DMT Beauty Transformation: A Week In Michigan On A $1,500 Stipend
featured Khareem Sudlow

A Week In Michigan On A $1,500 Stipend

September 02, 2020DMT Beauty

#DMTBeautySpot #beauty

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.

Today: a philosophy major at a university in Michigan that costs $18,000 a year who spends some of her money this week on flowers.

Major: Philosophy
Age: 21
University Size: 45,000
University Location: Michigan
Salary: Currently a ~$1,500 stipend for the summer through my marketing internship but around ~$600 during school from my campus jobs
Yearly Tuition Cost: $18,000 (My parents chip in when they can (they paid for most of my first year in college), but it’s mostly me paying through student loans and campus jobs or from financial aid.)
Student Loans Total: $19,500 and going down since I’ve started paying them off!
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: ~$550 (my total rent is $1,200 and I split it with my family)
Loans: ~$500
Spotify Premium (student): $4.99
WiFi: $37
Electricity: $40
Investments: $100
Savings: $300

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?
Yes, definitely. My parents are immigrants and education is what brought them to America. If we wanted to be anything here, we knew we would need to study. While my parents did save enough for me to not worry as much about my education costs for the first two years of college, we didn’t expect my dad to lose his job due to multiple company layoffs. So, I’ve had to take on a lot more in loans and financial responsibility. This has definitely caused some tension because my parents wanted to take care of my education, but they just couldn’t at the end of the day.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn’t talk about money at all. Yet, I was expected to figure it out when times became tough.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a tutor for kids in my neighborhood. I honestly started because I liked teaching and kids needed to be tutored, but I’m really grateful for the experience because it taught me a lot and set me up well for future jobs.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Sort of. My dad took care of all the money growing up, but he was also extremely worried about not having enough money. This meant that we would have money, and we knew that, but I always felt guilty whenever I spent money, regardless of how necessary it was.

Do you worry about money now?
I used to, but less so now. I really set my goals on improving my financial health this year, and I feel much more in control now. I do worry about not making my tuition payments, but I’ve always figured out a way to make ends meet until now, so I know that I can be resourceful if/when I need to be.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I wouldn’t say I’m fully financially responsible yet, since my parents occasionally put in a tuition payment and pay part of my rent. However, I take care of all my personal expenses. Now, I have a decent chunk of savings saved up and hope to continue building those savings to act as my net. I also have started investing in stocks too.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Wake up and shower. Right now, I’m visiting my partner and he leaves for work at 4 a.m. (sad). So, I’m left to get ready and go through the day myself.

8 a.m. — I start working a bit and put The Bold Type on in the background.

11:30 a.m. — Order some rice and veggie stock from Instacart. I forgot to order rice with our groceries last week and have a couple of recipes I want to try that need stock, so I figured I’d just order them. $23.77

11:45 a.m. — Lunchtime! I FaceTime my friend and make some pasta with spinach and mushrooms. I’m trying to eat better, healthier, and cheaper so this is one of the many dishes I’ve started making.

12 p.m. — Hop on my first call for my internship and then for student government. I intern with a company based in Berkeley so while I start work at 9, most of the company doesn’t wake up until 12 which is nice because I get things done early.

3 p.m. — After a few meetings, I get back to emails. Right now, I’m doing research for my school’s law school, involved in student government, and have a marketing internship, so I get a lot of emails and am trying to be more efficient with my communication.

7 p.m. — Partner comes home and we make stir fry rice and proceed to binge Indian Matchmaking. (Just saying: this is funny if you’re South Asian, but not sure how seriously non-South Asians will take a lot of the drummed up premises of the show).

10 p.m. — Head to bed.

Daily Total: $23.77

Day Two

7:20 a.m. — Good morning to all! Surprisingly wake up in a cheery mood. We have a student affairs fire that needs to be put out so I spend the next half hour talking to admin and reading up on the matter. I love student government and every day I’m more sure that I want to pursue a legal career and help others.

9 a.m. — Log onto work and grab a quick Nature Valley Bar to eat.

9:30 a.m. — WOOHOO!! Hit inbox 0 on my work email. As a “treat,” I get to spend time answering my student gov/personal emails. I move to the living area so I can watch The Bold Type while I work.

