A Week In Saint Louis, MO On A $25,000 Salary

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Today: a college adviser who makes $25,000 per year and spends some of her money on pizza.
Occupation: College Adviser
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: Saint Louis, MO
Salary: $25,000
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $1,668.86
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $425 (My half for the 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom that I share with one roommate) Electricity, Gas, Internet: ~$70/80 per month (my half, split with my roommate)
Loans: $0 (I owe $19,524, but my loans are currently in deferment since my job is through AmeriCorps)
Health Insurance: $62.24 (Taken straight from paycheck)
403(b) Retirement: $90 (Taken straight from paycheck)
Phone: $0 (I'm still on my family's plan)
Gym Membership: $200/year
Netflix: $0 (I use my high school friend's account.)
Car Insurance: $70/month

Day One

10 a.m. — I wake up naturally, feeling particularly well rested from a long night's sleep after getting back into town the day prior. I'm pretty pleased because I used to be a night owl in college and would wake up past noon most days. Now that I've been working at a high school for a year and a half, waking up after 9 a.m. feels like a treat, and I still have a whole day of daylight ahead of me! I stay in bed scrolling on my phone for an hour before my stomach tells me to get up. I microwave some Trader Joe's scallion pancakes that I had sautéed yesterday and figure out what I need to do in order to get ready for the upcoming week.
12 p.m. — Since I was out of town last week, I sadly have a long list of chores to get done. Although it's a bit of a hassle, I shop at different locations in order to save money and find the best deals. I do most of my shopping at the discount store, but since I don't find everything I want, I head over to Trader Joe's. (Discount Store: broccoli, cauliflower rice, ground beef, pork rinds, goat cheese, breakfast bars, prosciutto, heavy cream, salami, cauliflower, cucumber, and a bottle of wine for $3!!! $38.05; TJ's: chicken breast, bacon, cheddar, string cheese, blackberries, bell pepper, avocado $33.38). Target is right across the street from Trader Joe's, and I make it safely out of the store with only the cleaning supplies I intended to buy (sponge, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and paper towels) $39.77. I swing by the gas station at the wholesale club on my way home and fill up my tank (I have a membership through my job), the gas comes to $5.41. $116.61
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3 p.m. — I head home, bags in hand, to find my roommate, L., reading the book Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, I left out on the kitchen table. She's engrossed!!! We chat animatedly about our predictions for the story. This feels particularly exciting because L. usually only skim reads or reads bits and pieces of the books that I'm reading.
4:30 p.m. — L. decides to walk to the local bookstore to buy her brother a belated birthday present. It's REALLY nice outside so I decide to go with her. Although I'm usually tempted to buy books, I resist, having pledged to check out books from the library before deciding to purchase it. (Look at me go!!) L. buys Samin Nosrat's Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (it will literally CHANGE your life). She's also looking particularly great, in a jean jacket and scarf tied around her neck, so I insist on an impromptu photoshoot against a brick wall outside. I wind up taking approximately 37 photos.
5:30 p.m. — I typically meal prep on Sundays, and I decide to make cauliflower mac and cheese with bacon. I've been on a low-carb diet for the last six months, and it's really pushed me to expand my cooking repertoire. My friend started it after her anxiety medicine caused her to gain a lot of weight. It was a way for her to regain agency over her body, and she began to make consciously healthier decisions for herself. I've always struggled with weight gain myself and followed suit. I'm not super strict about following the diet exactly, and I'm enjoying it much more than I expected I would. I wind up making three potions and eat dinner while packing the other two for the work week. It's a little less than I expected, so I plan on cooking again tomorrow and throw some chicken in the fridge to marinate overnight.
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7:30 p.m. — L. caught up to my bookmark while I was cooking, and I'm able to tell her all my thoughts that I had held back previously. We take turns reading chapters and catching up to each other. It feels uniquely intimate to be sharing the book like this, and I'm suddenly struck by how much I'll miss L. when she moves in May for a graduate program. We are very compatible roommates (We have the same level of cleanliness! We like doing different chores! We both LOVE food!). We went to the same university but didn't meet until we started working. We're both employed through a program at our university that places recent graduates in local high schools as college advisers. It's very comforting to have a network of young individuals who are experiencing similar challenges at other high schools. L. and I will often debrief our work days with each other and share the most outrageous thing a kid said to us.
