6 Women Get Real About How They Spend Their Diverse Salaries

Readers, it's been nearly seven months since we launched Money Diaries, and through the series we've seen what it's like to live as an expat in Shanghai, backpack through Malaysia with only your savings, and work as a cam girl in San Francisco.

We've also seen a range of salaries. There was a post-grad woman in Boston making it work with $14,000 a year, while a woman in publishing manages an $80,000 salary — and saves half of it every month.

So to mark our 49th money diary (don't worry, we have something special for our 50th), we decided to compare six different millennial women in six different cities. But unlike our previous comparison, which put together women earning between $65k to $70k a year, we decided to see how similar (or different!) the earning and spending would be within one industry. Our industry of choice? Marketing.

Throughout all the diaries that have been submitted, the most diverse pool has been women who work in marketing, in some form or another. There's a New York woman freelancing in music marketing; a Los Angeles marketing coordinator who works with food and hospitality; a Philadelphia marketing specialist in e-commerce; a woman in Boston who works with startups; a copywriter for a financial group in Chicago; and a marketing director for tech company in Minneapolis.

As usual, not all diarists had an average week. One woman dealt with a root canal (and the hefty bill), while another had an emergency vet visit. Still, it's interesting to see how six women working in a single (albeit fairly diverse) industry can lead such drastically different lives, with different titles, perks, and paychecks. Click ahead to see how these six women manage their money in vastly different ways.

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
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The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.


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1 of 6
A project manager at a music marketing company supplementing her income with TaskRabbit gigs.

Location: New York, NY
Salary: $36,000
Paycheck Amount: Project Manager at a record label: $2,500/month, once a month, taxes are not taken out; Server: $500-$800, twice a month, taxes are taken out; TaskRabbit: 0-$300 a week
Age: 23
# of roommates: 1

Monthly Expenses
Rent:
$1,450/month. I live in the heart of the Lower East Side in a six-floor walk up. I take cabs/Lyfts once or twice a month at the most, and I barely need to use the subway. The environment in which I live is important to me.
Loan Payments: Fortunately zero
Utilities (my share): Electric: $25-$75/month depending on if it’s an AC month; internet: $25/month.
Transportation: $50/month on my Metrocard (I walk to the record label, take the subway to the restaurant.)
Phone Bill: Fortunately still on a family plan
Health Insurance: Because I’m freelancing, I’ve remained on my parents'.
Savings: Depending on how much TaskRabbit I do and how my shifts go, my savings fluctuate between $700-$1,100 per month.
Spotify: $10/month

Day One
8:30 a.m. — Basic workout at home: crunches, planks, push-ups, dips, squats for 20 minutes. Make a cup of coffee. I make lunch to take to work today: pasta with a can of tuna, tomatoes, onion, and garlic, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. I’m not always that hungry in the mornings, but I think that breakfast is important to get the metabolism started, so I eat half of a Nature Valley Bar.

10:30 a.m. — Arrive at the office.

12:30 p.m. — Eat the lunch that I made earlier today. After, I walk with a coworker getting her lunch, so can I stretch my legs.

5 p.m. — Dunkin’ Donuts medium coffee. I found out that my friend defended his dissertation today. He’s going out celebrating, and I need that extra caffeine boost for the night. $2.38

6:30 p.m. — Heading home and make a quick liquor run. Two bottles of wine and a can of sake (ever since working in an Asian restaurant, I’ve loved trying new sakes). $20.32

7 p.m. — Grocery shopping for the week. This includes grape tomatoes, a kiwi, one medium-sized yukon gold potato, one avocado, almond milk, pesto, canned corn, a small container of sour cream, tortillas, one pound ground chicken, a can of refried beans, pack of sandwich bags. This is a bit lower than average because I already had all of the basics in the house (bread, eggs, tuna, etc.) $27.38

7:30 p.m. — Home. I make dinner and leftovers to have for the week. I should have about four servings worth of food. We have taco seasoning that I use to cook the ground chicken. Toss the corn in lemon juice, cumin, and Tabasco. Cut up tomatoes and onions. For dinner, I have one taco (plus a little extra without the tortilla). Package up a taco salad for lunch the next day. I also make three hardboiled eggs. I have a bottle of wine open from last week that I finish.

11 p.m. — Out with my friend to celebrate his masters. I order one pitcher of beer for the table ($9) — yay for dive bars! I’m a regular here, so I also get a free shot. Home around 12:30 a.m. $12

Daily Total: $62.08

Day Two
8:45 a.m. — Basic workout at home again. Make coffee and eat a hardboiled egg for breakfast. Grab the lunch that I packaged up last night on my way out the door. Get to the office at 10:30 a.m.

2 p.m. — Decide to stretch my legs after a three-hour meeting and walk around the block. Coffee calls my name. Twice in one week already, not getting off to a good start! $1.75

2:30 p.m. — Eat the taco salad that I brought to work.

7 p.m. — A new artist that my label signed is having a showcase. Someone at the company buys me a couple of drinks.

9 p.m. — Home. My appetite has been a little funky all day and for some reason I’m not hungry. It’s unlike me not to eat anything for dinner, but I listen to my body. Read, talk on the phone to a friend, watch an episode of a guilty pleasure TV show on Netflix.

