A Week In Vermont On A $78,600 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 teacher who makes $78,600 per year and spends some of her money this week on Mother’s Day flowers.

Occupation: Teacher

Industry: Education

Age: 29

Location: Vermont

Salary: $78,600 (I also earn between $300 and $1,000 a month pre-tax from my online business)

Net Worth: $85,635 ($38,917 of cash savings; $64,446 in various retirement accounts and pensions; $16,728 of student loans)

Debt: $16,728 of student loans

Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,742

Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $987 (for one bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment in NYC)

Loans: $0 (payments are frozen right now because the loan will be forgiven next year through Teacher Loan Forgiveness)

Utilities: $51

Cell Phone: $28 (paid to my dad for my portion of our family plan)

Renter’s Insurance: $12

Spotify: $10

Netflix: we use my fiancé, A.’s, parents’ account

HBO: $7.50 (A. pays half)

Gym: $10

Health/Dental Insurance: $0 (free through work)

Monthly MetroCard: usually $121 pre-tax, but I’ve put this on hold during the pandemic.

Charity: $50 recurring monthly donations to organizations dealing with poverty and climate change.

Amazon Prime: $60 annually (A. pays half)

Credit Card fee: $450 annually, but I more than earn this back in travel rewards.

New Yorker Subscription: $150 annually

Microsoft Office Subscription: $70 annually

NYT Crossword Subscription: $21 annually

403(b): $850 (13% of my salary pre-tax)

Pension: $380 (6% of my salary pre-tax)

Roth IRA: $300

Savings: Whatever is left, usually $1,000.

Day One

10 a.m. — Wake up to an alarm. I’m not too tired, but I could definitely sleep for one (or two, or three) more hours if I tried. I have to set an alarm for 10 on Sundays, though, or else I’ll be up until the wee hours of the morning. I lay in bed for an hour scrolling through social media and the New York Times.
11:10 a.m. — I check my credit card and see that my refund for our flight to Amman has been processed. My fiancé, A., and I were supposed to travel to Jordan over spring break, but obviously that didn’t happen. I got my flight fully refunded in cash (yay!), while A. was only able to get an airline voucher. WHO KNOWS.
11:15 a.m. — Out of bed and fully dressed (in pajamas, it’s quarantine). A. makes us coffee while I gather our laundry. I live in NYC and try to do laundry there as rarely as possible, usually every three weeks, because schlepping laundry down four flights of stairs and over three blocks to the laundromat is not the best experience. I’m isolating at A.’s apartment in Vermont, though, and laundry in the building feels like SUCH A LUXURY!! (Important note: we rigorously self-quarantined for a couple of weeks when we arrived! Didn’t even use the much-beloved laundry room. Definitely not trying to spread the virus in this rural community!) $5.50
11:40 a.m. — Time to settle in with the NYT crossword. I managed to get my personal best completing-the-crossword streak early in the quarantine (11 days in a row!), but I’m nowhere close to that now. Hovering somewhere around zero days, is my best estimate.
12:15 p.m. — Aaaaand another day, another crossword not completed. There were three squares that I couldn’t figure out! I run down to the basement to switch the laundry to the dryer. $4.50
12:30 p.m. — A. makes us breakfast/lunch — oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit. After I eat, I get to work on a product for my online business. It’s pretty fun to design them and I usually enjoy it! I try to schedule myself at least 20 minutes a day to work on my business. If I’m in a groove and having fun after 20 minutes, I’ll keep going. If I’m not feeling it, I’ll call it a day. It’s mostly just a hobby, but it’s always nice to make a little extra money!
1:10 p.m. — I’m on a roll, but I take a break to go get the laundry from the dryer and put it away. We notice that our dishcloths still smell not-the-best after washing, so A. puts in an order for new ones and I pay him for half. $7.50
1:45 p.m. — A. starts playing Cities: Skyline, so I decide to play for just a shoooort time as well. I downloaded SimCity nostalgically when I was bored last weekend and it turns out to be a super addictive quarantine activity. Yesterday we downloaded this new, bigger, better version. We don’t play computer games or video games in regular times, but this really sucks you in, so we’ve started setting timers to remind ourselves to quit after a while. We peel ourselves away after 30 minutes.
2:15 p.m. — Back to product-making! I’m excited to finish this one up! It’s looking great!
3:15 p.m. — All done! I started this online business about a year ago, thinking I’d try it out for a while and see how things went. I’m really proud of how it’s going and I’m hoping to keep expanding little by little! For now, though, I’m calling it a day. I make myself some toast with hummus, respond to some messages from family and friends, and settle in with a book.
3:45 p.m. — I’m interrupted in my reading by a call from a friend in California. I miss seeing my friends, students, and coworkers every day, but this pandemic has been a good excuse to talk more with family and friends who live far away. I’m hoping that this is a habit that I can keep up once the pandemic has ended. I head out on a walk and chat with my friend for about half an hour.
4:30 p.m. — When I get home, A. and I do a workout from YouTube then I shower and dry my hair. Hair-drying is taking FOREVER these days. I procrastinated getting my hair cut before the pandemic started (it’s sooo expensive in NYC that I try to do it when I visit my parents instead), and now who knows when it will ever get cut. Starting to look a little caveman-ish, oh well.
7 p.m. — I take a few minutes to prepare for school tomorrow. Usually, on Sundays, I’d be writing lesson plans for Monday and looking ahead to the week, but remote school is really different. Many of the parents of my students are still going to work, so the kids realistically can’t all log in at the same time for live “lessons.” I’m lucky enough to have an amazing co-teacher and we have a system worked out that’s going okay, but it’s obviously less than ideal. Rather than whole-group lessons, we’re doing one-on-one conferences with individual kids, as well as assigning work that can be completed online and in books that the students brought home. Definitely not the same as being in the classroom, but we’re trying our best!
7:30 p.m. — Time for a liiiiittle more city-building…
8:30 p.m. — For dinner, A. and I have leftover orzo salad (orzo, spinach, red onion, cherry tomatoes, feta, and vinaigrette) and avocado toast. For dessert, we have a cookie from a batch that A.’s mom sent us early in lockdown. Sadly, the only flavor left has RAISINS, but it’s tasty nonetheless.
9:30 p.m. — More reading! I’m really enjoying my book (The Leavers by Lisa Ko). Usually, I read on my subway commute, so it’s been nice to build in time to read throughout the day, even if I’m only commuting from my bed to my desk. After we read for a little while, A. and I watch an episode of The Plot Against America and go to bed around 11:30.
Daily Total: $17.50

