A Week In West Michigan On A $34,000 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: a reporter in West Michigan who makes $34,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on PBR.

Occupation: Reporter
Industry: Journalism
Age: 26
Location: West Michigan
Salary: $34,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,090
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $650 (one-bedroom by myself, includes water)
Student Loans: $101 (I owe about $34,000.)
Electric: $50-60
Gym: $48
Internet: $35 (Half is paid for by my landlord, who lives downstairs.)
Renter’s Insurance: $17
Phone: $0 (riding the family plan until I die)
Car insurance: $0 (Mom covers)
Netflix: $13
Hulu: $0 (My partner covers this since I cover Netflix.)
Autostraddle Membership: $4
NYT Subscription: $0 (The person who had my work computer before me left his membership open, yay.)

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I have to leave to make my therapy appointment in 20 minutes. I have struggled to get up on time for the past few weeks, so I’ve really expedited my getting-ready routine. For some reason I spend extra time making my hair wavy. Putting together my outfit (usually the most time-consuming part) only takes a few minutes, because it’s finally cool enough to wear a sweater I bought a couple of weeks ago. I feed my kitten and pour some iced almond milk mocha into a reusable cup.

9:15 a.m. — My appointment was at 9 a.m., but I text my therapist about being late. There’s a lot of construction on the drive to her office. My appointment is angry and emotional. I lost my dad to brain cancer just a few months ago, so my therapist and I have been trying to work through grief. It’s extremely challenging to grieve while also having to live the rest of my life normally and keep going to work and doing my hobbies. I usually have to pay a $20 copay, but for some reason it was written off today. I won’t question it too much.

10:15 a.m. — I stop at a gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes because that appointment was too much. I’ve quit a few times, then tried to convince myself and others that I’m a “social smoker,” until I start buying packs in the daytime. $8.76

10:20 a.m. — Arrive to work. I have some interviews and transcribing to do today, but I’m not anticipating any big breaking news (hopefully, because I don’t have the emotional energy to expend today). It should be a relatively normal day here.

12:30 p.m. — For lunch today I have some cottage cheese, an apple, and a pita with a bunch of veggies in it, as well as cheese, a tiny bit of peppercorn ranch, and some lemon pepper. It’s all from home. I’m trying to eat less meat and more veggies.

6 p.m. — Home. I warm up some leftovers from dinner I made last night. Chicken with lemon pepper, garlic and parsley redskin potatoes, and asparagus. I have a Skinny Cow ice cream bar and zone out to Vanderpump Rules. I like having a chunk of time during the day where I do something completely mindless. I’m working on convincing myself that it’s okay not to be productive all the time.

8 p.m. — I spend some time cleaning. I’m trying to do that incrementally this week, because my sister is coming to visit me this weekend and she’s never been to my apartment before. I’m a little nervous for her to see my life and meet my friends and my girlfriend, but also excited to show her the cool spots in this city. I do some random squats and sit-ups to make up for not getting to the gym for a while (grief is very physical).

10 p.m. — I work on some standup for a show I’m on tomorrow — I’ve been doing standup comedy for about three years now. I’ve been trying to do some material about grief, and it’s gone well so far. I feel okay about this show, but the other comics on the lineup are pretty intimidating. I also work on some lines for a sketch show I’m in next week and get a few administrative things done for a brunch showcase I’m putting together at the bar where my girlfriend, T., is a bartender. We work on these together. I love providing opportunities for comics to get paid, because it’s rare here. I also love demonstrating that diverse lineups are possible. Being able to provide paid opportunities to women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community is my JAM. Very thankful to the venue for gifting us the space — this wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Daily Total: $8.76

Day Two

9 a.m. — Oops, I just woke up. I shut off my alarm and give my kitty some attention. I do my first interview from home for a story I need to turn in today and then get ready for work. I usually shower at night, but felt ambitious about “going for a run” this morning (despite half an intention, this doesn’t usually pan out). I shower but don’t wash my hair, and do my getting-ready routine, which includes washing my face with a Biore charcoal bar and moisturizing with Neutrogena. I do the same makeup every day: Maybelline foundation, MAC powder, whatever blush came in my Ipsy bag recently, a couple neutral eyeshadow shades from my Tartelette palette, and Covergirl mascara. I put on jeans, a T-shirt, a cardigan, and neutral slip-ons. My hair is still wavy from yesterday, so I just touch up a few spots. I pour an iced almond milk mocha and head out.

