A Week In Columbus, OH, On $4.10 An Hour Plus Tips

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 server who makes $4.10 an hour plus tips and spends some of her this week on Davine's shampoo.
Occupation: Server
Industry: Restaurant/Hospitality
Age: 26
Location: Columbus, OH
Salary: $4.10/hour + tips (roughly $31,000 per year)
Net Worth: roughly -$40,000 (thanks to student loan debt and only a small savings account)
Debt: ~$40,000 in student loans. I'm still in school for one more semester so that number will go up.
Paycheck Amount (I get tips at the end of each shift, paychecks are eaten up entirely by taxes): ~$150/shift all from tips
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $500 (I live with my ex and we split it proportionally to our incomes. He is supposed to be moving out on December 1st. My friend is moving in and we will split rent 50/50 so I’ll pay $725 plus the $25 monthly pet fee and utilities. I don’t currently pay for any utilities.)
Loans: $80 just to keep the interest down while I'm in school
Spotify Student: $5.37
Hulu: $12.89
Apple iCloud Storage $0.99
Curology $39.90 every other month
Bark Eats Dog Food Delivery: $70
Med Spa Club: $49
Orange Theory: $129 (Starting in January it’ll be $159 a month for unlimited classes.)
Compost Exchange $40 every six months
Cell Phone: on my parents' plan, every few months they ask me for $100 to help with the cost.
Car Insurance: thank you mom and dad!!!
Car payment: $0 (It's an old car and my grandma gave it to me when I wrecked my first car at 19)
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, my mother is a teacher and her mother was a teacher. My mom always tells the story of my preschool teacher pulling her aside and asking if she talks to me about college. My mom said "yes, why?" and the preschool teacher told her that one of my classmates asked me to marry him and I told him that I couldn't get married until after I graduated from college. My freshman year of college, my parents matched what I could pay and we covered my first semester together. I've taken out loans ever since. It's taking me a long time to graduate because I am working as a server while also taking classes.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents always went over the bill when we went out to eat. We would talk about what each person ordered and who cost the family the most (always my dad with his beers) and how we could reduce our cost. We never really discussed other bills or anything.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a lifeguard at my local pool. I had been on swim team my entire life and I always idolized the lifeguards for some reason. I got the job at 15 and had to wait until my birthday at the end of June to start picking up shifts. I worked a lot that summer and then every summer until I left for college. A cousin purchased me a car for my 17th birthday, but I had to cover the insurance myself. Being 17 with a brand new car, my insurance was almost $200/month.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, my parents did a good job of making sure we got to enjoy our childhood and not worry about "adult problems." As an adult, I know that we were not living as comfortably as I thought we were.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, absolutely. I'm a server so money is not guaranteed. If I don't show up with a good attitude and work hard, I might not make money. If the managers assign me a section that guests don't want to sit, I might not make money. That's the gamble of being a server. I'm also really bad about taking my cash to the bank to deposit. Instead, I'll just grab a few bills, go to the store, and spend freely. It's harder for me to keep track of money when it's not written down in a statement like it is when I use a card. I'm trying to be better about tracking what I spend.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out at 21 and became officially independent but my parents still pay my car insurance while I'm in school.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Not yet, but maybe a rich aunt will come out the woodwork soon!

Day One

6:30 a.m. — My dog wakes me up by whining in my face. I haven't heard my alarm so surely this is too early. Check my phone and nope! Looks like I turned off my alarms in my sleep so she has saved the day!
7:10 a.m. — I run around and get ready, packing a cold brew and some water with Mio to go. I listen to my reggaeton playlist on my way there to hype me up for the day. It contains songs from 2015-2018 only. Shout out to Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias. "El Perdón" is my favorite song of all time.
7:33 a.m. — I walk into my classroom. I'm student teaching three days a week this semester and then next semester it will be every day of the week, all day long. For now, I sit in the classroom and observe.
12:10 p.m. — I leave student teaching and turn on a new audiobook to listen to on the drive home. I love the app Libby and it's free with a library card. I'm really picky about the voice that reads the audiobooks, but this woman has a British accent and I love it. I'm listening to The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware because another Money Diarist was listening to it and I'm easily influenced.
2:35 p.m. — I swing by McDonald's for a small fry, McDouble, and large Diet Coke on my way to work. $4.56
7:45 p.m. — I decide to eat a bowl of chili at work which I get for half price and will pay for when I leave.
9:15 p.m. — My coworker, C., is supposed to close, but he doesn't have any tables and I still do so he asks me to stay for him. In return, he buys my chili, so I don't have to spend $3.
10:30 p.m. — After I close, I show up at C.'s to have some White Claws with our other friend, N. We vent about work and hang out until about 11:30 when N. and I both decide we need to go home because it's getting late.
Daily Total: $4.56

