A Week At A University In North Carolina That Costs $8,900 A Year

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 business and advertising major who makes $12/hour and spends some of her money this week on lavender.

Major: Business & Advertising
Age: 20
University Size: 19,000
University Location: North Carolina
Salary: $12/hour from my remote internship (10 hours/week)
Yearly Tuition Cost: $8,900 paid for by my university
Student Loans Total: $0 (Full-ride merit scholarship)
Net Worth: $11,937.27 (Checking: $2,647.34, Savings: $5,400, School Reimbursement: $3,889.93, no debt)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $230
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: While my scholarship covers my housing costs, rent is $622.37 and utilities are ~$70/month. I live with seven other people in a house that we rent off campus.
Loans: $0 (full merit scholarship)
Gym: $9
Netflix: Parents pay
Spotify: $4.99

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, there was always the assumption that I would attend a four-year college. My dad never finished college, and he was adamant that I do. I am enrolled at a public institution that is paid for in full by my university through a merit scholarship. As an out of state student, it covers housing, food, tuition, and fees.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I always grew up stressed about finances, as my mom was the sole breadwinner for my entire childhood. There was a period of time where she was unemployed and that really left a lasting impression on me about the necessity of savings and proper planning. Despite the uncertainty regarding finances, she always told me not to worry, but I always did. Ever since I was 15, I have worked a part-time job to pay for my own independent expenses.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a local build-your-own salad chain. My parents wanted me to get the experience of a job, but more specifically, working in food, to understand customer service. Both of my parents have worked in restaurants and wanted me to gain that experience as well. My parents also wanted me to gain experience in managing my own finances before college.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I was always extremely worried about money and burdening my parents too much. I grew up in an affluent neighborhood and really wanted to keep up with my peers in middle and high school. It always stressed me out to ask for a ski lift ticket, or new headphones, or anything with a big price tag.

Do you worry about money now?
The stress from my childhood has carried over into my adult life and I’m always worried I’m spending too much unnecessarily. I have talked to my therapist extensively about it, and we both agree it’s something I’ll struggle with my whole life. I think I internalized the idea of creating a burden on my parents and wanted to be as financially independent as possible. That is partially why I chose the university that I did; it was definitely not my first choice, but I knew it was the best one financially.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became largely responsible for my own expenses when I went to college. Since my housing and dining were paid for by my university, I became responsible for every other purchase I made. If I were to be unemployed after college, I would definitely be able to move back in with my parents, which I appreciate, but I want to ensure that I am financially independent after college.

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

8 a.m. — This morning I have a test for my business ethics class, so I wake up feeling pretty jittery. I hop out of bed to do some last-minute studying before the exam. My teacher has made it very clear that technical difficulties won’t be tolerated during the test and that makes me even more anxious.

8:30 a.m. — For breakfast, I have Kashi cereal and a leftover Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. I’m hoping the caffeine will sharpen my focus. The WiFi in my house isn’t great, and I don’t want to take any chances, so I get dropped off at the business school on campus to take my exam by my housemate, E.

11 a.m. — Test over! I feel pretty confident about it so fingers crossed it goes well. I packed a snack of carrots and hummus to tide me over while I do my work. I spend the rest of my morning at the business school in class and catching up on assignments. Online classes have decreased my motivation significantly and it’s hard for me to put in the same effort I would in a normal semester.

2 p.m. — I make a hair appointment for next week and my stylist requires a $25 deposit that will then be deducted from the service. I love having box braids in my hair and luckily I’ve found a fellow student in my college town that has a good reputation for doing them well. $25

2:30 p.m. — For the rest of the afternoon, I work on homework and internship tasks. I have a remote job with a start-up out of another country where I work on user experience and quality assurance. I love the work that I do, which I’m thankful for. I’ve definitely had on-campus jobs in the past that I dreaded going to. One of my housemates is making a trip to the grocery store and I ask him to pick up bananas and Bark Thins for me. . $6.21

6 p.m. — I shut my laptop and change into workout clothes. My friend, N., and I signed up for a four-week workout boot camp and our first class is tonight. They’ve been offering outdoor, socially distant classes, which I prefer to at-home videos. Unfortunately, it starts to downpour right as we were about to head to the class, so we opt for a Zoom version instead.

