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A Week In Tennessee On A $70,000 Salary


Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.


Today: a school leader who makes $70,000 and spends some of her money on a to-go cocktail.





Occupation: School Leadership

Industry: Education
Age: 30

Location: Tennessee
Salary: $70,000

Net Worth: -$10,000
Debt: $11,000

Pronouns: She/her


Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,150 (for a one-bedroom apartment where I live alone)

Student Loans: $50 (I have about $2,000 in student loans from undergrad that I’m in no rush to repay)
Car Insurance: $150

Medical/Dental: $142 (deducted pre-tax)
Cell Phone: $70 (paid to my mother, family plan)

Utilities: ~$100
Credit Card: $300 (I have about $10,000 in credit card debt; it’s not ideal, but I’ve moved across country three in about seven years on a teacher’s salary. It adds up.)

Internet: $34
Hulu: $11.99 (one of my brothers covers Netflix and my mom covers HBONews subscriptions)

Newspapers: $21
Beauty Boxes: $72

Fitness Subscription: $27 (for unlimited on-demand)
Pandora Premium: $10

Work Expenses: ~$150
Savings: $500 automatically from my paychecks. I’m not saving as much as I’d like to currently or paying off my credit card fast enough, but I’m financing my way through grad school loan-free, so I’ll ramp it up once I graduate.

Day One

8 a.m. — I heave myself out of bed to get ready for some virtual teaching and meetings. I realized early on in quarantine that if I want to push myself to stay up and moving between meetings, I have to actually get ready. If I throw a sweatshirt over my pajamas I’m going right back to bed. I make my bed, again, primarily to lessen the temptation to crawl back in it. Then, I wash my face with Glamglow cleanser, use Sunday Riley Good Genes, Fourth Ray Beauty Vitamin C serum, and First Aid Beauty Moisturizer. Follow with Too Faced Primer, Colourpop tinted moisturizer, Tarte Shape Tape concealer, some loose powder, Hourglass blush, and Benefit mascara. Fill up my water bottle (I’ve been trying to be a lot more consistent with drinking water the past week or two; if I’m not conscious about it I can go hours without drinking anything) and get ready to teach some sleepy high schoolers.
10 a.m. — After teaching is over, I move outside for some video calls and meetings. It’s beautiful today and there’s a little patio area outside my apartment unit that’s sitting empty and calling my name. I work for about two hours before taking a break for lunch.
12 p.m. — I’m craving hot chicken so I place a curbside order from a local place. On my way to pick it up, I see a sign at the indoor/outdoor bar at the end of my street that they’re selling cocktails to go. It’s the middle of the workday so I don’t stop, but I’ll be back later. The sandwich is amazing, as expected, even though I can never quite finish it. I have some time until my next meeting so I work through some deliverables with Vanderpump Rules on in the background. I just started watching it last week. Yes, it’s trash. Yes, I love it. $12.36
2 p.m. — I stop writing follow-up emails, aka agonizing over the use of exclamation points vs. periods, because I don’t want to come across as a bitch (feedback I’ve received on several occasions), but also am not excited that teachers I supervise haven’t completed tasks that are due. Decide I need a break from work so I head back outside with Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror to read for a bit (it’s amazing, 10/10 would recommend). After about an hour I come inside, go to the bathroom, and realize I already have a sunburn. Whoops, forgot I was part vampire. Order some Neutrogena face and body sunscreen on Amazon so that I can go outside again before November. $24.17
3 p.m. — End my workday with a virtual interview. There are few things more awkward than watching someone sample teach a lesson on Zoom with no students, but hiring must go on. I’ve probably done ten of these since we started quarantine. This one is particularly rough. After the longest hour of all time, I finally log off and call a couple of students to check-in. I try to reach out to a few of them each day; I work at a Title 1 school and a lot of our families are really struggling. About half of the work expenses each month go towards supplies for school, but the other half usually goes directly to some students to help with things like books for college or fees for the ACT. It’s good to talk to the kids and hear their voices.
6 p.m. — Circle back to that tempting to-go cocktail option from down the street. I end up ordering two specialty cocktails and some chips and queso because I have no interest in cooking tonight. I put on a sweater to camouflage my goofy-looking sunburn and enjoy the walk to pick it up. I get home and immediately change into PJs, which for me is a mental signal that I’m “off” work for the day. I struggle with work-life balance normally and working from home on my computer full-time makes it even harder for me to turn it off. The food is good and the cocktails are even better. I haven’t had liquor in probably two months so I’m very quickly tipsy. $30.24
8 p.m. — Spend the rest of the night hanging around, watching TV, and texting back and forth with this guy, V., I matched with on a dating app at the very start of this craziness. It’s weird — we’ve spoken literally every day for almost two months, but obviously haven’t met in person yet. We’ll probably get together in the next week or two in what feels like the highest-stakes first date of my life. I’m an expert single girl, which means that I’ve been on 500 bad first dates and 500 first dates that I thought were good, but apparently weren’t? I promise I’m a completely average looking lady, but dating can definitely make you feel like an ogre. Anyway, it feels like I have a lot of emotional investment in this already, which makes me nervous. The combination of the liquor and the sunburn has me worn out, and I’m knocked out by 9.
Daily Total: $66.77

