A Week In Pittsburgh, PA, On A $46,250 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 sales coordinator working in consumer goods who makes $46,250 per year and spends some of her money this week on the book What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky.
Occupation: Sales Coordinator
Industry: Consumer Goods
Age: 27
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Salary: $46,250
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,308.05
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $769 split with my partner, A. ($384 each)
Student Loans: $219 (I'm on an income-based repayment plan and I have $21,650 left to go.)
Credit Card Payments: $300, or more if I can swing it. As of October 2017, I had over $9,000 in credit card debt. Now just over a year later, I have over $2,000 left to go at 0% interest. It's been a tough lesson, but I've crushed it and the end is in sight!
Cell Phone: $114 (I'm on my own plan — my partner has a flip phone.)
Utilities: ~$75, split with my partner
Renter's Insurance: $15
Health Insurance: $37
Therapy: $25 copay per visit
Audible: $14.99
Netflix: $7.99
401(k): 4% of my paycheck with company match
Savings: I have $1,500 in my emergency fund.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — Shit, we both overslept. I nudge A. awake and plod over to the kitchen to get breakfast and lunch packed while he's in the shower. Breakfast is a pack of instant grits, a hardboiled egg, and a banana. Lunch is pasta fagioli that we meal prepped earlier in the week.
8:15 a.m. — I drop A. off at the local T station. The bus in front of our apartment building recently cut service, so we're trying out a new routine this morning to park at the station a half mile away. It fails — there are no spots left, so I continue into my office where there's free parking and A. heads downtown. Overall, I prefer public transport, because my weekly fares are typically less than the cost of gas for A.'s car. It's paid off, and we take turns paying the gas on it, but I try to do more if I use it more often.
9:45 a.m. — My morning starts chaotically with a lot of phone calls. I prepare the grits, eat the egg, and fix a cup of coffee with hazelnut creamer.
12:45 p.m. — I heat up the pasta fagioli. It's made with Barilla protein pasta, which keeps me satisfied until dinner usually. I finish off with the banana.
3:56 p.m. — I spent a lot of time on the phone today! I mute my conference call and polish off two clementines.
5:45 p.m. — Heading home! I stop by the grocery store on the way to pick up soy sauce, sesame oil, and parmesan cheese per A.'s request (not all for the same recipe). $13.54
6:15 p.m. — I heat up some leftover chicken, vegetables, and rice, and A. makes a teriyaki sauce. We chat and go about our evening routine — making food and washing dishes.
7:30 p.m. — We watch an episode of The First on Hulu and share some pieces of dark chocolate and red wine. We head to bed around 10.
Daily Total: $13.54

Day Two

7:35 a.m. — Don't do much better with the alarm this morning. I get tea and breakfast ready. A. is meeting a friend for lunch today, so I take the leftover Indian food from his birthday dinner earlier this week! Yum.
8:15 a.m. — Drop A. off at the T again and we agree to discuss a plan for our commutes next week.
9:15 a.m. — For breakfast I have two pieces of toast from a loaf of bread I keep in the work freezer. I top them off with a single packet of Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter.
10:30 a.m. — I check my bank account and move $5.73 to my second checking account. Every day I try to check my current balance and round down to the nearest even $5 or $10 increment by moving the difference into my other account. I manage to save $75-$100 each pay period this way, and I make an extra debt payment with that money.
12:10 p.m. — I get a Facebook notification that a band A. and I want to see is touring. I decide to surprise him. The tickets are $20 each, but of course I get slapped with those additional fees. Looks like we're going to Buffalo for Valentine's Day weekend! $56.35
12:45 p.m. — I heat up my leftover Indian food and my boss calls right before I take my first bite. Sigh.
5:45 p.m. — Home time. I usually like to chill and have downtime on Fridays rather than go out, which also keeps more money in my pocket, too. A. and I hit the liquor store: I buy a Malbec Bota Box, A. gets whiskey and vermouth to make us Manhattans. Yum! $21.39
6:15 p.m. — We have our Manhattans and chat, and then eat the last of the pasta fagioli when we're hungry. We finish the last episode of The First and fall asleep before 10.
Daily Total: $77.74

