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I am 34 years old, make $40,000 (total HHI: $81,000) a year, live in rural Oklahoma, and work as a Coordinator in Higher Ed
**Please know that we are always wearing masks anytime we are around people who don’t live in our house with us. I just felt really redundant and this diary is already chockfull of redundancies.**
Section 1: Assets and Debts
Retirement: $8041.36. This is a combination of my 403b and OK Teacher’s Retirement fund. Backstory: we lived in Austin, TX for a long time before getting the option to move back to my childhood home where I would get the opportunity to be a SAHM for a little while. We loved Austin but we were so far away from family and, even though it was risky and we’d never make a lot of money in our hometown, the sacrifice was worth it to us to have our son closer to family. We closed out my existing 401k so that we could move home and start repairs on our new (to us) house. Did it set us back? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Not a bit. I got the chance to be a SAHM for several years until my son was in school and I found a job that I absolutely love. I’ve never been happier even though we make significantly less money than we did in Austin.
Equity: I’m not sure about this but I would say around $50,000. We own the house we live in, but it was gifted to us because it was going to otherwise sit empty and we needed to do a LOT of repairs. So far, we’ve spent close to $50,000 on repairs and upgrades since we moved back in 2014. Eventually we will take out a mortgage to pay my mom and to do some more major upgrades.
Savings account: $3325.94 in a HYSA (lol high yield). See above for reasons our savings/retirement sucks. We are starting to build this up now.
Checking account: $7089.44. This is higher than normal because it’s right after payday and I haven’t moved any money around yet.
Credit Card Debt: $2113.91. This is for a new lawn mower we had to buy (we have about 10 acres we have to maintain between our house and my mom and grandma’s house – yes, it’s like a tiny compound) this year. It’s on a 0 interest CC for the next 2 years so we don’t mind the balance and we overpay the amount due each month. All other CC we pay off in full each month.
Student Loan Debt: $35,907.10. Yikes. This is for my undergrad and part of my grad school. We paid off my husband’s student loans 2 years ago, and I am working on getting PSLF. Hopefully that’s still a thing in a few years.
Section 2: Income
**I’m not doing income progression because most of my jobs do not relate to one another, so I don’t have a traditional career or income path.
Monthly Take Home (me): $2592.68/month
Monthly Take Home (husband): $2624.68/month
We combine finances and share a joint checking and savings accounts. We combined our finances out of convenience right after we got married almost 10 years ago. It’s worked well so far.
Mortgage: $0 (see above). We know how incredibly lucky we are and we do spend a lot on remodeling our home and helping my mom take care of her and my grandma’s home that they started sharing after both of their husbands (my step dad and grandpa) passed away 6 months apart from each other 13 years ago. Although we have a “free” house, we do a lot to make up for it. I think we do anyways. We could just be selfish freeloaders *Shrugs* dang millennials.
Insurance: $300/year for home
Property Taxes: approx. $300/year
Savings contribution: Nothing set in stone right now. I usually take whatever we have in excess of $1500 at the end of each month. Last month it was $850.
CC for lawn mower: $150
Student Loans: $150 (or more if I get a wild hair) but currently on pause
Donations: We don’t have a set amount we donate each month but last year we donated about $2000 (I know, I know, it should be more) to a combination of organizations: ACLU, BLM, ASPCA, a few local charities, friend’s fundraisers, and political campaigns. I also volunteer for our local literacy program during non-Covid times and phone bank for political campaigns whenever I can.
Other Utilities: ~$50
Wi-Fi/Satellite: $170 (yes, it’s expensive and yes, it’s horrible but it is a necessary evil due to work and school. This is why we need better options in rural areas)
Cell phone - $150 for me and my mom and a grandfathered data plan that they will pry from my cold. Dead. Hands.
Netflix: I mooch off my brother
Disney +: $7/month
Dollar Shave Club: $10 every 8 weeks
Audible: $22.90/month for me and my husband
NYT: $6/month and shared with family
Amazon: $59/year (hey, hey student discount!)
Pet expenses: ~$100/month. We have three dogs (Sirius, Sansa, and Khaleesi) and a cat (Aaron Purr, Sir). I don’t talk about them in the diary because I knew I would spend the whole time just talking about them and never get to the money stuff.
Transportation: $300/month for car payment; $79/month for insurance for both of our cars; ~$200/month for gas
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher ed? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I wouldn't say there was an expectation but it was definitely highly encouraged for us to go to college or a vocational school. I went for a year after high school, dropped out, and then went back and finished 3 years later. Now I'm working on my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I paid for my undergrad through grants for the first year and then lost them all when I dropped out so I paid for the majority of the rest of it with loans. Wish I would have never done that.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money was always a topic of conversation in our house because my parents were self-employed musicians who had 6 kids between the two of them (my dad was actually my step-dad, my bio dad was a jerk) and money was always tight. I will say that I learned a lot about budgeting and not living above my means. That part has taken a bit of a hit lately because, after 4 years of being a SAHM, that double income really went to my head. I'm finally leveling back down and getting extra serious about our goals. My parents taught me about how life was about more than money but they also taught me practical stuff too, like how to do your taxes. Sounds like pretty wild musicians, right?
