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A Week In Bucharest, Romania, On A $20,840 Salary

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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.

This week: a senior technical writer working in tech who makes $20,840 per year.

Editor’s note: All currency has been converted to USD.

Occupation: Senior Technical Writer
Industry: Tech
Age: 34
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Salary: ~$20,840 (net income), bonuses sometimes apply.
Paycheck Amount (monthly): ~$1,736 (depends on the Euro course; this is what’s left after tax)
Gender Identity: Woman





Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 for a one-bedroom apartment (owned by my long-time boyfriend, C. I do not pay rent and utilities, but I do 95% of the monthly household shopping to balance our expenses.)
Mortgage: $187 for a studio apartment. It’s my property, but my mother lives there. She pays for her apartment expenses.
Health Insurance, Pension Insurance, and Income Tax: ~$1,231 (Almost 50% of my gross salary. My employer offers a private health subscription. Even if health expenses are covered, the public health system is a mess. This is where corruption leads in the long term, but that’s another story.)
Electricity, Gas, and Water: $0 (My boyfriend covers this.)
Internet and Cable: $0 (My boyfriend covers this.)
Gym Membership: $38
Transport Cards: Covered by my employer (They pay $12 for my bus pass and $17 for my metro pass.)
Netflix: $10 (My mother also uses our account.)
HBO GO: $0 (included in our cable plan)
Deezer: $5 for me and C. This is a service similar to Spotify.
Phone Plan: $52 (includes my mom’s bill, since she is on my phone plan)
Total Savings: $10,000 (C. has his own account. I spent a large amount of my savings earlier this year when I bought the studio my mother now lives in.)











Day One

8:20 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and it hits me: It’s Monday morning. I do what every responsible adult does: snooze and fall back asleep for another ten minutes :). I start my morning routine: brush teeth and get dressed for work (I prepare my outfit the night before, because I am always late in the morning). I put on a bit of makeup: Vichy mineral 89 gel, Fenty foundation, a bit of under-eye concealer, a dash of powder on the nose and forehead, blush, a bit of eye crayon and lipstick. I love perfumes, and I have a small collection. This morning I decide to use my favorite: Hermès Eau des Merveilles. Between the preparations and small talk with C., it’s all of a sudden 9:30. I rush to my usual commute: short walk to the tram (three-station ride), then across the street for my next tram (another seven stations). I can also stay on the first tram and take the subway, but the tram route is ten minutes shorter and it makes a difference. My commute, door to door, takes 35-50 minutes one way.

10:15 a.m. — I arrive at my office. I am still getting used to it all, since I joined this company about two months ago — I previously worked at a very big corporation. My new workplace is smaller, has more of a start-up feel to it, and the schedule is flexible when it comes to arriving. Some people come in at 7; I usually arrive between 10 and 10:30. They are kind of strict in terms of working hours: nine hours with a one-hour lunch break included. I grab my coffee from the office kitchen and eat biscuits from my desk stash. I am too lazy to make breakfast. I also check my email to see if there are any emergencies. There is nothing major, so I spend about 20 minutes reading my personal emails.

1:40 p.m. — I wrap up one of the documents. My colleagues are going for lunch, and I join them. We spend a bit of time chatting about our weekend and politics. $3

2:45 p.m. — There’s a fundraising campaign at work for helping underserved children with back-to-school shopping. A colleague asks me if I want to go shopping with her. I gladly accept. $15

6:55 p.m. — I hate the first months in a new workplace: so many procedures to learn and people to meet, and I feel like I go around asking a lot of stupid questions. I haven’t met all the people, and sometimes I wonder who is who and I have no idea where all the people are located. One of my colleagues is very helpful and always points me in the right direction. I am done working for today, so I rush out the door to get to my hair appointment, which is conveniently located five minutes from my office. The cutting, treatments, coloring, and final styling on my hair take longer than I expected. The price is on the high side, but in the end it’s definitely worth it. I also try the famous Olaplex treatments, and at first sight, it really makes a difference. $144

9:30 p.m. — I’m back home. C. is working late and I’m not in the mood to cook, so I order pizza and beers and wait for him. He comes home at 11. We eat and talk about work and our week. He is really impressed with my new hair. He compliments me and laughs at my awkward face (because he knows I can’t take a compliment). We are planning a short seaside trip next week and discuss hotel options. I also pack leftover pizza for lunch. We shower, I prepare my outfit, brush my teeth, apply a bit of under-eye cream, and head to bed. We fall asleep at 1:30. $19

