Pandemic micro-weddings are all the rage for couples who were planning to get married in 2020. If you recently had a micro-wedding or are having one in the near future, we want to know how much you spent on it and how it affected your budget for a future big wedding celebration. Tell us all about it here.
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.
Today: a database developer who makes $149,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on paintbrushes.
Occupation: Database Developer
Location: East Kansas
Salary: $149,300 ($135,200 from job, $7,800 rental income, $6,300 child support)
Net Worth: $385,068 ($537,970 in assets minus $152,902 in debt)
Debt: $152,902 (mortgages on both my primary residence and one income property)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,375
Primary Residence Mortgage: $1,597 (15-year, inclusive of tax and insurance)
Primary Residence Utilities: $375
Rental Property Mortgage: $522 (15-year, inclusive of tax and insurance)
Rental Property Utilities: $100 (it’s currently not occupied)
House Cleaning: $160
Piano Lessons: $110
Wine Subscription: $40
Life Insurance: $37
Campaign Contribution: $23
Animal Rights Charity: $17
Carbon Offset: $16
Disney Plus: $14
Google Play: $5 Google Play
Savings: $1,500 (saving for early mortgage payoff)
401(k): $1,500 (with an annual contribution of $5,408 from my company)
LearningQuest 529: $250
Emergency Savings: $250
Savings For Taxes: $250 (I make quarterly scheduled payments)
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 didn’t put much pressure on me to go to college. They made the same deal with my siblings and me that if we put ourselves through two years of community college, they’d pay for university if we wanted to continue our education. I did take some classes at my local community college but halfway through the first semester of my second year, my car was broken into and a $75 workbook was stolen, which I couldn’t afford to replace, so I ended up dropping out.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were both very frugal and hard-working. They instilled in me how important it was to save, no matter how little, and to budget carefully. However, they kept the actual numbers of the household income and budgets a secret.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was in a hurry to get a job shortly after I turned 14. I did a lot of babysitting and some part-time telemarketing before I turned 16. Once I was able to get a job that provided an actual paycheck at the age of 16, I worked as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant and also waited tables. I didn’t have any concrete financial goals in mind at the time; I just wanted enough money to pay for my cheap used car and to have a little spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I always felt that although my family lived cheaply, we had a solid financial footing. There was always enough money for necessities and the occasional indulgence.
Do you worry about money now?
No, now that I’ve built up substantial emergency savings and have multiple revenue streams I don’t worry at all about money. I realize that I’m very fortunate and privileged to feel this way.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents kicked me out of the house the literal day that I turned 18, about a month into my senior year in high school, so I became financially responsible for myself that day. Since then, I have built a healthy financial safety net.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I receive $650 in passive income in the form of rental income from a guest cottage that I had built on my property about four years ago. I have another rental property, a single-family house that I bought about a year ago that I’m currently renovating. I intend to rent it for $850 month once the renovation is complete. About three years ago, I received $10,000 from my mother as part of an early inheritance.