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job ever was at Kentucky Fried Chicken for 2 weeks when I was 16. It taught me two things: I never, ever want to work fast food again and to have respect for those that do because it is much harder than it looks! I consider my next job at a call center as my "real" first job and I got it because I wanted a car and a cell phone and spending money. My parents only provided the necessities
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. Yes because I knew how much my parents struggled even though they tried not to show it and yes because I knew my biological father had a LOT of money (that he eventually lost and died almost penniless) and refused to pay child support or anything to help me and my 2 siblings out. But also no because my parents, as hard as it was, didn't ever have the mentality that being broke is necessarily terrible. When I talk to my friends about our childhoods, I find that we all had family issues regardless of where we all fell on the socio-economic spectrum.
Do you worry about money now?
Oh, for sure. I know we're behind but I try not to let it cloud my every thought. We've reached difficult goals before and I know we'll do it again!
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say it started at 16 and I became fully financially responsible for myself at 18. I don't know if we have a financial safety net but we have a great support group and community around us that I know would do everything they could to help out if something terrible were to happen.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
lol no. Unless you count the old steamer trunk we inherited from a grandma.
5 am: Husband (J) and I wake up to the news about Donald Trump testing positive for the coronavirus. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry considering the precariousness of our country right now. Get up and drink coffee that J has made while reading the news and listening to my book (The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek, good so far). Eventually send J off to work and get started on my own work. Explanation: I work from home on Fridays because my son’s (D) school only goes 4 days a week. My job really requires me to be in the office but, J is in a relatively new position at the same university and he is still learning the ropes. Luckily my boss is an incredible lady and understands the sacrifices we’re all having to make. I absolutely love my job and the people I work with.
8 am: Eat breakfast (boring oatmeal, sorry folks) and check e-mails until D gets out of bed and I fix him breakfast (cereal, also boring). At some point J gets gas and a drink ($24.63) and texts me the news that Joe Biden has tested negative. Fingers crossed it stays that way!
12 pm: take a break to eat some lunch (grilled chicken salad that I prepped the night before. I promise my food choices aren’t always so boring) with D, visit with my mom who lives next door (veeery social distanced chat. She has rheumatoid arthritis and takes meds that make her immunocompromised, so we work hard to keep her safe. She’s my favorite person in the world), and wash dishes while continuing my book. I’m not going to lie, yesterday was super slow in the office and I spent a good hour reading about the blue people of Kentucky. Does anyone else in Higher Ed find that they have weeks where they feel like the work is nonstop and you’re constantly putting out fires and other weeks where you can’t even find the tiniest thing to keep you busy? As someone who has always had jobs where you didn’t get a chance to breathe, the past 2 years in this environment has REALLLLY taken a lot to get used to. This week I’ve done mayyyybe 25 hours of actual work where last week I was working well into the early morning hours almost every night. It’s weird.
3 pm: Take a little break to get out of the house a bit and run to the corner store to pick up some snacks for D ($11.49).
3:30: Remember I said today was slow? Just kidding! Suddenly get slammed with work and then find out Donald Trump is going to Walter Reed…this is turning into a weird Friday.
6 pm: J gets home from work and tells me he spent $4.50 on a drink and a song on iTunes. We then have a quick hamburger cookout and eat outside with my mom. The rest of the night is pretty boring: clean up, kiddo to bed, tv on the couch, skin care, then fall asleep listening to a show about murders. Nice.
5:30 AM: Even though it’s the weekend my body decides it’s time to wake-up. Make coffee and check the news before heading for a breakfast run to a little shop near our house ($15.69). Spend a lazy morning finishing up my book (so good!) and catching up on a few My Favorite Murder episodes before heading out for a big grocery shopping trip.
1 PM: Since March, we try to limit our trips to the grocery store to once a month and do about 2 or 3 grocery pickups to get little things we need. This ends up being a huge shopping trip because we were out of a lot of household items and also because we picked up a Halloween costume and some lounge clothes for D (kids grow so fast!). I won’t list everything because I have 5 more days, but we spend $413.61 on items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, ground pork, ground beef, lots of veggies, Oreo Thins, shampoo, conditioner, etc. We were out of EVERYTHING. We aren’t doing trick or treating this year but D loves dressing up, so we decided to go ahead and still get a costume which accounts for about $40 of that bill. Because it’s grocery day and I can’t be bothered, we stop and get lunch/dinner (amiright?) at a local sushi restaurant ($30.85).
5 PM: I help my mom balance my grandma’s checkbook. She’s about $20 off from the register compared to the statement but we quickly spot the error. Spend the rest of the evening doing a bit of laundry, watching Halloween Wars with the fam, doing a quick workout on Youtube and watching The Shining and The Exorcist (don’t worry, D was in bed) before calling it a night around 12:30.
