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A Week In Huntington, WV, On A $58,000 Salary

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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: a freelance writer who makes $58,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on bacon donuts.
Occupation: Freelance Writer
Industry: Publishing
Age: 36
Location: Huntington, WV
Salary: $58,000 (based on a three-year average)
Net Worth: $46,000 (savings and tangible assets)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $750-$2,500
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600
Utilities: $400-$500
Internet/Land Line: $75
Cell Phone: $35
Medical Costs: $450 (includes health insurance)
Homeschool Subscription: $45
Subscriptions: $31 (Microsoft Office, Disney+, Instacart, Amazon Prime)
Car Insurance: $50
Kids' Allowance: $56
Yard Maintenance: $120 (April through December)
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?
Not really. My mom did a little college, but most of my family didn't attend. We had a lot of construction workers, mechanics, and service industry workers in my family. No education required, just a strong back. I got my B.Acc. through an online school when my son was a toddler. I paid with grants, scholarships, and taking advantage of flat-rate pricing. I was able to shave over a year and a half off by running a double class load most of the time. I paid a flat fee for full-time and was able to take up to double the credit hours. I lived frugally to not take on any debt. I used savings accumulated up to the age of 24 when I started as well. My son and I lived on about $10,000 a year for the first two years before I started freelance writing on the side for extra money.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't talk about money when we were kids. It was something that we didn't have and that was that.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started picking raspberries for a local farm when I was about 9 or 10. I continued to work there for several years in the summer. It was right down the road from my cousins and the lake, so it was perfect for an early morning few hours of work and then swimming the rest of the day. Added in a paper route at 11 and then started working in restaurants by 14 or 15.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about it. We just didn't have it. I learned young to make my own money and I always had some in my pocket from that point on. I was always hustling in one way or another.
Do you worry about money now?
Not all that much. I woke up at 24 with a brain disease and never got better. It put things into perspective. I work as much as I need to instead of as much as I can. Life is short and health and time are far more important. COVID has emphasized that even more.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was on my own financially at age 16. I dropped out of school, moved out, and went full-time at my waitressing job. Savings and assets are my safety net, though notably flimsy.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have several hundred articles, college papers, and recipes on a content site that has been making me ad revenue for almost a decade now. There was a lot of upfront work, but some consider it passive. Either way, it is a small income monthly, depending on views. I also have romance novels on Amazon KDP that collect money with each sale.

Day One

6:15 a.m. — Wake up, shower and coffee. Please assume from now on that every entry has me with coffee in my hand. All-day. Medically, I need large amounts of caffeine, and coffee is the best option. I also have some saltines to settle my stomach. (I had a spontaneous cranial leak, so this helps speed up my cerebrospinal fluid. Basically, it keeps me able to stay vertical.) The house is quiet for a little while so I jump into work. I answer emails, proofread, and write until kids start waking up.
8 a.m. — Breakfast of yogurt, cantaloupe, and blood oranges, as well as the normal morning routine for the kids — brush teeth, wash face, get dressed, make beds, etc.
9 a.m. — Toddler daughter does her speech therapy videos (YouTube) and tween son does his online math program. I bounce back and forth between "Old McDonald" and dividing fractions. I clean and help when needed. My son has a full curriculum online, as well as extra math, reading and writing, and larger projects in his interests, so he spends the day doing that. My daughter works through preschool books with a lot of reading, playing, and free time.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch of tuna salad sandwiches for the kids and a salad mix for me. The kids run around for a while before quiet time. My daughter naps and my son finishes up schoolwork. I take a quick work break to online shop. I get three toothbrushes and one of my son's birthday gifts on Amazon, a Star Trek board game. $58.45
3:30 p.m. — My mom comes over and brings me some of my prescriptions and liquid IV from the pharmacy. We visit for a while and she stays for dinner. (She is one of a few in our high-risk pandemic bubble. Glad she can visit, and she does often, living a few blocks away.) $42.08
5 p.m. — We are all craving Chinese food, but the last decent place in a 20-mile radius closed up. I find a recipe for sticky chicken and serve it with broccoli, cucumber kimchi, and jasmine rice. Then it's time for playing, chores, and cleaning, before baths and bed for my daughter around 8.
9 30 p.m. — Bubble bath and an episode or two of Expanse. I work out tomorrow's schedule and then order a few books on My son asked for a sci-fi fiction book for free reading and I throw a couple of books in for myself. Stay up for a while working on my budget. Asleep by 2 a.m. $20.13
Daily Total: $120.66

