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A Week In Athens, GA, On A $26,100 Joint Income

·19 min read

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a library assistant who has a joint income of $26,100 per year and spends some of her money this week on Dansko clogs.

Occupation: Library Assistant
Industry: Library and Information Science
Age: 26
Location: Athens, GA
My Salary: $26,100
Net Worth: ~$21,240 (We have $1,200 in checking, $28,000 in savings, and my car is worth about $4,000, minus debt. My husband and I share all our finances. We have a joint bank account and we pay for everything together. My husband is in graduate school full time right now, so he isn’t working. His program is only one year long, so we’re paying half the bills from my paycheck and half the bills from savings each month.)
Debt: $13,760 in student loans.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $725
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $850 for a two-bedroom apartment. Water and trash are included.
Student Loans: $0
Phone Bill: $55
Electric: $100
Internet: $70
Car Insurance: $75
Spotify: $20 (two accounts, one for each of us)

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, my parents always expected me to go to college and I knew I wanted to. I didn’t have any idea of what I’d want to do after high school, so college seemed like the logical next step. I was fortunate enough to qualify for the state scholarship that paid for all of my tuition and my parents paid for everything else like semester fees, housing, food, etc. The only loan I took out during undergraduate was for a study abroad program in Oxford, which I highly regret because I’ve only been able to pay interest on it for years. I still owe the full amount of the loan even though I took it out five years ago.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
They talked to me about money a lot (and still do!) and I’ve asked them about every financial decision I’ve ever made. My parents are very open with me about their finances and have always told me how much they make, how much they spend on certain items, and what they think I should do with my money.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job at Target when I was in high school. My parents bought me a car, but told me if I wanted to have it I had to get a job and pay for gas and car insurance.

Did you worry about money growing up?
My parents are very good with money and I’ve never felt like I didn’t get what I needed. There were some hard times when both my parents lost their jobs during the 2008 recession, but they always figured it out. We lived a very middle-class life and were able to take vacations, buy extra things now and then, etc.

Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money constantly. My salary is extremely low and the housing costs in my city have skyrocketed, so we can hardly afford to live here. I was nervous when my husband decided to take a year off work to go back to school, but we saved enough last year to cover all our expenses for a year, so it should be fine as long as we stick to a budget.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 22 when I graduated college. I’ve never had to live on my own though, because my husband and I moved in together after college while we were still dating. I know both of our parents would help us out if we needed it, but we’ve been able to be independent since college.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents paid for most of my expenses when I was in college. When I moved out of the dorms and into a house, I was responsible for the utility bills and I’ve always had to pay my car insurance, but they gave me money for food, rent, and paid my school fees.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off. My husband is a full-time graduate student, but he is off school this week, so I don’t have to wake up as early. I usually take the dogs out before work, but when he’s home he does it after I leave. I get ready and make my breakfast and lunch to take to work.

7:35 a.m. — We just moved to a new apartment, which is less than a mile from my work, so I can now walk there. We have to pay $30 a month for parking at my work, which is completely ridiculous, so I’m happy to be able to walk. I get to work by 8 and check the news, Instagram, etc., and eat breakfast. Today I have Silk soy yogurt with Kind granola and a banana.

1:30 p.m. — I eat lunch. Today I have rice cakes with peanut butter, craisins, blueberries, and a nectarine. I’m gluten intolerant, mostly lactose intolerant (I can eat butter and cheese, but no other dairy), and vegetarian. I read some of The Lying Game by Ruth Ware while I eat. It’s pretty good, but not as good as The Woman in the Window, which I just finished. I didn’t know I liked mystery novels so much, but I’ve been picking them up at the thrift store and I’m really enjoying them.

4 p.m. — I leave work and walk home, arriving around 4:15 p.m. I like to sew and I make most of my own clothes, so I get out some fabric and cut out the pieces for a dress I’m planning on making this week. I listen to the new Billie Eilish album while I do that. I get pretty tired after, so at 6, my husband and I start watching Aliens, which is a truly terrible movie. Sigourney Weaver’s character is much better in the first one.

