A Week In Cape Town, South Africa, On A $23,150 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 digital account manager working in advertising who makes $23,150 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on Diet Coke. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Digital Account Manager
Industry: Advertising
Age: 29
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Salary: $23,150
Paycheck (1x/month): $1,611, after compulsory tax and unemployment fund deductions
Freelance Work: ~$400/month
Flatmate's Rent: $400/month
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $200. (I am extremely fortunate to own a small apartment, which is pretty unusual in this city, where property prices are sky high. I paid for it in full a few years ago using money I inherited. My only housing expenses now are the levies I pay for the building and my parking spot. I also have a flatmate, who pays me $400 in rent every month. This covers most of my home-related expenses.)
Credit Card Loan: $167
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Student Loan: $0. (I inherited money from a relative, which was designated for travel and study.)
Utilities: ~$83
Internet: $43
Health Insurance: $159 for my private medical aid and gap cover. (Our public healthcare system is almost always overwhelmed, and it's normal to have private medical aid if you can afford it.)
Gym Membership: $135 for two memberships. (One membership is through my medical aid and works on a points system. If I achieve all my fitness goals in a month, I am refunded the full amount.)
Cell Phone: $33
Retirement Fund: $210, directly deposited each month.
Additional Expenses
House Cleaning: $19/week

Day One

8 a.m. — Today is Thursday and a payday – the end of a very long month. We get paid early over the holiday season, so although I did a pretty good job of managing my budget, the sight of my new bank balance brings some relief. I start off the morning with an almond milk cappuccino from the deli near my work. I pay extra for almond milk since I'm trying to cut back on the amount of dairy I consume. $2.77
1 p.m. — Some of my monthly expenses are scheduled automatically, but there are a few I prefer to pay manually every month. I use my lunch break (leftovers from home) to pay my municipal bill and also my cleaning lady. I pay her a weekly fee of $19 and she comes for three hours on Wednesday mornings. I usually pay for the whole month in one go. January had five Wednesdays, but she borrowed money from me, so I deduct that and pay her the balance.
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7 p.m. — My boss hosts a mini-workshop at the end of our workday and chats with us about ways to achieve the best results for our agency and clients. Afterward, we get dinner and drinks at a nearby brewery. I haven't felt very well this week, so I sip on Diet Coke and eat a few snacks from the platters on the table; the company picks up the bill. I head home at about 9 p.m. and prepare my lunch for work tomorrow. I've been doing this for a few weeks, as I'm trying to take control of my eating habits – plus, the ease on my weekly spending is a definite bonus!
Daily Total: $2.77

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — Buy a coffee ($1.50) from the office coffee shop on my way to my desk. Since I've given up my daily lunch order, I'm letting myself have this vice. While I wait for the barista to make my order, I use the banking app on my phone to pay a friend who has organized an Airbnb for our weekend away next month ($60). I have a few weekends away planned over the next two months and am trying to spread the costs as evenly as possible. $61.50
2 p.m. — My colleague treats me to another cappuccino after lunch to celebrate the end of a busy week at work. We work for an acclaimed advertising agency that has a lot of perks, but the industry can be very stressful. There are big budgets and tight deadlines, and our clients have high expectations.
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7 p.m. — In my spare time, I volunteer as an emergency responder for a national rescue organization. Our monthly meeting is tonight and I don't have time to go home first. I'm starving but don't want to splurge on fast food, so I pick up a coconut water and a raw cacao muesli snack from a health food store to keep me going for the evening ($6). I also pop into the pharmacy to pick up corn plasters for my feet – a lesson in wearing ill-fitting shoes ($3.77). It's a Friday night, and I wish I were out partying, but after a week of illness and an early morning tomorrow, I take myself home to bed and a movie. $9.77
Daily Total: $71.27

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — It's an early Saturday morning for me, my colleagues at the rescue center, and about 30 potential new recruits who are meeting us on the beach for their fitness tests. I've woken up with a raging headache, so my friend buys me a cup of coffee ($1.50) to perk me up.
11:30 a.m. — I leave the beach mid-morning to meet a friend I haven't seen in months. She's invited me to join her at a pottery painting studio, but my head is still pounding and I'm not feeling inspired. I order food and eat a toasted sandwich with fries with a sparkling mineral water while she paints. Eventually, she sends me home — I'm not great company today! $4.60
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1:30 p.m. — On my way home to sleep away the afternoon when I get a text reminding me that I have work due to my freelance client. I'd totally forgotten about it, and I'm miserable that I have to do it this afternoon when I'm feeling so rough. So, in typical style, I stop at a garage shop on the way home and buy a stupid amount of sweets and chocolate to comfort myself while I work. Screw the diet. $12
7 p.m. — Done for the day! I worked all afternoon and I'm still feeling ill, but a good friend of mine is about to fly home to New Zealand and this is my last chance to see her and her kids for at least a year. I pop a few painkillers and drag myself to a local kid-friendly steakhouse. We order sirloins with baked potatoes, crispy onions and Diet Cokes while we chat. It's a sad goodbye, but I won't lie – my bed tonight is a very welcome sight. $15.50
Daily Total: $32.10

