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A Week In The Kootenays, BC, On A $45,000 Salary

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.

Today: an interior designer working in construction who makes $45,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Sugar Plum essential oil blend.
Editor's Note: This diary was submitted before BC introduced new province-wide restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Occupation: Interior Designer
Industry: Construction
Age: 27
Location: The Kootenays, BC
Salary: $45,000
Net Worth: Approx. $35,000 (I have $7,000 in my chequing account for everyday spending, with $3,550 of that set aside for emergencies. I keep my emergency fund in my chequing account because it pushes my balance above my bank's $5,000 minimum to avoid the monthly $15 unlimited transactions fee. Then I have $8,200 in a savings account earmarked for my new vehicle, $8,400 in a WealthSimple Save account earmarked for travel, and $12,000 invested in an SRI TFSA, also with WealthSimple.)
Debt: $0 (​I graduated with $18,000 in debt and paid between $150 and $400 per month as I could. In January 2020, I received $25,000 as a life insurance beneficiary after one of my parents passed away. I used $7,400 of that to pay off the balance.)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,370
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600 (My spouse, T., and I rent a one-bedroom basement suite for $1,200. This price includes heat, water, electricity, and internet.)
Phone: $50
Netflix: $15.74
Health & Dental Insurance: $30.17 (deducted from my paycheque, as are life and long-term disability)
Life Insurance: $5.49
Long-Term Disability Insurance: $20.91
Travel Savings: $150
Investments: $100
New Vehicle Savings: $150

Annual Expenses 
Credit Card Fee: $99
Car Insurance & Registration: $961
Tenant Insurance: $300
You Need A Budget Subscription: $125
Costco Executive Membership: $126
Ski Hill Season's Pass: $1,000
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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?
My parents greatly encouraged me and my sibling to attend post-secondary school. They weren't concerned with what we studied or what school we chose, just that we went. We grew up in a small town with limited job and school opportunities, and they didn't want to see us stuck there in minimum-wage jobs after high school. I chose a technical college in Alberta and received about $2,000 my parents had in an RESP, and they gave me $1,000 cash as a graduation present. I received government loans to pay for the rest of my schooling. In my second and final year of school, I applied for a student line of credit through a bank with my dad as a cosigner. I used it to live on and pay school expenses outside of tuition that year.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
The conversations I remember about money were usually negative and full of stress and fighting. My parents had poor financial habits as well as mental health and substance abuse issues, so money was not well managed. One parent in particular regularly overshared the status of the family finances, and this caused me a lot of anxiety as a child. I guess you would say we were first-world poor? We had food on the table and the lights on but no savings, and my parents used credit cards to pay for most things without paying the balance at all. Yet, we still went on ski holidays even though my parents couldn't afford it. It gave me a scarcity mindset about money. My mom told me about the pay yourself 10% first each paycheque rule and not to go into debt with credit cards, but my parents didn't educate me about saving or investing. They each had wildly different approaches to money management, so it was difficult to get a sense of the safe or normal thing to do with money.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was 14, I got a job in a secondhand clothing store for four hours a week after school. I probably got the job because I didn't want to ask my parents for money for clothes, personal care, and electronics. That same year, I got a second job as a cashier in a grocery store, and I kept up both those jobs throughout high school. My dad tried to get me to pay rent once I had a job, but my mom wouldn't allow that. Maybe he wanted to teach me about budgeting or maybe he was short on cash? Looking back now, it seems cruel to ask that of a 14-year-old.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, all the time.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes, some of the time.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 17 when I moved away from home to go to college. I have my own savings that I could tap into if something were to go really wrong but that probably wouldn't last long. T.'s parents are definitely a safety net for us. When the pandemic began, he was already out of work, and I was laid off as a result of COVID, so we gave notice on our apartment and moved into their basement for six months. They let us live rent- and utility-free, and we only contributed to groceries.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
In January 2020, I received $25,000 as a life insurance beneficiary after one of my parents passed away.
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Day One

