A Week In Frederick, MD, On A $54,000 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 teacher who makes $54,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on shredded cheese. This educator mentions in her diary that her fiancé is a furloughed federal worker. You can click here for some resources to help furloughed government employees.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 28
Location: Frederick, MD
Salary: $54,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,582
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,618 on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the country that my fiancé owns. I pay half of this.
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents kindly paid for my bachelor's and master's degrees, and I realize how lucky I am for this.)
Apple Music: $10.99
Health Insurance: $114.50
HSA: $10
Car Insurance: $49.10
My School's Financial Aid Fund: $4.17
Trash Service: $96 for six months ($48 for my half)
Cable & Internet: $117 (I pay half)
Electric: Approximately $35 for my half. We have oil heat, which we pay for by the tank. This winter's tank cost us $460 total (I paid half). We are on a well, so we do not pay for water.
Climbing Gym Membership: $78
Savings: 3% of my paycheck goes to my 401(k) with employer match. $600 a month goes into my short-term savings account, which I use for travel, major car expenses, and unexpected vet bills. $900 a month goes to a high-interest savings account, which I will use for a down payment on our next home.
Roth IRA: $100

Day One

5:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off. I am still struggling to get back into the routine of waking up early after having two weeks off for winter break! I wake up, put on coffee, and get ready for work. I shower at night, so my morning routine is simple. I wash my face with Philosophy's Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash and put on moisturizer, a sheer foundation, and mascara. Then I get dressed and pack snacks for the day (apple and a few clementines). I eat some Cheerios as well.
6:20 a.m. — I leave my fiancé on the couch with our dogs and head to work. My fiancé is a federal worker and is currently furloughed. The first two weeks weren't too bad since I was off for winter break as well, but he's starting to go stir-crazy now.
11 a.m. — Lunchtime. I need these early lunches when breakfast is at 6 a.m! I work at an independent school, where lunch is provided every day. Unfortunately, I am gluten-intolerant and can usually only eat the food from the salad bar.
2 p.m. — Done with academics and on to coach sport #1. I change and drive to our athletic center to avoid walking the 10 minutes in the freezing cold. Our middle schoolers are hilarious. They spend half the time breaking into song and dance between exercises.
3:30 p.m. — Time to coach sport #2. I coach the varsity rock-climbing team, since I was a competitive climber until a few years ago. After practice, I stay at the climbing gym to boulder and get in a leg workout. Today I deadlift, squat, and do some band exercises.
7 p.m. — Home! Fiancé has tomato soup and grilled cheeses on the stove, which is great because I am starving. We eat while watching the evening news and Jeopardy!. After dinner, I shower, cuddle our puppies, and am in bed at 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5:40 a.m. — I'm up after hitting snooze once. I always allow myself to hit snooze on Fridays since traffic is much lighter than usual. I put on coffee, eat a bowl of Cheerios, and get ready for the day. I put on my warmest sweater because it is FREEZING out. I leave for work at 6:45 with my furloughed fiancé on the couch again. He will not get his scheduled paycheck this week. Thankfully, we have savings to hold us over. I know many people do not.
11 a.m. — Lunchtime. I make a salad with spinach, beets, dried cranberries, and a hard-boiled egg. It's pretty sad and not the most filling, but it's free and allows me to get in a serving of vegetables.
12:15 p.m. — I'm exhausted. I made the career switch to teaching three years ago, and I definitely miss being able to hide behind a desk sometimes. I still have one more class to teach and then two sports to coach. At my school, you must have six duties in order to be considered full-time. Since I teach four sections, I coach two middle-school sports (one in the winter and one in the spring) to reach my six duties. For my third coaching duty, the upper-school rock-climbing team, I get a small stipend.
6:50 p.m. — Finally home. I'm beat. My fiancé has made gnocchi for dinner because he is amazing. He went grocery shopping today and will add the cost of the groceries to our expenses spreadsheet at the end of the month. We add all joint expenses into a spreadsheet and settle up at the end of each month. We split home expenses 50/50 and food 40/60 (I pay the 40%). We are looking into opening a joint bank account and credit card soon. I know I don't want to completely join our finances once we're married. I am thinking we'll split our money 50/50. Each of us will keep 50% of our money in our personal accounts and put 50% in the joint account. $40
9:30 p.m. — Bedtime!
Daily Total: $40

