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 librarian who has a joint income of $97,392 per year and spends some of her money this week on an altar statue.
Trigger warning: This diary mentions the death of an infant.
Location: Sherburne County, MN
My Salary: $54,794
My Husband’s Salary: $42,598
Net Worth: $122,289 (checking account: $5,381; HYSA: $80,561; retirement: $8,386; husband’s account: $1,493; joint IRA: $6,321; HSA: $8,147; vehicles: $12,000)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,591.84
My Husband’s Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,279
Trash: $76 quarterly
Cell Phone: $70
Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime: $23
Car Insurance: $118
Renters Insurance: $150 annually
Health Insurance Premium: $102
Union Dues: $123
HSA: $160 (District contributes $200 a pay period)
Tithe/Charity: $100 a week
Retirement: 7.5% of my paycheck, 1.5% of my husband’s
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?
There was an expectation that I would have at least two years of college. In Minnesota, you can attend college for free during your junior and senior year of high school through a program. My parents encouraged us to get our gen ed requirements done while we were still in high school and five of my six siblings and I all did the program (my youngest brother isn’t old enough yet). Because I have so many siblings, my parents were not able to pay for college for any of us, but they did help us with applying for scholarships, grants, and loans. They also let us live rent-free and paid for food if we chose a college close enough to home and were able to commute. The five oldest children in my family all have bachelor’s degrees and both of my sisters and I have our master’s. I was able to graduate college debt-free by saving before college, working three jobs while attending school, living with my parents during my undergrad, and becoming a graduate assistant in grad school. I worked an average of 30 hours a week during the school year and at times 60 hours a week during the summer. While I do regret not having the typical college experience, I have the freedom in my budget now without college debt. My husband received a full-ride academic scholarship to his college, and he was able to graduate without loans as well. I fully recognize my privilege in having parents that helped me navigate the higher education system.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
There was a big emphasis on saving money and not “wasting” it. Money from birthdays and Christmas were put in savings accounts, with the intent that we would use them for college or to buy a house. My parents talked to us about earning money and not letting our expenses exceed our income. We made practice budgets growing up to get used to it. I only remember receiving an allowance once, for a few months, and we were expected to tithe 10%, save 30%, and could spend the other 60%.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was when I was 12, refereeing soccer. I received $20 a game and paid my parents $5 to drive and wait until the game was done. I reffed for a few years and also babysat starting at 12. My first job with regular hours was working as a library aide in the public library when I was 16. I got the jobs to save for a car and college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried extensively, but there was always the knowledge that money was finite and we didn’t have a lot for extra things. We were a one-income family: My dad worked as a teacher and my mom homeschooled us, so the budget was always tight. We ate out only a few times a year and didn’t have very many luxuries. We never had our utilities shut off and the bills were always paid on time, but I’m sure my parents struggled to afford everything. We used secondhand items and clothes a lot of the time and didn’t buy new things often. We would have family meetings twice a month or so, and a common theme was ways we could save money.
Do you worry about money now?
A bit. If either of us lost a job, money would be a lot tighter but still doable. Everywhere around us is hiring and I know both of us could find jobs quickly if need be. The hardest thing for me when we got married was letting myself actually spend money. We use “sinking funds” or monthly budget categories in the Mint app, which allows us to plan ahead and rollover money from month to month if we don’t spend it. I’m very diligent about watching the budget and making sure we don’t overspend. My husband and I each get $30 a month of “fun money” that we can use for whatever we want. My husband usually buys video games and food, I usually buy clothes. We are in a great place financially and have a 20% downpayment ready for a house as well as a bare bones six months emergency fund (in a HYSA).
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I got married a few months before my 21st birthday and moved into an apartment with my husband at the same time, so I would say then. We paid all of the expenses ourselves, except health insurance. I was still on my parent’s health insurance and he was on his parent’s until my first job out of grad school at 23, at which point I paid for health insurance for both of us and our daughter. Our parents would help us if we ever needed, but I really hope it doesn’t come to that.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
6:30 a.m. — I get out of bed and get dressed in a white blouse with puffy sleeves, a knee-length sleeveless burgundy corduroy dress, black tights, and black Mary Janes. Our three-year-old daughter, T., wakes up and I get her dressed and ready for the day. I pack my lunch of leftover roast chicken and potatoes, carrots, and celery in my bag, as well as my breakfast of Greek yogurt and a protein bar. I also boil water for tea.