Daily Total: $1.75

Day Three
9 a.m. — Wake up, answer some emails from home. I look to see if there are any available tasks on TaskRabbit (there’s only one 44 miles away). I hadn’t scheduled any tasks this week because I’ve had a stressful couple of weeks and need to let myself relax. I go to the post office to pick up a package (new glasses!); go to the gym (paid a year upfront of $468 which comes out to $39/month); stop by Duane Reade and pick up coffee beans and toilet paper. $16.93

11 a.m. — Home. I shower, answer some more emails, make two cups of coffee and lunch (one taco).

12 p.m. — One of my bands is having a song premiere on Beats 1, so I listen to the show until it comes up, close to 1 p.m. Send off a few more emails, clean the kitchen and my room, read a bit.

3:30 p.m. — Subway to the restaurant to work.

11 p.m. — There’s some extra of a small dish, which I eat before heading home.

Daily Total: $16.93


Day Four

8:45 a.m. — Wake up, make a cup of coffee, eat a hardboiled egg, get ready for work, put together taco salad for lunch today. Arrive at work by 10:30 a.m.

1:30 p.m. — Eat the taco salad.

3 p.m. — Take a walk around the block to stretch my legs

6:30 p.m. — Meet a friend for a drink ($6). We are both short on money, so we go back to hang on my rooftop and drink some of the wine that I bought earlier this week. $6

9 p.m. — My friend leaves. I catch up with a friend on the phone, read, go to sleep.

Daily Total: $6


Day Five

9 a.m. — Wake up and slowly get my day started. I have half of a Nature Valley bar, no coffee because I’m going to do cardio at the gym.

9:45 a.m. — Out the door. Return a pair of shoes that I ordered from TopShop that didn’t fit properly (+$93!). Browse a few places looking for a birthday present for my dad, no find. Go to the gym. Make a run to Duane Reade to pick up a prescription, toothpaste, and a birthday card for Dad. $8.34

12:30 p.m. — Make lunch for myself: Spread a quarter of an avocado on toast and top with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a fried egg. Have two cups of coffee at home. Do some label work via email. Eat a kiwi on my way out the door.

3:45 p.m. — Catch the subway to my restaurant job.

11 p.m. — I order a salad with chicken. The restaurant gives employees 50% off. Plus, I get a shift drink. I choose a Funaguchi Green Sake. $7

12 a.m. — Go out after work with coworkers. There’s a place that does late-night happy hour next door to our restaurant. I have three beers ($2/each) here before we move on to the next place, where I order one well drink ($7) and add tip. $17

3:30 a.m. — Hop on the subway, home around 4:30 a.m.

Daily Total: $32.34
(+$93! So really I made $60.66)

Day Six
10:30 a.m. — Wake up, shower, make coffee at home, flip through the RollingStone magazine that came last week.

12 p.m. — Make myself a light lunch: one-egg omelette with tomato and onion. Chat with my roommate; he ends up having friends over, and we hang out for a couple hours at the apartment.

3 p.m. — Walk to meet my friend at a bar in the Financial District. I don’t get to see her that often because she commutes from Westchester and doesn’t frequent the city during the weekends, so I have a feeling I’m going to spend more than average. It’s a 2.5 mile walk.

4 p.m. to 11 p.m. — The place has happy hour beers until 6 p.m. We stay there till around 11 and also order dinner: hamburger and fries ($15). I have seven beers (two are $5 each; five are $8 each) over the course of the afternoon and evening. $61.91

11 p.m. — We head out to a bar in the Lower East Side where I get one liter beer for $18 with tip. I walk home. Home by 1:30 a.m. It’s an early night but been a long Saturday! More expensive than my average Saturday, but worth it to be with a good friend. $18

Daily Total: $79.91

Day Seven


11 a.m. — Wake up. I allow myself a lazy day. Make two cups of coffee.

2:30 p.m. — Make a breakfast wrap of scrambled eggs, tomato, onion and pesto in a tortilla. Go to a park to lounge and read. I don’t feel like running any errands.

5 p.m. — Home for the evening. Read, watch TV, hang out with my roommate.

8 p.m. — Make dinner and lunch for Monday. For dinner I just make a smoothie because I’m craving something refreshing but am not really hungry: frozen banana (I freeze bananas as they get too ripe), frozen strawberries, two tablespoons of peanut butter, almond milk. For lunch I mix up a can of tuna with pesto, slice up tomatoes, and wrap it all in a tortilla.

Daily Total: $0
2 of 6
A Los Angeles marketing coordinator getting a surprise root canal.

Location:
Los Angeles
Salary: $46,000
Paycheck (2x a month): $1,166
Age: 25
# of roommates: 1

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $900
Utilities: ~$50
Student Loans: $269.46
Gym: $30
Spotify: $9.99

Day One
9:30 a.m. — I run to get a latte. Slowly making an effort to produce less waste so brought the barista my own to-go cup! $2

12:30 p.m. — Bring in my beloved Rachel Comey boots to the shoe repair place to get some TLC. Debate whether I should replace the lining (for an extra $14) or whether I should just glue the existing one down. Ultimately chose the latter. #adulting $26

12:30 p.m. — Managed to make some rice last night for this week’s meals. Lunch is rice and pickled veggies I brought from home.

