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A Week Unemployed In Illinois

Photo: Courtesy of Creative Grids.
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.

This week: a science writer who is currently unemployed and who spends some of her money this week on a quilting ruler.
Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up diary. You can read the original submission here.
Content Warning: This diary contains a reference to death.
Occupation: Unemployed (I graduated with my master’s two months ago, and have been job hunting since then.)
Industry: N/A
Age: 29
Location: Illinois
Salary: N/A. I went from a $2,000 monthly stipend to just living off my savings. My husband’s salary is $52,000, plus $5,000 to $10,000 annually from a small side business.
Assets: Checking: $210; personal savings: $8,200; joint savings: $18,210; retirement: $20,800 ($17,400 in a 403(b) and $3,400 in a state-specific retirement plan)
Debt: $840 (the bill for an ambulance ride and ER visit I incurred last year; I’ve been paying $230 a month.)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $150 (from coaching sessions)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $800 for my half of a townhouse plus utilities and wifi, split equally with my husband.
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Pet Supplies: $96.20
Gym Membership: $87.50
Spotify Student & Hulu Bundle: $5.99
Extra iCloud Storage: $2.99
Microsoft Office: $7.56
Car Insurance: $402.79 every six months
Yearly Expenses
Phone Plan: $300 (Mint Mobile)

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?
My parents are retired teachers, so education was always the top priority. I went to an in-state school for my bachelor’s and earned a few merit scholarships. My parents covered three years of tuition and living expenses, and I took out a small loan to cover the remaining semester.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Our family did not talk about money; my parents felt it was uncouth, and that kids should not worry about money. They did open a savings account for each of us when we were in kindergarten, and that is where I chose to deposit most of my money from holidays and part-time jobs. To this day, I don’t think my parents are very financially savvy. My dad gets a full pension, but I’m pretty sure CDs (certificates of deposit) are their only investment tool.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started detasseling corn when I was 12. It was the only way to get a paycheck at that age, but I mostly did it to hang out with my friends because we were so rural that we’d never get to see each other in the summertime otherwise. In high school, I waited tables at a pizza place and cleaned kennels at a vet clinic.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really, my parents kept us sheltered from that. My mom stayed at home and my dad was a teacher for the first 30 years of his career, so he was supporting a family of six on that salary. I remember thinking it was kind of incongruous that almost all of our “vacations” were weekend visits to my grandparents’ house in-state and that we couldn’t afford traveling sports leagues, yet there was always money for name-brand groceries and new clothes for each school year (years later, my dad would confide that they were in about $30,000 of credit card debt at this time). I had friends with single parents who lived in trailer parks and ate all their vegetables out of cans, and friends who had their own rooms and a pool in the backyard. I just figured that we were the middle ground, and I don’t recall fixating on that a lot (aside from desperately wanting my own room).

