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A Week In Chattanooga, TN, On A $46,194 Salary

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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 teacher who makes $46,194 per year and spends some of her money this week on a doorbell.

Editor’s Note: This Money Diary was written in August 2023.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 25
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Salary: $46,194
Net Worth: -$2,366 (shared joint account with husband: we have not fully combined finances, but we have our own split agreement: $7,000; Roth IRA: $3,500 minus debt).
Debt: $12,866 of student loans for my undergrad and grad school.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,263.63
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,471 (my husband pays for our two-bed/two-bath and I cover utilities).
Student Loans: $0 (for now).
Wi-Fi: $68.90
Utilities: ~$200
Gym: $149
Envy: $60
Spotify Duo: $12.99
Hulu+: husband pays.
Cell Phone: $34 to my parents.
Disability/Life Insurance: $121
Health Insurance: $97.44
Charity: $30
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?
We were expected to find a career, and my parents were supportive no matter the route we took. Both my brother and I went to four-year colleges and came out with jobs right away. College was paid for through loans, a little help from parents, and a small college fund set up by grandparents.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We talked about money often. I had a savings account as a baby and my parents taught us to put money in it monthly. When we got allowances, we had some to spend, some to save, and some to donate. My parents also frequently did money-related tasks in front of us and had healthy arguments about finances when we were present. I would not say I am good with my money but I definitely know what I should be doing with it thanks to them.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I babysat starting at 12 for fun because I really wanted to and at 16 worked in a coffee shop so I could own a car and pay for its gas.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Do you worry about money now?
ALL THE TIME! My husband and I want to buy a house and start a family but we clearly do not have the funds and that’s scary. I never worry that we can’t pay a bill but I do constantly worry about if we will have the future we want.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents helped me financially until I was 22. I graduated in 2020 and both of my parents’ jobs allowed them security (and hazard pay) so they were able to help me until I was confident I could pay my bills and then some. If we needed money today, I know we could go to my parents no questions asked.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I had a small college fund in a trust that has been long spent.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Wake up, cuddle the pup, and scroll on my phone. It is my last full week of summer break and I will soak all of this up. I also rebook my workout for this morning. Once I get out of bed, I make an iced matcha latte and a piece of peanut butter toast for a pre-workout snack.
9 a.m. — Walk to the gym and feel so glad I decided to go! I canceled after having a river float day yesterday thinking I would be hungover and more burned than I am. After a great workout, I head home.
10:45 a.m. — I heat up leftover pad Thai, shower, and get ready for the day. I also remember I have to buy a shirt for registration if I want it to be in on time ($45.89). This also makes me pull the trigger on two other online carts of clothes I have been debating. I order two shirts from another site ($45.43) and pair of jeans and a cute summer top from Old Navy ($38.20). I almost go to Amazon and buy things for my classroom but I’m not quite ready to do that. $129.52
11 a.m. — I started grad school this summer and am in an online self-paced program. I have one more task to finish before I complete my third class. I work on the task, turn it in, and then schedule time to meet with my advisor to talk about enrolling in my next class. I know I will get revisions back on this task so I am in no hurry to start another class, but I want to know what to do when the time comes. I also text with my husband and our friends about a trip we are planning. We don’t come to any conclusions so no money spent yet.
1:30 p.m. — Get the most random urge to do a big clean and organize. This will be my last one before going back to work for the school year so I spend extra time on areas I won’t want to do once I am back at work. I also fold our laundry from the weekend. This is a task my husband, B., and I normally do together but I am feeling generous knowing this year will be rough between work and grad school and he will be picking up a lot of the chores which is not his thing. For 190 days, B. gets a me that is not always the most pleasant, depending on how work is going. I love what I do, but I struggle to leave it at the door when I get home and I let the day affect me much more than it should. I am grateful that he has adapted to this way of life though and knows how to be the other half when I am not able to pull my weight.
3 p.m. — I log in to my paycheck and see that I will get my last summer school paycheck this week! For the first summer ever in my teaching career, I worked a few days of summer school. The extra money will go towards savings and the cruise we are going on for winter break.
3:45 p.m. — A friend and I decide last minute to go to a comedy show. I buy our tickets and she immediately Venmos me for her half ($98.68 total, but she sends me $50). $48.68
6:30 p.m. — B. gets home from work and we make steak fajitas. We currently get our groceries from Trader Joe’s and Target, some meat and bulk items at Costco, and then odds and ends from the farmers’ market to support local when possible. We shop every two weeks and I pay for our groceries. We did forget an onion so B. heads to the market right around the corner to grab one. When we are done eating we both want Crumbl. We get four cookies and B. pays.
Daily Total: $178.20

Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up, make matcha, and get ready. I wash my face with a PCA cleanser, toner, Versed eye cream, and The Ordinary rose hip oil. I use the La Roche Posey double moisturizer and Super Goop Unseen Sunscreen to end the routine. I then throw on shorts and a T-shirt with Chacos sandals to bring my dog to the dog park. When we get home, I make a Greek yogurt parfait with farmers’ market blueberries for breakfast.
9 a.m. — I go out to hang with a friend for a couple of hours and then head home to do back-to-school things.
12 p.m. — I make lunch using leftovers from the fajitas to make steak nachos. I also eat half of a Crumbl cookie. While eating I get a notification that I have a bill to pay from my gynecologist for a visit from earlier this month. $20
1:30 p.m. — Even though it’s a rest day from the gym, I want to do some sort of intentional movement. I find an ab workout and stretch on Apple Fitness. I am currently using a free trial of the app and I enjoy the workouts but I am not sure if I will keep it once my trial is up.
3:50 p.m. — Force myself to get up from lying on the couch (a routine I have been very accustomed to this summer break) and text the friend I’m going out with about our plan for the night. We both have had big spend weeks and decide to meet up with other teacher friends for a drink before the comedy show instead of drinks and dinner. This means I actually have to get up and get my life together. I shower and throw on some light makeup, jeans, and a cute cropped tank. Then I make myself a shrimp poke bowl with leftover rice, cucumber, edamame, avocado, homemade spicy mayo, and green onion.
6 p.m. — I street park for free and meet up with my friend before the show for a beer. It comes to $8.95 after tip. We then walk to the theatre where we laugh for over an hour. 10/10 night. $8.95
10 p.m. — B. and I catch up for a bit when I get home before calling it a night. I remove my makeup with the Versed cleansing balm and then wash my face with the PCA cleanser, use the rose hip oil, and moisturize. I also place three Hero pimple patches on an area that decided to break out.
Daily Total: $28.95

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I get up, go through my skincare, put on biker shorts and a workout tank, and take the dog for her morning walk. It’s already extremely humid. When we get back I make avocado toast and cold brew with a splash of Trader Joe’s Brown Sugar Oat Milk Creamer.
8:40 a.m. — I settle in to do some grad school work. I am trying to finish my program in a year but am currently on track to finish faster, so I’m feeling really good. Going back to school has been hard because I never thought I would, but I get a pay bump when I am done, which we really need.
10:40 a.m. — I pause grad school work to finally address my Amazon cart and price check what I can get cheaper at Walmart or Target. I have a $100 Visa gift card from a rebate and I decide to get my top first-day items using it. I order two organizing shelves for Chromebooks, a wireless doorbell (we have a closed-and-locked-door law in TN and it’s hard to hear little knocks), and some storage bins. I am at a school where we get lots of supplies thankfully, but I still always need random items like these and I feel silly asking for help since they are not student consumables — even though everything on my wish list will be touched by a kindergartner at some point this year. In this moment, B. also texts me the balance of our cruise. I know he is asking for me to send money but I am currently holding onto every dollar I have until I get my bills paid and this Amazon list cleared. Sorry babes! My total is $99.47, but I use the gift card to cover it all.
12 p.m. — Walk to the gym for a strength session that kicks my butt. I am three classes away from 400 so I leave feeling very empowered. I joined this gym on a whim: it was close the area of city I was manifesting my life to be in and now two years later I live and work in the area. I am living a life I dreamed of for so long. As soon as I get home from the gym, I quickly shower and throw on a white tennis skirt with a slate gray tank before making a lunch of popcorn chicken, sweet potato fries, and cucumber slices.
2:15 p.m. — I have my monthly facial today. I started this on a teacher special when I first started and I continue to carve out money and time for it. I have a pre-paid credit (in my monthly expenses) so I just leave a tip and buy a new bottle of my PCA cleanser. They charge the same as the PCA website and I’m pretty sure my esthetician gets a cut of the products I buy and I want to support her. $70
6 p.m. — I get ready for dinner. We are going out for a belated birthday dinner for B. with his family. He chose the restaurant we had our first date at and I always get so excited when we go. I throw on black jeans, a green bodysuit, and Birkenstocks. I also do light makeup and curl my hair. At dinner, I get the salmon with green beans and a glass of red wine. My mother-in-law pays. We also both walk out with birthday cards (mine was a month ago) and each get $100 from them.
9 p.m. — Once we are home, I eat a Trader Joe’s Hold the Cone ice cream and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $70