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I hit snooze until 6:30 a.m. I get up, and grab a coffee from the pot T. has already made. He gets up around 5 a.m. every day so he always makes the coffee. I sip and scroll social media before getting ready for the day.
7 a.m. — I'm dressed in jeans and a pink fuzzy sweater and am generally presentable enough for work. I don't bother to do much with my hair or wear makeup other than mascara (#hippiechild). Thankfully, my workplace is pretty casual. I drink more coffee while I make and eat mashed avocado on organic whole wheat sourdough from a local bakery. I splurged on the bread over the weekend. I pack lunch, pour a to-go mug of coffee, and start my vehicle at about 7:30 a.m. because it's a cold morning (remote start, such a luxury).
7:40 a.m. — I'm out of the house and off to work. We live rurally, and I have a 15-minute drive to work each day.
8 a.m. — Work begins. I sip coffee and water, make my to-do list, and catch up with my coworkers about our respective weekends. I then read up on my province's COVID numbers. I've been doing this way too much lately, even though it's bad for my mental health. I don't have client meetings today so I'll likely spend all day at my desk, updating files and answering emails.
10 a.m. — I'm finding it hard to stay on task today. I snack on almonds and my coworker kindly brings in Starbucks. We share buying coffee with a sort of you-get-this-one-I'll-get-next-time mentality, although my coworkers pick up coffee more than me. I'm not as comfortable spending money on to-go coffees. Maybe I need to budget more for this kind of stuff. I grab a chocolate from a gift box someone has brought us. For those interested: I share an open-plan office with two coworkers, our desks are socially distanced, and we wear masks at all times when we're not sitting at our desks.
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1 p.m. — I've been working on the same file all day, so after eating at my desk (leftover salad from last night's supper with black beans added for fibre, plus another chocolate from that gift box), I take a break to review interior selections I've made for an upcoming home to be built. I'm still happy with them, so that's good. The design part of my job is fun, but sometimes working with difficult clients or handling problems during the build process can be challenging.
3:30 p.m. —Today, I skip my hour-long lunch break so I can leave early. I drive straight home because I'm hoping to get a walk in before the sun is gone. I enjoy my half-hour walk down the road I live on and get great views of the alpenglow on the mountains. We moved here from another province last year, and we're loving it! I was raised in the Kootenays, and it's so nice to be back in the mountains.
4 p.m. — When I return from my walk, I visit with my landlord in the yard where they have a campfire going. It's nice to chat and warm up around the fire. We rent their basement suite, and they live on the main floor of the house. We lucked out finding great landlords and an affordable, if tiny, place to live. Cheaper rent allows us to do the things we love, like skiing, snowboarding, and travel. Back in the house, I eat a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella.
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6 p.m. — T. arrives home from work. I throw together lentils with garlic, onion, spinach, tomato sauce, and pasta, plus a green salad for supper. While cooking, I listen to an audiobook, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, and it makes a lot of sense to me. I'm working on unpacking my traumatic and toxic upbringing, and it's a long process. We eat while watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, a show we've watched in its entirety before and are now rewatching because we love it so much. RIP, Mr. Bourdain.
9:30 p.m. — I spend the rest of the evening doing chores before going to bed at 9:30 p.m., but I scroll Instagram until about 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Same morning routine, except today I read the Lonely Planet guide to Iceland while I eat breakfast. We're going on holiday there next year, and I'm so excited to finally travel again! I have avocado on toast for breakfast, then throw on black leggings, thick socks, and a baggy sweater to go with my Blundstones. I'm out the door at 7:45 a.m.
10 a.m. — After a meeting at work, I sip juice, steal another chocolate from the aforementioned box, and buy tickets for the office holiday gift raffle ($5 for 15 tickets). I'm not usually a juice person, but I splurged on a fresh-pressed juice last weekend, and I'm savouring it this week! $5
11:30 a.m. — One of my coworkers forgot her lunch and suggests takeout from a local deli that has delicious food. I brought lunch today (leftovers from supper last night) but join them because this place really is that good! I get a salami sandwich with mozzarella, plus greens and roasted tomato soup on the side. It comes to $18 and tastes amazing! I don't have money in my dining out budget right now, but I'll move money from another category or maybe redeem credit card points to pay for it. I guess now is a good time to mention I've been using YNAB for five years now. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to get their finances in order. $18
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2:30 p.m. — I'm working all day on the same file again. There are so many little details I need to capture on each build. I break for a coffee from the lunchroom. The coffee at work is terrible, but I need a pick-me-up, and it's palatable with oat milk.
3:30 p.m. — I'm feeling snacky, so I eat cucumbers and hummus and slack off work by reading Money Diaries. I love finding out how others manage their finances, thus why I submitted my own diary.
4 p.m. — Home from work, I tidy the inside of my car, water my plants, wrap a Christmas gift to be mailed out, and do a half-hour Yoga With Adriene YouTube video. I'm feeling stiff today, and I'm recovering from a foot injury I got while running last week, so the yoga is much-needed. I also eat two cookies from a package in the pantry, simply because I see them when I open the pantry. Bad habit.
5:30 p.m. — T. arrives home from work. I'm happy he's home safe for another day. He works in the trades, and I worry about his safety on job sites. He heads outside to tinker with something on his car while I start prepping taco bowls with ground beef, white rice, cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and salsa.
6 p.m. — Supper is ready, and we sit down with our taco bowls in front of an episode of Parts Unknown.
7:30 p.m. —T. does supper cleanup. I send him money for half of an Amazon order that includes a new French press, bottle-cleaning tablets, and hydrocolloid patches. We split household expenses like this 50/50 and use his account because he has Prime. For dessert, I have mint tea and a small cup of oats mixed with Nutella, shredded coconut, and hemp hearts. $35
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9:30 p.m. — I read the Lonely Planet Iceland guide until it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $58

