DMT Beauty Transformation: A Week In Denver, CO, On $18 An Hour
featured Khareem Sudlow

A Week In Denver, CO, On $18 An Hour

April 20, 2020DMT Beauty

#DMTBeautySpot #beauty

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a Neuropsychology Technician who makes $18 an hour and spends some of her money this week on an Easter lily.

Occupation: Neuropsychology Technician
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 27
Location: Denver, CO
Salary: $18.45/hour ($38,483 pre-tax last year, $31,206 post-tax, net pay after insurance and 403(b) contribution = $27,246),
Net Worth: ~$2,000 in savings, ~$6,000 in a 403(b), my partner and I split costs evenly and have our own bank accounts.
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): ~$1,063
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $575 (I live with my partner, F., and two other roommates. We are in a two-bedroom single-family house with a two-bedroom converted basement.)
Loans: $0! (I graduated with ~$30,000 in student loans, but it has been paid off now — after paying ~$350 a month for five years, an extended relative helped me cover the rest. I am deeply fortunate to have support from financially stable adults in my life. Paying off school has been a life-changing privilege.)
Utilities: ~$65
Car Insurance: $120
Phone: $45 (on a family plan with my dad and siblings, I pay my dad directly)
Spotify: $15 (I mooch from F.’s parents and a friend for other entertainment subscriptions. I do buy her a drink every now and then as a trade, which is a win for us both.)
Prescription: $10 (I order three months at a time through the Kaiser website)
Kaiser Bill: $166 (I had a wrist surgery last summer that I am still paying off slowly but surely)

Day One

7:15 a.m. — I roll out of bed and walk to the back door to let the doggo out. We moved into this house before we got the dog. The house has a fenced backyard and a dog door, so of course, we had to get a dog to go with the dog door. I then roll back into bed. With chronic fatigue, there is never enough rest. I finally get up, throw on some clothes, and head out the door at 7:43, the last possible minute. I grab the Tupperware of leftovers I packed last night for lunch.

8:45 a.m. — I’ve been at work since 8. My commute has been so much nicer now that more people are staying at home. I work at a hospital that has seriously cut down on non-essential visits, so a few masked faces float through the hall and it feels like a ghost town. I usually get breakfast at the hospital cafeteria on my morning break. I’ve been on the FODMAP diet for the last three weeks to see how my body reacts to different foods and I am now starting to add things back in. I order cheese to go on top of my two eggs and two bacon. I also get a Coke Zero (my guilty pleasure most workdays). $5.58

12:30 p.m. — I don’t have any patients today. I work at a specialized testing clinic, so I usually spend between three and five hours of my day with just one patient. We have been canceling a lot due to COVID-19 concerns, which has made the workload much lighter. I eat the leftovers I brought — homemade pea soup. I also have a bulk bag of roasted cashews that I got a couple weeks ago to snack on throughout the day.

4:35 p.m. — I clock out and make sure it’s on time. I get another 15 minutes added to my time if I clock out after 4:37 and they have been very strict recently about not accruing overtime.

5 p.m. — Now that I’m home, I hunt for a snack. I have low blood sugar and try to keep my food intake pretty regular throughout the day. I find some cheddar cheese and pickles. I also make a mocktail out of cranberry juice, club soda, and a lime wedge. I’ve had kidney infection problems since I was young, so I am a big fan of getting cranberry juice (actual juice, Regina, NOT cranberry juice cocktail with all the added sugar) and adding a splash to my water to spruce up my hydration. Colorado is much drier than I am used to and I have to try so hard to keep hydrated.

5:30 p.m. — F. found a big smoker on Craigslist and we go to check it out. We both bring our masks and hand sanitizer. F. works in an immunology lab and lectures me again on proper mask safety. The woman we meet has put it in the driveway and tells us from inside her home to feel free to take a look. F. likes it, gives the woman money, and we load it into the back of my car.

6 p.m. — We head to our favorite Asian grocery store. It’s been five or so days since we’ve been grocery shopping and F. wants to get some frozen meals and a new wok. Our roommates are moving out next week and taking their wok with them. We also pick up a good assortment of fresh vegetables. F. pays and, instead of splitting, I agree to buy dinner at our favorite pho restaurant on the way home.