6 p.m. — Trader Joe’s run for a party I’m hosting later tonight (cheese, water crackers, vegan chocolate chip cookies, bagels, and a mushroom tart). Friends will bring the wine. $20.74

Daily Total: $48.74

Day Two
7 a.m. — Breakfast is one of the bagels I bought yesterday and leftover cream cheese.

12:30 p.m. — Leftover rice and a fried egg for lunch. So low-maintenance and delicious!

1:30 p.m. — Feeling myself slumping in my desk, so quick Trader Joe’s run to pick up some pears, bananas, dried mango, and more crackers for the huge chunk of brie leftover from the viewing party. $7.43

8 p.m. — Eat some brie and crackers while catching up with the boyfriend (he just came back from a weekend trip to Mammoth).

Daily Total: $7.43


Day Three
7 a.m. — Bagels and fruit from yesterday’s TJ’s run for breakfast for the boyfriend and me. Been trying to start my mornings off with a heaping cup of hot water and lemons (usually from the office kitchen).

12 p.m. — New intern in the office, which means my boss treats us out to lunch at a crepe place. (Although, side note: I have a strange aversion to crepes that stems to my childhood, so ordered a panini, instead.)

6 p.m. — Friend takes me out to a belated birthday dinner at Petit Trois where we indulged in escargot, a very decadent burger (Big Mec, lol), and an overpriced omelet. In a thick French accent, chef Ludo Lefebvre said something indiscernible as he brought out the dessert, (some praline encrusted piece of heaven called "Floating Island") and then proceeded to stare at us while we ate it. Felt like I was in an episode of Top Chef. Ah-mazing.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four (otherwise known as the day it all went downhill):
10 a.m. — Couldn’t sleep a wink last night because I had a toothache that brought this 25-year old to tears, despite the Extra Strength Tylenol. Took a sick day and went straight to the dentist, where he immediately called a root canal specialist. “Remember when I told you that you would have to get a root canal down the road?” he said. “Well, that time has come.”

1 p.m. — I’m much too numb to care that the hour-long procedure cost me a whopping $430. Welp. THIS IS WITH INSURANCE? $430

1:30 p.m. — Pick up my antibiotics and pain killers from the pharmacy. $10.46

2 p.m. — Didn’t realized how famished I was since I hadn’t eaten all day so I stop by a Japanese market on the way home to pick up some…er “fluids.” Got coconut water, probiotic drinks, sushi, Japanese snacks, green tea pastries, kimchee (This was all to eat when I’m a little better, but still, did I need all this?). $31.83

2:30 p.m. — Get gas before my trek home. EVERY TRANSACTION HURTS TODAY. $15

6 p.m. — Watch Cooked 'til I fall asleep. The docu-series is incredible, by the way.

Daily Total: $487.29

Day Five

9 a.m. — Back at work! Breakfast is a banana, taken in very small bites, with a side of antibiotics.

12:30 p.m. — Managed to sauté some kale this morning for lunch with leftover rice from earlier in the week. Two foods that require the bare minimum chewing.

7 p.m. — Eat some cheese and crackers with the boyfriend before passing out at 8:30 p.m.! Living that post-root canal dream life.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six
12:30 p.m. — When it’s the opening weekend of a Shake Shack in Los Angeles, it’s obviously a good idea to go, right? It only takes us an hour and 45 minutes to get our food (two burgers, fries, a Concrete, and a mango lemonade). I treat my boyfriend since I dragged him out to brave the lines. $27.59

2:30 p.m. — After our burger brunch, we went to a nearby theater to catch a documentary about my favorite food writer and all-around L.A. hero, Jonathan Gold. Boyfriend pays for the tickets, and I pay for parking. $3

7:30 p.m. — One of two birthday parties tonight. (It's a popular birth month!) The first one is at a German sausage-and-beer joint in the Arts District called Wurstkuche, which has over an hour wait. Scarf down mango jalapeño sausage with a beer I don't quite like. $20.18

9:30 p.m. — The second birthday of the night is at a death trap guised as '70s-era roller rink in Glendale, called Moonlight Rollerway. The admission plus skate rentals: $14.75; having to buy itchy socks: $2; underestimating my abilities and falling hard on my ass the second I entered the rink: priceless. $16.75

Daily Total: $67.52

Day Seven

Nurse my injured butt and ego over a marathon of Vanderpump Rules in bed all day.

Daily Total: $0
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3 of 6
A marketing specialist in Philadelphia dealing with emergency vet visits.

Location: Philadelphia
Salary: $50,000
Paycheck Amount (2x a month): $1,389.52
Age: 23
# of roommates: 2

Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $380
Loan Payments: $294 per month
Utilities: $80-95
Transportation: $40 for gas per week
Phone Bill: Still on family plan
Health Insurance: $40 (taken out of paycheck automatically)

Day One
8:30 a.m. — Working from home today makes this Monday so much easier. I make my own coffee (I had a bad Starbucks habit that needed to be kicked) Making my own coffee saves me about $25 a week, and $100 a month. That isn’t even including the days I went twice!

11:30 a.m. — Breakfast/Lunch. Avocado on toast, super easy to make at home and very filling.