Day Three

6:40 a.m. — I add an extra snooze before getting up, then sip my coffee, and put on Lululemon pants with a multicoloured sweater. We're out of avocados, so peanut butter and honey on toast it is. T. kisses me goodbye and takes out the compost bin on his way out the door. He really is the very best.
8 a.m. — I arrive at work and settle in to answer emails.
10 a.m. — I eat a chocolate and begin the task of tidying the design centre where clients pick their selections when building a home. It's a huge task to organize it, and I've been working on it piece by piece. Today, I'm doing the floor tile and vinyl plank. I take everything off the shelves, fix labels, and determine what samples can be removed and which are discontinued. Whenever there are discontinued samples, the low-waste girl I'm trying to be HATES throwing them away. Tiles: You can smash those up and use them for an art project, right? Quartz Countertop: free coasters, no? I'll bring something home and swear I'll use it until months later when I accept I'm never going to do anything with it and toss it. Bad, bad, low-waste girl. A neighbour has said they'll take some of the tiles for an art project, so that's a win!
11:30 a.m. — I'm sweaty and starving from hauling tiles around. I snack on almonds and grab a cookie/blondie-type thing from the lunchroom. Christmas season at the office is not good for fitting into your pants.
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12:30 p.m. — I break for lunch (lentils, pasta, and spinach leftovers) and go to the post office to put a family Christmas present in the mail. The lineup at the post office is insane, and I wait for 20 minutes before I'm called up. The clerk asks me if flammable or dangerous items are in the package. Incidentally, there is hand sanitizer in there as part of the Christmas present (an all-natural, locally made hand sanitizer to be specific). She promptly tells me that hand sanitizer cannot be mailed because it's flammable. Well, that sucks. Back at the office, I open the parcel and take out the sanitizer and reseal the package. I'll try again after work.
4 p.m. — I spent the rest of my afternoon organizing samples. I load up discontinued tile in my car for my neighbour, then go back to the post office and wait in line again to mail the present ($20.88). After that, I window shop at a home goods store and a bookstore nearby. I'm tempted by a few things, especially books, but remind myself I haven't budgeted for random shopping and have to save for Iceland. That usually does the trick to curb impulse buys. $20.88
5 p.m. — T. is already home. I'm hungry so I have cheese and almond-flour crackers with pickles. Our supper was supposed to be one-pot grains and veggies, but I picked up Evive Bam Chili on sale last week, and we have it on quinoa instead. It's easy and tasty but definitely not low-waste. We watch No Reservations while we eat, then call T.'s dad to wish him a happy birthday. He was given a Nest-type thermostat for his birthday and is happy in that wholesome dad way, which is cute.
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7 p.m. — I shower and hang laundry to dry while T. does dishes. Not all the laundry fits on the drying rack, so I toss a small load in the dryer and set it to a short cycle. In an effort to be environmentally friendly, we try to use the dryer only for towels and bedding. I log into my library account to reserve some books. Our library is great, but I took for granted how easy and quick it was to get new and popular books from the library when we lived in a bigger city. I eat a few squares of dark chocolate for dessert and have a cup of tea. We buy Season 2 of No Reservations on YouTube. $11.19
9:30 p.m. — It's bedtime, but I lay awake for what feels like hours before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $32.07