10 a.m. — Arrive to work. For the most part we have pretty flexible scheduling here. My boss cares about work getting done and doesn’t question too much when we do the getting done. I’ve got a lot of transcribing to do this morning.

1 p.m. — I eat lunch (same as yesterday) and take a break to work on an agenda for a meeting I have Sunday with the comedy collective I am a part of. We’re working on a variety show for the end of this month, so there’s a lot of logistics.

6:15 p.m. — On my way home from work, I stop by T.’s house to borrow her vacuum so I can properly clean for my sister’s visit. I’m meeting up with another woman comedian on tonight’s lineup for a few drinks, so as soon as I get home I warm up some chicken wonton soup and scarf it down. While it’s warming up, I do my makeup and fix my hair a little. I put on black pants, a black T-shirt, and a grungy jean jacket and boots. I need to run through my set a couple times (literally, lint roller in hand in front of the mirror) before I can feel calm about getting on stage.

8 p.m. — I am nervous, so I know I am going to have a couple drinks tonight to get rid of the jitters on stage. Also cigarettes. T. and I Uber to the venue, and I pay. $6.10

10 p.m. — My set went so well, I am kicking myself for not asking anyone to film it so I can use it to apply for festivals and things. I felt entirely myself on stage, and it was a packed room. What an awesome show. I got lots of love from the audience, and I feel electric. I have a few PBRs to celebrate. $20

11 p.m. — T. and I head to another bar with a few friends who came to the show. I am a little more tipsy than I wanted to be, but order another PBR there. T. puts me on her tab. I spend some time drunkenly explaining to a random guy who sits at our table that he can’t walk up to a group of women and just sit at their table. Later in the night, another friend comes out to me. The ex of another friend shows up. There’s a lot going on, and I’m still riding the high from being on stage and am heavily buzzed at this point, so I’m overconfidently giving advice. I don’t end up having to pay for anything here, thanks to T.

1 a.m. — Home via Uber, thanks to T., who is spending the night. We end up getting in a big emotional talk/argument/thing. I am not a super emotional or affectionate person, but T. is. We need to find a happy balance. I don’t remember if we resolve things before going to sleep.

Daily Total: $26.10

Day Three

10 a.m. — I am up and I am hungover. It’s payday! I have to pay a friend back for my share of a hotel we stayed at last weekend ($45), so I do that right away. I also owe my landlord a couple utility bills (noted in monthly expenses). I pour myself some iced mocha, pop a B12, and decide I’ll work from home today. Fridays are usually my most productive days, because I schedule a lot of interviews to set myself up nicely for Monday. $45

5:30 p.m. — It’s been a pretty productive day, so I’m done working for the week. I get my stuff together and head out to my haircut appointment. I get a long, asymmetrical bob and have a nice time catching up with the woman who cuts my hair. T.’s mom gave me a gift card to this salon after my dad died, so I don’t end up paying anything for the cut. I planned to tip in cash, but end up throwing that on the gift card, too.

7 p.m. — I stop at the market by my house to grab a few snacks for my sister’s visit. I pick up chips and hummus and chocolate-covered pretzels, and a mac ‘n’ cheese bake for tonight’s dinner. $25.17

8 p.m. — I clean a bit more and bake some cocoa banana bread. I like documenting little cooking tutorials on my Instagram story. I have no idea why really, but it’s entertaining. I bake my mac ‘n’ cheese, then as I’m putting salt on it, the lid falls off and dumps the whole shaker out, so I’m actually unable to eat dinner. Oops. Annoying. My friend L. texts to see if I want to come out tonight, and I do. I get ready and call an Uber. $6.10

12 a.m. — I get a few PBRs, but L. owes me some money, so she picks up my tab. I am still super hungry and so is L., so we head around the corner from the bar to a wrap/sandwich shop that’s open late. I pick up a wrap for me, one for T. when she’s done working, and some mac ‘n’ cheese bites (because I wanted some damn mac ‘n’ cheese today). I put it on my card, and T. gives me $20 for her part. $13.42

3 a.m. — I hang around with T. until she’s done working, and she drives me home. She spends the night.