Day Two

4 a.m. — Wake up fully rested because I’ve been asleep for seven hours already. I lie in bed restlessly for over an hour before finally dozing back off until 8.
8 a.m. — Toss on a sweatshirt over leggings and a sports bra — not to go back to bed, but because I’m planning on working out between meetings this morning. Do a 30-minute yoga class through Obe fitness. I’ve had this for months but didn’t start using it consistently until about three weeks into quarantine. I’m really loving it — 30 minutes is quick enough that I don’t get bored and yoga is high-intensity enough that I still get a good sweat in.
10 a.m. — Sit in on a district meeting where they COMPLETELY change the grading and end-of-year policies for students, ending with them telling us we basically have five days to get everything finalized for the end of the year. I really, REALLY hate bureaucracy. Take a quick shower, change into shorts and a long sleeve tee (you know, because sunburn), and then spend a few hours reaching out to staff and families about the changes. They’re stressed and frustrated, and I have to just take it even though this decision had literally nothing to do with me.
1 p.m. — I place a curbside order from my favorite local soap/beauty shop (it’s like a local version of Lush). There are so many amazing local businesses here and I shop pretty local during normal times, so I’m trying really hard to support these same businesses in safe ways during the pandemic. Tennessee is actually officially open (yikes), but it’s been great to see so many businesses being responsible and not opening even though they’re technically allowed to. I want to make it a point to support these spots in particular. I grab some bath bombs, body butter, and a body scrub, all in my favorite scent, Black Raspberry Vanilla. $47.18
1 p.m. — While I’m out, I stop at my go-to nail salon, probably one of the biggest gems in town. I bought a trio of cuticle oils ($18, paid for last week) and stop to pick them up. Am I going to become a woman who is diligent about cuticle care? Doubtful, but that’s not really why I’m buying this anyway. Give into the no-cooking temptation and tell myself I deserve a treat for my rough afternoon and doing yoga this AM (does anyone else promise themselves gifts for working out? And then usually get the gift whether you work out or not?), so I grab an order of nachos and a big frozen margarita from a Mexican spot (so much curbside pickup this afternoon) before I head home. $30.73
4 p.m. — Get home just in time to hop on a Zoom happy hour with some of my closest friends. We used to work together and hang out every Friday for three years. I seriously considered staying in a pretty toxic school environment just for them, but ultimately it was outweighed by how miserable I was at work and in the city I was living in. I’m so much happier now, but making adult friends is hard and I miss them terribly. The biggest silver lining of quarantine is getting to connect with them regularly. After my margarita, I lounge around watching more Vanderpump Rules and drinking some sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s. I paint my nails and use my new cuticle oil, probably incorrectly. I get a really sweet message from a student telling me she loves my class and she aspires to read as much as I do. It makes me a bit emotional, which I blame on the alcohol and that I’m about to start my period, because feelings make me uncomfortable.
10 p.m. — Get ready for bed with my nighttime skincare routine of First Aid Beauty Cannabis Seed Oil, Murad Eye Cream, a Dr. Brandt Sleeping Mask, and some Sunday Riley UFO as a spot treatment — expensive, but magic, and lasts forever because I only use a drop or two. My skin has been freaking out a bit lately even though it’s normally well-behaved, maybe because I’m approaching my period, so I briefly consider using a face mask, but I’m lazy, so I tell myself I’ll do it tomorrow. I climb into bed and read, and then all of a sudden it’s 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $77.91

