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A Week In Provo, UT, On A $46,000 Salary

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 special education teacher who makes $46,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Tevas.
Occupation: Special Education Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: Provo, UT
Salary: $46,000
Net Worth: $6,207 ($676 in checking account., $17,913 in Betterment savings/investments, $6,618 in 401(k), $6,000 in cars, minus $22,000 in student loans from my husband. My husband and I share a joint account. I am currently the sole breadwinner.)
Debt: $22,000 from my husband's student loans
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,067
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $780 (one-bedroom apartment, includes utilities)
Tithing: $392
Savings/Investments: $535
Recurring Charges: $86 (Spotify, Cinemark, rock climbing membership)
Phone Bill: $65
Auto Insurance: $77
Pet Insurance: $35
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?
There wasn't any pressure to go, but it was mostly assumed. Both of my parents are college graduates and I wanted to be as well. I went to a church-sponsored university, which was a very affordable option (about $3,000 a semester). I paid using scholarships (full tuition for two and a half years) and then money from my parents and grandparents. I also worked during the summers full time.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents are very private about their income. Even now, I don't really know how much they make. Starting from the age of 8, I was given a small allowance to learn to budget. All my basic needs were met by my parents, so it was money for going to the movies with friends, getting a candy bar at the grocery store, etc. It was $10 a month as a kid and $15 a month as a teenager. At about 17, my mom started making me read books about financial literacy with her. I hated it at the time but now look back on it as a fond memory.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at age 16 at a water park. I wanted to get a job anyway, but it was a requirement in my house. I didn't have my license yet (scared driver) so my mom drove me the 30 minutes to and from my job every day that summer.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, we were very middle class. For example, all of our vacations were really just trips to see family, but we could afford to fly out to see them each summer, etc. I was never worried about my parents being able to make ends meet.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I started my first adult job a year and a half ago, which is also when I got married. I'm the sole breadwinner as my husband is finishing up his bachelor's degree full time. Teachers don't make a lot, so we have enough for what we need, but I keep track of every dollar. There are a lot of big purchases in the future (like a house) that I wish we could save for more. We aren't paying off his student loans yet since he hasn't graduated but it's always in the back of my mind.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent at 22 when I graduated college. Before that, I contributed to my living expenses but had help from my parents. We have a three-month emergency fund. The rest of our savings is invested for future purchases.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No, although as previously stated, my parents helped contribute to my college expenses.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm goes off because my dog, Q., is whining for attention. I ignore him and scroll through Instagram for a few minutes. I slurp down a glass of chocolate Breakfast Essentials for breakfast and put on leggings that have become a staple in my outfits this week. I try to dress it up with a cute sweater and flats, then leave by 7:45.
8 a.m. — I get to work and organize the mess of papers on my desk. I've lost some important paperwork from a parent and am anxious to find it! Unfortunately, it's forever lost. I'll have to ask the parent to sign the forms again. The first hour that I normally teach is taken up by end-of-the-year state testing (gross). After the testing, I teach students how to do fractions and run a small reading group.
11:45 a.m. — Lunch! I packed leftover sloppy joes and it's not as satisfying as it was last night but does the job of filling me up. The other special ed teachers and I sit and talk about our lives until the kids start to trickle in after lunch. The kids get out early this year due to COVID so that the janitors have more time to disinfect. Then I spend the rest of my time cleaning my room and writing an IEP (individualized education plan) for an upcoming meeting.
4 p.m. — I drive from work to my therapy appointment. I just started seeing a new therapist about three months ago. I've been in therapy off and on since 16. Good therapists are hard to come by and this one doesn't take my insurance, so I pay the full $130 per session. I have a lot of health issues and have already used up my FSA, so I have to pay completely out of pocket which kind of sucks. I use a credit card for most of my purchases because of the cashback and pay it in full every month. $130
5:30 p.m. — I get home and watch my daily episode of Law and Order: SVU. My husband, E., comes home from playing racquetball and holds me while I do a little cry (therapy was really draining today). We take a shower together and then take it to the bedroom. Afterward, we are hungry and realize we haven't been to Culver's in ages so we get dressed and go eat dinner there. The custard and burgers are to die for. Then, we take our dog to the park for a late-night game of frisbee until he gets too obsessed with chewing sticks. I read in bed until 10:30 and then go to sleep. $24.59
Daily Total: $154.59