7 p.m. — I take the dogs out and we start cooking tempeh and rice stir fry for dinner. We finish the movie and I get ready for bed around 9:45. I’ve had very clear skin my whole life, but since we’ve been wearing masks everywhere, I’ve developed pretty bad acne. I wash my face with Dr. Thayer’s witch hazel face scrub and use CeraVe non-comedogenic night lotion. I’m not used to having a skincare routine, so I’m not very good at it.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — Same as yesterday, my alarm goes off and I roll out of bed. I leave at 7:35.

8 a.m. — I work in acquisitions in an academic library, and we’re in the middle of some departmental changes, as well as the beginning of a new fiscal year, so most things are on pause right now. This means I have very little to do at work, which is very boring. I get to work, check the news, write in my planner, and look at Instagram. Breakfast today is oatmeal with almonds, blueberries, and peanut butter.

11 a.m. — I’m having kind of a bad day, so I go outside to call my husband. We talk for a little while, and then it starts to rain so I go back in. I have a snack of pretzels and cheddar crackers.

1:20 p.m. — I eat lunch, which is leftover rice and tempeh from last night. The rest of the day drags by and I text my husband to ask if he wants to go to the store after work.

4 p.m. — My husband picks me up so we can go to Earth Fare since we’re running low on food. At Earth Fare, we buy bananas, a tomato, lettuce, tofu, two oat yogurts, a greek yogurt, coffee, Larabars, crackers, tortilla chips, sweet potato fries, veggie burgers, gluten-free buns, chili powder, quinoa, La Croix, mustard, and canned pumpkin. $77.49

6 p.m. — I clean the kitchen and cook some quinoa for a salad tomorrow. I’ve been really tired this week since we just moved last weekend, so I lay on the couch with my dogs for a while, until it’s time to make dinner.

7 p.m. — We make veggie burgers, which is an unusually simple dinner for us. We both like to cook and make most of our meals from scratch, but today we just put the veggie burgers and fries in the oven and toast the buns on a pan on the stove. My husband chops up some veggies and we eat dinner around 8.

8:30 p.m. — After dinner, we are too tired to find something to watch on TV, so we both shop for shoes online. Neither of us find anything good and I’m exhausted by 10 and go to bed. I skip my skincare, oops.

Daily Total: $77.49

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I wake up to the sounds of the dog upstairs, a baby crying next door and roofers tearing apart a roof on the apartments across the street. I can’t fall back asleep, so I just wait until 7 and get out of bed. I make my breakfast and lunch, and I’m out the door by 7:40.

9 a.m. — I eat breakfast, which is Oatly mixed berry yogurt with Kind granola and a banana. I work on some books and call my husband at 11 to try and figure out some issues with his student loan application.

12:30 p.m. — I take a walk and call the vet to schedule an appointment for one of our dogs. It’s just a routine checkup so she can get more heartworm preventative medicine. I schedule the appointment for Thursday at 2 p.m. I eat lunch — a salad with red leaf lettuce, quinoa, blueberries, and craisins. I usually put almonds in my salads, but we ran out and they didn’t have any at Earth Fare.

4 p.m. — I walk home and change into a dress because it got pretty hot outside. My husband and I go for a walk around the greenway.

5 p.m. — We get home and I start baking some gluten-free pumpkin bread. It’s August and still 90 degrees, but in my opinion, there is no season for pumpkin bread, ha. I clean the kitchen and open some packages that arrive. We ordered a coat rack since we’re not supposed to make any holes in the walls in our new apartment. It’s cute! I also bought a Hydro Flask coffee tumbler. These are by far the best coffee tumblers I’ve ever used. We ordered these last week, so no payment today.

6 p.m. — My husband has to buy some books for school, so we get on Amazon and order three of the books that he needs. They’re used, so they only cost about a dollar each, plus shipping. Then I take a shower before making dinner. $17.89

7:45 p.m. — We have a late start making dinner. We’re making spring rolls with fried tofu, carrots, bell peppers, lettuce, avocado, and a peanut-tamari dipping sauce. They come out really wonky but very good!