Day Three

11 a.m. — Wake up. I’m a big proponent of sleeping in on weekends, and then staying in bed reading for another couple of hours. Saturdays were always my favorite days of the week: I’d go to a yoga class, grab a coffee, wander through the farmer’s market and pick up some food for the week, and stop by one of the food trucks always parked there for lunch. In the afternoons I would relax, maybe see a movie, and then usually do something with friends or go on a date later (I don’t do Friday social time, I’m always way too exhausted and usually in bed by 9). None of those things are happening now, so Saturdays make me a bit glum. I hang around my apartment and watch TV instead, finally taking a Vanderpump break to catch up on the latest episode of Mrs. America, which makes me feel semi-productive because it’s smart television (low bar, I know).
2:30 p.m. — I get hungry and decide to make a half pizza (not because I’m being thoughtful about portion size, but because I accidentally cracked the frozen crust in half). I’m a big pizza fan and try to avoid frozen pizza because I know they’re awful for you. I add olive oil, TJ’s pizza sauce, garlic, fresh mozzarella, and basil. This is not gourmet by any means, but it’s also not DiGiornio, so I’m going to call it a win. Also, I may have stumbled into a genius hack. I don’t like reheated pizza and half was plenty (though I obviously ate it all). Maybe I’ll be cutting my crust in half from now on?
9 p.m. — I spend the rest of the day alternating between reading and watching TV. At some point, I do the face mask I didn’t get to last night; it’s from First Aid Beauty, but I got it from TJ Maxx a while back. My bank account may not miss TJ Maxx, but I sure do. Eventually, I get hungry and make a quick pantry version of linguine. It’s one of my go-to lazy meals, pretty similar in prep level to Kraft macaroni and cheese but feels more like an adult meal (but let me be clear, I do regularly eat Kraft). Read in bed until about midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

