A Week In San Diego As A Furloughed Government Employee

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a lawyer who is on furlough due to the partial government shutdown and spends some of her money this week on Diet Coke. We previously published a Money Diary from this OP last November. Today, we asked her to talk about how the government shutdown is impacting her life, and here's what she had to say:
"I am really fortunate to have the emergency fund I have right now. Please do not think I am representative of most federal employees who are furloughed or working for free. Most are at much lower salaries. Many live paycheck to paycheck. Read #shutdownstories on Twitter to get an idea of what is like for them. There are many who are much worse off.
"If you can save a three to six month emergency fund, please make it a priority. You might not be at risk of a shutdown, but job loss or illness can happen so quickly. Even with my safety net, I am struggling to handle my anxiety. I know not everyone has the financial ability to save, but if you do, you do not want to be one paycheck away from not being able to pay your rent."
Click here for some ways you can help furloughed government employees.
Job: Lawyer (currently furloughed)
Industry: Government
Age: 32
Location: San Diego, CA
Salary: $125,000 (My fiancé's salary is $110,000.)
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $0
Monthly Expenses (I split 50/50 with my fiancé, L. We put joint expenses on a shared credit card.)
Rent: $1,090 (my half)
Cell/Internet/Cable: $110 (my half)
Utilities: $100-$200 (my half)
Netflix/Spotify: $13 (my half)
Hulu: $0.50 (This is not a typo. L. found a Black Friday deal for Hulu with commercials for $1 per month.)
Car Insurance: $45
Student Loans: $1,054
Charity, Union Dues, Health Insurance & 401(k): Currently suspended
Savings: I haven’t had to pull anything out yet, but I will need to start dipping into it at the end of the month when rent is due.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — My dog sticks his cold, cold nose on my arm. It is time to take him outside. Once we get back, I cozy up on the couch, and we watch the The Great British Bake Off. I have been bingeing this show during the shutdown because it’s soothing, and my anxiety is a little out of control right now.
10 a.m. — L. wakes up from his Sunday sleep in. I marvel at the insane showstoppers onscreen and tell him that despite loving to bake, I could never do this show. He points out that I tell him that literally every time I watch an episode. I throw a cushion at him.
12 p.m. — I make myself a ham and cheese sandwich and cut up an apple. L. and I work out a meal plan for the week and a shopping list of what we need. I'm trying to use up what we have in the pantry, so I try to plan some of our meals around that. At the store, we get chicken, avocados, olive oil, butter, eggs, apples, bananas, cottage cheese, pasta, canned pineapple, broccoli, carrots, cereal, protein bars, and cheese ($20.41 for my half on our joint card). $20.41
5 p.m. — I go to Jo-Anns to pick up some sewing supplies. I took a sewing class in December. I have made a tote bag and pajama pants, and I'm working on another pair of pajamas but with pockets. I get stuff to make a skirt. My future mother-in-law gave me a gift card for Christmas, so I only have to pay $8.69 of my $48.69 total. The store doesn’t have the invisible zipper foot I need though, so I order it on Amazon ($5.99). $14.68
7:30 p.m. — Tonight is date night, and I pick Cuban food from Havana Grill. I get a Cubano and L. gets a half chicken dinner. I steal some of his plantains. He picks up the check as an early birthday dinner, even though my birthday isn’t until Monday. I take half my sandwich home. Lunch tomorrow!
Daily Total: $35.09

