Welcome to Money Diaries 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.
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, or considered it? What were the circumstances that led up to it, and how did your life change? If you're willing to share your experience for an upcoming Refinery29 story, please email email@example.com. You can remain anonymous.
Today: an unemployed consultant who spends some of her money this week on wasabi.
Industry: Management Consulting
Location: Washington, D.C.
Salary: Currently $0 (~$120,000-140,000 when employed)
Net Worth: $619,148.64 ($475,731.60 in investment accounts, $14,040.04 cash, $129,377 home equity)
Debt: Just my mortgage, calculated into home equity above
Paycheck Amount: $0
Mortgage: $1,809.90 (includes mortgage, property tax, insurance, and HOA)
Cell Phone: $16.81, prepaid for a year
Netflix: $0 (bum off a friend in exchange for Hulu)
Washington Post: $2.56, paid for a year upfront
Spotify: $6.50, paid for a year upfront to a friend I split the account with
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, absolutely. I contributed to my tuition, did work-study, received scholarships and financial aid, and took out loans. My parents helped as well.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I learned how to compare prices at the grocery store as a kid, look for sales and other bargains first when shopping, and to save money. I didn't learn about compound interest or investing until I graduated from college and learned about managing money on my own.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a fast-casual restaurant at the mall. I got a job because my family was low income and often unemployed. I learned at a young age that money gives you options. Getting my own job and earning my own money was empowering. As I've gotten older, I've learned that managing your finances, investing, and planning for the future is an essential part of setting yourself up for an independent life.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. I was never sure I would have everything I needed.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I lost my job recently. I have some cash and I know I could liquidate some stocks and draw down on my accounts, but that would be a last resort.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was responsible for myself at 22. I am my own financial safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
9 a.m. — I wake up after pressing snooze a couple of times. Time to start the day. I lost my job recently and am very burnt out. I plan on resting up and doing things that feel good while still tackling a couple of things a day. Working to find balance is a lifelong pursuit.
9:30 a.m. — After brushing my teeth, washing my face, slapping on sunscreen, and taking my medications and supplements, I walk and feed my dog. It's finally cold in D.C.
9:45 a.m. — I grab a cold brew out of the fridge to sip while checking my emails and check all the virtual pings I've missed. I have a 1:30 p.m. call with a professional contact and the window repair people are slated to arrive anytime between 1 and 4 p.m. to give me a quote on what it will cost me to repair the windows. The rest of the day I can chill and watch TV while knitting.
11 a.m. — I'm hungry, so I reheat leftover chicken soup and decide to make more. I chop up the vegetables, add chicken stock and shredded chicken, and get that going on the stove. I clean as I go and do dishes and clean out old food in the fridge.
12 p.m. — Throw out trash, walk my dog, and chat on the phone with family.
1:15 p.m. — Time flies whether or not you're on a tight work schedule! Another family member calls to encourage me. It's nice to know I have people to talk to. As with many, many people, it's been a year for me.
2:01 p.m. — Ahh! Just missed the call from the window repair company while I was on the phone with my colleague. I call them back and they've already been rerouted, so they'll try again tomorrow morning. Hungry again. Hot bowl of soup it is! I'm not someone who gets sick of eating the same meals, so I eat a lot of meals on repeat. I'm also not a person who likes to spend a lot of time meal planning, so this approach to nourishing myself works for me.
2:40 p.m. — After soup, fruit, and doing the dishes, I am ready to Netflix and knit!
7 p.m. — I take a break from knitting to walk and feed the dog and text with friends.
11 p.m. — Shower, brush teeth, skincare routine, and sleep.
Daily Total: $0
8:50 a.m. — I wake up to very loud construction noises. I mindlessly go through the motions — brush teeth, wash face, moisturize and sunscreen face, meds and supplements, walk the dog, pick up her poop, and feed her.
9:20 a.m. — I make pour-over coffee today. I check my email, consult my to-do list, and follow up with a recruiter I interviewed with last week. I also pitch an idea for a story to a favorite website.
11:15 a.m. — Lunch of soup. I do dishes while it heats up.
11:30 a.m. — The window people are here! Everyone's masked up! I hope the estimate isn't too high. Owning property to build equity is a great way to build wealth, but there are always plenty of expenses to plan for.
