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A Week In Atlanta On Unemployment Benefits

Photo: Courtesy of McDonald's.
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Today: An unemployed software developer who collects $365 a week in unemployment benefits and spends some of her money this week on a McGriddle sandwich.
Occupation: Unemployed software developer
Industry: Tech
Age: 27
Location: Atlanta
Salary: $0 (I was laid off six months ago.)
Severance: $21,123 (I received three months’ salary, plus a vacation payout.)
Net Worth: $170,774 (401(k): $108,367; Roth IRA: $14,647; HSA: $8,905; checking: $1,928; HYSA: $36,927)
Debt: $0
Unemployment Benefits (weekly): $365
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,500 (I live alone in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with my two cats.)
Phone: $67.14
Internet: $70
Electricity: ~$75
Health Benefits: $677.13 (My former employer covered my health and dental benefits for the first three months as part of my severance, but now I pay the full cost. I chose to continue because I was almost at my deductible, $1,500, when I got laid off.)
Dental Benefits: $54.57
Premium Family YouTube: $22.99 (I share this with my sister who lets me use her Max, Hulu, and Netflix subscriptions.)
Spotify Premium: $10.99
Time Management App: $7.50
Patreon: $28 (various)

Annual Expenses
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Fee: $550
Delta SkyMiles Gold AmEx Card Fee: $99
Amazon Prime: $139
YNAB: $98.99

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?
There was a subtle expectation for me to attend higher education, but I don’t remember it being drilled into me. Both my parents have associate’s degrees hung up in their house, but I don’t even remember what they’re in. I wanted to go to a private school, but I went to an in-state public university because my dad agreed to pay for the majority of it. I graduated with about $9,000 in student loans, which I paid off the year after I graduated.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents didn’t educate me about finances at all. Money was a taboo topic in my home because their biggest fights were about finances: who would pay for what, how the other person was wasting money or not spending it right, et cetera. Growing up, I didn’t fully understand because, from my perspective, we had everything we needed, and they were able to give me (almost) everything I wanted. Now that I’m grown, I know there was probably credit card debt involved in that.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I did an “apprenticeship” at a dance school where I was paid a stipend that totaled around $700 over the course of that school year. I got the job because I was told I needed to do activities that looked good for colleges, and the stipend was a sweet bonus. I was an assistant teacher for a ballet class in which an eight-year-old told me she hated me and wished I would die every week. My first real job was the one I got laid off from, which was also my first job out of college.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. Like I mentioned, my parents fought about money. Looking back, all that tension might have made me obsessed with learning as much about finances as I could. I loved getting books about earning money (shout out to the American Girl book, A Girl’s Guide to Money) and was constantly coming up with business ideas.

Do you worry about money now?
Right now, yes, because I’m unemployed. The money will run out if I don’t get a new job and, truthfully, I don’t want to downgrade my lifestyle. Before I got laid off, the answer would have been no. I was making a very good salary, over $126,000, and I could save while still enjoying my life.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent at age 21, after I graduated and moved to Atlanta for my job. As for a financial safety net, I think my mom would send me money if I needed it, and I would be able to move in with one of my sisters or back in with my parents. They all live in different states than me, though, so that’s a very last resort.