8 p.m. — Phew! It was a great workout. After the class, we are hungry and both quickly realize how unmotivated we are to cook anything. N. suggests Chop’t and I happily agree. We get to Chop’t right as it’s closing, and feel a little bit like jerks for it, but I’m so hungry I justify it to myself. I order a kale salad with chicken, craisins, apples, feta, and walnuts. I’m glad I get a student discount since it’s so close to campus, but seeing the total I’m reminded why I don’t go to Chop’t that often. $10.03

9:30 p.m. — I lounge around with my housemates while I finish up some internship tasks. I’m exhausted from working out and getting up early for my test so I conk out pretty early in the night.

Daily Total: $41.24

Day Two

8:45 a.m. — I wake up feeling pretty unmotivated. I have a ton on my plate with Zoom calls and internship work and just want to get to Labor Day weekend so I can try and relax. I spend the morning distracted in my research class and then my operations class. By the time I’m finished with class for the day, I have a ton of tasks waiting for me through my internship.

1 p.m. — I make myself a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and spend a little time with my housemates in the kitchen. We all catch up about our days and excitedly discuss the new episode of Love Island coming on tonight. I love living with so many people, as it allows me to feel social throughout COVID-19.

1:30 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon working with my internship. A product is supposed to launch in September and there’s a ton of work to do before then.

4:30 p.m. — I take a break from my job to squeeze in a quick workout. I decide to run to our campus’s football stadium, which is about a mile away from my house. I run a few flights of stairs and do a quick butt workout before running back home. Once I’m back, I’m feeling unmotivated to cook, so I heat up a can of chicken tortilla soup. It’s filling enough, and I’m satisfied. For the rest of the night, my housemates and I catch up on our missed Love Island episodes.

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9:45 a.m. — Classes this morning yet again. With all of my classes online, I barely find the motivation to put on real clothes for the day. My mental health has definitely suffered since returning to my university, as I spend almost all day inside at my computer.

1 p.m. — I’m finally done with classes for the morning. I find a parmesan pasta recipe that looks easy on Pinterest, but I’m missing one key ingredient. I’ve also been looking for a diffuser for my room and figure Target is the best place to get everything I need.

1:15 p.m. — I convince my housemate, E., to drive us to the local Target, where I find mushrooms and a cheap diffuser. I’ve been contemplating buying one to help with my stress and spice up my room, but I didn’t realize how much essential oils cost! It feels ridiculous to spend that much just on oil, so I only buy a bottle of lavender to see how I feel about the whole thing. $28.88

1:30 p.m. — I hurry to whip up the Pinterest recipe before a 2 p.m. meeting. I use Banza pasta, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan cheese and it turns out better than expected. My housemate, O., made brownies as well, which is a nice midday pick-me-up.

2 p.m. — I have a Zoom call with a staff member in our entrepreneurship department at school. My friend and I were awarded funding to expand a contact tracing idea we came up with over the summer. We discuss feasibility, resources, and next steps, and I leave the call excited to keep the project moving.

6 p.m. — I finally shut my laptop and get ready to go workout with N. again. We are going to a local park to do a socially-distanced workout. When we arrive, we are the only two people there for the class, which is a little awkward but soothes my COVID worries.

7:30 p.m. — Oh my god, I am exhausted. That was one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done! Definitely worth the money. After the class, I can’t even fathom finding a recipe and making a meal in the kitchen, so N. and I zip to Chipotle. I order a hearty chicken bowl, but they’re out of guac. Sucks for the flavor, but a bonus for my wallet. $7.53

8:30 p.m. — My internship organized a virtual coworker happy hour to make up for lost relationships in the office. I enjoy getting to know my coworkers in this informal setting more than I thought I would. Finally done with my responsibilities for the day, I take the evening to set up my diffuser, FaceTime a few of my hometown friends, and do some laundry. The diffuser works great for the price and I am happy with the purchase.