9:30 p.m. — I shower and proceed with my extensive skin care routine. I have become obsessed with Korean skin care in the last few months. I have very oily and sensitive skin. My skin gave me a ton of grief throughout high school and college, and it's only recently decided to calm down. I double cleanse and exfoliate, then apply toner, essence, a serum to help with acne, eye cream, and moisturizer. My skin is loving me right now, it's the best it's ever been, except for a break out along my chin. My friends and Google tell me that that's due to stress and hormones. When I think about it, I have been stressed thinking about my future — perhaps more so than I realized. My job is a two-year position ending in June, and I have been applying to graduate schools, but I'm still feeling very lost and uncertain. I take some melatonin and am asleep by 11.
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Daily Total: $116.61

Day Two

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off but I don't drag myself out of bed until 6:20. Although I've gotten used to waking up earlier, I am still not a morning person and my routine is pretty simple. I don't eat breakfast. I also don't use makeup regularly. I simply wash my face, moisturize, and apply sunscreen before changing, packing my lunch, and rolling out the door. Today, I wake up to find that L. has made sourdough bread. I am shaken to my core!!! What is it like to be a morning person? The bread looks amazing, and I promise to eat a little later. I roll out of the house at 6:50.
7 a.m. — I arrive at work. My commute only takes around 10-15 minutes depending on how many red lights I hit on the way. The first bell rings at 7:10 a.m. It's the week after spring break and I actually feel okay? Like refreshed? Not tired? I was hitting a major slump before spring break and I'm glad to be back. I mostly catch up on a bunch of logistical stuff like emails, logging data, and submitting expenses. Our school operates on a weird block schedule so none of the senior class is here. I work primarily with seniors to prepare them for their futures beyond high school, but they're all out on their school-required internships, so it's a quiet day for me.
8 a.m. — In the midst of the logistics, I apply for a travel credit card with a big sign-up bonus. I instantly get approved and feel needlessly pleased with myself. I got super into credit cards and building credit two years ago. I was amazed to learn that you could earn money for spending money that you would already spend! I also want to be able to travel, but know that I'll likely never wind up in a super profitable job, so this seems like a great way to travel for cheap/free. I use my credit cards like a debit cards and always pay the balance in full, never generating any interest. The sign-up bonus for this card is pretty hefty, but I'll probably need to spend some money for work/ask my mom to use the card and get reimbursed in order to hit the minimum spend to get the bonus.
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11 a.m. — I munch on a breakfast bar, string cheese, and turkey sausage stick. I chitchat with my co-workers about their spring breaks, which they all spent with their children. I've slowly gotten used to being the youngest working person in my school. Coming straight from undergrad, it was an adjustment to not be surrounded by individuals who were experiencing the same life stage as I was. Talking with them, I now appreciate being able to go home and just lie down instead of taking care of another human being.
12 p.m. — I quickly eat my bacon cauliflower mac and cheese for lunch. Our school is hosting the state ACT test tomorrow for juniors, and the counselor in charge is very stressed about it running smoothly. She's an expert at administering the test, this will be her sixth or seventh time by now, but anxiety is a real thing and I promised to help her with set up. We set up the tables and she tells me what to do if — god forbid — she suddenly can't make it to school the next day to administer the test.
3 p.m. — I leave school late after helping count calculators and sharpening pencils. School gets out at 2:07 p.m., and I'm typically gone by 2:30. I LOVE that I get out of work so early in the day because I feel like I have a ton of time to do what I need to do. I head home and snack on a slice of prosciutto, cucumber, and goat cheese, before getting ready to go to the gym. On my way out, I stuff my mouth with a handful of blackberries.
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4:30 p.m. — I attend a cardio barre class at the gym of my alma mater. Even though I work at a high school, my job is through a program by the university and I count as staff, so I get a sweet employee discount. I enjoy classes so much more than just cluelessly trying to figure out what to do at the gym.
