A Week In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, On A $36,960 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 social studies teacher who makes $36,960 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on hummus toast.
Occupation: Social Studies Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 23
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Salary: $36,960
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,080
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0. (Part of my employment contract included housing of up to $20,000 a year. I live in a one-bedroom apartment that, if I was paying rent, would be about $1,660 per month.)
Student Loan Payment: $0. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
Internet: $105
Phone: $75
Utilities & Water: $150-$200, depending on the month.
Car Payment (Long Term Lease): $550, including insurance and all maintenance.
Credit Card: $50-$100. I have one card in the U.S. that I'm still paying down. (Thanks, college self and my last trip to the U.S.) I also like keeping an active credit score, so if I ever decide to move back to the States, I'll have a base.
Netflix: $0. (I use my sister's account.)
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Day One

5:30 a.m. — Ugh. The alarm is especially rough this morning. It's the first day back to school after two weeks of glorious spring vacation. I spent 10 days traveling, and returning to reality is not welcome. I flew in early Friday morning, and then spent all day yesterday sleeping and feeling incredibly jet-lagged, so my sleep schedule is very off this morning. In the UAE, we work Sundays through Thursdays, so I don't have another day to catch up before going back to work.
6:40 a.m. — After showering and getting ready for the day, I leave for work. Usually I pack my breakfast and lunch, but I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and re-stock my fridge yesterday, so I don't follow my routine this morning. I stop at Costa on my way to work and get a large coffee with soy milk and an almond milk oatmeal parfait. $9.50
7 a.m. — I arrive at work and rush to prepare myself for the day. After two weeks off, getting back into teaching mode is hard, and I need to review my lessons for today. Luckily, I have the first block off and have time to orient myself.
7:40 a.m. — Well...so much for free time this morning. Another social studies teacher (and one of my closest friends) is still in the Seychelles, and the school forgot to schedule a sub for her. I volunteer to cover for her and take her class, since I know what they're learning.
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12:05 p.m. — After teaching all morning, lunch is a welcome break. However, since I don't have my usual packed lunch, I have to run down to the café and grab a smoothie and energy bar. I hate buying food here, but I'm desperate. $6
2:45 p.m. — The day is over — thank goodness! Today was a busy day, since I taught another two classes in the afternoon. Compared to teaching in the U.S., my teaching load is pretty light, so I can't complain too much.
3:30 p.m. — After spending a few minutes grading and catching up on emails after school, I head to the gym. In order to save money, I use the gym at my school. They have the basic equipment that I need, and I like being able to get my workouts in before I go home and lose motivation. I used to be self-conscious about being in workout gear with my kids around, but I've started to get used to it. Today is cardio and leg day, and I get a great workout in after taking the past two weeks off.
6 p.m. — After I finish my workout, I head directly to the grocery store. This store is a little out of my way, but they have the best prices and selection of items. I'm vegan, and most of the products I buy are a bit more expensive than if I ate a normal diet, but it's worth it for me. I have to stock up after being gone on vacation, so it's a big trip. I buy tofu, spinach, broccoli, bananas, carrots, soy milk, dairy-free yogurt, protein crackers, corn starch, rice cakes, peanut butter, soy sauce, peanut sauce, chili sauce, and mustard. $77.05
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7:30 p.m. — On my drive home I call my mom and chat for a bit. (I pay extra to have international calling on my cell plan.) Get home, put away my groceries, snack on carrots and yogurt, and start to prep dinner. During the week I generally eat the same thing for dinner: tofu coated in cornstarch, lightly sautéed, and seasoned with a mixture of sauces (tonight it's soy, peanut, and garlic), plus steamed broccoli.
8:30 p.m. — Finish dinner, do the dishes, and make my lunch for tomorrow: a smoothie made of one banana, protein powder, powdered peanut butter, and ice cubes, plus rice cakes.
9 p.m. — Spend a few minutes putting a load in the washing machine and changing my sheets. I wait around for the cycle to finish so I can hang my clothes before showering and heading to bed. It takes me awhile to fall asleep because my sleep schedule is still off, but I'm out by 11.
Daily Total: $92.55

