Welcome to Money Diaries — College Edition 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.
Have you moved to a new state/city/town during COVID-19 — or are you considering it? For what reasons? Have your feelings on where you live shifted over the pandemic? We want to hear your thoughts here for an upcoming story.
Today: a history major who pays $72,000 a year for tuition and spends some of her money this week on donated tampons.
University Location: Western Massachusetts
University Size: 2,500
Salary/Allowance: $18/hr at my archives internship
Yearly Tuition Cost: $72,000 (Federal aid and merit scholarships from my school cover $65,000 of it, my grandparents and I usually both contribute about $4,000, and my parents contribute around $2,000 (this varies semester to semester depending on how much I’m able to save))
Current Student Loans Total: $13,000
Net Worth: Currently $4,000 in savings, but almost all of this will go towards my tuition bill for the spring semester
Rent: $966 (this is for the summer for an Airbnb in a different Massachusetts town where I have an internship)
Massachusetts Bail Fund: $5
Spotify Premium/Hulu: $5.99
Car Insurance: $0 (currently using my mom’s car for the summer)
Health Insurance: $0 (still on my parents’ plan)
Netflix: $0 (use my parents’)
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?
My parents are both teachers and value education, so there was definitely some expectation I would attend college. They never explicitly pressured me about college, but that was the path I wanted to take. I am currently in my last year as an undergraduate. My tuition is paid primarily through merit scholarships and need-based aid, and what isn’t covered is split by me, my parents, and a fund set up by my grandparents.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never really talked about money or educated me about money as a kid, and even when I started making money and thinking about getting a credit card, my parents generally trusted me to make good decisions and educate myself about things.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working at a thrift shop when I was 16. I got it so that I would have spending money and so that I could start saving up for college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I worried a little bit about money growing up. We were comfortable and always had a roof/food on the table but couldn’t afford many luxuries, like the clothes, toys, or vacations that my friends had. I know now that my parents had a lot of credit card debt when I was young, so I think I could sense that anxiety about money when I was young.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, all the time. Since I’m not going into a high-paying field, I don’t want to take out much debt for my education. I do hope to go to grad school, and want to use the money from the fund my grandparents set up for me, which means that I try to put as much of my own money into my undergrad tuition as I can. I work as much as I can during the semester and summer to build up my savings, but I worry a lot about spending money on frivolous things.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became mostly financially responsible for myself after my first year of college when I stopped living at home during the summers. My parents still claim me as a dependent on their taxes but haven’t paid for any of my expenses since then. They would absolutely help me financially in any way that they could, and I know that I could always live at home if I needed to.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
The only thing I can think of is Social Security payments that I received from when I was 17 to 18. I got the payments due to my father’s age and my status as a dependent and luckily we were able to put those payments in savings and use it to pay for part of my first year of college.
6 a.m. — Monday alarms are the worst. I hit snooze two times before I can open my eyes and I spend another twenty minutes scrolling on my phone before I get up.
7 a.m. — I get dressed for work then head downstairs to make instant oatmeal for breakfast, plus a turkey wrap with arugula and cheese to bring for lunch. Since I’m feeling especially tired this morning, I also make myself an iced coffee from instant coffee (this might be unpopular, but I’m not a coffee snob and it’s good enough for me) with creamer. Out the door by 7:30.
8 a.m. — Get to work and realize I forgot my badge to get in the building! I’m annoyed at myself and have to wait a few minutes before I see someone heading into the building that can hold the door for me. I punch in only a few minutes late. I usually start my day by catching up on the New York Times and then ease into working. As an intern, I’m used to doing pretty mundane and menial tasks, but this work is particularly boring. Basically all I do is file things and occasionally enter some data into a spreadsheet. This was not what I expected to be doing this summer, but the other internship programs I’d been accepted to were canceled due to COVID.
10:15 a.m. — So far, a predictably uneventful day at work, I’m worried that this diary might put people to sleep. I do take a break from filing to send some emails about the org that I lead at school and to text two of my friends about my birthday plans in a few weeks.