11 a.m. — Pause for a quick spinach and artichoke dip break and to check on my finances. I used to be scared to check my account but now I’m getting better at planning ahead of time so I can expect the numbers I see on my account. I’ve even been able to start paying off my student loans. I have a few more minutes before I want to get back to work, so I spend time going through my to-do list for student government.

12 p.m. — Jumping on my first call of the day! Today is very student-government heavy so I’m glad I’ve met my weekly work goals already. After the call, I decide to wash some dishes, put on The Bold Type again, and make lunch.

1:30 p.m. — Grab two graham crackers and settle in for meetings from now until 7. I thought I was going to work out for a quick half-hour after this next meeting but decide it’s better to finish up some work instead.

2:30 p.m. — JK. The meeting ended early so I decided to do a quick 10-minute ab routine and shower. God bless Chloe Ting.

10:30 p.m. — My partner gets home and we head to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9 a.m. — Another day! I woke up earlier to send my boyfriend to work. I’m up now for therapy, which is free through school.

11 a.m. — Therapy was AMAZING and I feel great walking away with action items. I work for about 45 minutes and then make lunch (just pasta) and hop on a work call at 1.

1:30 p.m. — Whoops haven’t been paying attention to the meeting. I have a tendency to get side-tracked by social media and am trying not to. I recenter myself by walking around to a different space.

7 p.m. — My boyfriend comes home and we decide to go get take-out because it’s been a rough couple days. I pay because he’s been especially patient and kind. We go back home to watch Indian Matchmaking. Surprisingly, my boyfriend loves the show more than I do and becomes attached to the characters. $35.55

Daily Total: $35.55

Day Four

8 a.m. — We hit the road to drop me off at home. My boyfriend is doing the ULTIMATE favor and agreeing to drive 10 hours back and forth to drop me off at home unexpectedly so I pay for gas. $40

1 p.m. — We stop for Subway. So far, it’s been an uneventful car ride but my boyfriend and I discuss our futures and how we want our careers to shape out. I’m still in college and he just graduated, so we’re in similar stages of our lives and we rely on each other’s honest advice quite a bit. $5.25

6:30 p.m. — We’re home! I order pho for my boyfriend and ramen for myself ($40 total) while my boyfriend wraps up a work meeting. This has been a pretty spendy day or two but after going home this weekend and getting some food + groceries, I doubt I’ll spend much. Plus, I agreed to pay for costs coming up so my boyfriend doesn’t have to deal with that since he’s already being kind enough to drive up (he’s paying for everything on the way back). $40

6:30 p.m. — I also pay for the toll roads that we encountered on the way here. $12

9:30 p.m. — We lounge around and talk a bit. Neither of us wants to leave each other, so we talk about the next time we can see each other. I have all remote classes, so we set a tentative return week as the third week of August. Then, we head to bed and fall asleep around 10:30.

Daily Total: $97.25

Day Five

8 a.m. — My boyfriend has to leave (sad). We take out the trash and I kiss him goodbye. I hate saying bye to him, but such is life. I clean a couple of dishes, call my landlord about a water leak I noticed, and get a bit of work done before I have to leave to visit my parents’ house.

10 a.m. — I apply for the Delta Gold AmEx card and get approved! I’ve been really trying to gain financial literacy this year and I’m so happy because I’ve surpassed my credit score goal for the year and am $500 away from my savings goal for the year too! I’m currently using the Discover cashback card that’s on a secured loan of $200 so I’ll start using both once I get the AmEx card in hand. I’ve also started religiously using Mint so I add the card onto my account. I also check my investments on M1 and ponder dropping a bit more money into the account. Time to hop onto my first meeting! One person in my meeting takes a longggg time to talk so I send emails while they drone on but practice listening to the meeting while doing minor multi-tasking too.

1:30 p.m. — I finish my last meeting for the day woohoo! I go through a project I’m working on for work and talk to my friend about student government to-dos. This weekend is going to be busy with work (including for my internship), so I think I’m going to plan out a schedule to work to. I also FaceTime my boyfriend at one point to see how his drive is going.

