Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.
Today: a college student who makes $10 an hour and spends some of her money this week on Bath & Body Works room spray.
Occupation: College Student/Office Assistant
Net Worth: $8,518 (long-term savings: $5,582, education savings: $1,234, checking: $1,702)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): It varies, but usually between $200-$400
Housing Costs: My parents pay for my dorm room and most of my college expenses.
Long-Term Savings: 30% of my paycheck (it varies so I do this by percentage).
Education Savings: 30% of my paycheck.
Mutual Aid: 10% of my paycheck.
Netflix/Hulu: My parents pay.
Cell Phone: My parents pay.
Health Insurance: My parents pay.
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I have known I was going to attend college since I first learned what it was — I love learning and my parents both hold graduate degrees, so college was the logical next step for me after high school. I attend a public, in-state university and my parents pay for the bulk of it through the college savings accounts and 529 plans they set up for my brother and me when we were young. I contribute $1,100/year.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I had a robust financial education growing up. Both of my parents climbed the corporate ladder and they made it very clear that they grew up with far less money than my brother and I did. They have extensively discussed finances with me.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I began working at a local amusement park when I was 14 to have spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I want to work in academia, ideally as a professor, and the state of the academic job market in the United States is terrifying. Though I plan to finance graduate school through scholarships and being a graduate teaching assistant, both housing costs and the general cost of living are rising at a rate that makes me worry about how I am going to afford things even if I end up debt-free after graduate school. This summer, I started putting money into an education-focused savings account for things like grad school and study abroad.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I am not yet financially responsible for myself, but I will be when I finish undergrad. I am incredibly lucky to know that my parents will be a financial safety net for me if I need it, but I have extreme and unexplained guilt about using their money for literally anything ever, so I plan to only fall back on them if I desperately need it.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Growing up, I received money in birthday cards from extended family members. I also received around $1,000 in graduation gifts when I graduated from high school last year. Until I got my on-campus job in October of last year, my parents gave me $75/month for food and other expenses. My grandmother also gives me a couple hundred dollars a few times a year. When I receive passive income, I put most, if not all of it straight into savings and only spend my paychecks.
9 a.m. — After hitting snooze multiple times, I finally wake up. Sundays are my laundry days, so I throw two loads into my dorm’s washers and get ready as the cycles go. I get dressed, do my skincare, brush my teeth, and eat breakfast (a chocolate chip muffin and two mini chocolate chip cookies). After half an hour, I transfer my clothes to the dryer and clean my room as I wait for them to finish.
11:30 a.m. — My clothes are finally dry! I take them up to my room, then call my parents as I fold, a Sunday morning tradition while I’m on campus.
12 p.m. — I’ve got an hour until I have to go to work, and all of the dining locations on campus will be closed by the time my shift ends, which means I have to go get food now. I’m on campus to work before school officially starts so there is only one dining hall option. I have been supplementing the meal swipes they gave us for this time period with food from the nearest grocery store and snacks from the Costco trip I did before moving in. Today, I use my allotted $24 to buy a Coke Zero, two Chobani yogurt drinks, two breakfast sandwiches, an RXBAR, and a bag of Sunchips.
12:15 p.m. — I take the food back to my dorm, put it away, and attempt to squeeze in a quick lunch. I went to dinner with my extended family last night, and I have a TON of leftovers. I eat some of it — perch, roasted vegetables, green beans, and couscous — plus a Costco protein bar and two cartons of milk I bought yesterday with the intention of using for cereal. My parents are children of the “milk with every meal” era and raised my brother and me the same way, so this definitely reminds me of home.
1 p.m. — Work! Because early move-in begins tomorrow and regular move-in begins three days after that, there’s not much to do.
5:15 p.m. — Finally off of work. I’m incredibly worn out today, and I have no clue why. I sit down with a LaCroix and leftover french fries and watch Criminal Minds before leaving for a run at 7.
7:45 p.m. — This run reminded me why I run in the mornings and not in the evenings — it is 85° outside tonight. After stretching, a GoGoSqueez, a Chobani drink, and more downtime, I do some chores. I wash and charge my Blendjet then make a smoothie with the other Chobani drink, frozen spinach, a banana, and frozen berries. I also finish folding and putting away laundry, clean my room, and pick out tomorrow’s outfit.