7:11 a.m. — T. and I leave the house for daycare. I drop her off in the mornings and my husband, K., picks her up after he gets off work. On the way, T. mentions missing her baby sister. Two-and-a-half months ago I gave birth to a girl, but her heart rate dropped during labor and she only lived for a week. I try to keep it together, and this morning I succeed. I drop her off at daycare and chat with our daycare provider for a few minutes.
7:30 a.m. — I leave daycare and continue driving to work. On the way, I stop to drop off a package at a USPS box. I sell clothes I no longer want through Depop and I made a sale last night. When I get to work, I drink my tea and eat the Greek yogurt and protein bar. I also place an order through Amazon for a statue for our home altar ($105.17). I’d previously tried ordering this statue through another website a few weeks ago, but it was backordered. Yesterday I called to cancel the order and the refund was sent this morning. $105.17
9:25 a.m. — Students are arriving and have started cutting through the media center to get to breakfast. I stand in the media center and remind them to walk and pull their masks up. Our district requires all employees and students to wear masks while in the building, but there’s only so much you can do with six-year-olds.
12:50 p.m. — I break for lunch. There aren’t too many people in the staff lounge, which I’m grateful for. Even though the majority of our staff is vaccinated, there’s still the chance that we could get COVID, and I don’t want to take too many risks. I eat the food I packed this morning, then head back to the media center to catch up on some paperwork before the next class arrives. I like to make notes after each lesson. Since I see all of the students in the school, it can be easy to forget what each class did. I’m still hungry, so I eat a bag of SkinnyPop popcorn from my desk stash of snacks.
4:25 p.m. — I stop by the teacher’s lounge for tacos. The PTO usually provides a meal for one of the three conference nights, and tonight they have brought taco meat and all the fixings. I thank the PTO member in the lounge for the food, and load up a plate. Conferences go to 8:30 tonight, but our principal has generously said we can go home after our last conference.
6:10 p.m. — The school psychologist comes by and we chat for a bit. All of the staff know about my daughter’s death, and a few make a point to check on me every so often. She asks me what I plan on doing for T.’s schooling once she gets to that age and I mention possibly homeschooling. I tell her I don’t see myself teaching at this school forever. The commute is really difficult in the winter and there is always staff drama. I love teaching, but I would rather be with my family if we can afford it.
7:35 p.m. — I leave for home and call K. on the way. He’s just putting T. down to bed, and they’ve apparently had a good night. When I get home, I see that K. had picked up some cereal, chips, and candy corn from the grocery store ($13.34). He hates candy corn, but he knows that I like it and I’m glad I don’t have to share. I munch on a handful while watching a few TikToks in the group chat before getting ready for bed. $13.34
8:55 p.m. — I shower and do my nighttime skincare routine: The Face Shop cleansing oil and foaming cleanser, The Ordinary vitamin C suspension, and Nivea cream. I make myself a cup of tea and drink it while I read A Court of Mist and Fury before bed. I read the first book in the series five years ago, and am attempting to finish the whole series now. I turn out the light a little after 10.
Daily Total: $118.51
6:15 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I try to muster up the strength to get up. My doctor started me on a new prescription about a week ago to help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I don’t think the mental effects have kicked in yet, but I can finally sleep through the night. The downside is the grogginess in the morning and lethargy throughout the day.
6:33 a.m. — I finally drag myself out of bed. I tuck a forest green turtleneck into a black and white gingham midi skirt and pair that with white bobby socks and black Mary Janes. I wake T. up, get her dressed, and pack lunch while water boils for tea. Today I bring homemade chicken noodle soup, carrots, and celery. I also pack Greek yogurt and a small container of granola and almonds for breakfast.
7:09 a.m. — T. and I leave for the day. I drop her off at daycare and chat for a bit before continuing my drive. There is less traffic this morning and I make it to school earlier than expected. I sit at my desk and scroll IG while I eat my breakfast.
