A Week In Fort Collins, CO, On A $80,000 Salary

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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 User Experience Researcher who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on bourbon.
Occupation: User Experience Researcher
Industry: Research and Development
Age: 22
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Salary: $80,000 +annual bonus (~$3,000-5,000)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,112.58 (post-tax, 401K, health insurance. Colorado tax is wild y'all, I had no idea.)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,444 (I live by myself and this includes my parking spot. This may seem like a lot but I love my cute apartment in its cute area.)
Student Loans: $248
Car Loan: $250
Utilities (Water/Electric/Heat/AC/Trash/Sewer): ~$150 (Depends on the season. Honestly in Colorado, it depends on the day.)
Wi-Fi: $42.99
HBO: $14.99 (I didn't used to be a GOT fan, but now I can't get enough. The price of my vice, I suppose.)
Spotify: $0 (A birthday gift that keeps on giving)
Netflix & Disney+: $0 (thanks Mom and Dad!)
Phone: $48
Health, Dental, & Vision Insurance: $47.66 (My work covers a significant amount of insurance costs. Already taken out of above paycheck amount.)
401K: $153.85 (5%, 4% is matched by my company. Already taken out of above paycheck amount.)
Savings: ~$1,000/month (I've been trying to aggressively build my savings back up as I used a significant amount to move and get settled before starting this new position)
Annual Expenses:
Renter's Insurance: $250
Amazon Prime: $100
Car Insurance: ~$500 (I got into an accident a few months ago and it was my fault so I expect this to go up some)
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Day One

5:50 a.m. — Ahhhh. Why?! The Monday after Thanksgiving vacation is always the worst. I roll out of bed immediately because if I don't, I'll fall right back to sleep and be late for work. I do a quick 10-minute workout before I am awake enough for my body to protest. I really like this app I've been using. They make it easy to sneak in some dynamic exercises throughout the day instead of my usual run.
6:30 a.m. — By now I'm dressed, lunch is packed, and I'm headed out the door. My morning routine is a bit all over the place. Sometimes I just brush my hair and teeth and get out the door. Other mornings, I like to actually do my hair and put on some makeup. However, it's a Monday and I do not feel like doctoring up my appearance any more than I have to.
7 a.m. — I am the first one in the office today. My work is very flexible with hours so I like to come in early, one, because it's quiet and my most productive time, and two, I love leaving at 3:30. Since this is the first day back after a holiday, there's not much to work to do and my calendar is completely blank. Ugh, this is going to make the day go by so slowly.
10:15 a.m. — Yep. It's only been a couple of hours and I'm already bored. I skim Refinery29 and get the idea to write my own Money Diary (heheh). I take a walk to make myself some tea. Someone, somewhere, give me an activity, please!! Usually, I feel guilty on days like this because I always think everyone is working hard and I am not being a productive member of the team. However, I get the feeling that everyone on my team is in the same boring boat.
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12 p.m. — Need. Lunch. NOW. I packed my lunch today (chicken, veggies, rice, yogurt). I start to eat at my desk when one of my co-workers suggests a board game. We all jump in, desperate for something to do. I really like my team here. I started this position about two months ago and while I am still getting the hang of the work, I think I really gel with my team members. We all have such dry senses of humor and competitive spirits, so lunch board games are always intense and fun.
2 p.m. — Today is still dragging on. I wish I was busy because then I wouldn't be looking at the Cyber Monday deals. I don't neeeeed anything but I have been trying to decorate my new apartment and I've had my eye on these throw pillows for awhile. However, I already spent money on a bar cart on Black Friday and I'm conflicted. I text my sister to see what she thinks (she's an enabler). I find a $25 gift card in my wallet so I bite the bullet and order them. I have no impulse control $52.16
3:30 p.m. — Freedddoommmmm! I go to the grocery store to get food for the next two weeks because after the holiday, I have nothing! I also have a friend (companion? boyfriend, lover? It's complicated), C., visiting me this weekend, and he loves to cook so I asked him what ingredients I could pick up. I am not much of a cook myself but I'm trying to get better! I do grocery pick up because they just bring it to your car and I don't have to deal with a busy store. It's so easy and I have no idea why people don't do it all the time. I get chicken, rice, frozen veggies, bananas, oranges, limes, pasta, eggs, bacon, red potatoes, yogurt, and a few miscellaneous things that jumped into my cart because I was hungry. $81.21
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4:45 p.m. — Got all my groceries put away and now it's time to hit the gym. I signed up for another Disney half marathon and I have been slacking on my training. It's coming up in January and I really need to up my training if I don't want to feel like death after the race. Now that I live in an apartment with a gym, I have no excuse not to go downstairs and use it. Six miles later, I am pooped.
6:30 p.m. — Looks like my bar cart got delivered while I was at the gym! I put it together with minimal swearing and I am very happy with how it looks. Now, I just need things to fill it up with. I don't feel like throwing anything together for dinner so I pull some pot roast out of the freezer. I have started making large meals for the week and then freezing two or three portions so that on days like today, I still have options without putting in the effort.
9:15 p.m. — After eating (yes, I did sit around in my sweaty clothes after my run, commenters. I know who I am.) and watching too much Disney+ (I'm looking at you, Kim Possible), I start getting ready for bed. I shower and brush my teeth. I try to shampoo my hair every other day, but sometimes it's just too sweaty. Today is one of those days. I do my skincare routine (cleanser, toner, mask, specialty creams, and moisturize). I am very much a newbie in the skincare game and I'm not sure it's really doing anything for me, but it's nice to spend 10 minutes at the end of my day pampering myself a little.
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10 p.m. — That 5:50 a.m. alarm comes early, lights out!
Daily Total: $133.37

