A Week In Halifax, NS, On The CERB

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Today: a temporarily laid-off automotive service advisor who is currently collecting $2,000 a month from CERB and spends some of her money this week on a geranium.

Occupation: Service Advisor
Industry: Automotive
Age: 23
Location: Halifax, NS
Canada Emergency Response Benefit: $2,000 a month (My regular salary is $33,000, but I'm currently laid off and collecting CERB.)
Net Worth: -$32,000
Debt: $32,000 (I have $25,000 left on my National Student Loan, and $7,000 left on my car.)

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $400 (My boyfriend, D., and I split $1,050 on a two-bedroom apartment in a quiet building. I only pay $400 because I also cover internet and power. And, yes, we know how lucky we are to have a great two-bedroom in Halifax for this price!)
Student Loan: $250 (The federal government automatically stopped withdrawing payments for six months as part of its COVID-19 response plan. I've been putting my payment amount into savings for now in case of emergency while things are so uncertain. After that, I'll probably put the savings toward paying off my car loan, because it has the higher interest out of my two loans.) 
Car Loan: $311 (I'm on an accelerated payment schedule.)
Power: $40
Internet: $69
Phone: $63.50
Car & Tenant Insurance: $90
Google Play Music: $9.99
Netflix: $0 (Thank you, boyfriend's parents)
Disney+: $0 (D. covers this)
Savings: $250

Day One

9:45 a.m. — Sunday is pancake day. D. and I have had pancakes every Sunday morning since we moved in together a few months ago. This week, I'm making blueberry-cinnamon, because I know those are his favourite. My secret for perfect, fluffy pancakes: add more baking powder than the recipe calls for and never over-mix the batter. By 10 a.m. we're topping our pancakes with Acadian maple syrup and making plans for all the things we're going to do when the current public health regulations lighten up. One of my first orders of business will be spending time on a local beach that's currently closed. A haircut tops D.'s list. 
2:30 p.m. — D. and I like to grocery shop together, but I've been going alone since the pandemic began. Our list includes potatoes, onions, carrots, cilantro, tofu, lunch meat, a loaf of bread, a couple cans of soup, coconut milk, bacon, chicken breasts, pork chops, chocolate chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, salsa, cheese, cream cheese, milk, and pierogies. I even manage to score the second-to-last bag of flour in the store: a whole 10 kgs! Today's total is $100.63. That's about $25 more than usual, because we stocked up on meat, and the cost of flour has crept up. It's D.'s turn to pay for groceries, so he transfers me $75 when I get home, leaving my share at $25.63. $25.63
3:30 p.m. — D. and I walk to the newly reopened park in our neighbourhood to see the Snowbirds on their Halifax stop of Operation Inspiration. I've been low-key obsessed with the flight demonstration team since I first saw them when I was three years old, so I'm excited, particularly because their scheduled flight path includes a pass right over our neighbourhood. We aren't the only ones who use the park as an observation point. There are all sorts of families spread out around the green space, with their heads pointed upward, waiting. When the Snowbirds finally come along, the show is just as exciting as I remember. They fly in low over the harbour from Dartmouth and do a thrilling maneuver right above us! It's really nice to have something different to focus on even for a couple of minutes. (My condolences to the friends and family of Captain Jennifer Casey, who died in the tragic crash in Kamloops.)
Daily Total: $25.63

Day Two

10:15 a.m. — My isolation boredom has reached a new level: taxes. It sucks sitting around while your boyfriend works from home, so I might as well do something productive. I gather up my forms, go to SimpleTax.ca, and start filling everything in. It doesn't take as long as I had expected, and the system tells me I should expect a nice refund. I like this website because you can choose what you pay. I select the $20 option. I'll definitely give them more when I have less debt and more disposable income. $20
2 p.m. — Even though I'm not working right now, I try to keep something resembling a routine, so I don't have too much trouble readjusting when I'm called back to work. This includes calling my dad after lunch every day. There's never much to talk about, because we're both home doing nothing, but I always call because he lives alone, and I don't want him to get lonely. Today we chat about baked goods. He says he misses having me at home because store-bought cookies just aren't as good as the ones I make. I promise to bring him a huge batch of his favourite cookies (oatmeal-cinnamon with butterscotch chips) as soon as I'm able to safely travel across the province to visit him. 
7 p.m. — For something to do, I pull my clay flower pots out of the closet. They're looking dingy from being used every year, so I grab my paint, brushes, and a roll of masking tape, and set up shop on the living room floor. I'm missing a couple of colours that I'd like to have on hand, but I'm not fussy, and I'm not going out to a big, busy store for something that small right now. After taping shapes onto the sides of the pots, I get down to adding colour to the boring orange clay. Meanwhile, D. plays video games on the couch. We have music playing in the background on our Google Home and sing along together while doing our own things. 
Daily Total: $20