12:00 p.m. — Lunch! I eat my wrap as well as a granola bar and a banana that is a little too ripe for me.
1:15 p.m. — I see an email from my remote internship advisor canceling our weekly meeting later. My school gives out stipends for unpaid internships, so I reached out to my professors to see if they knew of any remote opportunities and was able to get an internship transcribing oral histories for my school’s library. I’m so glad I did, as I get some extra cash to save for tuition, and the work is super interesting and easy to do on my own time. I don’t mind that the meeting was canceled since we usually just chat and I’m feeling pretty low energy today.
4:30 p.m. — Finally time to leave! It is so hot and humid outside, and the air conditioning in my car is broken, so I am incredibly sweaty.
5:15 p.m. — I make it home and immediately start making dinner. I’m craving stir-fry, but don’t have many veggies, so I make a super basic version with just rice, soy sauce, and sauteed zucchini. I watch Criminal Minds while I eat.
5:30 p.m. — My dad calls and I pick up since he almost never calls. We just chat a little bit, especially about the fall, which is very up in the air right now. My school announced that only freshman and sophomores will be allowed on campus in the fall, and since I was supposed to graduate this semester, I decided to just take the semester off so that I would be able to take classes in person and see my friends in the spring. I’ve been considering living in Western Mass in the fall though because I love the area and my partner lives there, but it’s a tough financial decision since I wouldn’t pay rent if I lived at home with my parents. My dad just tells me to consider all my options carefully and to stay positive, which has been hard
8:15 p.m. — I shower and then watch some more Criminal Minds. While I watch, I work on altering a pair of overalls. After two episodes, I get ready for bed. I don’t have a skincare routine, which makes my nighttime routine pretty simple: brush my teeth, wash my face, and take my medications and melatonin. I’m in bed by 10, but watch TikTok for another half hour before I put on a sleep story from Calm and fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0
6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I go through my daily process of snoozing it, then scrolling for a while.
7 a.m. — I get dressed for work, wearing a turtleneck and long pants since my coworkers like to blast the air conditioning in our office. It’s always a bit of a shock when I leave work and it’s hot out after I’ve been freezing all day. Pop some instant oatmeal in the microwave and pack leftovers for lunch and a few snacks.
8 a.m. — I feel very sluggish and sleepy on my drive to work, so I grab some free coffee from the kitchen when I get there. It’s one perk of corporate life that I definitely enjoy. Catch up on today’s news and then get started on filing.
8:30 a.m. — My boss brought in donuts today and I eat one. My breakfast of instant oatmeal is pretty bland and unfulfilling, so this is a nice surprise!
10:15 a.m. — Get a text from my mom about our plans later today. She’s coming to visit me and my aunt, who also lives in the area, and they’ll take me out to dinner. I am pretty reluctant to go out to eat, even with the outdoor dining available, but my mom doesn’t understand why and I don’t want to be the sole voice of dissent that ruins our plans. I only hope that my mom and aunt are at least on the same page as me with wearing masks as much as possible and tipping the servers extra for working through a pandemic.
12:15 p.m. — I heat up my leftover rice and zucchini for lunch.
4:30 p.m. — I leave work and head downtown. I park ($4.50) and then meet my mom and aunt at a seafood restaurant. It definitely feels weird to be eating at a restaurant even though we’re outside. I order a lobster roll, but also try some of my mom’s salmon poke bowl. It’s so much fun to catch up with them and listen to them tell stories about when they were kids. My mom and aunt split the bill. When we leave the restaurant, we walk for a little bit along the waterfront and then say goodbye. My mom is also an angel and brought me some snacks: cherries, Oreos, Kind granola bars, popcorn, and peas from her garden! $4.50
7:15 p.m. — Before I head home, I see that my partner (N., who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns) texted me to tell me they submitted an application for an apartment near my school! It’s a three-bedroom apartment that seems great and I would be able to live with them and split rent before I move onto campus for the spring semester. I’m really excited and hope they get it!
