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A Week In Morocco On A Joint $886 A Month

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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 $886 a month and spends some of her money this week on lavender oil.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up diary. Before reading this diary, we recommend you read her first diary here.
Occupation: Freelance Writer
Industry: Marketing
Age: 32
Location: Morocco
Salary: $0 (For now, I just started freelancing. I also have a side hustle that brings in $150 a month)
Fiance's Salary: $736/month
Net Worth: ~$101,000 (My Savings: $58,874.12, fiance's savings: $1,122.33, current 401(k) savings: $49,955, minus fiancé's debt.)
Debt: My Debt: $0, Partner's Debt (car): $8,305.26
My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): Side Hustle Income: $150, just started freelancing
Fiance's Paycheck (1x/month): $736.75
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $170.02 for a one-bedroom, two-living room villa
Partner's Car Payment: $168.35
Phone Plans: $22.45
Phone Insurance: $15.98
YouTube Red: $6.99
Spotify: $4.99
Utilities: $34
Gym: $41.15 (for both)
Internet: $39.28
Secondary Internet: $39.28
Annual University Expenses: $6,800
Partner's Annual Grad School Tuition: $3,591.72
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?
Absolutely! My mom barely got her GED so it was always of the utmost importance to her for me to get a Bachelor's in... something. When I was in high school, it was taught like a religion that what your degree was in didn't matter. If you had a Bachelor's, you were guaranteed upward mobility. So I did what a lot of us did — I took out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans with literally no understanding of what that meant. None of it felt real and I felt promised that I would have the resources to handle the debt after school. I worked part-time jobs through college but it was pocket change compared to the tuition and living expenses that were largely covered by loans and grants. I'm back in school now paying out of pocket. I'm struggling to decide if it's worth it, however, and I'm considering dropping out. 
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I was raised by my mom who had a very laissez-faire approach to money. As a small business owner, money was sporadic and unpredictable, and she would tell me "there will always be debt, so enjoy your money while you can." This mentality meant we were periodically homeless, often bouncing around and staying wherever we could. Money was not "real" and financial stability was, uh, not a thing. She did the best she could and I have the absolute utmost respect for single parents, but her lack of awareness or education about money meant that we often didn't know where our next meal would come from (or somedays, if it would come at all), which also contributed to my toxic and insecure relationship with food.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working two jobs at 16. I worked 20 hours a week editing my college newspaper (I was attending community college as part of a program offered by my state while concurrently attending high school) and about 15 hours at a clothing store in the mall. Ironically, I got in trouble at the clothing store because it was a higher-end boutique and I was wearing Wal-Mart clothing, but the feeling of knowing where and when I would get money was intoxicating. I've had at least two jobs for most of my life ever since.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Oh my god, constantly. One of my very first memories was of being evicted from the room we rented and moving into the car. This happened a lot and my mom always tried to make a "camping adventure" out of it but I knew what was going on. Seeing not only our horrific financial situation but also my mom's incredibly irresponsible spending habits was super formative and one of the reasons I'm so weird and uptight about money now.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I've realized that I have high earning potential just because I refuse to not make money. I have knowledge and skills, and I'm willing to work for very little money if I have to, should it come to that, as long as I'm still earning. I've also spent the last few months/years really recognizing how grateful I am for the safety nets I have in place. My family will never let me starve, my friends won't let me become homeless again, and my fiancé works really hard for our future. That being said, I do worry about long-term financial decisions like, where will we live next year? What am I doing for retirement? How can we help the people around us who are struggling while setting boundaries so we're not hurting our financial future in the process? Another major "money worry" is the idea that, because I'm from the U.S., I will likely out-earn my fiancé very quickly. How will that affect our relationship and how do we navigate the tricky topic of money in relationships? I just don't know and it makes me worry.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My savings is my safety net. My family will help me if I become desperate, but my savings is really what is keeping me grounded financially while I'm working on increasing my income remotely. Pretty much nobody but me knows how much I have in savings and I intend to keep it that way. In a few years, I might use it to buy a house or something, but I would rather focus on earning more than spending what I've worked really hard to save. $50,000 is probably laughably low to other people, but to me, it's my lifeline and the start of a new life, should I need to one day.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I did inherit $10,000 when I was 21 after a relative passed away. I was doing a year of service through AmeriCorps at the time after college making $800 a month for 40+ hours a week working at a nonprofit, and that $10,000 changed my life. Not only did it give me the safety net I needed to finally stop living paycheck to paycheck, it completely shifted my mindset from always feeling like I was seconds away from destitution to finally being able to breathe and realizing that saving is actually possible.
How has your life changed since your last Money Diary?
During my last diary, I received a ton of comments and feedback about how potentially dangerous, foolish, and unwise it would be to move overseas for a guy I barely know. My family and friends also expressed plenty of worries and concerns. But then I did it anyway. Being unhappy and unfulfilled is a powerful catalyst for change, and I had stopped being happy in Alaska years before I left. Leaving was always my plan, but COVID really changed that. I'm no longer planning my year-around-the-world trip (for now), but I did need to get out of the headspace I had felt stuck in for years. I sold my car, gave away most of my earthly possessions, quit my job, said goodbye to everyone, and moved to Morocco. Moving was more complicated than I expected and it took several months to sort through the logistics. Thankfully, on the Morocco end, my fiancé really did the bulk of the work getting ready for my move. He found our apartment and got all of our furniture, set up the utilities, and made sure I felt comfortable when I arrived. It hasn't always been easy and some days are tough. Not knowing what the future holds can be disorienting and hard, but also challenging and exciting. Things are going great so far and I'm excited about the future! 