Daily Total: $36.41

Day Four

7 a.m. — Today is my last day of classes before I’m free for Labor Day weekend and I wake up super excited. Before I get to enjoy the weekend, though, I have to get through a class presentation. I hop in the shower to deep condition my hair and shave my legs.

9 a.m. — I finish styling my hair and put on eyeliner, mascara, and fill in my brows. This is the first time in weeks I’ve actually put on makeup and it makes me feel a little better about the upcoming presentation. For breakfast, I have two frozen waffles with Justin’s chocolate almond butter and a banana.

9:45 a.m. — Presentation time! It doesn’t go as great as I had hoped it would, which is disappointing. My teammates don’t seem to particularly care about the project, and I get that we all have a lot on our plate, but I wish it had gone better. Afterward is my operations class. This is my least favorite class and I’m pretty lost. I make a note to go to my professor’s office hours before our first test. The class drags by so slowly and I just want to be free of my responsibilities for the week!

12:45 p.m. — FINALLY done with my classes for the week, I race downstairs to make some more mushroom parmesan pasta. Every day, I have class until 12:45 and by the time I’m done, I’m ravenous. My housemate M also messages that utilities are due for the month of August. Our bills are lower than last month, but our water bill is still higher than I’d like it to be. Although, with 8 people, it’s hard to tell if we’re using too much or not. I Venmo him the money. $68

1:30 p.m. — We don’t leave for Labor Day until 3:30, so I spend the little time I have tying up loose ends with my internship. I feel guilty for being absent the entire weekend as we have a big deliverable due to a client next week. My boss assures me that I should enjoy myself, though, which makes me feel slightly better. Afterward, I hurriedly throw my bag together for the weekend. I’m spending the next few days with my E.’s family about a two-hour drive away from campus. I’m so excited to get away from the campus bubble and get some home-cooked food. My campus hit over 1,000 COVID cases and it’s been a bit daunting to live near campus. And, as an out-of-state student, I only see my parents on major holidays, so it’s nice to get a family vibe for a little bit. I know we’ll be swimming, hiking, and more, so I make sure to pack mainly athletic clothes.

3:45 p.m. — And we’re off! We stop to get gas and I cover the expense as a thank-you to E. for taking me in for the weekend. We spend the drive blasting Taylor Swift’s Folklore and discussing our classes. Both of us hate Zoom and can’t wait for things to go back to normal. $32.47

6 p.m. — We make it to E.’s parent’s house just in time for dinner. His family is so loving and inviting, and I feel at home immediately. We spend the night catching up, eating pasta, and playing Trivial Pursuit.

Daily Total: $100.47

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I wake up groggy and exhausted. E. wants to do a sunrise workout at his neighborhood pool and I agree to go along and try it out. I stumble downstairs for a protein bar before we head to the pool.

8:00 a.m. — We climb out of the pool happy and tired. Even though I was skeptical, it ended up being a fun workout, and we were the only ones there. I get anxious about the chlorine drying out my hair because even though I wore a swim cap, my hair is soaking. I curse myself for forgetting any hair product.

9 a.m. — We get back to the house and shower off and I do my best to salvage my hair with the products E. has at his house. When I come downstairs, his sister, L., is fixing us breakfast sandwiches. I chow down on a sesame bagel with egg, sausage, and cheese, and it’s incredible.

9:30 a.m. — E. has one Friday class, so while he’s on Zoom, his mom and sister take me to get a pedicure. Even though I protest, his mom graciously pays for mine. We wear masks the entire time, but it still worries me. After, we pick up E. and start driving around town so they can show me their favorite spots.

11:30 a.m. — All of us are hungry again, we go to Smoothie King so I can try out their smoothies for the first time. On the west coast where I’m from, Jamba Juice is the main smoothie chain, so I’m skeptical of Smoothie King. It’s pretty good, but it doesn’t fill me up for lunch. $5.94

4:30 p.m. — Our activity this evening is E.’s mom’s weekly beer walk. Every Friday evening, she and her two neighbors walk to each other’s houses to sip beers and catch up. E.’s mom assures us that these two neighbors are her “bubble” and the only friends she sees without a mask. We stroll to the first house, where I sip a Vista Bay hard seltzer outside on their porch. It’s surprisingly good!

