A Week In Austin, TX, On A $32,500 Salary

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Today: a program specialist working in the non-profit sector who makes $32,500 per year and spends some of her money on Diet Pepsi.

Occupation: Program SpecialistIndustry: Non-ProfitAge: 23Location: Austin, TXSalary: $32,500Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,067 after taxes (plus $75-$200 in mileage reimbursement per month)Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly ExpensesRent: $450 for a room in a four-bed, two-bath apartment (with three other roommates)Car Payment: $183/mo Student Loans: $0 right now (I’m on an income-based repayment plan) Medical, Dental, & Vision Insurance: $0 (covered by work)Phone: $0 (still on my family’s plan, thankfully)Spotify, Hulu, Netflix: $0 (also still on my family’s plan)Car Insurance: ~$700 every 6 monthsInternet: $0 (covered in rent)Renter’s Insurance: $11Utilities: ~$35Gym Membership: $40Credit Card Payment: $100-200 a month, more if I can (I accumulated quite a bit of debt in grad school and am trying to pay it off)Savings: $200-300 per month

Day One

9:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, despite the fact that it’s the weekend. I am supposed to go to an open skate for my roller derby class this morning to sign up for my next session of classes, but nothing is making me leave this bed right now. I send my teacher a quick email about signing up online instead and fall blissfully back to sleep.

12:30 p.m. — I finally, begrudgingly, get up for the day. I usually only work Monday to Friday, but I had events the last two Saturdays, so this is my first opportunity to sleep late in a while, and I take full advantage of it. I go to the kitchen and make myself a lazy lunch of sausage and peppers in tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella along with the butt of a baguette and a handful of pretzels on the side. It’s so good I decide that I’m going to eat it for dinner this week. After lunch, I attack the mountain of clean laundry that needs folding and catch up on my shows: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Superstore, and Survivor.

2:30 p.m. — After a quick shower, I throw on a black dress and Doc Martens and decide it’s probably time for my weekly grocery run. First, I swing by the Starbucks drive-thru. I’m definitely a caffeine addict, and I feel a headache coming on if I don’t get coffee into my system soon. I get a grande iced coffee with cream and half sweetener ($3.19) while listening to The Dropou t in my car. This story is wild! At the store, I pick up apples, bananas, sweet peppers, avocados, pre-packaged salads, a baguette, sausage, cheese cubes, shredded mozzarella, eggs, these breakfast biscuit things I love, pretzels, baked chips, and ice cream. It adds up to $42.36. $45.55

4:30 p.m. — I have a quick snack because I don’t know where/when dinner will be tonight. Apple, baked chips, cheese cubes.

5:10 p.m. — I leave for my friend’s house. We’re carpooling to a roller derby bout this evening, and I’m stoked. Tickets were $15, but I bought them in advance last week. Like I mentioned before, I’ve been taking roller derby classes, and my dream is to one day skate for an actual team like the ones we’re seeing tonight. My friends keep asking me when it will happen, and I have to remind them that three months ago I could barely even stay upright on skates, so they need to be a little patient.

6 p.m. — Parking is $10 for the event, but we carpool, so we split it. I Venmo my friend $5. $5

9:30 p.m. — Derby bouts are always fun, but it was an absolute blowout this time and by the end it didn’t really feel like anyone’s heart was in it. My friends and I decide to head to a local dive bar that does karaoke every night. I don’t drink much (it reacts poorly with a medication I’m on), but I’m happy to nurse a seltzer and watch the crowd. My friend buys me a fancy seltzer, so I buy her a beer in return ($3.25 + $1 tip). I wait for what seems like forever until it’s finally my time to sing — “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, an old fave. $4.25

12:30 a.m. — My friends and I part ways and, of course, I am starving because I didn’t eat dinner. I swing by Taco Bell on my way home and grab the Loaded Nacho Taco box because it’s only $5 and comes with a Diet Pepsi. I drive home, eat it quickly (along with a few spoonfuls of the ice cream I bought earlier), and pass out around 1:30. $5.41

Daily Total: $60.21

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I groggily check my phone. I see that my early morning plans with my friends have fallen through and, although I’m disappointed, I’m grateful for the extra time to sleep.

