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Money Diary

Wednesday 1/3:
6:15a - Alarm goes off. I hit snooze a couple times before getting up for real at
6:30am. Pad into the kitchen to make coffee. The Blue Mountain Jamaican grinds were
a New Year's gift from my folks. Honestly, I'm not sure I can tell the difference
between this and the $3.99 brand from Whole Foods, but hey, coffee is coffee. While
the coffee is getting ready, I get dressed and ready for the day. As I'm throwing
my coat on, I realize there's a small hole where the left sleeve attaches to the
body of the coat. I've had it for a decade, so I'm not surprised that it's starting
to show its age. I debate whether or not I should buy a new one, get this one fixed
(where? are there even tailors anymore?) or ride out the rest of the season. I'll
be moving to a much warmer area later this year, so it's probably not worth the

6:55 - I pour my coffee into my travel mug, grab a tupperware of leftovers out of
the fridge, and dash out the door just in time to catch the 7am shuttle. My
apartment building runs two hourly shuttles, one to Center City and the other to
University City, where I work. It's a major perk to not have to wait for the city
bus, especially when it's below freezing.

7:25a - After a 5 min walk from the shuttle stop, I arrive at work and get settled.
My goal for the day is to finish a research paper on geographic variation in
healthcare costs, which means making a bunch of maps, which I've never done before.
After a lot of Googling, though, I discover that the research software I'm using
has mapping add-ons! It involves writing a bunch of code, but by mid-morning the
maps are done. I treat myself to a free cookie from the kitchenette, then start
writing up the rest of the paper.

12:30p - Take a short break for lunch: reheated rotini with celery and Andouille
sausage. I have so many leftovers from the holidays, and this is my week to use
them all up. Check emails and patient phone calls.

1p - Revise the paper. I send it to my advisor by mid-afternoon, and she texts me

back right away: "OMG I LOVE THESE MAPS!" Woohoo! I grab another cookie to
celebrate. It's fine, I'll go to the gym tonight.

3p - Research meeting on another paper we've been trying to get off the ground. We
have conflicting data analysis, and even after talking through the steps for an
hour, we don't make any headway. Finally we give up and break, agreeing to meet
again in a couple weeks.

4:15p - Catch the bus over to our other clinic location for weekly didactics.
Traffic is still light from the holidays; I arrive early, so I decide to stop in
the coffee shop across the street and get myself a London Fog to be able to get
through the evening. $4.45.

6:30p - Didactics finally finish. I debate getting a Lyft home, because it's so
cold, but the app is funky, so I get impatient and just walk to the bus stop.
Luckily the stop is near a Burlington Coat Factory so I can wait inside while
checking the transit app on my phone for the bus location, and dash outside just as
it's pulling up to the curb.

7:15p - Finally get home, twelve hours after leaving for the day. I'm exhausted and
decide to skip the gym. I work a bit on my novel, heat up a Mac and Cheese for
dinner, check email, facebook, and get into bed by 9.

Thursday 1/4
6:15a - Awake. Today is the major snowstorm battering the East Coast, and it's also
my clinic day. The snow's already coming down hard; I can barely see down the
street from my 17th story window. Of course, clinic is never canceled, so I get
ready early in case I have to walk in. Thank goodness for heavy snow boots; I slip
a pair of flats in my purse so I don't have to wear those clunkers all day.

7a - Thankfully the shuttle is running, so I don't have to walk all the way in to
work (4.5 miles). But I realize suddenly that I've forgotten my travel mug and
lunch on the kitchen counter! Once I get off the shuttle, stop at Wawa to get a
coffee, and also pick up a kale salad for lunch. $6.59

8a - Finally make it to the clinic and de-ice myself. Patients are canceling right
and left; I don't blame them. I use the time to catch up on emails and other stuff.