10 p.m. — I brush my teeth, shower, do my skincare, then fall right into bed around 11. Successful no-spend day!
Daily Total: $0
5 a.m. — Aaaand I wake up late for work. I throw on the clothes I’d laid out last night and walk right out the door. I arrive at work at 5:10.
9 a.m. — Off of work and it’s time to finally get the day started. I have last night’s smoothie and the RXBAR I got yesterday as a late breakfast, take my meds, do my skincare, and make my bed. I already have a hankering for dessert, so I eat two Rice Krispies Treats.
10 a.m. — I head over to the library to get some work done. The semester hasn’t begun, but one of my instructors gave us a book and an article to read before it does. I find an excellent spot in the blissfully empty library and get cracking.
12 p.m. — I haven’t been here long, but I’m already ravenous and need to have lunch. I pick up a fruit cup, veggie and hummus box, and PB&J from the library cafe and take them home for lunch. I have the fruit cup, veggie and hummus box, one of yesterday’s breakfast sandwiches, yesterday’s Coke Zero, and half of the PB&J for lunch. I watch The Ultimatum: Queer Love on Netflix until I leave for my 3-5 p.m. shift. $14.95, covered by meal swipes.
5 p.m. — Off of work and now it’s time to run a few errands. The bus I’ll need to take isn’t scheduled to come until 5:30, so I eat the other half of the PB&J and a GoGoSqueez before heading out the door again. I hop on the bus for free — unlimited free rides on the city’s bus system are included with the cost of my tuition.
5:35 p.m. — I’ve arrive at my first stop, Bath & Body Works. I have a 20% off coupon and a small amount left on a gift card, so I buy a Gingham concentrated room spray ($6.12) to complement the laundry-scented Febreze air freshener I currently have in my dorm. Next stop is Target, where I return a pack of headbands I bought a few days ago and pick up two packs of Command Hook refill strips ($7.30) for the fairy lights I’m trying to hang in my dorm. I catch the (free) bus back home. $13.42
6:25 p.m. — Home again! I realize I haven’t hung out with people in a while, so I send off texts to a few friends with suggestions for plans. I do miscellaneous chores while listening to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. After that, I catch up on some of my favorite Substack newsletters — current favorites are Margeaux Feldman’s Carescapes and Charlie Squire’s Evil Female! I have a Nature Valley bar as something dinner-adjacent.
8:50 p.m. — Brush teeth, shower, skincare, do Duolingo, in bed by 10:15.
Daily Total: $13.42
7:05 a.m. — After eight and a half hours of excellent sleep, I finally drag myself out of bed. I get dressed, make my bed, and sit down to have a breakfast sandwich. The dessert hankering hits early again, so I also have a single-serving container of Cocoa Puffs. Afterward, I brush my teeth, do my skincare, and leave the house at 8:05 to catch the bus to a 9 a.m. hair appointment.
8:10 a.m. — While waiting at the bus stop, I review my budget spreadsheet and discover a colossal mistake: I entered over $300 of rollover from the previous month where there shouldn’t be any. I take out the excess money, and somehow I’m still under budget for the month. Score! I arrive at the salon 35 minutes early and read Substacks while I wait.
9:40 a.m. — Haircut complete! I booked this appointment before moving back into college, and my parents absolutely insisted that I let them cover this because I get haircuts so infrequently. While I greatly appreciate this gesture, I have requested that they slowly start covering less and less of these kinds of expenses because I feel guilty and I want to learn how to budget for these kinds of things. $69, including 20% tip, covered by my parents.
