A Week On Unemployment In Burbank, CA

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Today: a woman on unemployment who spends some of her money this week on a Bath & Body Works candle.
Occupation: Unemployed (hopefully temporary!)
Industry: Currently none, formerly worked in academia
Age: 32
Location: Burbank, CA
Salary: Unemployed (it was $57,000 until July when I was let go, I now collect unemployment)
Net Worth: $53,000 (plus my one-bedroom condo in the valley, more on that below) — this is just my net worth, my husband and I keep meaning to combine our accounts, but we haven't yet so we just take turns paying for things. In terms of my husband, he makes $45,000 a year. He covers phone, groceries, food out, TV subscriptions, and most miscellaneous spending. It is very close to the mortgage when added up. I used to be the breadwinner so I’d contribute a little more monthly by paying the HOA bill from my account.
Debt: $0 (I completed two years of AmeriCorps service during the last recession when I was unable to find a traditional job and didn't have the money (or the stomach) for grad school. The end-of-service grant ($11,000) paid off around 60% of my student loans. That really took the pressure off the monthly payments. It took me another six years or so to pay off the rest of my student loan (around $7,000).)
Paycheck Amount (weekly): $450
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage/HOA/Utilities: $1,900 (I own my condo (jointly with my husband) and we're not sure if it has any equity because of COVID and shifting market preferences. Although it's in an amazing neighborhood with tons of walkable restaurants, shopping, etc, it doesn't have any private outdoor space and we think it'd be hard to sell for years, depending on how the pandemic plays out. Hypothetically, if we sold now, I fear we might even lose some of the money we put down on the realtor fees or closing costs. We were planning on living here for a few years and maybe moving to a cheaper city with the potential equity (almost any city is cheaper than L.A.) but now everything is very much up in the air. I try to focus on how lucky we are to be homeowners at all and not let the uncertainty get me down.) 
Loans: $0 (my used car is paid off as are my student loans)
Car/Home/Earthquake Insurance: $2,400 annually
Health Insurance: I'm on my husband's and he pays (we switched to his insurance when I lost my job)
HBO: $15 for HBO (I share with family to get access to Netflix/Hulu)
Cell Phone: $142
Internet: $50
Apple Storage: $1
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?
Yes. My pops made sure to tell me I had to go to college but also had to figure out how to pay for it by myself since we were poor. Ended up getting a full ride for tuition and covering room and board with loans. I know I'm super lucky in this regard.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We talked about money, and the lack of it, all the time. I skipped science camps and field trips knowing it'd be embarrassing to ask my dad to pay for them. He really instilled a savings mentality.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Dining hall at college! Free food! I was enrolled in the work-study program so I had to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify for my student aid.
Did you worry about money growing up?
All the damn time. Treats were rare but so precious when we could afford them!
Do you worry about money now?
I am deeply traumatized and agonize over spending money. I didn't go to grad school because I didn't want to pay for the tests and application fees. Things like that I know will hold me back. I'd get counseling but too expensive.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
17. I graduated from high school early, went to a state university, and was on my own. My dad couldn't afford the rent after that year so he moved to a different state.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. My dad died when I was 25 and as far as I knew he didn't have any money. I spent hours on the phone trying to enroll him in a state health care plan for impoverished people but the approval was too late. A few months after he died, I got a life insurance check for $7,000, which I combined with my savings for a down payment on a small condo. He would have loved to have been a homeowner but it still makes me so sad.

Day One

9 a.m. — I have my morning breakfast. Yogurt and granola with fancy coffee my husband made. We have shifted to weekly online grocery orders, due to the pandemic, and they are expensive! The coffee is the good stuff from Portland, OR. I probably couldn't justify the cost so thank goodness he is in charge of the coffee department!
11 a.m. — Finish up another audiobook from the library. I'm enjoying Severance by Ling Ma. It's about an office worker who is caught up in a pandemic and continues working even as the city empties out around her. Very timely and so so good! I tell everyone about the library. So much free entertainment including movies on their Kanopy app and audiobooks and music on their Overdrive app.
2 p.m. — Late lunch of leftover chicken tortilla soup. Homemade! When I used to have a job, we had mandated lunchtimes, which was sort of weird but I still stick to mine since I was there for two years before being let go in the middle of a pandemic for "not being a good fit." I crunch up a few extra tortilla chips and dissolve them into my soup.
6 p.m. — Husband and I decide to grab food out tonight for dinner since I have a free birthday meal at a nearby restaurant! We walk over so we get some exercise in. I don't eat red meat often so I really enjoyed this. Meal for two was around 10 bucks (after my free meal). I'm tempted to go explore the Nordstrom Rack after, but with the pandemic and my unemployment, we decide it's a bad idea. $9.99
8:30 p.m. — I watch Cobra Kai on Netflix. I know I'm late to the game but this show is super entertaining. I really like seeing the valley portrayed on film (again!) and think there's a good variety of socio-economic classes represented. I grew up in an apartment and still live in one and like that the protagonist does too. It resonates with me, lol. Netflix is "free" for us and we trade it for HBO with my cousin.
10:30 p.m. — I use the Calm app to do some nightly meditations and improve my sleep. It is free through my husband's health insurance. Thank goodness he is in a union and got to keep his job and benefits in this pandemic. I was blindsided by my own job loss so it's nice to feel somewhat secure. Matthew McConaughey narrating a sleep story puts me to sleep right away.
Daily Total: $9.99

