Checks+Balanced: How a Freelance Publicist Living in Puerto Rico Budgets for Wellness

Photo: Stocksy/Joana Lopes/EyeEm

Do you know how much money your friends make? What about how much their rent is or how much is in their bank accounts right now? I’m guessing no. Even in a world where questions about menstrual cups and the ins and outs of sex are completely (and blessedly) normal to ask, somehow the ever-ubiquitous use of money remains a touchy subject for many. People want to live their healthiest life ever, but—#realtalk—it can add up. Have you ever wondered how your colleague who makes less than you do (or so you think) can afford to buy a $5 matcha and a $12 chopped salad every day? Or how your friend is able to hit up $34 fitness classes three times a week? It’s enough to make anyone want to ask, “Ummm, excuse me. How can you afford that?!?”

That’s where Well+Good’s monthly series Checks+Balanced comes in. By lifting the thick, tightly drawn curtain to expose how much women of varying income brackets spend on wellness, we’re spreading transparency and hopefully providing some inspo that’s possible to copy. Because no matter how much you make, it’s possible to cultivate healthy habits that work within your budget.

This month, Marcy Fitzpatrick, a 32-year-old freelance public relations director working remotely in Puerto Rico, reveals exactly how much she spends on nonnegotiables (like, hello, rent) and the healthy habits that are important to her. Here's how her budgeting and spending looks after she swapped her Los Angeles lifestyle for the Puerto Rico cost of living.

Here, a 32-year-old freelance public relations director working remotely in Puerto Rico shares how she budgets for her healthy habits.

freelance budgeting
Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Marcy Fitzpatrick, 32, freelance public relations director, Puerto Rico

Income: $70,000 per year. I worked as a publicist in Los Angeles for eight years, and the high-stress aspects of the role took a toll on my health; my hair started falling out, and I experienced horrible gut-related symptoms. A friend of mine, who spent his winters in Puerto Rico and ran a business from there, had an idea for me: quit my job and move to an island. I couldn't see why not, so I quit and moved with the intention to stay in Puerto Rico for six months while freelancing. Six months ultimately turned into a year, and one year turned into seven. I actually ended up marrying that friend who suggested I move, and we now have a two-year-old son.

Because I'm a freelancer, I control how much work I take on, but that also means my income fluctuates. Right now, I make about $70,000 a year. My husband is a photographer and also runs a fishing charter business. His income is about $50,000 a year.

Rent: $900 per month. We rent a three-bedroom house for $900 a month.

Other reoccurring bills: $838 per month. Besides rent, our biggest reoccurring bill is childcare, which is $500 a month. Otherwise, we have our phone bill ($160 a month), Internet ($90 a month), water bill ($40 a month), life insurance ($40 a month), and car insurance ($100 for the year). My husband an I split all the bills, paying them from our joint account.

Savings: $500 per month. My husband and I both put $500 a month into our savings account, which we plan on using for our son's college tuition. If I get some extra money from an additional client I take on, I'll put that extra money in the savings account, too. Something that's tricky about freelancing is that work isn't always steady. Last year, I dipped into our savings a bit and we didn't put anything into the savings account for several months. But the goal is always for us both to contribute $500 a month to it.

Food: $600 per month. Eating healthy, non-processed foods is really important to me, but fulfilling that goal can get expensive when living in Puerto Rico. Here, it's harder to get certain items that were readily accessible to me in LA. I buy organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables from the local farmers' market, but everything else—like pasta, rice, sauces, and also non-toxic cleaning products, laundry detergent, and diapers—I buy from the online marketplace Vitacost, even though shipping to Puerto Rico can be expensive and take up to 12 days.

Fitness: $120 per month. I go to $15 yoga classes twice a week, but otherwise, I really take advantage of the natural conditions that come free with living on an island. I love running along the beach and riding my bike.

Supplements: $180 per month. I take several supplements, which I order online. I take calcium magnesium powder to help with migraines and sleep, a supplement for hormone balance to help with PMS symptoms, and a B vitamin. I also buy protein powder online.

Travel: $2,500 per year. My husband and I budget for traveling so we can visit our families over the holidays. This year, the cost for three people over Christmas was $2,500. Fortunately, we're able to stay with family, so we don't have to pay for a hotel or meals.

Beauty: $30 per month. I don't wear makeup, but I do buy non-toxic skin-care products and prioritize buying non-toxic hair products, too. One brand I love is True Botanicals. I also like Face Reality Skincare. My skin breaks out really easily, but these products really work for me. And I just use regular witch hazel as a toner.

Clothes: $200 per year. My clothing budget has gone way down ever since moving to Puerto Rico; I hardly ever buy new clothes for myself. But, I will say, my swimsuit budget has gone up!

Other wellness-related expenses: $250 per year. I've really started prioritizing sustainability, so I recently bought a lot of glass containers for my pantry. That way, I can take them to a bulk grocery store nearby to just fill them up. I also bought other sustainable storage items so that I don't have to buy cling wrap or other items made of plastic anymore. It cost about $250 to buy everything, but hopefully now that it's all set up, I'll save money (and help save the environment) in the long run.

Want to be featured? Email Plus, here's what it looks like to start saving for a baby

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