10 a.m. — I decide to walk back home because the grocery store is on the way and I need to grab a few things. I pick up oats and chia seeds to bulk up my smoothies, Emergen-C, and three cheese, fruit, and nut snack packs ($21.44). On the way to my dorm, I stop at a campus dining location and grab two bananas, an orange, an RXBAR, a Nature Valley bar, three Oikos Triple Zero yogurts, two veggie cups, a turkey pinwheel snack box, and a chocolate Clio Greek yogurt bar ($31.50, covered by meal swipes). I come home, eat the snack box and Greek yogurt bar for lunch, then head out for a 1-5 p.m. shift at 12:50. $21.44
5 p.m. — Off of work and it’s smoothie time once again! Today’s consists of a banana, an Oikos, frozen berries, oats, chia seeds, and peanut butter. I also cobble together a dinner of a cheese, fruit, and nut pack, an apple, an orange, a GoGoSqueez, a veggie cup, and a Nature Valley bar while watching more of The Ultimatum.
9:30 p.m. — I finish The Ultimatum. I love when my fellow lesbians are messy. I fall into a Substack rabbit hole, then after a while, I finally get ready for bed. I read a bit of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, then go to sleep around 11:30.
Daily Total: $21.44
6 a.m. — Another morning shift, this time from 7-9 a.m. I have my smoothie, a single-serving bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a Nature’s Bakery oatmeal crumble bar before getting ready and heading out the door.
9 a.m. — This morning was slightly more eventful. Move-in is officially beginning and a steady stream of new residents keeps me busy at the desk. I go home, wolf down an RXBAR, finish getting ready, and pick up some more food with my final three allotted meal swipes. I get two turkey pinwheel boxes, an Oikos, three bananas, and a PB&J ($23.25, covered by meal swipes). I head out the door again at 10:50 a.m., this time for an 11 a.m.-3 p.m. shift.
3 p.m. — I have some dining dollars left over from the previous semester, so I pick up some more food to tide me over until the dining plans begin in a few days. I get a grain bowl, a grape and berry cup, an iced lemon loaf, an apple, a Nature Valley bar, and an RXBAR ($12.84, covered by dining dollars). Thank goodness using dining dollars gives you a discount.
3:30 p.m. — I have a late lunch of a turkey pinwheel box, a veggie cup, a Nature Valley bar, half of the PB&J, and grapes. I confirm some plans with friends and read more Substack posts for a while. I also make a smoothie — today’s has a banana, an Oikos, frozen spinach, oats, chia seeds, and berries.
6:45 p.m. — I’ve been sitting for far too long and I need some movement. Early-mid 2010s EDM anthems serve as the soundtrack for a run around campus. I return at 7:15, stretch, have a GoGoSqueez, do Duolingo, and then get ready for bed. I read more of Normal People before turning the lights out at 9:30.
Daily Total: $0
4:10 a.m. — Another day, another 5-9 a.m. shift. I have my smoothie and the other half of my PB&J, go through my morning routine, and head out the door.
9 a.m. — Once my shift ends, I head straight home to change — the outfit I picked out earlier in the week was cute in theory but hideous in practice. I also have an RXBAR, beef jerky stick, and a GoGoSqueez.
9:45 a.m. — Time for a little walk! I take a stroll around campus to find where all of my classes will be. I’m not new to campus, but I still like to orient myself ahead of time. After I locate my classes, I sit outside to read.
11:10 a.m. — I am getting hungry. Again. I return to my dorm and have lunch: a turkey pinwheel box, an apple with peanut butter, an iced lemon loaf, and peanuts while I watch Criminal Minds. After, I use my final meal swipe to get a black forest ham wrap and a bag of Sunchips. I eat the chips immediately upon returning home. Absolutely no regrets. $7.75, covered by meal swipes.
2 p.m. — I get an email confirming the schedule for the internship I have this fall. I then panic a bit as I realize I do not have much in the way of warm-weather business casual clothing. I place a Target order for a black sleeveless turtleneck I’ve been eyeing for months, a new brown belt, and a blue polo. $40.19
2:30 p.m. — Head outside to do some more reading! Even though I switch locations multiple times, I am positively devoured by the mosquitoes. It isn’t until the back of my left thigh looks like it’s truly breaking out in hives from bites that I go inside.
5:30 p.m. — I return home, bug-bitten and somehow sunburned. I have two cheese, fruit, and nut packs as something dinner-adjacent, followed by three oatmeal crumble bars.
6 p.m. — I do dishes, make a smoothie, shower/skincare/brush teeth, and read a bit more before turning the lights out at 8:15.
