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Today: a woman living on disability checks of $7,548 a year who spends some of her money on a bottle of white wine.
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $629
Gender Identity: Woman/She/Her
Rent: $325 (I live in a trailer and this includes laundry, wifi, and a community center)
Propane: $30 (every six weeks)
2:30 a.m. — Time to wake up! A new month has begun. Today is Tuesday, the third and technically the start of the month for me. Disability benefits come once per month on this day. Rent is supposed to be due on the first, but my landlords are amazing people who understand my situation, so they never charge me a late fee. They also provide a laundromat, WiFi, and have a community center of sorts where they host holiday and sports gatherings. Excellent perks that are so helpful with a small budget — I am insanely lucky!
4 a.m. — Breakfast time for “the kids,” AKA my two geriatric poodles who live here with me in my 220 square foot camper. I live in a camper full-time and honestly love it, as do the dogs. Less space for me to clean with limited mobility, and fewer things for them to run into. After breakfast, we mosey on down to the pond for their potty break and some fresh air, then back home for belly rubs. Then it’s time for me to do my physical therapy exercises, stretch, cook lunch, and take a nap with the kids because it’s already noon and we’re all worn out! (What a bunch of old ladies we are.)
5 p.m. — Dinner time is the time I choose to be “extravagant” in cooking a delicious meal for myself. It’s also usually the time of day I actually become hungry. Most of the time, I just snack periodically throughout the day. My favorite snack is raw veggies that I eat in a very classy fashion — directly from the produce bag. To keep on budget every month, my meals are made from scratch by me, as anything else would be unaffordable. Tonight, I’m making eggroll soup. So fantastic, very inexpensive, super flavorful, and it cooks up in about ten minutes. If only the dishes would magically wash themselves…..
Daily Total: $0
3 a.m. — I’m up! After the kids have a potty break and breakfast, I’m unusually hungry for some comfort food. I decide homemade biscuits are on the menu. I love this old school recipe from my mother — drop biscuits in a muffin tin. The entire recipe, including bake time, takes about 14 minutes because there is NO kneading, no biscuit cutters needed, nada. It also makes just enough batter to fill a six-pan muffin tin, which is about all that will fit in the tiny oven. Tiny living means downsizing a LOT of things, but it can also really reduce food waste because it requires you to be more mindful of how much you actually need. Warm biscuits, a little butter, and a gorgeous cup of tea while reading the morning news and icing a sore joint. Not a terrible morning.
12 p.m. — Super happy and grateful at this time for free WiFi, tiny living, and a Hulu subscription. To some, the Hulu expenditure each month may seem unnecessary but it is sooo necessary, especially if you experience bad pain days, bad body days, chronic illness of some type, etc. Having some form of entertainment, a show you can watch or laugh at or your favorite movie, can be the bright moment in an otherwise yucky day. Plus, with tiny living, you don’t exactly have space to store huge catalogs of DVDs and if you have a small budget, those DVDs might be too expensive in the first place. Hulu provides a huge selection that I don’t have to store. I highly recommend subscription services to people living tiny or even to those who simply want to lose some of the “stuff” clutter from their homes.
7 p.m. — Friends are free (and awesome). After a non-productive and generally terrible day, a friend schedules a movie night! Homemade stovetop popcorn (costs about 4 cents per pot!), sprinkled with various spices and seasonings, a good “bad” movie, and a brainstorming session for a surprise I’m planning. It’s a good night.
Daily Total: $0
6 a.m. — So excited! Today is plan-and-prep day for a surprise party I’m throwing! Well, “party” in a very loose sense. I have a best friend who has been such an amazing help to me and is such an incredible person I decided that, though I can never repay the kindness she has shown me, I can do just a little something special to make her feel special and valued. (By the way, everyone should be doing this with their friends.) So, I’m throwing her a tea party for two! I draw up a menu (literally, with map pencils and crappy art skills), set the table, make little appetizer-sized bites of deliciousness, and take about a thousand pictures of the setup like a good millennial should. I may or may not also swipe a couple of the cucumber tea sandwiches for myself, but let’s keep that a secret.