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

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up and lay in bed for an hour and a half, scrolling on my phone. I hate that I do this and I’m trying to work on actually getting out of bed when I first wake up. I finally get up and do my skincare routine and brush my teeth.
10 a.m. — I open my bedroom door to greet my cats, M. and L., waiting impatiently for food. I do cat chores, which include feeding them breakfast, giving M. his medicine, filling up the auto feeders, and scooping the litter boxes. I have a gravity water bowl so it doesn’t need filling every day. Then I make myself breakfast, which is English breakfast tea with too many pumps of pumpkin spice syrup and two pieces of toast with peanut butter.
11:30 a.m. — I finish getting ready by showering and putting on makeup. I have a second-round Zoom interview at 2:30 p.m. and I’m going out later so I have to look a little bit presentable. I also listen to the latest Normal Gossip episode. I’m enjoying this season much more than the last.
1 p.m. — I spend time on LinkedIn responding to recruiter messages and doing last-minute research on the company I’m interviewing with. I was laid off six months ago and have been actively job searching for three months, and this is only my third interview where I’m talking to the hiring manager, so I’m pretty nervous.
3:15 p.m. — Interview over! Anxiety lifted! I think it went pretty well, and the interviewer at least laughed at my jokes. I check my email to see I missed a call from a recruiter I connected with on LinkedIn. In my defense, he never actually confirmed a time to call. I call him back, and he tells me more details about the position and asks for my résumé. I don’t really like the position, but your girl needs a job, so I send it over.
4 p.m. — I call my boyfriend, D., to debrief and confirm our plans to meet friends for dinner tonight. For lunch, I have leftover homemade summer rolls and peanut sauce, then start getting ready. I don’t have too much to do since I’m already showered and dressed from my interview, but I put on a bit more makeup.
6:30 p.m. — All six of us are late (Atlanta traffic, amirite?) but we all make it to the restaurant in one piece. It’s a Latin American–style wine bar that I like, and there’s even a musician playing. It’s my friend’s birthday, so we order two bottles of wine for the table of six. I order chicken skewers, and my boyfriend gets a bowl of mussels that are way better than my skewers. The chicken tastes great but is a little dry. We also share an empanada and a side of yucca fries, which are absolutely delicious. My friends enjoy their food and thank me for choosing the restaurant, which is nice. D. pays for our portion of the meal.
8:30 p.m. — Time for a location change. We head over to a bar that has VR game rooms. One of my friends puts down his card to reserve a room for us. We order drinks, and I get something sweet that barely tastes like alcohol but manages to squeeze in four different liquors. We play one game, and the TV freezes, so we get someone to fix it for us. After another game, we realize the sound isn’t working, so we have the employee look again, and they offer us a different room. In this room, the left joystick keeps turning off! An employee comes back and tells us she’s adding extra time to the room. We manage to have fun despite the technical difficulties. D. closes our tab, and we all head home. He comes over to my house, and we get in bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8 a.m. — I wake up and check my email. I see that interview yesterday actually did go well and I’m being asked to schedule a time for a live coding assessment. This is both exciting and nerve wracking. I’m so bad at coding during interviews that this is usually where I fail in the process. I respond to the email with days and times for the test.
9 a.m. — D. wakes up and gives me the details of the weirdest dream of all time. He takes a morning call, while I get ready for the day and do some morning stretches. I take a Tylenol because my arms hurt so bad this morning. Maybe I went too hard with the joystick at the VR place? I have joint and nerve problems, but I’ve never had this much pain before. Then I do the cat chores and make breakfast for me, which is chai tea and peanut butter toast again. D. is working, and, like a good stay-at-home girlfriend, I bring him a cup of instant coffee. Jk, we don’t live together.
11 a.m. — D. and I watch the latest episode of Hot Ones with Amelia Dimoldenberg. While we’re watching, I realize I haven’t bought my plane tickets to visit my family for Thanksgiving so I start searching. I get them for less than $250. Not a bad price, but I’ll be spending longer at my parents house than I prefer. $232.80
1 p.m. — I have another call with a recruiter from LinkedIn. I feel like something is in the water this week — I don’t normally get this many hits. Anyway, the call goes okay, but I don’t feel like it’s a good role for me at all. I send her my résumé and spend some time looking at marketplace insurance plans. It’s all too confusing so I’m pushing that off for another time. I spend the remainder of the afternoon doing surveys and applying to jobs. I just enjoy doing surveys, and they provide a bit of pocket money.
4 p.m. — D. heads home, and I nuke a frozen butter chicken for a very late lunch. I return to my desk to try and study for the interview that hasn’t been scheduled yet.
6:30 p.m. — I fail at studying and do more surveys while watching YouTube videos instead. M. jumps on my lap, so now seems like a good time to order dinner. I get McDonald’s delivered and justify it with the survey money. I take a CBD gummy and spend the rest of the night watching YouTube videos on the couch with my cats. I head to bed relatively early, around 10:30. $15.67
Daily Total: $248.47

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up and lie around watching TikToks in bed.
10 a.m. — Cats start yelling at the bedroom door for food, so I get up, do the cat chores, and get ready. Then I eat breakfast, which is peanut butter toast again, but I switch up the tea with a hazelnut and Irish cream loose leaf blend.
12 p.m. — I get to work on making cards for my friends because I’m going to their birthday party later. While I’m doing this, I watch The Golden Bachelor. I’m not usually one for The Bachelor franchise but I really am enjoying seeing these older people get second chances at love.
3 p.m. — The cards take a lot longer than I thought they would because I can’t find any of my card-making supplies, but they’re finally done. I order Panera delivery for a late lunch/early dinner. I get a Frontega chicken panino and a Kitchen Sink cookie. $26.10
4 p.m. — I try to work on editing a video for my YouTube channel. This makes me negative money, but I still enjoy working on it. I would like to work on it regularly, so that the channel could actually make me money, but I’ve been bad about consistency.
6 p.m. — Time to start getting ready for the party! I shower, get dressed, do my makeup and my nails. I like having my nails done, but instead of finding a relaxing time to do them, like a normal person, I wait until it’s almost time to be somewhere and furiously paint them in the rush to get ready while trying to not ruin them before they dry. Adds excitement to my life.
8:15 p.m. — D. orders an Uber that picks us up from our respective houses and takes us to the party. We have a great time drinking, catching up with friends, and eating snacks. Buffalo chicken dip is the best party snack, and I’ll die on that hill.
2 a.m. — Time to head home! D. may have had a little too much fun, so I order a Lyft to my place. He immediately lays on the couch to greet the cats and then promptly falls asleep. I leave him with a glass of water on the coffee table and head to my comfortable bed. $33.87
Daily Total: $59.97