Day Two

5:50 a.m. — Turns out, waking up this early on a Tuesday is no better than doing it on a Monday. Quick 10-minute ab routine, get dressed, pack lunch, out the door! I always pick out my outfits the night before because it saves me so much time in the mornings.
7 a.m. — I am not the first one in the office today. My design partner beat me here. He's been really great to work with and I'm working on trying to convert him into my new work husband. We spend a little time chatting because we have no self-control and both of our days are looking slow again. Dang it. I'm staying longer these next three days because I am taking Friday afternoon off to be with C. so I was hoping this week would be busy. Maybe a project will come up soon.
7:30 a.m. — A project did come up, yay! It involves me sitting in four-hour meetings once a day for the next two weeks, but hey, I'll take it! Before the holidays is such a slow time that I'm glad to have something filling part of my days, even if it is a little tedious.
12 p.m. — Holy guacamole that meeting was long. But at least its lunchtime! I eat the same chicken, rice, and veggies that I prepped for the week plus a ton of raw fruit and vegetables for snacking. I love when I have groceries. I browse flights to Orlando to see if there's something reasonable. There are, but at terrible times so I'll wait another week and see.
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3:30 p.m. — I wish I was heading home now but I know I'll be grateful on Friday when I can leave early and not have to use vacation time. As a new person, I don't have a lot of vacation, which is problematic with the holidays. Luckily, I work in a pretty understanding office and can flex time or WFH when I need to. I text my new friend, H., for a bit. He and I met bouldering and we hang pretty often now. We spend an hour dissecting his love life (a favorite pastime of mine).
5 p.m. — Time to go! While I was by myself for the last 45 minutes, I was making my alcohol list (I am usually a productive employee, I swear. It's just a slow week!). I go to the liquor store for things to fill up my bar cart. A couple bottles of wine for the dinner C. is cooking this weekend, plus the makings for a delicious Manhattan recipe and things to make spritz (these will go well with the breakfast I plan to make a hungover C. and I on Saturday morning. A little hair of the dog to revive ourselves). It's a lot of alcohol, but whatever C. and I don't drink this weekend will last me for months. I don't drink during the weekdays unless it's a special occasion/holiday. I am also a lightweight living at altitude so one bourbon on the rocks is plenty for my tolerance. $152.76
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6:30 p.m. — Time to go to the gym. Remind me why I signed up for a half marathon again? I only run four miles because the growling in my stomach is getting ridiculous and the girl on the machine next to me is giving me weird looks. Nothing sounds good for dinner, and I contemplate ordering tacos because Grubhub sent me a free delivery coupon, but then I glance over at my VERY full bar cart and restrain myself. I pull out a frozen chili and it satisfies me enough, I guess.
9:30 p.m. — Shower, skincare, teeth brushed, and in bed. I'm such an old woman but when the sun sets at 4:30 p.m., it's hard not to become a hermit.
Daily Total: $152.76

