A Week In Denver, CO, On A $43,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a therapist working in the foster care system who makes $43,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on zero waste deodorant.
Occupation: Therapist
Industry: Foster Care System
Age: 29
Location: Denver, CO
Salary: $43,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,219
Gender: cis woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $825 (for my share plus pet rent in a two-bedroom apartment with one roommate, utilities included.)
Student Loans: $100 (due to having a lower income last year, I don't have to pay that much each month, I have about $50,000 in total.)
Cell Phone: $0 (family plan and they haven't asked me to pay)
Scooter and Renter's Insurance (bundled): $45.25
Health/Vision/Dental: $48.66 (taken out of paycheck monthly)
Internet: $0 (included in rent)
Savings: ~$500-$900
Retirement: ~$500 (I only recently opened my Roth IRA and my company does not contribute to retirement.)
Netflix: $13.55
Hulu/Spotify Premium: $10.82

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Wake up to my partner, F., climbing over me and telling me to go back to bed but I ignore him and instead snuggle his white cats. He returns shortly from the kitchen with cold brew with oat milk and oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, and almond butter.I don't ~love~ oatmeal but he's the sweetest and I know it will fill me up for a while. I make my own hours at work and I don't have anything on my calendar today so we relax in his bed laughing at the cats before watching an episode of Better Call Saul. I'm just not sure what to think about the show. Parts of it make me uncomfortable and other parts of the show make me wonder how my life would have been if I went down the law school path like I originally intended.
9:30 a.m. — The wind is crazy today and it's not going to get above 20. I rode my scooter over to F.'s last night after a date at the hookah bar (we're both totally sober but miss going out sometimes, so this is our dirty little secret) and I am regretting the scooter decision this morning. I haven't had a car in six years (first I gave it up when I moved to the city and was too poor, now I'm carless by choice) so my transportation options are creative and often decided upon in the last minute. I decide to lock and leave the scooter at F.'s because he lives in a quiet town and I trust it staying there for a day. My scooter was stolen this summer, but I ended up recovering it myself and I take all the precautions now. I decide to take the bus into town instead ($3), which I pay for through the RTD app. The bus and its connection are pretty quiet and I get to finish the latest episode of This American Life while staring out the window. $3
10:30 a.m. — Finally home. My bus ticket is good for another two hours but I just don't have it in me to go into the office today. I used to have a big office all to myself but now I share it with three eager new employees and while their passion for the field is lovely, I often can't get much work done. My job is done 90% in the community (my company provides a fleet of work vehicles) so I have a rare day of zero meetings and decide to take advantage. I have never really worked from home, but today I reach out to one of my bosses and ask if I can work on my monthly reports from home. She says yes so I settle into my sunroom with my ancient laptop and work for several hours, pounding many cups of tea and taking breaks to play with my cat.
1 p.m. — I've gotten all but one report done! And it's not due for another week, so I might just leave it be for now. The last few months of my jobs have been hell so I'm not quite used to having just a day to work on behind-the-scenes stuff without worrying about every other pressing matter. I decide it's time for a break. I get caught up on Love is Blind on Netflix. What an interesting show! My work life is so heavy emotionally so my entertainment choices are often lighthearted like reality dating shows and storytelling podcasts.
2:30 p.m. — I jump in the shower. I'm vegan and on a less-waste mission, which impacts my grooming. I wash my hair with Oneka cedar and sage shampoo and conditioner that I get in bulk at the zero-waste store, wash my bod down with some unscented Dr. Bronner's soap leftover from my most recent tattoo, and wash my face with a charcoal face bar that F.'s family friend makes in the mountains. I moisturize and let my hair air dry. I get out and need a snack, so I pop some popcorn on the stove. I pop it in coconut oil and top it with lemon juice, salt, and nutritional yeast. I drink what might be my first cup of water for the day and laugh at myself. I eat my popcorn and text one of my group chats where we're talking birthday plans.
3:30 p.m. — I'm studying for my licensure exam, scheduled for May, so I make some English Breakfast tea and dive in for the next several hours. In the state of Colorado, you need to work as an unlicensed therapist for a minimum of two years under supervision after getting your Master's before you can apply for your license. I'll be fully licensed in June! $$$!
6 p.m. — I'm stir crazy from being inside all day so I bundle up and walk to the health food store for some items. One of the foster parents I support calls me during my shopping trip so I stay at the store longer listening to her and working through some concerns. We hang up and I pay for my items: kale, lemons, peppers, ginger, garlic, onions, oranges, garbanzo beans, rice noodles, an apple, oat milk, chai concentrate, an aloe oatmeal bar of soap, wet food for my cat, a giant lemon cookie, and some CBD capsules for me. I walk back and eat my cookie — it is very important to always pick a good walking-back-snack. I text with F. and he plans to come over after his nails dry (he's so hot). We're going to make cauliflower wings. I have a lot of food allergies so I cook most of my own meals, which I don't mind a bit. $29.49
8 p.m. — F. comes over and we make the wings. We eat the entire pan while watching Better Call Saul. I fall asleep during the episode and we're in bed by 10.
Daily Total: $32.49