8:45 a.m. — My principal comes by to tell me that since there are too many teachers absent today, I will have to cover P.E. for part of the day (oh joy). Our P.E. teacher is out on a long-term leave, but there have been no applicants to cover her job. I meet with the other teacher I will be splitting the day with and move my schedule around to be able to cover the morning classes.
9:50 a.m. — The first class, fifth grade, comes into the gym. The microphone isn’t working correctly, so I spend the next few hours attempting to corral students and give them directions. We play a few different games and one involves balls, so of course, all I hear is “balls, balls, balls!” from certain students.
12:07 p.m. — After finishing third- and fourth-grade classes, I speed walk to the media center to set up for teaching my own classes. I’m luckily not a prep provider (fixed class schedule with grading responsibilities), but I’m still expected to teach a lesson to every class once every six days. It’s a weird schedule, but you get used to it.
12:50 p.m. — I take a break and head to the teacher lounge for lunch. My celery has started going bad, but I eat the carrots and soup. I made a roast chicken on Sunday and used the leftover scraps of skin and bones for stock, but I cooked it for too long in the instant pot and it ended up more like a bone broth. It’s still good, but the texture is a little off and I mentally remind myself to cook the bones less next time.
3:50 p.m. — I’m finally finished with students for the day. During my last class, one of the fourth graders grabbed my microphone off the stand and whispered into it “Welcome to my ASMR video, my name is M.” I love these kids. After the buses leave, I meet with my assistant principal to go over my last observation. This is my third year in the district, so it is my tenure year. It’s the fifth time the meeting has been rescheduled, and I’m ready for it to be over. Fortunately, everything goes well and my AP has a few ideas for the next lesson’s comprehension strategies.
4:40 p.m. — I leave work and call my mom. It’s her birthday tomorrow, and I want to know if they’ll be home for a visit. She tells me she is going to be at a church retreat, but Sunday is free. I make plans to go over with T. (K. is working this weekend). Once I’m home, K. starts making dinner and I throw in a load of laundry. We sit down to a dinner of mac and cheese with tuna and steamed broccoli. I used to make the majority of the meals but K. is slowly working his way into cooking since I am working full-time this year, which means I get home later than in previous years. After dinner, I eat some more candy corn while catching up on the group chat, and then I read to and play with T.
7 p.m. — I run a bath for T. and keep an eye on her while folding the laundry with K. After washing her hair and making sure she is all clean, I take her out, clip her nails, and help her brush her teeth. Her nail clipper is named Mr. Chomp and he always tells her stories while cutting her nails. K. comes up and helps T. put on pajamas and tucks her into bed to say her prayers.
7:45 p.m. — With T. in bed, I make some popcorn while K. sets up Squid Game. My fifth graders at school keep talking about the show, so we started watching it earlier in the week. Spoiler alert: It’s not appropriate for 10-year-olds. We watch an episode and a half before I head upstairs to get ready for bed.
9:10 p.m. — When I get upstairs, I see that the kitchen is still dirty and start cleaning. I call K. up halfway through to have him clean out the sink and load the dishwasher. He tends to leave things until either I do them or tell him to do them. It’s been a point of contention in our relationship for a while because I hate feeling like I do more of the work (strong middle child energy here). In reality, he does the majority of the outside work and vehicle maintenance and I do the majority of the inside work.
9:45 p.m. — I shower and do my nighttime skincare routine before reading a few pages of my book. K. comes to bed soon after (after sweeping the kitchen without being asked) and we make out a bit before bed.
Daily Total: $0
6:50 a.m. — K. gets ready for work, while I doze in bed for a bit. It’s Saturday and I have no plans except cleaning and going for a walk. My throat hurts this morning, and it’s probably from yelling at kids for two-and-a-half hours yesterday.
7:25 a.m. — T. comes into bed to snuggle for a bit before requesting oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in and raisins on the side. I make her breakfast and crawl back into bed to browse the internet for a bit. Once T.’s done with her breakfast, she comes into bed with lots of books for me to read.