5:40 p.m. — I jump in the shower once I get home. I decide to make a cauliflower stir fry with the marinated chicken, bell peppers, onion, and broccoli. It's AMAZING and worth the nearly hour and a half it takes to make. I get hungry while cooking so I toast a slice of L.'s sourdough bread with some cheese and munch while I chop the vegetables. When it's done, I eat a bowl of the stir fry for dinner before packing the rest of it in Tupperware for the rest of the week.
7:30 p.m. — I curl up on the couch and finish the rest of Little Fires Everywhere. The ending isn't the most satisfying for me. I think that the characters were written amazingly to the point where I felt like I knew them, but thinking about it, the plot isn't that intriguing to me. L. comes home at some point while I'm reading the book and looks concerned every time I gasp or make alarming noises. I pass it onto her eager hands before I start getting ready for bed.
10 p.m. — I crawl into bed after my nighttime skin care routine and take a melatonin. I'm determined to sleep early in order to get to school an hour earlier than usual to help with the ACT tomorrow. I'm asleep by 10:30.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I snooze it for 30 minutes before dragging myself out of bed. I run through my morning routine quickly and am out the door at 6 just as L. is emerging from her room.
6:15 a.m. — I arrive at school and the parking lot is empty except for a couple of cars. I recognize the counselor's car and quickly make my way to the gym where I find her. We set up and before we know it, it's 7:10 and juniors are moaning and groaning as they pour into the gym. It takes a while to get situated and for all the instructions to be read, but the test is finally underway. I run around the hallways to find our clerk and set up snacks for the mid-test break. Once that's set up, I walk around the gym amongst the other proctors, passing out tissues and making sure students are staying awake.
10 a.m. — In the midst of proctoring, I realize that today is Election Day! I always do my voting research super last minute since I live a block and a half away from my polling place, and there is never a line. I make a mental note to do some research when the test is over.
11:45 a.m. — The test finishes! I sneak away to snack on my breakfast bar, string cheese, and turkey sausage stick before helping to deconstruct the tables and chairs that were set up in the gym. After, I head back to my office, which is flooded with seniors who all need my help with something. I tell them that I am going to close my door for 10 minutes and eat my lunch in peace. I swallow down my bacon mac and cheese quickly before opening the door to the madness.
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3 p.m. — I wind up leaving work late again because we had to pack up the tests to send back to ACT. My body is TIRED. I have really gotten all my steps in today. I head home and do some research on the issues on my ballot. There's a couple of openings on the school board, which my coworker mentioned in passing. I walk over to my polling place, a church at the end of the block. There's no line, and I am done voting in less than 10 minutes. I get a cute Saint Louis-themed “I Voted” sticker and send a picture of it to some friends.
5 p.m. — I munch on some pistachios when I get home. When I'm still in the mood to munch, I throw some goat cheese, salami, cucumbers, and prosciutto onto a plate. The rest of the night continues in this vein, and I graze a little bit on some pork rinds and some bacon. This winds up filling me up, so I forego a formal dinner. While I eat, I settle into my bed and watch the finale of a K-Drama called Touch Your Heart. It's lighthearted and easy to watch as it isn't bogged down in much pointless drama, but that's kinda what's been speaking to me these days. My heart can't take too much drawn out suspense right now.
8 p.m. — My younger sister who lives at home texts me some scandalous news about my little brother who is still in high school. Apparently, it involves a girl. I'm scandalized because I still view him as a baby. I FaceTime him, and he evades my questions like only a high schooler can. I wonder if he doesn't tell me things because I'm his sister or because he truly doesn't know how to be in touch with his feelings. After a while, we are just sitting with the phone on while he does his homework. He's jabbering nonsense, and I appreciate the time together. I left home for college when he was only 11, so we spent a lot of his formative years apart. Sometimes, I wish I lived closer to my parents because of my siblings, but then I think about who my parents are and quickly shake myself out of that delusion.