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I snooze an extra 10 minutes today. I feel so exhausted, and it's hard to get out of bed. I make coffee, get dressed, and pack leftover lentils with almonds and an apple for lunch. I choose jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, and my favourite puffy vest, then start the car.
8 a.m. — At work, I join a company-wide Zoom meeting until 9 a.m. I'm leading another meeting right after that and I'm feeling nervous about it as usual. I find out a key person isn't able to attend and that I missed their declined meeting reply. Shit. We reschedule for 11 a.m., and I eat a couple of chocolate chip–peanut butter cookies my coworker made.
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11 a.m. — Meeting time. I go in feeling prepared and informed about the build but leave with more questions and feeling overwhelmed. The construction industry is mostly men, and it can be challenging to hold your own and be taken seriously as a young woman, but I'm getting better at it. Thankfully, the attitudes where I work are mostly good.
12 p.m. — I break for lunch because I'm feeling overwhelmed about this file now.
1 p.m. — Another meeting. I say something stupid and hugely embarrass myself (nothing offensive, just a dumb moment). Thankfully, it's only me and two other people. They laugh at me in a good-natured way. The above about being taken seriously? Well, it would probably go better if I hadn't made this comment. Ugh. I grab a coffee from the lunchroom and eat chocolate in an effort to feel better. It doesn't work.
3 p.m. — I'm feeling snacky so have almonds. I might be over plain almonds. They're dry and turn to paste in your mouth.
4 p.m. — I go to my brow-waxing appointment ($31.50 with tip). I usually go every four to six weeks. I know, I know. I've bought those DIY kits before, but the girl I go to is really good. Also, brow waxing is the only personal care thing I pay someone else to do. Since the skin around my brows gets really really (and I mean REALLY) red after a brow wax, I always plan to go hide at home. So that's what I do. I eat leftover quinoa from last night. Did I really need to eat that? No. Do I eat my feelings? Yes. $31.50
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7 p.m. — T. is finally home after working late and going to the grocery store. He got coffee beans, bread, crackers, lettuce, goat cheese, and cucumbers. The total is $53.35, and I transfer him my half ($27). I do dishes while he showers and washes his work clothes. We're both not feeling like cooking, so we have a salad with eggs and goat cheese on sourdough toast. I tell him about my day with my botched meeting followed by the dumb thing I said. I'm taking this too hard because I'm a perfectionist. I had major impostor syndrome at my last job, but I'm doing better here. He reminds me I'm not stupid and tries to cheer me up. I have a CBD and THC gummy in an effort to relax. $27
Daily Total: $58.50

