a long pier with snow

A Week in Florida on a $30,000 Salary

Welcome to Spending Notes, where we do a weekly deep dive into how our readers spend their cash.

Today: a lifeguard who makes $30,000

Occupation: lifeguard

Age: 23

Location: Cocoa, FL

Salary: $30,000 (approx. $1154 per pay period)

Day One


This is the first summer I’ve been a lifeguard here, and the heat is taking a toll on me. This has always been my favorite season, so this struggle came as a shock. After my shift, I sit down and make a plan to beat the heat, starting with finding the best air conditioning repair in Cocoa, Florida. The air conditioning works fine, but I don’t want to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off if it should suddenly be on the fritz. Once I’ve taken note of my air conditioner repair team of choice, it’s about dinner time, but I’m not quite hungry enough for a meal. So instead, I treat my inner little kid to a double-scoop of ice cream.

Total: $5

Day Two


As I finish my twelfth water bottle today, a colleague tells me about the ice machine they recently purchased. Even as a lifelong area resident, they recognized the importance of having a lot of ice to get through the FL summer, and an ice maker made it much easier to have enough ice no matter what. As soon as I head home from Cocoa Beach, I turn to the internet and find a small ice maker that makes one and a half pounds of ice in minutes. I add my top choice to my wishlist for payday and empty my ice cube trays for what will hopefully be one of the last times.

Total: $20

Day Three


I’m not working today, so I’m hanging out around the house instead. Even with the air conditioner on at full blast, I’m daydreaming of dunking my head into a bowl of ice cubes once my portable ice maker arrives. Then, sipping some ice water of my own, I stop to give my money plant a beverage of its own. I don’t think a Chinese money plant will offer the same sort of feng shui if I leave it to wilt and dehydrate. Fortunately, this little guy is pretty hardy. This isn’t the first time I’ve put off watering him for a while, but he’s still trudging along.

Total: $0

Day Four


As I scan the beach for debris, I can’t help but wonder just how portable my upcoming ice production process will be. How much ice can I carry around with me during a workday? If today is any indication, it’ll never be enough. Chugging a bottle of water, I realize I’ve basically become a houseplant—put me in some sunlight, give me some water, and hope for the best. Unlike that plant, though, I’m not doing so great with direct sunlight. I wonder how a houseplant would react to a countertop ice maker? If I’m a plant, there’s not much that sounds better than a few pounds of ice to drop my roots into.

Total: $12

Day Five


There are many drills to be run today, so I’m exhausted by the time my shift is over. I grab a couple of tacos from a nearby food truck and a discount soft drink from a fast food place down the road. By the time I get home, I’m wiped between the workday and the heat and crash into bed almost instantly. It’s days like these that I’m glad my phone sets my daily alarm automatically!

Total: $11

Day Six


It‘s a hectic day at the beach today, and I have plenty to keep me busy. After a few of my typical water bottles (and cleaning up plenty more that people discarded across the sand), I decided that I really need to order a reusable bottle. It might cost more upfront, but it’ll save me tons of money in the long run. Plus, it’s better for the environment! After work, I head online to browse some options. I choose a bottle from a pretty well-known brand and let myself splurge. Soon enough, I’ll have tons of ice cubes to add to that bad boy, too.

Total: $34

Day Seven


Today’s a rare weekend day off, so I meet some friends for lunch, and we catch up. I tell them all about my adventures in preparing for potential AC repair and coveting the idea of an ice machine. They’ve spent their whole lives in Cocoa and find it funny that I’m struggling with the heat. I can’t blame them since I made such a show of loving summer when we first met a few months ago! Once we part ways, I head home and pour myself a little something from my home bar. Here’s to tomorrow, another day.

Total: $12

Total for the week: $94


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