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I love sleeping in, even though I know my idea of sleeping in is what some people consider waking up early. I scroll Instagram for a few minutes while cuddling with the dog.
8:30 a.m. — I get up and pour a cup of coffee. I also make banana-bread oatmeal for me and my fiancé. I cook rolled oats on the stove with a mashed-up banana, cinnamon, walnuts, and brown sugar. Also, don't worry, I don't actually refer to him as "fiancé." I just figured that would be easiest in terms of writing this diary!
11 a.m. — I get to the climbing gym to meet some friends. On the weekends, I go to a gym that is slightly further away for a change of pace. This gym location is included in my membership. I climb really well today but fall a few times off the last move of a V10, which is a bummer. (For all you non-climbers, boulders are rated in terms of difficulty on the V scale. Problems (climbs) go from V0 to V17. V10 is the hardest I've climbed.) Hopefully, I will get it next weekend. After climbing, I add some protein powder to water and head home.
3 p.m. — I get home and make a turkey sandwich with avocado. Then my fiancé and I take the dogs on a short walk. We don't live in a neighborhood, so we have to drive a mile to the local hiking trail to walk the dogs. Afterward, I take a shower to warm up.
6 p.m. — We head to a local pizza chain that is giving away free pizzas for furloughed workers. As we're waiting in line, we find out that they changed the time for the deal from 6-8 to 3-5. The manager tells us that they announced the change on Twitter this morning. We had found out about the deal on the local news, which had not reported the new time. Our pizzas have already been made, so my fiancé just pays for both, even though we are totally bummed. We actually waited until 6 to get the deal, and we would have come earlier if we had known. He will add this to the expense spreadsheet later, and I will pay him back. $11
6:30 p.m. — Home and watching football while eating our pizzas. I'm upset we drove so far to pay for a pizza we usually wouldn't have gotten, but it is by far the best gluten-free pizza I've ever had, so I can't be too angry.
9:45 p.m. — Set the cable box to record the rest of the football game and head to bed. I put on HGTV on the computer for us to fall asleep to.
Daily Total: $11

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — Snow!!!! This is the most snow we've had in Maryland in years. I wake up starving and immediately get out of bed for coffee and yogurt with granola.
9:30 a.m. — After watching the rest of last night's football game, we decide it's time for some snow-day fun! We head outside to clean off a car and strap a kayak to the roof rack. We are going to use the kayak as a sled. We head to a park nearby (think hiking trails, not playgrounds) and go in search of a sledding hill. My fiancé drags the kayak while I carry our small dog in a backpack. Snow sticks to him and turns him into a snowball. We walk around for an hour and don't find any good hills, but the dogs run in the woods and have a great time.
12 p.m. — As much as I want today to be a lazy snow day, it's Sunday, and Sundays are our house-cleaning day. I clean the bathroom and bedroom while my fiancé cleans the kitchen and vacuums. We also put down a rug that just came in the mail. It was on closeout on Wayfair and only cost us $80! It is so soft and the perfect color.
5:30 p.m. — Just got an email from my school saying that tomorrow is a snow day!! I rejoice and then spend the evening working on wedding save-the-dates. And by save-the-dates, I mean a Facebook event telling our friends to save the date. We are having a courthouse ceremony with a small reception at my soon-to-be mother-in-law's farm. We are paying for the wedding ourselves, so we're keeping it very low-cost. Part of me would love to have a bigger wedding, but I want my kitchen remodeled more.
6:30 p.m. — I make a dinner of spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, dried cranberries, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and diced apple. I also have a glass of wine because tomorrow is a SNOW DAY!!!!
7:30 p.m. — We watch Hell or High Water on Netflix and then head to bed. I highly recommend the movie.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — SNOW DAY!!!!!!!! I get out of bed, turn up the heat, and put on a pot of coffee. We have an oil furnace, and in an effort to conserve oil, we turn the thermostat way down at night. One of these days, I will program the thermostat to turn on the heat before I wake up, but our house is tiny and heats up quickly, so it's not a big deal. For breakfast, I have two rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly. Then we clean the snow off the cars and shovel some of the yard for the dogs.
9 a.m. — I put a check for $96 in the mail. This will cover our trash service for the next six months. We live far enough out in the country that there is no city or county trash pick-up. I will put this cost on the expenses spreadsheet, so $48 is my half.
12 p.m. — I hate that my gym doesn't open until noon on Mondays! I watch Say Yes to the Dress and wait until 11:30 to leave the house. I get to the gym right as it opens and boulder/hang out with my friends for three hours.
3:30 p.m. — Home! My fiancé took our giant dog for a snowy hike, and they both look exhausted. I make myself a turkey-and-avocado wrap, and we discuss what we should do with the rest of our afternoon. As we're talking, I get an alert saying schools have a two-hour delay tomorrow! We decide to take apart our bathroom exhaust fan to see if cleaning it will help it work more efficiently. It doesn't help, and the fan looks like it's been in the ceiling for decades, which it probably has. We chose this house together a year and a half ago, but my fiancé (then my boyfriend) paid the entire down payment, so the house is only in his name. The house is a fixer-upper, and so far we have done massive work to the landscaping and have renovated the main bathroom.
4:30 p.m. — We go for a drive to look at a house my soon-to-be MIL saw a for-sale sign in front of. The listing is delisted online, but the sign is still in front of the house, so we decide to go look anyway. We would prefer not to sell our current home just yet, but we also know that finding the type of house (and acreage) we want will be tough. We drive past the house and take an information sheet. It is nice but probably not worth selling our house over. Once we get back home, I shower and put John Frieda color gloss in my hair.
7 p.m. — Slow-cooker pulled chicken, mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus for dinner.
8 p.m. — I answer a few emails from students about a quiz they have tomorrow and then head to bed. We fall asleep while watching HGTV on the laptop.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — On two-hour-delay days, I like to sleep in for an extra hour but then also have extra time to relax before heading to work. I get out of bed, microwave leftover coffee, and answer a few more student emails from the couch. My fiancé gets up and turns on the morning news. Hopefully, he gets to go back to work soon. This shutdown is dragging and affecting way too many people. All the businesses that rely on government workers are hurting, and they will not get back pay like the federal workers will.
8 a.m. — I head to work and stop to get gas on the way. Gas is a lot cheaper by our house than near where I work. It is often a 30- or 40-cent difference per gallon. I bought my car with cash about three years ago. My previous car had gotten hit by another driver and totaled, so I used the insurance money and some money from my savings to buy my car. I only have ever bought used cars and have never had a car payment. I usually fill up my gas tank once a week. $31.34
11 a.m. — It's hard to want to eat lunch this early on days I don't wake up at 5:30 a.m. I just eat a bowl of fruit and know I'll be hungry later.
12 p.m. — All of my classes are taking a quiz today, so I work on posting future assignments while the students work. Working in an independent school gives me a ton of freedom with my curriculum. I can cover anything I want within earth and environmental sciences. My students do not take any standardized tests, so there isn't really anything I absolutely need to cover. Last year, I taught a unit on monarch butterflies, and this year I am putting together a unit on bluebirds. While I would make more money (and get tenure and a pension) if I worked in a public school, I enjoy the freedom and the small class sizes I have working for an independent school.
2 p.m. — I spend some down time between grading to look at flower seeds online. I am getting the winter blues and can't wait for spring. This year I want to put a wildflower patch in the back of our property and grow flowering vines along the fence line. I put a wildflower mix and some packets of sweet-pea seeds into my shopping cart but don't buy them yet.
3 p.m. — My middle schoolers don't have sports on Tuesdays, but my upper-school rock climbers have a meet about an hour away. I leave school and drive to the gym where the rock-climbing meet is. The other coach and I trade off bus-driving days, and today it's her turn to drive the bus. I snack on half an avocado and some almond-flour crackers while entering in my climbers scores. My rock climbers have improved so much this season! It is really awesome to watch them try hard and succeed.
7 p.m. — My fiancé went to Aldi to pick up some groceries (soy milk, shredded cheese, onions, and butter) and to Target to get household items (laundry detergent and water filters). I will pay for 40% of the groceries and 50% of the household items. My fiancé made burrito bowls for dinner. I'm oddly not hungry, so I only eat a little bit. I blame this on my avocado earlier. $37
9 p.m. — Well, now I'm starving. I eat a rice cake with chocolate-hazelnut spread on it. We buy the Costco brand hazelnut spread instead of Nutella since it does not contain palm oil. After my snack, I brush my teeth and head to bed.
Daily Total: $68.34