8:40 a.m. — I get dressed in black leggings, a blue shirt, and a gray zip-up hoodie. I put water on to boil for tea and start another load of laundry. After a breakfast of peanut butter toast and a banana, I deep-clean the kitchen and bathroom and vacuum the downstairs. I also vacuum the bugs off our three-season porch. A few twitch and try to escape, but I mercilessly suck them all up. It’s disgusting but satisfying.
10:40 a.m. — T. has found the leftover popcorn from last night and asks to have the downstairs be our pretend theater while we watch a movie. K.’s sister took her to a movie theater over the summer and now every time we have popcorn she has to recreate it. I put on Cinderella (“the one with no real people”) at T.’s request. While we watch, I look on Amazon for plastic cling for our windows to help with heating costs this winter. I order three boxes, enough to cover all the windows. $40.80
12:15 p.m. — I put on sunscreen and a sun hat before taking T. on a walk. As we walk, she loudly sings made-up songs and tells herself stories with vague Frozen references. When we get home, I pick up sticks while she plays with chalk. She calls me over occasionally to show me the bugs she’s squished.
1:25 p.m. — We go in for lunch. T.’s having yogurt with frozen blueberries and granola, I’m having more chicken noodle soup with saltines and grapes. After lunch, I put T. down for a short nap and settle in to read more of my book. I fall asleep after about an hour of reading.
3:30 p.m. — I wake T. up and we make chocolate chip cookies. She loves helping mix everything. K. calls on his way home from work. He has a headache and says that he won’t be going to our friend’s house for D&D as planned. He asks if I want pizza for dinner. When he gets home, I place an order for delivery from the local pizza place. We got a $50 certificate after our daughter’s funeral and haven’t used it yet. The total for two pizzas and delivery is $37.89 and we use the rest of the certificate for the tip, so we pay $0. T. asks me to read her more books and sing to her, and so I do.
5:15 p.m. — The pizzas arrive and we eat dinner. We ordered one BBQ chicken and their house special. The BBQ chicken is excellent, but the other one is just okay. After dinner, K. and I talk and snuggle in bed for a bit. Then, T. and I go downstairs to play Stardew Valley.
8:15 p.m. — Before I know it, it’s past T.’s bedtime. I don’t allow myself to play video games often because it’s really difficult for me to tell how much time has passed while I’m playing. After T. is tucked in bed and has another book read to her, I end up playing Stardew Valley for a few more hours.
10:30 p.m. — I finally detach myself from the game, shower, and do my nighttime skincare routine. I read another chapter of my book, and the lights are off a bit after 11.
Daily Total: $40.80
7:10 a.m. — I get up to make T.’s breakfast before church. Once again she wants oatmeal, and I’m grateful her favorite breakfast meal is simple. K. gets up to shower and get ready, and I spend a few minutes checking Depop before getting dressed. My “Style edit” page has been spot on lately. I get dressed in a gray cardigan, a dark blue cotton floral midi dress with a large sailor collar, and my Mary Janes. Then, we head out the door to church.
8:20 a.m. — We arrive at church and sit in our usual pew. I make it two-thirds of the way through mass without crying, until the lector asks for prayers “for parents of children lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.” A wave of grief washes over me and the tears fall freely, continuing my streak of crying during every mass since our daughter died. If nothing else, I’m consistent.
9:40 a.m. — We leave the church parking lot and I drop K. off at work. He doesn’t like working Sundays, but he is a manager and his department is incredibly short-staffed. I head home with T. and eat a quick breakfast of s’mores cereal, giving her the requisite bite tax (she eats approximately 30% of my breakfast on any given weekend).
10:20 a.m. — T. and I leave for my parent’s farm. I catch up with my parents — I haven’t seen them in person since before school started. T. picks a pumpkin from their massive garden and I get some tomatoes and peppers. My mom makes popcorn and we watch a little of the Vikings game. Before we leave, my dad gives us a few pounds of beef from the steer they raise and my mom gives us eggs from their chickens.