9 p.m. — We clean the kitchen. We noticed some bugs when we moved in last week, so we’re trying to stay on top of the kitchen and not leave any food or dirty dishes out. We’re both already over it, so who knows how long it will last. I go to bed after we finish.

Daily Total: $17.89

Day Four

7 a.m. — I snooze my alarm two or three times before getting out of bed. I didn’t sleep well last night. Plus, by the end of the week, it’s always harder to get up. I’m a morning person, but I don’t like getting up for work! I throw on a jumpsuit and make lunch before heading out the door at 7:35.

8 a.m. — It’s only 66 degrees outside this morning, very weird for August in Georgia. I get to work and check my phone then have a slice of pumpkin bread and a nectarine for breakfast.

1:10 p.m. — I eat lunch a little earlier today because we have a department meeting at 1:30. Lunch is the same as yesterday, a salad with red leaf lettuce, quinoa, blueberries, and craisins. We don’t talk about anything important in our meeting, as usual.

2 p.m. — I’m still at work, but my husband takes our dog to the vet. He tells me the total is $177.76 for a checkup and six months of heartworm preventative. He puts it on the credit card since we had a lot of moving-related expenses last week. We don’t put much on our credit card, just a couple hundred dollars here and there when we have extra expenses like this. I usually split the payment between two months, or just pay it all off before the due date if I can. I don’t like to have a lot sitting on the credit card, so I use it very sparingly. $177.76

4:15 p.m. — I get home from work and we go to TJ Maxx because my husband needs some more underwear. He finds two packs for $7.99 each. $17.26

7 p.m. — We start making dinner. We’re having roasted vegetables and tofu, with potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, onion, and nutritional yeast. We eat and start watching the second Lord of the Rings movie, which I’ve never seen. It’s pretty good, but we only get about halfway through since it’s three hours long.

10:20 p.m. — I begrudgingly wash my face and put on lotion, before getting into bed and falling asleep.

Daily Total: $195.02

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — I wake up with my alarm today and stare at my closet because I can’t decide what to wear. I tend to wear the same few outfits over and over and I keep a spreadsheet of all my clothes and check off each time I wear something so I can see how often I wear everything. I put on a dress that I haven’t worn since I started the spreadsheet, but end up changing into a different one that I wear all the time. I’m a creature of habit, I suppose. I get my breakfast and lunch ready and leave at 7:35.

8 a.m. — I do my usual morning routine at work and have oatmeal with blueberries, craisins, and peanut butter for breakfast. I think about doing a closet clean out again, but at this point, I don’t really have that many clothes. I’m not a minimalist, but I only have about 80 items of clothing so there’s not too much room for getting rid of things. I’ll look at my closet when I get home.

1:30 p.m. — I have leftover roasted vegetables for lunch, and finish reading The Lying Game. It ended up being pretty good! It’s a slow Friday, and I text my husband about picking me up to go grocery shopping.

4 p.m. — We go to Kroger to get groceries. I try to buy enough food for a week when I go grocery shopping. It didn’t work out last week because we moved and didn’t have anything, so I stock up on a few extra things. We buy avocados, bananas, tomatoes, mushrooms, strawberries, blueberries, lemons, limes, onions, kale, cauliflower, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, nectarines, apples, yellow squash, a sweet potato, frozen peas, eggs, almond milk, shredded cheese, butter, yogurt, gluten-free cereal, granola, corn starch, Larabars, rice noodles, brown rice pasta, nuts, peppermint tea, popcorn, mayonnaise, almond crackers, tortilla chips, olive oil, canola oil, chickpeas, and dark chocolate ($144.73). We also need to get more dog food, so we stop by the pet store and buy a 28-pound bag of Taste of the Wild salmon dry food ($56.15). $200.88

5:30 p.m. — We get home and I clean the apartment because my parents are coming to town tomorrow. I clean the kitchen, vacuum, and clean up a few things I have laying around. We also give our dogs their dose of heartworm preventative.

7 p.m. — We make pasta for dinner with brown rice pasta, chickpeas, peas, mushrooms, kale, tomatoes, and parmesan. We finish the second Lord of the Rings movie. I’m liking these movies a lot more than I thought I would!