Day One

8 a.m. — Our alarm goes off for us to go to the gym, but I fell asleep only three hours ago due to a great deal of birthday coffee, so I refuse to wake up. My fiancé, D., doesn't wake up either so it's a shared guilt thing which is my favorite kind of guilt. He normally works seven days a week as a teacher but he took a few days off right before his summer started for my birthday and so we can get our marriage paperwork sorted.
11 a.m. — I finally start moving. I check my phone to find an invitation to interview for a position! I worked really hard on my cover letter and the job seems amazing, so I'm beyond excited and the interview is in a few days. This is my second interview since moving here about a month ago and it feels promising. I get out of bed and shower. D. gets up and showers while I make a breakfast of scrambled eggs, coffee, and khobz (a type of flatbread).
11:45 a.m. — D. leaves the house to go run errands. We were planning to visit his siblings together and have lunch but I forgot I have an interview today. I open my laptop and, as usual, the internet isn't working. The internet is literally never working! The toddler that lives upstairs is screaming more than usual, and the neighbor tells D. that they are circumcising him today. I'm distressed because that's absolutely not a DIY project, but he says it's normal here. This interview is shaping up to be a disaster: unusable internet and an in-home pediatric medical procedure happening in our duplex. D. leaves his phone so that I can use his hotspot.
1 p.m. — D. takes our water jugs to get us drinkable water at a well out of town, stops by his brother's house, gets the oil changed and car washed ($32.26), fills up the gas tank ($11.23), and stops by the internet service provider to sign our new contract ($39.62) while I clean the house and pray to the internet gods for just a sprinkle of connection. I really want this job because it combines my background in social work and my desire for a remote position. I really, really want this to go well. $83.11
2:45 p.m. — I got the job! I'm so excited and immediately try to text D. but I realize I have his phone and then I text my mom and best friends but they're all still asleep. Stupid time zones! I eat birthday leftovers and read House on the Cerulean Sea. I have a number of messages from freelance editors in my inbox but I take a little bit of time to revel in my newly employed status. The new job is $23 an hour which is much less than my position in Alaska but it'll go very far here.
3:30 p.m. — I get a call from an unknown number and realize two seconds too late that it was an appointment I had distractedly set up with a freelancing client yesterday (on my birthday so I wasn't focusing on anything). I get off the phone and immediately start the article I need to write.
6:30 p.m. — D. gets home and we share about our respective afternoons. He tells me good news: he doesn't have to work on Saturday! We're both SO excited about my job offer. He goes out to get a haircut ($2.83) and vegetables ($3.40) while I finish up another freelance project. He gets back with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cilantro, and an absolutely ridiculous amount of mint. I love mint! $6.23
8:30 p.m. — I heat up leftovers and coffee for a snack and we get ready for the gym. We stop by a cosmetic souk (a souk is basically a corner market) and get my belated birthday gift of lemon oil, rose oil, and lavender oil. He also gets some hair oil. $15.85
11 p.m. — We head to the gym and count our reps in Arabic so I can practice. On our way back from the gym we stop at a souk and get toilet paper and two chocolate orange candies. We get home and D. showers and makes dinner. We work on my Darjia (Moroccan Arabic) lessons and get ready for bed. $1.47
Daily Total: $106.66