Day Three

4:35 a.m. — Saturday morning starts off with our cat knocking a glass of water off the bedside table. She knows A. is mad at her and sulks off for the rest of her witching hour instead of crying incessantly.
9:30 a.m. — Sleep in a bit after the cat fuss this morning. We start the day slow: drink tea, shower, then talk about our meal planning for next week before we go to the grocery store. We're going to a brewery this afternoon for a friend's birthday and I plan to bake cupcakes instead of buying a gift. For breakfast, we fry an egg and some onions and top it off with the last of some rice and lentils we cooked this week. I am satisfied. (We ate every bite of all the food we prepped this week! Gold star!)
10:30 a.m. — We hit the grocery store. During our morning planning, we noticed we have four or five open packages of corn tortillas in the fridge, so we make a meal plan to eat those up this week. We're also going to prep ground turkey chili and salsa chicken, so we buy ingredients for those (plus a few other things): chicken thighs on special; red, black, and white beans; snacking fruit; some squash and zucchini, red and green peppers, diced tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, chicken stock, ginger, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs; and cat food. I buy the cupcake ingredients as well. Total comes to $82, and we split. $41
3 p.m. — We relax and do our own thing until it's time to go out. I bake the cupcakes, do some other chores around the house, and listen to the A Funny Feeling podcast while A. works on some music. He's involved in a lot of musical projects in the area, so it's always great to hear what he's working on. We have a quick bite of lunch before leaving the house. We finish the last of the pasta — finally! We also get coffee to-go at a coffee shop before getting in the car. I treat. $5.14
3:30 p.m. — Since we have to travel to another side of town for this outing, we decide to visit the Strip District on the way there, where there are a lot of speciality grocers. It's a big tourist destination so it's usually packed, but the weather is bad and it's late in the day, so this is a good opportunity. We decide to add a mushroom cream pasta as a late birthday treat for A. and shrimp gumbo to our meals this week, as well as a few other specialty things we are running low on. We visit Penn Mac to buy fresh pasta and bread, Wholey's for the shrimp (and we're delighted to find they have massive collard greens, too), Lotus for okra, and Reyna's for Jamaican curry powder, tamales, and salsa. We trade off paying, so I buy the groceries at Reyna's and Lotus. $21.75
4:45 p.m. — We get to the brewery! Most folks are there already, but I really only know the birthday girl, so we situate ourselves near her. The cupcakes get descended on pretty fast. It's a cool place, but the warehouse environment doesn't absorb noise, so it's hard to hear everyone. The birthday girl and her husband order pizza for the group, and I have a few slices. A. and I have a beer each and he covers our tab. On the way home, I log into my banking app and send her husband what I hope is a fair share for the pizza. They didn't ask anyone for money, but I know it's a lot to feed eight people and I want to contribute. $25
7 p.m. — We get home in time to watch the Pitt football game. My attention span isn't great for sports, so we share a few glasses of wine and I putter around the kitchen during the game. I have a pie crust in the fridge and decide to bake a pumpkin pie for tomorrow. I never get it quite right, and I feel like this kind of pie is always better made a day ahead.
10:30 p.m. — Bedtime!
Daily Total: $92.89

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up and take a shower. A. is already up and in the kitchen. When I come out, he's made an amazing breakfast casserole with some of our many tortillas. Genius! We tuck in and chat. He's off to the studio today to record one of his music projects and is pretty excited.
10:30 a.m. — It's unseasonably warm — 61 degrees in December! I have plans today to hang out with a friend who lives close by. I say goodbye to A., wish him luck, and walk the mile to her house.
11:15 a.m. — My friend and I chat over coffee and catch up while her boyfriend makes stewed chicken with homemade pita bread, which smells divine. I have a bite, even though breakfast wasn't that long ago. We have The Final Table on Netflix playing in the background.
1:30 p.m. — My friend is also a big meal prepper, so I run along with her on her errands but don't need anything myself. Once we're back, she puts together a lovely black bean soup.
4:30 p.m. — I head home to get a head start on dinner, as well as make turkey chili for the week. I prep all the ingredients for the mushroom pasta and get everything in the Dutch oven for the chili by the time A. gets home. We have Manhattans again and I hear all about his session, which sounds like it went super well.
6 p.m. — The sauce comes together quickly for the mushroom pasta. I'm a bit nervous to cook the fresh pasta, as I'm not sure what to expect, and unfortunately it doesn't unfurl from its little nests as beautifully as I had hoped it would. Nevertheless, it tastes amazing, and we have a little fresh parm over it.
8 p.m. — We turn the Steelers game on and eat the pumpkin pie over halftime. It's a late game and I also don't care a whole lot about it, so I go to bed when I'm sleepy.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I go about packing my lunch and make it onto the 7:45 a.m. bus.
8:30 a.m. — I need to get better at drinking water, so I have a full glass, and then I make fresh coffee and eat some of the breakfast casserole A. made yesterday instead of going straight to my laptop.
10:45 a.m. — I finish up a conference call and then eat a banana and drink more water.
1:05 p.m. — I check my bank account and move $7.63 to my other checking. First business day of the month stinks: All the bills are coming out today! I'm in good shape, though. I heat up my lunch and take a break from my screens for a while.
3:45 p.m. — Afternoon lull. I snack on my clementines while on mute on a conference call and drink some green tea. I'm not really needed on this call, so I use some Amazon credit to buy a Kindle book: What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky. I am not familiar with her, but it seems like my style. $5.48
5:30 p.m. — Head home. A. just got out of the studio and is able to pick me up at the T station, so I don't have to walk home in the crappy weather. We make guac and have the salsa chicken he made this morning with corn tortillas.
9:45 p.m. — Bedtime after a quiet night.
Daily Total: $5.48

