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A Week In Moscow, Russia, On A $11,781 Salary

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Today: an English teacher who makes $11,781 per year and spends some of her money on a matcha latte.

Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.

Occupation: English Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 26
Location: Moscow, Russia
Salary: $11,781
Paycheck Amount : $1,309
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $231 for my half; my boyfriend also pays this amount. This includes electricity, water, and Wi-Fi. The building has central heat, as do almost all buildings in Moscow. My company "subsidizes" my rent, so I'm not sure exactly how much my apartment costs would be otherwise. However, there are rumors that it's not really a subsidy, and because we live a bit far from the center, most apartments aren't drastically more expensive than ours (I've done some research). Also, utilities here are really cheap.
Loans: $0. I got a great scholarship/government money package, and my parents paid the small amount remaining.
Gym: $36
Spotify Premium: $0 (My parents pay.)
Netflix: $0 (Also mooching off my parents.)
Cell Phone: $7.70 (This includes 6GB of data, 100 minutes, and 100 texts.)
Unlimited Metro Card: $33.42 (Reimbursed by my job.)

Day One

7:15 a.m. — I wake up, drink coffee while getting ready, and take the tram, Metro, and trolleybus combo to work. I hate this rush-hour commute. Even though the Metro trains come every 30-60 seconds, they are still packed full. On the way to work, I do some research for our summer plans. We (my partner, K., and I) are trying to spend July and August in Spain to see friends and go to some music festivals. I lived there for three years and really miss it, so spending some time there is really important to me, but I'll have to plan carefully so it'll be financially possible. We just planned to volunteer at a music festival in early July, so our tickets will be reimbursed! Now I'm trying to figure out how to get there. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings I work at a daycare. My kids at this school are two and three, and they are so cute but a real handful, which is why I'm super glad there is a Russian co-teacher here.

12 p.m. — I go to our company's office between classes. My company sends us to multiple locations every day to give English lessons, so I might only have four or five teaching hours daily but be commuting another three to five. If I have time during these gaps, I usually use it to plan my classes (or write Money Diaries, I guess). At 2 p.m. I'll need to leave to go to another kindergarten.

5 p.m. — My private student is late, so I quickly go to the supermarket next to the café where we're meeting and get an energy bar ($2.13). This is a class I'm doing on the side, independent of my company. I don't count this extra class as part of my income because my (adult) student cancels a lot. I might have the class twice a week, or not at all. When I do have it, it helps me out a lot financially, as it's $53.90 extra for each 90-minute class. Today I make $46.20 because the lesson is shorter than normal. The going rate is insanely good for private, native-speaker English lessons in Moscow. Sometimes I feel really guilty about being able to make money off of something I learned essentially by accident, and I recognize I am very privileged. However, now that I have over three years of ESL teaching experience, I do feel like I'm a pretty good teacher. $2.13

6:30 p.m. — I finish my class and walk over to a nearby mall (Russians seem to LOVE malls, which makes sense as it's cold for such a large chunk of the year) to meet my language exchange partner. We speak for 30 minutes in English and 30 minutes in Russian (which is really hard for me, my Russian is not good at all, though I'm really trying). We meet at a Russian coffee chain. I ordered a matcha latte and my partner also orders one (though I warned her some people think it tastes like dirt). The drinks were on me this week because she paid last week, so it hurt my heart when she only took one sip of her drink! I would have totally drunk both of them if I knew her better, but I feel like it would be weird, so I try to suck it up. $9.05

8:30 p.m. — I get home and have leftover soup with garlic bread, some hummus and crackers, some chocolate, and two apples with peanut butter. (I was super hungry). Usually I eat more regularly, but I'm taking a week long break from exercising to heal a new tattoo, and it's kind of killed my appetite. I'm also really bad about packing and eating food on busy days. I mostly prefer to just wait until I get home to feast because if I eat a little bit I'll be starving for the rest of the day. Whatever works?

Daily Total: $11.18

Day Two

11 a.m. — I don't have work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I usually use this time to go to the gym, but today I try to be productive around the house instead. I am only minorly successful.

1 p.m. — I get to work. Today I only have to work at one school all afternoon, so when I have a break I can hang out in the classroom. I usually have the goal of studying, planning classes, or being otherwise productive, but often end up scrolling through my phone instead. I've been really trying to rededicate myself to studying Russian, but some days I'm more motivated than others.

6:30 p.m. — I leave school and by 7:45 I'm at our neighborhood craft beer bar. Every Thursday after work, K. and I meet an older American couple, who also work for our company. It's usually the same crowd here so we've also befriended a few people from our neighborhood, which as it turns out are mostly middle-aged Russian men. They're very nice though, and we can often practice a little Russian. I buy a gose beer and a package of garlic croutons. It might sound strange, but croutons are a really common bar snack. K. picks up three more bottles of beer to try tomorrow at home, which comes to $11.55 with our loyalty card discount, but he pays. $6.16

Daily Total: $6.16

Day Three

12 p.m. — In the morning, I go to the same school as in Day One, and during the break between classes K. and I go to a vegetarian buffet for lunch. We are both vegan and they have a ton of vegan options here. We both get a salad, main (pesto pasta for him, soy goulash for me), and a cinnamon roll (I NEVER share dessert) for $8.47 total, including the 10% discount we get for having a vegetarian card. We realize that we forgot drinks but decide to just go without. $8.47

1 p.m. — After lunch, we visit the connected store and get some ginger candy, chickpea flour, and are tempted at the register into buying a box of 50% off fresh (or at least were fresh at one point), cookies. $6.04, I pay. We then go to the other side of town because we both teach there on Friday afternoons. $6.04

2:30 p.m. — We get to the neighborhood a little early so I wander into a store and buy some dry shampoo and eat one of the cookies as I walk to school. $4.51

6 p.m. — No private lesson today, which means less money (boo), but I get home earlier than usual (yay!). It's been sideways sleeting all day, so I'm 1000% ready to not leave the house again today. I prep eggplant for dinner and clean the house. We're trying to relax more and be a little less social this weekend because we've gone out until 7 a.m the past two Friday nights. Tonight we have a few friends coming over to rewatch part of the last season of Game of Thrones.

