A Week In Salt Lake City, UT, On A $36,000 Salary

Welcome toMoney 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, as part of Your Spending In Your State: a research fellow working in government who makes $36,000 per year and spends some of their money this week on ice cream from Sonic.

Occupation: Research Fellow
Industry: Government
Age: 23
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Salary: $36,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,100
Gender Identity: Nonbinary

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $418 (I live with three roommates, and our total rent is $1,670.)
Student Loan Payment: $300
Car Payment: $100
Health Insurance: $0 (I’m on my parents’ insurance, so they pay the monthly cost. I cover copays and any additional costs.)
Gym Membership: $84 (It’s a climbing gym, which is why it’s so expensive!)
Therapy: $60
Phone Bill: $36 (Some great discounts let me get this price for unlimited data and service.)

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I swing by the neighborhood coffee shop for a bagel before work, like I do most mornings. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a few years, and I know most of the regulars. Sure enough, I run into a friend. We chat for a minute, and he buys my coffee, since I bought his a few days ago. The light rail stop is just outside, so this isn’t out of my way. The state pays for public transit for all employees, so I always take the train to work. I get to work around 9.

1:30 p.m. — I usually eat lunch around mid-afternoon, and either make my way to a local grocer’s salad bar or grab a slice of pizza from a bakery in my office building’s lobby. Today, I can’t decide between the two, so I go to the mall food court to get a slice of pizza AND a salad. I only eat the salad. $8.28

4 p.m. — Nevermind, I eat the pizza.

6 p.m. — I make my way home via the light rail again. Usually by this point my partner is already home and has walked the dogs. Today, he’s working late, so I walk the dogs around the block and we say hi to some neighbors. I clean up around the house a bit and run to a market down the street for ice cream, which I will eat entirely tonight, because I refuse to be controlled by the health-and-wellness-industrial-complex. Time to settle in for Netflix and then hit the hay early! I’m asleep by 10.

Daily Total: $8.28

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I get up a little early this morning, since I went to bed early last night. I shower, feed the cat, take meds, and walk the dogs. Everything goes by pretty quickly, so I still have time to sit down for my bagel and coffee today! At the coffee shop, I chat with the owner over the morning news. I read the Financial Times, and he reads the NYT. $8

1 p.m. — I head to lunch at a sandwich shop with long lines and surprisingly good lemon bars. They’re all out of the lemon bars, though, but the sandwich is great. I take it back to the office with me to eat in the break room before my afternoon meetings, where a few coworkers are watching the World Cup. We briefly debate which players have the best butts. $9.43

7:30 p.m. — I leave work late today. There’s a project coming up that I have to cram for, so I’m not on the train home until around 7:30. I’m stressed, so I get on my bike and ride to the gym to climb for a while. I leave the gym at 10, and make a small dinner before bed — pasta with vodka sauce.

Daily Total: $17.43

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I get a bit of a late start today, but I’m out the door quickly enough to get my morning coffee. I eat the bagel on the train and spill coffee on my pants as soon as I sit down at my desk. Great! Love it! $8

2 p.m. — By mid-afternoon, I finally drag myself away from my emails long enough to get lunch with a friend. He meets me in the lobby, and we walk aimlessly, debating what to eat. A nearby downtown plaza has food trucks today, so we get poutine and eat on a bench. $10

2:30 p.m. — Even in the shade, it’s a sauna outside, so we pop into a local coffee shop for iced tea and much-needed A/C before I head back to work. I get some kind of cucumber-melon-green tea concoction, and it’s the most refreshing thing I’ve ever tasted. My friend gets a cortado. By the time I’m back at the office 15 minutes later, I’m feeling fresh and ready to deal with a dozen more crises before the day is out. $5

6 p.m. — Fortunately, I only have to deal with half a dozen crises, so I get out of work at a reasonable time. I decide to walk a few blocks instead of taking the train the whole way home. It’s nice to slow down the pace sometimes, but, as I realize one block later, it’s even nicer to be in an air conditioned train car. I spend the evening reading and watching Netflix intermittently, and my partner and I get to bed around 11.

