of the average money diarist. I read today's Money Diary, proofread a work article for T., and vow to turn my phone and the lights off by 11:45.
Daily Total: $103.97

Day Six

6:50 a.m. — My early alarm goes off to do my interval training. I hit snooze twice.
7:14 a.m. — Okay, okay I'm up! I take care of the dog, rinse my face, pat on Supergoop, and head out the door. I go out without a mask with the hopes that the neighborhood will be empty this morning because the thought of trying to jog with one again is enough to keep me inside. Thankfully, I only see about five other people who are all far away!
7:55 a.m. — My shins are SCREAMINGGGG. I feel like my body forgot how to put one foot in front of the other and I'm incredibly uncomfortable. I know that my flat feet + out of shapeness + generic workout shoes are to blame. I use all my willpower not to flop onto the couch when I get back and do Yoga with Adriene's seven-minute post-run yoga before undoing my braid and settling into my 8:15 Zoom check-in.
9:26 a.m. — Morning check-in and half of my emails are done, so I take a quick break to body shower, change clothes, make my bed, and do my morning skincare and makeup routine. I throw one of my frozen breakfast burritos into the toaster oven, light a candle, put on a chill Spotify playlist, and dive into my big projects. I support six different degree programs and their teams but am currently working on updating our information management systems for all 17. I feel a little guilty because the circumstances are horrible, but I have really been enjoying the new peaceful routines I have been able to implement during work-from-home.
10:13 a.m. — The door slams downstairs. Sounds like one of my neighbors and her boyfriend have broken up again. Ah, the joys of communal living. I put in my headphones to try to stay on track and drown out the noise.
1:27 p.m. — After finishing two of the programs, I check my phone and see that my weekly pay statement has come through from UberEats! I made $768.51 this last week for 22 hours of deliveries. This is by far the most I've ever driven or made in one week since all my normal after-work activities like meeting friends and going to the gym aren't possible right now. I decide to transfer $300 to my high yield savings for 2020 taxes and saving, bookmark $400 to my 2019 IRA contributions (now that the deadline has extended to July, I'm trying to max out my contribution), and keep $68.51 in my checking. I have a hard time not tying my self-worth to my income and job title so receiving this payout is like an adrenaline rush. I'm about to take my lunch and go on a walk when I receive a message from my boss that she sent me an email to weigh in on. Gotta love the multiple channels of communication.
2:33 p.m. — I take the dog for a mile walk, stretch my calves, FaceTime my grandma for a bit, and heat up some remaining pulled pork to eat with strawberries, a clementine, and brie toast for lunch.
4:50 p.m. — After logging off from work, I scroll through my phone a bit while T. graciously takes the dog on an attempted jog. I get my stuff together and head to the gas station before delivering. It's an unbelievable $13.22 to fill up 3/4 of my tank. What a strange moment in time. $13.22
10:15 p.m. — Tonight is nice and busy. Besides coming across a literal active crime scene outside of a Chipotle, the night is fairly uneventful. I get home, take a shower, and eat half of one of the ice cream sandwiches. I go for a classic chocolate chip with vanilla ice cream and wowee it's delicious. I then do my nighttime routine and settle into bed to start on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I'm normally an avid library borrower, but since they're all closed, I ordered this copy a couple of weeks ago from a local bookstore.
11:45 p.m. — Lights out.
Daily Total: $13.22

Day Seven

8 a.m. — A couple of snoozes later and I'm up! I feel like I could've slept another eight years. Quick skincare and makeup before logging on for the first check-in.
8:51 a.m. — Once the dog's all taken care of, I throw one of the frozen breakfast burritos into the toaster oven and make a chai latte with some almond milk. I received an email from the dean thanking me for my work with the cross-program information systems and I launch into my projects feeling motivated by the positive feedback!
1:12 p.m. — I grab a mask and take a long walk with the dog as part of my plan. We're supposed to walk 1.87 miles in 30 minutes. I realize pretty soon this pace is super aggressive and we make it in 33 minutes. I'm hot from the walk so I make a refreshing salad with edamame and ginger dressing for lunch to have with a mojito kombucha. I'm tempted to add vodka, but I'm still technically on the clock.
4:45 p.m. — I log off for work 15 minutes late after wrapping up one of the programs. We have a strict no overtime rule, so I will just take 15 extra minutes during lunch tomorrow. I reorganize my space, pour a glass of wine, and settle in for a Zoom happy hour with some friends.
6:07 p.m. — I had ambitions to make a Bon Appetit Korean bbq bowl tonight but I'm really dragging. I decide on some Annie's mac and cheese, Trader Joe's turkey meatballs, and broccoli instead. I try to jazz it up by searing the meatballs and adding some shredded cheddar.
8:52 p.m. — T. and I end up FaceTiming our parents for almost two hours during dinner. After the call, I put on the new episode of Westworld and have another half of an ice cream sandwich.
10 p.m. — Literally so confused as to what I just watched?? I had tried coloring in a Pusheen coloring book (10/10 would recommend) during the episode but had to stop because I wasn't following along with the show. Even with paying attention, I'm hella confused. I'm super tired so quick nighttime routine, a couple of pages of Eleanor Oliphant, and lights out at 11.
Daily Total: $0
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
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.
Calling all moms: It's almost Mother's Day and we want to feature you! Send an email to moneydiary@refinery29.com with the subject line "Mother's Day"  for a chance to see your diary published on Refinery29. 
Calling all nurses: Nurse Week is coming up and we want to feature you! Whether you’ve always wanted to do a Money Diary or want to write about your life as it is now - we want to read your diary. Send an email to moneydiary@refinery29.com with the subject line “Nurse Week” for a chance to see your diary published on Refinery29. Thank you for all you do!
Are you a mom whose job has been impacted COVID-19? We want to talk to you. How are you dealing with a stressful work situation and taking care of any dependents during the pandemic?

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.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series