6 AM: Normal thing: wake up, coffee, breakfast (overnight oats), news. I also use the time before everyone else is awake to do hair mask and take a shower and then start meal prepping for the week (stuffed cabbage rolls and tabbouleh).
9:30 AM: Realize I don’t have enough jars to make my overnight oats for the week (I’m notorious for dropping and breaking dishes CONSTANTLY) so run to the Dollar Store. I don’t find jars but, mysteriously, I find a throw pillow, rug, and weighted blanket ($81.35). I don’t feel too terrible because we just redid our entire bedroom (new floors, new furniture, paint, etc) and we need a few little pieces to tie some things together. These are all neutral pieces we’ve been looking for and, honestly, almost half the price of the stuff I’ve found online. Yes, strangers, I’m justifying my spending not just to you but to me too. Also stop and fill up on gas for the week and wash my car ($27.25)
2:30 PM: Finally finished meal prepping (also made some eggroll bowls) and start a new book (When We Left Cuba) before I start working on an old steamer trunk of J’s late grandma’s that we are refinishing. My brother brings out a brisket he has been smoking all weekend and helps me do some stuff to the trunk and trying to be helpful but I’m the baby so I just get frustrated because I want to do things my way (even though he’s done this before and does kind of know what he’s talking about. Ugh big brothers). Eventually head inside to start clean the house while J works in the yard (this isn’t a gender norms thing – we actually split up house and yard chores pretty equally but it just happened to work out this way this time).
8:00 PM: I lay down to watch Bailey Sarian vids (I promise I’m not obsessed with murders, they’re usually more spread out than this but I recently took a break from YouTube and podcasts for about a month so I’m just playing catch-up) under the new weighted blanket while J plays video games with D. HOLY COW! HOW HAVE I NOT HAD A WEIGHTED BLANKET MY WHOLE LIFE?!?! I was really skeptical because I’m super claustrophobic (like, I will NOT take elevators. At all. And parking garages? Forget about it. You better have street or lot parking or ya girl’s not gonna be there) but THIS. IS. LIFE. CHANGING. I completely pass out, so J takes care of all the bedtime stuff for D.
5:30 AM: Ugh, Monday. J starts the coffee while I fix mine and D’s lunches for the day. Do all the necessary ‘get ready for work and school’ while J wakes up D and makes sure he gets dressed. J breaks his glasses while cleaning them (why tf is he cleaning his glasses so aggressively?!) so I make a mental note to check out if his prescription is still good or if we need to schedule an appointment. Head to work while J takes D to school.
8:30 AM: get a call at work from a collections agency (what?) and pay a hospital bill from 2017 (long story short: our little town hospital got bought out a few years ago by a big hospital and their billing system is insane. I once got a bill for the same visit with the same items on it 3 times in 2 weeks with 3 different amounts) I go ahead and pay it ($25.66) and make a note to check with the hospital billers when I go get my pap on Friday to see what the heck is happening. Also see that Digit has taken out their monthly fee (listed above). Text with my friend because today is her birthday! I always thought I was a homebody but, since we are trying to keep our bubble small, it just now occurs to me how much I miss her. She’s my closest friend (physically, all of my other besties are spread around the country) and we haven’t seen each other since January. I suggest that we set up our projector and have her and her husband over some time soon for a (very socially distanced) outdoor movie night.
4: Off work! In the times of Covid, I forego a lunch hour (hence all the meal prep which I should probably be doing all the time anyway) so that I can leave early enough to pick my son up from school so he doesn’t have to ride on the bus. Normally he’d ride the bus to my mom’s house (we all live about 3 miles from the school) and wait for me to get home after 5 but, like I said, we’re trying to be as safe as we possibly can. Make dinner (aforementioned prepped eggroll bowls) and eat as a family. D has ADHD and sensory processing disorder so we struggle to find things we can all eat as a family. He hates the eggroll bowls, but I am proud of him for trying them. I’m trying really hard to follow his pediatrician’s advice to let him eat what he wants (within reason of course) but my mom brain constantly worries. Luckily, he’s very healthy and is growing at a normal rate so I know it’s mainly just pressure I put on myself. Sigh, momming is hard.
6:30 PM: head out for another trip to the Dollar Store (I promise we don’t go out this much normally but, since we do most of the shopping for my mom and grandma, we go more than I’d like even during a normal week) to pick up some stuff for my mom and some cute and cheap Halloween décor for us ($67). Is it just me or is anyone else just not even into the whole idea of holidays this year? If it wasn’t for D I probably wouldn’t even bother with it honestly.
8:30 PM: J and D play together while I work out and then catch up on the NYT crosswords from this week that I’ve been sporadically working on. Get D ready for bed and then accidentally fall asleep early (thanks, blanket) and leave J to clean up dinner dishes. Oops. Sorry not sorry.
3:15 AM: NOPE.
5:15 AM: Still nope. I’ve gotta be more careful about what time I get under the magic blanket.