8:00 p.m. — We watch two episodes and feast on the eggplant, cheesy sausage sandwiches, and the beer from yesterday, with many chips and cookies. We've recently been treating ourselves to a lot more vegan meat and cheese (we usually don't because it's not as easily available and not as cheap as, for example, beans). However, during Lent, Orthodox Christians "fast", which usually means eating vegan. This means that for 40 days there is a ton of vegan stuff in Russian supermarkets and restaurants that they don't stock the rest of the year, so we've really been taking advantage.

Daily Total: $19.02

Day Four

10:30 a.m. — We wake up, eat a peanut butter & jelly for breakfast, and play some video games.

1:30 p.m. — We eat pasta for lunch and grab the recycling to take out on our way to the metro. When we first moved here, there was nowhere to recycle closer than a 30 minute walk from our apartment! Now it's only 15 minutes away, and we're convinced that most people don't use it anyway. We decide to go to a park in a part of the city we haven't been to yet. We wander around the park and then head to a cool area of the city with some interesting skyscrapers. We end up in yet another mall and buy some chocolate to snack on. $1.49

7 p.m. — We stop at Ashan on the way home and stock up. I got soy meat, lentils, sour cream, chips, Bamba, deodorant, detergent, peanut butter, assorted frozen foods, olives, sausage, pâté, yogurt, coconut milk, prepared salads, baguette, cherry tomatoes, lotion, baklava, and an entire cake. Again, it's more money than we'd usually spend, but the idea of being able to buy a vegan cake at the grocery store is way too tempting. Many of the frozen things we will try to save for after the fast is over anyway. We get home around 9, grab some of the snacks and vegan pâté/bread we bought, and eat while watching Broad City. We play video games for the rest of the night. $63.12

Daily Total: $64.61

Day Five

11 a.m. — We wake up and decide to go to the Cosmonaut museum on the other side of town, they're offering free entry today and it sounds very interesting.

1 p.m. — Apparently everyone else also thought it would be fun to go to the Cosmonaut museum today. The line is out the door, out the gates, and down the block. We wait for a few minutes, but it's sleeting again, and the line really hasn't moved… so we admit defeat. I'm annoyed we came all this way for nothing, but we really don't feel like doing anything else, so we cut our losses and go home. I guess this weekend ended up being a little too relaxing. I will definitely try to do more social and city exploration stuff next weekend, because I do want to take advantage of all this huge city has to offer (though video games and relaxing are nice too).

6 p.m. — We spend the rest of the night trying to research summer plans, doing our Russian homework, and relaxing. We eat some really good tofu with broccoli and have massive helpings of cake for dessert.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:20 a.m. — I did NOT get out of bed early enough and end up running around trying to get out the door on time. I did have time to chug some coffee though! Same terrible commute and morning kindergarten.

12 p.m. — I go to the office for my weekly Russian lesson (free, provided by our company). After, I have just enough time to print off a few things before going to my next gig, a private class with 3 really enthusiastic 10 year olds. After class is over, I grab some rice cakes from the store ($1.03) and head to a mall near my next class. I buy a large green tea ($1.54) and plan my classes for the next day. My last class of the day is one hour each of private classes with two super well-behaved sisters. Thank god because Mondays are long enough as it is! $2.57

9 p.m. — I get home and quickly bake some chickpea flour quiches that I assembled last night. I also eat some cabbage (typical) and the last of the cake.

Daily Total: $2.57

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I go to the gym for the first time in over a week and it feels weird. I try not to sweat too much, and I'm sure I look super weird dabbing at my arm with a paper towel to keep my arm dry. Totally worth it to not mess up the tattoo. I go home after and eat some leftovers from last night, quinoa, and a bowl of oatmeal, and then go to work.

3:30 p.m. — During my break I try to buy tickets to a three day house and techno festival we plan on going to in August, which we are both pretty excited about. My card gets BLOCKED because apparently it's suspicious to live in Russia and buy tickets for a festival in Spain?? So, now I have no working debit card and no festival tickets. I start my next class pretty annoyed, but the kids in my last two classes are actually pretty good today - I'll take a win where I can get it, I guess.

8 p.m. — I get home and start cooking dinner. I ask K. to stop by the store on the way home and get some TP, frozen vegetables, bread, milk, and corn. He pays. K. does way more grocery shopping than me since his schedule works out better to do so, so I've been trying to give him some more money for this or make other purchases to even it out. Our finance philosophy is basically trying to split things as evenly as possible without worrying too much about it since we've been dating for a while and we both feel pretty confident we will continue to do so.

9 p.m. — K. pays for the tickets with his American debit card. I pay him back in rubles for my half. I'm really excited that our summer plans are starting to fall into place — much more planning has to be done but I think if we're smart about it, it will be a great time and also financially possible. That said, there might have to be a few less beers in the future as we save up for the months we'll be without pay. For me, it's totally worth it because I'm more focused on experiences than long-term saving at this point in my life. $84.70

Daily Total: $84.70

The Breakdown

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