Daily Total: $181

Day Two

8:20 a.m. — The damn alarm goes off. C. is as fresh as a ray of sunshine scrolling through his phone, even though he woke up in the middle of the night to watch the tennis match between Serena and Sharapova at the U.S. Open. At least he has a day off. He is a freelancer and has a more relaxed schedule, but he works many weekends. We cuddle for a bit, then I do my usual morning routine: dress really fast, apply light makeup, spray a bit of Hermès perfume for good luck, and out the door. On my way to work, I text my mom to let her know we’ll pay her a short visit tonight. She asks me to pick up something for dessert.

10:20 a.m. — I get to the office, and everyone is celebrating two of my colleagues’ birthdays in the kitchen. I chat for a bit, treat myself to some delicious cake, and head to my desk.

2:10 p.m. — It’s been a busy day between all my tasks and meetings. I go to the kitchen to eat my lunch. I only take a 20-minute break.

3:20 p.m. — Another break for…free waffle day in the kitchen. I can’t say no to desserts, so I grab a piece with Nutella, roasted nuts, and extra coconut. I spend about 20 minutes chatting to some colleagues about the latest soccer results, then rush to prepare for a meeting.

5:30 p.m. — The meeting was short and I’m basically done with work for the day, but I have to stay since we are required to be in the office for nine hours a day. At my previous job, we were allowed to leave 30-45 minutes early if we were on track with work. This place is more restrictive, and it’s a bit frustrating. I feel guilty for those moments when I scroll through a blog or read a random page on the internet. Working from home isn’t allowed, and for a moment I miss my old job. Then I remember the parts that made me want to leave, and I feel better. I read through some training materials I find buried on a drive and remember I have to file my PTO request for next week. At least I have something to do. I also take some time to check the weather and work on a post for my personal blog.

6:45 p.m. — I leave a bit early because I’m basically turning into office furniture. I take a pill to numb down a bad headache that just turned up and head out to meet C., who is waiting for me to go to my mom’s.

8:15 p.m. — We stop to pick up cherry pie and then head to my mom’s. $10

9:45 p.m. — My mom is battling depression following her divorce. She lost her home, so I decided to buy a studio because she was anxious about moving as she grows older. I put my savings on the line to try and provide a place she can call her own. We are constantly visiting her, even when I am dead tired and stressed. We also make an effort to help her go on vacation for a bit each year. She is constantly unhappy and feels I’m not doing enough/visiting enough, and while I understand she is lonely and suffering, I have a hard time understanding that her happiness is not my responsibility. We never had a great bond, and this year has been pretty rough for me, both because of her situation and because of my own health. I have Hashimoto’s, and in the past three years I’ve had two breast surgeries for suspect lumps, fortunately benign. I have another possible surgery on the table for an ovarian cyst.

10:45 p.m. — We take an Uber home. I skip into the shower, put on my pajamas, and try to shut down the bad thoughts in my head (this always happens after I visit my mother). C. listens to me vent and tries to comfort me. He is a godsend. We watch the U.S. Open for a while and go to bed around 1:30. $6

Daily Total: $16

Day Three

8:20 a.m. — Same morning routine. Snooze alarm…run late. Today, I’m using The One by D&G for a more feminine fragrance. I plan my evening with C. (we are going to visit his parents — it’s been a while since our last dinner with them), and I am out the door. I grab my coffee in the office kitchen, snack on a few biscuits, and deliver yesterday’s docs.

12 p.m. — I finish my most important work of the day, so I switch gears and concentrate on finding accommodation for our short vacation next week. I browse Booking.com and snag the last room at a hotel we already know and love. I secure the booking and pay a one-night deposit. (I will split the final hotel costs with C.) $106

1:30 p.m. — Lunch break with colleagues. I get fries and a salad. I also take some time to catch up with my friends on our WhatsApp group. $3

7 p.m. — It’s a wrap for the day. I rush out of my office to meet C. and head to his parents’. On our way, I stop to pick up a cosmetics order that I paid for last week. Bed Head shampoo and conditioner for colored hair, a pack of ashwagandha capsules that should help my damaged thyroid a bit, and hyaluronic acid from The Ordinary. It’s my first time using this product. I am lucky enough to not look my age, but I feel like it’s the time to slowly add this kind of product into my routine.

