A Week In Jacksonville, FL, On A $35,000 Salary

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Today: a copywriter who makes $35,000 per year. This week, they spend some of their money on top surgery and tickets to see The Lion King.

Occupation: Copywriter
Industry: IT Services
Age: 25
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Salary: $35,000
Paycheck (Every Two Weeks): $1,346
Gender Identity: Non-Binary

Monthly Expenses
Housing: $425 for my apartment rent, after split with one roommate
Car Payment: $200/month. No student loans thank to financial aid and merit scholarships.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Car Insurance: $750 one-time payment for six months
Amazon Prime: $99 one-time payment
Wi-Fi: $23/month (split with roommate)
Electricity: $40-$70/month (split with roommate)
Gym Membership: $11/month
Crunchyroll Subscription: $7/month for the Netflix of anime
Cell Phone: None. I’m on my family’s plan and my parents pay it for me.

Day One

6 a.m. — It’s Friday, but I have the day off from work since I have an out-of-town doctor’s appointment. Not hungry enough for breakfast (I had a big dinner the night before), so I skip it. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I peck at the keyboard until it’s time to get ready to leave.

9 a.m. — Hit the road for my 11 a.m. appointment. I’m having top surgery (bilateral mastectomy) done in a week, so I’m going to the surgeon’s office for a pre-operation appointment. Fortunately, I was able to find a surgeon fairly close by in Gainesville, which is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Jacksonville. I filled up my gas tank a couple days ago, so I’m set to go.

12 p.m. — When I leave the surgeon’s office, I have to pay for my upcoming surgery upfront. Last year, during the Obama administration, my health insurance would’ve covered 80% of the cost. However, my policy changed with the shift in the political climate. Now there is no coverage. I could fight the decision, but that would likely mean a legal battle that’ll cost me more than the surgery. In short, Jeff Sessions owes me roughly $4,500. I’m bitter. Since I’m paying out of pocket, the surgery costs $5,700. I transfer the money from my savings account to my checking account at the surgeon’s office. I’ve been saving this money for about three years — most of it in 2014 and 2015, when I was still living at home. I have to call the bank and go through a security check to prove I’m not committing fraud, but finally the transaction goes through. $5,700

2 p.m. — I drive back home to Jacksonville and eat lunch at my apartment. It’s leftover chicken ravioli that I made two nights ago and my last clementine. I need to go grocery shopping soon.

4 p.m. — I’m supposed to meet my editing partner at a fast-casual restaurant at 6 p.m. I head there two hours early to look over the piece I’m editing for her and get more NaNoWriMo-ing done. You can’t squat without food in front of you, so I order an early dinner: a cup of turkey chili and half of a turkey sandwich. ‘Tis the season. It comes to $12.44 with a tip. $12.44

6 p.m. — My editing partner arrives on time; they just order a chai latte. I always feel weird not eating when other people are, so I order one, too. We review each other’s chapters and it’s pretty productive, but it’s also daunting to think about just how much I want to fix in my story. Shop talk somehow delves into a vent session about our childhood/current family relationships/mental illnesses. We wind up talking until it’s nearly time for the restaurant to close. This is also productive. $3.99

11 p.m. — Facebook knows me too well! I get a Facebook ad saying that tickets for The Lion King musical are finally on sale for my city. I’ve been wanting to see it for ages and it will be in town around my birthday. I buy a ticket right away because I know the good seats will be snapped up quickly. It costs $105.50 but I’m planning to get reimbursed for it; several people can chip in for it as a birthday present to me. $105.50

Daily Total: $5,821.93

Day Two

9 a.m. — Wake up and make pancakes for breakfast per my Saturday tradition. My roommate has a bunch of apples that he wants me to help him eat, so I also eat an apple with peanut butter. Goals for today are to get some cleaning done, get some NaNoWriMo writing done, and go see a movie in the afternoon. I get distracted from cleaning, but my writing is going pretty decently. It’s only Day 4 of NaNoWriMo and I am very behind.