5:45 AM: Finally up and start the morning routine of coffee, getting dressed, getting D ready, getting work and school stuff ready, packing lunches and heading out the door. J and I make it a point to try to get up as early as possible so we can spend a few calm moments together before the rush of the day but we didn’t get to this morning because I slept later than normal and now my day feels off.
8 AM: At work and I can already tell it’s going to be a crazy day. I’m feeling a weird impending sense of doom (really shouldn’t miss those meditative morning coffees with the hubs) so I put on Michelle Obama’s podcast for something positive. I wish Michelle Obama could be my mom. Or aunt. I love both my real mom and aunt but I think Michelle would be a really welcome addition to our group. Spend the rest of the day pep talking students, faculty and staff alike. I know times are really hard in academia and education in general so check on those folks who are in the middle of it. A lot of my job is just being an ear for people to vent to and it occurred to me today that I spend most of my time asking everyone around me if they’re okay but I can count on one hand the amount of times someone has checked on me since March. I’m a one-woman office so I understand that I’m easy to forget in people’s rounds. Plus I laugh a lot, so I think people just probably assume I’m doing awesome. But I absolutely love what I do and I love everyone I work with and for and will get my check-ins from friends and family. Sorry, I swear I’m not trying to have a pity party. It just hit me weird today.
4 PM: Best time of the day, getting to see D. Then suddenly remembering it’s Parent-Teacher conference night and our appointment is in 2 hours. What is HAPPENING, Tuesday?!
6: P/T conference. No one was wearing masks and his teacher spent 7 minutes (yes, 7) talking about how the coronavirus is just like the flu and it’s hilarious that all the people who thought schools would close 2 weeks in are really kicking themselves now. Y’all. I asked if they were using the disposable masks I bought them and she says no (direct quote from teacher: “They just can’t wear masks all day. D does great though! He never takes his off!” yes I know he doesn’t take it off. We listen to scientists, lady). Also find out that they’ve decided to close school tomorrow because the high school softball and baseball teams are going to the State Tournament. Please forgive the following tirade but I feel like you all will understand: Oklahoma is routinely at the bottom in terms of education, health, literacy, etc. We are in a school district that only goes to school 4 days a week and we just passed our first bond in 23 years! I’m very happy for the teams and proud that their hard work is getting them to state but I also know that OK is in an education and health crisis right now. Sorry. I have a lot more to say but I want to try to put as much positivity in the world as I can so I should just stop now. We’ve tried to change school districts but everyone is full and he is on an IEP so that makes it more difficult. We supplement at home with educational trips, shows, games, etc. I hope we’re doing right by D. We decide to skip the dinner we had planned (breakfast for supper) and have McDonald’s instead. D is doing really excellent in school despite the fears of the inevitable slide that we all knew most kids would face due to the long break and also because my head hurts and I just can’t ($17). Head home and spend the evening cussing and discussing the education system (btw – Teachers, you all are awesome. I can’t even believe the things you’re having to do now and I will not let one person’s attitude about the seriousness of our situation deter my support and awe for teachers and all those in the world of education. Thank you sincerely for caring about our children like you do and thank you for the continuous sacrifices you make so that you can send the young people out into the world better equipped than we ever could) and eating terrible food.
9: D finally in bed so, after a quick workout, J and I snuggle on the couch listening to our books (with headphones. We don’t just loudly play different books over the other one’s) and head to bed around 12:30.
5:00 AM: Awake! I’m determined to make this a better day, so I start with a 15 minute workout on Youtube and then enjoy coffeetime with J. We talk about yesterday and we have decided to use the surprise day off as a way for D and I to spend some quality time together. Send an e-mail to my boss about needing the day off tomorrow to which she immediately responds and gives me a really nice compliment about all of the work I’ve been doing easing fears from the students, faculty, and staff (huh, there’s that check-in I needed. She’s the best). Do our regular morning stuff and get out the door a little bit early. I take the few extra minutes to pop in the corner store and pick up some donuts for some coworkers and a few drinks to stock my work fridge (9.57).
8:00 AM: work is crazy again but finally slows down about an hour before I leave. Spend the last hour chatting with my 3 favorite coworkers and closing up my office for the weekend before heading out to pick up D.
5 PM: get home to find my brother visiting my mom! We chat a little bit about Johnny Nash, Eddie Van Halen and the new guitar he’s bought (Fender Telecaster for those interested) before J gets home to join the impromptu party. Head home to make dinner (finally getting that breakfast for supper D has been waiting on) and I can hear my brother and husband outside playing with their guitars. I love that J has been so easily welcomed into the family. We’ve been together for almost 12 years (married almost 10) and his parents weren’t great to him. Nothing terrible, they just kind of neglected him for his older sister. He fits perfectly into my weird crew. I can’t be for certain but I’m pretty sure they like him more than me sometimes. J also stopped to pick up drinks for his work fridge and for D’s lunchbox since we forgot them during our big grocery haul (19.67).