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Time to wake up. I shower first and make breakfast (eggs, coffee, khobs), D. showers and does his morning prayer, and then we leave for Casablanca to get our wedding affidavit.
10:10 a.m. — We stop at a copy stand to make copies of my passport and then at the gas station for gas and another bottle of water. $23.77
10:35 a.m. — We have to pay tolls for the fast road. $4.30
1:30 p.m. — We get to the U.S. Consulate and they make me go through three separate rounds of metal detectors which feels…excessive. I pay the fee and get our notarized affidavit of marriage. $100
2:25 p.m. — It's horribly hot and I feel my crankiness rising, so we stop and share a Moroccan taco ($4.53). We head back to our town on the fast road and this time we have to pay even more in tolls. $9.36
5:45 p.m. — We stop at this street near our house that has a bunch of little shops and D. gets us chocolate msemen (another type of flatbread), grilled corn on the cob, and two fans. We get home and eat the msemen and corn on the cob with coffee. $34.98
6:45 p.m. — I sit down to work on my schoolwork because I've been neglecting it, but I feel my eyes drooping so I lay down for a nap.
8 p.m. — D. signs into his graduate program Zoom call and I log into my learning portal. I'm considering dropping out of school after this term. I had been going towards another bachelor's degree (this time in accounting) but I'm super ambivalent towards my program and being enrolled in college while experiencing ambivalence is a very expensive form of ambivalence.
8:45 p.m. — D. goes out to get juice and potatoes and khobs. We make chicken tajine together and then he hangs the laundry outside while I clean the kitchen. $1.98
9:20 p.m. — He works on grad school stuff while I read some more House on the Cerulean Sea. He's working hard on his education to increase our income because the Moroccan economy is absolutely awful. I feel guilty that I found a job so quickly and have had so many freelance opportunities. There are just so many more opportunities for native English speakers and it's really unfair. I wish I could express how proud I am of D. without it sounding condescending. His ultimate goal is to make enough for me to be a stay-at-home mom but that feels unlikely given the economy. Plus, I don't know if I would like not working at all.
1:15 a.m. — The tajine is finished so we eat with khobz and orange juice. We eventually get ready for bed and I read a little before falling asleep around 3 a.m.
Daily Total: $174.39

Day Three

9 a.m. — We slowly wake up. I shower then D. showers while I make breakfast (eggs, khobs, yogurt, msemen, coffee). D. leaves for the gym and I clean while listening to a true crime YouTube channel (Kendall Rae). I make tajine again. D.'s sister is supposed to be here at noon so I ask him to get bread for the tajine, her birthday gift we had discussed (perfume), and some cake.
12 p.m. — D. comes back from the gym with the stuff I asked for and says his sister's taxi is running late. I get the gift and the cake and coffee all set up and he leaves to go get her. $7.58
1:40 p.m. — D. and his sister get back to the house and we have lunch. I was nervous about how she would respond to my Moroccan cooking but she seems to like it. We discuss her upcoming wedding plans and I'm really excited for her.
5:30 p.m. — We drop his sister off and return home. I clean the kitchen and living room while he mops the outside of the house. We lay down for a nap and I end up reading for a while.
7 p.m. — We get dressed and walk to the market near our house. We get chocolate msemen, two ears of roasted corn, two packages of clothespins for the clothesline (ours keep disappearing), a bag of knock-off Bugles, two packages of salami, a mop cover, and three ice cube trays. $5.32
8 p.m. — We get home and prepare snacks while he watches soccer and I do some writing. Then, I heat up the leftover tajine, D. does his evening prayers, and we head to bed. I read a little more The House on the Cerulean Sea. It's cute but it's getting a little stale and it's beyond predictable.
Daily Total: $12.90

