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A Week In Northern Kentucky On A $17,000 Salary

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Today: a bridal stylist who makes $17,000 per year and spends some of their money this week on a mini backpack.
Occupation: Bridal Stylist/Event Staff/Actor/Small Business Owner
Industry: Various
Age: 24
Location: Northern Kentucky
Salary: $17,000
Net Worth: $20,350 ($1,000 in my checking account, $3,000 in a high-yield savings account, $850 in a personal investing account, $500 in a Roth IRA and I own my car, which at the time of writing is worth approximately $20,000 according to KBB, minus debt).
Debt: $5,000 to a family member for business startup.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): Job one: $500 (+variable commission/tips), Job two: $250. Anything from other jobs is not guaranteed monthly.
Pronouns: He/she/they

Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $825 for a two-bedroom apartment I share with my partner.
Electric: $35-$75
Spotify: $13
Massage Subscription: $100
Medication: $20
Pet Insurance: $45
Chiropractor: $160 ($40/visit but I pay monthly).

Annual Expenses
Nintendo Online Subscription: $50
Phone Plan via Mint Mobile: $250
Property Taxes for Car: $350
Renter's Insurance: $110
Antivirus Software: $50
Agency Website Fee: $100
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. Thankfully, both my parents were always very supportive of me wanting to get a degree in theater. I got a high enough ACT score to get tuition covered and my parents paid for the rest (they saw getting tuition covered as “doing my part”). It was always kind of understood that, provided I got as many scholarships as I could to contribute, they would cover the rest.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We had many, many conversations. At about age 12 I was introduced to the Dave Ramsey envelope method where you save some, spend some and give some. My mom made the stereotypical twentysomething mistake of ending up with a lot of credit card debt and as she got older, she got very serious about being more responsible with money and paying off her debt/not going into debt ever again. I had a little kiddie-sized ATM piggy bank that I thought was the coolest thing ever and saved up for things I wanted. I remember my first “big” purchase was a Nintendo DS Lite and a Hannah Montana game, which would've been about $130, in cash. I was so proud of myself.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working in retail at age 16 so I could have spending money. My first paycheck was around $200 and I spent the whole thing on clothes. I remember telling my mom I felt rich.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. I was conscious of money and how much things cost — for example, I went to summer camp and I was responsible for researching camps including schedules and pricing, but my dad always paid for it all. We went on vacation yearly, I always got my big-ticket item at Christmas and I had dance, voice and flute lessons weekly for over a decade. I didn't get everything I wanted but I never wanted for anything necessary. My mom always had to be more careful with her money, but she managed fine (she and my dad have been divorced since I was two).
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. Constantly. I am chronically ill/disabled with multiple conditions and it affects my life every single day. I can't work as much as I'd like at my normal jobs (only about 20-25 hours a week) so I am always looking for side gigs and other sources of income to supplement things. There's also the constant fear that I may have a flare-up and be unable to work for who knows how long. I am constantly putting money into my emergency fund so I can keep myself afloat if I can't work. I also can't make too much money because my insurance (KY Medicaid) has an income cap.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I was 20, I cut myself off financially from my dad for various reasons. I got off his insurance, bought myself a new phone, started covering my phone plan, moved out of university housing and stopped accepting monthly stipends that I used to cover things like my massages and extraneous medications. Today I pay for just about everything except my car insurance and we're looking at switching that over to my name this year. If I needed it my mom, my partner, my partner's family and ultimately even my dad would absolutely help (though my dad would be a dire last resort) but I will hopefully never have to ask them.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My mom and I were in a car crash and were each awarded $40,000 in restitution. I bought my car and used the rest to pay for college expenses after cutting myself off from my dad. My aunt took out a life insurance policy for me when I was born that matured to $5,000 when I turned 21. I put $2,000 of it into opening my business and the rest was used for daily living expenses and savings. I am having surgery for my migraines and the procedure is not covered by insurance and costs a little over $15,000. My partner and I scraped together what we could and my mom submitted to take the rest of the money out of her 401(k) due to medical hardship. Due to taxes and the penalty for using it before retirement, she had to take out a lot more than just the amount we owe. It's a gift I will physically and emotionally never be able to pay back.

