Personal accounts: How a CVT in Boston makes $19.65 an hour work


This technician has dealt with financial ups and downs in the last year, including a move and a pet being diagnosed with cancer.

Editor's note: This article is part of our "Personal accounts" series. Money management is all about choices: where you live, the job you take, what you spend. But when it feels like the money's drifting out of the bank account much quicker than it flows in, it's hard to get a handle on where it all goes. We asked several veterinary professionals from different jobs and areas of the country to track their spending for one week. Our goal: to share what they've learned from a deep dive into the cost of living and the choices we make every day. Read them all here.

Job: Full-time Certified Veterinary Technician

Location: Greater Boston, Massachusetts

Income: $19.65/hr

Monthly income: $1,757/mo (net take home, after taxes and deductions)

Here's a look at my monthly expenses:

Life's been hectic since November 2017. My husband lost his job, so we sold our home and moved somewhere more affordable. He has since started making a go of self-employment, so I cover our health insurance pre-tax. Then, in February 2018, cancer was diagnosed in one of our dogs, and we've been battling it as well as we can.

Here's a look at my spending in a week. Daily and weekly totals have been rounded to the nearest dollar.

5:30 a.m. I'm up bright and early as I'm on a surgery shift at work. A few weeks ago, I instituted a rule for myself to save money-bring lunch and drinks to work unless it's a surgery day. I've only been getting one surgery shift every other week, so it's a good treat for a potentially stressful day. I put money on the coffee card a couple weeks ago, so today's drink won't come out of my current allowance.

6:30 a.m. Score! I had a free drink available on my card at the coffee shop.

11 a.m. Discussion always starts early at work about what's for lunch. For the first time in over a week, I contribute to the discussion and order food with my coworkers. Total: $15.

5:30 p.m. I'm home, as is my husband. We're both exhausted from our days (my surgery day was a spay and three dental procedures, while his was out in blistering heat doing home repairs) and neither of us wants to cook, even though the meat share arrived.

7 p.m. I bucked up and did it-dinner is on the stove. It's sausage and veggies, nothing complex, but it's filling.

10:30 p.m. After being a vegetable and petting my dogs for a while, it's time for bed.

Daily total: $15.


7:15 a.m. I'm woken up by a dog breathing in my face. There's no work today, but we're having people over for a game day, and I have some writing to get done for an event next weekend. I made baked oatmeal for our breakfast, and we have some leftover sausages in the fridge to go with it. Being a game day, I know we'll be ordering lunch, and I'll talk to my husband about grabbing snacks. We'll see how it goes.

9 a.m. I took some leaves to be composted that had been sitting out for months, and on the way back stopped to pick up a veggie platter and drinks for company. The husband paid for the goodies this time around, as well as some veggies for tomorrow night's dinner. $35.00 out of his pocket. I found an edible mushroom in my yard that I want to try preparing for tomorrow, so I cut it up and I'm going to let it marinate overnight. I'll try cooking it up, and if it's good, I'll make plans on drying some or freezing it; I love mushrooms, and if I don't have to spend money on it as it grows in my yard, it'll make me even happier.

6:30 p.m. Game day is over. Husband kindly covered my lunch.

7:30 p.m. I worked on a writing project for next weekend's event until bed. Of course, the Newfie is being needy and wants the husband's attention, so I managed to get kicked off the couch by my boys.

9:45 p.m. I'm exhausted, so I wander upstairs to bed, joining my husband and my dogs.

Daily total: $0.

5:30 a.m. I'm woken up by our sheepdog who wants to go out. It's pouring out there. Both dogs go and do their business, then I stumble back to bed.

7:15 a.m. OK, up for real this time. I reheat the baked oatmeal from yesterday for breakfast. Today I'm off from work, so it's going to be mostly writing for our event next weekend, with occasional breaks.

8:30 a.m. I decided to go on a little adventure before really settling in to work. I drove by a club I've been hoping to join in order to get back into archery, but I didn't see any cars and wasn't up for a trespassing charge. It's been a game of email tag for the last month, so I guess I'll just continue to wait for them to get back to me by email. I also went by an auto parts store looking for the supplies to clean up my archery bow. They had two of the three components I needed, so I decided not to buy anything yet until I can find the third part. It's pouring rain out, and I'm thinking a Crock-Pot chicken soup will be easy for dinner, but the meat share was skimpy on chicken, so I swing by the food store and pick up a “family pack,” knowing that I can freeze what I don't use for the soup. It costs $12. Once I'm home, I start defrosting the chicken broth I made a few months back and go back to writing. Total: $12.

12:30 p.m. I got an email from the club, that the membership person is available today at 4, if I want a tour. I also need to remember we have an in-house CE at my hospital tonight that I'm going to try to get to. I keep forgetting about it.

1 p.m. Time for a lunch break. The husband wants to get out of the house, so we go to a restaurant in town for lunch specials. Husband's treating, as it was his idea. Unfortunately, they didn't tell us they don't do lunch prices on Sundays when we were ordering, so we were surprised to see the bill was almost $15 higher than it should have been. The waiter admitted his error, and the manager reduced the bill to lunch prices, but still … way to give someone a heart attack.