Day Two

9 a.m. — I start most days reading the news headlines now that I don't have a job. I use Bing because they have a rewards program and I usually earn a $5 gift card every month. Reading about the virus and the economy is stressing me out so I reheat a frozen Krispy Kreme donut. I got a free dozen for my birthday and we froze half for later. Just five seconds in the microwave and it's perfect! Husband left me some good coffee too! I search the job listings and things in my former pay range seem nonexistent. I guess the internet was right and I should have learned to code. Sigh. I realize I'm very into freebies since I got laid off.
10 a.m. — I decide to go for a walk. Our local mall has reopened and I want to do some pandemic voyeurism. I mask up tight and proceed to the Bath & Body Works on the first floor. They sanitize my hands on the way in. Candles are buy one, get one free. I've actually spent a lot on scented candles in 2020. I pick up two more candles and get a mini hand sanitizer for my neighbor. What a rush! The mall looks somewhat happening actually. Certainly not what it used to be but maybe 25% of its formerly crowded glory. I was worried it wouldn't bounce back but life finds a way. $30
1 p.m. — Leftovers for lunch again. I froze some lentil soup I made last month and today I unthaw two portions for the husband and me. It is kind of boring but filling and healthy. Could use salt. Or bread. I'll need to make a shopping cart of groceries soon to restock the kitchen. I listen to another free audiobook from the library while doing dishes. Our condo didn't come with a dishwasher but that's why we could afford it! This time my book is a sci-fi classic from Octavia Butler. I have a lot of time on my hands so I'm working my way through the classics.
2 p.m. — My neighbor drops off some nice loose leaf tea for me! I enjoy my apartment building sometimes. We may annoy each other (the kid downstairs rides their bike in a circle screaming a lot), but we also do look out for each other. I know a lot of my friends are only considering living in/buying single-family homes but I didn't want to wait until I had money for a $700,000 starter home. Condo living suits me. I make some of this green tea and enjoy it while lighting one of my new candles.
5:30 p.m. — I raid the pantry and make a quick pasta dinner for us. I really gotta get on ordering groceries but am trying to hold out until the end of the week.
6 p.m. — Laundry day. So one of the drawbacks of buying the most affordable condo in the valley is that we have to use a shared laundry room. My assigned weekly timeslot is tonight. I didn't mind this before the pandemic and the evening time worked well with my long office hours. Now I worry about if everybody is wearing masks like they're supposed to. Lot of aerosols floating around by the end of the day. Husband and I mask up and take our 12 quarters down to the basement. $3
Daily Total: $33

Day Three

9 a.m. — I get up and finish up the last of my Greek yogurt.
10 a.m. — Grocery order day! I am always keeping a list of meals to make and things we regularly order. I try to prep with leftovers in mind to keep the costs down. It's just more expensive to order for delivery. I would never have "splurged" like this before the pandemic! Luckily my cousin lets me use their Prime account so I can order groceries. I need to get them a gift card at Christmas. I add a tip for the delivery driver and schedule the groceries to arrive in two days. $89
1 p.m. — Leftover pasta from last night is today's lunch.
6 p.m. — We make a quick stir fry for dinner using the last of the week's produce, eggs, and some leftover rice. We watch a couple more episodes of Cobra Kai and I listen to a sleep meditation before bed.
Daily Total: $89

Day Four

9 a.m. — Husband makes me coffee. I have a granola bar for breakfast.
10 a.m. — I walk to our local Walgreens because I found a free photo code on Reddit. I get 10 photos of our favorite people printed out from the wedding we had last year. They are the only professional photos I have and I'm going to send them out for the holidays. I hope all my aunties are ready for mail! I also get some rubbing alcohol and Lysol spray. $12
1 p.m. — Quick lunch of quesadillas! We have a ton of frozen tortillas still. I use the last of the cheddar. Groceries come tomorrow!
6 p.m. — We decide to walk to the local hot chicken place. No one wants to cook and groceries come tomorrow. Oh my god, I miss restaurants. We tip 20%, take our food to go, and find a local plaza the city has set up with chairs for outdoor dining. What a treat! We pack our own drinks (seltzer!) to save some money and really enjoy our food. I hope this place survives the pandemic. $22
Daily Total: $34

