A Week In Piscataway, NJ, On A $59,000 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 for Money Diaries Month: a claims examiner who makes $59,000 per year and spends some of her income this week on Microsoft Office 2016.
Occupation: Claims Examiner
Industry: Reinsurance
Age: 31
Location: Piscataway, NJ
Salary: $59,000
Paycheck (Biweekly): $1,723.04
Expenses
Mortgage: $1,318.37, which I split with my fiancé
Car Payment: $499.81
All Other Monthly Expenses
HOA Fees: $233. I pay this all myself.
Student Loans: None right now. I'm in school part-time so my loans are still in deferment. My jobs pays for the majority of my tuition.
Gym: $32.06
Health, Dental & Vision: $117.79 (also includes other miscellaneous job perks)
401(k) Contributions: $68.08. My job matches up to 3%.
Car, Condo & Life Insurance: $152.07
Utilities: Approximately $100, which I also split with my fiancé.
Hulu: $7.99. (My fiancé pays for Netflix.)
Credit Card: $35 is the minimum but I always pay more than that.
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6 a.m. — Wake up 45 minutes before my alarm goes off, unsure whether to blame my dog or how hot it is in my room. Take the pooch for a much-needed walk and enjoy the cool weather before the heat of the day begins.

7:15 a.m. — Kiss the dog and my fiancé goodbye and head to work. On my way there, I mobile order a small caramel frozen coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. I use a gift card that I reloaded a few weeks ago.

7:45 a.m. — Finally make it to work. I go down to our café and get a corn muffin, and I ask the cook to toast it on the grill with butter. Yum! $1

8:15 a.m. — My job recently joined a program called Perks at Work. I browse and noticed that Microsoft Office 2016 is available for only $9.99! I missed this deal the last time it was posted, so I don't waste time snagging it now. I will need this when school starts back up in the fall. $10.63

10:20 a.m. — I'm trying hard to concentrate on doing work. Yet, I keep getting distracted and looking up wedding stuff online.

12:30 p.m. — Finally lunchtime. I brought in leftover Chinese food from over the weekend. It's not the best, but it's filling.

4 p.m. — I made it through Monday. I head home and get in some dog cuddles before my fiancé gets home from the gym.

5:30 p.m. — Binge watch Orange is the New Black while making beef sirloin, garlic and herb couscous, and peas for dinner. We muster enough control to stop watching before the last episode. The suspense is killing me!

10:15 p.m. — I hop in the shower, wash off quickly, and get back into bed, scrolling through Facebook until I drift off to sleep.

Daily Total: $11.63
2 of 8
5:45 a.m. — My fiancé is my alarm clock this morning and, according to him, it's sexy time.

6:20 a.m. — Finally roll myself out of bed and play around with the dog for a bit before I get ready for work. No leftovers from last night's dinner so my fiancé kindly makes me a tuna fish sandwich with carrots and ranch dressing, and a small bag of chips for lunch.

7:15 a.m. — Fight the urge to stop at Dunkin' Donuts again. Must. Resist. I've been getting to work a tad late the past few mornings, but since I'm still usually the first one in the office, it doesn't really matter that much.

7:45 a.m. — Maybe it was all that action this morning but I am starving! I take a trip down to our café and get a feta cheese and tomato omelet with bacon on the side. $3

8:30 a.m. — I call my condo association to ask questions about our pool. After I get the answers I'm looking for, I write a check for $50 to get our pool passes for the season. $50

11 a.m. — What a busy morning! After answering emails and getting some work done, I snack on my favorite trail mix, Tropical Forest. I love coconut. I use this short break to scour coupon sites to find deals this week at the grocery store.

12:40 p.m. — Time for lunch. Today, my group decides to sit outside and enjoy a bit of sun and the nice breeze. I munch on my sandwich, carrots, and chips like a little school kid.

3:15 p.m. — I leave work a bit early since my boss is away on a business trip. It's a beautiful day and I can't be inside any longer. I head home and take the dog on a nice, shaded walk. The sun is a tad brutal, but it still feels good.

5 p.m. — My fiancé has an appointment for a wheel alignment on his car. The tech says it will take an hour and a half, so to kill time, we walk over to On The Border and take advantage of their happy hour specials. $5 margaritas! Fiancé pays; I leave the tip. $5

6 p.m. — Wheel alignment is finished ahead of schedule, so we head home and watch the last episode of Orange Is the New Black. It is so good, but now we have to wait a whole year for the next season! The rest of the night is spent watching other shows on Hulu and Netflix.

10 p.m. — I call it a night and go to bed where I do my usual: browse social media until my eyelids get heavy.

Daily Total: $58
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3 of 8
6:45 a.m. — I sleep in a little longer than I should have. After I wake, I hop out of bed and tussle with the pooch for a while until my fiancé takes her for a walk. No time to make breakfast or lunch today.