10 a.m. — I set an alarm on the weekends otherwise I’ll sleep in way too late and then my sleep schedule will be off all week. I snooze until 10:30 before fixing a breakfast of watermelon and tater tots for my almost-14-year-old son E., who has already been playing video games online with a friend of his for an hour. I also grab a quart of sun tea that I made the day before yesterday. The caffeine starts to kick in and I slowly wake up. I get ready to do a big shop, which I absolutely dread doing since the pandemic began. Normally, I don’t mind shopping at all but now it just feels so…weird. The first stop is the pet store for some flea medicine for my cat. $18.57
1:45 p.m. — Next, I hit Dollar Tree, where I actually do quite a bit of grocery shopping. I get mixed nuts, coconut oil, coconut milk, lemon juice, minced garlic (“jarlic”), almond milk, spaghetti sauce, dried beans (white and black), rice, pasta, gnocchi, pretzels, fig bars, rice crackers, frozen blueberries, frozen peaches, and a few non-grocery items: some paintbrushes, a cell phone ring holder for E., and hair clips. I buy multiples of pretty much all of the grocery items so that I can stock up and not have to go back for a while. $47
2:30 p.m. — I’m almost out of basmati rice, which I like to buy at our local Indian grocery. The owners are so nice and sometimes they comment on what I’m buying and make suggestions for ingredients and dishes to try, which is helpful. I get a large bag of rice, a tiny box of saffron, pomegranate seeds, amchoor (dried mango powder), and two boxes of frozen potato samosas. I’ve never bought pre-made samosas before but I made the mistake of going to the store hungry and the picture on the box looked so good! E. and I love samosas so I hope that they’re as good as homemade. $57.57
3 p.m. — Now it’s time for the main grocery shopping at our local Kroger’s. It takes me forever to shop there because they’re reorganizing the store, and it’s chaos. I end up having to go down every single aisle to find everything on my list. On the plus side, with the reorganization, there were also a TON of items marked down for clearance so I scored lots of good deals, mostly on tea, which is good because I drink so much of it. Along with many, many boxes of tea ($.79 each!!), I also get tater tots, vegetarian “chicken” patties and strips, cereal, tofu, vegan sour cream and cream cheese, walnuts, toothpaste, salsa, bread rolls, baguettes, hand soap, grapefruit juice, red lentils, vital wheat gluten, peanut butter crackers, peanut butter, tortillas, tortilla chips, grapes, mini sweet peppers, parsley, cantaloupe, apples, bananas, onions, potatoes, and avocados. $145.30 minus $1.25 rebate from Ibotta. $144.05
4:30 p.m. — E. helps me bring in all of the groceries from the car and put everything away. I grab a “gel dessert” (vegan jello) that I made earlier in the week and eat that with an almond butter protein bar for a quick snack before I go to work on a rental property of mine that is just a few blocks away. I bought it nearly a year ago and it needed all kinds of work: new gas lines, fixes for two leaks in the main water line, furnace repair, plus all of the cosmetic work like new plaster for the ceiling, moving and hiding some ugly exposed electrical conduit, new tile for the bathtub surround, and of course, lots and lots of paint. On my way to the rental, I notice that one of my neighbors has set out a wire basket full of tomatoes on a small table near the sidewalk with a sign that says “free tomatoes.” I fill up a small bag. Free homegrown veggies are the best!
7:30 p.m. — I head back home from the rental. Once back home and showered, I cook up some tofu and noodles with vegetables for dinner. I add cabbage from my CSA and some purple Asian long beans that I grew myself in my yard. My son and I watch two episodes of The Simpsons while we eat. We’re watching every episode from the beginning and we’re about halfway through all 30 available seasons. I do a lot of pausing of the show to explain to my son who the celebrity cameos are and some of the cultural references. That show is like a study in sociology. I never thought that I’d allow television while eating a meal but with the pandemic, my son and I see each other ALL. DAY. LONG. and watching TV together gives us something to talk about and discuss afterward.
9 p.m. — I call my friend R., who lives in Florida, and we talk while E. cleans up the kitchen. After we wrap up I do a couple of lessons in Duolingo (I’ve been learning Danish for six years now).
10 p.m. — E. and I play some logic puzzle games together and watch some YouTube videos: a few lighthearted cooking shows, Jim Gaffigan standup, and Jelle’s Marble Run.
11 p.m. — E. goes off to bed and I go back to the kitchen to cook up some white beans and soak mung beans so that I can start sprouting them.
11:45 p.m. — I watch a few YouTube videos of my own, finish my news feed, and check Instagram.
1:15 a.m. — I fall asleep a little earlier than usual.
Daily Total: $267.19
9 a.m. — I make some avocado toast with tomato and chives from my garden as well as Cajun seasoning and fried garlic. I have a bowl of watermelon on the side. I drain and rinse my sprouts, which have swelled and split overnight, and then soak a cup of chana dal, which are chickpeas that have been split and the hulls removed, so that I can make hummus tonight.