7:30 PM: I just thought I was finished with work. Spend the next few hours putting out fires and watching the VP debate. We let D watch more of this one than the last one, but he passes out pretty quickly. The fly in Pence’s hair is hilarious and weirdly ominous and Kamala’s mom looks she gives him for interrupting her continuously are gold. Finally head to bed about 1 with a stress headache and watch some ASMR to wind down.
7 AM: I SLEPT IN!! Woohoo!!! This NEVER happens!! I give thanks to my new lord and savior, the weighted blanket, and head into the living room to have a cup of coffee with the hubs and see him off to work.
1 PM: I’ve spent most of my day off working. Yep. I did get to fix D his favorite breakfast of all time: scrambled eggs. This kid. And he showed me some videos on Youtube that he’d been watching. It was mainly people playing Minecraft and Undertale and screaming a lot. Nice. Break for lunch and to listen to my mom (Michelle Obama) talk about mentoring and raising kids. Also play Life with D and try to get him to snuggle with me and watch a movie but he refuses so we spend a while outside enjoying the gorgeous weather. Also work on this diary a bit since I just realized I have to post tomorrow. Now panicking about my spending. Now remembering that we’re all internet strangers and how this is a really supportive community, so I just need to relax a bit.
5:30 PM: J is home! We rejoice and he sends me a screenshot of his spending for the week. He couldn’t remember what exactly everything was for (just guessing I’d say: lunch for a few days, Dr. Peppers, and music related stuff) but I love that he tried ($52). We make dinner together (egg rolls from the left over egg roll bowls) and D and J play music and video games while I do a work out (btw was it on here or R29 that someone did Walking at Home with Leslie? Either way- thank you! This program is so much fun!). Get D in bed around 8:30.
9:30 PM: Showered and in bed to finish this money diary while listening to Bailey Sarian until I can no longer resist the siren’s call of the weighted blanket. G’night, folks!
Reflect on your diary: Other than the crazy grocery trip (which would normally be at least $100 less if not more), this was a relatively normal week in terms of spending. It did make me realize how I need to probably slow down on the like small daily spending like dropping into the corner store and I should try harder to get my husband to bring his lunch each day instead of eating out so much. I know that we aren’t as financially secure as other people on this sub but I think that’s okay. We’re working on our goals and I have to make peace with that and be happy with what we have. I appreciate any constructive criticism or comments!
**Update** remember that weird $25 hospital bill? Turns out it was part of a bill that was already paid in full and should never have been turned over to collections. Yay! Now I’ve gotta try and get that $25 back…wish me luck!
I am 26 years old make $62,000, live in British Columbia, and work as a Healthcare Analyst.
Section One: Assets and Debt
- Retirement Balance:
- RRSP & TFSA portfolio: $73,100.18 (Questrade). I hired a fee-only planner (I thought they were advisors, I think for legal reasons they have to market themselves as planners/coaches!) who gave me an introduction to investing in the stock market, helped me pick a mix of ETFs/bonds that align with my values as an investor, and walked me through the buying process. They did brilliantly, because my list of do-not-wants was long as hell: no fossil fuels (including fracking), no big ag, no carceral business, womxn-centred, blah blah blah. Highly, highly, highly recommend! It was super easy and my advisor simplified and explained everything. So glad I did this.
- Pension: I don’t know exactly, but by EOY it’ll probably clear $15,000.
- Equity if you're a homeowner: lol
- Savings account balance: $14,898.69 (HISA)
- Checking account balance: $236.45
- Credit card debt: $0.
- Student loan debt: $0.
- 17: car dealership. Minimum wage.
- 18-23 (concurrent): clinic admin. Started at $12, raise to $15 then $16.
- 21-22 (concurrent): research. $25 an hour I think? I was on a stipend.
- 21-23: various Co-op roles (internships?) $45,000 - $55,000 a year, pro-rated. Mix of academia, business, and public accounting. I quit accounting because I hated it and because mining (my former industry) is awful for so many reasons: human rights violations, climate catastrophes, murders of indigenous people, and the list goes on. Also, my firm-assigned mentor was racist and I’m obviously a WOC, so that was cool.
- 23-24: P/T admin work while job searching. ($16-18)
- 24-current: current role. Probation/COL raises. ($55,000 > $59,000 > $62,000).
Side Gig Monthly Take Home: None.
Any Other Monthly Income Here: None.
Section Three: Expenses
- Rent: $800 plus chores. Yep, still at home.
- Retirement contribution: taken out of paycheque.
- Savings contribution: whatever’s left at the end of the month.
- Investment contribution: $1,500.
- Cellphone: $22.50.
- Subscriptions: $10 each to The Tyee and The Narwhal.
- Car insurance: $600 a year. I pay 25% of annual insurance for one car, split with family.
- Monthly: $10 each to SeedChange Canada, Across Boundaries, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, WISH Vancouver. $20 to Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice.
