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I’m 29, Make $45k, & Spent $228 On My Wellness Routine This Week

Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.
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Today: A woman juggling a full-time job and a side hustle finds peace in nights in, meal prepping, and letting loose at Target.
Age: 29
Location: The suburbs of Chicago, Ilinois
Occupation: Communications Specialist, freelancer writer
Salary: $45,000/year, plus supplementary freelance writing income which is usually about $600-$800 per month
Editor’s Note: This diary was written in January 2022.
Day One
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6 a.m. — ​​I start my day the same way every morning: Getting up around 6 a.m., feeding the cat, starting the coffee maker, and enjoying about 30 minutes in bed, zoned out with a steaming cup of black coffee. My early mornings started when I adopted my needy rescue kitty, but honestly, I cherish them. They are pretty much my favorite part of the day. Some mornings, I go to my desk and get some freelance work done. Some mornings, I stare into the abyss and just let myself wake up. Today is an abyss morning.
I really appreciate that my phone is silent during this portion of time and that I never have to rush out of bed. Highly recommend it.
7:30 a.m. — I swing by Starbucks for coffee number two, which is a tall black iced coffee. Before the caffeine haters come hating, I am a recovering Starbucks addict who used to buy venti drinks every day. I don't think there is anything wrong with buying Starbucks daily if you can afford it, but I was becoming very stressed about how much money was going towards coffee. Now, as a treat, I allow myself a Starbucks drink on Mondays and Fridays! Due to my cup of coffee in bed every morning, I have found that limiting the amount of coffee I'm buying out and about is very doable. It makes me excited for this little treat to start and end my work week.
I head to work (enclosed office + mask protocol = still going in) and am checking over emails by 8:15 a.m. ($3.25)
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5 p.m. — Honestly, since the pandemic started, I have been struggling to keep up with a fitness routine. I was part of a yoga studio pre-COVID, but I haven't rekindled my membership. Instead, I've been taking baby steps to try and be more active by taking long walks. This is probably one of the last decent weather days in Chicago, so I decide to start my evening with a stroll even though I want to plant myself on the couch.
I never regret my walks! They are a great way to decompress and get a little fresh air. I used to live in the city, where I walked everywhere, so moving to the burbs was a difficult transition. I felt very shut in, especially with the pandemic happening. Something as simple as walking through the neighborhood to look at pretty houses, or through the little "downtown" district with shops and restaurants, always boosts my mood.
Daily Total: $3.25
Day Two
8:30 a.m. — I take the time to find a great Spotify playlist because work has been a little bit stressful. I find a few that carry me through the day: Wanderlust and Morning Coffee. Sometimes something as small as the right background music can be the game changer between a "good" day and "blah" day. If I am doing a task that involves writing in-depth or editing, I tend to turn off all music to focus, but today I am mostly answering emails and preparing promotional materials. Perfect Spotify-listening day!
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4:30 p.m. — I used my lunch break to order groceries from Aldi for pickup. I live and die by this method. It's so satisfying to be able to see everything in your checkout, as well as the total, and it saves me time as I just swing by Aldi after work. I usually do a grocery haul about once a week and spend around the same amount of money. Sometimes, if I get a bigger haul, my next week's cost total is lower, but on average, I am spending roughly the same amount of money week to week.
One of my biggest wellness improvements this past year has been learning to cook. I'm still not very good, but I was Carrie Bradshaw-level bad before. I was eating very unhealthily, spending tons on Uber Eats delivery, and just not feeling great about myself. This slow but steady shift of actually buying groceries and using my kitchen has been a big deal in my life.  Since I ordered fresh salmon, I decided to throw that into the oven with a side of rice and broccoli. ($82.76)
8 p.m. — I decide to "self-care" with a much-needed couch session! I am wrapped in my favorite blanket burrito style and embarking on the journey that is the Netflix show, Maid. So good. So moving. I have a good cry. I'm sleepy by around 10:30 p.m. and decide to call it a night. Mission: Relaxing Couch Sesh... Accomplished.
Daily Total: $82.76
Day Three
6 a.m. — Another relaxing morning of bed and coffee. This time, however, I invite my laptop so that I can glance over a finished freelance piece before sending it off to the editor. I was going to send it yesterday, but have learned the hard way that it's always worth looking things over with fresh eyes. I'm feeling good and motivated to kill it at work today.
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12 p.m. — I dig into the lunch I brought, which is carrots and hummus, turkey meatballs, and quinoa. I also eat a few almonds that I was saving for an afternoon snack. Homemade lunches have also been part of my big "better relationship with food" endeavor. One of the biggest things that has helped me is investing in a cute lunchbox... no joke. We are all children at heart.
5:30 p.m. — I stop home after work, feed my kitty, and then head to visit one of my best friends who lives about 20 minutes away. I love spending weeknights with her. We are always perfectly content with sitting on the couch, chatting away, and occasionally putting on a TV show or movie. She loves making soup and wanted to make some. We indulge in chicken enchilada soup with French bread, browse Netflix and Hulu options, but then spend the next three hours talking. True friendship! Easy, expectation-less nights like these with dear friends are one of my favorite things about this life.
I try to insist on Venmoing her but she refuses to let me. I tell her that I'll treat her to dinner next time.
Daily Total: $0
Day Four
6:15 a.m. — I decide to start my day checking my Animal Crossing island. I go through phases with this game and have no shame in my love for it. It's very relaxing. I don't like to look at my phone during my morning coffee session but I make an exception for screens so that I can meet a new island resident.
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I started playing Animal Crossing during the pandemic like the rest of the world. It's been a fun and chill way to de-stress. You literally construct and decorate an island which houses adorable little talking animals. It's strange. It's weird. And it's incredibly addicting. I haven't played much in the last few weeks, and randomly feel good about starting my day with this silly game.
