My Weekend Money Diary #18: Socializing in the Time of Coronavirus

Money Diary: Diptyque Photophore Candle Holder

I’ve taken a big break from the blog as the pandemic has motivated me to prioritize my personal life a bit more, but I hope to be back much more regularly! As my first post in a while, I thought it best to catch up on what I’ve been up to lately, so here’s a weekend snapshot of my life: spending time with friends in a city that people are saying is dead, trying to figure out my mom’s unemployment, and supporting small businesses.


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It’s my day off, but I begrudgingly work for a few hours in the morning, because I know there will be a heinous task waiting for me on Monday. Since quarantine, I have yet to have a single day where I get through my work to-do list. I’m like a little hamster who can’t keep up!

I log into Mint to check up on my money and notice my $500 Citibank bonus has arrived! I’ve been waiting for it for three months, and I’m glad it went through. In my last shopping roundup, I said this year I planned to use side income to pay for my shopping, so this bonus is making that goal into a reality.

I recently put our 2019 tax bill on my credit cards for points purposes (to be paid in full) and my husband’s asking me how much he owes me. Even though we pay an accountant to file ours, this year I simultaneously did our taxes from scratch. I wanted to see firsthand what’s affecting our returns, and whether or not we need to continue paying an accountant. After changing a few numbers in TurboTax, I charge my husband $700 on Venmo, since most of the taxes owed is because of me.

Another financial task weighing on my mind: I need to follow up on my mom’s unemployment. Thanks to the pandemic, her hours have been reduced, but only on random weeks, so I need to stay on top of her schedule. I’m worried, because I filed for a week in April and she never got a check, so clearly I messed something up. I’ll call the office tomorrow to confirm the process.

I’m headed to Williamsburg today, because I got blessed with some amazing shopping juju: I’m picking up a Diptyque candle holder that I found on Facebook Marketplace for like, 95% off. It retails for $105 and I could never justify that price before, but on my first browse, I saw someone selling one for $10.


Now for the fun coordination process. The seller, of course, lives nowhere close to me, so I asked them to drop it off in my friend’s lobby in Williamsburg. So today I’m doing a double whammy: picking up the candle holder and hanging out with said friends (masked and outside only).

If you give me a minute of free time, I will find a way to fill it. Case in point: I went ham on some summer sales a week earlier, so naturally before I need to leave the house is the perfect time for an at-home fashion show to decide which clothes I want to keep. These sneakers were $234 on sale (half off), but after trying them on with a bunch of outfits I decide they don’t elevate my look enough to justify that price. So I’ll clean up my existing white sneakers and revisit replacements later. To get the process started while I’m out, I fill up a soapy bucket of water to soak the shoelaces from my current shoes.

It’s 2pm? Damn, half my day off is gone already. 

Since I’m not commuting to the office anymore, I pay for subway rides à la carte now, so add $22 to my metrocard.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

I’m somehow early to the meetup area, and spy a rack of vintage clothes outside. There’s a cotton sundress marked down to $20 from $98, and it says ‘Made in Italy’ on the tag—both details that pique my interest. But it’s bright red, and in my heart of hearts I know that bright red has no place in my closet.

Vintage shopping in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

In Greenpoint, I meet my friends at Loren Denim, a serious denim shop that’s sadly closing. I don’t find anything I need, but I wish I had known about this shop earlier, because I love the concept of unique, high-quality denim and repairs made on the spot. I think we’re all realizing during the pandemic how hard it is for small businesses to stick around. It stings a lot when it’s a brand that’s actually doing something thoughtful and interesting.

My friends want to buy liquor but also want to compare prices, so we browse a few stores nearby. The prices at store #2 make the cut, so they check out and we’re off.

With no real agenda, we wander around the neighborhood, exploring what’s open. I remember that this area is where there are a lot of marble yards. I’ve been thinking about using scrap marble remnants as a frugal way to decorate our apartment, but in the most high-quality way possible.

Right then I have that “anything-is-possible-in-New-York-City” type of moment, where I couldn’t imagine doing the exact thing I’m doing anywhere else. I tell my friends we are going on a quest to find marble scraps. I walk up to one yard, but they’re closing for the day and tell me to come back on Monday. Another time!

On the way we come across a plant and vintage store called Feng Sway. I’ve been looking for a plant for our bedroom, and there’s a good-looking burro’s tail catching my eye. I have no basis for how much plants should cost, but my more plant-experienced friend comments that $38 seems like a lot, so that plants a seed in my head (pun definitely intended). I ask the sales associate some questions, but I feel like I can’t take their answers at face value, you know? I’ll need to research more at home before I make my choice. 

We pass a Japanese restaurant called Rule of Thirds that opened earlier this year and looks super cute. I don’t feel comfortable with outdoor dining just yet, but I mentally mark it as a place to check out “someday.”

Wandering around the streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

I knew leaving my apartment on a hot day without a water bottle was a bad move…and yet I did it anyway. We’re all dragging with the sun beating on our backs, and we’re too far from my friend’s apartment, so at the first sign of a Duane Reade we cave and buy water. $1.35

My friend mentions a cake shop close by called Ovenly that sells blackout cake. I haven’t had actual cake in forever, so I ask for one slice for $5.50. The employee points at the to-go fridge and says they only come in packs of two. OK, fine. $11.50

We walk to Nitehawk for frozen cocktails. They’re a movie theatre that is obviously closed for screenings, but is still serving food and drinks, so I’ll pay for a cocktail to help support them. $16

Outside my friend’s apartment I wait on the stoop while she brings the candle holder downstairs, and then I head home on the subway.

