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A Week In Northern New Mexico, On A $19,500 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.

Today: an Office Assistant working in Tourism Development/Retail who makes $19,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Occupation: Office Assistant
Industry: Tourism Development/Retail
Age: 25
Location: Northern New Mexico
Salary: ~419,500-$21,000 (varies with the season)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): ~$800 (combined two jobs, payday for both is same day)
Gender Identity: Woman





Monthly Expenses
Rent: $676 (I rent and live alone in a 350 sq. ft studio. My rent includes everything.)
Student Loans: $200-$300 (My car is paid off (holla))
Auto/Property Insurance (bundled through USAA): $101.33
Spotify: $9.99
HBOGO: $16.28
Netflix: $0 (my brother’s account, he and my sister-in-law use my HBO)
Hulu: $0 (my sister-in-law’s account)
Audible: $9.99
Internet: $48.68








Day One

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off, my plan was to shower this morning since I was too lazy to do it last night, but I didn’t sleep very well so I switch it to 6:45 am; looks like dry shampoo for me.

7:15 a.m. — Bed made and kitty fed, I focus on making breakfast and coffee. I discovered a cold brew coffee maker on amazon this summer that makes a GALLON of cold brew, and I love that it has a spigot so I can pour easily instead of trying to find a container. I usually make it last about a week and a half before I need to make more. I always make my breakfast at home. Since I became a vegetarian almost five years ago, I’ve become very reliant on breakfast getting me through the first part of my day. I make half an English muffin, a fried egg, and some veggie bacon by Morning Star, which I’ve found to be the best alternative (and I’ve tried a lot).

7:30 a.m. — I usually eat my breakfast while I get ready, wandering between my bathroom to put my makeup on and my kitchen to take a bite — my entire apartment is about 350 sq. ft, so it’s easy. I decide to treat myself and mobile order a PSL w/ almond milk to pick up from the local coffee shop on my way to work. $7.66

7:55 a.m. — I kiss my cat goodbye (much to her dismay) and head out. I pick up my coffee and make it to the office by 8:05, just a few minutes late. I live in a VERY small ski town with a year-round population of about 500 and the town itself is just over a mile long. It definitely has its pros and cons — a pro is being able to leave my house and pick up coffee and sit down at my desk in less than 10 minutes.

12 p.m. — The next few hours of the day fly by and then I realize it’s already lunchtime! I grab my keys and head home for my lunch hour (another small town perk). I get home and heat up leftovers from the night before — rice with steamed broccoli and “chicken.” I leave my front door open and let my cat warm up in the sun on my porch. I’m really lucky with her that she doesn’t run away, she just likes laying in the sun. She brings in a small stick (her favorite toy, the weirdo) and she happily runs around with it. It goes under the couch and she looks up at me, meows softly for me to get it, and my heart melts. I freaking love this cat. I crack open a can of Bubly, the only sparkling water I like, and head back to the office.

5 p.m. — Finally home! I change out of my work clothes and pour myself a glass of wine. I head out onto my porch with my cat and do some online window shopping. I also look into getting a season pass at the cross country ski area in the next town over from me. I don’t exactly have the money right now, but its currently 40% off for locals and then the price goes up considerably. I decide to buy it and I’m excited by the idea of learning how to cross country ski! The guy I’m seeing, E., texts me and we chat for a bit and try to make plans for Friday night. My work has a huge event coming up all weekend and he bartends, so sometimes it’s hard trying to find time to hang out. $135

Daily Total: $142.66

Day Two

6:20 a.m. — My first alarm goes off, but I am a chronic snoozer and revel in the eight-minute naps between alarms. I grab my cat and snuggle with her for a bit. I finally get out of bed and do my usual morning routine. I don’t normally wear makeup at all, but this is the first job I’ve ever had where I get to dress up a bit, so I do a little bit of eyeshadow and mascara and head out.

12:30 p.m. — After a quick lunch at home of leftover veggie pot pie, I run to the local store in town that is way marked up for tourists so I try not to go in there, but I need a few things for my car like wiper fluid and such. I also buy a candy bar to eat back at my desk at work. A friend texts me for some food and beer recommendations in Boulder where I used to live so I chat with him for a bit before getting back to work. $26.36

6 p.m. — Home a little later than normal since we have to be at work at 7 a.m. tomorrow for an event. This is my first big event with the new job and I’m super excited for it! E. texts me and says the bar is really slow so I decide to head over there in a bit for dinner and a couple beers.