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up too early to find that D. has joined me in the bedroom. I lay around debating for an hour whether I should order McDonald’s for us. Cons: money wasted and I just had McDonald’s. Pro: McDonald’s breakfast is the ultimate morning-after-drinking food. I wake up D. briefly to get his order. I get a bacon, egg, and cheese McGriddle, hash browns, and a coffee with too much sugar. He gets a sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle, hash browns, and a black coffee. $28.07
10 a.m. — McDonald’s arrives, and I chow down while D. gets more sleep. The rest of the morning and early afternoon are spent cleaning around a very hungover D.
2 p.m. — D. rises from the dead, and we walk to get pizza for lunch. On the walk, we’re followed for a block and a half by a man who yells about D. and I being an interracial couple and concludes by telling us how beautiful our interracial babies will be. It’s all very uncomfortable, but I guess there are worse things a strange man on the street could yell at me about. We get to the pizza place, and I get a plain slice and a pepperoni slice, while D. gets a calzone. He pays.
Daily Total: $28.07

Day Five

8 a.m. — I wake up still tired, try to go back to sleep, and fail.
9:30 a.m. — I finally drag myself out of bed to do the cat chores, brush my teeth, and wash my face. I have my classic peanut butter toast and tea for breakfast. Then I sit at my computer to try but can’t focus. I do see an email that my coding interview has been scheduled for Thursday this week, so at least I can officially panic about something.
12:50 p.m. — I go onto my balcony to get fresh air and discover a wasps’ nest. I decide I no longer need fresh air and go back inside. I sit down and set an hour timer to help me focus. I manage to certify for my unemployment benefits, fill out the weekly work search, and apply for a couple of jobs. I then try to brain dump everything I need to do this week.
2 p.m. — I air fry frozen chicken tenders and fries for lunch, then I have a meeting with my job coach. My former employer paid for an outplacement service that includes a résumé writer and a job coach among other things. Never in a million years would I have paid for this service, but since my employer offered, I took the help. I find the coach pretty annoying, honestly. She’s only somewhat helpful for the behavioral portions of interviewing and not at all with the coding and technology side. She’s also the kind of person to sign off her emails with “Aspiring Always!”
4 p.m. — I take a bubble bath and finally finish my book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. It’s so good! Then I watch the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and make dinner: noodles and broccoli with the leftover peanut dipping sauce from the summer rolls, plus Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp dumplings on the side.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up and do the usual laying around before cat chores and my breakfast of toast and tea.
11:30 a.m. — My sister, P., asks me to call a few doctors to schedule appointments for my dad. He was hospitalized a month ago, and while he’s doing much better, he’s still recovering and needs to see a few specialists. It was a stressful time because my dad is quite old (when I was younger, people used to ask if he was my grandpa and if my sisters were my mothers), so any health incident is especially worrisome. P. has taken point on his care because she lives the closest to our parents, and I’m glad to take something off her plate.
6 p.m. — Time for therapy! I talk to my therapist about the usual: my relationship, my executive dysfunction, my job hunt and lingering feelings about getting laid off, and my anxiety about all those things. I’ve asked my therapist to assign me homework after our sessions, and she wants me to work on meditation, which I find hard. Therapy is free because I hit my out-of-pocket max this year. Of course, the year I have a bunch of health issues is the year I get laid off.
7 p.m. — While I’m being therapized, D. comes over and starts dinner with headphones on to allow me my privacy. He makes the “Marry Me” chicken from TikTok with orzo, and it’s delicious! I definitely recommend the recipe if you haven’t tried it.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I lay around on TikTok for an hour before I do the usual morning routine. D. has his morning meeting while I putter around.
11 a.m. — I attempt to study for my coding interview tomorrow and manage to do a couple of practice problems, which intensifies my anxiety instead of alleviating it. I do more research on the company instead. One of the doctors I called for my dad yesterday calls me back, so I’m able to make an appointment for him. I inform my sisters, and the one who doesn’t live close to him will be visiting during that time, so she can take him. D. heads home around 2 p.m.
5 p.m. — I go on an evening walk because D. always insists that a walk helps everything. I like to go around the houses in my neighborhood and wistfully look up the interesting ones on Zillow while wishing I had $1.4 million laying around. The walk helps a little, and I stop at the grocery store for half a gallon of organic 2% milk, raspberry lemonade, three Stouffer’s frozen dinners, one box of linguine, one box of spaghetti, a loaf of French bread, Swiss cheese, a pack of seaweed, a pack of prosciutto, and one tomato. When I get home, I turn the bread, cheese, prosciutto, and tomato into a sandwich for dinner. $39.31
8 p.m. — I sit at my computer to try to prepare more for my interview, but I give up pretty quickly and instead employ “productive procrastination” to clean up my kitchen and living room. Having two cats provides twice the love but also twice the cat hair! I will ask Santa for a new vacuum this year. I head to bed around 11p.m. to try and get a full night’s rest, but I end up going on TikTok for another hour.  
Daily Total: $39.31
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.
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