Day Two

7:57 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Roll over, put on a sweater (and pajama pants on the bottom, duh), open up my computer, and BAM, I’m at work by 8. Definitely a silver lining of quarantine.
8:45 a.m. — Many of the children have been sleeping in, and mornings aren’t too busy, so I take a quick ten-minute walk after meeting with my first student. I’m used to walking to and from the subway as I commute and early on in teaching-from-home I realized that sitting in a chair all day was doing no wonders for my back. Hence, my morning stroll.
9 a.m. — Student meetings, paperwork, and emails. A. makes me coffee with oat milk and delivers it to my desk (the best!). In between meetings, I read the news.
11 a.m. — I place orders for Mother’s Day flowers for my mom and A.’s mom, and A. pays for half. For my mom, I’m happy to be able to order from the florist that we had planned to use for our wedding this summer. We decided to postpone the wedding for a year due to concerns about the virus, and all of our vendors have been really accommodating in helping to make that happen, but I feel for all of these small businesses who are surely hurting right now. $51
11:45 a.m. — For lunch, I have overnight oats with peanut butter and banana. The afternoon will be pretty packed with student meetings, so I work through lunch to prepare, which feels very much like real school.
2:20 p.m. — The school day is technically over, although I stay online for a few minutes to tie up some loose ends. I miss seeing my students in real life, and I worry about the kids who aren’t able to log on as often as they should. I wish I could help them more, but I’m stuck behind a computer screen miles and miles away.
2:40 p.m. — I quickly do the crossword, then do some job-hunting checks. We’ll be moving this summer, and I’ll need to find a new teaching position, but it’s still too early for most of them to be posted. I realize, though, that I should probably get a physical copy of my teaching license so that I’ll be ready to apply when the time comes, so I put in an order for one. $25
3:15 p.m. — I write a quick “thinking of you” card to an elderly family friend, then immediately get sucked into a city-building vortex. IT’S SO ADDICTIVE!
4:45 p.m. — Manage to tear myself away for some hummus and toast, and then I end up reading and scrolling on my phone for a while.
6:15 p.m. — I head out with A. for a walk, but it’s rainy and windy, so I don’t last long. I come home, quickly check in with my online classroom, and take a lovely hot shower. After my shower, I work a little on my online business.
8 p.m. — A. comes home and starts cooking (pasta with tomatoes and vegetables). In NYC we like to cook together, but the kitchen here is too small, so we’ve been taking turns. For dessert, we split the last remaining cookie.
9:30 p.m. — I forgot until this very moment that I need to submit a selfie for school. The teachers’ selfies will all be compiled into a video montage to share with the students. Cute idea, BUT there is zero chance that I’m going to put on makeup or make myself presentable for a photo at this time. The kids are just gonna get what they’re gonna get (okay, I edit the photo on my phone a little bit, but still).
9:45 p.m. — We spend the rest of the evening reading, and we’re in bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $76