Daily Total: $23

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — I head to my climbing partner’s house to drag him out of bed so we can get breakfast before meeting up with more friends at the gym. He’s a little slow-moving, and I’m getting hungry, so we decide to just get breakfast at the cafe in the climbing gym. It’s my turn to buy. I have avocado toast, and he has a breakfast burrito. We both get coffee. Once the food has settled and our friends have arrived, we spend a few hours climbing. $24.98

2 p.m. — After I drop my climbing partner back off at home, I head to a garden store for a larger pot for one plant. Unfortunately, I am quickly drawn into the spell of the foliage, and I leave with two new plants as well. I use a coupon (saving five whole dollars!!), which makes me feel better about the unplanned spending. Once I get home, I do the necessary indoor gardening and prep for my weekend bread-making. Usually, my partner and I would spend this time hiking or camping or, let’s face it, sitting around in silence being in love, but he’s out of town for the weekend, so I spend the rest of the day walking around the neighborhood with the dogs, cleaning, and reading. $24.03

8:45 p.m. — After a productive day, I finally settle down to unwind over pizza and wine with a friend. We watch a couple episodes of a docuseries we both like, and then he leaves and it’s time for bed. I’m asleep by midnight. $10.79

Daily Total: $59.80

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I prep the next step of the bread before the dogs and I head for a walk around the neighborhood. We stop by the coffee shop, where they say hi to their friends and I say hi to mine. After a bagel, coffee, and community-building, all three of us head home so I can get back to work on the bread. $8

11 a.m. — During a break in the bread-making, I head to WinCo for the week’s groceries. This week I manage to stick to my shopping list. We took a vacation recently, and my wallet still hasn’t fully recovered — oops! I keep working on the bread for the next few hours, finding odd things to do between stretch-and-folds. I paint a little, read a little, and watch Netflix. The day stays slow, which is a needed break after the stress at work last week. $29.24

Daily Total: $37.24

Day Six

9 a.m. — I’m a few minutes slow this morning, but I get my coffee and make it to the office before our weekly staff meeting. Things seem slow this morning, which is a relief: the project that stressed me out last week is underway and seems to be running smoothly. I’ll spend most of the week reading reports and catching up on writing working papers that no one will ever read. $4

1 p.m. — I’m walking to get more of that INCREDIBLE cucumber tea potion from the coffee shop when I run into a friend I haven’t seen in a year! She moved back to the city recently and just had a job interview, so I talk her into having coffee and a scone with me. The scone is lavender-lemon, and it is incredible. $5.50

4 p.m. — I leave work early today so I can get to therapy on time. The train home only takes about 10 minutes, but it’s a 30-minute drive to my therapist’s office. Today’s session is productive, and we dig deep into an old trauma. It’s hard work, and exhausting to the core, but I am reminded why I went back to therapy in the first place and how much it has helped me to grow as a person and manage my mental health.

6 p.m. — By the time I leave my therapist’s office, I’m exhausted and ready for my weekly post-therapy ritual: sitting in an empty parking lot in my car eating Taco Bell (crying optional). The long drive back down the canyon is slow due to an unusual amount of traffic. I left my bluetooth adapter at home, so I listen to the radio. It’s not a very clear signal, since I’m in the middle of a million tons of rock, but there’s a cello concerto playing, and it’s kind of familiar to me. I think I might have played it with my high school symphony. Once I’m home and have snacked on a sufficient amount of the bread I made yesterday, I head to the gym to meet up with my climbing partner. It’s around 8:30 p.m., and we run into a few other friends who just finished their climbs. I boulder for a couple hours until I’m as tired physically as I am mentally. $5.69

10:30 p.m. — On the way home from the gym, I stop for ice cream and jalapeño poppers at Sonic. A lighting storm starts, and I end up in my car watching it arc across the sky for hours. I get to sleep around 1 a.m. $9.57

Daily Total: $24.76

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I wake up feeling calm and determined today, which is nice. After a shower, feeding the cat, walking the dogs, and taking my meds, I make myself a nice breakfast — eggs and greens on toast with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. Delicious! I made myself coffee, too, but I swing by the shop anyway. My thermos and heart are both full by the time I get to the office shortly after 9. $4

12:30 p.m. — I’m hungry earlier than normal today, so I have to talk my friend into moving up our lunch plans. He doesn’t seem to mind. We get chicken sandwiches, the best in the city, and eat them on the patio in the sun. It’s a surprisingly mellow 90 degrees today, so it’s pleasant outside. I get back to work, and my boss asks for a quick meeting — those working papers no one will ever read are useful after all! Someday, maybe I’ll be a real bureaucrat and get to publish these reports to external agencies. $12.90

6:30 p.m. — I leave the office still in a good mood and make myself dinner — asparagus and peas with a light and buttery white wine sauce on bowtie pasta. The evening is relaxed, and I spend it reading while my partner does recreational programming. He tries to explain it to me, but I’ll be honest, I’m not listening. We’re in bed by 10:30.

Daily Total: $16.90

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