9 p.m. — Home after a few hours at the bar, it was pretty slow and I usually just bring a book and share cute smiles and winks with E. like the lame people we are. I get a black bean patty with sautéed mushrooms, fried pickle spears, and two beers. E. convinces me to get the cheesecake that’s new to the menu and it’s HUGE, but he takes a few bites here and there to help me out. I get home and crash instantly knowing how early I have to get up. $28.25

Daily Total: $54.61

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — I wake up much earlier than normal after another fitful night’s sleep. My mom taught my brother and me to put our heads at the foot of the bed if we can’t sleep. Very weird I know, but I swear it works 99.9% of the time. It’s confusing for my cat though, who always sleeps next to my head. I turn myself the right way around and sleep for a for few more minutes until I really have to get up.

6:55 a.m. — It’s Friday — I have to work all weekend for the event, but still! I text my boss/good friend and ask her what she wants from the coffee shop in town, she bought mine last week so I owe her — plus we have a long day ahead. I order our drinks on the mobile app, put a blueberry bagel with cream cheese in my backpack, and head out the door and pick up our lattes. $16.32

11 a.m. — This event is town-wide and always brings in more tourists than normal with all the unique vendors and live music. It’s hard to resist the urge to buy everything I see. Before this weekend started, I told myself I was only going to spend $100 at the event all weekend (including meals) and I’m determined to stick to it! Suddenly, the cell service and internet goes out town-wide. This thankfully doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen and it absolutely blows when it does. Hopefully, it’ll come back on soon.

2 p.m. — Man this event has some cool vendors! A coworker, N., and myself are in charge of the silent auction/raffle items, so we’re both inside most of the day but he lets me sneak out around 2. I head out into the town park to check out the other vendors and grab some food. I find the crepe place N. told me about and order a veggiesaurus friendly crepe filled with pesto, tomato, artichoke hearts, and avocado on top and I also grab a homemade lemonade from the same vendor as well. I walk around the park a bit more and mentally take note of the vendors I want to come back to later in the weekend. $12

3:30 p.m. — E. stops by the event and says he picked up Chinese food for us for dinner tonight, bless him. I walk around with him for a little bit so he can check out the vendors and we stop at a homemade candle booth. All of their candles are 100% soy, which I love since they burn slower. I pick three of my favorite scents (white ginger, orange eucalyptus, and lavender vanilla), and I know I’ll be back to grab more later in the weekend. E. takes my car back to my apartment and kisses me goodbye, telling me he’ll pick me up around 6. $15

6:30 p.m. — The internet is thankfully back on, but still no cell service. Oh well, at least E. and I can watch Netflix. He picks me up and we go home, and Chinese food is exactly what I need on this long day. We watch Scrubs on Hulu. E. has started to rewatch it and we can’t decide on anything else to watch, but it’s fine by me. E. pours me a large glass of wine and we snuggle on the couch with my cat.

10 p.m. — I am even more tired than I was before because of that large glass of wine, so E. and I get ready for bed. We both fall into bed around 10:30 and go to sleep around 11:30.

Daily Total: $43.32

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I wake up before E., he doesn’t have to be at work until 10, but I have to be at work at 9. I decide 7:30 is still too early and snuggle up next to him for another half hour until my second alarm goes off. I quietly get out of bed to feed my cat and get some coffee.

8:30 a.m. — I decide to be bad and order another latte for myself this morning. This mobile order app is dangerous! I still have time before I have to leave, so I do my breakfast dishes as quietly as I can and get back into bed with E. for another 20 minutes or so. He sleepily smiles at me when I get back into bed — he’s so cute when he’s sleepy. Around 8:50, I kiss him goodbye and head out the door. $6.47

1 p.m. — I decide to do all my shopping today. I was going to wait until the last day, but I don’t want to miss out on anything. I get two more candles: Spearmint Eucalyptus and Peppermint Bark. Both of these were on sale so I don’t feel too guilty. I also get two small palm-size metal pieces, one of a sun and the other of a Zia (state symbol of New Mexico). I also get my brother and sister-in-law a wooden sign that says “The Shire” on it (they’re both nerdy and LOTR people). I find a container of loose leaf pumpkin pie chai tea and decide it is perfect for fall and so so yummy. I then get a dessert crepe for lunch (don’t judge me) that’s filled with lemon curd and blueberries. After my shopping spree, I go back inside and let N. take a break so he can go find a birthday present for his husband. $45