Day Three

7:57 a.m. — Morning! I immediately get online, wearing a sweater on top and pajamas on the bottom, and I spend the morning meeting with students and colleagues. I also take a brief stroll around the neighborhood.
12 p.m. — Today, I take a break for lunch. Once again, overnight oats with peanut butter and banana. I can happily eat the same lunch day after day after day after day after day… A. puts in an online order for pasta, oats, and hand soap, and I pay him for half. I also order a pack of graduation cards to send to friends who will be completing graduate degrees this year and to cousins who will be finishing undergrad. $26.99
12:45 p.m. — As usual, the afternoon is scheduled to be packed with student meetings. I’m glad to be able to meet with the kids one-on-one. Realistically, this is more individual teacher-time than they would get in the classroom, since we usually teach reading in small groups. Some of the kids are making a lot of progress in their reading and I’m really proud of them! A couple of other students miss their meetings, though, which is frustrating. I spend the empty meeting blocks checking submitted assignments and catching up on the news.
2:30 p.m. — Crossword, social media scrolling, and work on my business.
4 p.m. — Snack time! I hold firm that hummus and toast is the best and only snack. Sometimes I think I’ll make the DRASTIC change to hummus and carrots for a bit of novelty, but it’s just not the same.
5:30 p.m. — I pull myself away from the next city-building rabbit hole that I’ve fallen into to do a YouTube workout while A. goes for a run. I’m not the world’s biggest running fan (I always feel like I’m gonna drop dead), but I tell him I’ll go with him tomorrow when the weather is warm.
7 p.m. — Showered and hair dry. A. and I head out for a walk. It really is a beautiful evening. Does it feel like late April? No. But a warm March atmosphere for sure.
8 p.m. — So, last week I spilled beer all over A.’s office chair, oooops. We tried our best to clean it, but when it still smelled a little stale-beer-y the next morning, I ordered him another one. Lo and behold, by the time the new one arrives today, the old one magically seems to be clean again, or at least it no longer smells? We assemble the new chair nonetheless. A. really likes it, and I claim his old one, which I happen to prefer. It takes a bit of finagling to find somewhere to store my old chair in this studio apartment, but eventually, we make it happen.
8:30 p.m. — We have leftover veggie pasta for dinner.
9:30 p.m. — Reading, another episode of The Plot Against America (really good but really disconcerting), and bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $26.99