Do you worry about money now?
I used to worry about retirement, but now I’m more anxious about the next five to eight years. I’d like to buy a house and expand our family, but housing and daycare are scarily expensive (not to mention the possibility of having a child with complex medical or behavioral needs). I think I can accept whatever our future will look like (renting forever, being pet parents only, et cetera), but I wish I could look into a crystal ball now and know for sure. I hate the not knowing.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I graduated from college at 21 and assumed all of my own expenses (rent, groceries, health insurance, et cetera) except for car insurance and my phone bill. I didn’t get off my dad’s car insurance or phone plan until I was 25.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7 a.m. — It’s my birthday, and I’m awoken to my husband, V., football-launching a tulip arrangement across the room to where I’m laying in bed. He proudly explains his rationale for purchasing the fake variety: “so you wouldn’t have to figure out how to take care of them!” He also hands me a card and gift certificate to my favorite craft store, which I immediately use to order the Stripology XL Quilting Ruler that I’ve been lusting after for months.
9 a.m. — My mom calls to say happy birthday. We have a complicated relationship, but things have been better lately. I mention struggling with the job search and feeling like I’m not contributing to society. She goes full mom mode with a monologue on all the ways my quilts are a contribution to society, because I’m “bringing art into the world!” She also reminds me that the perfect job could show up any day, including tomorrow or a month from now. I can’t muster an eye roll because I’m smiling too much.
12 p.m. — I reheat some leftover minestrone and start a new book (All the Rage by Darcy Lockman). V. and I aren’t ready for parenthood yet, but there are some household inequities I’d like to address before we start the procreation conversation.
2 p.m. — I had a final round job interview last week and haven’t heard back, so I send a polite follow-up email to the hiring manager.
3:30 p.m. — It’s unseasonably warm today, so I take advantage of the weather with a nine-mile run. It’s my longest in several months and so good for my mental health, but my knees would like to speak with the manager.
6 p.m. — Birthday dinner at Costco! Their cheese pizza is my favorite food, so I treat myself to a slice. I did a no-buy month last month and haven’t been in a physical store since Christmas, so our next stop is Target. I pick up milk, instant hot cocoa, mushrooms, imitation beef crumbles, a couple of Purple Carrot frozen meals, mini ice cream sandwiches, a bag of Cadbury eggs, frozen pretzels, mac ‘n’ cheese, cereal, and a sheet mask. It’s been a while since I’ve bought cereal and I realize my favorite (Special K Red Berry) is up to $6 a box. I find a bunch of clearance cereals on an endcap and pick out a family size box of Strawberry Milkshake Frosted Flakes for $2.50 instead. I use the savings to justify the sheet mask. $41.37
Daily Total: $41.37

Day Two

7 a.m. — A morning workout class is my favorite way to kickstart the weekend. Because I coach Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the side on weekday mornings, this is my time to tune out everyone else and focus on myself.
9 a.m. — I drive across town to my favorite independent thrift store. I got a little overly optimistic in committing to a no-buy year, but I have some birthday money on hand and everyone knows that cash spending doesn’t count. I’m probably jumping the gun by looking for work clothes, but hopefully I’ll need them soon. I haven’t worn business casual in three years, so I’m starting from scratch. I love thrifting because it’s sustainable and fun, but it also gives me a chance to practice my poker face (my sister is forever making fun of my inability to hide my feelings facially). What’s that, the perfect pair of jeans? Dark wash, slight stretch, my size? Oh, and look at that giant multicolored bedazzled rose across the butt crack when you turn them around! How unexpected. My face is doing a great post-botox Jennifer Coolidge from A Cinderella Story. I am VERY upset about this! (But not too upset to leave empty handed.)
10 a.m. — Next stop is our local craft thrift. It’s an eclectic place with dollhouse furniture, greeting cards, scrapbooking supplies, puzzles, sewing notions, and odds and ends galore. Fabric is sold by the pound, and it’s a mixture of yardage, partially used fat quarters, and precuts from long abandoned projects. I’m finishing up a Knitted Star quilt, but my next project is a funky ’70s-inspired orange and green flower design. I fill up a huge bag of high-quality prints for $13.95. Overcome with generosity, I agree to round up for charity. $14
12 p.m. — V. and I drive to our favorite ice cream place. They’re closed for the winter, but opening for three hours today only to celebrate Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. V. and I each pull the trigger on something new. I order a PB&J shake (peanut butter ice cream with blackberry sauce and Graham Cracker Crumbs) while V. opts for a Rice Krispie shake (vanilla ice cream with cereal, sprinkles, and marshmallow sauce). I take one bite of the PB&J and the artificial berry syrup is overpowering. It’s a no from me, dawg. V. ends up eating both shakes, and I give myself permission to be internally bummed about this for a few hours because it was supposed to be my special climactic birthday treat. I forgot how trying new things is a luxury and a risk when you’re on a really tight budget. It’s my birthday and I’ll cry over peanut butter in ice cream if I want to. $12.35
6:30 p.m. — I pour a bowl of Strawberry Milkshake Frosted Flakes and immediately understand why they were on clearance. Post-dinner entertainment is brought to us by Barbie, which I buy on Amazon. We saw it twice last summer, and today feels like the perfect night for some silliness. And the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor goes to… Ryan Gosling’s eyebrows. I snack on an ice cream sandwich and my bag of Cadbury eggs. $17.74
Daily Total: $44.09