Day One

4:30 a.m. — Wake up from horrible sleep/dreams and don't want to go back to bed anytime soon. I play on my phone, play with the cat and eat breakfast (Honey Nut Cheerios and water, I eat this every day). Go back to sleep around 6:30.
9:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling even worse! I love my life! I'm exhausted, I'm having massive brain fog and my head hurts. I take my meds and eat a few gluten-free mini cupcakes from Trader Joe's to cheer myself up. It doesn't really work but hey, cupcakes. I'm drowsy again after about an hour and lie down for a nap after taking meds.
12:30 p.m. — I'm marginally better. Marginally. The weather is overcast and humid, meaning the barometric pressure is likely wreaking havoc on my head and causing me to be like this. My partner, B., has gone to the grocery store to get things to make a whole fish with a recipe from his Anthony Bourdain cookbook, which I promise to try as long as I see no eyeballs, guts or bones.
1:30 p.m. — I run to the mall to pick up an order I placed at Hot Topic last week: a bunch of stuff for my outfit for Taylor Swift's Eras tour. Nothing else in the store interests me despite a $50 gift card in my pocket. I pop in a few other stores and contemplate buying a very well-priced copy of Forager for Switch (I'm stocking up on things to do for when I'm on bed rest after surgery) but decide against it. B. gets pretzels and I get half of his lemonade.
3 p.m. — Time to pass out again. My head is so heavy. The cat cuddles right up next to me like always. He is the best boy.
4:45 p.m. — I don't feel better but I don't feel worse, which at this point is a win. I send a few emails for my business and work up the energy to get ready for one of my jobs. I put on compression socks to help with joint pain and compression gloves to hide the bruises I have on both hands from an ER trip last week. My nurse was very new and he tried his best but he had to stick me like four times.
6 p.m. — I get to work. Looks like it's going to be an easy shift, thankfully.
9 p.m. — The fish is not really my thing but I try to emphasize how much I appreciate B. cooking. I scroll through TikTok and my phone for an hour before taking meds, doing skincare, brushing teeth and going to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6 a.m. — Sleep is still terrible but at least I slept longer! I eat breakfast, play with the cat and fall back asleep around 7 (take my meds first).
10:30 a.m. — I feel like I slept some, which is lovely. I scroll through Facebook and window-shop on a Buy/Sell/Trade group. I discover a bag I have is on the resale market for $400-$600. It's one of my favorites so I won't part with it but it's wild to know I have something that valuable in my little collection.
12 p.m. — A much-needed chiropractor appointment but it kicks up my migraine a little. I've already paid up this month so I'm not charged.
1 p.m. — I sign some contracts and send emails for my small business, then make a list of to-dos that need to get done in the next week or so. I've been putting off ordering business cards for way too long.
1:30 p.m. — I take a nap before heading out to therapy at 3.
4:30 p.m. — I get home and eat some peanut butter and chug water. I don't have a ton of time before my shift so I do a few quick things: emails, set up a reservation for B. and my anniversary next week, update my calendar with new shifts and appointments (30 days until surgery!), activate a prepaid Visa card I was sent for one of my jobs and make a donation in lieu of flowers for a friend's mom who passed recently. $50
6 p.m. — I get to work. A musical is coming through the event center and I always get a magnet for every show I work. Most tours are nice enough to give us a staff discount so it's only $6.50. Parking is also discounted due to the company having an agreement with the garage nearby ($2). $8.50
9:30 p.m. — Get home, take a desperately needed shower and eat some vegetable soup and a baked potato. B. and I chill on the couch, watching Good Mythical Morning and catching up on the day. I intend to go to bed early but B. and I end up talking and goofing off until after midnight. I take my meds and crash into bed without doing any of my skincare around 12:30.
Daily Total: $58.50

Day Three

6 a.m. — I wake up from crazy dreams but good dreams! I record them in my dream journal. Eat breakfast then go back to bed at 7.
11 a.m. — This feels like the first time I've actually slept in ages and I'm loving it. The cat is lying on me, the bed is comfy and I happily resign myself to not moving whatsoever until I have to get ready to leave to see a show tonight with B.'s family. I take my meds, drink water and bookmark some Switch games I want to buy. Kroger has a 4x fuel point coupon on Fridays and I get 2x points at grocery stores on my credit card so even though I prefer physical copies of games, I'll likely pick up an eShop gift card on Friday to save some money. I do a lot of point maximizing to try and get the most bang for my buck.
12 p.m. — Our bathroom ceiling is leaking again so I put in a maintenance request. There is literally no way we could get a two-bedroom for anywhere near the price we're paying and that's why we stay, but it would be so nice to live in a newer building.
3:30 p.m. — After more laziness and yet another nap, I get up to get ready. I do some self-care things I've been neglecting (skincare, pluck/trim my eyebrows, press-on nails) and throw on some makeup while watching The Kitchen & Jorn Show on YouTube.
5:30 p.m. — Dinner before the show. It's a gorgeous restaurant in a trendy part of the city. I get fancy fish and chips, which is really good but not sure it's worth the boutique price. B. gets an amazing basil cocktail. I rarely drink but I tell him to write down the ingredients so he can make it at home. B.'s mom pays the bill.
7:30 p.m. — Showtime!
10:30 p.m. — The show was amazing all around. B. pays for parking. Unfortunately, what should be a 10-minute car ride home ends up being two hours due to a wreck. We get home around midnight. I hastily take my makeup off, brush my teeth, take meds and go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6 a.m. — Wake up, eat breakfast and watch DFB Guide on YouTube. I need more Cheerios and plan to go to Kroger on Friday for the fuel points deal but a giant-size box is now $8 without a discount and with how many boxes I go through, that's hard to swallow. I shop around online and Walmart has a 32oz bag for $6, plus I have a Walmart gift card to cover it. I'll stop in today and grab them. Go back to bed at about 8.
11 a.m. — They come to fix the leak. A miracle! I sit in the living room and eat a few bobos (think snack-size oat muffins with Pop-Tart filling) while maintenance tinkers in the bathroom. Once they're done, I take another nap.
1 p.m. — Grab some prescriptions from Kroger and get a Chobani yogurt smoothie because I need to eat something and nothing sounds good. It goes on the prepaid Visa card. $1.99
2 p.m. — I go to pick up B.'s cousin from school. She needs a bridesmaid's dress for an upcoming wedding and I offer to go get it with her. We do that then go to Five Below to walk around a bit. I get a mini backpack and we both get some candy. I drop her off then run to Walmart to grab my Cheerios and cover it with the gift card. $9.85
4:30 p.m. — I'm home and even though going out and doing things usually makes me feel better, I still have a decent headache. I went to the ER only a week ago so I write in my calendar that this time next week I'll probably need another visit. I put an ice pack behind my neck and take a nap.
6:30 p.m. — I wake up hungry. I eat half a frozen cheese pizza while watching The Try Guys. I text my friend, T., to see if she wants to get ice cream and get a resounding yes so I pick her up and we get Cold Stone. I forget my wallet so she pays; we see each other often enough that I'll be able to pay her back with something else soon.
9 p.m. — I was hoping the better sleep and being hungry would be a sign that this depression slump is lightening up but then I spend 20 minutes brushing my cat and another 20 minutes scratching balls of lint off my bedsheets until the urge to pick goes away. Between my sheets and my face, I'd rather pick at my sheets. I force myself to do my entire nighttime routine (skincare, floss, brush) and shoot a message to my psychiatrist, updating her. I've decided to come off my current medication and try something else.
11 p.m. — I forgot I have book club at work this week and need to bring something to share so I add ingredients to make cream cheese dip to my Kroger list for tomorrow. I'm going to double the recipe because it's one of my safe foods and even if nothing sounds good, I'll definitely eat the leftovers in the fridge.
Daily Total: $11.84

