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A Week In Montgomery County, MD, On $22 An Hour


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 medical assistant who makes $22 an hour and spends some of her money on a cucumber mint crush.

Occupation: Medical Assistant
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 23
Location: Montgomery County, MD
Salary: $22/hr (Started at $16/hr 1.5 years ago, so a salary calculation is hard). I also babysit ($20/hr) and tutor ($40/hr).
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,296.56 (from my Medical Assistant job)
Second/Third Job Paycheck Amount (weekly): $140 (for babysitting) and $40 (for tutoring)
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $0 (I am lucky that I am able to live at home. I planned to take a two-year gap between undergrad and graduate school, so I’ve been living at home for a little over a year now to save money before starting graduate school. I’ll be starting a Physician Assistant program most likely in May. It is very rigorous, so I will not be able to work during the two-year program. I’ll be moving out once I start, so I am trying to save enough for rent, food, and any other expenses for the next two years.)
Student Loans: $0 (My parents paid the majority of tuition, so I only had $5,000 in loans, which I paid off in a few months.)
Car Insurance: $42.16
Health/Dental/Vision: $0 (staying on my family plan till I turn 26!)
Phone: $0 (my parents still pay)
Netflix: $0 (I use my parent’s account)
Spotify: $9.99
Gym: $21.99
Savings: $1,667 (I already have a little over $18,000 saved up. Now that I started working extra jobs and have a little more income, I’m going try to contribute more into my savings.)

Day One

10 a.m. — I finally get to sleep in. I worked over 50 hours last week, which is more than my usual, so I was exhausted. It feels amazing to sleep for 10 hours! I realize that I’m almost out of clean underwear, which means it’s laundry time.

11 a.m. — After eating breakfast and mindlessly scrolling on social media, I decide to paint my nails. I’ve been painting them various shades of beige and light pink because I’ve been interviewing for graduate schools all month and need to maintain a professional color. I’m happy I can choose a dark red because I finally get a break from interviews. I mess up, which is partially my fault and partially because the nail polish is clumping. I make a mental note to throw this polish away and buy a new one.

12 p.m. — I write C., my boyfriend, a card for our two-year anniversary. Last year we celebrated by taking a trip, but I asked that we pass on pricey celebrations this year. I’ve already spent close to $2,000 dollars applying to schools and going on interviews. My budget is pretty tight with most of my paycheck going straight into savings. We decided to go to a taco festival to celebrate. He buys the tickets and I Venmo him. $20

1 p.m. — I get ready and pack my overnight bag. I’m almost out the door, when I realize that I forgot my laundry in the dryer. I dump it on my bed before rushing out. C. lives an hour away, so I only see him on the weekends. We take turns driving to each other’s places.

2 p.m. — I drink one of his beers and we walk to the taco festival. It’s been 90-degree weather all week, but it’s in the 60’s today. It’s perfect weather for hanging out outside! We get 10 food vouchers ($30). C. pays. I get a taco, nachos, a chicken empanada, and a Nutella empanada. Most of our time is spent waiting in lines, but the food is good and it’s a fun atmosphere. I use the free drink voucher I got with my festival ticket to get a vodka sour. I want to drink more, so I buy myself a cucumber mint crush ($11.60). I pressure C. into riding the mechanical bull with me at the festival. It’s more fun than I expected, but I also bruise my thighs. $11.60

8 p.m. — After walking back home, we decide to watch one of Iliza Shlesinger’s Netflix comedy specials. I eat the donuts C. got me for our anniversary for dinner and drink a glass of wine. My friend texts me letting me know she bought tickets for King’s Dominion next weekend. As a season pass holder, she gets special deals, so she was able to buy me one for a reduced fee. I Venmo her. $46.67

9 p.m. — We decide to watch a horror movie next, but I fall asleep 20 minutes into the movie (pretty classic move on my part). I wake up in a haze when the movie is over. I only have enough energy to plop myself from the couch into bed. I fall back asleep immediately.

Daily Total: $78.27

Day Two

9 a.m. — I wake up. C. is still sleeping and I expect he’ll sleep for another hour. I scroll through social media until I get hungry and eat one of the leftover donuts.

10 a.m. — I wash my face and put on a charcoal facemask. C. wakes up and we hop in the shower together. I put makeup on and we leave for brunch with C.’s extended family.

12 p.m. — Brunch is at C.’s aunt’s house, and there is a lot of delicious food and mimosas. There is also a lot of talk about politics and whether or not C. and I are going to have kids.