Day Three

5:50 a.m. — You know the drill. Complain about waking up, quick butt and thigh routine, dressed, lunch, out the door!
10:15 a.m. — A guy I met at the airport last week, L., texts to see if I want to climb tonight. We struck up a conversation at the airport bar and turns out he works at the same company I do and lives not far from me. So we exchanged numbers on his offer to climb/show me some of the cooler spots around the area. Moving to a new place always has its challenges and making friends is not as easy as it used to be, so I'm always on the hunt! I text back, yes, of course! However, I hope he doesn't think it's a date. I had that concern when we exchanged numbers and have been actively trying not to put out flirty vibes (my high school superlative was “Biggest Flirt,” which I don't see as a liability but it's not always an asset either). He's been playing it cool too so hopefully, it's chill. C. and I are exclusive (for emotional and sexual health reasons), but I also wouldn't call him my boyfriend, it's complicated. I'm 22, it's fine.
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3 p.m. — Things really picked up today so it's werk werk werk.
5:15 p.m. — Time to go meet L. at the climbing gym! I haven't checked out this gym before so I'm excited to see what it's all about. One of my co-workers climbs here and loves it so I'm hoping it lives up to the hype! I have to pay to get in but L. offers to use one of his guest passes since he is a member. I think about declining, thinking that it implies this is a date, but I would offer the same to a friend. Plus, if we get beers after, I'll buy.
6:45 p.m. — The climbing is good! I don't top rope as often as I'd like, so I'm glad we did today. The conversation flow was easy and he seems like a cool dude. I casually bring up C. when L. asks if I have weekend plans. It's not awkward so I'm hoping L. becomes a friend. We decide against after-climb beers but he promises to show me a fun place next time. We say goodbye and I feel good about us hanging again. Hopefully, he wasn't just saying “next time” to be polite. Ugh. I'm overthinking this (welcome to my life). I stop for gas on the way home $32.34
7:30 p.m. — Once home, I don't feel very hungry so I shower off the chalk, do my nighttime routine, and climb into bed. I surf YouTube for awhile to make me laugh before deciding to turn out the lights early, I'll be thankful tomorrow morning.
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Daily Total: $32.34

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — I am awake early because I'm too excited about tonight and this weekend. I do quick abs and then pick out a cute outfit, do my hair and makeup for the first time this week (concealer, powder, eyeliner, mascara, highlighter, nude lip). I feel extra sparkly, in make-up and in personality, today. I cannot wait to see C. tonight!
7 a.m. — Get into the office, make some tea, sift through emails, sit through some meetings, weeeeee.
12 p.m. — Same ol' lunch of chicken veggies and rice.
3:30 p.m. — I am just watching the clock tick by until I can go home. I look at my phone and see that C. texted. Uh oh. Usually that's not a good sign because it means that he couldn't get on his flight. BUT actually, he texted saying he got an earlier flight and is on his way to me now! Yay Yay Yay! I am very excited I get some extra time with him because we don't usually see each other for very long and usually I have to work while he's here. But this weekend is just about us.
4:45 p.m. — I can't wait any longer and head out. I was not being very productive and everyone had gone home at 4. I see C. getting dropped off right as I pull up. I jump into his arms immediately and it feels like home again.
6 p.m. — We are starving but aren't in the mood to get dressed and go out. I remember I have a coupon for free delivery from Postmates. C. makes cocktails while we decide what we want. We order Mexican food (our favorite). Three tacos and some rice, annihilated. I am very full and very happy. C. and I watch Disney+ while we catch up. We sort of dance around the topic of “future” because we don't really know where we are going, but we do enjoy the ride. $34.58
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11:30 p.m. — This is waaayyy past my bedtime, but I hate wasting time sleeping when C. is here. Anyone can survive a half Friday, right? Quick shower and time for sleep.
Daily Total: $34.58