10 p.m. — I wash my face and go to bed.

Daily Total: $200.88

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I get up after trying to fall back asleep and failing. I’ve always been an early riser. I hang a few pictures on the wall and organize some things in my sewing room.

9:30 a.m. — We both love thrift shopping, so we decide to check out a Goodwill about 30 minutes away. I have cereal with a banana and craisins for breakfast and we head out.

12 p.m. — This Goodwill is amazing! I find a pair of brand new Dansko clogs for $6, as well as two pairs of pants, a tank top, and a book (Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty). My husband gets a few shirts and a jacket. $47.64

12:45 p.m. — We drive home and stop by a local coffee shop to get coffee. I get a cold brew with oat milk and my husband gets an oat milk latte, and I leave a tip. $9.50

1:30 p.m. — We give our dogs a bath because their heartworm medicine is topical and smells really bad and then I shower. One of the pairs of pants I bought is a little big, so I adjust the buttons on my sewing machine. They fit perfectly now! While I’m at it, I fix the elastic in another pair of pants that have gotten a little too small and iron some of my husband’s shirts that he just bought. I eat an apple and some chips for a snack.

4 p.m. — My parents arrive and we hang out until my brother is done with work. My mom brought some clothes she wanted me to alter, so we spend an hour hemming some of her pants and dresses.

6 p.m. — My brother finishes work and comes over. We’re all vaccinated, but we want to eat outside at a restaurant because none of us are really comfortable eating indoors at the moment.

7 p.m. — We go to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. I order a bean taco, rice, and we all share guacamole, cheese dip, and salsa. It’s so good! After we finish dinner and my parents pay (thanks!), and we head over to a brewery and sit on their patio. Everyone else gets drinks, but I can’t drink beer since I’m gluten intolerant, so I don’t get anything. My parents pay again.

10 p.m. — We get back to my apartment and my parents leave. My brother hangs out for a little while, before going home around 11:30. I get into bed and try to fall asleep, but I’ve had a lot of coffee today so I think it’s a little after midnight before I finally get to sleep.

Daily Total: $57.14

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I sleep in a little later today. I don’t have much on my agenda, so I start sewing the dress I cut out earlier in the week. I make good progress before my husband wakes up around 11. He doesn’t usually sleep this late, but we had a long day yesterday.

11:30 a.m. — We take the dogs out and eat eggs and fruit for breakfast. I work on my dress a little more, and then ask my husband if he wants to go to the botanical gardens.

1 p.m. — We walk around the gardens and sit in the grass for a while. We talk about places we’d like to move to in the future since we’re both pretty tired of Georgia. We don’t really fit in here and we’d like to try living in other cities before making the big commitment of buying a house. It’s pretty hot today, around 90 degrees, so we don’t stay too long because we forgot to bring water and I’m feeling a little dehydrated.

2 p.m. — We get home and take the dogs on the shortest walk we can since it’s so hot. I guess I really didn’t drink enough water today because by the time we get back I’m feeling pretty bad. I make some guacamole for lunch and then go lay down for a little bit. I end up falling asleep and when I wake up, I drink a bunch of water and feel better. My husband went back to the store while I was asleep to get nori and rice vinegar to make sushi for dinner. We’ve been spending way too much money this week, so I try to plan out a budget for the next few weeks. $11.94

4:30 p.m. — I work on my dress and finish it right before dinner, which means I can wear it tomorrow!

7:30 p.m. — I help my husband finish dinner. He made mushrooms, eggs, and sweet potatoes to go inside the sushi, along with bell peppers, carrots, and avocado. It’s good! After eating we start the last Lord of the Rings movie, which I didn’t realize is over three hours long. We get halfway through before I get too sleepy and have to go to bed.

11 p.m. — I get ready for bed and try to fall asleep. One of our dogs has been laying in our bed a lot since we moved and he wants to sleep in the bed. We don’t let our dogs sleep in our bed, mostly because there’s not enough room for two people and two dogs (they’re both 65 pounds), so I try to get him to get in his dog bed. I put a blanket on his bed, and he finally lays down. I fall asleep right after.

Daily Total: $11.94

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