10:15a - Email from the apartment management that due to bad road conditions, the
10am shuttle run will be the last for the day. I check my clinic schedule --
there's just one guy left, and he's coming from the Jersey Shore which is getting
even more snow than Philly. I have the front desk staffer call him to see if he's
coming; nope he wants to reschedule. As soon as she tells me this, I'm out of
there, running through the icy pelting snow to barely make it onto the shuttle

11a - Log in remotely and "work from home." The system keeps kicking me off
(probably a bunch of people are trying to do the same) and I can't get into the
shared network drive anyway, so it's a bit of a waste of time. However because I
was logged in, I won't have to burn a vacation day, so it's worth it for that, at
least. Plus, I get to eat homemade jambalaya (another holiday leftover), which
reheats great. The kale salad is still in the office fridge; it'll keep till

3p - I feel sleepy -- remnants of flu -- and decide to take a short nap. Wake up 2
hours later; oops. Log back into work and finish up a few emails, then call it a
day and surf around the internet for a bit. I remember at the last minute that my
Comcast bill is due today. Log in to my account and pay up. $54.99.

7p - Heat up some soup for dinner. Write for an hour. Bed.

Friday 1/5
7:05 - I've slept through my alarm! Thankfully today is an academic day, so I grab
a granola bar, then catch the 8a shuttle and get to work by 8:30. I spend the day
revising the papers I've written up.

9:30a - Revisions make me hungry! Sadly, the smorgasbord of free cookies and
holiday cookies that people have been bringing in to work has just about stopped.
The only thing in the kitchenette is a little bowl of sad-looking gumdrops; I pass
in favor of jelly beans I had stashed in my desk drawer, then the granola bar.

12:30p - Break for lunch, that kale salad from yesterday. It's ok, though the
dressing is tangier than I usually like. Then back to revisions.

3p - Send the revisions to my advisor. I'm hungry again, go down to the vending
machines in the lobby and buy a pack of Skittles and a Kind Bar. $2.75

4:15p - Pack everything up and head out to the shuttle. Once home, I debate heading
out to my French language group, which meets every other Friday at a pub on the
other side of town. It's too cold to go out, I decide. I feel kind of lame about
another night in, but not lame enough to really care. And anyway, I'm still a bit

6p - Make a pot of brown rice, heat up some leftover chicken curry, and call that
dinner. Early bedtime again tonight.

Saturday 1/6
9:30a - It's glorious to sleep in! I debate getting ready quickly in order to catch
the 10a grocery shuttle, but decide against it. The weather's supposed to get
warmer this week and I can always walk to Trader Joe's, Target, or Whole Foods one
evening after work. I love that I live within walking/biking distance of three
groceries, plus a bunch of restaurants. In my previous city, I was in a food desert
-- half an hour by subway to Trader Joe's, and no accessible "real" grocery stores
without a car. This was before Uber/Lyft, too, and taxis wouldn't come to my
neighborhood, so I basically bummed rides off people or ate out for five years. It
was awful.

11a - Go downstairs to check my mail. There's a nastygram from my health insurance

saying I haven't paid the $35 yearly dues since 2016 (when I started this
fellowship), and they are going to yank my insurance if I don't pay. This is news
to me, so I call the number on my card and spend forever on hold before finally
talking to someone who confirms that yes, I was supposed to be paying $35 a year in
addition to the premium, so a total of $105. It's really irritating, but we're past
open enrollment so I can't change insurance companies. I anger-eat half a box of
almond butter cookies. $105.

1p - Lunch: hummus and toasted cibatta. I call my mom and we talk about plans for a
safari we're going on this summer, in between my fellowship and the start of my
faculty job. It's an incredibly generous treat from my parents, to celebrate the
end of more than a decade of training. I spend most of the afternoon working on my

6:30p - Dinner: Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe's. This stuff is like
crack to me; I always pick up a couple boxes. I eat it in front of the TV while
watching The Windsors on Netflix.

Sunday 1/7
8am - Wake up, check email and facebook in bed, finally get up about half hour
later. Make coffee and a couple slices of toast spread with apricot jam.

9:30a - As I'm randomly browsing on Amazon, a long sleeved dress with pockets,
which looks fairly work-appropriate, catches my eye. And it's only $15.60 due to a
lightning deal! I add it to the cart, then throw on another dress to get free
shipping. It comes out of an Amazon gift card I was sent as a thank-you for filling
out a bunch of surveys. $34.57.