Day Two

6 a.m. — I get up with the puppy. Even though I don’t have to go into work, I am trying to maintain something of a schedule. I eat a banana for breakfast and make a list of things to do for the day — boxing class at my gym, working on my pajamas, laundry, and making some whole wheat bread from scratch. I’ve tried whole wheat bread before and failed dismally, so I’m trying a new recipe.
8 a.m. — I start my laundry. I check the shutdown news, but it doesn’t look like anything will be happening today. I’m trying to be careful about how much time I spend reading the news because I can easily go down a black hole of pessimistic speculation. Hearing Trump say he was willing for this to go “months or years” last week certainly isn’t helping. I have had mental health issues for a long time and was officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression a few years ago. I’m having a hard time handling the current uncertainty of how long I might be without my paycheck.
11 a.m. — I head to the transit stop near my apartment to go to my boxing class. My gym is near my office in a congested area of downtown and taking transit is cheaper than paying for parking. $5
1 p.m. — I stop by Starbucks on the way home to grab a latte. I have some money in my account from Christmas gift cards, so I don’t have to pay. Once I get back to our apartment, I take the dog for quick walk before showering and eating my leftovers from yesterday.
4 p.m. — I turn my computer off and go to work on dinner (chicken stir-fry with lots of vegetables and a pineapple soy sauce) and start mixing up the bread dough.
8 p.m. — While my bread is in the oven, I fill out a rental application for a house L. and I went to see on Saturday. Our lease will be up next month, and a friend of mine told me about this place before it even hit the market. The house isn’t any larger than our current apartment and has one less bathroom, but it does have a fenced-in yard for our dog. L. called the management company earlier, and they want us to put in our applications today if we want first dibs. $45
Daily Total: $50

Day Three

8 a.m. —L. took the dog out before he left for work so I could sleep in a bit. I make some avocado toast with my bread from last night. (It worked — yay!) I have decided my goal for today is to deep clean the kitchen, so I start on that.
11 a.m. — I head over to the small gym in our apartment complex. It doesn’t have all the equipment I need for weightlifting, but there is enough for me to do an arm and back workout.
1 p.m. — I meet a couple of coworkers for lunch at a cafe a couple of miles away. I get a really amazing chicken pesto sandwich and latte. We try to focus on what we are doing and not exclusively on the news/shutdown, but it’s hard to stay off that topic. One of them thinks there will be more political pressure to end it once Trump’s base starts missing their tax refunds (most of the IRS is furloughed), but I think the administration is going to recall those people and make them work for free like the TSA once they realize how much the tax thing would hurt them politically. $16.76
3 p.m. — I take my dog over to the closest dog park. There are only a couple of dogs around, but he will play with any dog and loves being off leash and being able to run, not gracefully exactly, but with great joy.
5 p.m. — I research jobs with flexible schedules. My options are pretty limited. Once the government reopens we are supposed to be back in the office the next business day. Most employers understandably don’t want someone who may have to leave at any moment. I find some transcription work that looks interesting, but realize I don’t type fast enough. I find an editing company that might work, but I need to revamp my résumé for it since my current one is very law-oriented.
7 p.m. — We have leftovers for dinner and watch a couple of episodes of The Runaways on Hulu.
Daily Total: $16.76

Day Four

6 a.m. — L. has to head out of town for work today, so I take the dog out while he gets ready to leave. I make avocado toast for breakfast again before doing some more research on work-from-home gigs. Most of what I’m finding either need someone full-time or involves selling things, and I am very very bad at selling things. I’m not sure if there just isn’t a lot out there or I just don’t know where to look.
7 a.m. — Today is the day to dust everything. Normally this is something L. does, but since I’m home so much more, I am trying to take some of the load off of him and stay busy. Why do we have so many knickknacks? I need to Marie Kondo this house before we move.
10:15 a.m. — I head downtown. Since I am planning on going to the gym for the next three days, I buy a three-day pass. $12
11 a.m. — Since my gym is close to the office, I stop by a store to grab some coffee and…other beverages...for the poor guys who have been deemed “essential” and are working for free. I drop them off and spend a few minutes commiserating about the shit show. $19.67
2 p.m. — While I’m taking the dog on his afternoon walk, I get a call from my mother. At first I think she is calling to check in, but nope, it is an ambush call. I told her a few months ago I wasn’t inviting an extended family member to the wedding due to prior bad behavior (racism, homophobia, and verbal attacks). She has decided I am wrong and spends half an hour explaining why. I finally end the call when she starts crying about how she will never gets to see said family member.
3 p.m. — I break out my secret chocolate stash and eat too much of it. I’m not backing down on the wedding thing, but nobody knows how to make you feel like shit quite like your mom. I watch Netflix for the rest of the afternoon and accomplish nothing. L. is still gone, so I just heat up the remaining leftovers for dinner.
9:30 p.m. — L. gets back late. I confide in him that I am concerned about the costs of moving right now. Even though I have savings, I don’t know how long I will be furloughed. He reassures me that if he can pick up more of our expenses if we get to that point and suggests I talk to one of our friends about substitute teaching. He cuddles me for a bit before he needs to go to sleep. I lie awake, mentally calculating how long my savings will last.
Daily Total: $31.67