2 p.m. — I take a break to read the new Money Diaries and drink some of my mom’s chai (probably the only decent chai I’ve ever had). I also remember that my friends and I split flowers for the Dean of Students since their mom passed away. I Venmo him my share. $18

5:30 p.m. — After work, I start reading my book for a while. I’m currently re-reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwon. My boyfriend FaceTimes me for a little bit and we talk about life in general while he eats dinner. We’re big on eating together and big on cooking together, even if we’re apart.

7 p.m. — Head downstairs for a dinner of rice and veggies. I’ve been vegetarian my entire life. It first started out as part of my religion but has since also become a sustainability thing too. I watch some YouTube while I eat.

8:30 p.m. — I feel like being productive now so I go ahead and knock some things off of my student government to-do list and create a spreadsheet for post-grad job hunting. I want to go to law school in the near-ish future but want to take time to rest (because burnout) and pay off my student loans a bit. I started paying those off earlier this year (about $500 every month thanks to my two campus jobs and reduced spending once quarantine began).

10:30 p.m. — I finish my student government to-do list and hit inbox 0 in both my internship inbox and my regular inbox! I settle in to continue reading my book and relaxing. I also text back and forth with a couple of friends. After speaking to one of them, I decide to try to not look at social media/my phone first thing in the morning and read instead.

Daily Total: $18

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I’m surprisingly awake and decide to start reading for about an hour.

8 a.m. — I get an email about my apartment’s Xfinity bill and go online to check the bill details. First, wow the bill is extremely high. I also notice that the account transfer didn’t work right when my old roommate gave me ownership of the account so I spend time working with an online representative to figure out the transfer and change my plan to be much cheaper. I also text my new roommate telling her about the bill and requesting her for half of it.

4:45 p.m. — I’ve fiddled around for quite a bit. I read a bit more, finish some minor research tasks, and then go to Rite Aid to get nail polish, chapstick, and a few other small bits for my mom and sister ($40 but my mom offered to pay for it). I then warm up and put coconut oil in my hair. Recently, I’ve wanted to get better about creating and maintaining a self-care routine of hair and skincare, as well as home care because those make me feel good about myself. So, I’m doing a coconut oil massage. I braid my hair into a mock French braid before sitting down to make a spreadsheet for post-grad job tracking.

9:45 p.m. — After dinner, I talk to my boyfriend and scroll through social media a little. I check my usage for the week and it’s not bad! I’m on a steady decline for my phone usage which I’m proud of. I also look around at some websites for clothes and make a note to see if I can spend some money on clothes tomorrow. I only buy clothes once a year MAYBE twice in the summer/before the school year, so I try to buy sustainable and high-quality pieces. I also make a mental note to go through my closet and purge it of clothes I won’t need anymore.

10:30 p.m. — I put away my book and watch some YouTube videos. Tomorrow, I definitely have to get a ton of work done, but I’m glad that I had today to rest. I decide to watch Zoella on YouTube (don’t judge me it’s just what popped up).

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Good morning! I get up and read my book. I’m close to being done so I keep reading until I finish.

10 a.m. — Book, finished! Breakfast, done! I change my top and make my bed before I do some compiling for jobs.

3:30 p.m. — I get around to FINALLY starting my legal research. I do some free work with a law firm in my college town. Right now, I’m helping them with some social justice work and drafting up a memo about the legalities of climate change. It’s exciting, but I procrastinated a bit with it because I’m scared I’m not doing it right. I’m recognizing this as a common thread for me, so I start trying to find productive ways to break through this mentality.

5 p.m. — I feel myself getting a little distracted and want to change it up a bit so I move downstairs and drink some coffee. I also watch some YouTube videos. Currently watching Lucie Fink morning routines! I also haven’t worked out recently so I plan to do a free 30-minute stretching routine through CorePower (which I LOVE).

6:30 p.m. — I promised my family that I would cook dinner so I start making lasagna which takes a lot longer than I expect.

10:30 p.m. — Dinner and bed. Today was wholly unproductive and I felt pretty deflated at the end of the day so I set my alarm early and manifest a better day tomorrow.

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.

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