Day Five

5:50 a.m. — Eff this is early. C. is so snuggly and warm next to me and I don't want to leave. I rationalize that I don't have to pack a lunch this morning so I can stay under the covers for a few more minutes to cuddle.
7 a.m. — Make it into the office on time for my first meeting and don't realize I have a headache until about 15 minutes in. Ughhhh, should have drank more water last night (shouldn't have drank tequila on a Thursday in the first place lol). By some miracle, we end early and our boss orders breakfast burritos. Hallelujah! I scarf down an extra spicy burrito and feel revived to tackle the rest of these meetings.
10:15 a.m. — Still in meetings, all morning. Makes the day go by fast but it can get dull. I like the saying, “a meeting without snacks should have been an email.”
12 p.m. — Time to go home! The sun has come out and it's actually going to be fairly nice today (for Colorado in December anyway). I love coming home to C., it makes it feel like we are a normal couple who lead normal lives (even though we def don't). We walk around my cute little town playing PokemonGo for awhile. I'm jealous that he's a level 31 and I'm only level 30. He just started playing a few months ago while I have been playing since its first release. I lament that he doesn't understand the struggle that was Gen 1. We hit a couple of raids and take out three gyms before we decide we need some food. We stop in a popular pub and order apps and drinks. We get perogies and Irish nachos. I order a Manhattan and he gets a beer. He wants to try all the local drafts, but it's a Friday and I can't be swayed from bourbon. C. pays.
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3:30 p.m. — After a short, slightly tipsy, walk home and some *insert your preferred euphemism here*, I decide I want to take a little nap so C. and I put on Thor: Ragnarok and I am out in the first ten minutes. I have found I'm a terribly co-dependent sleeper, so falling asleep with C. is so much easier.
6:45 p.m. — We decide it's time for another drink and dinner. I told C. I would cook him dinner Friday night. He always cooks when he visits because he likes it, he's good at it, and he doesn't get the opportunity to cook often. However, I have been working on my skills and carbonara is not difficult with a really great end result. I put poached eggs on top just to show off a little. C. plays DJ/bartender (my usual job while he cooks). We make and drink far too many Manhattans that eventually morph into bourbon on the rocks (water is remembered). My pasta is perfect and C. is impressed because the thing I'm usually known for in the kitchen is somehow managing to injure myself. We watch Marvel while we drunk chat. Nights like these are some of my favorites.
11 p.m. — I'm not entirely sure what movie is playing when I feel C. scoop me up and tuck me in bed. I fall asleep drunk and happy.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7 a.m. — I wake up to C. playing on his phone. His body is on East Coast time and I don't sleep in much anymore. We decide to get up and make breakfast. C. makes my favorite: red potatoes and scrambled eggs with hot sauce and avocado. I make some orange rolls to go with. We also decide, since it's the weekend, to make spritzes. We eat on the floor in front of the TV and watch cartoons in classic Saturday morning fashion. Everything is delicious.
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8:30 a.m. — Since we were up so early, we decide to go for a walk around the lake. And by we, I mean C., because I try to protest saying it's far too cold out and we should wait until the afternoon. However, he is adamant, so we bundle up and walk around the lake. We also play PokemonGo and talk about tonight. After one lap around (it's a big lake), our hands are frozen and our noses red. C. looks up a Starbucks nearby and pops into a gas station for a newspaper. I order a fluffy Christmas drink because 'tis the season and C. gets cold brew (8.67 on a prepaid Starbucks card). We sit and do the crossword. On our own, we aren't very good, but together we get all of the clues!
12:30 p.m. — After coming home and warming up, we sit on the couch and just each other's company. I have a surprise planned for us — a couples massage! We agreed we weren't going to do Christmas presents (C.'s budget is pretty tight and I am happy to just spend a weekend with him), but I saw a good Groupon for it and went for it ($125, paid for a few weeks ago). It's not really a present since I get to enjoy it too (C. thinks this is a silly rationalization, but I personally think it's perfectly reasonable). It's a lovely hour. Both of our masseuses tell us that we had terrible knots (lol, I've moved three times in the last year and am in a semi-stressful relationship, bite me) and should do this more regularly for our health. Now that I make a little more money, I might consider it.
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7 p.m. — Alright, it's time to start getting ready to go out. We both take drinks into the shower and do a couple of body shots just for the hell of it. We pick out cute outfits and do our hair. I let C. consult on my lipstick color and he picks a dark basically black brown. I usually sport a signature red but once the lipstick is on, I agree he made a good choice. We walk to the restaurant for dinner. It's a new place and has a cute patio that will be perfect for the summer. We aren't starving so we order an app and a burger to share along with a couple of drinks. While a little pricey, the food is great and the cocktails are strong. I will definitely be coming back. Our waitress is lovely so I leave her a nice tip as well. $65.90
9 p.m. — I pick our next bar. We each have a drink and C. pays. The mood is pretty subdued, but the drink is good. We watch Oklahoma beat Baylor and don't know if we are happy about this. C. loves college football and I don't mind watching it with him but he doesn't support either of these teams so I don't fully understand why they matter.
9:45 p.m. — I had another bar picked out for us but we hear music playing and decide to follow it. It leads us into a very divey bar reminding me of our college days. The band isn't bad though so we stay. I get a vodka soda and C. a jack and coke. C. pays again. My drink is nearly entirely vodka so I try to give the bar a chance. We decide to play a round of pool. I have change so I pay ($1) I am not very good and C. is very good. He wins. $1
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10:30 p.m. — We head to the bar I originally intended to take us to. It's brand new and I read a good article about it. But when we walk in, it's dead. Not a good sign. The drinks are just okay and the vibe is boring. I pay in cash so we can leave. $22
11:15 p.m. — We walk into another divey bar, but its vibe doesn't feel so intimidating as the previous dive bar. Our bartender is super nice and I am the one who introduces myself first. The three of us chat and joke around while finishing our drinks. Another strong vodka soda for me. By the end of my drink, I am exhausted and ready to walk the half-block home. C. pays.
12:45 a.m. — We are a little too drunk to go to bed and C. and I end up bickering about something that doesn't even matter. But by the end, we are kissing, so it's fine. You know those bickering matches you start drunk and five minutes later you can't even remember what you're bickering about so you just decide to make up? Yeah, that's us. The world has stopped spinning enough to lay down so we cuddle up and pass out.
Daily Total: 88.90