1 p.m. — After more sleep and a lot of internet scrolling, I drag myself out of bed to get ready for the renaissance fair! I’ve never been to one, but one of my best friends is a big fan, so I’m going with him and his partner. He bought the tickets in advance, so I Venmo him $23 to cover it. I also transfer $30 from my savings to cover some of my costs this weekend. I try not to do that, but I also try not to judge myself too harshly for how I spend my money. I’m in my first salaried job (and the first time in years I’ve been close to financially comfortable), so I want to be able to have some fun! I throw on a black peasant-style dress and Docs, and toss some apple slices, baked chips, and cheese cubes into a Tupperware to eat on my way to my friends’. $23

1:40 p.m. — I stop at a gas station to grab a coffee drink ($3.24) from the fridge. It’s not good enough to cost that much, but oh well. $3.24

1:45 p.m. — I also stop at an ATM to get cash ($20 + $3 fee) for the fair — I want a turkey leg!! $3

4 p.m. — We arrive at the fair! It’s immediately exciting and overwhelming. I get my turkey leg ($9), visit many booths, and stop to eat some amazing vegan pineapple soft serve ($6). $15.00

5:30 p.m. — We stop briefly to throw axes ($3, covered by my friend) and I pillow fight my friend on a log ($2). It’s well worth a few dollars, mostly because I win. $2.00

7:30 p.m. — Before we leave, we take pictures, and I also pick up a gold scale mail keychain ($6.40) from a really sweet husband and wife duo who remind us to DRINK WATER. We, of course, have not been. Oops. $6.40

8 p.m. — We pile into the car, exhausted and sweaty, but happy with our day. We stop at a gas station on the way back for water ($1.70), and I doze off in the back seat on the way back to my friend’s house. $1.70

8:45 p.m. — I arrive back at my apartment and talk with my grandma on the phone for a bit before hopping in the shower. Then, realizing I’m hungry again, I cook up a sausage and some orange pepper in tomato sauce and eat it with a sprinkle of mozzarella over some toasted french bread, with a handful of baby carrots on the side. I then lie down, watch some random YouTube videos, and I’m asleep by 11.

Daily Total: $54.34

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up naturally, feeling pretty groggy. I decide that since I’m awake, I may as well go to a yoga class at the Y.

7:10 a.m. — After deciding to “lie down for just a few minutes,” I change my mind about the yoga class, set my alarm, and fall back asleep.

9:20 a.m. — I roll out of bed feeling slightly more rested. I throw on a black jumpsuit and platform sandals, grab my breakfast and lunch, and head out the door.

10 a.m. — I eat my breakfast (banana and breakfast bar) at my desk while catching up on emails. I also drink some coffee from the communal coffeemakers at work and, as usual, it’s terrible. I am grateful, however, for the flexibility that my job offers. I work for a nonprofit women’s leadership organization, and my job is to manage programs we run for underserved girls around the Austin area. This means I get to split my time between office work and actually interacting with kids, which I love!

12:15 p.m. — My coworker and I plan the last few weeks of programming with the girls we work with — painting, a scavenger hunt, and baking brownies! Lucky kids. My coworker and I do the same job but with different groups, and we get along well. I love having someone to bounce ideas off and problem solve with! I remind her that a new employee is shadowing us tomorrow, and we joke about her just watching us poke around in spreadsheets all day.

12:45 p.m. — Lunch time! Today’s prepackaged salad is chicken Caesar, and I slice an avocado into it in an attempt to make it more filling. I eat lunch at my desk while reading some articles from Vulture, and top it off with a few pieces of candy snagged from the front desk.

2:30 p.m. — After some more administrative things, I leave the office for the day to run some errands before my programs with the girls. I stop at the store to pick up supplies for our weekly snack. This week it’s PB&J and juice so I pick up bread, peanut butter, strawberry and grape jam, and Capri Suns ($24.36, expensed). I also stop by a local elementary school to drop off T-shirts. I have a nose ring and tattoos, so I sometimes wonder how people in schools perceive me. More than once, people have seemed shocked that I’m the one they’ve been emailing with! Nobody seems particularly perturbed today, thankfully.

3:40 p.m. — I’m starving, so I run home and grab an apple, some pretzels and cheese cubes to eat in the car on the way to my afternoon programs. I also fill my Yeti cup with ice water — seriously the best purchase I made before moving to Texas a year ago!

5 p.m. — I quickly check my email, and it’s good news!! I’m officially accepted into the next session of derby classes AND my grad school contacted me to say that I have a $300 uncashed check that they’re re-sending me. I graduated almost a year ago and have no clue what this check is from, but I’ll gladly take it!

7 p.m. — I’m finally home from my programs and the girls have worn me out. I whip up my dinner of sausage and peppers cooked in tomato sauce, top them with over easy eggs and mozzarella, and toast up some French bread for the side. I eat while watching Osmosis on Netflix. It’s good but nothing I’d probably recommend.

8:30 p.m. — I check the weather for tomorrow. I want to go to a local park to practice my skating in the morning (derby class starts again this weekend, and I haven’t skated in a month — oops!), but the forecast calls for rain. I decide to go to a Yogalates class at the Y instead, and set my alarm. I also promise myself that if I actually get up and go, I can stop for good coffee on my way into work.

10:50 p.m. — The noise of my roommates wakes me up — I accidentally fell asleep in front of my computer. I shut my laptop, remove my glasses, turn off the light, and knock back out.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I somehow don’t feel rested at all. Snooze!