11 a.m. — Wake up, lounge around and read, call my mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day (I sent presents for her and my sister-in-law awhile ago), and send a couple of texts to my friends that are mamas.
2 p.m. — Today is grocery run day, so I get dressed in a t-shirt, acid-wash jeans, and some Toms sneakers, do my normal makeup, and head out. It’s a bit of a hike to Trader Joe’s, but it’s worth it. I realize on the way that I haven’t eaten anything today so I stop and grab a sandwich from the drive-through ($8.01). Get to TJ’s and stock up on some pantry samples, ingredients for a steak dinner, more stuff to make pizza, wine and seltzer, and can’t resist grabbing one of the new Peony Blossom candles they have up by the register ($87.01). $95.02
2 p.m. — I’ve been trying really hard not to go to more than one store, but I’m reaching critical levels on tissues (I have terrible allergies and I’m constantly congested from March-July) and toilet paper, so I pop into Target. I find tissues and allergy meds but strike out with toilet paper. While I’m there, I grab some Diet Coke and a couple of things for my apartment (Swiffer, dish soap, toothpaste, detergent, spice rack, a storage shelf, etc.). I’m normally gone from 6:30 in the morning until 7 or 8 at night during the school week, so adjusting to being in my apartment basically 24/7 has put me in full nesting mode. $113.01
5:30 p.m. — Get home and see that I’ve been charged for next week’s HelloFresh box. I recently restarted my subscription during quarantine. I LOVE the idea of meal kits; I live alone and hate wasting food, but also have a 3-meal max on leftovers before I have to drag myself to eat them. It’s not cheap, but I feel like I’m eating well so it’s worth it to me. I also spend way less on takeout this way. My biggest barrier is always how time-consuming the meals are to cook, but that’s less of an issue now because I’m drowning in free time. $64.34
7 p.m. — Decide to make one of the meals from my box. I choose brown sugar bourbon pork chops with apple pan sauce, scallion mashed potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts — way above my culinary skill level, but with the recipes and everything pre-portioned it’s relatively idiot-proof. Prep all the ingredients and see that the recipe requires sugar, which I do not have. Look at the other two recipes in my box in desperation, and both also require sugar. Mentally kick myself for not checking before I went to not one, but TWO stores today, and then grab my keys and run to the gas station down the street. They have sugar, for what feels like a criminal $6.99, but desperate times. I also walk past toilet paper on my way to the register! It’s 100% the toilet paper they use for their public bathroom, and I’m not sure they’re even supposed to be selling it, but it’s the first time I’ve seen toilet paper in a month so I grab two rolls anyway and a pack of Skittles. $13.16
8:15 p.m. — After about an hour of cooking and using what feels like half of the pots and pans in my kitchen, food is finally done. It’s ridiculously good, I practically lick my plate, and I put the second half away for tomorrow’s dinner.
10 p.m. — I see that the leasing office sent me my lease renewal paperwork, so I read through it and sign. I love my little apartment and I hate moving (I’ve lived in six different places in the past nine years), so it’s an easy yes. I most recently lived in the Northeast and am still kind of in awe that I can get such a beautiful apartment, brand new and downtown, for what I pay. My rent is only going up $30 a month, which is great because the cost of living raise I got for the upcoming year is a joke. I really wanted to ask for a more substantial raise; I’m very good at my job, and am 100% worth more than I get paid, but contracts went out in April in the middle of this pandemic, and with so much up in the air around state funding it didn’t feel appropriate, so I didn’t ask. I feel like a man maybe would have asked, but oh well. Go through my skincare routine, read and toss and turn until almost 2 a.m. At the risk of sounding like an actual infant, I’m not a very good sleeper.
Daily Total: $285.53

Day Five

8 a.m. — Crawl out of bed, feeling just really meh today. I didn’t get enough sleep (under five hours according to my FitBit) and I’m painfully congested. I drink a bottle of water and suffer through an hour’s worth of meetings, and then I don’t have another meeting until 1. I have plenty to do, but instead I end up just crawling back into bed and dozing off and on until about 12:30.
1 p.m. — Have my weekly check-in with my boss; we don’t have a ton to talk about but this is definitely going to be my only human contact for the day so it’s good to have some social interaction. After we’re done, I make myself another half pizza, and then I remember that today is the BoxyCharm Pop-Up, where they offer a selection of beauty products to subscribers at a steep discount. I log on and snag a Living Proof blowout serum and the Glamglow Good in Bed night cream. I put a pineapple serum by Glow Recipe in my cart but I don’t move fast enough and it’s gone before I get to the checkout screen. That would have been more of an impulse buy (I’ve tried and know I really like the other two), so I decide it’s retail fate and check out, with an actual impulse buy of a soap infused sponge that I like to use for baths, but it’s only $4 so I don’t feel bad. It’s all a $103 value, but my total is a third of that, so I feel pretty good about it. It’s like virtual TJ Maxx! $37.69
2:30 p.m. — In the plan for the day I laid out in my head last night, I was 100% going to do yoga today, but I’m just really not feeling it so instead I sit on the couch and alternate between working and reading for a while. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life beating myself up when I don’t work out as planned, and I’m trying to get better about it, but the urge is still there.
6:30 p.m. — Decide to make a box of brownies I grabbed from Trader Joe’s (the instructions call for a full stick of butter, which feels very Paula Deen, but I’m not a confident baker so I don’t usually deviate from instructions), and then I heat up the rest of the dinner I made last night. It’s still good, but definitely not as good as last night (hence why I don’t love leftovers). Continue watching Vanderpump Rules.
8:30 p.m. — I still feel like crap, and then I remember that I just spent $70 on bath stuff a few days ago, and I haven’t taken a bath in MONTHS (I’ve showered, just so we’re clear). Get really excited and start heating some water on the stove. I make a bit of a production out of taking a bath — bath bomb, scrub and lotion, hair mask, shower oil, sparkling wine in a silicone glass (that I bought specifically to use with baths), music, the works. It’s amazingly relaxing and is 100% the best decision I’ve made today.
11 p.m. — Climb into bed and blow out my hair. I purchased one of the Revlon one-step dryer brushes at the beginning of quarantine and at the risk of sounding dramatic, it has changed my hair life. I have relatively thin hair, but I have a lot of it. It’s pretty long and I’ve never quite known what to do with it. It gets puffy when I blow-dry it, I don’t know how to blow it out, and it’s weirdly wavy-straight in a way that looks sloppy. All of which is to say, I can blow my hair out in about 15 minutes with this thing and it looks good for a few days without touchups. When I finish my hair, I read for a while. I’m on a bit of a nonfiction kick so now I’m working through Nicholas Kristof’s Tightrope, and lights out around 1:30.
Daily Total: $37.69