2 p.m. — Emergency vet visit with my puppy. Signing up for pet insurance ASAP. $186

7 p.m. — The vet visit derailed my workday so I work late. Go to Trader Joe’s to stock up on snacks and lunches for the week: Coconut cranberry sesame seed crackers, pita chips, bacon flavored popcorn (I was curious), pickle flavored popcorn (according to R29 it’s one of the best Trader Joe’s products), goat cheese, brie, yogurts for the rest of the week, cookie butter, chewy peanut butter bars to store in my desk at work. $20.90

8 p.m. — Snack on the cookie butter, goat cheese, and almond crackers. Make the pup food with some hidden antibiotics — yum.

9 p.m. — Dinner. I eat leftover pizza from the night before while watching the game.

Daily Total: $206.90


Day Two
8 a.m. — Make coffee at home, skip breakfast because I was tied to my headset all morning.

11:30 a.m. — Lunch: Trader Joe’s yogurt, coconut cranberry crackers, and peanut butter bar. I have been buying my lunch for months, and trying to get out of the habit.

5 p.m. — Leave work early for my hair appointment. I get a Keratin treatment done to relax my hair every six months — the amount of time this saves me on my hair each morning is worth all the money. I already have all the necessary care products, so I save around $50 this trip. $362 (including tip)

8:30 p.m. — Late dinner with the boyfriend at our favorite farm-to- table spot. He is waiting for me at my house, because he watched the pup all day (on his first day off in months). The menu changes seasonally, so we try a ton of new appetizers — BBQ chicken skewers, spinach flatbreads, and short-rib quesadillas. We finish off the meal with $3 chocolate salted caramel mousse dessert shots. My leftover quesadillas will make an excellent lunch tomorrow. We split the bill. $37 (including tip)

Daily Total: $399. Yikes.

Day Three
8 a.m. — Programmed my coffee maker to go off automatically in the morning.

8:20 a.m. — I am running late making sure the pup is okay, and she has improved a lot since the antibiotics started. She doesn’t need anyone to stay home with her today.

9:30 a.m. — Breakfast. Free bagels at work!

12:30 p.m. — Lunch. Heat up the leftover quesadilla from the night before, and it's pretty soggy from the microwave. I work through lunch (at least this way I'm not tempted to order a delicious
$7 lunch from the café and waste the leftovers).

2 p.m. — Snack on the pickle-flavored popcorn from Trader Joe's.

4 p.m. — Start to get a headache, so I pop two Advil and head to the vending machine (Coke plus Advil can work wonders on migraines). Someone left $1.00 in change in the tray, so I add another quarter and grabbed a bottle of Coke. $.25

6 p.m. — Work happy hour! I love these networking events; there are bar games and plenty of finger foods to snack on. I order two mango wheat beers, covered by my company.

Daily Total: $.25

Day Four
8 a.m. — Grab my coffee at home and head to work.

12 p.m. — Trader Joe's lunch again: coconut cream Greek yogurt, bacon-flavored popcorn, coconut cranberry crackers, and a peanut butter bar.

5:30 p.m. — Needed to refill my gas (my commute is around 45 minutes every day and sitting in traffic doesn’t help). $38.40

6 p.m. — Stop by Trader Joe’s on my way home from work. I grab avocados, cheese, and fig crackers. $10.40

7 p.m. — My roommate picks up Chili’s takeout. I eat a few chicken tenders, her treat.

Daily Total: $48.80

Day Five
8 a.m. — Grab coffee; drink it black because I ran out of creamer.

1 p.m. — Meet up with some friends at Shake Shack near my office. I order cheese fries and a marshmallow chocolate milkshake. (Hey, it’s Friday.) $12

1:45 p.m. — I grab an iced chai tea latte at Starbucks, using a gift card from my boss, before heading back to work.

7:30 p.m. — Run out to get wine for the night after work. I pay for one of my girlfriends as well; she pays me back via Venmo. Wine comes to $20, but $11 paid back on Venmo. $9

8 p.m. — Start to drink the wine before heading to the bar with my girlfriends. My boyfriend comes over and surprises me with short rib mac and cheese for dinner!

11:30 p.m. — Uber to the Irish pub nearby. $5

11:35 p.m. — Cover is $5. I pay for a friend and myself. She buys me my first beer, a Yuengling. $10

12 a.m. — Switch to rum and Coke (imagine my impending hangover). $7 (including tip)

1 a.m. — Uber back home after the bar – surge rates! $11.20

Daily Total: $54.20


Day Six
11:33 a.m. — Wake up feeling absolutely awful. Boyfriend gets me a Dunkin' Donuts bagel for breakfast.

4:30 p.m. — Cancel all my plans for the night because I do not feel like driving anywhere in the bad weather.

5:40 p.m. — Feeling incredibly lazy for dinner tonight and Grubhub is my weekend vice. My pizza takes four hours to get to the house. The restaurant gives me $10 off my next order. $22 (including tip)

Daily Total: $22


Day Seven
11:20 a.m. — Wake up and make coffee.

12:25 p.m. — Meet up with my mom and my aunt at an outdoor market in another Philadelphia neighborhood, Chestnut Hill. We all find amazing Philly-themed prints at one of the vendors. $25

1:30 p.m.— After perusing the entire market, I decide to go back and buy a cute vintage bar sign for my kitchen. $28

2 p.m. — Brunch at a cute little local restaurant, my mom treats me to a mimosa and challah bread French toast with mascarpone filling and berries.