6:20 p.m. — The pho restaurant is a pile of tables and chairs. The carpet has all been ripped up. Another customer stands at the doorway, several feet behind me. I wait a little longer for the mango smoothie F. wants. $30.67

9:30 p.m. — Bedtime! I don’t think the pea soup sat well with me. I have had joint aches and pains since after lunch and feel super run down as my stomach fills with gas. Another food to take into consideration. Admittedly, I knew peas were high FODMAP, but the ham hock for the soup was on sale at $8 so I couldn’t resist it. I have a couple of spoonfuls of turmeric with olive oil and pepper to help the inflammation. Twenty minutes later, I also take a couple of ibuprofen and then I take about a half-hour to fall asleep while Parks and Rec plays on my computer. It’s good to have friends with streaming services.

Daily Total: $36.25

Day Two

7 a.m. — My hair is now unacceptably greasy, so I let the dog out a little early and force myself to get in the shower. Then, I quickly throw on clothes and grab my leftovers for lunch on my way out.

9 a.m. — Breakfast from the hospital cafeteria again. I get my guilty pleasure Coke and also grab an electrolyte drink to keep hydrated. $7.39

1 p.m. — Lunch of leftover pho! I love that one meal can make three. I go for a walk after eating. I have been trying to keep moving now that I have less to do at work. I usually take a power nap under my desk during all my work breaks (a perk of having my own office), but I have more energy now that I’m not seeing patients as regularly. I had a handful of cashews and now my belly is aching and getting gassy. It looks like that’s another food I am going to have to take into consideration.

4:30 p.m. — I call my dad as I walk out of work. He’s pretty concerned that I am still going to work at a hospital with COVID patients around, but I am very grateful to still have a paycheck. I took off five weeks with FMLA at the beginning of the year to help out my dad after his liver transplant. Flying across the country last second was very expensive and I didn’t get a paycheck for over a month. After that financial hit, I currently have enough saved for about a month or so of expenditures. I’m also grateful that F. is still getting his stipend from his grad school program.

5 p.m. — When I get home, I snack on some salami. F. ate the rest of my leftover pho and I am lamenting telling him that he could have it. F. really wants to support our local brewery, so he orders some beer online and we walk the dog over to pick it up. I don’t really drink beer, but it’s a great hangout spot so I would be sad to see it go.

8 p.m. — F. made dinner in the new wok with some rice noodles, veggies, and bacon from the grocery store yesterday.

10 p.m. — Bedtime and I think dinner was a little too high on the soy for me. I have a headache and the joint pains are returning so I will not be bringing leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Daily Total: $7.39

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — As I rush out a couple of minutes late, I am so jealous of F., who isn’t going to work and will probably be in bed for the next hour or so. It’s Friday and I can’t help being excited for the weekend.

9 a.m. — I get my usual two eggs and bacon at the hospital cafeteria. Again, I get a Coke and electrolyte drink. $7.39

1 p.m. — Lunch today is a frozen gluten-free burrito that has been in the freezer at work. I like to stock up on them when the grocery store across the street has them on sale for $2.29. I usually also keep one or two frozen meals when they go on sale between $3.50 and $4.50 each. Before coronavirus, I frequently ate from the salad bar at work for around $4 a meal, but I also treat myself to the hot meals occasionally for $6-$7.

4 p.m. I eat a second frozen burrito because the first wasn’t quite cutting it.

4:15 p.m. — I get an email from the director of medicine. I am to go on furlough for all of next week and then indefinitely. I will get 70% of my pay. I laugh at my past self wishing to stay home this morning. I crunch the numbers and it sounds like each paycheck will go down to $745.50. I’ll admit, I’m not entirely surprised — we have had a dramatic decrease in patients, but I am not stoked either. I’m mostly annoyed that I was told 15 minutes before leaving. I call the doctor I work with and she says to stay as long as I feel like I need to, so I finish up prepping for next week. My one coworker has been out on bereavement leave, so I make some piles and sticky notes of which tasks were done and what still needs to be done and whatnot. At least I’ll get a half-hour of overtime today.

5:15 p.m. — I make a cranberry mocktail and then another. They are too good.