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9:30 p.m. — I hang up the phone with my brother, and chat with L., who just got home, about her day. Because we both love analyzing our dumb brothers and wondering what goes on in their brains, I share my non-conversation with my brother. I shower and wash my face. Before I know it, it's 11 p.m. and I need to force myself to wind down for bed. I send a quick text to some friends to see if they're down to hang tomorrow. The plans that we had suggested were pretty wishy-washy so I'm not certain it'll happen. I crawl into bed, sans melatonin, and fall asleep around 11:20.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6 a.m. — My alarm blares, and I crawl out of bed instead of waiting for my next few alarms. After I wash my face, I am so impressed that I've accomplished so much at only 6:15 that I let myself lie in bed for 10 minutes before getting up to change. I pack the cauliflower stir fry for lunch and head off to work.
11 a.m. — A coworker tells me that there's free food in the teacher's lounge! Some company is trying to get us to buy into their retirement plans. The free food works, and I wind up signing up for an informational meeting with this group. I don't even know what the company is called, but now I have a small plate with two chicken wings and a garden salad. I eat in my office along with the snacks I packed (breakfast bar, string cheese, turkey sausage stick, you know the deal). My friend texts me that she's down to hang tonight, and we make plans for me to go to her place.
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12 p.m. — I take a walk to the fried chicken place across the street with a coworker who elected not to take advantage of the free food (???!?!?!) so she can get lunch. Standing in line with her, I cave and ask my coworker to get an extra side of jalapeño cheese bombers for me. Back at school, I realize I forgot my wallet, so I have to pay my coworker back tomorrow.
1 p.m. — I take a quick call from a financial aid officer for one of the graduate programs I'm considering. He is thoroughly unhelpful talking about all the different loan options I could take out. The school drops to the bottom of my list of options. WHY IS EDUCATION SO EXPENSIVE?! A student visits me and sits in my office for the rest of the school day. He winds up telling me some stories about his experiences being mixed and trans. When the bell rings, he packs his bag and tells me I'm “a good ear to talk to.” I nearly cry!!!!! Interacting with students, especially when I get to navigate difficult conversations about identity, makes my job truly worth it.
3 p.m. — I arrive home and find my car registration in the mail. I take out the recycling and it's a wonderful 60 degrees outside! I get too excited about the weather and change into overalls. They're a couple sizes too big, so I text a friend about thrifting together for new clothes. I head out to my friend's place, just as L. gets home. She tells me that she made a quiche on Tuesday morning and says that I'm free to try it when I get the chance. I wonder if my roommate is some kind of forest fairy sent to bless me.
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5:30 p.m. — I get to my friend's place. We are both trying to save money, so I brought the lunch that I didn't eat at school today and some pistachios. She cooks a Blue Apron meal, and it looks bland as shit. We eat together, and I fill her in about the boy I broke things off with the day I got back from my trip. (Being apart made me think about what exactly I was getting out of the relationship…which wasn't much). She tells me about her first big disagreement with her new girlfriend. Since we are both applying to different graduate programs, we try to figure out where our lives are leading us and commiserate over the uncertainty and the fact that we most likely won't be in the same city in a few months.
8:30 p.m. — Once I get back home, I decide to take a short walk to take the compost out to the community garden. By the time I get home from my walk, I have a text from my friend asking me if I am alive and if I've arrived safely. I send a quick apology text back assuring her I'm intact. I jump in the shower. I sit in bed watching a couple Glamour videos about how people spend their money on YouTube. I think it's so fascinating how differently people relate to money!! I finish up washing my face and head to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

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6:30 a.m. — I wake up naturally and roll over to sleep more because I can! I get out of bed at around 7:10. My throat is feeling a little sore, which is my tell-tale sign that I'm getting sick, so I take some cold medicine. I wind up dilly-dallying too much and curse when I realize that I'm late. On my way out, I see my neighbor's car is still on our street. He's also a college adviser working in the same district so I know he's supposed to be at the meeting, too. I send him a quick “ur still here???” text and drive off. I'm using my phone GPS so I see the incoming texts of confusion then PROFANITY as he realizes what I'm talking about. I laugh because this is completely in character for him, and I feel gratified that I'm not going to be the last one to the meeting. However, as I exit off of the highway, I see he somehow caught up to me. We wind up strolling into the office at the same time only a few minutes late.