My husband has a bibimbap waiting at home. I love DIY bibimbap as a frugal meal, since you can make a big batch with any leftover ingredients you have. Although ours is not that frugal, since there’s meat in it.

DIY Bibimbap

My nighttime activity is testing out the new-to-me candle holder and taking a gazillion photos:

Diptyque photophore candle holder

Before bed, I log into the unemployment website to read the instructions again. What am I missing? If I had filed the April week correctly, my mom would have received $900. I fall asleep, stressed out about messing up my mom’s money.



My husband makes homemade coffee for breakfast—just the fuel I need to call the unemployment office at 9am on the dot on a Saturday. Sadly I’m met with a recording that says they are actually closed.

Wondering if I should have picked up that burro’s tail succulent, I research plants online to confirm which ones are OK for pets and easiest to maintain. I narrow down the choices, but don’t want to rush to buy something to make the room feel “done.” 

Yesterday my friend showed off her DIY eyelash perm, and her lashes looked fab! She e-mails me the DIY kit link. $90 seems like a good value for enough product to last six months. But as much as I’d love pretty lashes, personal care isn’t as important to me now that I’m home every day.

I take a bunch of try-on photos for a little segment I want to test out on Instagram.

For lunch, I’m far too lazy to disrupt my day by leaving the house for food, so I rummage in the fridge and heat up leftover chicken fingers and rice.

I’m in ‘taking pictures flow,’ so I start to attack my reselling pile, too. I put up a few clothing items and also post a piece of furniture on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I’ve never posted anything to Facebook Marketplace, so I’m curious which platform will sell better.

Mint pings me to let me know I got a $95 bank fee. While everyone else is scaling back on travel cards, I’m still thinking long-term, and picked up another travel card recently, the World of Hyatt one. I’m fine with the $95 fee, because I will travel again one day, and the redemption values will far outweigh the fee.

I’m still hungry, so I pour some Kettle chips into a small bowl. I find that if I eat out of the bag, the chips disappear a lot faster. Snack foods are a killer to our food spending, so I try to be mindful about at least making them last a little longer.

I always try to make my spending working for me, so I look up the details for Amex’s Shop Small promotion. Fifty dollars back at places we have to shop at anyway? Since my husband does most of the grocery shopping, I pack my Amex card into his wallet.

We have leftover bibimbap for dinner, then try the Ovenly cake for dessert. Hmm, is this cake or a brick? It’s a bit dry, but that might be because they couldn’t serve it fresh for sanitary reasons.

Ovenly blackout cake

Neiman Marcus sent me a promo for $25 off $50, which is actually a good deal. Even in normal times, you’d only get $25 off of $100 or more. There are a lot of lame deals out there, but this is one I can’t refuse. When in doubt, I think about stocking up on things I’d be buying in the future, anyway. I already have one small candle that will last through the summer, and I won’t need a new one until fall, so I go for the woodsy Diptyque Feu de Bois scent. $46.82

My husband and I settle onto the couch to relax, and we’re debating what to watch. Since I multi-task on the laptop while watching movies (bad habit, I know), I want something I’ve seen before…something that’s fast-paced, yet engaging. Snowpiercer, it is.



I wake up to an e-mail that someone wants to buy my Craigslist item—yay. I’m extra pleased that the buyer seems excited about the item, since I want all my things to go to good homes where they will be appreciated–even the free stuff.

After coffee, my husband and I head out to pick up a few items for the house. First, the farmer’s market where we buy squash to add to the bibimbap, and a bunch of carrots. $5.50

Farmer's market haul

We also pay $6 for a dozen fresh eggs.

On the way home, we pass by a plant stand and start chatting with the seller. Next thing you know, we’ve impulse-bought a pearl and jade pothos plant for the kitchen. $32.66

Pearl Jade Pothos

Our final leg of the supporting-small-businesses tour: the local variety store to pick up hand soap and a fan for the smaller room in our apartment. The store is part of the Amex $5 back promo, so we ask the cashier to separate the purchases into three transactions to trigger the refunds. $39.16 – $15 = $24.16

We’re both busier working from home, so as an easy breakfast option for the week, my husband has been buying fresh bagels and cream cheese in bulk. It’s not that frugal, but finding time to deal with food during a hectic work day is proving to be a challenge. $23.34

My husband also does a smaller grocery shop at the super-bougie store across the street and spends $29.15 for, admittedly, not that much food. We can’t really shop around the way we did pre-pandemic, so we haven’t seen any food savings these past few months at all 🙁

Egg, avocado and blueberry breakfast

Back home, I spend some time making myself a nice-looking lunch out of fresh foods (a luxury I will never get over), served on my favorite plate.

I’ve got major Sunday Scaries, so for dinner I’m glad no one has to cook. We have leftover bibimbap, topped with the newly acquired squash, followed by the chocolate cake for dessert.

I’m giving my mom’s unemployment another go and log into her account again. I’ll call tomorrow when the office is open.



How are you managing during the pandemic–have you started socializing with friends yet?
Are you a fan of Facebook Marketplace? If so, what are the deals you’ve found?
And lastly, am I the only one who’s still bull-ish about hoarding travel points???

Featured Image: The Luxe Strategist

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