Day Two

7:05 a.m. — I'm headed to student teaching and swing by the McDonald's at the end of my street and get a breakfast combo meal of sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich, hashbrown, and coffee with cream. I realize that I've gone to McDonald's two days in a row and feel immediately embarrassed. $5.99
12:45 p.m. — I leave student teaching and drive back to my neighborhood. I wait in the longest Starbucks line ever to get a triple sugar-free vanilla almond milk latte. It's $6.05 but I have a $5 gift card from an online survey I did last week. $1.05
1:05 p.m. — I come home and drop my bookbag in my room before heading back downstairs to make a sandwich and salad for lunch. My ex, who I still live with and who was home all day because he's on a “staycation” in our living room this entire week, decides it's time for him to also be in the kitchen and start making a freaking steak! I grab my coffee cup and run back to my room (thank god we have separate rooms!!!!) and place an order on DoorDash for some Greek food. I get a gyro bowl, spanikopita, and a piece of baklava for $23.47 with delivery fee, service fee, and tip. $23.47
2 p.m. — I get on a Zoom class a few minutes late after taking a quick shower because I'm supposed to have a date tonight. The Zoom call is a “reflective seminar” for my student teaching placement. They brought in some guest speakers and one was a very attractive guy. I spend the whole Zoom looking at him in an effort to appear focused.
4:30 p.m. — I text my date and ask to solidify plans. Our original plan was to rent Antebellum and eat pizza on my couch. My ex being home (he didn't say he was staying all week and I thought he would just be home for a three day weekend — bad communication on both sides) threw a wrench in the plan so I asked him to think of something else for us to do and he said he couldn't think of anything. Lame. I'm annoyed.
9:15 p.m. — I must've fallen asleep during my second Zoom class of the evening. I get up at the urging of my dog and go downstairs to make grilled cheese with the zero carb bread from Aldi, one slice of American, one slice of pepper jack, and a slice of roast beef. It turns out delicious. I head up to my room to watch Love Island. At the end of the episode, I take a melatonin and try to get some beauty sleep.
Daily Total: $30.51

Day Three

6:05 a.m. — I wake up to my dog asking to go to the bathroom. I appreciate the early wake ups on days I have to get going, but I have nowhere to be today.
8:45 a.m. — How did I take a nap last night and still manage to sleep in so late today??? I briefly consider that I have COVID (anyone else paranoid??) and that my body is trying to fight it off. I remember that I agreed to pick up a side table/nightstand on Facebook Marketplace and message the seller for the address.
9:10 a.m. — Remembering that I booked an Orange Theory class today, I decide that I should eat before I go so I swing through McDonald's and get a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. I brought my water bottle with me so I don't get anything else. $4.19
9:55 a.m. — After a few minutes of moving my front passenger seat around I realize that I can't get this side table in my car and walk it back up the driveway of the woman selling it. She must've been watching me from a window because the garage door starts to go up as I approach. I set the table in her garage and have to ask for the money back. She rolls her eyes but goes to get it. Bye, Felicia.
10:30 a.m. — I drive back towards my house and decide to pass it so I can go to the good Kroger that's a little bit farther away. I know I want to make garbanzos con espinacas, my favorite dish from my time as an au pair in Spain. I also get some necessities. I end up with four miniature pumpkins to give my living room mantel #fallvibes and a bag of apples to put in the brass bowl on my dining room table. Additionally, I get four cans of garbanzo beans, a giant thing of spinach, Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, Jimmy Dean breakfast scramblers, Stok cold brew, Skinny Pop popcorn, three boxes of various lentil or chickpea pastas to try, zucchini noodles, a Philadelphia brand snack of bagel chips and veggie cream cheese, cooking sherry, a half dozen eggs, chicken breasts, Goldfish made with carrots, harissa seasoning, coriander seasoning, and mini bell peppers. Thanks to my Kroger card I save $6.02! $81.67
11:05 a.m. — I get into my car and immediately open these Goldfish made with carrots because I'm curious. Turns out they're not that good, but will be a good snack to pack for student teaching. I go to Target because it's right next to Kroger and because all of my water bottles are too big to fit in the treadmills at Orange Theory. I get a new water bottle and also pick up some pre-workout powder because Orange Theory is hard and I need a little help getting through the workouts. $40.38
12:15 p.m. — My Orange Theory class starts and I hear that the woman two rowers down from me is here for only the second time. It's my second time too, but I don't tell anyone because I don't want to be considered a newb. I start on rowers with medicine ball squats, move to the weight floor for legs and abs (how does anyone do a pop jack without looking like an idiot?), and treadmills for four one-minute all-outs. I get kinda confused about what I'm supposed to be doing so I think I missed an all-out but you would never know by my heart rate.
4:10 p.m. — I log in for the first of my Zoom classes and start cooking dinner. I stay on Zoom until 9:25. Online school sucks. COVID sucks.
11:45 p.m. — I'm scrolling the Orange Theory sub on Reddit and someone posts that Old Navy is having a sale on their compression leggings! I break out my computer and place an order for one pair of cropped leggings, a performance top, and a v-neck long sleeve wrap top for student teaching. I qualify for free shipping and my total comes to $55.03 as I purchase right before the sale ends at midnight. $55.03
Daily Total: $181.27