1 p.m. — When I manage to make it to 3,350 words, I reward myself with pumpkin pie flavored ice cream I made for a Halloween get-together last week. It was a huge batch, so there’s still plenty left.

3 p.m. — I go to a small, local theater to catch a French movie while it is in town for just a few days. I’m not a student, but the woman at the cashier gives me the student discount anyway, so ticket is $8. Huzzah! The movie theater also sells food, so I buy a hot dog and fries for $12. The hot dog is a lot better than I was expecting. $20

6 p.m. — I get back home from the movie. I was tempted to buy a cupcake from the bakery next door to the movie theater, but I guilted myself out of it by thinking of all the ice cream I still have in my freezer that needs to be eaten. I eat a little bit of my ice cream while I try to amp myself up for more writing. Today is my first truly productive day for NaNoWriMo. Something about writing makes me hungry though, so around 10 p.m., I start digging around for food. Nothing in the kitchen looks remotely worth eating … except my roommate’s frozen chicken tenders. The bag has been open in the freezer for several weeks, so I don’t think he will miss a few of them. I would ask, but he’s at work and generally doesn’t respond to texts quickly when working. I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow anyway, so I will buy him a new bag to make up for the theft.

12 a.m. — I hit 5,003 words f0r NaNoWriMo. Considering that I started out today with 1,721, I’m pretty pleased with my progress.

Daily Total: $20

Day Three

9 a.m. — Pancake, apple, and peanut butter breakfast again for Sunday. Plan today is to get more writing done, do my grocery shopping, and do my laundry.

12 p.m. — Writing isn’t going as well this morning. I keep getting distracted by fanfics I want to read. Since I’m not being productive anyway, I decide it’s time to run my errands. First stop is pharmacy to drop off my prescriptions. I’m about to run out of testosterone and my surgeon’s office gave me a painkiller prescription to fill for recovery. Next, I run across the street for my groceries. I want to keep my meals this week simple because I will be busy with NaNoWriMo. Also, I don’t really need a lot of food since I will only be at my apartment until Wednesday evening. I buy: a rotisserie chicken, a bag of apples, baby carrots, a green bell pepper, sweet potatoes, green beans, hummus, three cups of Greek yogurt, a box of protein bars, a block of cheddar cheese, a small box of fancy cookies, a tin of mints, and replacement frozen chicken tenders for my roommate. More than enough for three days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as some snacks. $37.99

12:40 p.m. — As I’m driving home from the grocery store, the pharmacy calls to say both my prescriptions are ready. Faster than I expected! I turn around and get them. My insurance covered both, so I only have to pay a total co-pay of $8. $8

1 p.m. — Still not feeling the writing. I do meal prep for the next three days instead. I shred up the rotisserie chicken so that I can easily divide it up for meals. I bake and then mash the sweet potatoes. I cut up the green beans and steam them. I sort of nibble on everything a bit while I work, so it ends up being my lunch. While I work, I listen to video essays on YouTube about different films. Hopefully, it’ll get my creative juices flowing.

4 p.m. — After puttering around some more and still not getting any writing done, I decide it’s laundry time. My apartment doesn’t have a laundry machine and I hate going to the laundromat, so every weekend I drive 20 minutes across town to my parents’ house to use their washer and dryer. This also gives me an opportunity to pet their cat and, of course, visit with them.

6 p.m. — My dad wants to go out to eat, so we all three go to an inexpensive chain restaurant. I’m in a rare mood for red meat, so I order Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. He never lets me pay for my meals when we go out.

9 p.m. — Get home with my laundry, and I’ve only written 500 words so far today. Whoops. I procrastinate a while longer to make myself a small fruit and veggie plate to snack on while I write, then I get to work. By the time I go to bed, I manage to make it to just over 6,000 words total, which isn’t horrible.