9 p.m. — F. and I watch a movie and I cook up two Italian sausages and eat them with stone ground mustard. I had meant to make a salad, but I didn’t make the effort.

10:30 p.m. — I mosey into bed, looking forward to sleeping in.

Daily Total: $7.39

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Rats, I didn’t even sleep in that much. Last Saturday I slept a solid 14 hours. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t need more, but I’m still sleepy.

9:15 a.m. — I give the dog some breakfast and make a cup of decaf coffee. Another guilty pleasure, even that small bit of caffeine will give me a buzz. I am a believer that drip is the best coffee making method for taste, but F. is using the large drip setup for his regular strength coffee, so I use my one-cup French press. But honestly, I’m not that much of a coffee snob, I’ll happily go for instant if it’s the only thing available.

9:30 a.m. — I drink my coffee in the shower. I would definitely recommend, just make sure your mug has a lid. I consider doing commission drawings or paintings of people’s pets. I hate that every hobby has to be turned into a hustle.

10:30 a.m. — It’s shaping up to be a sunny and 70-degree day. Tomorrow and Monday are set to be low 30s and snowing (that’s Denver for you), so I plan on spending as much time outside as possible. I head out to the back patio and cut out a ton of fabric pieces to sew face masks. I purchased my first sewing machine last week. I found a good one on sale for $109 and then spent about another $150 on fabrics and supplies. An aunt of mine sent me $200 to help get me going. Again, I cannot overstate what a privilege it is to have financially stable adults that want to help me.

11 a.m. — I’ve been sprouting plants and I am excited to start gardening in earnest. Now that I’ve been furloughed, I will have more energy to put into it. I have sprouts from some bok choy, lettuce, cabbage, celery, and carrots from cuttings of veggies I’ve bought. I also have three different types of tomato and green bean seeds that are starting to poke through too!

12 p.m. — I finally start making food. I make two eggs with cheese on toast and throw on some sliced tomato, mayo, and hot sauce. I really like cooking my own food, and I’m glad I get to take my time now. I could make breakfast in the morning before work, but it is so worth it to sleep in and get food at the hospital instead. It definitely adds up, but the quality of life improvement is worth it.

3 p.m. — I have a salad for a late lunch. I am starting to get a migraine and I pass out hard on the couch with the dog for about two and a half hours.

6 p.m. — Trivia night! We have a group of about 30 people who are playing across the country. We come in second and barely miss our chance to own the grand prize: Roller Coaster Tycoon.

8:30 p.m. — We order wings for pickup from a nearby joint. F. treats this time and we fall asleep around 11.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

11 a.m. — Easter! I get up but am still exhausted. We go to the store and get charcoal, wood chips, and some basics like salad mix, cucumbers, eggs, dressing, deodorant, cream, kefir, and soy sauce. For me, I get cranberry juice, sugar-free Gatorade, Bai 5, and an Easter lily. I lost my mom about a year ago and they make me think of her. It feels good to have one on Easter. I send F. $60 for my half. $60

12 p.m. — My tire pressure light is on and I discover that there is a large screw in one of my tires. I fill up the air for $1.60. Bright side of being furloughed — I don’t have to figure out if any places are open today because I don’t need to be at work tomorrow. On the bad side, it’s my winter tire. If I remember right, I think I paid around $80 for each. I don’t know if it will be patchable, but I am hopeful. I’m wondering if I should just have my summer tires put on for the rest of the year or if I will have any more snow driving to do. Man, cars are expensive. I only live about four miles from work and I used to take public transit to and from my job, but buses here are not the most reliable and I get written up if I am more than five minutes late. A couple of years ago, I got my car used for $4,250 because it has a rebuilt title and high mileage. $1.60

1:00 p.m. — Lunch is two leftover sausages and a salad. My migraine is mostly gone, but I think I need to be more intentional about the reintroduction stage of the FODMAP diet. I make juice from cucumber, oranges, celery, carrot, ginger, turmeric, and chia seeds. It doesn’t taste great, but it is tried and true for getting my gut back in check. I have enough for a couple of days, which is good because juicing is SO MUCH WORK. I give the dog the leftover cucumber and carrot bits. We are so lucky that he is a low maintenance doggo that loves his veggies. I usually feel guilty about throwing out all the used up pulp, but since I’m actually going to start using my compost pile in my garden soon, I don’t feel quite so guilty. Afterward, I am exhausted so I lie down for a bit and drink some tea.