5:30 p.m. — I go to a craft store to pick up a frame for my print, and use a 40% coupon. $8.23

6 p.m. — My third visit to the grocery store this week. I grab bananas and pre-made tortellinis for dinner. $11.28

Daily Total: $72.51
4 of 6
A Boston startup marketing manager teaching yoga on the side.

Location:
Boston, MA
Salary: $58,000 (includes bonuses)
Paycheck (2x a month): ~ $1,400
Age: 24
# of roommates: 2

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600 — I live in a three-bedroom apartment with two roommates. Our rent is $1,850, the two of us on the lease pay $600 and the girl we found on Craigslist pays $650. Our rent is unheard of cheap, our lease is month-to-month, and there’s only one sketchy Barber Shop in the neighborhood open until 3 a.m. It’s a steal.
Student loan payments: $250 (to my parents, because they rock and paid off Sally Mae for me)
Utilities + Internet: $50-100, depending on the month and our gas (heat) bill; we don’t have cable
Transportation: $75 for a T (subway) pass
Phone Bill: $75, +$10 because I almost always go over my data
Spotify Premium: $9.99
YogaGlo: $18/month for unlimited classes

Day One
7:30 a.m. — Get a coffee at a little café on the way to work with a gift card.

10:15 a.m. — Order Seventh Generation paper towels and Drano on Amazon with another gift card.

12:30 p.m. — Buy lunch from my favorite spot, a little Greek place near my office. Get a rice bowl and tomato soup. $12

2:45 p.m. — Go to Starbucks with my boss. I order a flat white. She pays.

5:45 p.m. — Eat an early dinner. Scrambled eggs and toast because it’s all I have in the fridge. Put a load of laundry in the washer in the basement. $1.50

8:45 p.m. — Get home from teaching yoga, and move my laundry to the dryer. $1.50

Daily Total: $15

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Yoga on YogaGlo. The teachers are great, and I love it.

8:45 a.m. — Stop at the grocery store on my way to work to buy breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the rest of the week. I get blackberries, two avocados, baby carrots, mixed greens, lemon, feta, loaf of bread, crackers, hummus, chocolate, kombucha. $48

12:05 p.m. — Get an email from Everlane. I’m a sucker for Everlane. I got paid today, so I’m feeling flush. I buy a cashmere cardigan I don’t need. Then eat the groceries I bought for lunch. $170

7 p.m. — It’s date night. Cheese, charcuterie, Brussels sprouts, and a beer with my boyfriend. We split the bill. $30

8:45 p.m. — We go to a new beer launch event at Harpoon Brewery. We pre-paid for $20 tickets, which included one beer token. I buy a second round. $6

9:36 p.m. — It’s raining, so we Uber home. $18

Daily Total: $272


Day Three
7:15 a.m. — Wake up at my boyfriend’s apartment and realize I forgot my makeup and face lotion at my house. Take the T to the opposite side of the city to retrieve it before work. Buy a coffee to make the expedition more bearable. $2

11 a.m. — Order new pens from Amazon (Uniball Vision fine point). I get to expense them.

12:15 p.m. — Eat groceries I bought yesterday for lunch.

2:45 p.m. — Buy a green juice. $10 (yes, $10)

5:30 p.m. — Go to Spin class. Use one of the five pack I bought for $125 earlier in the month.

7:30 p.m. — Boyfriend pays for groceries for dinner. I’ll get tomorrow’s.

9 p.m. — A group of us go to a pub walking distance from boyfriend’s apartment. I buy one round of five beers. It’s only $12. I’m confused. Boyfriend pays for beer the rest of the night. We walk home. $12

Daily Total: $24

Day Four
8:35 a.m. — Stop at Starbucks on my way to work for an ice coffee. Order a medium, see how small it is, and upgrade to a large. (Spoiler alert: I’m hungover.) $3

9:45 a.m. — Put off starting actual work as long as possible. Buy new (hopefully comfy) flats for an upcoming work trip to London. $50

12:05 p.m. — Still hungover. Buy a burrito for lunch. $6

5:05 p.m. — It’s rosé season. Treat myself to a bottle at the fancy wine store near my office. I’m teaching yoga in the morning, so I’m staying in tonight. $19

5:45 p.m. — Pickup groceries for dinner. I decide to make salad with mixed greens, roasted chickpeas, quinoa, jalapeño, cherry tomatoes, avocado, lime, and cotija cheese. I already have some ingredients. $13

Daily Total: $91

Day Five

9:45 a.m. — After teaching yoga class number one, I stop for a latte and a breakfast sandwich before teaching class number two. $10

12:45 p.m. — I realize my knuckles are so dry they’re bleeding. Buy hand lotion and a kombucha. $6

1:30 p.m. — Meet boyfriend for lunch at Sweetgreen. Pay for our salads, eat, then head to a new cocktail bar for a drink where he pays. $20

5:30 p.m. — Pick up groceries for dinner — homemade pizza. Boyfriend is working Sunday morning, so we hang in, eat pizza, drink wine, and watch Parks & Rec. $11

Daily Total: $47

Day Six
10 a.m. — Stop at a coffee shop in between meetings for potential new yoga teaching gigs at two gyms. Get a latte and a pastry. Call it a pre-brunch snack. $7

12:30 p.m. — Meet my friend for brunch. Get a mimosa and a yummy egg/potato/avocado situation. $25

2:30 p.m. — Go shopping for jeans. The ones I’m currently wearing have a ripped knee, and a newly ripped left butt cheek. Stop in to Rag & Bone on a whim — find a $185 pair of jeans on sale for almost half off. A chic middle-aged woman tells me I look great. I buy them. $95

3:45 p.m. — Stop at the grocery store downtown. It’s small and overpriced, but super convenient. I decide to make risotto for dinner. Buy boyfriend sandwich stuff for the week. Pick up a bottle of wine. Boyfriend will split the cost with me. $35

Daily Total: $162

Day Seven
9:45 a.m. — Breakfast is a granola bar and yogurt I bought last week to have at work.