Day Two

8 a.m. — F. and I wake up and spend time in bed playing with my cat and drinking iced chai. I have an orange for breakfast and change into jeans, Chelsea boots, a heather grey turtleneck, and cactus earrings.
9 a.m. — F. brings me to work and I'll just take the bus home this evening. I spend the morning taking calls, putting out fires, and listening to podcasts before my weekly team meeting and therapy sessions.
1:45 p.m. — My meetings and sessions are done. I'm constantly in awe of the families and individuals I get to support in my jobs. I take a little time to reflect and then finally eat my lunch. I have black bean soup, some carrots I found in the break room, tension tamer tea, and a lemon fizzy water. My afternoon meeting got moved to Friday so I get to have an office day today! I'm going to file my paperwork and probably leave around 4.
3:30 p.m. — I did not make it to 4! I buy a bus ticket through the app and walk the half-mile to the bus stop. $3
4:15 p.m. — Make it home. I have the rest of a candy bar I hid in the fridge and play with my cat for a bit. F. says he'll pick me up after work so I don't have to take the bus to his house tonight. We've been together for a year and a half and are making plans to move in together soon, I just need to get over my fears that the cats will hate each other.
6 p.m. — F. picks me up and we stop by the grocery store to pick up gluten-free pita breads, pickles, lettuce, and avocados. We make falafel patties from scratch (I love cooking so much) and make some sandwiches. I paint my nails, take some CBD, and accidentally fall asleep around 8:30. $9.46
Daily Total: $12.46

