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I was laid off from my job at a travel magazine in Los Angel…

  • Michelle Juergen is a freelance writer and editor in Los Angeles who was recently let go from her job at a travel trade publication.
  • Her current monthly income is about $4,000 with unemployment benefits, and her minimum monthly expenses come to around $3,100. 
  • For Business Insider’s “Real Money” series, Juergen tracked her spending for a week. Between groceries, business purchases, and personal items, she spent $682.84.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

My monthly expenses usually total $3,078, and are broken down into these categories:

Juergen monthly budget chart



Shayanne Gal/Business Insider


Miscellaneous items include my $60 cell phone bill, $120 yoga membership, Netflix and Spotify Premium accounts, random Amazon orders, and emergency costs like DMV or doctor visits.

But before I share a snapshot of my spending as a newly unemployed person, I must address something crucial you’ll see: $16 bacon. 

Yes, I paid $16 for slices of fatty meat I could have gotten for $5 at an ordinary grocery store. But these are unsure times, and fancy bacon is a small, superfluous luxury that, writ large, assuages — even if just for the time it takes to eat breakfast — my constant unease about the future of my life and the world around me. 

I was let go rather suddenly from my job as a Los Angeles-based writer and editor for a travel trade magazine, as the pandemic and travel’s uncertain future forced the company to downsize. But determining how to wisely spend my income — which, as of April 1, comes from unemployment insurance (UI), a couple freelance gigs, and some severance pay — isn’t new to me. I’ve always had a tighter budget because of student loans and car payments (both of which I paid off last fall), so I’m used to leaner finances. When I splurged, it was often on food: dinners and drinks with friends, or solo steak frites and wine after a long work week. 

So although I’ve had to make tweaks to my monthly budget after being let go, and am keenly more aware of every dollar I spend, I’ve not had to profoundly change my spending habits. And thanks to the CARES Act, which adds $600 per week to the $450 I receive from UI (the maximum allowance in California), I’m actually making more per month than I did as senior editor of the travel magazine. 

While simultaneously elevated and disheartened by this fact, I’ve been able to save more per month than I was formerly able, as well as had time to pursue creative projects like contributing unpaid time into “Fly Brother,” a new travel show on public television; joining free online writing seminars; and duct-taping my iPhone to the ceiling to experiment with self-portraits.

My spending will, however, have to decrease in the coming months, especially as the CARES Act’s extra $600 ends July 31. But I plan to mitigate this by increasing my freelance work and moving somewhere more affordable.

Here’s how I spent my money during a recent week in May.


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