Issue #93: An Honest Look at Everything I Spent in May
Making my budget transparent.
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📚 Big Swiss by Jen Beagin: Greta has left her ten-year relationship to move in with her chaotic friend Sabine in a dilapidated 300-year-old farmhouse in Hudson, New York that is missing windows and packed with bees. She spends her days typing up transcripts for the town’s only sex therapist with a clientele she frequently runs into, identifying them by their voices. When Greta becomes enamored (obsessed?) with a married woman she nicknames “Big Swiss,” she strikes up a friendship then affair with her. The novel is bizarre but darkly funny, especially when Greta’s out-loud observations interrupt the transcripts she’s typing. I can’t remember the last time I actually laughed out loud while reading a book.
🎧 Wild and Precious: A Celebration of Mary Oliver: This Audiobook is an ode to all the lessons poet Mary Oliver has to teach us—among them, the importance of paying attention, noticing nature, appreciating little moments. Narrated by Sophia Bush, it features selections of Mary Oliver’s poetry, as well as interviews from a wide range of creatives (did not expect to see Ross Gay, Rainn Wilson, and Samin Nosrat in the same place but M.O. is just that magical!) reflecting on her influence. Perfect listening for early morning walks, or for meditative cooking—I’ve gone through it twice and picked up on little lessons I missed the first time around. It’s packed with heart.
📺 “Silo” on Apple TV+: In this 10-episode adaptation of Hugh Howey’s sci-fi novel Wool, only 10,000 people remain after the Earth has become untenable, all living in an underground silo where they grow food and work under oppressive rules meant to keep them safe (it reminded me of Castrima in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series). It’s a criminal offense to talk about the past or even float the idea of living outside, both of which are punishable by exile. Little by little, a small band of rebels begins to put together pieces that suggest the outside may not be the scorched earth they’ve been led to believe. Six episodes are out now so there’s still time to catch up!
I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of creating budgets for different life phases: When I lived in New York and worked as a food editor making $35K, I was able to eat out and see shows by taking home test kitchen leftovers and adapting them into lasting, cheap meals (a talent I still possess!). While studying abroad in Copenhagen, I stretched a $400 grocery stipend across four months by surviving on quinoa, eggs, and boxed wine (I was 19, I had my priorities) and volunteered at a farm stand every other week in exchange for free beets so I could put every dime from my summer job toward travel. In my 20s, my then-boyfriend and I got into the habit of living off of one of our salaries, so we could put the other entirely toward paying off large purchases like our land loan and car.
Living alone and working freelance for the first time has brought a fresh set of challenges that requires a much stricter and more granular budget, which I documented here. After withholding money for taxes, savings, health insurance, and tuition, I break my budget down by category to hold myself accountable. When I shared it back in February, many of you commented with questions around what it looks like in reality. In May, I documented every dollar I spent to show you! As you’ll see below, I blew through certain categories and made up for it in others, logging “Budget Challenges,” like emotional spending, honestly along the way.
If the below reads like a diary, that’s because it basically is. Finances and where we choose to spend our money is deeply personal, and priorities can shift even from week to week. I hope you find my honesty and strategies helpful, regardless of your life phase:
This month began with a week off of school between semesters, which I used as a time to regroup before my hectic summer class schedule. If this week looks familiar, it’s because I covered what I spent on meals here!