11 a.m. — I ask E. to use the overripe bananas that I got at the store yesterday to make banana bread, which is one of his favorite things. He makes a double batch of batter and bakes a loaf and 12 mini muffins. They turn out great. He’s really getting more comfortable in the kitchen and I’m glad.
12:30 p.m. — I work on a website conversion and really enjoy it. It’s super old code that I haven’t worked with in over a decade but it comes back to me quickly. I didn’t do any real food prep over the weekend so I’m snacking on little things for lunch. I have some tortilla chips and salsa and an apple. I make a tabouli salad so that I have something more substantial to eat for lunch the rest of the week: I boil some bulgur and when it’s done, add chives, mint, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I’m sad that I don’t have any Kalamata olives to add but I do find a half jar of Kalamata olive brine in the back of my fridge (I save it for vinaigrettes) so I pour it in for the flavor.
3 p.m. — I go to print a rebate submission form and get a warning that my printer is low on toner. I buy a couple of cartridges on eBay along with some True Lime packets to add to the soda water that my son and I like to drink. We use a Soda Stream and go through about five liters of fizzy water a day. I use eBay for pretty much all online shopping since I boycott Amazon and I get a small kickback via the Shopkick rebate app. I have enough points via Shopkick to redeem a $10 eBay gift card, so what would have been a $50.55 purchase is only $40.55. $40.55
5:30 p.m. — I make baked mac and cheese for dinner using a vegan cheese sauce that E. made. It has a base of potatoes, cauliflower, red sweet peppers, and cashews. We have a few vegetarian “chicken” strips on the side. As usual, we watch a couple of episodes of The Simpsons and then chat for a long time about the pandemic and E.’s upcoming first year in high school (he skipped 6th grade, so he’ll be the youngest freshman at the school, and that adds to his nervousness). Our school district has decided to make all learning remote for now and to postpone the start of the school year until September 8. I’ve been very impressed with the communication from the district as well as the plan to eventually reopen. It seems logical and strategic to me. E.’s bummed to be missing out on the social opportunities that being in-person would bring, but we’re both hopeful that the daily live video feeds for each class will allow him to still make friends with his classmates somehow.
9:30 p.m. — E. and I play our usual strategy game together and watch a couple of YouTube videos before he goes to bed, then I read for a while in bed.
11:30 p.m. — It occurs to me that I forgot about the food prep for tomorrow. I lug myself out of my comfy bed to make a batch of seitan/white bean/sage sausage and a double batch of hummus. Since I cooked the beans earlier it doesn’t take too long to throw together. I rinse and soak a jar of rice and another of urad dal (matpe bean) so that we can have dosa on Wednesday. I give my mung bean sprouts another rinse.
1:30 a.m. — I email E.’s father, V., about a recent child support reevaluation that I initiated back in February. The case has been on hold since the pandemic but now we have a hearing date unless we can settle out of court, which we’ve always been able to do before. V. is balking at the proposed increase in support and claims that since I don’t “need” his money then I shouldn’t get it. I remind him that child support isn’t charity, it’s a reimbursement and a legal obligation. The email gets me all worked up and I have trouble falling asleep and toss and turn for a long time.
Daily Total: $40.55
9:30 a.m. — I pan-fry some of the sausage that I made last night and it’s fantastic. I have it along with some avocado toast with tomatoes and chives and some more watermelon. I rinse my sprouts, which have already grown a lot. Then I strain the rice that I soaked last night and blend it with the urad dal to make dosa batter, which will need to ferment until tomorrow.
12:30 p.m. — Work is fine and laid-back. I finish up the website conversion and move on to updating a couple of reports. For lunch, I chop up some cucumber and tomatoes to add to the tabouli (if you add them too early they get mushy).
2 p.m. — I get hungry again so I snack on some hummus and pretzels and an apple.
5 p.m. — Work is done and I’m feeling tired from not being able to sleep last night so I take a quick 25-minute nap while E. has his piano lessons, which are being done via Zoom. E. doesn’t like the remote lessons as much as in-person but they’re still effective and I’m glad that he can keep up with his lessons since I absolutely love hearing him play. The lessons are $25 each but I’ve already prepaid for the month.