Daily Total: $40.19
4:10 a.m. — I slept very well last night and I wake up feeling energized. I have a smoothie and two oatmeal crumble bars for breakfast. I take slightly too long getting ready and have to literally sprint to work in the dark.
5 a.m. — I continue reading my book for class, but progress is slower than I would like it to be. I then remember I have an unclaimed 30-day free trial of Audible and a free audiobook credit, so I get the book on there. No clue why I didn’t do this earlier.
7 a.m. — Off of work and it’s time to get breakfast with a friend, R. We stop by Bruegger’s Bagels and get breakfast sandwiches — I choose the Zesty Egg White Sandwich ($6.29, plus $2 tip). After eating, we walk around campus and chat. I haven’t seen R. since the spring, and it’s wonderful to catch up. Once home, I resume listening to my book. $8.29
10:20 a.m. — After a very relaxing few hours of book listening while snuggled up under blankets, I have lunch. I work 11-3, so I won’t be able to eat again for a while. I have half of the ham wrap, a GoGoSqueez, and an ice pop while watching Criminal Minds before heading out at 10:50.
3 p.m. — Goodness, work was exhausting. Move-in is in full swing and we were slammed the whole day. Thankfully, there has been a bit of unexpected joy: I somehow have three extra meal swipes where before there were none! The meal plan starts tomorrow, so I’ll be going to the dining halls for 80% of my meals from here out. I use my swipes on snacks: a bag of Sunchips, two RXBARs, four Oikos, and a PB&J ($23.40, covered by meal swipes).
3:20 p.m. — Home again and having the other half of the ham wrap and a GoGoSqueez as I continue listening to my book. A coworker of mine gave me a laptop sleeve recommendation during our shift, so I decide to place an Amazon order for it. Even though I already have a case for my laptop, I’d like additional protection. $32.24
4 p.m. — Time to do the dishes. While doing them, I get a notification telling me that the payout for an item I sold on eBay has gone through! My bank account is happy to have the additional $34.96. Once the dishes are finished, I make another smoothie: same as yesterday’s, plus frozen berries.
5 p.m. — I meet up with a friend, S., and their dog for a catching-up stroll. We chat and wander around campus for an hour and a half. After S. and their dog head home, I head out for a run.
7:05 p.m. — Home from my run! I stretch, then have part of the grain bowl as I continue listening to mu book. The grain bowl is wildly subpar. I shower, brush my teeth, and do skincare, then it’s lights out by 9:15.
Daily Total: $40.53
4:15 a.m. — Final 5 a.m. shift for a while, thank goodness. I drink my smoothie, have an RXBAR, get ready, and head to work.
9:15 a.m. — Off of work and the dining plans have finally begun! I go to the dining hall for the breakfast I get every time I’m there: cottage cheese with blueberries, a hard-boiled egg, toast with peanut butter, and a cup of coffee with cream and sugar.
9:45 a.m. — Time for a little adventure! There’s a bakery not too far from me that makes the best cake I’ve ever tasted, and it’s right by a trail that eventually leads back to campus. At 10, I hop on the bus that’ll take me there.
10:30 a.m. — At the bakery, I select a slice of chocolate cake with cookies and cream icing ($5.50, plus $1 tip). I sit outside in the sun to enjoy it. After I finish it, I begin the trek home. The walk is about five miles, and I listen to my book as I stroll through the forest. $6.50
12:40 p.m. — That was the most therapeutic walk ever. I continue listening as I have lunch, which is the remainder of the grain bowl, a GoGoSqueez, the PB&J, and the bag of Sunchips.
2 p.m. — With lunch eaten, I take a catnap. In between dozes, I do the dishes, sweep, and vacuum.
5:45 p.m. — I finish my book! I have another GoGoSqueez and ponder the book, then I do Duolingo as the sun sets.
6:30 p.m. — A week of little sleep has completely drained me, so I decide to call it an exceptionally early night. I shower, do skincare, brush my teeth, hop in bed, and read more of Normal People before turning the lights out at 8:30.
Daily Total: $6.50
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior. Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.
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