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and get ready for class. Toss on leggings, a sports bra, and a sweatshirt (I WILL work out today!). Try out one of the acai bowls I bought from Trader Joe’s, and it is… not good. I take a few bites, but that’s all I can manage. Luckily I only bought two to try them out. This is our last class before the AP exam tomorrow, and the attendance is low, which is frustrating. I’m not blaming the kids — they’re seniors, a lot of them are working and doing a lot to help out their families, and virtual school sucks — but it’s just not how I envisioned us ending the year. We go through the need-to-knows for the test, and then I spend some time just chatting with a few of the kids. I’ve known most of them since they were 10 or 11, so I’m really going to miss this crew.
10:30 a.m. — Do a 30-minute vinyasa yoga class on obé, and immediately feel so much better, endorphins are no joke. Take a really quick shower and get dressed in jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt and do some light makeup. Finish with my other hair miracle, the Bumble and Bumble Post Workout Dry Shampoo Mist. It does such an amazing job reviving my hair after a workout; it honestly makes me 1000% more likely to work out on days I wasn’t planning to wash my hair. I decide to grab a coffee to refocus myself for the rest of the workday, so I drive to my neighborhood coffee shop and order an iced mocha and bagel sandwich with cheddar and bacon. I’m a big Dunkin’ fan (it’s the northerner in me), which is way cheaper, but I remind myself that Dunkin’ is not struggling to survive in a global pandemic (and also this coffee is better). I call and order when I get there and they bring it out to my car; I keep a mask on anyway. I tip $5 because the baristas are lovely and I know business has been crawling. $15.01
12 p.m. — Get back home with my “brunch” and settle in on the couch to work on transcript audits for the upcoming school year. It’s a bit of a slog, but mindless enough that I can sit and watch equally mindless TV while I work.
3 p.m. — Quick break to check the mail, mostly just to move and breathe fresh air for a second. Get to my mailbox and see that my Rothy’s are here! Once I moved into school leadership, I backed away from Toms as my go-to work shoe, and while Rothy’s are definitely expensive, I think they’re worth every penny. They’re running a promotion now where teachers can get 50% off a pair, so last month I bought a pair (my fifth) of the points in Flame, a super bright red that makes me smile when I look at them. I wear them for the rest of the afternoon, half to break them in, and half because where the heck else am I going to wear them?
7:30 p.m. — I look up from my laptop and it’s nearing 8. Yikes. At least I got a lot done. I make another HelloFresh meal, tonight it’s lemon butter chicken with couscous and mozzarella zucchini. Sometimes I look at the ingredient bag and scoff at what I’m positive is an incorrect portion — such as my single baby zucchini — but then I cook and plate it and it’s always more than enough. This is why I need very clear instructions. Back to work.
11:30 p.m. — Finally call it quits. I know I’m about to be working nonstop until the end of the week to get all of the end of quarter stuff finalized, plus my kids’ AP exam is tomorrow so I’m a bit nervous for them. I should have gone to bed earlier because I need to be up early and going all day, and I know it’s going to take me a couple of hours to settle down, as always.
Daily Total: $15.01

