A Week In St. Paul, MN, On Disability

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Today: a woman living off of disability checks who spends some of her money this week on glitter gel pens for her daughter. This is one of the diaries that we considered including in the Money Diaries book, but ultimately didn't make the final edit — it wasn't an easy decision. (You'll notice the diary was written in winter.) Tune in tomorrow for a follow-up Q&A with the OP. (Or, if you're a member of our Facebook group, you can get a sneak peek at the Q&A this evening.)
Occupation: On Disability
Age: 30
Location: St. Paul, MN
Salary: $25,000 for disability (It was $32,000 before I became disabled.)
Disability Check (Weekly): $367
Husband’s Part-time Paycheck (Weekly): $120 (He is also a student.)
We also live off of student loans and our tax-refund as well.
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,015 (I live in a modest house with my husband and two kids.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I'm on an income-based repayment plan.)
Cell Phone: $0 (My in-laws cover us on their family plan. Thanks, in-laws!)
Internet: $44
Ooma Internet Phone: $5
Utilities: $260
Car Payment: $148
Gym Membership: $60 (We have a 50% scholarship.)
Preschool: $0 (Thanks to a scholarship.)
After-School Care: $140
Credit Cards: $350 (We earn less than our expenses, so we have significant debt. It sucks.)
Savings: Ummmmm, yeah right.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — Time to take the kindergartener to school. It’s so amazing that there’s a public environmental magnet school just under three miles from our home, and my daughter is thriving there. However, she's terrified of breakfast time in the school cafeteria, which would be free, so I always have to make her breakfast. We keep a lot of yogurt and granola stocked.
10:30 a.m. — I pack a lunch for my three-year-old. It’s the same every day: half a sun-butter-and-jelly sandwich, string cheese, crackers, Craisins, and three chocolate chips. I put in a bento box to reduce waste. I make myself two eggs with toast and salsa real quick before taking him to school.
11:30 a.m. — I drop my son off at his preschool. It’s fantastic — they go hiking every day, and he loves his teachers so much. This preschool costs $420 a month for three half-days, however Minnesota offers early learning scholarships to three- and four-year-olds who meet income guidelines. For a family of four, the income limit is $44,000 a year. We are so grateful that our son gets to have an incredible preschool experience.
12 p.m. — I stop by Play it Again Sports to get my kids’ skates sharpened. I bought a credit for 10 sharpenings last year. I also get skate blade covers because I got cut trying to get the skates on my three-year-old last week. $27.80
1 p.m. — I have an appointment with one of Minnesota’s approved medical cannabis providers. PTSD is an approved medical condition, so I meet with a pharmacist, discuss symptoms, and purchase products. This is the only relief I’ve gotten from six months of near constant panic, nausea, and vomiting due to a traumatic event. It’s very expensive for us, but finally something helps. Thankfully, they offer a 15% discount for people who have state insurance. $134.57
2 p.m. — Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are great because both kids are in school, so my husband and I can go to appointments. My husband took his 2004 Camry with 204,000 miles on it to the dealership for an oil change. We try to keep up the maintenance on it, as it’s completely paid for and liability-only insurance isn’t too bad. $37.62
3 p.m. He stops by a utility worker’s store to buy new work gloves ($6.37), as his are shredded from working nights. The money isn’t good now, but the holiday bonuses were nice while they lasted. Next on his list is a stop at Walgreens to pick up prescriptions and pull-ups for our three-year-old ($15.61). $21.98
Daily Total: $221.97

Day Two

8 a.m. — I had a terrible migraine Wednesday night, and I spent a significant amount of the early morning hours on the bathroom floor. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, and my husband didn’t go anywhere except work and school drop-off, since I couldn’t drive.
10:15 a.m. — I get a call from the dealership asking if we want to trade in our 2004 Camry for 2018 with 0% financing. I say no. She persists. I start crying and blubbering: “No, I don't, this car is paid off, and I'm on disability and have no down payment money, and this phone call is completely out of line. We’ll find another place to do oil changes.”
2:30 p.m. — My daughter wants to color after school with my sparkly glitter gel pens, and this sounds therapeutic to me. All of our favorite colors are out of ink or nearly there, so I order a new pack of 30 glitter gels pens with refills. I apply $23 in Amazon rewards points. $10.70
Daily Total: $10.70

Day Three

10 a.m. — Both the kids have school today. My health condition has meant that for the most part I panic when I try to go to busy places with a lot of people, so I’m often homebound. However, the cold weather is driving us all crazy, so I decided that, armed with my medical cannabis, we would surprise the kids and take them to the Children’s Museum. It's open until 8 on Friday nights, and it's a reliably quiet time to go.
4 p.m. — I fill out the All Play scholarship application to cover the Children’s Museum $129 annual membership, and we decide to eat dinner at the museum to simplify our evening. Two kids meals, a personal Hawaiian pizza for me, and a club sandwich for the husband. $28
7:30 p.m. — We’re done playing, so we head out. Parking in the ramp in downtown St. Paul costs $7. $7
Daily Total: $35