- Annual: so far, $125 each to Union Gospel Mission and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. $500 to various NDP campaigns. I also donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, Black in BC COVID Fund, Wetsuwe’ten Defense Fund/Unist’ot’en Camp, and some others I forget. Maybe $250 or so to those funds?
- Volunteering: My regular volunteer gig has shut down because of COVID. No idea when or if ever we’ll return, which sucks. However, I text-bank for US election campaigns, which makes me feel like a spy even though it’s legal. I did so for the ACLU in Michigan & Arizona and I’ll do so again for the Georgia senate run-offs. Fellow sneaky non-Americans, I invite you to do the same here!
My parents would have murdered me if I didn’t go to university. Now that I think about it, we never talked about how it was going to be paid for, but I knew that I was responsible for ensuring that tuition would be paid somehow. I didn’t receive any entrance scholarships despite having a 93% average and good extracurriculars (fuck you, UBC), but my parents did start a RESP for me that amounted to about $7,000 when I withdrew. That paid for part of my first year, then I funded the rest by living at home, working throughout university, and being a supremely cheap fuck. I took out loans just in case, but I ended up paying it all back right after I graduated plus $0.06 in interest.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I grew up hearing my parents fight about money. It got nasty and was immensely traumatizing. They both grew up during some really terrible shit. My mom doesn’t budget and used to say that we should never rely on men. On the other hand, my dad has the poverty/scarcity mindset of a Depression-era grandparent, dialed up to 11. The sum total of what I was taught: “save every penny,” “don’t trust anyone,” and “it’s my money so I do what I want.” Bonus points if you can guess who taught what! Honestly, they were raised in an entirely different system, language, and culture. I’m not sure whether they even had bank accounts until they immigrated. They didn’t have the tools to teach me. I learned about personal finance because I didn’t want to be like my parents and I equated money with success & happiness. Now, I try to teach them about personal finance when I get the chance.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Receptionist at car dealership. Nepotism. I sucked but quit before I could get fired. I also learned here that many of the stereotypes about male car salespeople are true.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Constantly. Constantly, constantly, thanks to my parents. I wasn’t deprived as a kid of the essentials – food, shelter, education (thank you, BC public teachers; no thank you, BC Liberals for underfunding and fucking public education up, especially for special needs kids). Looking back, my parents have done really well for themselves, but they both have vastly different financial mindsets and only now are sort of on the same page about things. Yes, I do need therapy. I’m very thankful, however, that I never had to worry about paying for healthcare. My parents hold blue-collar union or union-adjacent jobs and that doubled-up union insurance covered everything under the fucking sun, thank god.
Do you worry about money now?
No. Well, sometimes. Have you seen house prices in Greater Vancouver? If push comes to shove, I can fall back on my parents. I do get jealous of my friends once in a while, because they’re more financially privileged than I am (i.e. their parents paid in full for their educations and funded investment portfolios for them when they were younger, they don’t pay rent, etc.) Which is ridiculous, because I reached an NW of $100K this year. I’m doing really well. Shut up, me.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I don’t think I’m financially independent? I pay rent and my bills (… one phone bill), but I still live at home. I have a financial safety net – emergency fund, TFSA, RRSP, good access to credit if needed.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
As sort of a weird guilt thing, my grandpa gifted each of my siblings and I with … it was either $1,000 or $3,000, I don’t remember. Didn’t want to take the money but didn’t really have a choice. Culturally, it would have been incredibly offensive not to accept. We’ve pretty much been the main caretakers of my grandparents for the past thirty years. There are some complicated family dynamics at play. My aunts and uncle (mostly him) took my grandparents’ assets in The Home Land, so they’ve been more or less dependent on my family ever since they arrived.
10 AM: I am never awake this early on the weekend. But I’m buying a stand mixer off Facebook Marketplace that I’m picking up at 11 and then meeting a friend for a park picnic, so here I am! Leggings, shirt, no bra because I’ve gained weight and my bra is too tight. Take meds and get in car.
11 AM: Cash gotten (why the fuck are all the ATMs closed???), mixer acquired! I have to fix it, but $120 is better than a kick in the pants. I’ve also ordered mixed noodles and garlic butter chicken wings (YES) from Phnom Penh. I also want bubble tea, but Cha Yuan is closed. Damn. $120
11:30 AM: The person behind me is watching my every move. Fulfill stereotype by parking terribly and go pick up my Phnom Penh order (Phnom Penh is a Vancouver institution and I will fight anyone who talks shit about the DTES). My car now smells like MSG, lemon, and pepper. $19.06 (my half)
12 PM: Get a Tieguanyin milk tea and a Roasted Milk Tea at Chatime. $6.25 (my half)
12:15 PM: Fill up at PetroCanada. $25
12:30 PM: Drop off car and head to park with friend. Talk until our hands freeze and the food is cold. We discuss maybe moving in together, but there’s a good chance that I’ll be heading to grad school in the fall and I’d be paying a couple extra hundred in rent. Plus, I’d be leaving my parents alone. And we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And I should be trying to save more money. I don’t know. We also talk about the fact that a lot of diaspora kids are pushed into the lawyer, doctor, accountant stability trap (which is not even stable or guaranteed – I could go on about this forever), and how that limits our ability to think beyond the “model minority” career choices, especially in policy/politics, media, and the arts. I’d love if Canadian politics, policy, and media was led by BIPOC womxn (especially indigenous folks) instead of neoliberal and conservative white people. Soon, I hope.