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Here we go! Morning routine — you know it by now. Today's outfit is black leggings, a red sweater, and a cozy grey scarf. I'm bringing an Evive smoothie to work for breakfast, so I grab a jar and mix the smoothie cubes with almond and oat milk. Cashew Mocha sounds good. I hope it tastes good. I also pack an apple and almonds (the last of them) for snacking because lunch is paid for by work today. I warm up the car and am out the door at 7:40 a.m.
8 a.m. — I arrive at work. It's payday, so I check my bank account and open YNAB. I drink my smoothie while I budget, and it's very tasty. I love budgeting.
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10 a.m. — I have a client meeting today for interior selections. I think it's going to be a long one.
12:30 p.m. — The meeting goes well, and we make good progress on their selections. I commit another social faux-pas when I forget to introduce the client to one of the tradespeople who was also in the meeting. We break for lunch and agree to meet later to look at carpet and backsplash tiles. Lunch is a Subway sandwich and fresh veggies supplied by work, plus a chocolate.
2 p.m. — I meet my clients at the tile supplier, but I didn't think ahead to bring their countertop and cabinet selections to help pick their backsplash. The employee at the tile place is snarky about it in front of the clients. He's known for being rude and condescending to women. Then I pronounce the name of a flooring choice wrong, and he gives me grief about it. I want to yell "Fuck you!" and walk out. Instead, I drive back to the office, which is thankfully nearby, pick up the samples, and return. I forget to introduce my clients to the rude employee, but I don't feel bad about it because this guy is an asshole.
3:30 p.m. — I leave work and hit a liquor store to pick up a couple of drinks for a gathering I'm attending tonight. I'm fully vaccinated and there are currently no gathering restrictions in my province. Roast me in the comments anyway. I get two gin smash cocktails ($7.31). With my track record of social blunders this week and COVID anxiety, I'm feeling anxious about attending, but I already said I would go. Oh, and I have anxiety around drinking because I hate feeling hungover, and it makes my anxiety worse. $7.31
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4 p.m. — At home, I cut up squash, drizzle it with olive oil, toss on garlic powder and dill, and throw it in the oven to roast for an hour. We're having meatballs with squash and salad for supper before I head out for the evening. T. is staying home because he's introverted and doesn't do well with social gatherings. I get an email from Protect Our Winters Canada (I'm a member) sharing a campaign about the Coastal GasLink Pipeline and the big Canadian banks that are financing it. I join the campaign and send an email sharing my thoughts. I'm a pretty passional environmentalist, and I'm against the construction of more oil and gas infrastructure. Canada needs to make the switch to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible to help combat climate change and stop funding fossil fuel projects. I'm so lucky to live in an area with a beautiful outdoor playground that's so accessible, and I believe in protecting and preserving it.
5 p.m. — T. gets home with our drinking water jugs filled up. After we eat, I get ready to go out: jeans with a black T-shirt and a plaid shirt on top, makeup, and jewelry. I'm still anxious about going, but it's too late to back out now. A friend and our DD pick me up at 7 p.m.
10 p.m. — I'm having a great time! As usual, my anxiety gets better once I'm out. We do JELLO shots and dance. The shots are deadly, so I sip one drink and water for the rest of the night. I hate being hungover.
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12 a.m. — The DD drops me off at home. I heat up leftover squash and meatballs in the microwave for a midnight snack and have another big glass of water before going to bed.
Daily Total: $7.31