Day Three

7 a.m. — Sundays are our whole-house cleaning days, and I like to get an early start.
9:30 a.m. — My first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class of the week. It goes off without a hitch, and I stay after to do some cleaning at the gym.
1 p.m. — My in-laws invite me over for lunch and games. I haven’t seen my nieces since Christmas, and they are getting really good at G-rated trash talk. I stay for several hours and get pulled over on the drive home because one of my headlights went out. I dropped $4,000 on car repairs in November, so I was hoping to avoid vehicle expenses for a while. Fortunately I get off with a warning, and I place an order for a new bulb when I get home. $43.12
8 p.m. — Frozen pretzel for dinner, spiced up with some marinara dipping sauce. Whoever said potatoes are the most versatile food never tried soft pretzels.
Daily Total: $43.12

Day Four

5 a.m. — I coach another fitness class. In the summer I usually stay after to do my own workout, but my motivation is lacking in this dark and cold weather.
8 a.m. — I throw together a breakfast scramble with nutritional yeast and some expired tofu from the back of my fridge. 5/10 mid. I’m tired from staying up late last night and getting up early, so I lie down for a two-hour nap. This happens a lot these days, and it’s attached to a lot of shame and guilt since productive adults don’t have two spare hours in the middle of the day to sleep. But I’ve been pretty depressed lately, and sleeping helps the days pass by.
12 p.m. — I’m trying to use up all the random stuff in our pantry, and today’s lunchtime concoction is pumpkin protein waffles.
5 p.m. — I drag myself to an evening workout class. I’ve been competing in BJJ for a few years now, with minimal success. Each time I earn a new belt stripe, the workouts get a little less fun and a little more intense, and there’s much more scrutiny from my coach. I envisioned my amateur career going a lot differently, and I’m trying to make peace with this likely being my last competitive season.
7 p.m. — I eat a frozen pretzel and some dry cereal for dinner, then spend more time on my quilt. It’s all pieced and basted, so I just have to finish quilting and binding. This is my 20th quilt, and the actual free-motion quilting remains my least favorite step of the whole quilting process (the irony is not lost on me). My top thread is showing through the backing fabric, so I troubleshoot by messing around with the bobbin tension and disassembling the machine.
10 p.m. — I check my email once more before bed. The hiring manager has reached out to communicate some delays in the hiring process. The timeline remains unclear, but I'm hoping for a decision this week.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — I start my day with a bowl of dry cereal while browsing the obituaries and realize I am turning into my mom. I have an irrational fear of learning about my parents’ deaths through the obits (but mostly I’m just nosy about other people). I make a mental note to mention this when I’m back in therapy. Feeling cute, might spiral about my parents’ mortality later.
8:30 a.m. — I decide against going to my gym’s mid-morning class, and I opt for a four-mile run and some bodyweight exercises instead.
11 a.m. — I buy a set of hand weights off Facebook Marketplace, then use random leftovers to make a farro salad for lunch. $10
4 p.m. — I have a second-round Zoom interview for a different job. This is my 10th interview in eight weeks, and the thought of introducing myself to a hiring committee yet again is really working that Fiona Montgomery from A Cinderella Story impression. But I press on and the vibes are really good; the search committee seems excited about some of the ideas I suggest. Fingers crossed!
6 p.m. — Dinner is a frozen pretzel and hot chocolate before V. and I head off to a cookie-decorating class led by a local pastry chef. The class is a bit of a splurge, but I can’t remember the last time we had a date night. Tonight we’re designing breakfast-themed foods including eggs, bacon, and pancakes. A is very laidback and leaves the designs open to interpretation, while I remain an anal, process-driven shrew. Our cookies reflect this. $45
Daily Total: $55