7:45 a.m. — Get to work, which happily doesn't feel like an icebox today. I go down to the café with the intention of buying a bagel with cream cheese, but the special sounds good and healthier than my original choice. I get the egg whites, turkey bacon, and avocado on multigrain toast. $3.50

12:40 p.m. — The day goes by fast when you're busy. I can't believe it's lunch time already. I get a salad, a couple of chicken fingers, and a soda from the café. Some coworkers and I sit outside again and enjoy the fresh air. $8.50

2:30 p.m. — A client's email portal is giving me problems. It's so frustrating! I take a much-needed break and walk over to the other side of our building to chat with coworkers.

3:50 p.m. — Gossiping and catching up really does make the time fly by. I quickly scoop up my things and head out the door to walk home and walk the pooch. I organize my coupons for our grocery trip later and peek in the fridge to see what will be on the menu for dinner tonight. Looks like sausages, corn on the cob, and mac and cheese.

6 p.m. — My fiancé finally gets home from the gym. We eat dinner and watch half of the season finale of The Handmaid's Tale.

7:15 p.m. — We make our way to Aldi's to pick up some veggies and fruits; I pay. We drive across the street to ShopRite and do our remaining shopping for meats, cereal, bottled water, toilet paper, pasta, cold cuts, orange juice, and ice cream. My fiancé pays for this haul since my coupons bring down the total a lot. $7.92

9 p.m. — My mom texted me earlier, worried about my dad. She's away on a business trip and asks me to check on him, so we drive over to their apartment. We realize he's just sleeping and didn't hear his phone ring, even though I called about 10 times. At least he's okay.

9:45 p.m. — We get home, and I put away the groceries while my fiancé takes the dog out for one last walk. When get back, we watch the rest of The Handmaid's Tale. Can't wait for next season!

10:30 p.m. — I'm beat; this heat makes me sleepy. I skip my usual habit of social media browsing and go straight to sleep.

Daily Total: $19.92
4 of 8
6:40 a.m. — I'm struggling to get up this morning. The AC at my job and at home are making me super-achy. (I have rheumatoid arthritis, or at least that's my doctors tell me.) The pooch is licking my face, so I begrudgingly get up and play around with her for a bit. My fiancé is already up eating breakfast and packing our lunches.

7:30 a.m. — Make it to work right on time today. I'm thankful when I walk in to find the office is at a comfortable temperature. After listening to voicemails and responding to emails, I head down to the café for a corn muffin. I only bring a dollar so I'm not tempted to buy anything else. $1

10 a.m. — My pregnant bestie (who works at my company but in another department) stops by. We got too excited talking about the latest season of OITNB and my neighbor nicely tells us to keep it down. Oops!

11:20 a.m. — Two of my coworkers/girlfriends decide to take a walk outside since this is the coolest day we've had all week. It feels good to be active after sitting all morning, and I think my joints are starting to loosen up.

12:45 p.m. — Time to eat. Thankfully, my fiancé packed my lunch: baked chicken drumsticks, mac and cheese, and corn on the cob. Sadly, we don't get to sit outside since all the tables on the patio are taken.

4 p.m. — I leave work and make my way to PetSmart. My pooch can only eat a specific prescription dry food that costs $35 for an eight-pound bag. At least I have a $5 coupon — and the bag does last quite a while because she's a small dog. After, I stop by Target to get pee pads for her, but since Target is a black hole when it comes to shopping, I also pick up a bathing suit, a dog toy, a peach t-shirt, and a pair of anchor socks (for my fiancé to wear for our nautical wedding). All of these were on clearance. I make a beeline to a cashier before the damage gets any worse. I hit the in-store Starbucks and order a venti iced green tea. $69.64

5:30 p.m. — I make it home after hitting a bit of traffic on the highway. I start to make dinner — spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage meatballs — and my fiancé gets home from the gym not long after. We catch up on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

8 p.m. — My sweet tooth is kicking in hard tonight. I ask my fiancé to make me one of the Perfect Size For 1 Duncan Hines cakes I got for free with coupons. He picks strawberries and cream; I have the best fiancé.

10:30 p.m. — I'm exhausted! I throw my body on to the bed and watch cute puppy videos until I pass out.

Daily Total: $70.64
5 of 8
6:35 a.m. — It's Friday! Even with all the excitement, I still struggle to get myself out of bed. My fiancé struggles too, until our second alarm at 6:45 goes off. He gets up and walks the dog.

7:10 a.m. — Off to work. I treat myself to a ham wake-up wrap, hash browns, and a small frozen caramel coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, using my gift card again to pay.

7:40 a.m. — I get to the office and talk to the coworker that sits next to me. She's been out for the past two days and fills me on some hilarious family drama.

8:25 a.m. — We talk for way too long. I finally get to my desk and eat breakfast while answering some emails. It should be a slow and easy day since most of my department is out.