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — I was going to try and get up early this morning to get cardio in before school. Unfortunately though, I woke up at 3 a.m. to a "we need to talk about some stuff" text from my long distance BF. We both have a lot of trust issues, and my anxiety kicks in hard after this message. I wasn't able to fully fall back asleep until 5 a.m.
6:45 a.m. — Shower, get dressed, grab my lunch, and head to work. I only live about about a 10-minute drive to school, and try to get in by 7 a.m. at the latest every day. In any other city, I'd walk to work if it were this close to where I live, but there are no sidewalks on the route and the area of Dubai I live in isn't very walking-friendly.
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7 a.m. — I get to school and spend a few minutes answering emails before the kids come in at 7:30. I make a cup of coffee in the break room (instant coffee is free...not the best tasting, but free!), and add the soy milk that I bring in from home every week. I snack on rice cakes too.
8 a.m. — I have first block free again this morning, but have a few meetings.
12:05 p.m. — Lunchtime. I have my smoothie and rice cakes while leading a student council meeting in my room. I'm the faculty adviser for a student club at school. It's a bit more work, but I get an extra $1,000 stipend per year, which is nice.
2:45 p.m. — After lunch, I teach another class and then have a department meeting to finish off the day. Overall, it's a pretty easy afternoon.
3:30 p.m. — Finish up the day by planning a lesson for next week, and then head over to the gym. Do running intervals, followed by my least favorite workout of the week: shoulders.
6 p.m. — Finish working out and head for home. I call my parents on the way home and talk to them about summer plans and some decisions I have to make for my housing next year.
6:30 p.m. — I snack on carrots, crackers, and yogurt while making tofu with broccoli for dinner again. I watch Love it or List It (a secret obsession of mine) on YouTube while eating dinner and cleaning up. I make my lunch for the next day as well.
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8:30 p.m. — I'm running low on protein powder, so I order some from the UAE's version of Amazon. After showering, I head to bed, but my BF and I have set up a Skype call for later tonight, so I set my alarm for 2 a.m. $30
Daily Total: $30

Day Three

6 a.m. — I was up from 2 a.m. to 4 this morning Skyping with my BF (9-hour time differences suck), so I give myself a few extra minutes of sleep. Losing a few hours of sleep wasn't fun, but we needed to talk and it was worth me being a bit sleepy this morning. Luckily we talked things out and I feel a lot less anxious now. I quickly shower, get ready for work, and still leave for school on time.
7 a.m. — Get to work and make my coffee.
12:05 p.m. — I use my lunch hour to run to the bank and withdraw cash. My good friend from work is getting married in France this summer in a chateau. They invited some of their closest friends to stay in the chateau for the the week, and I need to pay her in advance. It's pricey, but all meals are included, and it'll be an awesome week. Worth the cost! $200
1:45 p.m. — After lunch, I only have one more block to teach. And then after school we have our weekly all school meeting.
4 p.m. — I head to the gym for my workout. I run for awhile and then have a chest- and glutes-focused lift.
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6 p.m. — I finish at the gym and head home to shower and change. I'm meeting friends for drinks later, but before I leave the house, I cook dinner: my usual meal of tofu and broccoli. I don't have time to eat before having to leave, but I also don't want to spend the money on dinner while we're out, so I'll wait until I'm home later to have a full meal.
8 p.m. — I walk to meet a few friends at a bar. Tonight is Ladies' Night, so we can have unlimited drinks for free. (A lot bars and restaurants in Dubai offer Ladies' Nights on different weeknights where they have free drinks, and sometimes meals, for women.) I meet my friends and we spend a few hours drinking and catching up. This bar has an amazing drink called a Pinky Swear, and while I don't drink enough to really get buzzed, I am definitely happier by the time we leave.
10 p.m. — I head home pretty early and re-heat my dinner. After eating and cleaning up I make my lunch for the next day, text with my BF for awhile, and head to bed. I'm asleep by 11:30.
Daily Total: $200

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Up at the usual time. Same routine of showering, getting dressed, and heading off to work.
7 a.m. — Coffee is definitely needed this morning. Getting back in the school routine is exhausting and I'm dragging.
10 a.m. — I teach one class this morning, then have a department meeting for the second block.
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12:05 p.m. — Lunchtime. Usual smoothie and rice cakes that I brought from home.
2:45 p.m. — School's out. I had my favorite class (I know we aren't supposed to play favorites, but we totally do) for my last block. We spend a large part of the class talking about current events, specifically gun laws in the U.S. Part of me worries about losing instruction time, but I also hate to stop the students when they are so invested and interested in the world around them.
3 p.m. — My friend and I head down to the conference room for a surprise baby shower for one of our colleagues. I bid her my congratulations and head back to my classroom to work for a few minutes.
4 p.m. — Gym time. I'm incredibly sore and don't get my full cardio in, but still manage to do a mini stair workout and lift.
6 p.m. — I call my dad on my drive home, and then make my usual tofu for dinner, this time with spinach. I was supposed to go out to dinner with other friends tonight, but I'm too tired and decide to cancel.
8 p.m. — After cleaning up, I make my lunch and put away my clean clothes. I shower and read for a few minutes while waiting for my BF to wake up. We text for a few minutes, but he has an exam this morning and I'm exhausted. I fall asleep reading by 10:30 p.m.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — Woohoo, it's Thursday! Last day of the week. Shower, get dressed, and off to work.
9:15 a.m. — Second period is my only off time today, so I take advantage and hole myself away in my classroom to get work done. I'm applying for some additional positions within the school next year, and need to finish my applications.
12:05 p.m. — I have my usual smoothie and rice cakes. A couple of my students wander in while I'm eating and want to chat. Sometimes I need my own space and kick them out, but today I'm okay with the visit. They start pulling up YouTube videos on my SMART Board and show me what a "Walmart Yodeler" is. I enjoy the little silly break with them.
2:45 p.m. — Made it to the weekend! Had another great class this afternoon to end the week on a high note. In addition to my kids getting the work done that I had planned, we also had some great conversation today.
4 p.m. — Last workout of the week. I don't have a ton of motivation this afternoon but manage to get it done. I save the easiest day of my workout cycle for Thursday – cardio followed by biceps and triceps!
6 p.m. — I head home, shower, change quickly, and then drive over to my friend's apartment for dinner. Despite seeing each other in school every day, we haven't hung out in awhile. Her fiancé is on a business trip and we often have dinner together when he's away. We were going to cook, but instead decide to order Lebanese: hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, fattoush, and bread. We split the cost. After a few hours of eating, watching reality TV, and gossiping, I head home. $15
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11 p.m. — I promised another friend that I'd go out with him tonight. He's a promoter and every weekend has tables at different clubs that he needs to fill. I used to go out with him nearly every weekend, but got sick of the club lifestyle quickly. But I do enjoy going out with him occasionally, and it's good to catch up. I change clothes and he picks me up and drives us downtown. The drinks at the club are free since we're at a table, so the night doesn't cost me anything.
3 a.m. — We stay until the club closes and then my friend drives me home. Since I'm already up late, I talk to my BF for a few minutes before heading to bed. It's nearly 4 a.m. by the time I fall asleep, but oh well.
Daily Total: $15