Day Four

9 a.m. — Sunday: The best day of the week! I wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. I go for a long walk along the coast with a friend, followed by breakfast at one of our usual spots. We do this most weekends and it's my favorite way to spend the morning. I order an unsweetened iced latte and a slice of banana bread with honey. We're heading down to the beach, so I order a cold juice to go; it's hot outside! $9
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3 p.m. — I spend the rest of the morning on the beach, and it's a perfect day. After a few miserable days, I am in my element now, spending hours swimming in the tidal pools. My family is coming over for dinner tonight, so eventually, I drag myself up and go to the grocery store on my way home (parking costs $1). I shop for the week's groceries as well as ingredients I need for the dinner party, so my bill comes in quite a lot higher than normal. Even though I'm saving a lot of money by not ordering lunch during the week, my weekly grocery bill has definitely gone up lately. I buy chicken, lettuce, cucumber, baby tomatoes, sesame seeds, cheese, butter, hummus, Diet Coke, fish cakes, grapes, and plums for the week. For the dinner I'm cooking, I buy meatballs, pasta, fresh basil, my favorite pasta sauce, and zucchini noodles for my mother, who doesn't eat pasta ($70.47). My aunt is bringing dessert, and I plan to make a salad using what I have in the fridge. $71.47
Daily Total: $80.47

Day Five

8:20 a.m.— It's Monday morning, and I get my regular coffee order from the office coffee shop. I find myself staring at the fresh muffins that have just come out the oven, but I resist and eat some leftover fruit salad from last night's family dinner. $1.50
3:30 p.m. — My checkup with the dentist last month revealed two cavities emerging, so I'm back in the chair today to have those filled. Even though I pay for private medical aid every month, my plan only covers hospital visits, so I have to pay out of pocket for this. This amount throws my whole budget off, so I decide to pay for it out my savings account. I usually transfer my freelance income straight into this account and keep it for rainy days. This is definitely one of those days. $18
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3:45 p.m. — My dentist's office is above a grocery shop and I pop in there on the way to my car to buy milk, which I forgot to add to my cart yesterday. It's not my usual grocery store, and when I see that they have five-liter bottles of water in stock, I grab two. Our city is in the midst of a serious drought, and we're faced with the very real threat of our taps being switched off in a few months. People have been panic-buying water, and finding five-liter bottles in stock is akin to winning the lottery. On my way out, I pay $1 for parking. $6.50
4:30 p.m. — My mouth is numb on both sides and pretty sore. I pull into the McDonald's drive-through on my way home and treat myself to a small strawberry milkshake for dinner. I drink it while taking a gentle walk along the seawall. $1.43
Daily Total: $27.43

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I'm at work early today and the office coffee shop isn't open yet. I order an almond milk cappuccino from the deli up the road and cringe at the extra cost of almond milk. $3
7 p.m. — I haven't needed to pull out my debit card all day! I finish up my first gym session after two weeks of being sick and then go to a friend's house for dinner. I stop at a store on my way and pick up a bottle of Diet Coke. (I drink a lot of Diet Coke.) $2.10
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11 p.m. — My friend and I spent the evening gossiping about our work colleagues and planning our outfits for our company's 20th-anniversary party, a fancy event we're going to next week. In a moment of panic, I order a designer dress online. I have a wedding later this year, so hopefully I can wear it again! $91.85
Daily Total: $96.95

Day Seven

5 a.m. — I rise early for emergency responder gig. I quickly change into my work clothes at our base and stop at a garage shop on the way to the office to get coffee and a croissant. I am ravenous. $3.48
1 p.m. — When I left the house in a rush this morning, I forgot my lunch box in the fridge. I visit our office coffee shop for lunch and fill a bowl from the salad bar with lettuce, roasted zucchini, button mushrooms, roasted peppers, mozzarella crumbs, and grilled chicken. $2.90
7:30 p.m. — My best friend is back in town after being away for almost two months. I've managed to catch her for a drink and a chat in between her trips, but this is the first time in a while that we've had the time for a proper catch-up. We meet at one of our favorite laidback restaurants, which is conveniently just down the road from my house. We order pizza and ciders and spend a few hours chatting about everything and nothing. It's so good to have her back! $17
Daily Total: $23.38
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