5:30 p.m. — I wake up feeling refreshed and throw on some work clothes to work on my rental. I get another three rows of tile laid down in the shower surround. It’s slow progress, but it’s progress!
7:30 p.m. — I get home and shower and then make a green curry for dinner with potatoes, tofu, cabbage, and purple Asian long beans. I stir down the dosa batter, which has already grown to almost overfill the jars then I rinse my sprouts. E. and I eat and watch The Simpsons.
9:30 p.m. — E. and I play our game and watch some YouTube, our typical evening routine.
11 p.m. — I finally start work on a consulting gig that I’ve been putting off due to the renovation on my rental, but I don’t want to keep the client waiting any longer so I decide to just bite the bullet and try to knock it out. I get close, but there are still bugs. I admit defeat at 1:45 and go to bed, where I toss and turn for a while (what is wrong with me?). My consulting income isn’t included in my salary information for this diary since it’s so inconsistent, but for tonight’s work, I will bill $165.
Daily Total: $0
8:30 a.m. — I have my usual tea followed by avocado toast with tomatoes and chives, the white bean/sage sausage, and the last of the watermelon. I rinse my sprouts, which are growing nicely.
10 a.m. — I go to set out some jars of sun tea and notice that my robotic lawnmower, “Lawnnie,” is stuck in the middle of the yard. He can’t find his boundary wire (that marks the edges of the yard and tells him where to go) and I don’t know why. I try to reset him but nothing works. I tell myself I’ll look into it later.
12 p.m. — I have another helping of the tabouli salad. It’s so good!
1 p.m. — I call my home insurance company about the premium on my guest cottage, for which I have a supplemental policy since it’s a furnished living space that I rent out. Last year’s premium was $667 and this year it went up to $887 without any explanation why. My agent says that she’ll look into it and then call me back.
2:30 p.m. — I snack on some hummus and pretzels and then start soaking some cashews for the cashew mozzarella that I’ll make tomorrow.
5 p.m. — I’m feeling like a nap so I lay down for 25 minutes.
6 p.m. — I make masala dosa for our dinner, which is a favorite of ours. E. peels and cubes potatoes and I steam them with some red lentils and turnip greens for the filling. We watch our usual Simpsons episodes.
7:30 p.m. — E. plays an online game with a friend while I check my email. I see that the Satanic Temple is raising funds via a raffle for their reproductive rights campaign. I donate $25 and add $1.60 to cover the processing fee. $26.60
8 p.m. — I go back to the kitchen to blend the soaked cashews with Rejuvelac so that it can culture overnight. I wash and prep all of the tomatoes that I’ve collected from the neighbor and my own garden and blend them into puree to freeze, then I make a peanut butter oat milk ice cream base for dessert tomorrow.
9:30 p.m. — I play the strategy game with E., watch some YouTube with him, and then he goes to bed.
11 p.m. — I finish that consulting work project from the night before while I snack on two mini banana muffins that E. made on Monday. Bill another $65.
2 a.m. — I finally get to bed and I’m too tired to read any articles or even check Instagram. I fall right asleep.
Daily Total: $26.60
9 a.m. — I lug myself out of bed and start the morning with a quart of grapefruit sun tea. I have my usual avocado toast and seitan sausage. I prep a cantaloupe to have on the side. I used all of the tomatoes for the sauce last night so I go out to the garden to pick a couple more. I scowl at all of the weeds that have taken over. It’s about this time every year that I stop caring so much about the weeds and just let them get out of control. My sprouts are fully grown now so I rinse them and set them in the window to get some sun and turn the tiny little baby leaves on the ends green.
1 p.m. — The workday is flying by. I finish the report project that I was working on and then make a bowl of tabouli salad. I finish making the mozzarella by mixing the cultured blended cashews with agar and then spooning it into a salted ice bath. The recipe that I use makes a ton and I end up with about 60 teaspoon-sized mozz balls.