12:30 p.m. — Lunch is leftover risotto from last night’s dinner.

4:45 p.m. — Buy a kombucha before heading to teach yoga. $3

7:00 p.m. — My cousin is in town. I forgot I told her she could crash on my couch, so I haven’t prepared and bought food stuffs. We get takeout from a Mexican joint down the street. $11

Daily Total: $14
5 of 6
A marketing copywriter in Chicago, planning to finish a half-sleeve tattoo.

Location: Chicago
Salary: $60,000 plus $15,000 in bonuses
Paycheck (2x a month): $1,715 after taxes and benefits
Age: 28
# of roommates: 1 human (boyfriend), 1 canine

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $750 (split the $1,495 rent with my boyfriend)
Utilities: (electricity/gas) $0 (my boyfriend pays utilities, I pay for cable/internet. We break even almost every month.)
Health/Dental Insurance: $70 (taken out of my paycheck automatically; it would be $120, but my company pays $50 toward my health insurance since I don’t smoke)
401(k): $50 (taken out of my paycheck automatically; my company has a very generous employee stock option plan, so this 401(k) is mostly a backup plan)
Ventra card (public transit): $100 (taken out of my paycheck automatically)
Cable & Internet: $69.91
Car payment: $276.83
Car insurance: $45.83
Phone bill: $0 (I’m still on my mom’s plan...I know, I know)
Savings: $200
Credit card payments: $300
Student loan payments: $370
Spotify: $10.69
Netflix: $8.55
Website domain: $4.99


Day One
6 a.m. — My mom visited this past weekend, so I drop her off at the train station so she can head to the airport. I take the “L” train to work. I didn’t have time to prepare breakfast for the week, so I have a banana from home plus free coffee at work.

10 a.m. — Radiohead’s new album dropped this weekend, and I refuse to wait for it to be available on Spotify, so I buy a digital copy on iTunes. $10.99

11:30 a.m. — Since my mom visited, I also didn’t have time to meal prep for the week, so I eat half of a leftover burrito from the weekend with some water.

3 p.m. — I had planned on going to Sasquatch! Music Festival over Memorial Day, but my festival companion broke her foot, so we decide to skip it. Bummer. Luckily, my cousin is getting married in San Diego in October, so I change my plane ticket. $125 change fee, but I get a $74 credit on my next flight. Score. $125

4:15 p.m. — I have panic disorder and puzzles help me calm down, so I take the train to Barnes & Noble to buy a new jigsaw puzzle, then take the train back home. $21.99

6 p.m. — My mom bought me $60 worth of groceries over the weekend. I’ve long fought with her about buying my groceries, but it makes her feel good if she can help me in some way, so I let her treat me to one modest grocery bill when she visits. I make salmon fillets with spinach and sweet potatoes for dinner, and there are plenty of leftovers for the week. I also prepare some egg muffins with sausage and peppers for breakfast for the rest of the week.

Daily Total: $157.98


Day Two
7 a.m. — I take the train to work. Since moving to Chicago in January, I’ve found I rarely drive my car. Two egg muffins for breakfast with some Crystal Hot Sauce. I wash it down with some free coffee from work.

11:30 a.m. — Reheat my leftover salmon with sweet potatoes and spinach. I’m surprised how delicious and simple this meal is.

5 p.m. — I take the train home, and then make a big salad with kale, avocado, lemon, and leftover salmon. I wonder if I’m eating too much fish, but I also don’t really care because it’s delicious.

7 p.m. — I eat a mango while watching Game of Thrones. My best friend lets me use her HBO GO account. Please don’t tell on me.

Daily Total: $0


Day Three
7 a.m. — Before I leave the house, I start soaking some black beans in water for dinner tonight. I take the train to work again, and have more egg muffins with hot sauce and free coffee at work.

10 a.m. — I get paid on Friday and I still have some wiggle room with my bank account, so I decide to transfer an additional $100 into my savings account. I broke my arm two years ago and it almost bankrupted me, so I’m trying to build an emergency fund. You never know.

11:30 a.m. — Lunch of leftover salmon with sweet potatoes and spinach.

5 p.m. — I take the train home, and see that my VNYL order has arrived. I signed up last month but after I placed the order, I was told it would take three weeks for delivery. I was a little suspicious, so I did some research and found very poor reviews of the service, so I canceled my membership. However, the selection they sent me this month was full of my favorite albums, so I resubscribed. $39

6:30 p.m. — I sautée onion, red bell peppers, leftover potatoes, leftover kale, black beans, crumbled tofu and some spices. I top the whole thing with avocado slices and salsa, and voila! Dinner.

8 p.m. — Another mango and Game of Thrones. I’m trying to watch the entire series and allowing myself only one episode per day is a great way to curb my tendency to binge-watch (and binge eat while binge-watching).

