Checks+Balanced: How a post-grad living in Nashville budgets for a plant-based diet

Chances are, you talk with your friends about that embarrassing thing that happened to you at yoga and the ins and outs of sex. But for some reason, money talk remains off limits. People want to live their healthiest life ever, but—#realtalk—it can add up. Have you ever wondered how your colleague who makes less than you do (or so you think) can afford to buy a $5 matcha and a $12 chopped salad every day? Or how your friend’s budget allows her to hit up $34 fitness classes three times a week? It’s enough to make anyone want to ask, “Ummm, excuse me. How do you afford that?!?”

That’s where Well+Good’s monthly series Checks+Balanced comes in. By lifting the thick, tightly drawn curtain to expose how much women of varying income brackets spend on wellness, we’re spreading transparency and hopefully providing some inspo that’s possible to copy. Because no matter how much you make, it’s possible to cultivate healthy habits that work within your budget.

This month, meet Lauren Barlow, a 22-year old health-care sales specialist living in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s navigating her first full-time job while upholding healthy habits she cares about, like being plant-based on a budget. Keep reading to see how she manages.

Here, a 22-year-old health-care sales specialist living in Nashville shares how she maintains healthy habits on an entry-level salary.

budget post-grad
Graphic by Well+Good Creative

Lauren Barlow, 22, health-care sales specialist, Nashville

Income: $38,400 per year. I work as a health-care specialist and have a salary of $36,000 a year. On the weekends, I work at the farmers’ market selling wellness and CBD products. For that, I get paid $12 an hour, plus commission, so I usually get about $200 extra a month doing that.

Rent: $670 per month. I have two roommates and I pay the most of the three of us because I make slightly more money than they do. We tried to be fair by adjusting reach person’s rent relative to how much money they make.

Other reoccurring expenses: $124 per month. For my portion of the bills, I pay $45 for electric, $15 for gas, $15 for water, $24 for trash collection, and $25 for Wifi. I use my parents’ Netflix account and my boyfriend’s Spotify account, so I don’t have any added costs there. While my Jeep is paid off and doesn’t cost me anything on a monthly basis, I’m going to need a new car soon, so I’m anticipating that upcoming expense

Food: $80 to $105 per week. I have a completely plant-based diet and do all my grocery shopping at Publix and Whole Foods, spending between $50 to $75 a week. These stores do tend to be a little more expensive than other options, but it’s worth cost to me because I can find foods there that make my body feel great. Publix often has buy-one, get-one free deals, so I take advantage of those when I can.

Every day for lunch, I eat a strawberry cucumber salad, so I always buy ingredients for that. I also like to buy pre-made meals because they’re quick and easy, and I spend about $30 a week eating out. I like to go to Chipotle or other cute local places, like Graze, which is completely plant-based.

Fitness: $73 per month. I spend $25 a month to belong to a gym and go to CycleBar once a week for $12 a class. I also really like yoga and go to free classes held at Hot Yoga of East Nashville. It hosts different wellness events, and every Wednesday, it has free hot yoga.

Beauty: $30 to $50 per month. I love beauty products, and one of my favorite places to shop for them is Target. The brand Pacifica is great because it’s vegan and cruelty-free, and it works really well with my skin. I’m also really into The Honest Company. Regarding hair products, I really like Love Beauty and Planet, which I go through quickly because my boyfriend likes to use it, too.

Savings: $400 per month. I try to save a portion of every paycheck for my savings and small weekend trips to visit friends who live in other cities. Usually I can just stay with them instead of getting an Airbnb, so I really just have to budget out the flight or gas and food. I typically spend between $150 and $200 on these trips.

Other wellness habits: $23 per month. I subscribe to the meditation app Headspace, which is $8 a month. I also like to attend workshops at a wellness space in Nashville called Lemon Laine. Tickets are generally $12 and products CBD oil and clean beauty items are for sale. Honestly, it’s a super-cute space, and I love spending time there.

Want to be featured? Email [email protected] And if you’re looking for tips on how to travel while on a budget, check out these tips.