Day Two

7 a.m. — I've been feeling kind of depressed and burned out at work. Luckily, I don't have work tomorrow and feel excited to get up for the first time this week. I eat a bowl of Cap'n Crunch for breakfast and some strawberries. Then I throw on a "professional" outfit, put on minimal makeup, and pack a quick lunch. After taking my dog out to the bathroom and kissing goodbye E., I grab a mask and head out the door.
8 a.m. — I get to work and fill up my water bottle in the lounge with the ice-cold filtered water because all I have at home is tap water. Then I chat with the other teachers while I get my lessons ready for the day and answer some emails. Once again, I proctor standardized testing for an hour. Then I spend the rest of the morning teaching fractions and decimals.
11:45 a.m. — Lunchtime has finally arrived. Today has gone by so slowly. Proctoring the test is a nice break but it's also boring after a while. I have a protein granola bar, cheese stick, dried fruit trail mix, and popcorn for lunch. I'm big into snacks for lunch. It's quick and I get a lot of variety. After lunch, I teach English Language Arts. This afternoon I have an IEP meeting for a student that has just qualified for special education. It goes very smoothly, which is a relief. I spend the last 30 minutes of the day sending out emails and making sure I have things prepped for next week since there's no school tomorrow.
4 p.m. — I drive home and catch up on our days with E. After an episode of SVU, we head to the park for a dog playdate. We have a group message with about 30 other dogs and meet up regularly for playtime. Once we get home I start on dinner. Tonight it's lemon asparagus chicken pasta. It turns out okay. E. is the better cook but he's preparing ribs for Sunday. One of E.'s favorite desserts is carmelitas, an oat cookie crust with layers of caramel, chocolate chips, and walnuts in the middle. I have a TERRIBLE sweet tooth and bake every few days, so tonight I make them and we both eat two large pieces.
8 p.m. — Watch a couple more episodes and then read up on my daily celebrity gossip. It's my dirty little secret and I love it so much. I get ready for bed at 10 and am in bed by 10:45.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — Today is a snow makeup day that we didn't end up using, so I have the day off! Breakfast is oatmeal, cinnamon, sugar, and cut up apples. After getting ready for the day, I prepare my sister's birthday gift. I got her a little black dress from my favorite boutique several months ago when there was a crazy sale. I throw in some beauty samples from my Birchbox collection to complete it.
11 a.m. — I'm out the door to get my car's brakes flushed at the mechanics. I didn't realize it would be several hours before they would be done, so I call E. to come pick me up. He doesn't answer (turns out he's sanding our dining room table outside) so I walk home. I was originally planning on working out after this, but after walking 40 minutes home in the heat, I figure I've done my duty for today. I stretch, journal, and eat lunch. (Strawberries, cheese stick, granola bar, popcorn).
12 p.m. — It's my turn to do laundry and there are mountains to do because I've been putting it off. I spend $5 in QUARTERS, which is so annoying. While I do laundry I watch SVU, take Q. on a walk, and chill out. $5
2:30 p.m. — My car is ready so I pick it up ($112.60). I go pick up E. from campus and realize that now my check engine light is on and my car vibrates whenever I idle. Feeling frustrated that my car that just went to a mechanic is now having issues, I call to let them know. They say they'll take a look at it whenever I am free, which will be tomorrow morning. $112.60
3 p.m. — My sister is having an outdoor picnic with a couple of friends to celebrate her birthday. We stop by the store to grab watermelon, tajin, and chips ($11.72). My sister's place is an hour away so we get there at 4:30 after shopping/driving. We help pack up everything and then go to the park to set up. My sister realizes she needs paper towels and more drinks so E. graciously offers to pick some up at the store ($10.74). $22.46
7:30 p.m. — It's time to leave the picnic and gossip about my sister's new crush on the way home. Exciting times! Once we get home, we hang out for a bit and then watch White Tiger on Netflix. Two and a half hours later, E. is all keyed up from the movie. Movies about hustle always get him thinking. I listen until finally I can't keep my eyes open any longer. I'm asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $140.06

Day Four

10 a.m. — I get up and get ready for the day, eating the same oatmeal and apple breakfast as yesterday. I get to the mechanic at 11 and they take a look. After waiting an hour, they say they need to wait until the engine cools down, and can I leave it here for a few hours? I need my car for the rest of the day, so I decide to drop it off AGAIN on Monday. I'm feeling very stressed about my car now. We want to go to the zoo today, so we buy tickets online ($39.90). We eat lunch, walk Q., and head out the door. $39.90
2:30 p.m. — ZOOOO. I love the zoo. It breaks my heart a little bit to see how small the enclosures are. However, from the little research I've done, it seems like animals living in accredited zoos are treated very well. I love seeing the seals especially. On the way home, we stop by Jamba Juice. I have a coupon for BOGO free, so it ends up being $8.08 with tip. $8.08
6:15 p.m. — Once we get home, I veg out by spending an hour on Zillow looking at houses. We're not anywhere near ready to buy a house, but I love looking. At 7, I decide that even though it's nighttime, I'm still allowed to take a nap. I have crappy sleep quality so I'm alwayyys tired. When I wake up 30 minutes later, I'm groggy but satisfied. E. and I head to Walmart to pick up a grocery order I made earlier. It's composed of grapes, apples, bell peppers, onions, ground beef, parmesan, yogurt, milk, eggs, gluten-free cookie mix, flour, orange juice, and bread. We also get what we call "YOYO" meals. YOYO stands for you're on your own. It's basically just like a TV dinner or other easy meal that you can eat with no preparation. We eat them on days when we really don't feel like making anything ($49.15). $49.15
8:15 p.m. — We get home and watch The Next Three Days on Netflix. Sometime during the movie, I heat up some leftover chicken asparagus pasta and it's mediocre. Leftovers are so practical but neither E. nor I think they ever tastes as good. I do the nightly scroll of social media that sucks me in for a little too long and am asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $97.13