Daily Total: $39


Day Four
5:30 a.m. — As a thank you gift to my graduate school program, I volunteered to renew the domain for their blog every year. It’s a very small expense for a program that helped me grow so much, but I always forget when the yearly fee comes out of my bank account. Today happens to be that day. $13

7:30 a.m. — Train to work, then egg muffins and free coffee. I put a ton of hot sauce on my egg muffins today, and I’m only a little embarrassed when a coworker says he can smell it from his cubicle.

10 a.m. — I have a half-finished half-sleeve tattoo that really needs to be filled in, but my artist lives in Omaha, NE. I’m scheduled to go on a work trip in June to Sioux Falls, SD, so I ask my boss if there’s any way I could switch my departing plane ticket to leave from Omaha, instead, so I can get my tattoo filled in. My manager says it’s cool as long as I pay any change fees. $156.50

1 p.m. — I reheat my leftover tofu scramble from last night. I forgot to bring salsa, so I use some hot sauce.

6 p.m. — After the train ride home, I don’t feel like cooking so I reheat the last of my salmon and sweet potatoes. I also make a simple side salad with romaine, tomatoes, avocado, and red wine vinegar.

8 p.m. — Eat a mango, watch Game of Thrones; this is becoming a routine.

Daily Total: $169.50


Day Five
8 a.m. — It’s pay day! And it’s Friday, which means I get off work at noon. I take the train to work, then eat the last of my egg muffins. Although I’m not sick of them yet, I have noticed that I’ve added more hot sauce each day.

12:30 p.m. — I take the train home, then drive to the laundromat. I haven’t done laundry in three weeks and I’ve had a bunch of guests recently, so it’s a six-load trip. $21.25

2:30 p.m. — I eat the last of my tofu scramble.

6 p.m. — I cook some stuffed peppers with ground turkey, onion, black beans, corn, and salsa. While they’re in the oven, I place an order on Amazon for a new pair of Keds ($39.95) and a book ($16) written by one of my classmates from graduate school. $59.45

Daily Total: $80.70


Day Six
8:00 a.m. — I make eggs with avocado at home and wait for my boyfriend to wake up. He works nights, which is why I don’t see him at all during the week.

12 p.m. — My boyfriend and I take the train and grab lunch at Sushi Para in Wicker Park — $15.99 for all you can eat sushi. When we go out to eat, we either split the bill or take turns buying. Today is his turn.

1:30 p.m. — We take the train downtown and do a little shopping. I buy a pair of shorts and a flannel shirt off the clearance rack at Old Navy ($16.52), two books at Barnes and Noble ($38.58), and a small iced coffee from Starbucks ($2.56). $57.66

4:30 p.m. — We head back home on the train. We watch a couple movies and have leftover stuffed peppers for dinner.

Daily Total: $57.66


Day Seven
9 a.m. — I make some coffee. Today is grocery day, and since my boyfriend and I both love to cook, it’s an all-day affair.

10:30 a.m. — We walk two blocks to the farmers' market, where we pick up sweet potatoes, asparagus, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, and bread. I splurge on peeled black garlic and a $20 bottle of garlic-infused olive oil. I don’t mind that it’s expensive because the quality is so much better and it supports the local community. I buy my boyfriend a ham-and-cheese croissant for breakfast. I skip because I can’t find anything without dairy. $45.75

12:30 p.m. — We drive to Whole Foods to pick up some dry bulk ingredients. I buy oats, pecans, flaxseed, and chickpeas, along with some tofu, natural peanut butter, and raw local honey. $40.39

1:30 p.m. — We drive to Wingstop for lunch. It’s my turn to pay. $25.56

2:30 p.m. — Next stop is Joong Boo, a Korean grocery store. My boyfriend buys a bunch of ingredients for his meals for the week, but also picks up some kale and eggs for me since the prices are so cheap.

3 p.m. — Our last stop is Tony’s Finer Foods in Irving Park. They have the best produce. I buy avocados, red peppers, carrots, lettuce, lemons, cauliflower, basil, mangos, and strawberries. I also grab goji berries and virgin coconut oil, which end up doubling my total balance. $46.56

5:00 p.m. — At home, I make a batch of granola bars, then slice up some of the bread from the farmers' market and top one slice with black garlic and one slice with avocado. It’s dangerously good.

6:00 p.m. — While picking out my VNYL vibe for next month, I notice they have a deal on Big Grams’s EP, so that ends up in my cart. $20

8 p.m. — I make popcorn on the stove and top it with the garlic-infused olive oil. That bottle was worth every penny.

Daily Total: $178.26
6 of 6
A marketing director in Minneapolis, comparing life in the Midwest to New York City.