7:45 p.m. — Make it home and do a bit of picking up before I change into comfy clothes and get in bed to watch Criminal Minds.
9:30 p.m. — I Facetime N. to catch up about our days and the apartment and to say goodnight. We both struggle with depression and anxiety and went through a pretty rough patch during quarantine. They live about two and a half hours from me, so I go visit them on the weekends and we try to FaceTime at least two nights a week. When we hang up, I do my nighttime routine and get in bed but don’t fall asleep until around 10:45.
Daily Total: $4.50
6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I am exhausted. I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier lately because I’m always so tired in the morning, but it’s been really hard, and I think it’s because I spend so much time looking at a screen before I sleep. I snooze my alarm, then finally roll out of bed at 7.
7:30 a.m. — Instant oatmeal for breakfast, pack another turkey wrap for lunch, and then head to work.
11:15 a.m. — Realize I haven’t had any caffeine yet and go to the kitchen to get some coffee.
12 p.m. — Time for lunch! I eat my turkey wrap and a granola bar while scrolling on my phone.
2:45 p.m. — The day is dragging by. I spend some time updating my LinkedIn profile and working on grad school applications. Since I’m taking the fall off, I have a big goal of taking the GRE and submitting applications for MLIS programs for next fall. There are four programs I really love, but the hardest part has been studying for the GRE since I can barely remember basic math from high school (would welcome any tips)!
4:30 p.m. — Head home!
5:30 p.m. — I Zoom with two of my friends from school, who are dating and living together near Boston. We haven’t seen each other since March, when we left school, except for the occasional Zoom meeting for our org. We catch up for an hour and they rant about the other couple they live with, also two of our friends. They’re getting a place in Western Mass together soon, so I hope to be able to hang out with them in the fall. We also talk about how sad it is to be spending our senior year studying online and not being able to do things we love. Campus life and traditions are a huge part of the college experience at my small liberal arts school and it’s honestly been really hard to deal with the loss of that, even though I know all the restrictions and precautions are necessary.
6:45 p.m. — I make Annie’s mac and cheese for dinner and eat while watching Criminal Minds.
7:30 p.m. — N. Facetimes me and we talk for about 30 minutes. They have lots to tell me since they started a new job and toured an apartment today! We say goodbye so they can go to bed early and I jump in the shower.
8:15 p.m. — I work on my remote internship for a while, but it’s pretty slow going. I’m hoping to finish this project so I can move on to the next one. When I’m done, I watch Criminal Minds (I am addicted).
10:15 p.m. — Nightly routine and get in bed. I watch TikTok for a little while because I have no self-control and then try to sleep. I finally fall asleep around 11.
Daily Total: $0
6:15 a.m. — I wake up and am somehow not that tired? I don’t even have to snooze my alarm, although I do stay in bed and scroll for almost forty minutes.
7 a.m. — Usual morning routine: get dressed, make oatmeal and coffee, and pack my lunch which is, you guessed it, a turkey wrap and some cherries. I promise I usually have more variety in my eating, but I just haven’t had many leftovers this week. I use my last tortilla for the wrap, so I add that to my grocery list.
7:30 a.m. — Head to work.
8 a.m. — Punch in and start filing. I skim the headlines of the New York Times, but I don’t know if I can stand to read another day’s worth of depressing news. Sometimes too much of the news cycle just sends me spiraling. It’s a bit terrifying to be a young person right now and trying to think about starting my life when the future just feels so bleak.
9 a.m. — I see an Instagram story about the homeless shelter in Portland closing due to COVID and a group that’s collecting supplies for the homeless. I’m originally from Maine and have been trying to support protests and activism going on there since it’s a predominantly white state with a lot of disparities with housing, education, and COVID deaths. Since I can’t drop off supplies in person, I go on the CVS website and add tampons, chapstick, and sunscreen to my cart then ship it to the group to hand out. $27.06
10 a.m. — I have a Skype meeting with an HR representative and the rest of the interns at the company to check in and talk about our projects and a presentation we have to give at the end of the summer. It’s super short and I grab coffee from the kitchen when it’s over.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime! I eat my wrap and do some GRE prep questions on an app.