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Wake up and do my morning routine as usual. I drop A. off at the station. (I drive on Tuesdays because I see my therapist in the evening.)
9:15 a.m. — Settle into the day at work. I check my bank account first and move $5.07 to my other checking. For breakfast, I eat a grapefruit and some breakfast enchilada casserole.
12:45 p.m. — This day is flying by — I have been moving around a lot getting items shipped to the sales reps. I heat up chili for lunch and catch up on the internet. I'm super excited to see NPR voted my favorite album of 2018, Be the Cowboy by Mitski, as #2 for 2018!
5:45 p.m. — I decide to check out a local bookstore for a book written by a local gal I heard on a podcast. I get flustered trying to park in that part of town, and they don't have the book anyway.
6:30 p.m. — Make it just in time for therapy, where my doctor hands me a statement I've been dreading. He sometimes gets behind on his billing and he's pretty old-school and only accepts check payment. This would have hurt me more in the past, but I've been setting my copays aside after each session, so I'm ready for it. $225
8:10 p.m. — Make it home. I'm annoyed to see my apartment lot is full, even though we're all guaranteed a spot. I back out to try to find street parking, when there is a thud and crunch. To my absolute horror, I've backed right into a car parked on the street across from the lot. I see A. in the window looking at me and I gesture for him to come outside.
8:45 p.m. — We wait a bit for the owner of the car, and I cry a lot. I've never had an accident before. A. is completely cool and calm, isn't upset with me at all, and talks me through what needs to be done. All the houses around us are dark, so it's not clear where the car owner might be. Our bumper is totally fine, but the backdoor of the other car is crunched. We leave a note with our number and plate number, and put it in a sandwich baggy under the windshield in case it rains overnight. Inside, A. starts the incident report on the insurance site. He owns the plan and I'm covered on it.
9:15 p.m. — The owner calls and doesn't sound angry. We finally have a little dinner and a whiskey after the drama of the night and watch some TV before bed.
10:15 p.m. — I'm going to sleep.
Daily Total: $225

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I have a meeting this morning at 9. I'd usually drive, but I still feel bad about last night, so I plan to take the early bus. I set out A.'s lunch and pack my own.
9:30 a.m. — Meeting ends. I have a banana and eat a piece of focaccia toast from our Strip District adventure. I check in with A. and he still hasn't heard from his insurance agent.
11:45 a.m. — I get some busy work cranked out to distract myself from the car. Then I check my bank account and move $5 to my other checking. A. isn't sure what his deductible is, but I plan to pay in full for this accident. I'm worried it will be $1,000 and I will lose almost my entire emergency fund. (But that's why I have it.) I am planning to be consumer debt-free by February, but maybe now this will have to get pushed back a few months. I affirm to myself that I have worked hard on my financial goals and have made good financial decisions in 2018 to get out of debt. I will be able to rebuild that emergency fund easily if it does get completely depleted, even if it means a slight postponement of my ultimate goal.
1:15 p.m. — I need a grilled cheese. I abandon my prepared lunch and get one from a cafe, plus a can of Diet Coke. FEELINGS. $5.63
3:45 p.m. — A. gets back to me. Amazingly, since his car wasn't damaged, no deductible is owed. The insurance accepts responsibility. He also has accident forgiveness, and his rate won't go up. I cry with relief, but feel like there should still be some consequence. We discuss splitting the premium.
5:45 p.m. — Dinner is salsa chicken. The mood is cheerful after the good news from the insurance agent. We have a quiet evening doing our own reading and internet-ing until bed.
Daily Total: $5.63
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 questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:
Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series