6 p.m. — Family Zoom meeting! I am really close with all my cousins and we have about 20 of us on the call. It is glorious.

8:00 p.m. — F. has been smoking ribs all day in our new smoker. We have those and some salad for dinner. Happy Easter to us! I don’t know if I will ever go back to making them in the oven, these are so good. We catch up on Westworld and head to bed.

Daily Total: $61.60

Day Six

10 a.m. — I realize that I am close to needing new taurine and a couple other supplements. I spend a ridiculous amount on supplements and have spent the last 10 years perfecting which ones I need. I count them out and I have enough until after I get paid later in the month, so I’ll wait.

10:30 a.m. — I shower, have some of my veg juice for breakfast, and take my prescription and supplements.

11 a.m. — I realize I am out of string for my masks. I lecture myself about not checking before we went shopping yesterday. I’m used to being able to pop over to the store whenever I think of something. With chronic fatigue, it’s usually easier to get things as I need them than try to plan ahead for what I will have the energy to make. I promise myself that I won’t go to the store for at minimum another week, even if I am really really bored with the food I have at home. I get the string along with some carrots, zucchini, oranges, a fitted sheet, a six-pack of 8×10 canvases, and (because Easter items are 50% off) I grab two decorative baskets to organize my sewing stuff and a chocolate rabbit to split with F. $32.99

11:30 a.m. — I go to the post office and send some face masks to my sister, dad, and a friend who is still going to work at a news station. $6.54

4 p.m. — I talk to my sister on the phone. She is currently living at home and helping out my dad. We’re really close and a pretty good tag team in taking care of the family affairs. She’s a very social person and is sad she has to be extra careful about not being in public or around anyone else because of my dad’s immunodeficiency (because of his liver transplant and anti-rejection medications).

8 p.m. — I throw some chicken thighs and zucchini in the oven and eat it with quinoa for dinner. I also make some oatmeal chocolate cookies. I make them with stevia and a little brown sugar.

Daily Total: $39.53

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — Juice again for breakfast, but also two of the cookies I made last night. No regrets. Word is that stimulus checks should be coming soon. Since I’ll be about $600 short on income this month, if I get a stimulus check this week, I will use $600 to cover normal expenses and be devoting the other $600 to intentionally supporting local businesses. The frugal spender in me wants to hoard it all, but I know that it will be more beneficial to support the community businesses that I use. I am almost done with a month of no alcohol and I want to order a cocktail to-go just for the novelty factor. I usually get Bota Box wine because it’s good and affordable, but the downside is you can’t tell how fast you’re going through it. I make a resolution to get a nicer bottle every now and then from a local place.

12:30 p.m. — We order some Shake Shack to pick up and get 20% off from a coupon I found online. I send F. some money for lunch. $15

1 p.m. — I call the tire place that’s a mile from our house. They’re open and I drive it in then walk home. Again, there is a bright side to being furloughed, as they are only open until 4.

1:30 p.m. — I shop around online for a little bit. I have been looking for a new bra for a while. I am a weird size and I have not found a brick and mortar store in Denver that carries my size. I know just about everyone hates bra shopping, and it’s extra hard when you can’t try them on first. It’s impossible to know if the shape/size/feel will be right just by the picture. The downside of a physical store is that they tend to be much more expensive (anything under $100 feels like a steal). I eye a couple of Panache bras and decide that I can wait a little longer to invest. It’s been about three years since I got a new one — perhaps I can use some stimulus funds for one.

2:30 p.m. — I get a call that my car is done and F. drops me off. $20.16

3 p.m. — I make some face masks and take another nap. I also work on a painting that has been on our shelf since last summer.

8 p.m. — We take it easy for the rest of the day and I am thankful for all the extra rest my body is able to get. I heat up the chicken, zucchini, and quinoa from last night for dinner. We watch the new Westworld episode and I try to convince F. to start Watchmen again for a third time. I notice new things every time. We end up catching up on His Dark Materials and go to bed around 11.

Daily Total: $35.16

COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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