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Friday through Sunday are my busy days. Friday is double shifts at one job, Saturday and Sunday are all my other job. I wake up, eat breakfast, take meds and go back to bed around 7 to get in another hour of sleep.
8 a.m. — Wake up and get ready in record time, including skincare. Get to work right at 9. Street parking is $5. $5
1:30 p.m. — I head over to my agency a few minutes away to film a short audition for a commercial. My eyeliner somehow lost its cap and completely dried out, which sucks because I just bought it.
2 p.m. — I finally get to Kroger. I get the ingredients for my dip (three blocks of cream cheese, two jalapeños, a bag of sweet peppers, a can of corn, a can of olives and a jar of banana peppers) plus two cans of chili and a bag of Tostitos. I also grab two bulk boxes of granola bars and a thing of water to keep in my car. I pass a lot of spots with people asking for help on my way to work and I like to try to keep something I can hand them at red lights ($40.23). All of that goes on the prepaid card. I also grab $100 worth of Nintendo eShop gift cards. $140.23
3 p.m. — I get home, put the groceries away, eat a can of chili and take a nap.
4:30 p.m. — I get up and make the dip and I think it turns out well! I scan all my receipts into Fetch (you get rewards for scanning receipts, highly recommend) and redeem my gift cards, then buy one game to download before work.
6:30 p.m. — Job number two with $2 parking. $2
9:30 p.m. — Friday night is pizza night! B. pays and I pick it up. We sit on the couch and chill with Good Mythical Morning. I shower, skincare, meds and rush into bed for the busy day tomorrow.
Daily Total: $147.23

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — I slept through the night, which is a big achievement. I eat breakfast/take meds and watch some Outside Xtra on YouTube. They talk about Dredge, the game I just bought, and now I'm super excited to play. I put on a cute outfit and some makeup (unless I'm performing I usually just do brows, eyeliner, mascara and a little bit of concealer). I substitute my usual eyeliner for a white liquid liner from ColourPop and I'm actually digging it.
8:45 a.m. — I get to work and park for free.
3 p.m. — Take a break to eat a KIND bar.
5:30 p.m. — Everyone talks me into going into a little bar down the street and I get pickle dip and tip a dollar ($6.78). The FOMO was too real to pass on it. $6.78
7:30 p.m. — B.'s alma mater is doing my favorite musical and his friend has a great part in it so we go see it (he pays for tickets). It's fine for a school production but I have to keep reminding myself not everyone went to a performing arts magnet school with crazy budgets for four shows a year. Seeing some of B.'s old friends is fun!
10:30 p.m. — I am TIRED. I stand in a hot shower for a minute, do my skincare, take meds and go to bed.
Daily Total: $6.78

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Once again I wake up at a decent time! I'm getting more hopeful that this slump is towards its end. I eat and play on my phone a bit before going back to bed.
10:30 a.m. — I wake back up and scroll a bit before getting ready for job number one.
2 p.m. — I eat a KIND bar. I don't eat a whole lunch because there's going to be a ton of food at book club.
5 p.m. — Clock out for the weekend after a wildly successful day and I'm pumped. I run home and am able to get a nap in.
6:30 p.m. — A successful first book club! We talk about everything but the book for about two hours, as expected, then get into the actual discussion.
10:30 p.m. — Meds, skincare, TikTok and bed.
Daily Total: $0
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