Daily Total: $89.69

Day Four

10 a.m. — T. and I wake up and say goodbye, then I do the rest of my cleaning because my sister will be here soon. I haven’t seen her since my dad died, and she has never been to this city before, so I am a little nervous. I shower, throw on a black jumpsuit and checkered Vans, and walk to the market to buy a pack of cigarettes (I know, I know). After that I watch some Vanderpump Rules and play with kitty until my sister, K., arrives. $9

1 p.m. — K. is here! There’s a street fair today with lots of local artists and things that I want to take her to, so she changes and we head out, but stop for lunch first. I take her to a little place that serves the best mac ‘n’ cheese (can you tell I love cheese?). We both order it and have a nice time catching up and laughing at very old inside jokes. It’s very nice to see my sister. The restaurant gets my order wrong, so I get a little discount. $17.72

3 p.m. — I walk around the street fair with K. It’s packed here, and there’s so much to look at. We end up stopping at a booth with a bunch of eclectic handmade jewelry. I’ve been very into wearing funky earrings lately, so I’m all about it. I find a pair that looks like clouds with raindrops falling from them and have to have them. $18

5 p.m. — I take K. to a very cute store nearby that I know she will love. There is so much to look at here, too. I love coming to this store — I come pretty often and am quite friendly with one of the owners. They have the cutest greeting cards here, so I buy a card for some friends who got engaged recently, and find a cute reusable tote that I can keep in my purse. $12.93

7 p.m. — I pick up a couple other friends to go to one of our friends’ birthday parties. It’s a little ways away, so I volunteer to drive us so we don’t have to Uber. A little nervous at the party because K. is meeting a few of my queer friends, which she hasn’t done before. I came out fairly recently, so I know K. is still adjusting. She’s got a few questions about some people’s lives, but overall seems to be handling the party just fine.

9 p.m. — I want to take K. out on the town, so we head back to my apartment and take an Uber to the bars ($6.10). We go to the bar where T. works, because my sister is hungry and wants to dance later, and this place has it all. I order a couple PBRs and some stuffed tater tots. $20.76

11 p.m. — We hang out, dance, and drink. T. gets off work and joins us, and meets my sister for the first time. It’s not the environment I wanted them to meet in, but at least everyone’s merry. I have a few more PBRs. $13.66

1 a.m. — We go to one more bar to chill for a little bit. We all get a round, but T. pays. I grab an Uber to take my sister and me home. $10.30

Daily Total: $102.37

Day Five

11 a.m. — I wake up a bit tired and semi-hungover. K. and I get ready to go to brunch. I put on jeans, a yellow sweater, hoop earrings, and slides. We go to a little place downtown, and I get a pork-belly skillet that has sweet potatoes, egg, and crunchy onions. And a mimosa! $18.90

1 p.m. — I say bye to K. and she heads home. I text T. that we should go grocery shopping today, so she comes to pick me up. We live separately, but usually grocery shop together to spend a little bit more time together. I get some basics I need for the week, veggies and chicken breasts, etc., as well as the iced coffee I’m always drinking and some cat food. I have a couple coupons, too. $50.03

3 p.m. — I have Old Navy Super Cash (the best and most powerful currency in the world), so T. and I go there to browse around. It’s almost fall time, and I LOVE shopping for fall clothes. I end up with a pair of jeans, a nice mustard yellow blouse, a dark red cardigan, and a black-and-white flannel. When I go to check out, I realize I don’t have my Super Cash on me. I want to cry. I mention this to the cashier, and the woman (saint?) next to me gives me hers that she’s not using, so I get a little bit off my total bill, but it was more than I wanted to spend, so I take the flannel out of my basket. I have lots of flannels already. $73.11

5 p.m. — T. drops me back off at home because I have a rehearsal with my sketch group in a bit, and I have to make sure I have my lines completely memorized before I go, since we perform tomorrow night. I snack on a couple chocolate-covered pretzels.

6 p.m. — I head to rehearsal, and it goes well! We talk about other upcoming gigs and do some blocking for our variety shows later in the month. I love these ladies. When I moved here, I knew maybe one person, and now some of these people are my best friends. It’s beautiful.

8 p.m. — I go home for my dinner plans with T. When I get there, I throw garlic redskin potatoes together and cut up some leftover asparagus and red pepper. I used all my veggies this week before they went bad — a true victory! T. brings over her cast-iron skillet and some steaks she had, so we have a really big and tasty dinner — a nice end to the weekend.

11 p.m. — T. works on homework while I tackle my eyebrows, pack my lunch, and otherwise prep for the week. We watch a little Vanderpump Rules (we are both obsessed) and head to bed.