11:45 a.m. — After a semi-busy morning, it's time for lunch. There was a group plan to try a new restaurant in Bridgewater but most of the girls that were supposed to go have canceled. The remaining three of us ended up going to a local Chinese spot, where I order wonton soup, shrimp with mixed veggies in garlic sauce, and white rice. $10

4 p.m. — The work week is finally over! My fiancé is getting more work done on his car (he needs two new tires) so I head over to Sears Auto. I pick him up and instead of waiting around and we head home to walk the dog; the car is finished about an hour later. I pay for the tires since my fiancé lent me quite a bit of money for the down payment on the condo that I purchased two months ago. I'm paying him back, slowly. $222.23

5:45 p.m. — For dinner, we eat a pork and beef meatloaf that we bought from the manager's special at ShopRite a couple of days ago paired with green beans. I also scarf down some of the cake my fiancé made the other day, and end the evening by watching Denial from Redbox.

11 p.m. — I go to bed relatively early even on Friday nights. I'm not much for partying or hanging out too late. I crawl into bed with my pooch and drift off to dream land.

Daily Total: $232.23
6 of 8
8 a.m. — Up and at 'em! Today, we are going to a Strawberry Festival at a nearby farm with friends. I make breakfast: Belgian waffles (mine with blackberries), turkey bacon, eggs, and orange juice. We watch two episodes of Archer while we eat.

11 a.m. — It's pouring at the farm. Our friends go to a diner to wait for the storm to end, but we have the pooch and can't join them. Instead, to pass the time, we head to the bank, get gas, and buy Wendy's. We figure it'll be cheaper than getting food at the farm — plus, I can't resist the spicy chicken sandwich. $13.01

1 p.m. — The rain finally stops, and we are ready to pick strawberries. We take a long hay ride to the fields, and the berries are big and sweet. My fiancé and I end up picking over two pounds of strawberries. He pays for the berries since I paid the entry fee. He also buys dessert — the strawberry mango pie is to die for! $14

4 p.m. — We part ways with our friends to go home, quickly take a shower, and drop off the pooch before meeting my dad for dinner. We pick him up at his place and settle on Seasons 52. We order lobster flatbread and golden beets with goat cheese to start. I also order Chilean sea bass, my fiancé orders filet mignon, and my dad orders the rack of lamb. After our mains, the guys order dessert and two more appetizers; my dad graciously pays.

8:30 p.m. — Finally home after a busy day. I clean out and reorganize my coupon book. I try to do this once a week to get rid of the expired ones and to get ready for the upcoming week. My fiancé watches Family Guy and browses Rolling Stone on his phone.

11:15 p.m. — Roll around the sheets with my fiancé, and then we blissfully fall asleep.

Daily Total: $27.01
7 of 8
8 a.m. — Up early as usual. My fiancé goes out to get breakfast, coffee, and my weekly paper. He pays. We get some sandwiches from QuickChek, a honey biscuit with sausage, hash browns, and an iced caramel macchiato for me. We watch half an episode of Casual before heading out for a venue appointment.

10:30 a.m. — We arrive in Long Branch to see a venue for our wedding next year. My fiancé pays the $6 for parking. We originally planned to have the wedding in Miami, but all the traveling was too much. The Jersey Shore is much easier and more convenient. We love all the options and the prices, and the view of the beach is gorgeous.

11:45 a.m. — Next stop: Asbury Park. We have a bit of an issue with the parking meters and end up calling the parking attendant over. The guy gets it to work, but I only select one-hour parking instead of the three that we need. I pay for the first hour and my fiancé pays for the other two. We head to our second venue appointment of the day, which has a different ambiance than the first, but we dig it. There aren't as many food packages, but the ice cream sundae bar add-on does intrigue us. $2

1 p.m. — My fiancé is hungry, so we walk along the boardwalk where he wants to try Korean fusion tacos. I'm not that hungry and just get a lemonade from another stand. We sit, people watch, and talk about the two venues we just saw. $4.50

2 p.m. — We have a bit of time before our parking runs out, so we try our luck at a funky hotel nearby and ask for a tour. We're in luck — the event coordinator can see us briefly, and they show us around. The place is quirky and different, but they're booked every Saturday next year and we would have to pick our own caterer. Bummer. We stroll over to one more place a few blocks away, but the coordinator is busy with an event. We get her card, head back to the car, and go home.

3:30 p.m. — Home! I take the pooch for a walk while my fiancé makes me a turkey sandwich. Our plan was to hit the pool and the hot tub at the gym but the sun has tuckered me out. I settle for a nice shower but my fiancé wants to get some exercise in. I stay home and fold laundry.

6:30 p.m. — My fiancé comes back home with mac and cheese and baked beans from a BBQ place near a Redbox he stopped to browse through. I make teriyaki chicken and we eat while watching Fist Fight.

10 p.m. — I'm ready for bed, too tired to even do any social media browsing. I snuggle under the covers with my dog and think about my bestie, who is at the hospital getting induced. I fall asleep dreaming about her soon-to-arrive baby girl.

Daily Total: $6.50
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