Day Four

7:57 a.m. — Although I’m waking up about two hours later than I normally would during the school year, I’m sooo tired this morning. I slowly perk up throughout my student calls.
12 p.m. — Today seems really busy, for some reason. I work while I eat my overnight oats, helping students and families with their technology and assignments.
2:20 p.m. — And I’m done! I worked pretty much non-stop today (which is good because it means most of my kids logged on for their sessions!). I log out of my classroom and work email to do the crossword and read the news. And to eat hummus toast. And to take a liiiiittle nap.
4:15 p.m. — When A. and I arrived here from NYC and started self-quarantining, we started ordering groceries for contactless delivery, since we couldn’t go to public places. This has turned out to be an extremely convenient habit to continue as we don’t have a car and schlepping groceries on foot is less than ideal. The one thing that CAN’T be delivered here is beer (!?!?!), so we make occasional in-person runs to a local corner store. We head there now to stock up on beer and White Claw for the next week or two. I go into the store while A. waits outside. He pays me for half. $13.34
4:45 p.m. — We head out on a run. As usual, for the first half, I think, “Oh, this isn’t so bad, why do I always think I hate it?” And for the second half, I hate it.
6:15 p.m. — Home, showered, and hair dried, I scroll around on my phone for a while. My allergies are suddenly out in full force. It’s spring!
7:15 p.m. — A. orders takeout Indian food for dinner and goes to pick it up. Veggie samosas, saag paneer, aloo gobi, and naan. It’s perfect. I pay him for half. After dinner, I read for a bit while A. takes a work call. $19
9 p.m. — We grab beers and log onto a FaceTime call with some friends from New York. It’s great to catch up!
10:45 p.m. — Immediately after the call, I brush my teeth and fall into bed. I’m EXHAUSTED! I fall asleep right away.
Daily Total: $32.34

Day Five

7:57 a.m. — Up and at ‘em! Feeling much better after my extra hours of sleep. This morning is pretty slow, and my walk is very short since it’s raining.
10 a.m.— I read that the coronavirus is now spreading actively in Yemen. Bad news. After a bit of research, I find out that a few reputable organizations still have operations in Yemen, and I make a quick donation. $103
12 p.m. — Overnight oats again? Yes, yes. I do some work at lunch, but I also start today’s crossword.
2:30 p.m. — Done with work for the day! I’m feeling pretty motivated, so I start working on some job applications while munching hummus toast. I’ve submitted two and am almost done with the third (or so I think) when I come across a surprise ESSAY QUESTION on the last page?? Nope nope nope. I’ll do this later. Crossword time.
5 p.m. — Just remembered that it’s the last day of the month! Those 30 day months will fool ya. I pay my rent (included in monthly budget above) and pay off my credit cards. I move some money from a high yield savings account that now has a very low-interest rate to another account with slightly higher rates (which also comes with a $100 sign-up bonus, yay!). I also fill out a spreadsheet that I use to track my business’ progress each month, which is fun because it’s growing!
5:30 p.m. — I chat with my parents on the phone a bit then I get online to cancel a flight to a friend’s upcoming bachelorette party, which is being postponed. For the second time in a row, I get a full refund, rather than airline credit. Woo!
6 p.m. — A. and I head out for a walk. The weather is a little gross, so I head back to shower and start making dinner while A. continues on.
7:45 p.m. — I get started on a recipe recommended by a friend: sweet potatoes stuffed with black beans, onions, peppers, and cheese, and topped with avocado-lime-Greek yogurt sauce. In non-pandemic times, we grocery shop at least twice a week, but our last grocery delivery has been lasting a loooonng time (a little over a week). Sadly, the cilantro and one of the avocados have turned brown and mushy, but the rest of the ingredients seem okay.
9:30 p.m. — That was tasty, and I’m stuffed. My sweet potato was ginormous. We do some cleaning and I’m in bed around 11.
Daily Total: $103