2:30 p.m. — Whoohoo! Today is clothes shopping day! Well… sort of. Having a chronic illness can mean lots of different things and symptoms can manifest in very different ways. Recently, my symptoms have caused me to suffer a major weight loss. Tiny living means I don’t exactly have space for clothes of varying sizes just hangin’ around and living on disability means I don’t have money for new clothes. So, what’s a girl to do? Clothing exchange! Have one or two (or more) friends over, everyone brings usable clothing still in good condition, we pick through, swap, and donate the excess. Everyone gets to shop, go home with something new, and it’s a great time to catch up with friends for free.
4 p.m. — After the clothing swap, I begrudgingly fork over $30 for a new tank of propane today (in my monthly expenses). I swear, sometimes I think I’m too frugal for my own good. Do I *really* need hot running water and a stove? Of course, I think everyone should evaluate their purchases and really think about what they need, but I don’t think anyone should ever deny themselves basics and even a few treats. Nothing wrong with enjoying life. Speaking of enjoying life, tonight is grocery list-making night! I’m waaay too excited about it and I know. I know. I’m weird. But I love cooking, eating, and showing people gratitude and care by feeding them. No one ever leaves my house hungry. That’s love.
Daily Total: $0
10 a.m. — Today is grocery shopping day! Again, waaay too excited. Aside from medical once a month, grocery shopping is me “going out.” I go with one of my very best friends in the whole world, he’s a superstar, and it’s nice we get to hang out for this bit of time. We always stop by Dollar Tree and Aldi because both have great deals and are also on the smaller side, which is helpful when you have mobility issues. Every shopping day, I pick out some unique or different ingredient, something special I wouldn’t ordinarily buy but would like to try or use in a special recipe. This time around I grab a pack of prosciutto for only $2.99. I also pick up white wine, risotto, a frozen pizza, and a bunch of other necessary food items for the next few weeks. $65.08
1 p.m. — Is it just me or is unloading groceries one of the most torturous chores ever? When I kept chickens, I would frequently use them as an excuse to skip out on that awful chore. “Nope. Can’t help put the groceries away. Gotta go clean out the henhouse.” That’s pretty desperate. Once the disaster of reusable grocery bags are emptied and finally stored away (tiny living leaves you no room to be messy), my friend and I pop a pizza in the oven and take the girls out for some sunshine. By the way, I fully believe in being a lazy cook on grocery day. After all the shopping and the crowds and unloading and whatnot, who wants to stand in front of a hot stove? No one. Save yourself the agony. Pick up a frozen burrito or a take and bake pizza and give yourself a break.
7 p.m. — The stage is set for an epic tea party! I’m so excited I don’t think I’ll ever get to sleep. Yes, I am a grown woman and I’m as giddy as a five-year-old on Christmas morning. Sometimes it really is the little things that make life worthwhile. Like a great friend, or two fully-formed adults playing tea party. Having an extremely small budget really forces you to take stock of your life. What’s most important to you? Who is most important to you? There’s only so much space in a tiny home and only so much space in your life, you can only fill them with things you truly value.
Daily Total: $65.08
5 a.m. — Sleep never came, FAR too excited about the tea party. Breakfast is skipped in order to save my appetite for the tasty treats later in the day. I hurry to do some last-minute chores before my friend gets here. Today is also a not-great day in that there’s a doctor’s appointment involved. Ugh. I’m told when I arrive I have an outstanding balance for my last appointment, a portion Medicare didn’t cover. Definitely an expense I was NOT planning on. I’m given an all-clear and sent home with a prescription, which, after a call to the pharmacy, I discover will have to wait as I simply can’t afford it at this time. Oh, well. Now is not the time to dwell. Now is the time to have a great day with a great friend and some great tea! $31.27
11 a.m. — IT’S TEA TIME! I open the door and hand her an invitation card I drew and she starts crying. My heart SOARS. Her reaction is worth everything to me. We spend the next four hours eating, talking, and eating some more. The true stand-out of the meal is the baguette rounds I toasted and topped with homemade herb butter/grilled asparagus and cream cheese/prosciutto. True to her being an amazing human, my friend doesn’t show up empty-handed but rather with an early Christmas gift for me… at her own surprise party. She gives me fluffy socks for cold days in the tiny home (very needed), and a streaming device for my TV! I. Am. Floored. I never would have been able to afford something like this for myself. I say it every day and I mean it every day — I am so incredibly lucky and so unbelievably grateful to have my life and the people in it.