Day Three

7 a.m. — Wake up and snuggle with F. and his cats for a while and drink cold brew. I grab the leftovers from last night and head home on my scooter. It feels like spring this morning.
9 a.m. — I get home and have some oat milk and cereal with an iced chai. I run around with my cat for a while and jump in the shower. I blowdry my hair today! It is a rare event. I wear a thrifted pink floral J. Crew button-down, skinny jeans, and simple black flats. I make a leftover pita sandwich for lunch and scoot down the road to work.
11 a.m. — I make it into work and get a call that one of the families I do therapy with has to cancel tonight. It is very common for meetings to be canceled and rescheduled during the week. You really learn to just go with whatever the day throws at you and meet clients where they're at emotionally. I've worked in the foster care system for six years and I feel like a zen scheduling pro by this point.
12 p.m. — I'm supposed to be in supervision right now but my boss is stuck in court. I text with my friend and we work on plans to go to Sunday Supper for my 30th birthday in a few weeks. We're all taking a train ride to the Grand Canyon soon too, so we also talk about how stupid excited we are. I eat my sandwich and check in with my supervisor over the phone.
2 p.m. — I speak with the group home provider I work with and she informs me that she's getting a new job, thus closing down her group home in the next few months. This will likely be happening with all group homes and group centers in the next year due to some new legislation in the works so it's not much of a surprise but it still sucks. I finish up my last monthly report and update my clients' files before I head home for the day. I swear I normally work over 50 hours a week plus several on-call shifts but the last few weeks have been less demanding. It feels weird but I'll take it. I definitely ate my lunch at some point but can't remember when.
4 p.m. — I finally scoot home for the day. I decide to relax for a bit and then go on a two-mile run through my neighborhood. I listen to The Girl He Used to Know on the Libby app.
6 p.m. — I feel something weird in my mouth after flossing so I start researching for dentists that take my new dental plan. I find a dentist next to my job that takes my plan so I'll stop in the office tomorrow to see what's up. F. texts and says he's going to bring some food over!
8 p.m. — F. brings over Indian food and we chat with my roommate for a bit. We talk about our days and watch some Netflix. I, naturally, fall asleep around 9:30 during the show.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and snuggle with F. for a bit. I have a long day ahead so I mentally prepare by dancing a little (a lot) and playing with my cat. I'm helping one of the girls at a foster home I case manage move into her own apartment today so I dress down — American Eagle mom jeans, a simple black ¾ sleeve shirt, and black slip-on Vans which are only slightly gross from skateboarding. I grab a frozen burrito I prepped a few weeks ago and I scoot into work.
8 a.m. — I do a few annoying tasks at my office and then load up my work car with a bunch of suitcases that got donated to our organization. PSA — if you ever have a suitcase you want to get rid of, donate it to your local foster care program! Most of these kids end up moving their belongings in trash bags and that is NOT OKAY. Then I run to our company's food bank to grab some food for my group home since it's the end of the month and their finances get a little tight. I head to my group home and have our weekly home visit where we check in on all of the girls and I make sure the home is meeting state regulations. I eat my burrito one-handed on the drive over to the group home.
10:30 a.m. — We finish our home visit a little early and I don't have anywhere to be until 12 so I stop by a thrift store to poke around. I'm not buying any new clothing or accessories this year but thrifting and buying things that are handmade are on my “approved” list. I find a packet of mystery greeting cards and a fun pair of earrings for $2.19. I round up to donate to individuals with disabilities because, if you couldn't tell, I am a bleeding heart ($3). The mystery packet of cards ends up being a goldmine, there are florals, ducks, birds, and thank you cards. I am a big card writer and I have been penpals with my Mammaw for over 20 years so I pick out the one I'm going to send her next and start writing in the parking lot. $3
12 p.m. — I cut across town and stop at the grocery store to get a snack before the move begins. I get an orange yerba mate, a peanut butter chocolate chip Lara Bar, and some tangerine lemongrass seltzers for my office. $7.33
3:30 p.m. — With the help of five professionals, we finally got the girl moved into her new apartment (I cried happy tears) and I'm back at my office getting ready to leave for the day, just waiting on a few more people to get back to me so I can turn my work phone off this weekend — I'm finally not on-call!
4 p.m. — Home for the day. Completely forgot to holler at the dentist and I have now confirmed that one of my fillings fell out so I spend an hour researching the best dentist that is open on a Saturday. I'm feeling a little down emotionally and physically today so I make a salad but don't finish it because I'm worried about my tooth. I relax, write some letters, clean up for a while, and take a long shower. I text with some friends and decline any offers to go out tonight — it's my one year and nine months celebration of sobriety today and while I love going out to dance and get weird, tonight I'm just annoyed that alcohol exists.
9:30 p.m. — I'm pretty sleepy but F. picks me up and we head to the store before going to his house. We obviously need snacks and my tooth feels fine so I get us some chips, guacamole, and carrots. We snuggle up with our snacks and watch some TV. In bed by 10:30! $8.17
Daily Total: $18.50

Day Five

7 a.m. — It's a new day! I love the morning. F. and I hang out in bed with his cats and coffee for a bit. The dentist I contacted yesterday calls to let me know they couldn't reach my insurance because the office is closed on the weekends so I scheduled my appointment for Monday at 1:30. F. is heading into the city so I get a ride with him. We get kombucha on the way in, he pays.
11 a.m. — It's nice out but mostly I just want to study. I have some chips and guac from last night and finish my booch. I tackle my study materials and review my flashcards for a few hours from the comfort of my bed. I used to study in coffee shops but doing that for four years straight in grad school kind of bummed me out and really became too costly.
4:30 p.m. — I studied for quite a bit! I get bored eventually and decide to grab my empty containers, pump up my bike tires, and head to the Zero Market. At the market, I got a large refill of dish soap, some new deodorant I'm hoping will work out ($8, refills will be $4 if I end up liking it), and 750 milligrams of the best super-concentrated CBD in town (as a treat), all of which will last me quite a while. The bike ride is around 15 miles roundtrip and I listen to my book the entire way. It is so lovely and I am endlessly thankful for my simple life after so many years of struggles. $48.55
5:30 p.m. — I finally make myself some food, which consists of brown rice noodles with all the veggies and coconut aminos. I'm still a little hungry after doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen from the week so I have an orange and space out to some Netflix. I decide a footbath is in order so I fill up my biggest soup pot with some hot water, Epsom salts, and tea tree oil and set up a spot in the sunroom with the kitty. I put the orange peel on the stove to simmer in some water with a few lavender petals to get the apartment smelling right and totally bliss out. It has been such a dreamy day.
8:30 p.m. — I text with my friend to plan our weekly Sunday coffee date and F. tells me he's on his way over! We do some yoga and abs using my skateboard (lol) and watch TV. I fall asleep around 10.
Daily Total: $48.55