Day Six

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but V. and I have already been up for hours yelling at our dog and cat to STFU. Our dog is an elderly rescue from a hoarding situation whom we love deeply, but she is a complete menace when hungry or not feeling like the center of attention. Unfortunately she tends to feel both of these things most mornings between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
8 a.m. — After coaching and running through a test workout, I microwave a bowl of oatmeal with banana and brown sugar and pass out on the couch for two hours. This isn’t a depression nap, it’s an “I got no sleep thanks to my needy animals” nap. I definitely could have gone another hour, but instead I reward myself with last night’s bacon sugar cookie for being less of a bum than I could have been.
12 p.m. — I ordered a few pairs of Old Navy work pants online, and the at-home try-on is not going well. I don’t want to be that stubborn millennial clinging to her beloved yet outdated trends, but this wide-legged cropped situation is tragic. Fifteen years ago when my ankles were hanging out of full-length pants, I was “dorky” or “copying Urkel,” and suddenly this look is cool? Check on your tall friends — we are not okay.
6 p.m. — I trudge through an evening workout class and find myself in a much better head space. I whip up my go-to dinner (frozen pretzel and hot chocolate) and settle in for a free workshop at our local library. They host fun seminars and classes weekly, and I try to attend at least one each month. Tonight we’re learning about self-publishing! Most of these classes are saturated with retired people hijacking the seminar to promote their own (usually incorrect) knowledge of the topic, so I do that recovering-goody-two-shoes thing where I lean forward and force unbroken eye contact with the actual hired speaker so they know that I’m listening and value their time.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I can’t let this beautiful weather pass without a run. I was hoping for six to eight miles but my body is feeling really off, so I call it at four. I shower and get dressed, and as I’m eating a bootleg Panera salad on the couch, the hiring manager from my first interview calls with great news — a job offer! The salary is a bit lower than expected (and negotiations aren’t a thing in this industry), but I’m excited about the role and the benefits are fantastic.
11 a.m. — I’m visiting my parents for the weekend, so I top up my gas tank before hitting the road. They live in Iowa and got me tickets to a University of Iowa women’s basketball game as a birthday gift. Caitlin Clark is my girl crush, so I’m screaming internally. $16.43
4 p.m. — Quick trip to my (former) favorite hometown thrift. I’m looking for specific pieces to build a capsule wardrobe, so I scoop up a pair of straight-leg olive pants, two corduroy skirts, a black flutter-sleeve top, and a pair of navy Editor pants from Loft. The latter goes against my better judgment, as the top unanswered question of the universe remains, WHAT COLOR SHOES GO WITH NAVY?!?! (Influencers can stop telling me black, because that pairing has and always will be a crime). I also try on a pair of jeans that fit like a glove, but quickly pass because my raging feminist ass will not indulge the audacious douche-bro capitalistic desire to charge $18 for a pair of secondhand Old Navy pants. $38.37
6 p.m. — We stop at Texas Roadhouse and my dad insists on paying for the meal and tip. He asks the waitress for multiple modifications and refills in spite of the obvious dinner rush, so I surreptitiously slip an extra ten under my plate. We’re all doing this with our boomer relatives, right? $10
8:30 p.m. — My parents paid for dinner and gas, so concessions are on me. I also pick up a Hawks Basketball tee for myself. I get emotional just looking around the sold-out arena and seeing people of all ages repping Caitlin Clark and Hannah Stuelke jerseys. Growing up I was idolizing Jennie Finch, Mia Hamm, and Diana Taurasi, and I love that there are so many incredible Gen Z women stepping up to be quasi-gods for the next generation. I want nothing but good things for all of them — I hope they get that NIL bread and continue to market the shit out of themselves unapologetically. This has been the best live sporting event I’ve seen in years, and it's the perfect way to cap off the week. $46.39
Daily Total: $111.19

The Breakdown

If you are experiencing 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.
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