1:30 p.m. — We say goodbye and leave. On the way home, I fill up with gas. $28.49
1:30 p.m. — We also stop at Aldi for groceries. I get bread, hotdog buns, English muffins, carrots, celery, mandarin oranges, bananas, crackers, shredded cheese, canned peaches, kidney beans, hotdogs, bouillon cubes, flour, Greek yogurt, and milk ($44.83). I call my best friend, N., on the way home from Aldi. She lives in a different state and was supposed to visit this month. Her husband won’t be able to join because he is still in school, so we decide to reschedule for the spring. $44.83
2:40 p.m. — When we get home, I warm up a few leftover pizza squares for a late lunch. T. asks me to read her a book and then we video call K.’s parents. His mom is in remission for cancer, but has been battling a nasty case of graft vs host disease. She’s been feeling better lately, but is still extremely weak and tires easily. We make tentative plans to get together for Thanksgiving if she is up to it.
3:30 p.m. — K. texts that we can start driving to his work to pick him up from work. Before I leave with T., I grab another handful of candy corn. I have a headache when we get home, so I rest on our bed for a bit before starting to make dinner. I make chili using tomatoes from my parents’ garden and a pound of the beef they gave us. As I cook, I watch a few YouTube videos from content creators I follow.
5:40 p.m. — K. and I have chili and saltines for dinner and T. eats half of a piece of pizza. K. and I talk about how much we liked What We Do in the Shadows. K. asks the group chat for recommendations for our next show. After dinner, I scroll Mercari and Depop for a bit before T. asks to watch her favorite show downstairs. While she’s distracted, K. and I get busy upstairs. I shower when we’re finished and K. gets T.’s teeth brushed. We get her pajamas on, read her a story, and help her say her prayers before she goes to bed.
7:40 p.m. — With T. down for the night, I make myself a bowl of ice cream and eat while K. and I finish the last three episodes of Squid Game. I’d like to imagine that I’d never be so violent in the same situation, but then again, I’ve never been in debt for that much money. I brush my teeth and turn out the light around 10:30.
Daily Total: $73.32
6:35 a.m. — I get out of bed and tuck a raspberry cotton tunic into a vintage black high-waisted maxi skirt. The skirt has slits up to the knee and billows deliciously as I walk. I pack Greek yogurt and an apple for breakfast, chili, carrots, and celery for lunch, and pizza for dinner.
7:15 a.m. — T. and I head out and I drop her off at daycare. Once I get to work, I eat breakfast as I check emails. We received a bill on Saturday for part of our late daughter’s hospital stay, so I pay that using our HSA ($870.78, contribution in monthly expenses). We have a $6,000 out-of-pocket family limit for our health insurance plan and are getting close to maxing it out. My district contributes $200 a pay period into our HSA, which is one reason why I stay in this district despite having a long commute.
10:45 a.m. — I get an email for a coworker’s bridal shower on Wednesday. I quickly browse the Target registry and find a set of sheets. I place the order and plan to pick up the gift after work. $42.95
11:40 a.m. — I stop for lunch earlier than usual because I have back-to-back classes this afternoon. I eat the chili and half my container of carrots and celery. I get an email saying that we will get dinner free from Jimmy John’s for tonight’s parent-teacher conferences, so I place an order for a turkey sub using the form that was sent.
1:35 p.m. — I have a quick desk chocolate break as I read the pile of notes from one of the third-grade classes. They misbehaved a little while their class had a sub last week and now their teacher has had them write adorable apology and thank you letters. My heart melts.
4:25 p.m. — The sandwiches have been delivered, so I go down to the lounge to pick mine up. I eat half a Turkey Tom and a small bag of Fritos at my desk before doing more work.
7 p.m. — I finish the rest of my sub and then leave work. I stop at Target on the way home to pick up the sheets I purchased earlier. T. is already sleeping when I get home, so I talk to K. for a bit and eat a few mini peanut butter cups. I get the mail and see that we’ve received an invitation to a memorial mass in a few weeks that will honor all of the people in the parish who have died in the last year, and they want us to bring a picture of the baby to display. I break down and hope my prescription kicks in soon. I shower, do my skincare routine, and then get sucked into an IG rabbit hole. When I finally pry myself away, I finish the last 70 pages of A Court of Mist and Fury. I feel like I would have liked the book better if I hadn’t read the first book — the author did a tad bit too much gaslighting in the sequel. I turn out the lights around 10:45.