4:30 p.m. — Just as I’m getting ready to leave work, N. texts me with amazing news! They got the apartment that they saw yesterday! It’s a really nice apartment with a great location and relatively cheap rent for the area, so I am ecstatic! I can’t stop smiling as I drive home.
5:15 p.m. — Make one of my favorite meals for dinner: vegetable fried rice and pork dumplings from Trader Joe’s. I eat while watching Criminal Minds.
6 p.m. — I work on my remote internship and finally finish the interview I’ve been transcribing. I also do a little bit of research about food delivery services like DoorDash and UberEats, which I hope to do in Western Mass in the fall for extra income/backup for if I can’t find a full-time job.
8:30 p.m. — N. texts and asks if we can FaceTime as they fall asleep. They’re feeling spooked because they’re home alone and it’s storming. I set up my phone so they can see my face and watch Criminal Minds as they try to fall asleep.
9:30 p.m. — Switch to watching TikTok because N. is fast asleep. They look so cute! I get ready for bed and fall asleep around 10:15.
Daily Total: $27.06
5:30 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm, the worst feeling in the world. I’m still pretty tired, so I stay in bed and close my eyes until my real alarm goes off, but I don’t fall all the way back asleep.
6:45 a.m. — I get out of bed and start getting ready for the day. I get dressed (jeans because it’s casual Friday!) and pack a bag for the weekend with workout clothes, pajamas, and my bathing suit. On Fridays, I leave work and drive straight to Western Mass to see N. I also make oatmeal and coffee and pack my lunch for the day.
7:30 a.m. — Head to work and listen to the new Taylor Swift album on the drive.
8 a.m. — Read the New York Times at my desk. I suddenly remember today is payday, yay! I especially love payday at this job because it’s the highest paying job I’ve ever had, so it’s crazy to see the amount of money in my bank account. I check my balance in my checking account and then make a payment on my credit card balance ($100). About a year ago, I got a credit card so I could start to build a credit score. Since I get cashback when I use it for gas or food, those are the only expenses I put on it, and I pay off about 75% of the balance each month since I noticed my credit score increases more when I have a small running balance.
10:30 a.m. — I work on updating my LinkedIn while my coworkers discuss where to get takeout from (it’s a Friday tradition). They decide on Indian food. I’ve never ordered lunch with them before, but my boss offers to pay for my order, so I just get a side of garlic naan.
12:15 p.m. — Lunch! I eat my leftover fried rice with dumplings and some naan, but there is a ton left. It will be a good snack tomorrow!
2:15 p.m. — The afternoon is dragging by. I do some small, quick tasks before going back to filing for the rest of the day.
4:30 p.m. — Free at last! I fill up my car with gas before I start the two-hour drive to Western Mass to see N. Normally I have to buy a snack for the trip, but I have some cherries from lunch that I didn’t eat, so I snack on those as I drive. $25
7 p.m. — Make it to N.’s house. We’re both hungry, so we jump right into their car and head to our favorite burger place for dinner and I call to place our order on the way ($23.09 with tip). After we park downtown, we grab our food and walk to a park to sit on the grass and eat. N. has a cheeseburger and I have a turkey burger, which is good but disappointing compared to what I usually get from there. $23.09
7:45 p.m. — We walk over to the CVS across the street so that N. can get a new toothbrush since their electric one died. They forget their wallet so I buy it for them and we head home. $4.24
8:30 p.m. — Get home and draw a bath! We love taking baths together.
9:45 p.m. — After our bath, we have sex (no euphemisms from me, sorry!) and then cuddle in bed while watching Shark Tank until we fall asleep.
Daily Total: $52.33
9:30 a.m. — N. wakes me up and we lay in bed and talk about our plans for the day. Since it’s supposed to be in the nineties today, we decide to head to the tennis courts to play before the heat is too unbearable.