Day Five

9 a.m. — I make a pot of loose leaf tea and browse the jobs section. Depressing. Eat a granola bar for breakfast.
9:36 a.m. — Woof. I get an alert from my bank account. The mortgage autopay went through today. It comes out of my checking account and then my husband pays for all the other expenses so it evens out. I browse through my credit cards and accounts to ensure everything looks correct. The HOA bill, which includes utilities, will be coming next week. It's been high because of all the AC we've been using. I make a mental note of that. Splitting utilities across the whole building is so old fashioned, but so far very manageable. It's been two years and nothing unexpected (cost-wise) has happened in our building.
1 p.m. — Husband thaws us out some leftover Cajun stew for lunch! And does the dishes!
3 p.m. — Old Navy is offering free shipping so I got some more masks and some slippers for my upstairs neighbor. Her steps are kind of loud and this will be a good way to broach the subject (again!). The extra masks mean I don't have to hand wash them anymore midweek before our laundry time slot. $32
5:30 p.m. — Groceries came! I put them all away except for the salmon and Brussels sprouts I bought for tonight's dinner. This is a splurge since there will be no leftovers. We try to cook at least one "nicer" meal a week. Husband does a great job searing the salmon and taking care of the cast iron at the end of our meal! He'd be a good dad, but not having kids really keeps our costs down.
8 p.m. — I decide to take a quick walk since I haven't left the house all day! I listen to my audiobook (free from the library) and do a few laps around the building. I'm trying to focus on being grateful for even being able to take a night walk. In my last neighborhood, I would not have walked around at night by myself. Come to think of it, growing up I wouldn't have walked around at night either. I text a childhood friend from my old apartment building to tell her I miss her.
Daily Total: $32

Day Six

9 a.m. — I have Greek yogurt for breakfast. I portion it out so the container will last five meals. I check the job listings, just in case. It's the weekend so my husband makes us lattes with freshly steamed oat milk. We stocked up on oat milk early in the pandemic because it is shelf-stable and I've grown to enjoy it a lot!
11:30 a.m. — Before the pandemic, we would catch a matinee almost every weekend. Today we attempt to recreate that by popping some popcorn and seeing what's available on HBO. I'm pushing a true-crime documentary, but we settle on a mid-90s action movie. It's nice to just hang out and cuddle. Husband works all week while I'm just unemployed so I sometimes feel guilty. The unemployment does cover the mortgage but that's about it.
4 p.m. — We head out to Little Tokyo to pick up an early dinner. It's from a hot pot place that we adore and is our big expense for the week. We try to go every weekend. If we have to cut this, I'll know things are super dire! It's basically raw veggies and high-quality meat that you cook up at home. We invested in a hot pot early in the pandemic just to make this meal at home. Worth every penny. We always tip because we need this business to survive the pandemic. They've been giving us free cold brew lately too! I fire off a photo of our setup on Instagram and tag the restaurant. I hope they can use it to drum up new business! $60
8:30 p.m. — It's Zoom karaoke night with our friends and my cousins! We meet up every week to talk about our lives and sometimes sing a few tunes. My old friend from high school just got laid off so I use the time to let them know about my experience and walk them through how unemployment works too. It's so nice to catch up! Speaking of unemployment, I stay up late to "certify" for benefits right at midnight when they become available. Not sure why I do this but it's a habit now. Every two weeks.
Daily Total: $60

Day Seven

10 a.m. — We cook up a late brunch! I make biscuits (that should be a couple of days of leftovers) and my husband makes pancakes and eggs. We linger over homemade lattes and my husband talks about dreading going back to work tomorrow. I wish I had work, lol.
11 a.m. — I take a walk around the neighborhood to finish my audiobook before it's due back to the library.
2 p.m. — We make quick nachos for lunch and catch up on our "news" shows from the previous week. That John Oliver is a riot.
6 p.m. — I make a giant pot of stew. This is my grandma's recipe and should last us for three meals. I try to do two large serving meals like this a week to stretch our grocery budget.
10 p.m. — I use my Calm app to do a night time meditation about gratitude and think about my "safety net" of neighbors, family, and friends who have supported me in ways big and small throughout the pandemic and my job loss. I switch to another sleep story about trains. I do not reach the end.
Daily Total: $0
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