10:15 p.m. — We are back home after a lovely dinner. We watch a soccer game while snacking on watermelon. I take a relaxing bath, style my hair, prepare my morning outfit, and pack my gym bag. Lights out around 2. Oops!

Daily Total: $109

Day Four

8:20 a.m. — Same morning routine, except this time I leave my boyfriend sleeping since he has a busy weekend. I put on a more delicate fragrance today — Infusion d’Iris by Prada. I grab a pretzel C. bought for me yesterday and am out the door by 9:30. I arrive at work 40 minutes later, where I go straight for coffee. I run into the CEO in the kitchen, and we thankfully have a smooth interaction.

11 a.m. — I go to the office kitchen to snack on my pretzel and respond to some messages on our WhatsApp group. One of my friends and I decide to meet up Friday after work. I will meet some other friends on Monday evening.

1:30 p.m. — I go to lunch with my colleagues and eat a salad. $3

7 p.m. — Before leaving, I take a small break. My job has me constantly running around asking for information from people, and it can get tiring. I browse the net for ten minutes and fill in my work spreadsheet. It’s not a job-related task, but something I do for myself to keep track of my work. I leave the office and go to the gym, where C. is waiting for me. On my way, I stop by a seamstress to pick up a pair of altered pants. $7

7:30 p.m. — I am not sporty by nature, but I try to find time for two or three gym visits each week. I usually run on the treadmill or use the elliptical. We stop at the grocery store on the way home to restock the fridge. $26

9:30 p.m. — Finally home. We hop into the shower, and then it’s dinner time. We have soup, a salad with chicken schnitzel, and a chocolate mousse we bought earlier for dessert. We watch our soccer team lose and have a few beers. I am so mad about the result! Then it’s the regular bedtime routine. I prepare tomorrow’s outfit, brush my teeth, apply eye and face cream, and am in bed by 1.

Daily Total: $36

Day Five

8:20 a.m. — It’s “almost the weekend” day today — yay! Usual morning stuff for me. I put on Wish by Chopard and rush to work at 9:30. I grab a coffee and plan my day. I thankfully only have a few minor things to do today, because I am definitely not in a work mood this morning.

1:30 p.m. — I’m struggling to be productive, so I go to lunch with my colleagues. I have a mini subway sandwich. $3

2:30 p.m. — I buy chocolate and a Vitamin Well water and wait to see if anybody replies to my emails/messages. $3

7:15 p.m. — I leave to meet a friend. We have Italian food and a glass of wine. I also get a steak for C. and then head home around 11. I hop in the shower and hang out until C. gets home. We chat while he eats his dinner. Of course, we get carried away with our conversation and don’t go to bed until 2. $40

Daily Total: $46

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — We slept more than we planned, but it’s not a tragedy. Once we are out of bed, C. starts working and I go to my waxing appointment. $26

12 p.m. — Back home, I make breakfast (omelet, cheese, veggies, and coffee), then do some cleaning, ironing, and laundry. A bit later, C. heads to work and I head to the gym.

7:30 p.m. — I get back home and shower. Then I eat a salad (and make one for C. to eat later) and give myself a manicure and pedicure while watching a soccer game. I don’t like going to nail salons, and while I am not as skilled as a professional, the result isn’t awful. In light of the recent Amazon fires, I also make a donation to a charity. C. gets home around midnight. He eats and keeps working until we go to bed around 2.30. $10

Daily Total: $36

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — C. wakes up for work and I try to fall back asleep, but I’m unsuccessful. I spend an hour reading in bed and then get up to make breakfast — scrambled eggs, halloumi, mini hotdogs, and coffee. After I finish eating and washing the dishes, I spend some time doing absolutely nothing, and it’s bliss.

1:45 p.m. — I cook dinner — chicken breast rolls with feta cheese — and then head to the gym.

6:30 p.m. — I get home from my workout, take a bath, eat dinner, style my hair, and prepare my outfit for Monday. I meditate for 15 minutes.

1 a.m. — C. is finally home. We chat a bit about his work, he eats, and we get in bed by 2. I’m proud of myself for having a zero-expense day.

Daily Total: $0

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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