7:30 p.m. — We hustle home for a late meal of balsamic chicken and rice. E.’s mom always makes an amazing spread for us and we are all too hungry to do much talking. After dinner, we all shower off before curling up in the den to watch The Crown, one of my favorite Netflix shows.

Daily Total: $5.94

Day Six

8:15 a.m. — I wake up excited for the day. We have a pickleball tournament and a barbecue planned for today, all with the same people we did the beer walk with. I grab a protein bar from the pantry before we head to E.’s neighborhood courts. E.’s sister and I decide to wear matching tennis skirts for the occasion!

8:30 a.m. — Pickleball time. I’ve never played before, but all of the moms are crazy about the game. It’s easy enough to pick up, but I end up losing all my games. It’s a great time though, and definitely not a game I would have considered before.

10:15 a.m. — We zip home to whip up a huge breakfast for E.’s family. L. is on sausage duty, I’m on bagels, E.’s on drinks, and E’s’s mom is on eggs. We get bagel sandwiches, pineapple, watermelon, and orange juice on the table in less than 15 minutes while E.’s dad mows their lawn.

11 a.m. — I shower before sitting down to finish up some assignments for class. As much as I want to enjoy myself this weekend, I have so much work to do that I have to squeeze in some study time. I sit in the den while E.’s family watches a few more episodes of The Crown.

4:30 p.m. — We decide to break out the cornhole before the other families arrive. E.’s dad built the boards himself, and they’re all pretty good at it except for me. E. and I end up losing, 21-0 against his parents. I decided to try my luck with ax throwing, which E.’s dad also built in their backyard. I’m actually pretty good at it and it’s fun to learn.

7 p.m. — Dinner time! We’ve got burgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, and deviled eggs for the main course. All of it is so tasty, and I go back for seconds. For dessert, a family friend made homemade ice cream and peach cobbler, which is incredible! We spend the evening playing cornhole, ax throwing, and enjoying ourselves in the backyard.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — It’s our last full day with E.’s family, and we decide to go on a hike. I make myself a bagel with the homemade jam and we all pack sandwiches and chips for the hike. The closest area to hike is about an hour away, and we want to get out there early.

10 a.m. — We reach the mountain and luckily find a parking spot within minutes. However, when we get to the trailhead, we see the area is swarming with people. It makes us all hesitate, but after an hour of driving, it feels pointless to turn around. We decide to do the hike but pull up our masks and seem to be part of a very small group of mask-wearers.

11 a.m. — We reach the summit but are unable to enjoy it because of all the people without masks. We’re all surprised and disappointed about how little people are taking COVID seriously, so we snap a quick picture before scurrying back down the mountain.

12 p.m. — We return home, happy to be away from the crowds. We saved our sandwiches to eat back at home and we sit on the porch to enjoy the weather. After lunch, E. and I keep ax throwing in his backyard. It’s honestly a really exhilarating sport.

1 p.m. — We decide to hit the pickleball courts one last time. It’s E. and me versus his parents and we lose all of the games but one. I’ve found a new favorite hobby, and tell E. to bring paddles back to campus so we can play. We come back to the house and spend the rest of the afternoon lounging around and watching more of The Crown.

6 p.m. — For dinner, E.’s dad makes steak. It’s E.’s favorite meal and although I’m trying to limit my red meat consumption, I justify it to myself. it’s been a great weekend at E.’s family home, and I’m glad for the time away from campus.

9 p.m. — We decide to grab dessert and head to a pretty overlook in the area. E. drives us to Sonic, where we each order a milkshake, before driving to the overlook. Seeing the twinkling lights of the city surrounded by friends, I am extremely content. It’s a great end to a great weekend. $3.39

Daily Total: $3.39

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