Day Four

9 a.m. — We wake up and have a slow, lazy weekend morning. We shower and make breakfast (the usual: eggs, khobs, kiri, coffee, yogurt). I finish my book and I'm glad it's over. We shower and get ready to go. D. fixes a few things on the car and checks the water levels while I spray the house with bleach and set up our new fans to help combat the mold problem. This country requires a real DIY spirit that I don't naturally have, but I'm learning. My solution for the mold was to move but D. assures me it would be much worse anywhere else so I just try not to think about it.
12:30 p.m. — We head to Salé, a city about 40 minutes away, to help a new friend and her husband move. She's from New England and we met on Facebook. She's really cool and we get along well. I'm excited to have an American friend.
1:15 p.m. — We arrive and my friend's husband makes us atay (black tea with mint and tons of sugar) and croissants while I play with their new puppy. We pack the stuff in the car and then the guys drive it over to their new apartment. We all head to a market called Atacadeo which is like a wholesale distributor and we buy some bulk staples that should last us a long time. I try to pay with my card because this is out of our budget but they don't take foreign debit cards so D. pays with our shared account (aka, his account). $89.88
5 p.m. — We go to lunch. It's neat to meet with other couples in similar situations as us, as her husband is Moroccan and she's American. We relate in a lot of ways. We go to pay for lunch but they beat us to it to thank us for helping them move. We drive them home.
9 p.m. — We get home and unpack our groceries. We feed some of the animals outside our villa including the super rude cat who bit me last weekend and required me to get an emergency rabies vaccination. I want to stop feeding her because she's rude and keeps coming into our house through our window (and she bit me), but she meows and meows and neither of us has the heart to let her starve so we keep buying her food. It's a real power struggle.
9:45 p.m. — D. watches soccer while I order a screwdriver on Amazon for his laptop. My friend offered to have it shipped over with her scheduled shipping, since buying it by myself on Amazon would have cost $79 in shipping for a $5 screwdriver. I make the purchase and text her that it's on its way. The total comes to $12 including shipping to her PO box. $12
11:10 p.m. — I'm trying to do some writing but D. keeps tickling me and taking off my glasses in an effort to distract me which is cute but annoying. He keeps saying the price to stop annoying me is kisses but I keep paying the toll and he keeps doing it anyway. I appreciate the levity he brings to my life. I moved in part to get out of my hyper-capitalist mindset, but the mindset seems to have followed me. I should be enjoying this "unemployed" time but I managed to find three new income streams with near-unlimited work potential which begs the question: why am I like this?
12:30 a.m. — I make pesto pasta and Caprese salad for dinner. We eat and then get ready for bed, falling asleep around 3 a.m.
Daily Total: $101.88

Day Five

9 a.m. — We wake up and I immediately get to work on an article that is due. D. does his morning prayers and makes breakfast: my sandwich leftovers from yesterday, boiled eggs, and coffee.
11:30 a.m. — D. and I leave for the gym. It's a short workout because I need to get home and get ready for my interview at 1:15. It feels weird to be back in a gym in person. D. and I wear masks but we're pretty much the only ones. I'm vaccinated but so many other people aren't.
2 p.m. — It wasn't the worst interview I've ever had, but I'm positive I didn't get the job and that's okay. I did my best but it's hard not to feel defeated. I make some rice for D. but get distracted and not only burn the rice, I destroy the pot in the process. I'm really effing up on all cylinders today. I finish and submit my article to the editor. She emails me back right away, submits it for payment, says it's really good, and asks if I want my next assignment.
2:30 p.m. — D. leaves and comes back home with figs, bananas, eggs, and a surprise tiny cake. He makes his gym food (eggs and rice) and I make a lunch out of yogurt, a banana, and low-carb cookies. We eat and discuss the interview. It would be A LOT more money than the other job offer I received, but also a lot of responsibility and time, so we need to think seriously about it even if I get the offer. D. takes out the trash and gets the clothes off the clothesline while I do dishes and sweep. $6.17
6 p.m. — We sit around and discuss our evening and tomorrow plans. It's too cold for beach swimming and he has a presentation for his class and I have an exam coming up. I start reading Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and D. sleeps. I feel so lazy today but soon we will go to stay at D.'s family house for the whole summer and my days will be spent cooking and cleaning and taking care of babies so I revel in the cozy laziness. I get a follow-up email: I got a second interview for the job from today! It'll be in a couple of days. I'm truly surprised that I got a second interview.
9 p.m. — We decide on dinner so D. goes out to get ingredients while I clean. I "listen to crimes" (as he puts it) while cleaning and he helps cut up chicken while I prep dinner. $11.22
10:50 p.m. — We eat our dinner of chicken coconut curry with carrots and potatoes over rice for D. and over zucchini for me. I read more of Dark Matter and work on my design side business.
1 a.m. — I check Britney Spears' Instagram because it's always a wild ride. I fall asleep to Dark Matter and D. joins me in bed an hour later.
Daily Total: $17.39