Daily Total: $45.99

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Monday. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m., but I fall back asleep and don’t manage to drag myself out of bed until 7:30. Just when I am planning to claim the bathroom, my roommate snags it. I pack up my lunch and snacks for the day while I wait for my turn. Breakfast is just a protein bar; I’ll eat a Greek yogurt cup and an apple later at work too. I try to do a little bit of NaNoWriMo-ing, but my brain isn’t in gear yet.

9 a.m. — I have an appointment with my therapist before work today. When I started transitioning medically, I needed to get a referral letter from a therapist, so I found a trans-friendly one and got the letter after two meetings. I continue to see him monthly because I find it helpful to vent to a neutral party. Today’s session is mostly me complaining about my mom’s constant fretting over me getting surgery. She is hoping that I will change my mind. I understand her concerns and have done my best to listen to them patiently, but it has been wearing on my nerves because it seems like she doesn’t listen to me in turn. My therapist commiserates with me and I feel a lot better when I’m done venting. He isn’t in-network, so I pay for all my appointments out of pocket. Fortunately, he operates on sliding scale, pay-what-you-can model, so it is only $60 for the hour. $60

10:30 a.m. — Finally make it into work. It’s gonna be a long day. I eat my yogurt and apple to fuel up. I’m a copywriter for a large company that does web hosting, site building, marketing, and related services for everything from small businesses to international, industrial giants. My job is to write the copy that appears on their sites.

1 p.m. — Suddenly I am starving? I haven’t been at work for very long, but I take my lunch break anyway because I’m too focused on my hunger to focus on work. I eat my packed lunch: the chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans that I prepared on Sunday. I’m still hungry and it’s gonna be a long day, so I buy a small cup of soup from the kiosk in my building’s cafeteria. $2

3 p.m. — I get a text from Amazon saying that a book I pre-ordered a few weeks ago has shipped. It cost $11.56. Around 5 p.m., I get hungry again. I eat my remaining apple, as well the carrots and hummus that I packed. $11.56

7 p.m. — Finally free. I drive home. There’s no traffic, so I kinda zone out and think about my NaNoWriMo project. I have a breakthrough for a scene, so when I get home I immediately open my laptop and type it all out. Dinnertime. I eat the chicken, sweet potatoes, and hummus again. I also eat some of the cookies I bought as my dessert. I spend the rest of the evening messing around online and trying to hit 7,000 words for NaNoWriMo. I top out at 7,043.

Daily Total: $73.56

Day Five

6:20 a.m. — Alarm wakes me up. I laze around for a while checking the news and then regretting it. I decide I want a hot breakfast this morning, so I make grits topped with cheese and eat one of my protein bars for good measure.

8:40 a.m. — I spend most of the morning reading, and then remember I have phone calls I wanted to make before I head in to work. First: I need to pay the bill for my wisdom teeth removal. I had all four taken out a couple of months ago and the bill finally arrived this weekend. I was worried about how much it would cost because I already have another big dental bill (nearly a grand) that I am slowly paying down. Fortunately, my insurance covered nearly everything and I only owe $25.20. Next, I need to make a call about taking FMLA and short-term disability for my surgery recovery period. Hopefully, these will only be precautionary measure; I saved up my PTO all year so that I could take off nearly the entire month for recovery on PTO. I ask some questions about some documents I need to send in. I need to scan and email them, but I don’t have access to a scanner at my apartment or at work. It will have to wait until Wednesday night, when I will be at my parents’ house. $25.20

9:05 a.m. — Finally hit the road only to remember that I need gas. I fill up my tank roughly once a week. Gas prices aren’t too terrible here, usually. My best friend recently moved to North Dakota and she says the price is terrible there. $36.82

9:30 a.m. — I didn’t pack my lunch today because I didn’t want to eat the same meal three times in a row. I have a coupon for a fast-casual restaurant that I like, so I place an order for later in the day. With my discount, it is just $5.66.

