At the start of the pandemic, I was working in a minimum wage food service which was drastically cutting my hours. With the help of my parents, I moved from a budget hostel to an apartment with two complete strangers I met on the internet. My living expenses in Los Angeles were $ 1,600 per month, but I only earned an average of $ 1,000.
Like many Americans, I had to drastically change my lifestyle – and my mindset – to survive. Even though times were tough, I was determined to devote a portion of my limited income to things that gave me joy and comfort. When I was having trouble paying my bills, I communicated clearly with my landlord and debt collectors about when I could pay. I needed to make room for happiness to get through those first days of financial uncertainty.
These 10 simple comfort items kept me sane throughout the first year of the pandemic.
1. NadaMoo! Rockiest Vegan Ice Cream on the Road ($ 5.99)
I am lactose intolerant and finding comfort foods without dairy was key to surviving the early days of the pandemic. Buying inexpensive ice cream flavors that made my stomach hurt kept me from having one of my favorite comforting snacks. Splurging on this slightly more expensive vegan flavor has given me so much comfort on tough days.
2. A five pound bag of jasmine rice ($ 6.29)
I heard a great story about a woman sleeping with a big bag of rice in her bed, and I thought it was awesome. Growing up in a Filipino family, rice was a staple we ate at every meal, so I could understand why it was comforting for her to sleep with a bag of rice. I bought a five pound bag of jasmine rice to remind myself that no matter how bad things got, I would always have something to eat.
3. Parking near a large hiking trail ($ 4)
Parking in Los Angeles is a nightmare. I once visited a tourist attraction on my day off, only to find parking was $ 15 an hour – more than I was making per hour working in a cookie factory at the time! A few blocks away I found affordable parking that allowed me to enjoy a hiking trail without breaking the bank. Taking advantage of LA’s public parks and hiking trails did wonders for my mental health at the start of the pandemic.
4. An old fashioned alarm clock ($ 6.98)
(Sorry to my neighbors and roommates for this one!) With the world falling apart, it has become extremely important to take regular screen breaks. I used my phone as my daily alarm clock, but keeping it by my bedside led to a late night scroll. Switching to this loud, happy kids alarm clock helped me stay screen-free at night.
5. Bitcoin ($ 10)
When the pandemic began, the price of Bitcoin fell to $ 3,000 per coin. I heard about it from my colleagues and decided to put in $ 10 just to see what happened. As of this writing, the price of Bitcoin is $ 60,901. My $ 10 investment is now worth $ 203.
6. Erewhon vegan chocolate cake ($ 10)
I don’t know why this slice of cake costs $ 10 at Erewhon, an upscale grocery store in LA, and frankly, I don’t care. It was delicious, and it was truly a treat at the end of a tough week or month. Splurging on that slice of cake reminded me that money should also be spent for joy.
7. Indoor plants ($ 8)
I’m one of the millions of millennials who have lined up outside The Home Depot to buy houseplants. They add so much good energy to my house, and it gave me something positive to focus on when I was stressed.
8. Green tea and plate of fries ($ 9.75)
When restaurants and cafes started offering outdoor seating, I immediately made plans with friends. When my bill arrived I struggled to spend $ 9.75 of my remaining $ 45 to eat out. But spending quality time with friends lifted my spirits and really kept me going.
9. Spotify Premium Subscription ($ 9.99)
Before I had a car, my commute to work could take up to 50 minutes by public transport. Plus, taking the bus at the start of the pandemic was terrifying due to the potential risk of catching “Rona”. Navigate all this without music? Impossible. I got a Spotify Premium subscription and created a playlist called “The Yellows”, a reference to my favorite color, with feel-good songs that kept me going all day.
10. A value pack of bandages ($ 6.88)
Some days things got so bad that I couldn’t afford bandages. When I had a horrible cut or nail, I endured it with a cotton ball and scotch tape, or waited for my next shift to use the first aid kit at work. Every time I had a spare $ 10, I stocked up on bandages. Seeing them in my medicine cabinet always makes me feel rich.