4 p.m. I went to see the club and totally fell in love with it. Their membership docket is already full for September, so I'll have my application in for the October approval. My hope is that this gives me something to do that isn't a perpetual cash sink like my other hobbies. Sewing gets expensive (seriously, even with sales, the price of fabric is insane!), and due to illness my dogs are a bigger expense than they were even a year ago. A lot of indoor archery ranges want $10 an hour to shoot … and if I just put aside $10 every paycheck, the club membership will pay for itself in six months.

5:30 p.m. I remembered we had an in-house CE at work, so pizza was on them. At least the husband didn't have to order out, with the soup I made. And I'll have lunch for work tomorrow. I did notice my gas tank was under ¼ full, so I stopped and put some gas in. I have a small SUV that's been paid off for several years, and I keep giving it ultimatums: it had to last until I paid off my credit cards. Then it had to last until I finished school. Now it has to last until my student loans are paid off … we'll see how far I can push it. Total: $27 in gas.

9:30 p.m. I finished the last of my assigned writing for the day (though there's more to do tomorrow), watched some television and went to bed.

Daily total: $39.


6:30 a.m. I woke before my alarm. The husband is already up and has let the dogs out. Breakfast is still the baked oatmeal from Saturday; I'll have a piece left for tomorrow morning, unless my husband decides to eat it while I'm out today. I set about getting ready for work and putting my lunch together. A 10-hour shift is expected, so I'm bringing the leftover soup, a turkey sandwich, some carrots and hummus and blueberries. Hopefully it'll keep the temptation of ordering out at bay; that's really my biggest weakness on a daily basis at work.

6:30 p.m. Home from work. I fed the dogs and made myself dinner-steamed broccoli and my marinated mushrooms. I'm totally bummed. I don't like the marinade. The texture is fine, but the taste isn't to my liking. The husband is out for the night with friends, so I'm not too worried about providing a “well-balanced” dinner.

7:30 p.m. I've written two of the documents I need to for the weekend's event, when I have a sudden ice-cream craving. Of course, the local places are all cash-only, and I have exactly one paper dollar to my name. I scrounge up some quarters from my stash, harness up the dogs and go for a walk. Total: $4, with an apology to the staff for paying with all change.

10 p.m. I just finished all my writing. It's time to head to bed because I'm up early to work tomorrow.

Daily total: $4.

5:30 a.m. I'm up with my alarm. Breakfast is the last of the baked oatmeal. My shift assignment at work is one I don't particularly like, but people are on vacation and shifts need to be covered. That said, I'm out of homemade iced tea and coffee, so I'm thinking about stopping by the coffee shop on my way to work to treat myself. Last Friday's drink was a freebie, so this extra would still make me “even,” or so I convince myself. Total: $5.

6:30 a.m. I glance at my watch to confirm I'm not late for work, and it says 9:15. I'm momentarily confused, before I realize none of the hands are moving. I have a back-up watch to get me through the day, but I'm still annoyed. I can draw blood on a living thing, but I honestly have no idea how to change a watch battery.

3 p.m. I'm fond of my watch and don't want to break it. It's been a little “strange” since a Husky put her canine tooth through the face of it over winter. Opting not to take a chance of screwing something up, I go to a store that deals in watches to have them put a new battery in. Total: $16. I'm going to look it up on the internet next time; that's highway robbery!

Daily total: $21.

6:45 a.m. Up and about. I'm working an evening shift, so no alarm for me. I realized I'm out of what I need to make the baked oatmeal for the kick I'm on, so I go to the store. Blueberries are on sale, and I also grab bananas, almonds, milk for the oatmeal, half and half for coffee and bread for sandwiches. I also grab some frozen pineapple and cool whip for when I have a sweet tooth. It comes to $27.

11 a.m. I'm off to work. After a few hours, some folks are ordering food, but I stick to my word, and I've brought my lunch and snacks.

9:30 p.m. I'm finally home. I feed the dogs their dinner and go to bed.

Daily total: $27.


5:30 a.m. The alarm goes off for another work day. It's a staff meeting day at work, so I don't need to pack lunch, which is nice.

3:30 p.m. Home again. I need to pack for this weekend's event that I'm running and pack the dogs for their boarding stay. That usually means I don't want to cook, but the husband (who left for the event site earlier today), left me money for takeout tonight. Some coworkers are getting together in a few hours for karaoke and drinks to say goodbye to a coworker who's moving. I haven't decided yet if I'm going; it'll depend on how I'm feeling by 7-ish.

6 p.m. My decision is made; the money the husband left bought me some Chinese takeout. It's one of my comfort foods, and considering I'm down to $10 in my bank account, and $1 in my wallet, I couldn't have afforded it without the husband's kindness. Thankfully, tomorrow is payday.

9:30 p.m. Bedtime.

Daily total $0.

Weekly total: $106.

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