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I wake up with a migraine. L. takes care of the dog while I take some meds and go back to bed. I listen to old episodes of This American Life to give my brain something to think about other than how much pain I am in. Eventually I sort of drift off to sleep.
1:30 p.m. — I finally feel sort of human again. I eat some toast and a banana and take the dog for a walk. L. texts to check in on me.
2 p.m. — I run to a different grocery store than the one I went to last time because they have better prices on a kind of Gatorade that L. likes. I pick up the Gatorade, some Diet Coke for me, and some protein bars for both of us. $14.97
4:30 p.m. — L. and I take the dog to the park. There are way more dogs this time, and he is in heaven. He beelines straight for the huskies. He is a mutt who believes he is a husky, which is funniest when he attempts to join in when they start howling.
6 p.m. — Since I’m still not feeling great, L. grills burgers and zucchini for dinner. We watch more of The Runaways. It had a slow start, but I like the cast a lot.
Daily Total: $14.97

Day Six

6 a.m. — More avocado toast! I’m glad this bread turned out well.
9 a.m. — I’m frustrated that Mitch McConnell won’t let the Senate vote on a budget bill, even though it’s the exact same one that passed 100-0 right before the shutdown started. I find his office numbers online and it takes me seven numbers to even get through to a voicemail. His D.C. line isn’t even accepting calls. I leave a voicemail about wanting to go back to work that I’m sure he will never bother listening to.
12 p.m. — Today is squat day! The gym goes great, and I head home and make myself scrambled eggs with chicken sausage and cheddar for lunch.
2:30 p.m. — Someone calls from work. They need me to come in on Monday and Tuesday for something. She can’t explain over the phone, but there are some trials still technically scheduled for next month even though they will likely be canceled if this goes on much longer. I will be “essential” for only those two days for now but may need to be there longer.
4 p.m. — L. is working from home to day and once he finishes up, we head to Trader Joe's. It’s my birthday on Monday, and we are having a small party tomorrow. I don’t feel comfortable spending a lot of money right now, so we are just going to do snacks and a game night at our apartment. We pick up fancy cheeses, crackers, ingredients for cheesecake, and some frozen appetizers. $30.50
7 p.m. — For dinner I make chicken parmesan from Skinnytaste. I love her recipes and this is one of L.’s favorites. I settle in to read The Remains of the Day, which I am so close to finishing. I bought it in October, but set it aside for a couple of months for other books. It is beautifully written, but I find the protagonist very frustrating.
10 p.m. — I take the dog for his night walk since L. will take him out tomorrow morning so I can sleep in.
Daily Total: $30.50

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up and eat the last of my bread from Monday with almond butter and strawberry jam. I will definitely make this recipe again; it was delicious!
11:30 a.m. — We go to the comic book store where L. picks up his list of pulls (fancy nerd speak for comic books they set aside for him every week). I get a little pop keychain to give to my friend when he comes to the party later since I missed his birthday party last month. I traded some comic books in last month, so I use some of that credit for it and don’t have to pay.
12:15 p.m. — Since there is a Walmart close by, we head over. I didn’t get enough cream cheese at Trader Joe's because I misread the recipe, and we also forgot to buy drinks. $22.05
3:30 p.m. — Time to tackle this cheesecake. They are easy to make but hard to bake because it’s a bit hard to tell when they're done. You can’t test them with a knife so you have to go on the amount of wobble.
6 p.m. — Friends start arriving for the party. We chat about life and play Deadpool vs. The World. It is low-key, and that is really nice right now. I’m an introvert and have a hard time with big groups, so a small group of people and a built-in activity is a perfect party. When I was younger I used to force myself to go out to bars and nightclubs, but now I realize it's okay to like what I like, even if other people would be bored out of their minds.
Daily Total: $22.05
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.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here. Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:
Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series