Day Four

1 p.m. — I cleaned the house this morning with the kids while my husband slept after his overnight shift. Now I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed and need some me time, so I go to the Y for a Wave Yoga class. It's amazing! I paid for the classes with Christmas money when they had an end-of-year 10% discount.
2:30 p.m. — Feeling calmer, I felt brave and go to Target. We needed a few groceries (granola, yogurt, milk, cheese sticks) and distilled water for humidifiers. I also buy a number of Captain America toys for my three-year-old, who just pooped in the potty, and a surprise for my daughter, who had a hard time taking her antibiotics. (Nope, not above bribing.) We had a couple gift cards leftover from Christmas, so even though my total is over $150, I only spend $28.78 in the end. $28.78
3:30 p.m. — The car needed gas, so I fill up. $30.15
Daily Total: $58.93

Day Five

10:30 a.m. — Another frigid below-zero day. I realize I forgot batteries and rubber gloves at Target, so I ordered them in bulk on Amazon, I also ordered kid-sized rubber gloves because the kids keep asking for them. I appreciate that they want to help with dishes, even though it makes it more stressful sometimes. $46.74
2 p.m. — Since we're still a bit stir-crazy, I suggest we go skating at the local ice arenas. I'm super nervous about crowds and over-stimulating music, but I figure we can just leave if I panic. As luck would have it, there are only about a dozen people and no music. It should cost $3 per person, but we can't find anyone to pay. So….it ends up being free. And not frigid.
5 p.m. — I make pigs in a blanket for dinner for my kids, and kale chips for me and my husband. My kids hate them and won't eat a bite. Who are these people, and why are they in my house? They end up eating a bag of tortilla chips, and I really couldn’t care less.
7:30 p.m. — I go through my daughter’s Friday folder, and see there’s a field trip permission slip. It costs $6 for the bus. $6
Daily Total: $52.74

Day Six

12 p.m. — My husband tweaked his neck at work, so I make appointments for all four of us at noon for the chiropractor. The kids think it's great to get the popcorn out of their backs. Minnesota state chiropractic co-pays are $3 each. Kids, $0. $6
1 p.m. — The kids are STARVING. I had planned on eating at home, but since we’re already in the suburbs, we stop by Applebee's and use a gift card. I was nervous about eating in the restaurant, but I also couldn't stand my children whining about being hungry. The kids have grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit, and yogurt. I get tacos, and my husband has a burger.
1:30 p.m. — I feel a panic coming on. I drop the gift card on the table and walk to the car. I pull out some essential oils and do a breathing exercise to recover. A few minutes later, my family joins me. My sweet little boy tells me: “Don’t cry, Mommy, I’m here.” My husband said that with the gift card, he only added a little extra for a cash tip. $2
5:30 p.m. — It’s time for ice skating lessons. I only ever sign my kids up for one activity at a time, with a preference for things they can both do at the same time. Usually it’s swim lessons at the Y, where we get a discount. However, back before Christmas a mom friend in my neighborhood Facebook group posted that she signed her five-year-old up for ice skating lessons and thought it would be really fun if a bunch of the moms in the group all signed up. Cue my FOMO — I want my kids to learn to ice skate, too! I want to be brave and leave the house and see my friends, whose company gives me strength. Except the eight-week classes cost $119 per child. Holy crap, out of our budget. Then I saw in little red writing on the website that scholarships are available for kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch. That’s us!
7 p.m. — We get home and once again, the kids are starving. I make cheese quesadillas, because they live off carbs and cheese, and my husband and I make breakfast burritos, our go-to cheap source of protein.
Daily Total: $8

Day Seven

10:45 a.m. — Regular yoga at the Y. I have my three-year-old at home, so I take him with me. He wants to come to yoga, and I want to encourage a healthy lifestyle, so I always let him. Sometimes he lasts about 20 minutes, and this time it's about six. I sneak out to take him to the childcare. Our membership includes two hours per day of childcare, which motivates me like crazy to go to the gym.
12:45 p.m. —There's a Starbucks by the Y, and we drive by every time we go. On a camping trip once, we stopped at Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and now the kids know it’s a thing and they always ask to go. Today, I told my three-year-old if he stayed clean and dry in the childcare, we could get sandwiches after. It worked! We get two sandwiches. I used to get midday coffee, but since my trauma, my body can’t handle the caffeine. Instead, I order an ice water for my kid and decide that if they’re judging me, I don’t really care. $7.93
1 p.m. — Target was completely out of distilled water when I went on Saturday, so I stop at a small local grocery store to get some. I also pick up more milk, eggs, bagels, and fizzy water. I’ve given up alcohol, so keeping a supply of fizzy water on hand makes me feel better. I wanted to pick up more granola, but they definitely upcharge at this store and I can’t bear to spend $6 for one small bag. $20.82
2 p.m. — Pick up my daughter from school. We had a fresh snowfall, and I have to park down a significant hill from the school. I bring a couple sleds and take her backpack so the kids can sled down to the car. We’ve gotta make winter fun! Also, my husband has a phone interview, so we need to kill a little time before going home. I’m trying to stay hopeful that he’ll be able to find some better-paying part-time work.
3 p.m. — I go to an appointment for community acupuncture, which is great because it costs $35 as opposed to $75. I find that treatments really help my anxiety for a few days, and also help clear my sinuses. Perfect self-care — I just wish insurance covered it. $35
3:55 p.m. — I get a call that there’s been a cancellation with the specialist I’ve been trying to get my daughter in to see tomorrow at 1.
4 p.m. — My weekly therapy appointment. I’m so thankful the state health insurance has no co-pays for anything mental health-related, so there is no disincentive to getting the help you need.
7:45 p.m. — The car needs gas again, so my husband fills up before work. $26.56
Daily Total: $90.31
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