10:30 p.m. — Did I mention how lucky I am? Because I’m crazy lucky. I can’t get over how good my friends are. For various reasons, I’m getting a roommate and today my future roomie comes over for the night. I promise there’s enough space here. Having a roommate will be helpful in a thousand different ways — mainly I’m thrilled I’ll have someone to feed all the time. It’s perfect. I spend the rest of the night with the dogs planning how my roommate will fit in and watching funny animal videos on YouTube. Awesome, awesome day.
Daily Total: $31.27
7 a.m. — One of the downsides to tiny home/camper living is that I’m not able to perfectly design my space for my needs. This means that sometimes things aren’t very functional. Today, it means taking down the built-in closet that takes up way too much space. I carefully pull out the wood of the closet. Some of the wood is definitely still usable, I can use the screws and hinges to create a gate for the doorway to keep the dogs in/out, and the handle can replace a broken handle on another piece of furniture. “Waste not, want not” in practice!
4 p.m. — Eww, chronic illness rears its ugly head. I don’t quite finish all of the projects and instead, lie down for a nap. It’ll still be there later. I have to be okay with taking a break sometimes. I have a very late lunch of taco salad. I received some ground deer in trade for crocheting a scarf for a friend, so I season and brown a little bit, pile it with chopped romaine, then added diced tomatoes and grated cheese. Absolutely tasty, tasty meal. It definitely lifts my spirits after not being able to finish everything I’d previously planned.
11 p.m. — Tomorrow is a move-in day. New Roommate will move in slowly over the course of several days, which is wise. You never realize how tiny a tiny home is until you physically try to cram all your stuff inside. New Roommate arrives this evening bearing gifts, including a giant TV from his former apartment. It’s too big for his room here, but my room is the entertainment area we use and is a larger space where we all gather for movie nights and visits. Also, this gift has a HUGE bonus… I need new glasses but am unable to afford them at the moment. This TV is big. Very big. So big I don’t have to squint to read titles or captions. No more tension headaches. This is amazing. I can’t stop smiling I’m so happy! We hook up the new streaming device and fall asleep watching cats get stuck in things on YouTube while cleaning.
Daily Total: $0
6 a.m. — As a very special treat, New Roommate brings breakfast and wine to help us get through the day. The kids are definitely not enjoying all the commotion. My hip gives out several times during the moving process, so I am relegated to sitting on my bed and sorting through the contents of several boxes while the kids mull about around me. Oh, well. At least I can be helpful in some small way. After the sorting is complete, I grab my sketch pad and map pencils and begin sketching new convertible furniture pieces to serve two people better. I draw a three-part kitchen tabletop that will convert into a day bed or a sofa, and a captain’s bed with extra storage built-in using an old solid wood entertainment center that’s no longer needed. Reduce those costs by reusing what you have; always a smart move.
1 p.m. — Foooood. By this point, we’re zombies. Hungry zombies. When I buy meats at the grocery store, I divide large packages up, add seasonings or marinades, and stick them in the freezer. I set a pot of water on to boil, grab some cubed chicken from the freezer that was seasoned with basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Once the water comes to a boil, I add pasta, brown the chicken, drain the pasta, add it to the chicken, and top it all with grated Parmesan cheese. A meal in less than ten minutes. It’s perfect. We inhale it.
9 p.m. — We. Are. Done. We are sooo done. At this point, I’m not even sure I’m holding open my eyes. We’re so tired we aren’t even having a conversation because that would require too much energy. My body is a wreck. It’s been an amazing week full of friends and food, animal cuddles, tea, home improvement, gifts, and gratitude. My life is small and simple, but it’s so incredibly full sometimes I wonder how I fit it all in. We watch M*A*S*H (a shared love) until we both basically pass out sitting up. It’s been a good day. Welcome home, roomie.
Daily Total: $0
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