2 PM: I check the new health order. Our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, held an emergency presser at 1 PM to announce new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our two largest health authorities. L 589 cases! Ack! No gatherings outside of your household, no indoor exercise classes (how are those still happening), limits on nonessential travel, in effect from 10 PM today. I’m on vacation and I was hoping to do some fun things, but that’s put paid to my plans. Stop having indoor gatherings and wear masks, assholes! It’s not fucking hard!
4:15 PM: Tell myself I’m just under the covers because it’s cold.
7:15 PM: Wake up from an “unplanned” nap. Have dinner – fried sticky rice with lap mei, lap cheung, shiitake, peanuts, and egg sheets. Not a vegetable in sight, so I try two grapes that are weirdly… soft… so I stop eating because I am a picky bitch. PS I am a grazer par excellence so just imagine a bunch of snacks everywhere that I’ve forgotten to mention.
8:15 PM: The motherfucking radio always plays the Paul Walker Fast & Furious song for some reason as like… filler. Who made that choice?? WHY???
2 AM: Sleep.
Day 1 Total: $170.31
11 AM: Make myself a Vietnamese coffee with a phin. Warm up and eat a Costco croissant. I like these a hell of a lot more than I probably should. Vacuum, clean, wipe down bathrooms.
12 PM: My dad’s brought back some takeout – youtiao, wu tao goh, and ham sui gok. Eat a piece and claim satiety because it’s weirdly oily… I think they sold him the leftovers from yesterday.
1 PM: Attack the Kitchenaid mixer. There is machine grease everywhere. It takes me a million years to separate the motor from the body and I break a drill bit in the process, but I finally replace the worm gear and then realize that I need to replace the grease too. Ahhhhhhhhh fuck.
2 PM: I try not to buy from Amazon, but the only place that carries Super Lube (lol) is closed today and I’m trying to avoid nonessential travel. Agonize and then buy it from Amazon, which gives me a $5 credit and free Prime trial. Thanks, Jeff, I still hate you. And now myself. Eat leftovers. $21.99
3 PM: Work out. Try to avoid weighing myself, then weigh myself. Sigh.
7 PM: Gnocchi and steak for dinner! My mom thinks I suck at washing the dishes and no longer lets me. I flop back into bed after dinner and enter a climate change reading doom spiral.
2 AM: Sleep.
Day 2 Total: $21.99
9:30 AM: Massage. The RMT beats me up. It’s great. I’ll never take my massage coverage on my insurance for granted, it’s the best thing ever. $110 (reimbursed).
10:45 AM: Run home and make myself a Vietnamese coffee.
11 AM: What the fuck, it’s fucking snowing! No! Put that shit away!
12 PM: Start writing this money diary instead of working on my grad school applications. Naturally, I get weirdly invested and this has turned into an expository essay.
2 PM: Eat Phnom Penh leftovers. Soggy L Think about going to the library to pick up my holds. Don’t.
3 PM: Aww. Appa from Kim’s Convenience guest-starred on The Mandalorian and is freaking/geeking out over Twitter. I’ve never watched Star Wars and I never will, but this is adorable. The daily BC COVID case count is also released. My coworker and I are obsessed with the daily counts and hey, look at that exponential growth trend!
7 PM: It’s my parents’ anniversary. True to form, my sister has done more for them than my parents have done for, again, their anniversary. We pick up takeout from Siam Le Bien Restaurant. It’s so good! I would put this on the same level as Unchai. And, not to be dramatic, but I would die for Unchai. Then we have tiramisu from Whole Foods. Am I a hypocrite if I eat the Amazon thing but didn’t technically buy it? I pay half for takeout, cake, and a card. $51.78
8 PM: My friends and I are doing a gift exchange. I look for BIPOC-owned local business and find a couple of good candidates: Elbo Patties, Salty Cabbage Kimchi, The Phamily Table.
Day 3 Total: $51.78
Nothing happens. I have a whole-ass vacation to-do list that I roundly ignore. I do not pick up my library holds. I eat leftovers all day, a Costco croissant, and nap. I call my friends and tell them all to get their asses to Siam Le Bien yesterday, and then I realize my forehead looks really big on camera.
Day 4 Total: $0
12 PM: Yes, you’re reading that right. I slept at 4 AM yesterday. I’m on vacation! Blame it on revenge bedtime procrastination. Stumble out of bed, warm up a Costco croissant (can we make this the new dark chocolate), drink the last quarter of the leftover Thai iced tea we had, and eat a cold chicken finger. I have the dietary habits of a 55-year-old single man. Or I was a vulture in a past life.