9:30 a.m. — The meeting ends, and I chitchat with my neighbor and another college adviser because we are planning on hanging out tonight. Then I head to school. It's a ghost town, and turns out it's senior skip day. If I could roll my eyes like slot machines I would because technically every day is senior skip day. I eat my breakfast bar and remember to pay back my coworker for the cheese bombers yesterday. She tries to wave it off, but I insist. $2
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11:30 a.m. — A lone senior comes into my office, and he's not his usual self. Turn out his court hearing didn't go too well. He got into some legal trouble last year as a juvenile but is being tried as an adult. Now he's juggling trying to graduate while also navigating this process by himself. I hate America's legal system. I recommend The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and tell him that I'll bring it tomorrow. He tells me he might not be at school tomorrow since senior skip day might have a part two.
12 p.m. — I co-sponsor our school's Gay-Straight Alliance and head over to the classroom where we hold meetings. We just started the club, and it's struggling to get its footing. Right now, it's mostly a group of friends who hang out. They chat about the upcoming Pride Week and decide to wear their GSA shirts tomorrow. Internally, I WEEP thinking about what a group like this would've meant to me as a teen.
1 p.m. — A junior wanders in during the last period and asks to sit in my office. He's supposed to be in science class, but there's a permanent substitute in that class since our junior science teacher bailed over winter break. I know that students just goof off in the class, so I give him permission to stay instead of shooing him back to class. He sits down and falls asleep immediately. I worry about why he doesn't get enough sleep at home. This isn't the first time this has happened. I heat up my cauliflower stir fry and eat a late lunch (it's late when your work day ends at 2 p.m.).
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1:30 p.m. — A senior comes in with questions about financial aid. I step into the counseling space to talk to her, so we don't disturb the junior who is sleeping. Turns out she's been selected for verification and needs to submit extra documents in order to get her financial aid. She's upset and nearly cries. I'm frustrated too because Pell-eligible students seem to be way more likely to be “randomly” selected for this, making an already confusing educational system even HARDER to navigate!!!! After being an open ear for her, she tells me she's going to miss me when she graduates. My heart explodes.
3 p.m. — I leave work and head to the university to pick up the bags that my boss ordered, so that I can make goodie bags for Decision Day. I chat with my boss about my future and about the hiring process since we're actively recruiting for new hires. I head home and snack on the last of the prosciutto, cucumbers, and goat cheese. I remember the quiche and wind up eating a slice of that, too.
5 p.m. — Last week, my neighbor came up with a really inane idea to go to Sam's Club and IKEA and compare their pizzas. I love it. We meet up with a couple of other college advisers to carry out this idea. At Sam's Club, the pizza slice is HUGE and has great toppings but is really more like cheese bread than a true pizza ($2.19). At IKEA, I decide to get a hot dog instead since I'm all pizza-ed out ($1). I take a bite of someone else's pizza, and we decide that IKEA's pizza has a much better cheese-to-sauce ratio, but it's smaller and you can't get any toppings. For me, the fun of pizza is in the toppings so Sam's Club wins. We walk around IKEA and wind up spending a lot of time testing out the mattresses and ranking them. Some mattresses are atrocious although the price would have you thinking otherwise. I want to get tea candles since IKEA sells them in bulk, so L., graciously buys them for the apartment since I bought candles last time. $3.19
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9 p.m. — I get home and shower. My sister texts me out of the blue asking if I think she has bipolar II disorder. I tell her I'm not a professional who can diagnose her and encourage her to talk to one if she's relating to what she's googling. Our parents never talk about mental health, and our family is really weird about being open about our feelings. I was fortunate enough to find a community in college that helped me grow and nurture myself, so I'm hoping she'll hear what I'm saying. I'm suddenly feeling super exhausted from the day. I head to bed and watch H.E.R.'s Tiny Desk concert while paying a credit card bill. I fall asleep right before 11.
Daily Total: $5.19

Day Six

6 a.m. — I wake up, and my throat still hurts, so I take some more cold medicine. I get dressed and then remember to switch to my GSA shirt last minute. It's a groggy morning for me, and I wind up slinking into the building 10 minutes past the first bell. Turns out the seniors have indeed decided to have a Skip Day part two and hardly anybody is here (again). I decide to stuff the goodie bags for most of the morning.