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up to attend the virtual staff meeting. It’s over in 20 minutes and I decide to try to get some more sleep because the last time I looked at the clock was 3 a.m. I know I’m going to be working to get grades finalized all night so I figure better to get a bit of rest now. I’m largely unsuccessful, and mostly just lay in my bed with my eyes closed.
10:45 a.m. — Get back out of bed, do a quick 12-minute exercise class because that’s all I have time for, and get dressed in a vintage wash long-sleeve tee and jeans. Do some light makeup, adding one of my favorite lip products, the Nars Velvet Lip Glide in Le Palace, one of the only reds I feel like I can wear without looking like a clown. I put on my Flame Rothy’s and head out the door to go to school.
11:45 a.m. — Get to the drive-through at Dunkin’ (no time for good coffee) and am somehow behind an actual pack of college-aged girls in what I’ll loosely call exercise clothes, who are not in a car. I’m not that impressed, especially because you can walk into the store and order anyway, and if they were that concerned about social distancing they wouldn’t be running with half their sorority. Also annoyed because I have places to be and they’re each ordering individually. Get my iced mocha, exchanging meaningful glances with the Dunkin’ employee. $3.98
12:15 p.m. — Pull up at school for the AP English exam. People aren’t going to like this, but here’s the thing: students need laptops, reliable internet, and a quiet space to take an AP exam. I have students who simply don’t have access to those three things, so we thought a lot about it as a school, and decided to offer an in-person exam for students who don’t have other options. It’s only four kids today and me today; we all wear masks, we sanitize the laptops and tables after they use them, and the kids are spread out across a giant cafeteria. I get this is not great, but please direct your @s toward CollegeBoard. I get a text a few minutes later from a student whose ride fell through; she tells me she’ll just take the exam on her phone. This is an essay, y’all. I harass her until she gives me her address and I pick her up and drive back to school. In the 30 minutes before the test starts, I send five million encouraging texts to my students I can’t see before they take the exam.
2 p.m. — We finish up, texts start pouring in from kids, and the general consensus seems to be “not that bad,” but we don’t get scores back until July so we’ll see. I stop at Chik-Fil-A on the way home because I realized at 1 I hadn’t eaten at all today and also because are you even in the south if you don’t regularly eat there? I get home and a package came from the Gap (I went a bit wild with online shopping in the early days of quarantine, but with all of the shipping delays, I’m just starting to get most of the stuff now). The package today is this beautiful white and yellow linen dress that I’m in love with, and have absolutely nowhere to wear it for the foreseeable future. Luckily it stays hot here until late October so I’ve got some time. It’s sunny and in the 80s now so I apply some sunscreen (learned my lesson) and head outside to get some more work done. $8.38
6:30 p.m. — I make it a good hour and a half before the heat drives me back inside, but I keep working until my Zoom date at 6:30 with two of my all-time best friends. We went to high school together and haven’t all lived in the same place for almost 15 years, but we’ve stayed close. One of them, N., just had a baby in December who I get to “meet” for the first time. I’m so lucky to have these ladies in my life. When we’re finishing up I get a text from another forever friend about partnering up for some virtual trivia tomorrow. I get a notification from Amazon that my melatonin gummies should be here tomorrow; I ordered these almost two weeks ago and they got lost, so no charge for the re-ship. I’m trying absolutely everything to help me get to sleep at night, and I’m hoping these make an impact because I’m getting a bit desperate.
Daily Total: $12.36





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