1 PM: Maybe today is the day I pick up my holds! Wait, it’s a public holiday today. Never mind.
2 PM: Make kimchi udon with shrimp, fish sauce, kimchi, kimchi juice, gochujang, sugar, XO sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper. Put an onsen tamago on top. Belatedly remember that I forgot to add garlic, but it’s too spicy already. Eat it all anyway. I get sauce on my elbow, the table, the keyboard, my shirt, my pants, and the laptop screen.
3 PM: I get my desktop for the standing desk that I ordered last week, but not the mechanism. Useful.
6 PM: Dad comes home feeling unwell. Take him to a drive-through COVID-testing site, which was actually really straightforward except for the part where I had to think about how to translate “gargle” and “swish.” There is only one way to say both of these things in my first language! Get home and stress-eat some nuts and pork; Mom goes on a cleaning rampage and yells at everyone. We all have to self-isolate together until we get his results back. No leaving the house. This is going to end well.
12 AM: This seems like a good time to work on grad school applications!
2 AM: Believe it or not, my sleeping habits now are better than my sleeping habits in my last diary…
Day 5 Total: $0
10 AM: Meet with a potential grad school supervisor via Zoom. We complain about how taxing it is to have to translate for parents/grandparents during medical appointments. I once had to translate/help an OT do therapy with my grandpa, who had just had a stroke. I’m barely conversational in my first language. There were ducks involved. It did not go well. There’s a tape out there where I fluently talk about how big my dad’s nose is in my mother tongue, and I aspire to be back at that level one day.
12, 3, 6 PM: Take my dad’s temp and throw Tylenol at him intermittently from across the room.
8 PM: Kimchi fried rice for dinner! I am so stressed out. My siblings are pissed (they don’t live at home) because I’m not providing them with hourly updates on my dad (he is totally fine) and are lashing out at me. Jesus. Why not try asking the man yourself?
9 PM: Put the KitchenAid mixer back together. Plug it in, hold my breath and… it doesn’t work. CHRIST. Google fruitlessly as to what to do. I’ve replaced the worm drive, am I supposed to replace the carbon brushes? Are the electronics fucked?? Is it a mechanical failure??? Ideas on how to diagnose and fix this stupid fucking thing are totally welcome.
10 PM: THE TEST IS NEGATIVE!!! THANK YOU, DR. BONNIE HENRY, VANCOUVER COASTAL HEALTH, AND THE LOVELY STAFF AT THE TESTING CENTRE WHO THOUGHT I WAS HILARIOUS BECAUSE I KEPT FORGETTING HOW OLD MY DAD IS. HE’S OLD, OK, I DON’T LIKE TO THINK ABOUT IT
4 AM: I dread having to go back to work next week.
Day 6 Total: $0
12 PM: Up and looking for a flu shot… I’ve been calling around for the last few weeks. No openings. My only saving grace is that I barely leave the house these days and the windows are always open. Kimchi fried rice for breakfast.
1 PM: IT’S PAYDAY!!! I transfer $1,500 to my RRSP and have just enough to pay off my Visa bill. I now have $0.26 left in my chequing account. Can I get paid again right now?
2 PM: I discover Jeff Buckley. Next year, I predict that I’ll discover Eric Clapton.
2:15 PM: Kimchi fried rice for lunch.
3 PM: My standing desk mechanism arrives! Hooray! Hopefully me putting this together goes better than me putting the fucking stand mixer back together. Help.
5 PM: Work out. Anyone who says this is enjoyable clearly has a sadistic streak.
7 PM: We have dinner together as a family for the first time in a few days and don’t kill each other. Success! The fact that I am eating kimchi fried rice for the fourth meal in a row, however, might.
8 PM: My mom screws up the fucking Telus Optik connection (NEVER AGAIN) and I have to fix it while she mutters about how much she hates this TV (it’s not the TV) even though she doesn’t know how to use it despite everyone’s multiple attempts to teach her. My blood pressure. My god.
3 AM: Hey, at least it’s not 4 AM!
4 AM: Still awake.
Day 7 Total: $0
Food + Drink: $77.09 Fun/Entertainment: $0 Home + Health: $141.99 Clothes + Beauty: $0 Transport: $25 Other: $0.
WEEKLY TOTAL: $244.08
Reflection: Due to the public health order and also my hatred of going outside because other people and the fucking cold, you get chaotic word vomit from the recesses of my brain and not a lot of actual spending. Sorry. To be honest, my spending has been fluctuating wildly during the pandemic (last week I bought a $500 standing desk!) I’ve dug a little bit into my savings because I keep buying takeout for my family, but that’s been a sanity saver so whatever. Compared to my last diary, I am really proud of the fact that I transferred to an investment portfolio than aligns with my values, and that I’ve increased my monthly donations and contributions to causes I care about. Otherwise… maybe if I ever do this again I’ll have my shit together. Unlikely. Tune in next year!