4 p.m. — We get back to C.’s place. My friend texts us reminding us to Venmo him if we want to be included in the hayride and bonfire event he’s planning at an orchard a couple weekends from now. $45

4:30 p.m. — I take a nice hour-long nap because I’m tipsy and sleepy after brunch.

6 p.m. — My friend’s mom texts me asking me to feed her cats for a week. I immediately agree because it’s an easy $25 a day and they let me stay at their apartment while they are gone, which cuts my commute to work by 30 minutes. I’ve been picking up odd jobs here and there to add to my income lately and this is a great gig.

6:30 p.m. — C. and I walk to a small Mediterranean restaurant near his house. I order shrimp and rice and he gets lamb and rice ($20). C. pays.

8 p.m. — I head back home. Before I get onto the highway, I pass by a cheap gas station. My tank is more than halfway full, but I can’t pass up a good deal. The gas in my area is so much more expensive. $11.93

9 p.m. — I regret leaving my laundry on my bed and I begrudgingly fold it. I brush my teeth and wash my face. I recently received a free overnight facial product for testing purposes, so I decide to finally give it a try. It smells like rubbing alcohol, which I think is normal? I’ve never tried something like this, so I don’t know what to expect.

10 p.m. — I’m not even remotely tired, which is an issue because I’ve been trying to go to bed early. My nap definitely threw off my sleeping schedule. I enter a sweepstakes for a $10,000 Overstock gift card. I don’t think I’ll win, but I might as well try. I made a budget for the month a few weeks ago, but I edit it now that I know my plans for the rest of the weekends. I’m spending more on activities this month than usual, but I’m still staying within my budget. I toss and turn and don’t fall asleep till after 12 a.m.

Daily Total: $56.93

Day Three

5:40 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I’m groggy and still tired, so I let myself snooze for another 15 minutes. I do my normal morning routine: brush my teeth, floss, wash my face, and apply toner and lotion. I was lazy last week and did not wear mascara to work. I decide to put in a little effort into my appearance today, so I apply mascara along with concealer and eyebrow cream. I haven’t been to the gym in ages and I tell myself that this is the week I will finally go. I work late most days, so I decide to go tomorrow morning. I prep my gym bag with workout gear and work clothes. I consider packing two lunches, so I don’t have to worry about making one tomorrow morning before the gym, but there are barely enough leftovers to last me one meal. I put potatoes and pork in a plastic container. I make my bed (one of my monthly goals is to make my bed every morning) and head out the door at 6:35 a.m.

7:15 a.m. — I get in to work a little early. The first scheduled patient is at 7:30 a.m., so I take this time to talk to the doctor about some abnormal blood work results.

9 a.m. — Someone brought muffins! I eat half a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast.

12 p.m. — It’s been a very busy morning. My stomach won’t stop grumbling, so I take my 30-minute lunch break.

4:30 p.m. — I leave work. It takes me around 50 minutes to get home with traffic. As soon as I walk into the house, I smell the delicious aroma of food. My mom doesn’t work on Mondays, so she cooks a lot of food that lasts my family a couple of days. Bless her soul. I have 30 minutes to relax before tutoring, so I eat some baked cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, and chicken. There are forums where people post about hearing back from PA schools and I check the site. Someone posts about interviewing at one of my first choices in September and receiving an acceptance today. I interviewed in July, and I have yet to hear back. I loved the program, so I’m a little bummed out that a lot of people are hearing back before me. I feel like my chances aren’t great at this point.

6:30 p.m. — I end tutoring earlier than expected. Once I’m back home, I tidy my office and pack lunch for tomorrow (rice with the baked veggies I had for dinner). I’m tired of listening to music during my commute, so I sign up for a free Audible trial. I download The House of God. It’s about med school residency and my boss recommended it to me a while back. I set a reminder in my calendar to cancel my subscription in a month before I get charged.

8:30 p.m. — I face time by best friend, D., to hear how her med school interview went today. I go to bed by 9:30 p.m.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I hit snooze for 10 minutes. I’m determined to make it to the gym, so I drag myself out of bed. It’s a good thing that I got everything ready yesterday because I don’t have much time to waste. I get dressed, grab my stuff and am out the door in 15 minutes.

5:30 a.m. — There were way more people at the gym than I expected. I get a nice 30-minute elliptical work out in, shower, and get ready for work in the locker room.

7:10 a.m. — I got my friend, I., a job as a medical assistant and she started a few days ago. I spend the majority of the morning training her. I show her how to administer injections and she practices by giving me a B12 shot. I’m not vitamin B deficient, but maybe this will give me an extra kick of energy.