6:15 p.m. — I really want to put on the next episode of Maid but decide to hunker down and work on a freelance project that's due soon. I dabbled in freelance writing a couple of years ago, and recently worked hard to revive this side gig as a way to earn a little extra income and occupy my time. It has taken a lot of hard work to get this side gig going, but I'm now contributing consistently to a few different outlets. I absolutely love it and feel motivated to build up a portfolio. I spend about two hours writing, then decide to close my laptop and indulge in TV time.
This is my first time living alone, and I've been finding that I have way too much time to overthink pretty much everything. That thing I said three years ago? AWFUL! This hypothetical scenario that may happen next year? TERRIFYING! I ended up doing some teletherapy after my move, and one of the biggest takeaways was: Don't just sit on your couch and overthink! I recently took a pause on my teletherapy because I've been in a better place, because I was paying $60 per session for two sessions per month. This isn't too bad, especially since my insurance paid the bulk of the expense, but I was seeing positive results and wanted to save a bit of money for the time being. . I love therapy, however, and plan to pick it back up again in the future.
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10:30 p.m. — I'm feeling like stretching so I put on a 30-minute yoga video and am immediately reminded of why I loved it so much. It's truly the perfect balance of a challenging workout and a relaxing mind and body stretch. This is not a consistent practice for me anymore, but I so wish it were. I sleep like a baby.
Daily Total: $0
Day Five
7 a.m. — Once I am up and dressed, I do my usual makeup routine: I brush my hair, brush and floss my teeth, and put foundation and mascara on. That is pretty much it. I've never been into makeup, though sometimes I wish I had the courage to experiment more than I have. I am very much a no makeup/minimal makeup gal, but this is in part due to never taking the time to practice it. As a teen, I was never really interested. I always like to look and feel put together, especially when it comes to clothing, but makeup was just never my cup of tea. Once I’m done, I get my Starbucks — it’s Friday! ($3.25)
6 p.m. — I have a girls-night-in date with my best friend. We order a deep dish pizza and grab a bottle of wine from the store. We watch The Parent Trap because it's the ultimate feel-good movie and, due to our glasses of wine, take the time to learn the handshake from the movie. It's actually very complex. But we watched a step-by-step tutorial made by 9-year-olds on YouTube and finally achieved our goal. It was the perfect way to spend a Friday night. ($29.50)
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11 p.m. — We don't try to stay up late. It's nearing 11 p.m. and I head to bed. My friend remains on the couch and stays the night. Whether it's due to COVID or simply due to hitting our upper twenties, we are officially over the late weekend nights out. I am sleepy from my two glasses of wine and drift off right away.
Daily Total: $32.75
Day Six
10:15 a.m. — After a slow morning, I decide it's another good day for a walk. I walk about a mile to Barnes and Noble and pick up two cheesy rom-com reads. I'm trying to read more (aren't we all?) so I'm excited for these new finds. One is While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory, an author that I like, and the other is Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall. I choose the second book because it seems to be a romance story surrounding a Great British Bake Off-type baking show. Yes, please. I spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch starting the first few chapters of While We Were Dating. ($28)
6:30 p.m. — I meal prep a few burrito bowls while watching Maid. These are some of my favorite easy meals to make and I honestly never tire of them. If you put enough salsa on anything, it's good. I don't always meal prep but this day at home calls for it. Yay for knowing what I'm going to eat tomorrow.
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8:30 p.m. — I call my mom and chat with her for a bit. My parents live out of state so sometimes a phone call — even if there are no exciting updates to be said — is healing. I'm content with this low-key weekend. Talking with my mom made me miss her for some reason today, but it was good to hear her voice. I finish my TV show and hit the hay.
Daily Total: $28
Day Seven
7 a.m. — Wow, I slept in! Okay... technically I got up to feed the cat but then I went back to bed for another hour. I read my verse of the day, and then I get up and throw in a load of laundry. I grew up going to church and while I don't always agree with everything from my religious upbringing, I've been able to figure out what I believe in adulthood. This small practice helps center me and brings me hope. I try to do this every morning, though admittedly, there are mornings that I forget.
Sundays are a beautiful day for cleaning. I love going into the week with a pristine apartment, so I embark on a journey that involves Clorox wiping, Swiffering, dusting, and dishes. I end my cleaning bash and have the intense desire to light a candle. Sadly, I am candle-less.
11:30 a.m. — I hop in the car and drive to Anthropologie. It's walking distance, but I'm too lazy to make the trek today. I decide to splurge and purchase one of their mini volcano candles. I love the big boy version too, but the scent becomes a little bit too potent in my tiny apartment. I dart home and light my candle amidst my freshly tidied space. Ahhh... bliss! Worth the errand and the money. ($16.30)
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4 p.m. — I decide to try a full hour yoga session using one of Corepower's free online classes. This one is a Hot Power Fusion workout, which works the whole body. I am pretty tired by the end but very glad I did it!
I hop in the shower post-yoga and decide to call my friend to see if she wants to join me for a Target run to get some house supplies. She says yes and we wander around this magical land where I pick up cat food, dish soap, shampoo and conditioner, garbage bags, and many other assorted home items. Oh, and I also splurge on a cute and cozy sweater. ($65.78)
Daily Total: $82.08
Weekly Total: $228.84
Reflection: I am not someone with a strict wellness routine (minus my coffee mornings), but I am very aware of when I'm feeling burnt out or stressed and how I can combat those feelings. In terms of physical health, I am on my way to setting some exercise habits in place. Ditching the frequent takeout and opting for home-cooked meals has been one of the best things I could've done for my health. Not only am I eating better, but I no longer need to stress about where all my money is going.

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