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up feeling pretty fine, but C. 's head is killing him. We roll over for more sleep.
9:30 a.m. — C. gets up to get some water and a little hair of the dog. I am so beyond water at this point that the taste is making me nauseous. I need McDonald's orange juice, so we get up and head to the nearest McDonald's. At this point, we both need food. C. gets nugs and I get a McChicken with fries and an orange juice (my hungover self will not rationalize her choices to you, if this is what she needs to not die, it's what I'm giving her). We pull into the grocery store parking lot and chow down, no talking (y'all have been there). I pay. $16.17
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11 a.m. — After food, we feel revived enough to go into the store. We will make burgers for dinner tonight, plus some makings for salsa. I grab a few other things I need for the apartment and check out. C. and I split the groceries. $12.16
12:30 p.m. — After putting away the groceries, C. and I just veg on the couch. We watch YouTube videos, nap, and just love on each other. I ask C. if this is what normal couples do and he just laughs and says probably.
6:30 p.m. — Dinnerrrrr. C. makes the burgers and salsa while I just sit on the counter to watch and play music. The burgers are very good and the salsa is nice and spicy. We watch the Kim Possible movie (I am trying to watch every episode of Kim Possible ever made). After, C. suggests we take a bath. I have a big bathtub in this place and some leftover bath bombs. We enjoy soaking for awhile.
10:30 p.m. — We curl up in bed and watch a new YouTube video by a creator we like. We talk and laugh until we realize it's getting pretty late and I have work in the morning. I cuddle up to space heater C. and am out in seconds.
Daily Total: $28.33
Ever had a vacation rental experience from hell? If you stayed in a home only to discover it was infested with bed bugs, had to deal with a horrible Airbnb host, or something else entirely awful, please share your stories here, and they could end up in our upcoming story.
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