Day Six

11 a.m. — Despite it being the weekend, I still have an alarm set to make sure I don't oversleep TOO much. I wake up, make a cup of coffee, and sit on the balcony for a few minutes before starting to get ready for the day.
12:15 p.m. — I'm going to brunch with the same friend I was out with last night and some of his friends. Brunching is a big thing in Dubai, and today we're going to one of my favorite spots. It's at a beach club, and along with the unlimited food and drink, you also get pool access and can spend the day in the sun. I try to keep my brunches limited to once or twice a month because of how expensive they are. My friend decides to drive again today, so no Uber cost for the morning. $80
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5 p.m. — We spend the afternoon drinking, eating, and tanning. I've never met any of the people we're out with, but I get along well with some of the girls. Brunch ends at 5 p.m., and tonight is a dry night in Dubai. Today is Al-Israa' and Al-Miraj, an Islamic holiday, and on certain holidays the government mandates that there can be no alcohol sold in order to respect the Muslim laws. Normally we'd hang around the club after brunch ends, but they stop serving alcohol almost immediately.
5:30 p.m. — My friend has another friend who's taking his yacht out for the evening, and he invites me to join. He pays for our Uber to the marina to meet them.
10 p.m. — We spend a few hours cruising around. Yacht parties are one of my favorite things to do here; I love seeing the city from a different angle and being out on the water. Usually everyone chips in to rent the boat and buys food and drinks to bring, but the host has covered the cost of everything tonight. We dock out by the deserted World Islands (a Dubai tourist attraction that they gave up on building) and swim for awhile. After brunch and an evening out, everyone's pretty drunk by the time we dock again.
11 p.m. — I grab a cab with my friend and we head home. We live near each other, so it's easy to split. I pay for this one since he got the last. I get home around 11:30 and, after drunk texting the BF, immediately pass out. $10
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Daily Total: $90

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up early and can't fall back asleep. I'm surprisingly not that hungover, but I text my friend and it sounds like he's in worse shape than I am. I make a cup of coffee and sit on the balcony and read before going back inside to do laundry and clean up a bit. I haven't properly cleaned my place since getting back from break, so my apartment is a bit of a wreck.
11 a.m. — I'm hungry and too lazy to cook, so I order a salad and hummus toast from one of my favorite cafés around. While I'm waiting for my food to arrive, I start an episode of Outlander. My BF recommended it, and I'm obsessed. $20
1 p.m. — After I eat, I pop down to the pharmacy that's below my building. Apparently last night I cut my legs on barnacles while swimming, and I need bacterial cream. The pharmacist ended up having some small sample packs and gave me some for free. I can go down and get more from the school nurse if I need it tomorrow, so I don't even have to spend any money! Win. I spend the afternoon pretending to get work done and grade papers. In reality, I just watch more Outlander and hang out.
5 p.m. — I throw tofu, spinach, and rice on the stove for dinner. I realize that I'm out of water, so I call down to the Blue Mart across the street and they bring up my order. (We don't drink the tap water here, so I have a large water dispenser that I buy four-gallon jugs for that last me a few weeks each.) $14
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7 p.m. — I clean up dinner and make my smoothie for tomorrow. Once it hits morning in the U.S, I spend awhile chatting with my mom, my best friend, and BF. I plan to be asleep by 10 or 11, but don't end up falling asleep until almost midnight.
Daily Total: $34
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