7:30 a.m. — I finally get out of bed, remembering my coffee promise. I throw on yoga pants, a tank top and Chacos, grab a change of clothes and food for the day and head out the door. I eat a breakfast bar in the car on the way to the Y.

9:15 a.m. — Yogalates is…fine. It’s packed and humid and everyone seems to know each other, which makes me wonder the whole time if I stand out. I do feel better after, though. After class, I throw on a black dress, put my hair up, and splash some water on my face. I leave my Chacos on, it’s just going to be one of those days.

9:40 a.m. — I stop at one of my favorite coffee places, which has a wide variety of drip, French press, and other brews available — any size, all for $2! I get a large French roast and a tasty-looking cookie ($5.16 including tip). I also notice my gas tank is on E, but that’ll have to wait. $5.16

10 a.m. — I prep for a day of meetings while enjoying my cookie, coffee, and a banana at my desk. I had to sit in the parking lot for a few minutes before coming in because I started the podcast S-Town, and it made me cry on my way to work. I wasn’t expecting it to take the turn it did!

12:50 p.m. — Today has been hectic between meetings and helping out a new staff member. I finally have time to prep my lunch before a 1 p.m. webinar, so I break out today’s prepackaged salad (slightly southwest-themed, with chicken, corn, and tortilla strips) and slice an avocado on top. I inhale it along with a Reese’s egg from the front desk.

1:30 p.m. — The webinar ends, and I remember that it’s a new week, so I pull out my Domino’s pizza tracker app, google “pizza” on my work computer, and scan a picture — 10 points! Only four more weeks until I can get a free pizza. Sometimes being frugal means playing the long game.

3:15 p.m. — After snacking on an apple and some pretzels, I leave work for my afternoon programs. On the way to my first site, I stop for gas ($10) and a soda ($1). A full tank is going to have to wait until Friday/payday. $11.00

5:20 p.m. — I cry again listening to S-Town while driving to my second program. It’s an amazing story, but I do wish they had put a trigger warning on it.

7:10 p.m. — I arrive at home, exhausted from the day. I love my job, but I’m grateful that I only work directly with kids two days of the week (which are now done!). Dinner is the same as last night, and I eat it while watching some more Osmosis and scrolling through dating apps. I hate first dates, but I’ve been trying to do more of them because I really would like a relationship.

9:30 p.m. — My laptop starts to make an ominous whirring noise, and I’m immediately worried. The Apple chat lady gives me a solution that doesn’t work, so I try doing the updates I’ve been putting off to see if that helps. It doesn’t. I begrudgingly make a Genius Bar appointment for tomorrow, eat some ice cream, and watch a few episodes of Sex Education. I don’t fall asleep until 1.

Daily Total: $16.16

Day Five

8:45 a.m. — I roll out of bed WAY later than I intended to and hop in the shower.

9:20 a.m. — I grab my breakfast and head out the door. At least I can listen to Lemonade on Spotify on my way to the office! Thanks, Queen Bey. I really want to stop for coffee, but I resist because I have a training at 10 that I really shouldn’t risk being late for.

9:50 a.m. — I sit down at my desk and quickly eat my banana and breakfast bar while cancelling my Genius Bar appointment (my laptop seemed fine this morning, but we’ll see). I grab a full mug of coffee before the training — I’m gonna need it.

12:30 p.m. — Training is over, and it went way better than expected. We’re promoting more in-depth socio-emotional learning in our programming, and I think it’s going to be really useful. We also had lunch delivered from Panera. I got the bacon turkey bravo sandwich and chips and my boss paid.

1:45 p.m. — A coworker sends out an email saying there’s extra catering in the kitchen and suddenly the hallway is swarmed. I snag some chicken Caesar salad and a hunk of bread and take it back to my desk.

3:20 p.m. — Is today over yet? I munch on some pretzels and decide to bring my pour-over coffee maker to work because I never wake up in time to make coffee at home. I debate also bringing my coffee grinder to work, but decide that’s too obnoxious. I spend the rest of the workday daydreaming about tomorrow morning’s coffee.

5 p.m. — I head to Trader Joe’s after work. Tomorrow is my weekly game night with friends, and we’re on a loose rotation of who brings the snacks. It’s definitely my turn. I love my friends and my friends love a cheese plate, so I decide to splurge a bit — I pick up two types of cheese, salami, pepperoni, crackers, garlic dip, apples, hard boiled eggs (for my keto friend), and dark chocolate caramels. For myself I grab some veggie chips, coffee, and a card for a coworker. I check my banking app and decide this purchase should probably go on my credit card. Traffic is bad, so I snack on some veggie chips on the way home while listening to more S-Town. $37.43

6:30 p.m. — Dinner is the same as the previous nights, and I eat it while watching more Sex Education. It still tastes good but the appeal of this particular meal is definitely starting to wear off.