Daily Total: $142.04

Day Six

10 a.m. — Mondays. Ugh. T. left pretty early for class, but I stay in bed and cuddle with kitty until about 9:15. I get dressed (I put on the same yellow sweater and jeans from yesterday) and do my usual makeup routine. I pour some iced almond milk mocha, grab my lunch, and head to a meeting at our headquarter office about changes to our health insurance. Has anyone ever teared up during a health-insurance meeting? They start talking about cancer coverage, and I become super emotional. I manage to not fully cry, which is…good? I use an app to pay for my parking meter. $3.35

11:30 a.m. — Everyone is staying at that office to work, but I don’t want to pay for parking all day, so I head home. I eat my lunch (typical veggie wrap, apple, and cottage cheese) and get started on working.

1 p.m. — I have an interview downtown with a couple sources for a story I’m working on. I have to park at a meter, unfortunately. $1.65

6 p.m. — Done with work for the day. I quickly make some chicken with lemon pepper in the oven, steam some broccoli, and warm up leftover potatoes from last night. I run through my lines and get ready while that’s cooking. I drive to the venue.

8 p.m. — T. arrives with a caramel macchiato from Starbucks for me. So sweet. I hang in the green room with the other acts until it’s my time to go on. I’m just in a couple of sketches tonight, so it goes well. The crowd is lively and super supportive.

9 p.m. — I run a quick favor for a friend and drop off another friend’s guitar at her show. Back home, I get some stand-up stuff done for a show later in September. My bio is so cringey, but I for some reason can’t write a decent comedy bio to save my life (??? help) so I just send it along. T. comes over and we do work side by side for a few hours.

12 a.m. — In bed with T. after showering and packing my lunch. We do the midnight scroll and check up on Twitter/Instagram and try to make each other laugh with the weird posts we find. Then it’s time to snooze.

Daily Total: $5

Day Seven

9:15 a.m. — It takes every cell in my body to will me awake this morning. It’s rainy and I am feeling too cozy. I love sleeping. I get up and do my usual hair and makeup routine and then take a few minutes to do an interview I had scheduled at 9:30. We chat for about 15 minutes, and then I get dressed. I’m wearing dark-wash jeans, a mustard yellow peasant-y top, and black ankle booties. I pour some iced almond milk mocha and cut myself a slice of cocoa banana bread. Before I leave, I have to dig my rain jacket out of my closet. Off to work.

1 p.m. — I packed a lackluster lunch today — peanut butter and jelly in a pita and an apple.

3:30 p.m. — I go to our headquarter office for a roundtable discussion that we host sometimes with professionals in the area. I am just kind of observing today. I’ve never led one of these discussions, because the last time I was supposed to, my dad passed away and I was out for two weeks. I throw out a few questions, but am a little intimidated because I’m the only woman in the room. I park on the street, so I have to pay a few dollars. $2.92

5:30 p.m. — I head home from the office. I am in a bit of a hurry, so I warm up some chicken from last night and throw it in a wrap with lettuce, green peppers, onions, carrots, ranch, lemon pepper, and a little bit of cheese. I eat a Skinny Cow ice cream bar, too.

6:15 p.m. — I gather up my laundry to bring to T.’s house, because I don’t have it at my apartment, and T. only lives a couple blocks away. I get gas on my way over. $12.21

7 p.m. — T.’s neighbor is using the shared laundry, so I have to wait until later to do mine. I head to a massage appointment that a friend gifted me for my birthday. It expires tomorrow, so I had to squeeze it in this week. I am super nervous, because I’ve never gotten a massage before. It ends up being quite nice, though very painful in my back and shoulders. Maybe I need to sit up straighter when I’m on my computer. My massage cost more than my gift certificate, so I pay the difference and tip my masseuse. $20

8:30 p.m. — I head back to T.’s. She’s off to work, so I work on a story and do my laundry. I also watch the rest of Vanderpump Rules. I have no idea what I’m going to do now that I’ve finished all of what’s on Hulu!

10:30 p.m. — Finally home. I don’t have motivation to do much, so I do my social scrolling and then take a shower. I don’t have to pack my lunch tonight, because my boss asked me to get lunch tomorrow.

1 a.m. — Why tf am I still awake? My cat fell asleep by my feet, but I bring her closer to me to snuggle. I love having my bed to myself tonight. I think I finally fall asleep around 2.

Daily Total: $35.13

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