11:30a - Californian family members sent lemons for New Years, so I decide to make
marmalade, adding a half teaspoon of chili powder as the mixture is jelling. I
don't have a waterbath canner, so I process the jars the old-fashioned way, 20
minutes in a 215F oven, and boil the lids for the same time. Once the steaming hot
liquid marmalade is in the jars, I wipe down the rim with a wet towel, screw on the
sterilized lids, and flip the jars over to seal. As the jars cool, the volume of
marmalade + airspace will decrease, creating a vacuum. Sure enough, when I flip
them over two hours later, the little button in the center of the jars is
depressed. I leave them to finish cooling right-side up on the counter before
putting them in the fridge. They won't last as long this way, but it's better than
nothing, and the high acidity of lemon marmalade means botulism spores won't grow.

2p - Make a ham and cheese sandwich for a late lunch, and open a bottle of
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo because I feel like being decadent. I snuggle on the couch
and read for a bit while sipping on the wine, then switch over to Netflix. Cable
Girls Season 2 is utterly binge-worthy!
4p - Gym for a half-hour.

5:30p - Start looking online for apartments in my new city. The cost of housing is
going to be around 50-75% of what I pay here; it's amazing! I could get a two
bedroom two bath place on the top floor of an elevator building, including parking,
and would still be saving money. Delicious. I bookmark a bunch of places to check
out when I go down there to hunt.

8p - Make a frozen pizza margherita from ShopRite and eat a couple slices with
another glass of the Montepulciano. Wrap the leftovers in foil for lunch tomorrow.

Monday 1/8
6:15a - I've slept poorly (maybe a side effect of the wine?) and debate taking a
later shuttle in to work, but I have too much to do, so I drag myself through the
motions feeling like a zombie. I forget the foil-wrapped pizza, so I end up
stopping at Wawa to buy a microwaveable soup. $4.89

11:30 - I microwave the soup, but it explodes all over the office microwave. My
boss pokes his head in, while I'm cleaning up, and says that it reminds him of when
his kids were babies and spit up everywhere. Thanks, boss. Several paper towels
later, I eat the soup while listening to a presentation about genetic diseases.

4p - Remember that I have a conference in April that I need to book things for.
I'll be reimbursed by work, but I've got to front the funds for now. I register for
the conference ($245, expensed) and book a non-stop flight ($250, expensed). It's a
long conference -- I'll be there for 10 days -- so hotels are all over $1000 and I
balk at putting that on my card right now. I look at AirBNB but don't see anything
I want to commit to, so I bookmark a bunch and will revisit later.

5pm - Leave work and head to Science on Tap, a monthly public science forum at a
bar in Old City. This is one of my favorite events in Philadelphia. The food is
pretty good too, and they have happy hour specials till 7pm. The talk tonight is on
archaeology; an burial ground was discovered just a few blocks away, dating back to
the colonial era. The speaker has brought in artifacts, so it's a little like show-
and-tell. Two beers and an entree sets me back only $26, including the tip. By the
time I leave, the streets are slick with freezing rain and black ice; even with my
heavy-duty winter boots, I slip on the sidewalk; thankfully no injuries. I stop at
CVS on the way home and pick up a new eyebrow trimmer for $4.50, plus a bottle of
vitamin D for $12.79, then take the bus home. Total: $43.29

Tuesday 1/9
7:30a - Get to work, settle in, try to finish up data entry from yesterday.

10a - Break to check Facebook, eat a breakfast bar from my last grocery shopping

12:30p - Leftover pizza, which I don't bother to heat up. I'm pretty sure that
office microwave hates me.

2:30p - Data entry wraps up. I play around with analysis for a little bit, but
don't find anything interesting, so I give up and check emails until it's time to
go home. I also price out flights/hotel for my apartment-hunting trip. I can get a
nonstop for $315, and a hotel for $100/night, plus a rental car for about $25/day.
Not too shabby. It'll be reimbursed by my soon-to-be-employer, so I send the
recruiter the details for approval before booking.

4:15p - Head out for the shuttle home. Once home, go straight to the gym for 30
min, then walk to the local library to return a book and grab another. I have been
trying to use the libraries more, instead of just buying books -- for one, they can
be expensive, and for two, I have no more shelf space!

7p - Dinnertime. My mom gave me a bunch of curry packets the last time she visited,
so I make dal makhani to go with the leftover brown rice that needs to be used up.
It's decent, but too real salty!