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — I'm awake. I get up, turn up the thermostat, put on coffee, and get ready for work. Breakfast is Cheerios again. I keep telling myself I should start eating yogurt in the morning for protein, but I just never feel like eating yogurt this early.
7 a.m. — Well, I was sideswiped on the highway. A pickup truck tried to change lanes and hit my car instead. We wind up closing down two lanes on the highway and standing in the cold for over an hour with the police. I am startled, but I don't think I am hurt. Thankfully, my car is still drivable. I decide to head into work even though my principal said he was able to get all my classes covered. I'm closer to school than to home, and I just want to be off the road.
11 a.m. — Lunchtime. I'm still a bit queasy from the adrenaline of the morning, but I know I should eat something, so I just eat some grapes and cut up cantaloupe from the dining hall.
12:15 p.m. — Cut fruit was not enough. I eat a Larabar from my desk stash and fill out the online claim form for my car-insurance company. Hopefully, this all goes smoothly. The last time I was in an accident, the other person's insurance company was horrible to deal with and I didn't get my medical bills paid until almost a year after the collision.
3:30 p.m. — I head to the gym to boulder and do a leg day. I feel fine from the accident and hope that getting in some movement will actually help me be less sore tomorrow. I keep the weights lighter than usual on my deadlifts and squats, though, just in case. After I work out, I have a meeting for a local climbers' volunteer group. The group works to keep climbing access open in local areas and to organize trail-work days.
7:15 p.m. — I get home to eggplant Parmesan! My fiancé is the best! We eat and watch Jeopardy!. Afterward, I shower and pack my bags for tomorrow. My fiancé has put on an episode of Catfish, which is totally my guilty pleasure. Once we find out who the catfish is, we let the dogs out one more time and head to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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