Day Six

9 a.m. — D. wakes up first and I hear him irritatedly talking to someone in the living room. I wake up to find our trash knocked over and ask him what happened. There was apparently a cat sleeping on our couch. This place has so many street animals that we literally factor in food for them in our food budget. It's also hard not to get annoyed, especially when they barge into our house. I wipe down the couches and kitchen with cleaner and pray I don't get fleas. I make breakfast (eggs, cheese, coffee).
10:30 a.m. — We get ready to go to the Moroccan capital Rabat for our next step of marriage paperwork. I get dressed which is always annoying because Morocco is a Muslim country and modesty is mandatory so it means I'm completely covered head-to-toe in 95-degree weather. Leaving the house sucks.
11:30 a.m. — We weave through donkeys, herds of sheep, stray dogs, cows, running children, motorbikes, and cars. The driving here is terrifying. We eventually get to the capital but then we get lost until a random guy starts yelling at D. on the street? And then D. gives him the keys and tells me to get out and I'm positive we're being carjacked. The guy takes the keys and gets in the car while D. starts talking to another guy and starts handing him all my paperwork while they talk and I'm disoriented and confused and frustrated. Nothing is making sense.
12:35 p.m. — I end up snapping at D. and instantly feel terrible, but I'm confused and disoriented and can't speak the language and apparently I have to go into the administrative building alone and there's police everywhere and I can't communicate with anyone. I feel stupid and frustrated and embarrassed and people are staring at me (which is just normal here) and I hate this.
1:10 p.m. — I miss the DMV in America. At least it makes sense. This process sucks but I get through it. We get back to the car and head back home. I apologize for snapping. We give money to a disabled person on the side of the road. That's one thing I love about D., no matter how late we are, he still prioritizes caring for the less fortunate wherever we go. $2.24
2:05 p.m. — We get back in time to set up the Zoom for his presentation. I do some therapeutic yoga in the bedroom and read. I order a burger with fries and a Mexican taco for D. and a Ceasar salad for me through an app called Glovo. $9.29
3:30 p.m. — D. makes us banana and plum smoothies and we discuss the presentation. He's really excited about graduating and the prospect of earning more so we can buy a house, start a small business, and contribute more to his family. Life in Morocco is really hard but money makes it a lot easier, which pushes us both to try to earn more.
7 p.m. — I attend an informational Zoom session for a new writing group that I joined for freelancers. D. makes coffee and hands me some while I browse Reddit and listen to my lectures. I see that the Crazy Cat Lady Rescue of Rabat is struggling and I send a donation by PayPal. $20
10:30 p.m. — I email one of my clients and let him know I'm scaling back my commitment to his project. He's nice but he's asking way too much for such little pay and I need to be reasonable with my time. He's understanding and I breathe easier. We eat our dinner of Glovo leftovers and get ready for bed. We end up staying up until 4 a.m. having a Serious Talk about shared space, our communication needs, and respect. I've been single or in fairly casual relationships most of my life so sharing space with a talkative extrovert is really hard on me sometimes.
Daily Total: $31.53

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Wake up, make breakfast (egg and cheese burritos, coffee, yogurt), and shower. D. does his morning prayers and I log into my school but the internet isn't working. Argh! I have been neglecting my schoolwork but I want to neglect it on my terms not because the internet isn't working. D. works on his next group presentation while I text some friends back.
12 p.m. — I heat up the last of the curry and we eat that for lunch, then we power-clean the house. Then, we get ready for the beach.
3 p.m. — We are super lucky to live just a couple of minutes from the beach and it's become my happy place. We both swim for over an hour. I swim close to the shore and watch the camels that walk around on the beach. I'll never get tired of watching the camels.
5:30 p.m. — We get home and I make a snack of banana smoothies and Moroccan salad (tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olive oil, white vinegar, spices). The internet is still not working. D. heads to the internet company to ask them what's going on while I read my book. He texts me that he's hungry so I start on dinner (chicken and vegetable soup).
9:45 p.m. — While we're waiting for dinner to cook, D. calls his family and I fix our shower head. We eat and go to bed so we can get up early for the gym.
Daily Total: $0
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