Day Three

3 p.m. — D. and I only moved into our place a few weeks before the pandemic got scary, so we barely got the furniture we needed before everything shut down. We can live comfortably, but our apartment is about 80% furnished right now, and we'd like an armchair for the living room and a cart to create more space in the kitchen. We're pumped that Ikea is now open for curbside pickup, and we go online and select the items, agreeing to split the $483 total. The website has other plans for us, though. "All pick-up slots are currently full. Please try again later."
5 p.m. — It's later, so we try again. Same message.
8 p.m. — Ikea: "All pick-up slots are currently full. Please try again later."
11:30 p.m. — Ikea: "All pick-up slots are currently full. Please try again later."
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — "All pickup slots are currently full. Please try again later." Oh, come on! I go back to bed.
7:30 a.m. — Believe it or not, 7:30 a.m. is sleeping in for me. When I eventually get called to work, I'll have to go back to dragging my butt out of bed at 6 a.m. to be at my service desk by 7:15 a.m. Lately, D. and I have fallen into a routine of getting up and having breakfast, and then he reads to me for a while before starting work for the day. We're currently reading The Hobbit. It's an old favourite for him, but it's new to me, and I'm loving it. Of all the people I could be stuck with during a pandemic, I'm awfully glad I'm stuck with him. We've been together for four years, but various school and job obligations have kept us from living together until now, and boy do we live together now! Since I was laid off and he began working from home, we spend approximately 22 hours a day in the same room. I've heard of self-isolation being hard on a lot of couples, but that really isn't the case for us. We miss our friends and family, of course, but we're having a pretty great time cooking together, binge-watching shows (so far, we've burned through Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Hilda, and Phineas and Ferb), playing board games (chess, Quiddler, and Blokus), going for walks together, and planning out how we'll finish decorating the apartment when we can go to stores again. 
3 p.m. — I might not be able to buy an armchair, but garden centres were allowed to open this past weekend, so I can at least get a few herbs. I like keeping them in the house, because they're pretty but also useful. I drive a little ways out of town to a locally owned garden centre (I like to support local shops whenever I can, especially right now), and pick up four of the loveliest plants I've seen. One mint, one oregano, one sage, and one thyme. They're more expensive than they might have been at other garden centres, but I'm willing to pay $22.95 for four seedlings grown locally by someone who knows what they're doing. $22.95
Daily Total: $22.95

Day Five

9:45 a.m. — I realize that if I'm going to put my plants into the cute clay pots I painted, I probably need potting soil. I don't want to drive all the way back to where I got my plants yesterday, so I go to the nearest hardware store instead. It feels silly going into a store for just one thing during a pandemic, and I happened to have an extra pot, so I pick up a geranium along with my soil. My nana used to always have geraniums around, so I think I'll start that tradition now. $10.65
11 a.m. — I look at job postings just for the hell of it. My manager assured me I would be called back as soon as possible, so it's not like I don't have a job waiting for me, but I'm curious about what else might be out there, and I certainly have plenty of time to look. I wind up applying for a service position at a large new development. I'm qualified, and it would pay more than the job I'm waiting to return to. I would also be able to take the bus instead of driving, and I wouldn't have to cross the bridge every day, so I could cut my gas and toll budget while creating a little bit less pollution. It can't hurt to apply! 
12 p.m. — I'm feeling lazy after writing out that job application, and it's my turn to make lunch. I consider ordering pizza through Skip The Dishes, but then I remember that I'm currently relying on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to pay my share of the rent and utilities, so I do the responsible thing and put together tasty sandwiches on homemade bread. Bread is just one of the many things I've been baking in all my free time. We have a pretty constant supply of cookies, scones, cinnamon rolls, and the occasional cake these days.
7:40 p.m. — "All pick-up slots are currently full. Please try again later." Is the website broken or are there really that many people buying things from Ikea right now?
Daily Total: $10.65

Day Six

5 p.m. — D. and I are trying really hard to only eat take-out once a week and to always order from local businesses while the pandemic lasts. We don't want to get into the habit of spending too much money on food while we have all the time in the world to cook, but we still want to get to know what's available in our neighbourhood, which is still new to us. We order from a nearby Mediterranean place. I get a falafel wrap and mini samosas. The samosas are amazing, but the wrap isn't my favourite. Live and learn. We're planning on getting Korean food next week! $15
10 p.m. — "All pick-up slots are currently full. Please try again later." Sigh.
Daily Total: $15

Day Seven

3 p.m. — It hasn't been seven full days since our last grocery shop, but I'm going today because we want to make pasta from scratch tonight, and we're out of eggs. We don't need a whole lot this week. Today my list includes: carrots, tofu, a bell pepper, paper towels, canned soup, coconut milk, brown sugar, pita chips, margarine squares for baking, and cheese. I also grab a huge bag of cat food to take to my dad because he's older, and the only store he's comfortable going to these days doesn't carry the brand that the kitty eats. This week's groceries are cheaper, because we stocked up on so many things last week, and it's my turn to pay. $74.27
4:45 p.m. — "All pickup slots are currently full. Please try again later." I've heard rumours that if you place your order in the middle of the night, it actually goes through. We pretty religiously go to bed early, but we want our darn arm chair and kitchen cart, and this is getting ridiculous. We're just going to have to try staying up late.
6 p.m. — It's pasta night, and since we have all the time in the world on our hands, we're going big and making spaghetti carbonara from scratch. When we moved, D.'s parents gave us a stand mixer that has a pasta attachment, so this attempt is much easier than other times we've made pasta from scratch, armed with nothing but a rolling pin and a knife. Once we have a pile of homemade noodles ready to be boiled, we chop and fry bacon, crush a few cloves of garlic, turn the pepper grinder, crack an egg, and we're greeted with one of the best meals we've ever cooked together. This spaghetti carbonara doesn't live up to the incredible stuff I had in Strasbourg (of all places) last summer when we travelled through France, but it's awfully close! We reminisce about that while we eat and agree to save up for another European adventure when international travel becomes a thing again. 
Daily Total: $74.27
Editor's Note: The OP finally got through to Ikea at 1 a.m., two weeks after her first attempt to order an armchair and kitchen cart.
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