9 a.m. — My neighbor texts me inviting me to his friend's art showcase. I only know this person peripherally, but don't have anything planned to do that night so I agree.
11 a.m. — I eat my typical snacks and cauliflower stir fry lunch. Some seniors who've come to school trickle in and I help them with scholarships.
2:30 p.m. — It's the weekend! I listen to Khalid's new album on the way home and continue to listen when I'm at home. I munch on some Thin Mints and decide that my eyebrows are looking a mess. I walk to the eyebrow place that's five minutes away to get them threaded. $12
5 p.m. — I head over to my neighbor's place, and we hang out for a bit before getting a text from L. saying that she's made chicken and salad to share. We walk across the street to eat with her before heading out to the art thing with his roommate.
7 p.m. — The art showcase is a senior showcase for my college, so I run into way too many people I know. I make awkward small talk and die inside. There's free wine and appetizers though, so I munch until I'm full. The art is also nice! Eventually, we leave and my neighbor's roommate wants to get an Impossible Whopper from Burger King (currently only available in STL!). The first Burger King we wind up at has a sign that says, “SOLD OUT OF IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPERS, WILL HAVE MORE TOMORROW.” It's impossibly funny to me. We go to another location and my neighbor's roommate is able to have his fill. I ask to have a bite, and I'm blown away by how much it tastes like the actual thing.
9 p.m. — We wind up back at my neighbor's place and have an impromptu dance party. My neighbor and his roommate show me the song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, and I cannot BELIEVE my ears. It's incredible. I drink more wine and dance the night away.
11 p.m. — I walk back home. I don't shower and just wash my face since I'm gonna go to gym the next morning. I'm asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $12

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up and get out of bed slowly. I head to my gym class, which is mostly legs and some weights. Afterwards, I shakily walk to the library and return a couple of books. I feel so productive, and it's not even noon!
12 p.m. — I arrive home and make myself shower before anything else. I am STARVING. I inhale two eggs cooked over easy with an avocado and the rest of my cauliflower stir fry. It's a GORGEOUS day outside, and I want to prance around a park or something. I check my phone and realize I have plans to go thrifting this afternoon.
1 p.m. — I meet up with my friend and her partner and we head to two thrift stores. Since I started my low-carb diet, clothes are starting to become too baggy on me. I don't want to spend a ton of extra money on a new wardrobe, so I'm excited to thrift. I wind up getting a NICE haul (five pairs of shorts (lol), mom jeans, a pair of work pants, a puffy vest, and three tops). Afterwards, we decide to sit in a park and watch ducks swimming in a creek. It's so relaxing and the sun is perfect. We catch up, trading stories, and I'm so glad to have people in my life who spend time with me like this. $86.11
5 p.m. — We realize it's almost dinner time, and my friend asks if I mind if we stop by the grocery store since it's on the way to their home and I hitched a ride with them. I don't mind and wind up buying some non-perishable foods (chicken stock, tikka masala sauce, turkey sausage sticks, more salami, prosciutto, breakfast bars, meatless sausages, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese). With what I have still left in my fridge, I should be able to get through next week with this! $31.80
7 p.m. — I arrive home! My new credit card is in the mail. I am, once again, FAMISHED. I eat the last of my cauliflower stir fry and munch on salami, goat cheese, cucumbers, and blackberries. I try to bake the cheddar cheese to make this keto “cheez its” recipe I found on reddit. I use foil instead of parchment paper and it does not go well. The cheese winds up sticking to the foil and I decide to try again another time if I ever get my hands on parchment paper.
9 p.m. — I FaceTime my mother quickly and chitchat about nothing. That's kinda what you do when you want your parent in your life but know they aren't going to be receptive to anything substantial you would have to say (politics, potential romantic interests, etc). Then, I catch up on Jane the Virgin. With Season Four's BOMBSHELL FINALE, I wasn't sure how they'd tackle season five. Post-episode two, I'm both surprised and on edge (no spoilers from me!!!). I text ideas and feelings to a friend who yells with me about the most recent episode. By midnight, I pass out.
Daily Total: $117.91
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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