1:30 p.m. — I go to pick up the lunch I ordered earlier. It’s a chicken gyro and side order of tabbouleh. $5.66

6:20 p.m. — Clock out and drive home. With the change in daylight savings, it is terribly dark outside. I eat my dinner — back to the chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans. I don’t really want to look at the computer screen after writing all day for work, so I busy myself with some small chores around the apartment. Then I shower using the special soap the hospital gave me to prep for surgery.

Daily Total: $67.68

Day Six

6 a.m. — I wake up pissed. My mom called last night to tell me that she is getting cold feet about driving me for my surgery. She doesn’t think I should get top surgery, but up until now she has always said that if I do it, then she wants to be there for me. Everyone else in the family works, and with my best friend in North Dakota, I’m rather short on options for drivers. I think she will agree to do it in the end, but her indecision is stressing me out — surgery is tomorrow. I decide to do a little bit of retail therapy. I’ve been meaning to look for a fun 2018 calendar. I shop around a little bit and find one based on an anime character I love. With the yen to USD exchange rate, it is $14.18. $14.18

6:50 a.m. — I want to get out of work early today, so I head in early. Clock in at 7:15 and eat my breakfast at my desk — protein bar and apple. I meant to grab a Greek yogurt cup too, but I forgot it.

1 p.m. — Work lunch is the last of the chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans. I was working kind of slow before lunch, but I go into hyper-drive now. It’s my last day of work before I’m gone for surgery. I won’t be back at work until the Monday after Thanksgiving. I want to end on a strong note and make sure there are no open assignments before I leave.

3:45 p.m. — I get out of work. When I get home, I spend a lot of time packing up everything I will need for my recovery. I’ve bought a lot of stuff in preparation and I also need to consider that I will be away from my apartment for about two weeks. I clean up some before I leave so I won’t come home to a huge mess.

5:30 p.m. — I’m finally ready to head to my parents’ house. When I get there, my mom acts like she never called me last night and of course she is going to drive me. I’m still sorta mad, but whatever. As long as the surgery happens, I will put up with everything else.

6:30 p.m. — Mom and I go out to a fast food place to grab dinner. I pay for both of us. Dad is still working when we get home and won’t be back until tomorrow morning. Around 8 p.m., I eat some rocky road ice cream as a final treat — I won’t be able to eat anything after midnight. Mom and I both go to bed around 11:30 p.m. We’ve got an early morning ahead of us. $13.63

Daily Total: $27.81

Day Seven

3 a.m. — We’re supposed to check in at the hospital at 6 a.m., so we need to get on the road by 4. I’m not supposed to eat or drink anything because I will be put under general anesthesia. My mouth is really dry though, so I have a very small sip of water. Then, I shower with the special soap and get dressed in loose, comfortable clothes. Finally, it’s time to drive out to Gainesville.

8 a.m. — After some waiting around at the hospital, it is finally time. I am rather calm. I feel like I need to be because my mom is panicking so much. Every 20 minutes, she reminds me that I can change my mind and leave at any time. I’m not going to change my mind. I’ve wanted top surgery for nearly a decade. I paid for the surgery upfront last week, but I’m not sure whether there is a separate bill for the anesthesiologist. I have a follow-up appointment on Monday, so I will ask then.

10:30 a.m. — When I come-to after the surgery, I’m a little agitated. But very quickly, I am completely lucid and can’t feel much pain. We stay at the hospital for a while longer for observation and discharge instructions.

1 p.m. — We are back on the road home to Jacksonville. Mom gets sleepy around 2 and stops at a gas station for coffee. She asks if I want anything, but I’m worried about throwing up in the car, so I decline.

4 p.m. — I finally have my first meal of the day: a bowl of cereal. It stays down fine. I’m really not in any pain or nauseated at all, which is a relief. Thank goodness for painkillers. Around 7, Mom makes me grilled cheese and soup for dinner. I’m still feeling well, just sleepy. She is calmer now because the surgery went fine and I’m in such good shape. Hopefully the rest of my recover will go smoothly, and I will be able to go back to work after Thanksgiving as planned.

Daily Total: $0

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