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — Late start all around. Breakfast for kids is Nutella toast, fruit, and ham slices. I have my obligatory coffee and saltines, as well as a liquid IV packet in water.
10:30 a.m. — Speech therapy video for daughter and my son does his math program. Both go on for about 20 or 30 minutes and then we do more school. My son has his own list to do and likes to dictate when it happens. The rule is he has to finish before turning on the TV, so that keeps him motivated. My daughter is of the age of play and storytimes. We have a tea party and my son starts to make lunch. He is making pizza pasta and is pretty excited. His cooking skills have really taken off in the pandemic.
12:30 p.m. — We eat lunch, it's pretty good. It is about 55 degrees, the warmest it has been in weeks, so I get the kids semi-bundled up and we go outside to play for a while. We also take a walk. While they play, I clean out the shed and do some garden work. My daughter goes down for a nap by 2 and my son goes back to school. I start working. I type out the first few chapters of the fourth installment of a series.
4:30 p.m. — I start dinner. We have stuffed bell peppers, roasted potatoes, and salad. I also find an old key lime pie mix in the cupboard, two years past its best by date. I had half and half and whip it up like a mousse and it turns out great. Chores and kitchen clean up. We go through the house and pick up before I give my daughter her bath. She is exhausted from running around in the fresh air but still fighting the good fight. She plays with her brother until around 8 and then goes to bed. I do some more work.
10 p.m. — Bubble bath and journaling. I watch some Outlander and wonder why the conflict is always the same. I have a few pistachios and some dark chocolate. Night routine and then I try to go to bed. Sleep isn't happening. I hate tossing and turning. I would rather be productive, so I go back to writing for a bit. I finish another chapter before I go to bed around 1:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — Wake up and shower. My daughter is already up, so we do the morning routine and start breakfast. She helps me make chocolate crescent rolls, scrambled eggs, and some cut-up fruit. My son gets up soon after, most likely because of the smell of pastries.
9 a.m. — My mom comes over and I set my daughter up with her speech video and my son starts math. I hate going to stores in person, so I go early when they first open and get out as quickly as possible. My mom watches the kids while I run to Dollar General for paper towels, tissues, and vitamins ($6.20 with coupons). Piggly Wiggly for 34 pounds of split-cut chicken breasts ($29.55) and the farmer's market for strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and bananas ($18.96). $54.71
10 a.m. — Start butchering chicken for individual meals for the freezer. I boil up about 10 pounds of it for broth and shredded chicken and put it in the freezer. My mom gets about 10 pounds to take home. The kids play until lunchtime. The whole house smells like chicken at this point. We all eat lunch together. I spend the afternoon working and watching the kids.
7 p.m. — We eat dinner and then chores and kitchen clean-up. Kids are in bed by 8:30 and I start working. Write a few chapters, before I call it a night.
11 p.m. — Bubble bath and Stieg Larsson novel. I then put together a Walmart pick-up order through Ibotta. I get pull-ups, wipes, cheddar, creamer, coffee, chocolate, sippy cups, allergy meds, orange juice, Miracle-Gro garden soil, and mulch. Really hoping this will be the last box of pull-ups I have to buy. Fingers crossed. $73.58
Daily Total: $128.29

Day Four

9 a.m. — Wake up and morning routine with kids. So tired. Son has already been up a bit and made himself cereal. I do the same for my daughter, paired with a banana. I have few shots of pickle juice, water, coffee, and saltines. (Because of my CSF leak, I have to take in a lot of salts and other electrolytes and water to compensate.) Mom comes over and brings me the pickup order from late last night. I get it out of the car and it's only 26 degrees. It's so cold! I need spring to hurry up. The winter has been so long and cold this year. Ibotta rebates $24.93 back from Walmart and I send it through to my bank account.
10 a.m. — I visit with my mom. Kids are directed to their speech and math activities. Son keeps going on reading his book, Space Barons. His new book will be here in a couple of days and he wants to start on it as soon as it comes. He stops to tell us about some cool things they are doing to get ready for living on Mars. He is really excited by the book and I'm so happy.
12 p.m. — I make a lunch of grilled chicken with Annie's macaroni and cheese, plus raw veggies. My mom goes home and I put my daughter down for a nap. I start working and my son finishes up his schoolwork for the day.

4:45 p.m. — Start dinner of grilled chicken (leftover from lunch) and mushroom risotto, with glazed carrots and peas. I pay the kids their allowance. They get a dollar for every year they've been alive, per week. My son is a saver and has more cash on hand than I do most of the time. Staying at home so much has really kicked his saving into high gear. My daughter's money goes in her jar as well. Chores and then baths for the kids. I skip cleaning and get to work earlier.