11:45 a.m. — After lunch of soup topped off with an apple, I call a foreign currency exchange service. I have several euros leftover from a Europe trip I've put off exchanging to U.S. dollars (USD) for years. No idea why. Inertia maybe? Now is a good time to tackle the errands and chores I've put off to do some other day. Some other day is today! Or not. The place is closed today, so I plan on going tomorrow.
12:30 p.m. — I walk my dog and head out to drop off a package at the post office to start a return. $3.90
1 p.m. — It's gorgeous out. I love running errands on foot when the weather is this lovely. At the grocery store, I pick up olive oil, soy sauce, small red beans, black beans, wasabi, mandarins, Honeycrisp apples, cilantro, limes, ginger root, and onions. $39.47
2:15 p.m. — I'm finally home. I greet my pup and check my iPhone health app. I walked 2.5 miles. It's amazing how moving my body elevates my mood and spirits.
3:15 p.m. — Time to Netflix and knit.
5:30 p.m. — I get on my laptop to attend my psychiatrist appointment over Zoom ($275). This is an unsustainable expense going forward while I'm not working, but for now, it's an essential expense. Like many psychiatrists, my psychiatrist doesn't take insurance. I pay cash. $275
7 p.m. — Dinner of soup and two mandarin oranges. I walk and feed my dog afterward.
7:45 p.m. — I'm already exhausted. Wash face, do my minimal skincare routine, brush, and floss. Off to bed I go.
Daily Total: $318.37
8:45 a.m. — Wake up, wash face, brush teeth, moisturize and sunscreen, take meds and supplements, walk and feed my dog, and make coffee. I search for a sliding cabinet organizer from Target since I have a gift card there and I'm finally sick of knocking over cleaning products when reaching in this deep cabinet to find an item. I find one that fits the specs of my cabinet ($52.07 on gift card). There are a few things I want to get done around my home, so I buy a stud finder, painter's tape, a ring light (for interviews), and a couple of other household items on Amazon ($54.31). While I shop online, I see an email requesting interviews next week; I email back with available times. $54.31
11:20 a.m. — Lunch! Soup and apple. I walk my dog, pick up a package, and head back home. The package was for flowers a good friend of mine sent to cheer me up. I pack up a couple of gifts I purchased online that were underwhelming and print out return labels.
12:40 p.m. — I leave my apartment to exchange foreign currencies for USD. I receive $266 (after paying $10 in fees) and drop off a package to return. On my way home, I see that I have another package waiting for me. This time, it's a plush blanket and robe. There's no card, but I'm pretty certain I know who sent it. I text my friend to thank her and sure enough, it was her. $10
1:45 p.m. — Home. I putz around the house and end up cleaning and organizing my space a bit.
4:30 p.m. — Starving. I finish the last of the soup and reach for bread to toast and eat with the tuna salad I made recently. The bread went bad, so I eat the tuna by itself. I also eat a mandarin and persimmon.
11 p.m. — Brush teeth and turn in.
Daily Total: $64.31
7:10 a.m. — I wake up early to construction noises. C'mon, guys! It's Saturday! I had a terrible night's sleep last night, so I stay in bed to try to get more sleep.
8:30 a.m. — Same deal. Brush teeth, wash face, take meds, do dishes, make coffee. My dog is fast asleep, so I drag my feet getting it together to walk her. I post things to sell online. This is another thing I've put off while focused on other things. I have a lot of clutter since I haven't re-homed things in a while.
11:15 a.m. — I'm hungry. I finished the soup yesterday, so I make a smoothie out of ingredients in my freezer. I always keep frozen fruit in my freezer and ingredients like ground flaxseed meal and oats in my pantry for quick smoothies. After lunch, I walk and feed my dog.
12 p.m. — It's official. I am grumpy from sleeping poorly and being subjected to construction noises all morning. I decide to take it easy and not push myself to get things done.
5:30 p.m. — I make a salad of tomato, kale, and avocado with a red wine vinaigrette. I eat two mandarins and chocolate for dessert. More knitting while watching TV. I'd like to finish my current knitting project to send as a holiday gift, but I'm not rushing to get it done either.