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up feeling good! T. and I have coffee while I tell him about the evening. He makes us eggs with goat cheese and salsa on sourdough toast for breakfast.
10:30 a.m. — It snowed overnight, so we go outside to shovel our patio and clear off the cars. I love winter, especially snowboarding and skiing, but our local hill isn't open quite yet. Hopefully soon!
12 p.m. — We spend the rest of the morning vacuuming and doing dishes and laundry. I also do our meal plan and shopping list for the upcoming week while I have crackers with homemade cashew dip and an Evive smoothie. T. makes himself pasta with baked baby tomatoes and goat cheese, and researches rental car options for Iceland. The snow is still coming down outside, and I do a short yoga and stretching session before we leave for town.
2 p.m. — It's snowing even harder in town than at our place! I love this weather. It reminds me of the heavy snowfalls we got in my hometown. Our first stop is at a thrift store because T. is looking for a used winter coat he can wear to work. He has no luck, but I find a meal planning paper set for $0.25 and a pair of lobster-print pajama pants for $2 to add to a Christmas gag gift. $2.25
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2 p.m. — Then we go to a local market and coffee bar for coffee and to return glass bottles for our deposit. I get an oat nog latte, and T. gets a London fog. While we're there, we see an organic chocolate-hazelnut sourdough loaf and can't resist. T. pays $11.25 for our coffees and the bread, and I leave the barista a cash tip of $2.50. $2.50
2 p.m. — Back in the car, we enjoy our coffee and split a slice of the bread while we watch the snow come down. Next up is another local market for honey ($19). Then we visit a housewares store for a new garlic keeper and butter dish. Our garlic keeper broke a few weeks ago, and we haven't replaced it yet, and I'd like to upgrade to a ceramic butter dish from our cheap plastic one. These purchases come to $41.44. I could've gotten these items cheaper on Amazon, but I want to buy locally where I can. When we need to purchase something for our home, clothes, accessories, or gear, our philosophy is to buy a few, high-quality items that will last. Our final stop is a consignment clothing store, but the prices are quite high, and we leave empty-handed. $41.44
4 p.m. — We arrive back home, and it's now raining at our place. I work on this Money Diary while T. reserves our rental car for Iceland. Then he gets to work on making butter chicken for dinner.
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6 p.m. — We each have a THC gummy, watch Inception, and eat our butter chicken. It's too good, and I have seconds even though I've been trying not to do that. For dessert, we have chocolate-hazelnut bread.
9 p.m. — The gummies have kicked in now, the movie is getting weirder, and we're having a nice, hilarious high time. We're in bed by 10 p.m., and I have a good sleep thanks to the gummy.
Daily Total: $65.19

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up and have coffee and chocolate-hazelnut toast for breakfast while scrolling Instagram. Then I shower, wash my hair, and make the bed. I still have laundry to fold and a ton of dishes to do from yesterday. Instead of doing either of these things, I shop Kijiji Autos for a new (used) vehicle because my current one is slowly dying. I'll drive this one into the ground and then get something new to me. I just don't know when that will happen.
11 a.m. — We head into town to get groceries and drop off plastic and paper recycling. At the grocery store, we get pasta sauce, chilli powder, cinnamon, thyme, pasta, salsa, sparkling water, Parmesan, roasted almonds, cashews, dairy-free coffee creamer, cauliflower, spinach, garlic, cucumbers, bananas, green onions, a red onion, a yellow onion, carrots, mushrooms, tortillas, sandwich meat, and pork roast. Our total comes to $119.13 but I have $20 in loyalty program rewards points we can use, so I do that and our new total is $99.13. Not bad! T. pays me half of that amount. $49.13
11 a.m. — I swing into the dollar store for craft supplies because I'm thinking about redoing my Christmas wreath, but it doesn't have what I'm looking for. I might have some stuff at home that I can reuse, which is the sustainable option anyway. T. is still looking for a new work jacket so he goes into a home goods place while I'm in the dollar store. I find him there when I'm done and see an essential oil blend I've been looking for. It's called Sugar Plum and smells so good. I pick it up for $14.55. Then we drop off our recycling and drive home. $14.55
1 p.m. — I unload groceries, while T. makes us quesadillas with black beans, goat cheese, salsa, and green onions for lunch. We brew a French press coffee, too, before I resign myself to doing the dishes.
3 p.m. — Dishes done and laundry folded, I mix a grapefruit sparkling water with orange juice and get out my craft supplies and Christmas wreath and rework it into something I like more. When I'm done, glitter is all over the living room carpet, so I clean it up.

4 p.m. — I start cooking Italian wedding soup for supper but don't get far before deciding to visit with our neighbours outside around the campfire.
6:30 p.m. — We always visit longer than we intend to. Back inside, I get started again on supper, and we're eating by 7:30 p.m. This is a new recipe for us, and it's so good! We watch Parts Unknown while we eat, and I'm in bed by 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $63.68
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