8 p.m. — I head over to my friends’ house to play video games, and one friend lets me try sweet potato gnocchi with shrimp that he made. It’s amazing and makes me think that I should maybe try a little harder in my own cooking. Living with depression makes it hard to do even simple tasks sometimes, though. We’ll see.

11:40 p.m. — Video games turned into watching food videos on YouTube, and I leave a bit later than I intend to. I drive home, eat a few bites of ice cream, and scroll for a while. I don’t fall asleep until almost 2.

Daily Total: $37.43

Day Six

7:05 a.m. — Gym alarm goes off. Nope!

9:15 a.m. — I finally drag myself up. I put on a blue dress and Chacos, grab my lunch/snacks and my headphones, and head out the door. I eat a banana in the car.

9:45 a.m. — I decide to stop at my favorite local bagel place for breakfast. I get a breakfast sandwich (eggs, bacon, garlic and herb cream cheese) on an everything bagel, along with a large coffee ($9.20). I get it to go, I’ll eat at my desk. I also throw a dollar in the tip jar. $10.20

1 p.m. — Work is surprisingly busy and pretty frustrating today. Nobody seems able to communicate properly, and it’s wearing on me!

1:30 p.m. — I’m miraculously not hungry for lunch yet (the big breakfast probably did it), so I decide to run some errands. I drive to a few schools to drop off supplies while listening to more S-Town.

2:30 p.m. — On my way back to work, I notice my gas tank is on E again. Sigh. Between the amount I drive for work and the fact that gas prices just went up, my last $10 didn’t get me that far. I stop and put another $10 into my car. Thankfully tomorrow is payday! $10.11

2:45 p.m. — Back at work and finally hungry, so I eat my normal lunch (prepackaged southwest salad topped with avocado) and some veggie chips.

4 p.m. — I check my credit score and am thrilled to see it has gone up in recent months! I’m solidly in the “pretty good” range. Despite my student loan debt, I pay all my bills on time and have been working diligently to pay down my credit card. I’m proud to see my hard work paying off. My goal is to, by the end of 2019, have a CC balance of zero and at least $1,000 in savings. That might not seem like a lot, but for a 23-year-old who put herself through grad school and now works at a non-profit, it is.

5 p.m. — Done for the day! I eat an apple and a few cheese cubes on the way home, and stop by my favorite Vietnamese place for spring rolls (one pork, one chicken) for a light dinner ($8.66). $8.66

7:30 p.m. — Time for game night!! I head over to my friends’ place and we have a great night of board games and snacks.

11:40 p.m. — I leave my friends’ place feeling happy and full. Once I get home, I resist the urge to watch more Sex Education and just go straight to bed. I’m asleep by 1.

Daily Total: $28.97

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — Ugh. Slept through my alarms and woke up with a massive headache. At least it’s payday! I roll out of bed, take some meds, put on a black jumpsuit, and grab my food for the day.

9:40 a.m. — I drive through Starbucks on my way to work, and get an iced coffee and a confetti cookie ($6.39). I also pay for the woman behind me ($7.47), which I like to do occasionally. I had a lot of people who made sure I was always fed when I was a broke grad student, and I try to pay it forward. $13.86

11 a.m. — Work is slow today and my heart’s just not in it. I take advantage of the down time to move some money around — I pay my rent for next month ($450), pay $200 towards my credit card, and move $150 into savings. I also pay my utilities bill even though it isn’t due until mid-May.

12 p.m. — I eat my lunch salad (spinach and feta with dried fruit, walnuts, and balsamic) and half a brownie a coworker gave me. I have to leave soon for a therapy appointment, so I decide to work the rest of the day from home.

2 p.m. — Out of therapy and feeling good! My therapist is fantastic — we talk about work, relationships, body image, living with depression and anxiety, and more. I’m lucky enough to have had access to consistent therapy for the last four years, and it’s been absolutely instrumental, along with medication, in maintaining my mental health. My current insurance is set up to where I have to pay for all my appointments out of pocket until I hit my deductible. Because of this, I only go to therapy biweekly and always pay with my credit card. Still, it’s a non-negotiable expense for me. $87.11

3:30 p.m. — Work from home is uneventful. I eat a snack of veggie chips, smashed avocado with Tajin, and chocolate and look forward to a quiet night in.

7:15 p.m. — I wake up from my post-work nap. Wow, this week really took it out of me! I decide to order some dinner on Doordash because I have a free delivery promo, and I settle on chicken shawarma from a tasty-looking food truck nearby ($13.62 + $2 tip). For the rest of the night, I settle in to watch the new episodes of The Act and Jane the Virgin and I finish off Sex Education. I have derby class in the morning, so I drink as much water as I can and am asleep by 10. $15.62

Daily Total: $116.59

If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

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