Day Four

6:20 a.m. — I'm up and start getting ready for school. I was planning to wear a green and white midi skirt with a white top and brown loafers, but my friend, K. (who is student teaching at a different school in the same district), texts me to say that teachers are wearing all black in support of Black Lives Matter. Some teachers from a different district recently got in trouble for wearing a shirt that said “science is real,” “black lives matter,” “no human is illegal,” “love is love,” “women's rights are human rights” and “kindness is everything” in rainbow colors. To show solidarity, teachers in several districts have worn all black. Does that feel like empty activism? Yes. Is it better than nothing? Also yes. At least maybe students will feel inspired by the unity.
7 a.m. — I grab my coffee, my breakfast sandwich, my backpack, and my lunch box and run out the door. I listen to NPR on my drive to school. I'm wearing all black. NPR interviews some elected officials from Louisville about the murder of Breonna Taylor. It's really upsetting. The next story is about an English teacher from El Paso who died of COVID in June and the impact he had on his community. It's too much too early in the day and I switch on Spotify to listen to Harry Styles so I'm not crying when I get to school. My eyes were watering HARD.
9 a.m. — We have a fire drill. I see all the teachers outside and nobody is wearing all black besides me. Love to see it. I look for the cute student teacher but his classroom must have exited the school on a different side. Shame.
3:15 p.m. — I drive straight from student teaching to campus because I ordered a textbook a long time ago and never picked it up. I have to pay 75 cents to park on campus right across from the bookstore. I'm in and out in less than 10 minutes, but I pay anyways because I would hate to get a parking ticket. Columbus has a parking app so I pay with the app. $0.75
6 p.m. — I've been on Zoom since 4:30 and I'm feeling some avocado toast so I go downstairs and get out the air fryer. We don't have a toaster, but two pieces of bread for 4 minutes at 310 Fahrenheit makes the perfect toast. I get it out of its cabinet only to find out that my ex made Brussels sprouts with it and didn't clean it before putting it away. I call my fave local pizza chain for a cauliflower crust pizza with light pepperoni and light onion. I give the delivery man $25 because I don't have any smaller bills and I'm happy to over-tip in a pandemic. $25
7:30 p.m. — I fall asleep in Zoom after finishing my pizza and decide I'm just done with this day. I go to sleep and don't wake up again until tomorrow.
Daily Total: $25.75

Day Five

4:40 a.m. — Good morning! My throat hurts even worse than yesterday. I text my mentor teacher that I'm going to stay home and go back to sleep.
9:35 a.m. — I wake up and realize I have to cancel my Botox appointment. I cancel with their app because they're not answering my phone calls. I hope I'm not charged a cancellation fee.
12:30 p.m. — I text my friends that I was supposed to go out of town with to tell them that I don't feel comfortable going. My friend, R.. has a baby and I wouldn't forgive myself if I gave a baby COVID.
4 p.m. — I schedule a tele-health call with one of the doctor's at my school's student health center. I have the student insurance so I don't have an out of pocket cost. I describe my symptoms and she asks if I can make it to campus in the next half hour for a COVID test. Before the call ends, I'm up and trying to throw together an outfit and running out the door.
4:15 p.m. — I park in the garage closest to the student health center and walk over to the testing. The doctor told me to also ask for a strep test so I get my nose swabbed and then my throat swabbed. The nurse who did it was really nice and efficient but I gagged like a bitch on that strep test. I have to pay to get out of the garage. $2.25
4:30 p.m. — Fuck the embarrassment of going to McDonald's. I deserve a Diet Coke. I also decide to try the new spicy McNuggets (they're not as good as Wendy's). $4.19
8 p.m. — I decide to order dessert because I'm craving something sweet. I get two different cheesecakes and two baklavas from a Middle Eastern restaurant around the corner. The desserts are cheap, but I use DoorDash so, of course, I have to pay for service fees, delivery, and a tip. I taste everything and put the desserts I don't eat in the fridge for tomorrow. $19.31
10 p.m. — I end my night watching Love Island and taking some off-brand Nyquil and fall asleep. My body is so tired.
Daily Total: $25.75