6 p.m. — I stop by the small grocery store on the way home and pick up a couple of things. I get gum, a small container of coconut milk coffee creamer, and a banana. I get home and let my cat warm up in the sun on my porch while I unpack my goodies from the event today. I walk into my bathroom to put a candle in there and realize E. has left his toothbrush and his phone charger at my place. He works a double bartend shift today and probably won’t get off ’til late so I text him and ask if he’d rather pick it up or have me bring it by the bar. I make some of my new tea and put in a splash of almond milk. It’s delicious and I’m so happy I bought it. $18.47

9 p.m. — E. texts me back and says he’s been slammed at work and asks if I can bring by his stuff. I drag myself off the couch away from Harry Potter and put pants on before jumping in the car to drive the five blocks to the bar. It’s PACKED and E. is running around giving beers to everyone. He sees me and thanks me for bringing it by and isn’t too busy to give me a quick kiss. I get home, wash out my tea mug, and get into bed. I fall asleep around 10:30.

Daily Total: $69.94

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Our boss told N. and me last night that we didn’t have to be in until 10 today since the event starts later on the last day. I wake up and feel much more rested than yesterday. I order another latte to be picked up at 9:45 and, knowing that my boss got to the office way earlier, order her one too. I get some cold brew and make an English muffin with butter and grape jelly. I ran out of eggs yesterday and I get mine from a local guy (and good friend) who has a whopping 90 chickens. I text him and ask him if I can pick some up from him Monday. I then tidy up my apartment a bit, water my indoor plants, and give morning treats to my cat since I haven’t been around much this weekend and I feel bad. $6.47

12 p.m. — There’s a vinegar and oil stand that also sells flavored pasta so I grab a thing of wild mushroom linguini and some rosemary garlic olive oil ($20). I also get a pizza for lunch from the wood fired pizza food truck in the park. It is delicious and has so much fresh basil on it, which I love, but honestly it was overpriced ($12). $32

2:30 p.m. — N. and I call the raffle winners and then start moving all the prizes back into our office for people to come by and get in the next few days. The rest of the day goes by quickly. E. stops by unexpectedly and says he just wanted to come say hi and give me a kiss — what a gem. Our boss comes by and tells us once we finish taking out the trash we can go home.

6 p.m. — I wake up from an accidental nap and the second I move, my cat meows at me to let her out on the porch. I let her out and then decide to hang up my metal pieces in the last bit of sunlight. I’m glad I bought the small ones — they fit perfectly. One goes right over my door and the other goes next to my living room window.

7:30 p.m. — I chat with E. for a bit and update my list of things I need to bring back home with me. I’m planning on going at the end of October and I want to do the drive all in one shot, which is about 15 hours. I’ve done it before and I like driving so it shouldn’t be too bad. My cat is coming with me and she hates the car for the first two hours and then she’s fine and usually sleeps on my lap or sits on the dash. I am a huge list-maker and have a whole spreadsheet broken up into categories of clothes to bring and what I need to do when I’m there. I even have a category of the items that need to be next to me during my drive. Lists just make me feel less anxious about everything.

9:30 p.m. — I decide to do a clay face mask (the Indian Aztec Healing Clay is MAGIC) on just my forehead and nose and then do a collagen eye mask to reduce the bags under my eyes. I let it dry (my favorite part of the clay mask is you can feel your skin pulse once it’s tight) and wash it all off. Then I do a UV light teeth whitening. It’s so nice to do things like this after a long work weekend — if only I had a bathtub, then it would be perfect! After that’s done, I make sure all my dishes are done and get into bed, wishing E. a good night and trying to entice my cat to come snuggle with me.

Daily Total: $38.47

Day Six

7 a.m. — I really need to stop ordering lattes. I have a latte machine in my Amazon wishlist that I’ve wanted for so long so maybe I’ll save up for it — it would definitely save me money in the long run. I order the biggest size they have and make instant brown sugar oatmeal in the microwave. I figure out something decent to do with my hair and eat my oatmeal. My hair has been a battle lately. I have had a shaved spot on the left side of my head for about four years now and at the beginning of the summer, I decided to grow it out along with the rest of my hair. It’s just at an awkward length that I can’t do much with it right now, but at least I can put it in a ponytail without using five bobby pins in the back! $8.06

9:30 a.m. — I’m sitting at my desk procrastinating work and N. asks me if I can call the raffle winners from yesterday. I make some calls and think about what I need to do for the rest of the day. It’s payday and I know I’m going to my night retail job tonight for an hour to get some administrative stuff done so I make a mental note to cash my paychecks during my lunch hour.