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — F. and I wake up slowly and I decide to take him out for a fancy latte to celebrate the start of his dream job tomorrow. We head to a local coffee shop and get oat milk lattes with pine sugar and smoky maple syrup (much better than it sounds). We have our drinks there and discuss our birthday plans. He drops me off at home and he heads home to get ready for his courier shift. $10.22
9 a.m. — I am zooming from the caffeine. I make a batch of chickpea flour tofu for the week and soak some dry pinto beans. Next, I whip together a new batch of stove cleaner using baking soda, Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, hot water, and essential oils. I scrub down my stove and pour the rest of the batch into an old spray bottle I found. I am an extremely wholesome, modern girl who has always preferred to make her own shit and refuses to believe that harsh chemicals are safe in my home or on my body. I finish the book I'm listening to while finishing up in the kitchen- my heart!
12 p.m. — I've just been watching TV in bed and reading about making sauerkraut so I decide to meet my friend, T., out for coffee before it starts snowing. We walk to a coffee shop in our neighborhood and I order a drip coffee. They ran out of drip coffee so they end up giving me an Americano instead. T. and I spend two hours talking about our complicated families and I then remember that I haven't eaten today so we walk back together and I eat some chips while chopping up veggies. I make a version of the same meal I made yesterday of rice noodles and veggies and add a few cubes of the chickpea flour tofu I made earlier. I borrow the book The Lost Night through the Libby app. $3.22
3 p.m. — I find a recipe for homemade mouthwash so I make a batch of that and listen to my book. I hop in the shower and dress in a big cozy turtleneck.
5:30 p.m. — The beans I soaked earlier are ready to be cooked. I start those on the stove and scoot to the store to get a few ingredients I don't have for a chili I want to make. I get jalapeños, a red pepper, onions, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste for the chili. For the week I pick up bananas, lemons, a green pepper, broccoli, and carrots. I head home and wait for the beans to finish cooking while I prep the veggies for the chili. I have a banana and a large glass of room temperature water with lemon. $8.69
7:15 p.m. — Chili is done and I have a bowl while watching Netflix and hanging with the kitty. I invite T. over to hang because they're feeling pretty blue lately but the snow scares them away.
9 p.m. — F. picks me up and we head to his house. I bring him some chili and we talk about our days and are in bed by 10ish.
Daily Total: $22.13

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — We're up and out of the door early with cold brew so F. can go to his orientation. I get home, cozy up with the cat, and have a banana as I wake up a little bit more.
9:30 a.m. — I scoot into work and freeze just a little bit. I get caught up on emails and tasks before a team meeting. I am SO nervous for the dentist today so I try to calm my nerves by chatting with coworkers and watering my work plants. I scoot out to pay my rent at the leasing office before hitting the back streets to the office.
2:45 p.m. — Made it home from the dentist. Okay so they're the best ever and I am easily won over. BUT I did learn (the hard way) that my dental discount plan through work is basically a sham. This tooth fix was only discounted $2, lol. So I signed up for their insurance plan which includes cleanings and comprehensive exams and x-rays and all that and is only $15 more than my tooth fix alone. I'm annoyed. But I do need to get on top of my dental health so here's a way to do it. ($295 includes new insurance plan for a year, a cavity fix, x-rays, and old filling replaced). I put it on my credit card and I'll pay this off on Wednesday when I get paid. I guess this is my 30th birthday gift to myself. I have a comprehensive exam scheduled for Saturday because we are using this insurance, babe. $295
4:30 p.m. — I'm so hungry. I sometimes forget to eat. It's a long story. My mouth is still all numb but I feel like a banana, some chickpea tofu, and a few bites of chili will work for now. I hop in the shower and then start looking at jobs. I'm reluctant to leave my company until I'm licensed but my spidey senses are telling me it's almost time to go. I text with T. and we start planning a trip to Niagara Falls at the end of May after I take my exam. I always try to cushion big events with fun activities and I'm super pumped that this is probably going to work out.
7:30 p.m. — E. comes over with french fries and peach fizzy water to save me from my misery. I hear all about his day at the new job and I remain dramatic about the tooth fix. We fall asleep around 9!
Daily Total: $295
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