12:30 p.m. — I call Bank of America to ask for expedited shipping on my new credit card, which they agree to do. I spontaneously applied for one last night while on the phone with D. I have to put down a deposit for a PA program I was accepted to by Friday (I got accepted a week and a half ago, and I’m so excited!). The deposit is $1,500, and there is a promotional offer on this card, where if I spend $1,000 in three months, I get $200 cashback. It’s easy money if I can use it to pay for my deposit. I hope the card is delivered on time.

6:20 p.m. — I usually work till 7/7:30 p.m., but I asked to leave a little early in order to tutor today. Five minutes into my drive, my student’s dad texts me asking to cancel the session due to illness. I’m frustrated with the short notice. I could have stayed at work if he texted me earlier.

7 p.m. — I use this extra time to do laundry and pack a lunch of leftover vegetables and chicken for tomorrow. I’m not too hungry, so I eat a few ribs my mom made yesterday for dinner. I’m in bed by 10.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6 a.m. — Waking up is surprisingly easy today, and I’m out the door at 6:35. I listen to House of God during my drive to work. I can’t make up my mind about if I like it or not, but I’ll keep listening to it. I eat half of a donut for breakfast.

11 a.m. — It’s a slow morning, so I look into bus tickets to Philadelphia while snacking on Oreos. One of my friends moved there a few months ago, and I’m visiting her with a couple of friends next weekend. We decide on a time that works for us and I buy my tickets. $38

12 p.m. — I look at coats while I eat my lunch from home. I allow myself one splurge purchase a month and this month I’m getting my hair highlighted, so no coat for me. While I remember, I make my hair appointment for the end of the month.

5 p.m. — My friend texts me letting me know his cat gave birth to three kittens. He asks if I want one. I mention it in passing to my boyfriend, who is interested. We are moving in together in a few months, so if he gets a kitten, it will essentially be our kitten. We decide to see them over the weekend. I love cats, but I’ve never owned an animal and am a little panicked at the responsibility and cost.

7 p.m. — Done with work. At home, I find my mom bought donut holes (so many donuts this week!). I eat two. My mom did some more cooking today — she made sweet potatoes, baked vegetables, salmon, pasta, and salad. My family already ate, so I put together a plate of pasta and salad for myself. I color my mom’s hair after eating. I’m exhausted and am in bed by 9:30.

Daily Total: $38

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up naturally. I don’t work at the office on Thursdays, so I spend a couple of hours perusing social media and watching videos on YouTube. I eat cereal and milk for breakfast.

10:30 a.m. — I’ve done nothing productive yet, but I have a lot of things on my to-do list. My first task of the day is to go to the gym. I feel really lazy, but I force myself to go anyway. My mom asked me to pick her up a foundation and mascara, so I go to Sephora after my work out. She told me that she would pay me back, but she does so much for me, I tell her that it’s on me. $76.32

1 p.m. — I eat leftover salmon, chicken, and salad for lunch. I do a deep clean of my room and office. My new credit card came last night, so I set it up and pay my deposit ($1,500). All of my money is in savings that I can’t touch, so my mom lent me money last week. I’ll pay her back when I can.

2:45 p.m. — I head out to my babysitting job.

7:30 p.m. — I make mac and cheese for the boy I babysit and eat with him. I’m paid to babysit until 10, but the mom has been getting home early recently. I am relieved at 8:30. I’m exhausted and after checking social media fall asleep by 10.

Daily Total: $76.32

Day Seven

5:50 a.m. — I hit my mandatory 10 minute snooze on the alarm followed by my usual morning routine. I pack leftover sweet potatoes and baked vegetables for lunch. I make my bed for the fifth day in a row, woo! I’m out the door at 6:35 a.m.

12 p.m. — Today is very busy because I’m working with two providers at once, which I never do. I eat my lunch while working. I take a little break to go to Starbucks to pick up a chai latte and use a gift card to pay ($4.89).

4:45 p.m. — After lots of hustling to get all my work done, I’m finally free. When I get home, I find that my mom has chicken and potatoes baking in the oven. I ask her if she needs any help with cooking and she declines.

6:30 p.m. — D. arrives to borrow a dress for her sister’s wedding. She stays for dinner with my family. After eating, D., my mom, and I drink wine and chat for a few hours. It’s a lovely Friday evening.

9:30 p.m. — D. leaves, and H. arrives. We cuddle in bed and chat about our weeks until we fall asleep at midnight.

Daily Total: $0

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

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