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — Same lazy day routine of wake up and check my phone. An hour later, I start to get ready for church, which is at 11:30. Once a month, we fast, meaning we don't eat or drink for 24 hours. The purpose is to be prayerful and focus on God. On the day that we all fast, instead of having a sermon, people in the congregation get up and express their thoughts/beliefs. I always look forward to going to it. Hearing everyone else speak strengthens my own faith, which has been wavering lately.
1:30 p.m. — Once we're home, we clean up a bit. E. and I are good at doing "extreme cleans" but not so good at day-to-day maintenance so our house is a bit of a disaster. At 2:30, we leave for a dog playdate. I fill up my gas tank on the way home. $48.17
4 p.m. — I'm hungry, so we prepare dinner early. It's the ribs E. was preparing a couple of days ago, plus mashed potatoes and bread. We like to make a hearty meal to end our fast and I can already tell today's is really gonna hit the spot. We finish dinner by 5:30 and start a new show, Grace and Frankie. It's good so far, I think we'll keep watching it.
7 p.m. — Suddenly I notice that something is wrong with Q. He's panting really hard and shaking. He has a history of eating things he shouldn't and we've taken him to the E.R. more times than I care to admit, so I call the pet urgent care. They have us use a thermometer to take his temperature, which comes out normal. She advises us to use ice packs to cool him down in case he's overheated. I have him lay on me while I rotate different frozen vegetables around his body. Eventually, his breathing evens out and he falls asleep peacefully on my lap.
7:30 p.m. — I mix together the chocolate chip cookie mix and make half, sticking the rest of the dough in the freezer. E. and I grab our books and read while Q. cuddles us in bed.
9 p.m. — We drop my car off back at the mechanic so they can fix it in the morning. When we get back, I get ready for bed and enjoy being intimate with E. I fall asleep at 10:30.
Daily Total: $48.17

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — On Mondays, I wake up early because of a weekly morning meeting. Q. is TERRIFIED of garbage trucks, and one drives by while he is mid-pee. He yanks me back inside and I shouldn't laugh but I do.
7:30 a.m. — At work, we have a meeting about a student who has some concerning behavior. I begin teaching at 8:45. Since my kids are overloaded with testing right now, I spend 15 minutes with each grade today just playing. We play hangman and they have a blast.
10:45 a.m. — On campus, E. is online shopping for a new pair of hiking sandals. He's had his Tevas for about five years and they're falling apart. We use Unidays, an app with student discounts, to do a lot of our online shopping. His new Tevas are $48.26 after using a 10% off code. During lunch, I browse H&M online for a bit because my brother's birthday is coming up. I order a cool shirt and it's $12.78 after a 30% discount. $61.04
3:30 p.m. — After a day of teaching, I leave work and go pick up my car from the mechanic. They report that the problem is with the spark plugs. They deny that it was from their work, but did a full tune-up/replacement. It costs $276.76. Sigh. I have to transfer money from my emergency fund because it's too much to fit within my regular monthly budget. $276.76
4 p.m. — E. and I have been together for almost three years and used to get each other little gifts often. It's been a while since I've done something sweet for him so I go to Smith's and grab some discounted flowers and a cake slice from the bakery. I also grab some butter, strawberries, and allergy meds. It comes out to $25.62. Today was a really good day and I use the extra burst of energy to deep clean for an hour. Tonight, we're gonna do our YOYO meal, so I stick our chicken pot pies in the oven for an hour and put on some Netflix while we wait. $25.62
7 p.m. — Dinner is delish. After we eat, we take Q. on a walk. I take a relaxing hot shower and then spend the evening in bed on my phone. Lights out by 10:45.
Daily Total: $363.42

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Wake up, same old, same old. This morning, it's peanut butter toast and milk. Get to work by 8, start the state testing by 9.
12 p.m. — Lunch is leftover mashed potatoes and ribs from the other night. Lunch goes by way too fast! Once school is over, I have to do some academic testing with a student. Then I have a few meetings.
4:30 p.m. — E. and I watch Netflix and then take Q. to the dog park. We have french toast, eggs, bacon, and orange juice for dinner. I'm obsessed with breakfast for dinner. Tonight, I'm exploring a new city, St. Louis, on Zillow. All the houses are so cute and very affordable. The dream! I have an early start tomorrow and I'm already feeling tired, so I start getting ready for bed at 9:30 and it's lights out at 10.
Daily Total: $0
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