Career & Money

Read It and Weep: The Delightful Money Diary of a Flower Farmer

money diary peach coffee lacroix tomatoes iced tea

In this edition of MR Money Diaries, Martha, a 32 year old florist and flower farmer in Chicago/Michigan, documents her spending for a week. 

What do my weekly spending habits look like? I really had no idea before I spent a week tracking my personal finances. This probably isn’t very responsible, but I run my own business — I’m a florist and flower farmer in Chicago and Michigan — so the majority of my spending each week is for work. Since I work a lot and am responsible for tracking our business spending, my personal spending habits often get ignored. Plus, I don’t have a lot of free time to spend money. When I do spend money, it’s usually on quality food, acupuncture, fancy face serums and booze, all to help me maintain my physical and mental health so I can run a business without running myself into the ground. Is this what people call “self-care?” Gross.

I’ve been on a pretty restrictive diet recently because I’m sorting out some health issues, so I eat at home and bring my lunch to work pretty much every day. Even though I’m not eating out nearly as much as I used to, I do feel like the majority of my spending goes towards groceries. I try to buy organic, local produce and meat as much as possible and that adds up– it’s pretty hard to sustain that kind of diet on a small business owner’s salary. However, what you put in your body is pretty damn important, so I’ve decided quality food trumps new shoes, at least for now…

Anyway, here’s what I spent this week:

molly money diary

Sunday is typically my only day off work so I try to do normal weekend activities. That generally includes having brunch at my favorite restaurant in Chicago, Cellar Door Provisions. The food is a beautiful combination of local, casual, surprising and perfectly executed. I was so focused on the pastry case this weekend that my boyfriend paid before I could even offer. Bless him. We then ventured to the farmers market where we each bought a lot of random produce that would eventually become dinner. It was hot as hell so we stopped for iced tea and went home to lounge, like you are supposed to on Sundays. Dinner was a combo of groceries previously purchased and our farmers market finds.

molly money diary

The early part of my week is spent at our farm in SW Michigan, about an hour and half from Chicago. I really value my time in Michigan at the farm. Life moves at a different pace there and, while the work itself can be physically demanding, it provides a sort of reset for me. I also spend wayyy less money when I’m in Michigan. Today all I needed was a coffee to get me through the early morning drive, then I brought food from home for lunch and dinner. I have a cooler bag of food that I haul around with me pretty much everywhere I go. I was recently asked in an interview what five items I couldn’t live without and the cooler bag was #2 behind my water bottle. I’m not sure what that says about me.

Sometimes having one foot in Chicago and one in Michigan can be challenging. Often times I miss dinner or drinks out with friends because I am in Michigan or working late. Since part of my week is spent on a farm sweaty and covered in dirt, I also don’t need a ton of “nice” clothes. I have maybe 10 outfit combos (let’s call it my capsule collection) I wear but that’s about it– so I suppose in those regards, I’ve seen my spending diminish from my pre-business owner days.

Side note: I spent $40 in gas on my drive to Michigan, but since I was driving to the farm to transport flowers, that expense is covered by the biz.

molly money diary

Last year I bought a house in the small town where our farm is located. It’s a definite fixer upper and I’m saving to be able to take on a couple larger remodeling projects. The house has a pool which is a literal money pit. I didn’t spend anything on the pool this week (I stocked up on chlorine last week) but typically chlorine is an additional $500 spent each summer (and that’s just the pool chemicals). My electric bill also skyrockets during the months the pool is open due to the filter running consistently. When I was little, I used to beg my parents to put in a pool and their response was always, “Hell no, pools are money pits.” I get it now.

Other than that, my expenses at the house are pretty minimal. Today I had to make my quarterly sewage payment which is always $93. Then I stopped by the local market to pick up more seasonal produce on my way back to Chicago. I met up with a fellow flower farmer friend for tacos and margaritas at Big Star (we split the bill) and called it a night.

molly money diary

I headed to the flower market early Wednesday morning after having breakfast and coffee at home. Wednesdays are long days at the shop so I don’t really have a lot of opportunities to spend money. I brought my lunch (which was a very lame salad with cucumbers and tomatoes) and felt hungrier than before I ate. Our shop is freezing cold (a sacrifice we make for the flowers) so the only way to warm up is to go get a hot coffee at 3 p.m. when it’s 92 degrees outside. I’ve tried to cut out my afternoon coffee habit for money and health reasons but sometimes it’s necessary, especially when I feel freezing and/or have had three margaritas the night before…

molly money diary

We provide weekly floral arrangements for several cafes, restaurants and boutiques in Chicago. The majority of these deliveries happen on Thursday mornings and the baristas at Intelligentsia are kind enough to give us complimentary coffee when we deliver. After delivering those flowers this week, I headed back up to Michigan to harvest more flowers. We are entering peak season for summer blooms like lisianthus and dahlias so we have to cut twice a week.

I also delivered flowers to Whistle Stop Grocery today, a small grocery store/cafe near our farm. Their sandwiches are too good to pass up so I had lunch there then stopped at the market to buy even more produce. It’s peach season and I’m addicted, but I suppose there are worse things. I had dinner at home with all the produce I’ve been accumulating over the week.

molly money diary

Friday was another long day at the shop. I had breakfast and coffee at home and I also brought my lunch so it was pretty cheap day — that is, until I ventured to Whole Foods to buy supplies for dinner. A friend was coming over to cook and he agreed to bring the wine if I got the meat (hence the hefty bill). I try to seek out those Amazon Prime deals at Whole Foods when I can, but damn, I spend a lot of money every time I go there. $70 felt like one of my cheaper trips.

(Side note, we made this and it was really good.)

molly money diary

Saturday involved another early morning at the shop prepping and packing for a wedding later that day. I was a little hungover from too much wine at dinner so while I had coffee at home, I needed a boost in the form of a very expensive, very delicious aptly named “The Morning After” juice, which promised to give me energy and vitality.

I hopped in the car on Saturday afternoon and headed to Cleveland to see my family for a few days. I stopped for gas but packed lots of snacks for the road so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend money on shitty rest stop food. My parents bought me dinner when I arrived and it’s safe to say they funded my meals for the rest of the weekend. Thanks mom and dad!

molly money diary

This diary confirms I am a caffeinated workaholic who values seasonal produce. I suppose that isn’t too bad? Hey, I’m just trying my best.

Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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