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — This is my preferred time to wake up. You get to sleep in enough, but you don't sleep so late that you feel like your morning is wasted. I sit outside with the dog and eat leftover cheesecake while she sniffs around the yard. I check my student email account and see that my COVID and strep results are both back and both negative. I think I just have a sinus infection.
10:45 a.m. — I've just been goofing off at home and I remember that I need to take my compost to the drop off! The location is close, but I don't want to lug my bucket of compost mush 15 blocks so I drive. I give them my name and grab a new biodegradable bag.
11:45 a.m. — I spend the rest of the morning napping on and off, resting, and trying to heal my body. When I'm awake, I read Britt Bennet's The Vanishing Half. It's really good and I'm looking forward to the HBO adaptation.
3 p.m. — My parents stop by and bring me a Diet Coke and a fudge sundae from McDonald's because they know I'm sick. My dad hooked me up with an iPad mini for my student teaching placement so they bring that over too. My dog is THRILLED to see them and she plays with my dad for a while. My ex comes out of the house to go to his car and my mom engages him in some conversation. I feel awkward and he doesn't speak to me. I don't speak to him. We aren't hostile or anything, it's just awkward.
4:15 p.m. — My parents leave and I Venmo my dad for the iPad. I set it up while watching the Real Housewives of Potomac season four reunion episodes. Do people think Michael is innocent? I'm on the fence. I spend the rest of night watching movies and resting. $95
Daily Total: $95

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — The pup let me sleep in. She's so thoughtful. I let her out and feed her. I make oatmeal for breakfast.
11 a.m. — I go to the store for parmesan cheese. I get home with my groceries. I get a ton of stuff I didn't need and no parmesan cheese! My groceries include two avocados, a pack of mango White Claw, orange La Croix, 24 pack of Diet Coke, chicken breasts, tomatoes, Mio, and a small jar of Nutella. $60.62
3:15 p.m. — I spend some time cleaning out my fridge and reorganizing it as a way to procrastinate my homework. I cook up some mini bell peppers, onion, grape tomatoes, and spinach with some zoodles. I have a tilapia filet that I defrosted and it becomes a beautiful, vibrant meal. I have an apple with Nutella for dessert.
6 p.m. — Okay I'm horrible at homework and Sunday Scaries are at an all-time high. I hop on Instagram and see Harling Ross, formerly of Man Repeller, and remember that I've been wanting to try her curl routine because our hair is similar. I click over to Davine's website and purchase the curl shampoo and conditioner as well as their curl cream. It comes to $95.99 and I justify it by telling myself I would've spent this much on gas and food if I had gone to Pittsburgh this weekend. $95.99
9 p.m. — I watch the Vogue 73 Questions with Lizzo and then turn on Love Island. I fold and put away some clean laundry. I scroll Tinder and Hinge occasionally. My heart jumps out of my chest when I come across my ex's Tinder profile. I shouldn't be surprised. We met on Tinder, after all. His profile uses pictures that I took. His first picture is of him and our (now solely my) dog on her birthday. His bio reaffirms that we are not meant to be. He cites the podcast Your Mom's House as an indicator of whether or not he'll get along with someone. I hate that podcast.
10:15 p.m. — I brush my teeth, wash my face, and get into bed. Lights out. I text the guy I was supposed to go out with until I fall asleep. He's coming over on Tuesday to watch a movie and it has been implied that there will definitely be some sexy time. I look forward to it, but also what if I'm underwhelmed (spoiler: I was extremely underwhelmed but he's so cute and nice and he hates Trump as much I do so I won't end things yet). It's been three years since I've had to think about this and I'm a little nervous that I will be let down. I fall asleep at some point.
Daily Total: $156.61
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