12 a.m. — Brush teeth, wash face, skincare, crash.
Daily Total: $0
8 a.m. — I wake up to a text from a friend who lives in my building complaining about construction noises. I know, girl. It's been incessant. I wish I could get out of the city and shelter-in-place in a cabin some place quiet, but unfortunately, I don't have the money to spend on a getaway. We're all just doing our best to get through the year and sometimes that means being safe at home while neighbors repair or renovate their homes. I do the things I do every morning to get ready to start the day.
12:45 p.m. — A good friend in my quaranteam comes by with Taco Bell and persimmons.
2:40 p.m. — After lunch, we take a walk since it's nice out and wave goodbye. It's nice to hang out in person. I'm pretty good at enjoying my own company and staying home overall, but it does get tedious. And we are at mile 22 of this, with 4.2 more miles to go.
8:30 p.m. — I get hungry, so I eat the rest of the tacos and eat a persimmon. I get concerned that I've eaten very little fiber today, so I wash it down with a psyllium husk drink (Metamucil without the color or flavoring). See? Balance.
Daily Total: $0
8:20 a.m. — Up, brush teeth, wash face, moisturize and sunscreen, take meds, make coffee, eat a persimmon. Walk and feed my dog.
11:25 a.m. — I make a smoothie for lunch and buy a Girlfriend Collective shipping label to recycle some clothes in exchange for credit. $7
2:30 p.m. — I call a professional contact to chat about the interview I have coming up. It was definitely difficult to get used to "networking" and maintaining professional relationships, but once I got over the initial discomfort, it became a normal part of my work life. For people who feel hesitant about networking, I think the important thing to focus on is that these relationships are genuine and authentic. I'm also here to support my contacts and be there for them in return as a sounding board, professional reference, or for advisement.
3:10 p.m. — A friend calls me to catch up on the phone when I get back from walking my dog. It's nice to keep in touch with old friends. As I get older, I value my established relationships more and more.
6 p.m. — I'm hungry and finally feel like making more soup. I chop vegetables to make another vat of chicken soup. I eat some mandarins while I cook.
8:30 p.m. — Christmas honestly snuck up on me this year. What even is time, you know? I decide to buy a few things. I purchase a kitchen tool for a friend ($29.15), a virtual experience for a family member ($52.08), and macadamia honey nut butter for two friends ($43.98). $125.21
10 p.m. — I finally eat chicken soup. I save a few pieces of boiled chicken for my dog, who happily gobbles it up. I eat two more mandarin oranges and chocolate.
3:30 a.m. — I wake up in a fully lit apartment. I fell asleep while watching TV, so I didn't wash up yet. I get up to wash my face and moisturize and go back to sleep. Too tired to brush my teeth.
Daily Total: $132.21
8 a.m. — I wake up to light construction noises. I really hope it's not too distracting during my video interviews today. Brush teeth, shower, take meds and supplements, make coffee. I soak my completed knitting project in a wool wash. Since I finished in time for Christmas, I need to wash and dry it right away.
10:50 a.m. — Over coffee, I decide to tile my kitchen backsplash. I make an order on Amazon ($31.69) and on Home Depot ($167.77) for supplies. $199.46
12 p.m. — I receive a quote from the window repair place. They quote me about $500. Time to get two more estimates. I make a smoothie and walk my dog.
1 p.m. — I get ready for the interviews by doing my makeup and pulling my hair back professionally. One of the perks of working from home this year was saving time commuting and getting dressed. It can be so time-consuming (not to mention costly) to look "professional," whatever that means.
4 p.m. — I'm wiped out from interviews. I need to write thank you emails, but I'm feeling brain dead. I always try to write thoughtful emails that clearly demonstrate that I listened actively and am a capable professional.
5 p.m. — I send both thank you emails. I cannot believe it's already 5 p.m.
6:30 p.m. — I print more return labels, walk and feed my dog, wash the makeup off my face and moisturize, and nuke chicken soup in the microwave. I top it off with, you guessed it, persimmon and chocolate for dessert.
7:30 p.m. — I do laundry while I chat with a friend. Overall, it's been a tough time for me, but I'm grateful for my health and safety and my loved ones.
Daily Total: $199.46
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