12:30 p.m. — I go home for my lunch break. My landlord is sending his handyman over to look at my central heating, it hasn’t been kicking on the last few mornings and the frosty fall mornings are too much without heat! I eat the last of my Chinese food and the handyman fixes the heater in 15 minutes! I use the rest of my lunch hour to tidy up my place and run to the bank to deposit my paycheck from my office job before heading back.

6 p.m. — Finally home from a long day. I make some carrot and ginger soup and call one of my good friends from college that I haven’t talked to in months. She texted me last week out of the blue and asked if we could chat this week, so we scheduled a time to chat (so lame, I know but necessary) and we chat for almost an hour and a half. We can not talk for a long time and then pick right up where we left off so it was great catching up with her! I do my dishes, make some apricot tea, do a collagen eye mask, and whiten my teeth. I head off to bed around 11 excited to sleep in a bit tomorrow.

Daily Total: $8.06

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up naturally, something I haven’t been able to do in weeks! I make coffee and fry an egg to put on top of half an English muffin and get back into bed. Eating breakfast in bed is my all-time favorite thing to do when I have a day off. Earlier this summer, I made a roll-away desk thing that fits over my entire bed and its the best thing ever. I eat breakfast, listen to Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, and make my grocery list for later that day.

9:30 a.m. — I get a call that my other paycheck for my retail job is finally ready, so I finish getting ready, and head out the door. I cash that check, toss my trash in a dumpster in town (there is no residential trash service in this town, just dumpsters everywhere), and head out of town to get my nails done.

11 a.m. — I know that getting my nails done is a huge luxury, but I budget for it very carefully and after working in outdoor fields for the last four years, it feels nice to do something “feminine” and for myself. I let the nail stylist, L., pick my color but I ask for something darker and more in tune with the season. She picks a beautiful maroon that has a bit of shine in it so in the light it looks almost candy apple red. Definitely different from the usual matte colors I go with, but I actually love it. I get in my car and head to the city to go grocery shopping. $35

12 p.m. — In the city, I take my recycling to the plant and get ready to separate it all, only to find out they no longer accept glass or plastic! That’s a huge bummer, but I separate everything else. At the grocery store, I stock up for the next two weeks and I’m careful to remember what dry goods I still have at home. I get cat food, cat litter, chickpeas, crackers, paper towels, tissues, cauliflower, asparagus, two potatoes, strawberries, mushrooms, vegetarian meatballs, almond milk coffee creamer, chocolate chip cookies, gum, English muffins, small blueberry scones, rice, oatmeal, tofu, coconut shavings, small lightbulbs for my wax warmers, and finally the most exciting purchase (drumroll, please), an area rug that I found for under $20! I’ve been looking for a rug for months and months so I am BEYOND excited to find it! $115.37

1:30 p.m. — Finally home, I unpack and put everything away and I’m so excited to put out my new rug. It’s a gray-beige color and goes perfectly with my living room furniture. It looks amazing and I excitedly send a picture to my mom who I know will share my excitement. I then get a call from my best friend who currently lives in Alaska and we chat for a bit and try to make plans to see each other this winter. Around 4, I head to the bank to get $20 in quarters and then go to the laundromat. The $20 usually lasts me a few runs, so I like to just stock up. While I’m waiting for my clothes to dry, E. texts me and says the bar is slow if I want to come by for a beer later — don’t mind if I do. $20

6:30 p.m. — Home from the laundromat, I eat a dinner of mac-n-cheese and lounge around for a bit before heading to the bar. I sit and order a beer ($4) and read my book for a while. Then a local/friend sits next to me and orders dinner. I know I won’t get much reading done, so I mark my page and chat with him for a bit. I close my tab, give E. a good tip, sneak him a quick kiss goodbye, and head home around 9:30. $8.75

10 p.m. — I am suddenly super tired so I get ready for bed. I do any leftover dishes, fill my cat’s water bowl, and do my nightly routine of brushing my teeth and washing my face. I play around on my phone until 11 or so and fall asleep thinking about what I want to wear to work tomorrow.

Daily Total: $179.12

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