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm, trying to get back into school mode. After playing on my phone, I get up, wash my face, put on clothes for the gym, and take the dog out. Then I make breakfast of a piece of toast with a fried egg and a homemade iced matcha latte before doing a little grad school work.
10 a.m. — Walk to the gym, come home, do a quick body shower, and throw on my swimsuit. I make shrimp pasta with broccoli and eat it while watching the new The Summer I Turned Pretty episode.
12:40 p.m. — Head to the pool with a coworker and soak up our final summer Friday. My apartment doesn’t have a pool, but my in-laws’ does and we have the extra key so I have been taking advantage of that this summer.
4:15 p.m. — Get home, shower, face mask, and get ready for dinner. We are going on a double date to a restaurant in our neighborhood. Tonight, I wear jean shorts and a plain white tee with my Birkenstocks. I snack on chips and salsa while getting ready.
7 p.m. — We walk to dinner since it’s right down the street. We meet our friends and each order a drink — I get a mojito and B. gets a mai tai. The boys also split a bucket of beer. To eat, I get a salad and fries and B. gets a chicken sandwich. I pay. $85.95
9 p.m. — After dinner, we decide to go to a bar down the street. The rest of the group does a pickleback shot (I would throw up) so I stick to a single Moscow mule (B. pays). I have been reflecting on alcohol, and why I drink, a lot lately. My grandpa was a high-functioning alcoholic and while I know I am not him and I don’t have his personality, it’s definitely a thought I keep in the back of my mind. As I get further from 21 and more confident in who I am, I also realize I can have just as much fun without drinking and I try to stay in tune with what my body is telling me. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever drink too much, but I only do that if I am feeling confident that’s what I want to do. And it only takes three drinks to give me a hangover so that also makes it easy to stop drinking and switch to water.
Daily Total: $85.95

Day Five

8 a.m. — We have an early morning by choice! I am going to the gym and B. is going to play pickleball. Growing up, Saturday mornings were always for movement in my house and I try to do that as an adult. Some weeks B. joins me and others he sleeps in but we both tend to do separate things.
11:30 a.m. — I make B. and I an at-home brunch of eggs, beef bacon from the market, and hash browns. We used to eat brunch out every weekend and then we discovered how much money we could save doing it at home.
1:05 p.m. — I place a Target pick-up order for some random work items. I get 40 folders, two rolling carts, a hot glue gun, and glue. $67.88
4:45 p.m. — After doing nothing all day, we get a text saying the boat we were invited on for the night can pick us up in 30 minutes near our apartment. This is totally doable, minus the fact that we have yet to eat. B. suggests fast food and I convince him to do Jimmy John’s. He pays.
9 p.m. — We have a blast on the boat. The boys convince me to tube and trick me into thinking it will be an easy ride back, which of course turns into them throwing me off. I pretend to be a little mad, but I love tubing and being in the water so I actually loved it. We listen to some music on the water before heading back in to go to another friend’s pool. My car stops at the liquor store since we didn’t bring a lot to drink; B. pays for my ranch waters.
Daily Total: $67.88

Day Six

8 a.m. — Wake up and I am sore today. But we have another boat day planned with friends so it’s time to prepare for that. I start with an egg and cheese sandwich. I then fall back asleep on the couch.
11 a.m. — Before going to the boat, we stop at Publix and get Pub subs, water bottles, chips, cashews, and a Diet Coke. We devour our subs before even getting on the boat and they hit the spot. $25.98
6:30 p.m. — We get in from the boat and we are tired and burned. Not one of us reapplied sunscreen adequately. B. and I go home and shower and he makes us a quick dinner of shrimp, rice, and zucchini.
9 p.m. — I accidentally fall asleep on the couch and take that as a sign to apply more aloe and go to sleep. It takes me a long time to get comfortable but as soon as I do I pass out.
Daily Total: $25.98

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up, take the dog out, and eat a breakfast of peanut butter toast. I throw on leggings and a giant T-shirt because it is classroom move-in day. We aren’t technically on the clock for three more days, but I have not done a thing in or for my room all summer. It is time to at least go and assess things.
9 a.m. — First stop of the day, Target for my pick-up order. While I am there, I also grab sunscreen. Then I head to work to drop it all off. $27.88
12 p.m. — Leave work and head to yoga. Once I get out of yoga, I am starving but don’t want to lose my ambition to finish my classroom. I walk to a nearby restaurant to get a chicken burrito bowl that I inhale. At some point, I pull something in my back and my friend brings me her Theragun and a heating pad while I go home and work on computer things for work and grad school. $10.36
5:30 p.m. — B. meets me at work and we move the furniture in my classroom so that I can start doing the little things for the room and be ready for the littles when they start. Then we come home and eat chicken with potatoes and carrots before lying around the rest of the night. This past weekend knocked us out and we have a big weekend ahead, so it will definitely be a lazy week.
10 p.m. — I get the sudden urge to do grad school work. I get up and write part of a paper until I can’t form coherent sentences and then go back to bed.
Daily Total: $38.24
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