3 p.m. — I snack on some hummus so that I’m not too hungry when I’m working on the rental tonight.
3:30 p.m. — I text the new tenant that I have in my guest cottage to see how she’s doing so far and to ask if she’s noticed anything damaged or needing repair since I’m filling out the damage report. She just moved in last week and she says that everything is great so far and that she loves the space. I’m relieved to have someone living there, both for the income and also just because I hate for that space to go unused and wasted. Especially right now during the pandemic, it feels good to have someone living so close by even if we don’t get to hang out together.
4 p.m. — I spend the rest of the workday putting together a slideshow for my company’s DEI group. During our last meeting, I noticed people using outdated words that some might find offensive so I volunteered to put together some slides outlining better terms to use instead. For instance, “POC” instead of “minority” or “woman” instead of using the word “female” (which irritates me no end!).
5 p.m. — E. and I go across town to a little farm to pick up our CSA subscription. This week’s box has yellow onions, tomatoes, green chiles, zucchini, red potatoes, garlic, and corn. Each week is $20 but I pre-paid for the subscription at the start of the session.
5:45 p.m. — I work on my rental and get a couple more rows of tile laid in the bathtub surround. The long wall is almost done!
8 p.m. — I come home, shower, and put together my favorite seasonal “non-dinner dinner,” a Caprese salad with half a French baguette and a glass of Vignoles wine. I get it all put together just before 8:30 to watch the Risk! podcast live storytelling show via Zoom, which will be the highlight of my week.
10 p.m. — The Risk! show is over so E. and I do our regular nightly games and YouTube before he goes to bed.
11 p.m. — Some of that consulting work that I’ve been doing came back with revisions so I get the changes made and send back to the client. It was just a quick change so I’ll only bill the client $30.
2 a.m. — I read some articles and the latest Money Diary and then crash.
Daily Total: $0
9 a.m. — I have the same breakfast that I’ve had all week and it’s still entirely delicious. I find that my countertop ice maker has broken, which makes sense because we’re still in the hottest part of the year and it always seems to break when I need it most. I go through this every summer, it seems. It was a cheap ice maker that I bought three years ago and since then I’ve had to replace an electrical switch in it as well as the motor two times. I know that the problem is the motor again so I buy a replacement off of eBay. $19
9:30 a.m. — The cleaning service comes to do the house so I pack up my laptop, a small folding table, and an exercise ball to sit on as an office chair and move it all to an unused guest bedroom so that E. and I can work while they’re here. I have some misgivings about having my house cleaned during the pandemic and for months I paid my cleaner as I normally would even though she wasn’t coming to clean. I would have kept that up indefinitely but near the beginning of July the number of active cases for my county was only at two so my cleaner asked if we could resume services with protections in place. She and her staff wear masks and gloves and E. and I stay in the guest bedroom the entire time that they’re here with the door closed. When weather allows, I keep my windows open. I’m still not entirely comfortable with it but my cleaner was insistent to resume services, so this is the arrangement that we have. $75
12 p.m. — I finish off the tabouli salad for lunch.
5:30 p.m. — I was going to work on my rental but I feel like taking a day off from it. Really what I want is a day off from washing my hair, which I’ve been having to do nearly every day lately since working at the rental is sweaty, dusty work. So I stay home instead and make Pad Thai for dinner with tofu, cabbage, carrots, and my newly-sprouted sprouts. E. and I eat while we watch The Simpsons, of course.
7:30 p.m. — I hop on a Zoom call with some friends from a mask-making organization that I joined last May when the need for masks was at a high. We all bonded quickly and spoke on Slack during the day. Now that the need for masks has lessened, it’s become more of a social group.
9:30 p.m. — E. and I do our usual bedtime game time and YouTube watching before he goes to bed.
11 p.m. — I watch a recorded Risk! Live show that I wasn’t able to attend from a couple of weeks ago. As I watch, I snack on veggie straws and drink a martini, then eat a couple of mini banana muffins.