9:45 a.m. — We’re about to leave when I remember I’m supposed to pick some things up from school at 10! We scramble to jump in the car and speed to school.
10:15 a.m. — A campus safety officer lets me into my residential hall so that I can grab some things that I stored before we were sent home in March. We spend almost twenty minutes trying to find my stuff in the mess of things that people left behind.
11:30 a.m. — After we stop at home to pick up a few things, we head back out so that I can treat N. to lunch for helping me pick up my things. I place an order for burritos online and we go pick them up and eat them at a spot that overlooks the river. $20.42
12:30 p.m. — The burrito was way too spicy and did not agree with my stomach at all. We head home and I take a cold shower. We lay and watch a few episodes of Shark Tank.
3 p.m. — I’m feeling better, so we head out to Goodwill to look for furniture for the new apartment. While we’re there, I see a couch that I absolutely love. It’s red, velvet, super comfortable, and only $40! N. is a little skeptical about it, so we take a picture of it and agree to talk more about it with our other roommates. I also see a cute button-up from L.L. Bean on clearance and N. grabs some khaki pants for work (we don’t try anything on). N. pays for both.
3:30 p.m. — We see a tag sale as we’re driving and decide to pull over and check it out. A lot of the stuff doesn’t seem great, but we spot a nice cart with pull-out wicker baskets that would be perfect for the bathroom. N. buys it for $10.
4:30 p.m. — Our next stop is Target, where we get some broccoli, cauliflower, and a sweet potato. N. pays.
5:15 p.m. — We get home and start making dinner — stir fry with frozen veggies, plus the broccoli and cauliflower. N.’s two roommates come home and we chat a little bit with them. We eat while watching Shark Tank and debating about the couch. I’m really trying to convince them to get it, but they convince me to at least consider some of the options on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. We also make plans to go check out some yard sales tomorrow.
8 p.m. — Game night with N. and their roommates! We play a bunch of different card games and some miniature ping pong.
10:15 p.m. — We all take a walk around the neighborhood. The sky is super clear and we can see so many stars and constellations, including the Neowise comet! We get a little spooked by something that is either a neighborhood cat or a raccoon and head back to the house.
11 p.m. — Brush my teeth and then get in bed with N. to watch an episode of New Girl. I fall asleep the second we turn it off.
Daily Total: $20.42
9 a.m. — Wake up to N.’s roommates making noise in the kitchen. N. has already been up for a while and wants to take another bath, so I fill up the tub.
10 a.m. — We decide on the yard sales we want to check out and toast onion bagels with cream cheese and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (because it wouldn’t be a Money Diary without it) to take with us on the drive.
10:30 a.m. — Score! At the very first sale, we find a nice little bedside table that matches the other furniture we have so far and it’s only $5! N. pays and we load it into the car.
12:15 p.m. — After three more unsuccessful yard sales, we decide to call it quits and head home. N. heats up their leftover burrito for lunch and we watch Shark Tank while laying on the couch. I end up dozing off for almost an hour.
2:30 p.m. — When I wake up, N. shows me some more couches they like and I keep advocating for the red velvet one I loved. We also have sex again and cuddle a lot.
3:15 p.m. — N. has to leave for work at 4:30 so they make an early dinner/late lunch of mashed sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower and broccoli. I eat the rest of the leftover stir-fry and finish the garlic naan bread from my lunch on Friday.
4 p.m. — I suggest playing a game of Yahtzee before we both have to leave. We play two games and then have time to play another card game too.
4:30 p.m. — Start my drive home. The traffic is terrible for some reason and I’m sweating without any air conditioning.
6:25 p.m. — Home! I know all my clothes are dirty so I start a load of laundry as soon as I get home. I scroll for a while and then put on Criminal Minds.
8:15 p.m. — I decide to do some work for my remote internship and start working on a new interview that’s pretty interesting. As I work, I snack on Oreos. Then I call it an early night.
Daily Total: $0
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.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?