Daily Total: $42.95
6:40 a.m. — I get up for the day, after shifting T. who’s stationed herself in our bed for the past hour. I layer a sleeveless denim jumper dress over a green floral blouse and finish the outfit with brown sandals (I even surprise myself sometimes). I get T. dressed, pack my breakfast and tea, and head out the door.
8:25 a.m. — I sit at my desk and eat Greek yogurt, a small container of granola and almonds, and a banana while I organize my plans for the day. We have Thursday and Friday off this week, so I just have to make it through today and Wednesday before I can relax.
12:05 p.m. — I stop for lunch and eat the pizza and leftover carrots and celery I brought yesterday. I’m having a really rough mental day and almost start crying while eating lunch, so I don’t stick around for too long. Lately, I’ve been holding my emotions in, which only makes things worse in the long run. There is no finish line for grief, and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to cry.
4:15 p.m. — After a slow afternoon (in which I do allow myself to cry, several times), I head for home. K. calls right before I’m about to leave to talk about work stress. He’s starting to think about looking for another job, but hasn’t submitted any applications yet. When I get home, we talk for a bit more and then I roast some butternut squash in the oven. We have chili for dinner and T. has a PB&J sandwich with sliced peaches.
6:40 p.m. — After dinner, I’m able to list four items on Depop. Most of my clothes are thrifted or secondhand. Listing on Depop keeps clothes out of landfills and in the hands of someone who truly wants them. I try to keep my prices low enough to be affordable while still worth it for me to take the time to list pieces and ship them out.
7:40 p.m. — I shower with T. and then K. puts her to bed. I do my nighttime skincare routine, make a cup of tea, and eat candy corn as I get started on A Court of Wings and Ruin. I turn the lights out at around 9:50.
Daily Total: $0
6:15 a.m. — I get up for the day and make T. breakfast. Since K. works every other weekend, he has every Wednesday off, which means T. doesn’t have to go to daycare today. Today I tuck a burgundy mock neck sweater into a vintage high-waisted magenta and blue paisley midi skirt paired with my black Mary Janes. It is my coworker’s bridal shower this morning, so I pack my food and tea and head out the door earlier than usual to help set up.
7:50 a.m. — I arrive at work and help set up for the shower. It goes well, and I have half a gigantic muffin and a few apple slices for breakfast from the food provided. Later, in my office, I also eat the Greek yogurt I packed to tide me over until lunch.
12:40 p.m. — I take a break and head to the lounge for lunch. Today I’ve brought a container of butternut squash (I am so glad it’s squash season again), carrots, celery, an Aldi protein bar, and a cheese stick. I have a message from a potential buyer on Depop asking if I can lower the price a few dollars on something I posted last night, so I do and make a quick sale. I also text our family friends who own the house we rent. They’ve invited us up to their cabin this weekend and I let them know we’ll be there Friday morning. We’ve been renting since last November and plan to tell them this weekend that we’d like to put an offer on the house if they are willing to sell it to us.
4:30 p.m. — I stop at the thrift store on the way home and find a ceramic duck kitchen canister that I’ll use to store my tea bags in ($6.44). There must have been a major duck/goose decoration trend in the ’80s because I keep finding waterfowl-themed goods at thrift stores. Not mad about it. $6.44
6 p.m. — K. has made chicken tortellini for dinner, which we eat with steamed green broccoli. After dinner, I have a few mini peanut butter cups before I pack up the item I sold earlier on Depop. T. wants to write a card to K.’s mom, her grandma, so we spend some time writing the card and choosing stickers.
7:20 p.m. — The sectional sofa we ordered a few months ago is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, so K. takes the legs off the couch downstairs in preparation to move it upstairs. We get the couch moved upstairs after several tense and anxiety-filled minutes (if you ever want to test your communication skills with your partner, just move furniture through small spaces). K. puts T. to bed, and then we chat a bit in the living room and move the furniture around.
9 p.m. — I wash my face and put on a clay mask before taking a long bath and reading my book. After, I finish my skincare routine and curl up in bed to read some more. I turn out the lights around 10:40.
Daily Total: $6.44
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