Day Six

7:57 a.m. — I’m already looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. No matter how much sleep I get, waking up to gray skies and drizzly rain is never easy. I spend the morning meeting with students, sending emails, going on a little stroll, and reading the news. As usual, A. brings me a coffee with oat milk.
11:45 a.m. — Overnight oats and work again at lunchtime.
12:30 p.m. — To close out the week, we have a show-and-tell with the students. We want to give them a chance to see their friends as a group. It is toooo adorable. Some of the kids who are usually outgoing get really shy on video chat. None of them really know how to hold their devices, so unless their parents set up their screens for them, we see a lot of the tops of kids’ heads. Nonetheless, they’re delighted to see each other and to see each other’s toys. They’re such sweet little people and I miss them!
2:25 p.m. — After a couple more student meetings, I log off feeling surprisingly awake and motivated to… go for a run! Yes, it’s true! I quickly change into running gear and head out the door before I can change my mind.
2:50 p.m. — I survived! It was okay!
3:30 p.m. — After my shower, I forgo hummus toast in exchange for leftover aloo gobi (MADNESS), then I grab a White Claw and hop on a virtual happy hour with some teacher friends from work. We play games in the Houseparty app and have a lovely time.
5:15 p.m. — First priority when I get off the call is, of course, the crossword. My streak is growing, but we’ll see if it survives Saturday and Sunday. I’m guessing that I’ll get stumped by at least one old-timey reference, like a TV star from the 1950s. They should have a separate crossword puzzle specifically for people under 35.
5:45 p.m. — I’ve neglected it for the last couple of days, so I do a little bit of work on my business.
6:15 p.m. — Who was I trying to fool? I have a hummus toast, then head out with A. on a walk. It’s been raining off and on all day, and there’s a gorgeous rainbow right as the sun is starting to set!
7:30 p.m. — I come home and throw another sweet potato in the oven. While I wait for it to bake, I do some city-building. Unsure why my city’s residents are refusing to take public transportation even though I made it FREE.
8 p.m. — Ugh, okay, you (simulated) people can just sit in traffic jams if you prefer. I shut off the game and quickly make some more bean/pepper/onion. When A. gets home from his walk, we open a bottle of red wine and eat.
9:30 p.m. — More red wine and a video call with friends from college and their various significant others. This has been a nice weekly tradition since quarantine started. We live all over the country and aren’t usually closely in touch on a week-to-week basis, but now we are!
11 p.m. — After the call, A. and I settle in with The Plot Against America. This show is terrifying. Bed around 1:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

12:45 p.m. — GOOD MORNING, WORLD! Sleeping for 12 hours on Saturdays is basically my favorite hobby. A. makes coffee as I lie in bed scrolling through social media.
1:15 p.m. — The crossword today is by one of my favorite constructors! This guy is like 20 years old (I think he’s literally still in college), and today’s crossword full of references to “Stacy’s Mom” and Beyoncé and Greta Thunberg. My streak continues!
1:50 p.m. — A. has made us oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit and we eat while reading the news. Coronavirus we already know about, but what are these invasive giant murder hornets?!?
2:45 p.m. — I resolve to play my city-building game for no more than 30 minutes.
3:30 p.m. — Okay, 45 minutes, close enough. I log off to scroll through some vegetarian recipe blogs. We’re usually a bit more creative in our cooking, but I feel like grocery shopping once every week or ten days has sort of got us in a rut. I find something new that I want to try out this week. We’ll probably put in a grocery order tomorrow.
3:55 p.m. — Time for twenty minutes working on my business! It’s not long, but twenty minutes a day adds up to a couple of hours a week. It’s better than trying to work for longer stretches and putting it off day after day.
4:15 p.m. — I eat some hummus toast. Then, since it’s a beautiful day, I head to a nearby park to read on the lawn. It’s not very crowded, so I can easily stay socially distanced. However, there is an enormous group of like fifteen college students making a TikTok video and telling each other things like “It’s so great to finally see you off of Zoom!” Excuse me, sorry, what?!?!?! Weeks and months to go, my friends, weeks and months to go.
5:30 p.m. — A. meets me at the park and we walk home together. On the way, we see a squirrel trying to drag a full slice of pizza up a tree. Vermont’s version of Pizza Rat!
6:20 p.m. — I lay around for a bit, then drag myself up. YouTube workout time!
8:01 p.m. — I try to order pizza, only to realize that our favorite pizza place closes at 8 in pandemic season! Nooo!! Luckily there is another pizza place, almost just as good, which is still open, so I place an order. A. pays me for half. While we wait, I crack open a beer and scroll through advice columns. $13.49
8:30 p.m. — Wow, that delivery was quick! Pizza and beer are always a great combination. Add a whoopie pie for dessert and I’m veeeryyy content.
9:45 p.m. — A little more city-building because why not?
11 p.m. — A. and I decide to place an order for grocery delivery tonight so that it will be sure to arrive tomorrow afternoon. We get bananas, apples, cherry tomatoes, onions, red onions, spinach, kale, garlic, cilantro, green peppers, red peppers, baby carrots, sweet potatoes, a jalapeño, farro, bread, hummus, peanut butter, feta, parmesan, milk, and paper towels. I put it on my card and A. pays me for half. $94.45
11:15 p.m. — We settle in with the final episode of The Plot Against America. It’s very intense. We go to sleep around 1.
Daily Total: $107.94

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