9 p.m. — I do some journaling and lose track of time reading articles. Too much news, so I make a screwdriver and pair it with dark chocolate. Definitely avoiding the dirty kitchen, knowing I will regret it in the morning. Expanse and a very hot bath seem to be what I need right now.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Wake up and stand under the shower for 20 minutes. This is probably why my water bill is over $100. Make coffee and watch the sunrise, enjoying the quiet house. I read a little before my mom comes over for coffee. She is in sell mode and has been listing on Facebook Marketplace all morning. I run out to check my PO box and grab a few bacon donuts on the way home. I pair it with turkey sausage and strawberries. $5.11
9 a.m. — I put together an Instacart order from Aldi. I get spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, jalapenos, ginger, garlic, spices, grapes, pineapple, pears, yogurt, goat cheese, French bread, and brioche buns. $61.78
12:30 p.m. — I take my mom to AutoZone to get her car fixed. I try to tip the guy for being so helpful in the cold, but he won't let me. Grab Wendy's for lunch, spicy chicken asiago for me, salad for mom, and kid's meals with chicken nuggets and Frosties for the kids. Feeling sluggish and remember why I don't usually get fast food. $34.48
2 p.m. — I work for a while and send an email to AutoZone to say thank you. If they won't let me tip then they can hear about how great he is. Dinner is chicken taco salad and sweet corn, followed by playtime, chores, clean-up, and baths.
8 p.m. — I get the kids to bed and start work. I finish a rough draft of this book, so I'm done for the day. Bath and coupon matching with a couple of YouTube videos for tomorrow. Bed by 12.
Daily Total: $101.37

Day Six

6 a.m. — Wake up and shower. Coffee. Text mom and clip coupons while I watch a YouTube video on unadvertised deals for the week. My kids are up and morning routine commences. Breakfast is ham, egg, and cheese on toast, Danimal smoothies, and oranges. Mom comes by and has one too. She needs a few things, so gives me a list.
9 a.m. — I head out on a CVS coupon shopping trip. Five packs of beef jerky, two Garnier micellar wipes, four Whole Blends shampoo and conditioners, five tubes of toothpaste, two toothbrushes, two Venus razors, Annie's fruit snacks, deodorant, vitamins, and liquid IV ($11.18 — Saved $142). I also end up with $16 in CVS Carebucks to use at a later date. Then I go to Piggly Wiggly. My son requested dark chocolate Silk, so I run in and see a 15-pound box of bacon for $35. I get that and the milk for $38.97. I drop off a few boxes of my couponing products to a local charity (mainly toothpaste, razors, shampoo, and feminine care items). $50.15
10 a.m. — Back home and my son goes to my mom's place for a visit. I send receipts through to Fetch, another rewards app, and they send a few dollars in points to my account. My daughter helps me put away the coupon haul and then we have girl time. We do clay masks, paint our nails, and do our hair. Lunch is Spaghetti-Os, cantaloupe, and cottage cheese. I make chicken quesadillas with leftover meat from dinner and freeze them easy meals later. My daughter is in bed by 2:30 and I start proofing the book I just finished.
5:30 p.m. — My mom brings my son home and we have dinner. Pulled bbq chicken sandwiches with broccoli and roasted potatoes. Strawberries and cream for dessert. Bath and chores, followed by playtime and bed. My daughter missed her brother and they always act like they haven't seen each other in years. It gets really loud. I play Magic: The Gathering. Bath and bed not too long afterward for me.
Daily Total: $50.15

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Shower and wake up. All the liquids. Kids are still sleeping thankfully. Scroll news stories and get in a bad mood. Check the vaccination website where I am registered. It's going to be a while yet. My mom will be vaccinated soon, her age group is coming up next. I want one now but will have to wait a little while longer. Feels like forever. Text my mom and tell her good morning. Cereal and bananas for breakfast before school commences for the day. Everyone seems grouchy, myself included. A lot of bickering and arguing going on.
10:30 a.m. — Give up on schoolwork and pull out a big art tub. Coloring and painting liven the crew. Lunch is grilled teriyaki catfish, rice noodles, carrot sticks, and yogurt. Free time madness and nap by 1:30. I start working and my son goes back to school.
3:30 p.m. — Walk with kids and then outside play for a couple of hours. Dinner is chicken stroganoff with green beans and salad. Hero 6 movie with dinner.

9 p.m. — Chores, cleaning, and baths done. Kids in bed. I start working on some more proofreading. I'm tired after a couple of hours and stop for the night. Bath with lavender Epsom salt and some Stieg Larsson before bed about an hour later.

Daily Total: $0
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