1 a.m. — The show ends but I’m still wide awake so I listen to podcasts and make a couple of berry baskets out of rolled newspaper, a hobby that I picked up to keep my hands busy while I’m relaxing on the couch.
3 a.m. — I’m finally feeling sleepy so I hit the hay.
Daily Total: $94
10 a.m. — Although my alarm goes off, I can tell that I definitely need more sleep so I turn it off and then end up sleeping until 11. I have the same exact breakfast that I’ve had all week except that I add a side of tater tots, which E. and I almost always have on the weekend.
12:30 p.m. — I take another look at Lawnnie the robotic lawnmower and this time he fires right up and gets right to work. He finishes his lawn-mowing shift without any issues. Maybe he fixed himself?
1 p.m. — I pick up a bundle of face masks made by a local volunteer with my mask group. I add them to some that I already had on hand and prepare them for shipment to a group in a nearby city that serves the homeless population ($13.20 for postage). $13.20
1:30 p.m. — I take E. shopping for some new pants, something he desperately needs. He had already started to outgrow all of his pants prior to the pandemic and he’s grown so much since then that literally none of them fit him. This will be his first time in a store since COVID hit and he says that he’s actually a little nervous about it. I worry about the effect this pandemic and the isolation has had on him. I buy his clothing secondhand but I haven’t had any luck doing that online (last year I bought at least 10 pairs of secondhand pants online and literally not a single pair fit him). So we stop at the Salvation Army and find a single pair that appear to fit, but since the dressing rooms are closed due to COVID, we can’t be sure. $7.59
2 p.m. — Next we go to Goodwill and find another pair of pants and two pairs of shorts that I think will work (again, the dressing rooms there are closed). $17.46
1 p.m. — E. goes with me for another (small) grocery run, this time to the small natural foods store. I hate that I already have to go back to the store after the big shop that I did just six days ago but I didn’t realize that we were very low on dish detergent and body wash. I buy those items and it just so happens that the store is running a great sale on all kinds of stuff that we use so I load up on those too. I get olive oil, liquid aminos, vegan versions of fish, chicken, and cheese, a cantaloupe, salad dressing, peaches, ginger root, and hand soap. $100.50 minus $1.25 from Ibotta. $99.25
2:30 p.m. — I’m hungry so I snack on some hummus and pretzels. I don’t want to eat anything too heavy since I need to go work on my rental soon.
3 p.m. — I plan to have a Caprese salad for dinner and I’m totally out of wine (and I can’t even imagine a Caprese salad without wine!). I’ve been buying wine online since the pandemic but apparently I didn’t allocate my last purchase very well so I ran out early. I buy a couple of bottles at my local liquor store. While I was at the liquor store there were two patrons not wearing masks and I just felt gross. I’ll be placing another online wine order soon. $17.26
3:30 p.m. — I work at my rental for a few hours and finish up the long wall of the bathtub surround. Hooray for progress!
7 p.m. — When I get home from the rental, I notice that there are tons of cherry tomatoes and beans ready to be picked in the garden, more than E. and I can eat before they go bad. So I pick them all, divide them into two of my homemade baskets, and leave them for two of my neighbors.
8 p.m. — I take a much-needed hot shower and then I can finally enjoy my Caprese salad and wine along with watching The Simpsons.
9:30 p.m. — E. and I play our usual games and watch our usual YouTube channels and then he goes to bed.
11 p.m. — I chat with my friends from the mask group while I make more newspaper baskets and watch some true crime documentaries on TV.
2:45 a.m. — Finally time to drop. Good night!
Daily Total: $154.76
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
It’s fair to say, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year. Whether you’ve been stuck working from home for months, were laid off, or are an essential worker, COVID has changed the way we spend money. Whether it was a sweatpant splurge or the security deposit on a new apartment, fill out this form to tell us about your biggest pandemic purchase and how COVID has changed your relationship with money.
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.
Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
A Week In New Orleans, LA, On A $70,000 Salary
A Week In Portland, OR, On A $77,250 Salary
A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On $15.50 An Hour