Location: Minneapolis
Age: 31
Salary: $106K — 90% of my income is from my full-time job and the 10% comes from consulting. I am consulting for one client because I love working with them.
Paycheck: $2,235 every two weeks (after 401(k), HSA, dental, health, and vision insurance)
# of roommates: 1 (boyfriend) and a dog


Rent: $700 (My half of $1,400 rent)
Loan Payments: $347 for student loans and $117.90 for medical bills. I had a really expensive medical expense late last year that was not completely covered, but I have one payment left!
Utilities: $35-$50 for my portion of gas, electric, and internet.
Transportation: $76 unlimited MetroTransit card
Phone Bill: $90
Savings: I don’t actively contribute to to my savings account and I don’t like having a lot of cash on hand so $450 is invested with my financial planner.
Car Payment: $338.45. I drive it about once a week for various errands. I should really look into Car2Go.
Car Insurance: I pay every six months, but it averages about $56/month
Entertainment: $8 for Hulu and $14.99 for Texture

Day One
1 p.m. — Take a cab from the airport (company expense) after a work trip. I’m exhausted and I want to take a nap. I buy a latte on the way home so I’m able to work for the rest of the afternoon. $4.09

3 p.m. — Boyfriend treats me to Vietnamese takeout via Postmates because I haven't had breakfast OR lunch. I think he buys $60 worth of food including the delivery fee. I decide to take a break from working, so we end up eating and watching Netflix all evening.

Daily Total: $4.09


Day Two
8 a.m. — I take the bus to our downtown Minneapolis office. I need a cup of coffee but I don’t feel like walking to Starbucks. I have a stash of green tea in my office so I end up drinking two cups of that and eating a stale breakfast bar from my purse.

12 p.m. — I grab lunch with my coworker at Vellee. I get an Indian-style chicken bowl with lettuce and spicy curry. It’s so delicious, I manage to gobble it down in 15 minutes, while he is talking about his project. $9.42

3 p.m. — Target run. I buy some snacks, breakfast bars, and a carrying strap for my yoga mat. $21.09

5 p.m. — I take my barely driven car for a spin to meet my baby sister out in the ‘burbs. I give her some early birthday money for an upcoming trip. This is an atypical spend but I feel like I should give her more... I normally do not give people money on their birthdays. She’s the only exception. $80

7 p.m. — I meet a friend at a local coffee shop. She already ate so she just gets a glass of wine. I buy a large iced latte and a sandwich. $17.68

Daily Total: $128.29


Day Three
8 a.m. — We have a commercial coffee machine at work. I grab a cup and eat a breakfast bar.

11:50 a.m. — I grab a bowl of chicken wild rice soup from the deli and added the change to the tip jar. This stuff is so good. $5

2:40 p.m. — I get an email from Gilt. I lust over a Céline tote. I’m thinking about contributing a little extra to my savings so I can buy a structured, grown-up purse but I still have the NYC small closet mentality: I only buy clothes and accessories when I need to replace something.

6:30 p.m. — I think about going to yoga after work but I’m so tired. Boyfriend convinces me to meet at St. Anthony Main for drinks and dinner with friends. He buys me beer and pays the parking fee.

8:30 p.m. — Ramen for dinner! I pay for two bowls of ramen and two beers at a restaurant in northeast Minneapolis. I tip more than 20%, so my card gets charged an even amount. $50

Daily Total: $55


Day Four
8:10 a.m. — Breakfast bar again while I’m running to the bus stop. I grab a cup of coffee once I get into the office.

11:40 a.m. — It’s lunch time. Soup and chips from the same deli I went to yesterday. I’ve been craving soup pretty bad this week. $6.39

12:40 p.m. — Grab snacks from the nearest convenience store. $7.33

5:10 p.m. — Meet up with boyfriend at a liquor store with a cheese shop adjacent to it. I buy cheese, baguette, and charcuterie, while he grabs beer. $27.34

7:45 p.m. — There's a ton of Brussels sprouts in the fridge from our last grocery run, so I make a light dinner. I roast them with a squeeze of lemon and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I don’t really feel like making or eating anything else.

Daily Total: $41.06


Day Five
8:50 a.m. — Breakfast bar again. No coffee, just water. I went running earlier and coffee does not sit well in my stomach afterwards.

12:40 p.m. — I eat leftover Brussels sprouts for lunch.

4 p.m. —I get home early and open the mail to get slapped with a $940 medical bill. I couldn’t get everything covered because of my chronic illness (I was also disqualified from term health insurance because of this). I make a mental note to talk to them next week to make sure everything is accurate. I will probably pay it off right away.

7 p.m. — Date night! We grab dinner and a movie. It’s a bit cliche but we’re trying to get back into our “courting” phase. He buys dinner (which he does 75% of the time) and I buy the movie tickets. $24

Daily Total: $24

Day Six
10 a.m. — Massage. This is semi-annual expense but my back has been all knotty and nothing seems to be working. I book another appointment for August. $90

11:45 a.m. — I buy almost a week's worth of groceries at Kowalski’s: watercress, broccoli, limes, lemons, cauliflower, onions, garlic, radishes, cilantro, harissa, baguette, cod, and shrimp. I do most of the grocery shopping while the boyfriend will pick up random ingredients I need or toiletries when needed. It works out pretty well even though we’ve never explicitly talked about food expenses. $60.54

6:45 p.m. — I do a little bit of work with a client at a restaurant. I buy two glasses of wine. $24

7:35 p.m. — The co-op is on the way home so I buy a couple of treats for our super adorable dog and a sandwich. $14.39

8:45 p.m. — We snack and drink beer while binge-watching Orphan Black while Boyfriend is working from home.

Daily Total: $188.93


Day Seven
11 a.m. — Boyfriend normally makes breakfast but is not feeling it today. We go to brunch and he pays.

6:15 p.m. — We grill dinner and a few different kinds of protein that will last us for the next two days for lunch.

Daily Total: $0
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