Personal accounts: A single mom surviving on a vet techs pay in State College, Pennsylvania


Eking out family timeand making ends meettakes a strict adherence to budget and the strength to gut it out at workeven when youre sick.

Editor's note: 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.

Day 1-Sunday:

9 a.m. This counts as sleeping in for me. I wake up and watch two soccer games with some coffee.

11 a.m. Finally get around to making breakfast, although it's more of a brunch at this point. To save money, I only make a big breakfast on the weekends. This weekend I made French toast and an egg and veggie scramble. I savor each bite, because starting tomorrow I'll be back to boring cereal.

4 p.m. I head out to get Halloween costumes for my cats. Yes, I'm that person. I grab a cold brew coffee in the checkout lane. While I'm out, I grab some sushi and Chinese food for an early dinner. $30 for the costumes and coffee. $20 for dinner.

6:30 p.m. I pick up my son from his father's apartment and we head home to watch his current favorite movie. I make him French toast for dinner-I always make him “breakfast for dinner” on Sundays.

8:30 p.m. I tuck my son into bed. I usually stay up for a few hours after he goes to sleep so I can do some “adulting.” I schedule bills, do the dishes and watch a few episodes of my current TV show binge. Once I'm done, I head to bed.

Daily Total: $50



Day 2-Monday:

7 a.m. I wake up and rush around to get myself ready for the day before waking up my son. Once he's also dressed and ready to go, I make him breakfast. I make my morning cup of coffee, which I'll only be able to drink if I put it in a travel mug and take it with me. I eat some cereal and pack my lunch.

8:30 a.m. I drop my son off at his father's apartment. He works Tuesday to Saturday and I work Monday to Friday. Because of our work schedules, we're able to only have our son go to daycare three-and-a-half days a week. This saves us money and ensures that we get enough time with our son.

1 p.m. Time for lunch. I have leftover sushi so I can save money. Before I had my son, I used to buy lunch every day. I never realized how much money I was spending until I went through my bank statements. Ever since, I try to pack a lunch whenever possible.

7:30 p.m. I'm only scheduled to work until 7 p.m., but I almost never get out on time. I work at a very busy general/emergency/referral practice, so our hourly schedules are usually just an estimate.

8 p.m. Finally get home. Instead of making dinner, I just have a few snacks and some coffee. I tend to skip a traditional dinner on Mondays because I'm so tired when I get home, and I hate cooking for one.

10:30 p.m. After I finish a chapter of my current book, I head to bed. I have insomnia, so I have to force myself to fall asleep. I honestly would do much better with an overnight work schedule, but I've done daylight for so many years that it would just be weird to switch.

Daily Total: $0

Day 3-Tuesday:

7:15 a.m. Wake up in just enough time to shower, get dressed and run out the door. Picked up a coffee on the way. $0.95 for coffee.

12:30 p.m. Today is my “short day.” I requested time off to get more family time. I make up for it by coming in early other days, because I can't afford to lose the pay. I head home and eat leftovers for lunch. I still have a bunch of leftovers from the weekend, and I'm trying to be good about eating them to save money. (I would do anything for a hamburger right now!)

6:00 p.m. Have leftover pizza for dinner, which was still really good. Not feeling too bad about the leftovers thing at this point.

8:30 p.m. Did a bunch of home projects earlier in the day, so I'm finally sitting down to look over bills and random desk work.

11 p.m. Go to bed easily after a productive (and cheap!) day.

Daily Total: $0.95

Day 4-Wednesday:

7:15 a.m. Wake up, make my coffee and head out the door.

12:30 p.m. Go to lunch. The doctor I assist buys lunch. Most of the doctors I work with are really generous when it comes to feeding their technicians. We always accept, especially on days we don't get a full break because of busy schedules.

6:30 p.m. Have dinner with my son, followed by his new favorite movie.

8 p.m. After bath time, I put him to bed. Now is usually the time I do my “adulting,” but I settle for binge watching some Grey's Anatomy. Priorites, right?

11 p.m. I finish the night with a chapter of my current read and then nod off.

Daily Total: $0



Day 5-Thursday:

7 a.m. Wake up, get me and my son ready and feed him breakfast. Get myself my coffee and we leave for the day.

12 p.m. Realize I left my lunch on the counter at home. I resist the urge to buy lunch and head home. I eat my lunch quickly and head right back to work.

5:15 p.m. After work, I go grocery shopping. $144 for groceries.

7 p.m. Eat a snack for dinner. I should be doing laundry today, but I've been fighting an ear infection, and I have a fever. 10:30 p.m. Early night for me.

Daily Total: $144

Day 6-Friday:

7:15 a.m. Wake up feeling awful. I decide to try to go into work because I can't afford the day off or to waste my personal time.

12:30 p.m. I made it through all the morning surgeries, but I ask to leave at lunchtime. Still have a fever so I head home.

6 p.m. Pick up my son and make him dinner. I cheat and make sandwiches because that's all I really have energy for. We curl up and watch a movie until it's time for him to go to bed.

12 a.m. I finally head to bed after being stuck on the couch for most of the afternoon and evening.

Daily Total: $0

Day 7-Saturday:

9 a.m. Sleep in and wake up feeling much better. Make breakfast and watch some cartoons with my son.

12:30 p.m. Make lunch and then head to the park. We play on the playground and feed the ducks.

2:30 p.m. Head home and put my son (and myself!) down for a nap.

4:30 p.m. Wake up for snack time and watch a movie until my son heads to his dad's house.

6:30 p.m. Eat dinner, then do a puzzle for the rest of the night. It's the weekend before Halloween, so I make sure to have scary movies on in the background.

12:30 a.m. Head to bed. Not much trouble sleeping this week from being sick.

Daily Total: $0

Want to submit a personal account diary of your own? Or have a question for us? Send an email to and we'll get the information to you.

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